Saturday, October 18, 2008

7 Ways to Increase Your Calories Burned

24 hours in a day. 60 minutes in an hour. 1440 minutes a day. This couch potato burns a minimum of 1584 calories a day. Probably more like...1728, since I don't spend all day in bed sleeping. Just blinking my eyes, apparently, is enough to boost my calorie burn to 1.2, 1.3 calories per minute.

The most interesting and instructional thing about the bodybugg™ is the ability to look back and say, "Oooh, that little spike must be where I walked downstairs to get coffee and came back carrying two mugs. Then I sat down and blogged for an hour...might as well have been dead, there, for all the calories I burned typing." No wonder I don't lose weight.

On days when I work out, I burn about 2400-2650 calories. My daughter's violin teachers always told her, "Practice only on the days you eat." Clearly, if I want to eat, I need to workout - every day I plan to eat!

Research has shown that people who fidget lose more weight than those who are calm and still throughout the day. Looking at the data uploaded from my bodybugg™, I wonder what brilliant yahoo came up with the idea of doing a full blown study on rats, rather than just hooking a few hundred people up to this device and saying to half of them, "Go forth and fidget." I boost my calorie burn rate by .1 to .4 just rolling over in bed, for heaven's sake.

But here's the sad and disappointing news: The calorie burn rate achieved during a workout session really doesn't last, at least for those of us who are not particularly inclined, by nature, to fidget. Not at all. I know we all want to believe - to fantasize - that a good workout boosts our sluggish metabolisms by a few calories an hour, and that the effect lasts until the next day. The sad truth is, in the hour following this morning's Boot Camp at 24 Hour Fitness, I burned about 25 calories more than I did during the hour before I woke up. I attribute those extra calories to driving, talking, walking, and carrying my gym bag.

Boot Camp was great, by the way - still reminds me of 6th grade gym class, but with much nicer teachers and fellow students. I'm happy that my gym is planning to continue offering it; I'm sad for K. that they're only offering it on Saturday mornings.

The good news: Merely standing up, preparing lunch, burned almost 100 calories more per hour!

Is your job making you fat?

No doubt my job isn't helping me to lose weight; I sit at a desk most of the day, using a PC. If you work at a sedentary job, you've got eight hours of professional couch-potato-time to contend with. So what can we do about it?

1. Brown bag it and exercise during lunch. This helps in three ways: First, you control the calories and portion sizes. Pack your lunch the night before, or after breakfast when you're not hungry. Second, you get up and get active. Don't just wolf down that sandwich at your desk - get up and move. Go to the gym if there's one nearby and do at least 20-30 minutes of brisk cardio. Take a walk around the block or around the office building. Third, you save money, since eating out every day - even eating at the corporate cafeteria - gets expensive.

2. Park farther away from the entrance. Even short walks add up. This guarantees you one in the morning and one in the evening. If it's sunny in the morning and raining when you leave, you might even get in a good run!

3. Take the stairs. This seems obvious, but elevators are convenient and...well, isn't work enough work? No. Take the stairs. If you work on the ground floor, add a few flights of stairs to your lunch time walk.

4. Sit, stand, fidget. Try to work in a few squats each time you sit or stand during the day. Or raise up on your toes ten times, each time you stand. Do a few push-ups off the edge of your desk or against a wall, or a few triceps dips on a guest chair (don't try this on a chair with wheels, whatever you do, or you'll fall flat on your patootie). Use every errand or bathroom break as a signal to get in a little exercise.

5. Work out after work. Take the gym bag with you and stop off at the gym on the way home. If you go home first, odds are you'll want to kick off your shoes, relax, and stay put. Instead, try working up a sweat first, so you can go home, hit the showers, change, and really relax - guilt free.

6. Do crunches or leg lifts while watching TV. No TV for you unless some part of you is in constant motion! (And don't tell me your arm is in constant motion as it ferries popcorn from the bowl to your mouth. I tried that one. I'll give you the same looks I got.)

7. Track every bite of food that goes into your mouth. Don't tell me it's "too tedious." I know. Don't tell me it's inconvenient to remember. I know. Just do it. Because every one of us who have done it religiously, day in, day out, will tell you that honestly logging every calorie IN is almost as important to boosting the calories out, if the goal is losing weight. If you want to lose a pound a week, you have to have a deficit of about 3500 calories a week. If you want to lose two, then you have to have a deficit of about 7000 calories in a week. If you want to lose three - consult your doctor first. You don't want to go below what your body needs, just to sustain vital functions like breathing and circulation. Drink plenty of water, aim to pack as much nutritional punch as you can into every calorie consumed, and take a multivitamin.


Any good tips you'd like to share? Please add to the list by commenting, below!

CTRL+ALT+DEL: The "Crash Now and Die, Dammit" Option

I once beta tested a funky little program for authoring Windows Help. It was written by a really nice guy who had absolutely no clue that there were standards for Windows user interface design, let alone how to follow them. Just to give you an idea, if you tried to add a graphic, it had to be a .gif. If you tried to add the wrong file type, the program would go into an endless loop, telling you you'd selected the wrong file type but providing no way to fix the problem. "Sorry, Dave, I can't do that..."

That's when I discovered that the user interface had no escape. No Exit button. No little X in the upper right corner. No close option on the menu in the upper left corner. Welcome to the Hotel California of software applications - you can give up any time you like, but you can never leave.

I started imagining zombies taking over my computer. In exasperation, I pressed CTRL+ALT+DEL (which, back in the day, would restart the whole system - not merely bring up the option of starting Task Manager). "Crash now and die, dammit!" I yelled, jamming my fingers into the keys like a crazed woman. And from that moment on, CTRL+ALT+DEL had a new nickname.

Flash forward.

Microsoft, take note. When I choose "End Task," I mean it. Don't tease me, then ignore me or say, "I'm sorry, Dave, I can't do that." I love Vista and I think Internet Explorer 7 rocks, but why is it every time I come back to the PC, my programs (the same ones that were humming along beautifully not an hour ago, like Internet Explorer 7) have decided to take a dirt nap and refuse to respond? Or, if they respond at all, do so grudgingly and sluggishly and half-heartedly, until I'm forced to invoke the "Crash now and die, dammit" option and recycle the pixels?

Sploggers and Scrapers Can Kiss My Grits

My mother used to divide the world into strangers, acquaintances, friendly acquaintances, friends, and family. It took a lot to be considered a "friend."

Web 2.0 and Social Media attempt to redefine "friendship." It seems somehow rude to decline an invitation of "friendship" by a complete stranger. But nobody has 3000 friends. Fans, maybe. Or people who are hoping to ride the wave and make friends of your friends in order to increase their downline.

Well, here's a newsflash - I'm not adding you back as a friend or even a "contact" unless one or more of the following conditions are met:

  • You are a family member;
  • You are an offline friend or "friendly acquaintance" - that is, we've actually met in person and I don't dislike you;
  • I have had some personal conversation with you in the past, beyond "hi plz add me 2 yer contacts" (note: spelling and behaving like a real human being help);
  • You send me a personal note within 15 minutes of adding me, telling me why you want me as a friend (and I'm satisfied that your reasons are genuine and not just an impersonal attempt at commercial network building);
  • Your blogs or Web site indicate that you are a real human being with an independently functioning brain, opinions of your own, and a personality and your content isn't (a) 90% written by others (whether or not you've credited them - plagiarism is only one step down the ladder of disgusting from copyright violation); or (b) completely scraped off free articles sites; or (c) solely intended to bilk Google's AdSense out of revenue.

If I have clicked that little "add to contacts" or "add friend" button on your site and failed to introduce myself, it means one of the following:

  • I know you - or think I do;
  • I've talked to you or read your sites and think you fall into one of the categories outlined above;
  • I was surfing drunk;
  • I hit the wrong button.

Hey, we all make mistakes.

Friday, October 17, 2008


I did mention I had eclectic tastes in music, didn't I? I love - I have discovered some new favorites with their help, based on the kinds of music I tell them I like.

Click here to listen

Word of the Day

The Word of the Day is...Onomatopoeia

onomatopoeia [on‐ŏ‐mat‐ŏ‐pee‐ă], the use of words that seem to imitate the sounds they refer to (whack, fizz, crackle, hiss); or any combination of words in which the sound gives the impression of echoing the sense. This figure of speech is often found in poetry, sometimes in prose. It relies more on conventional associations between verbal and non‐verbal sounds than on the direct duplication of one by the other.

Adjective: onomatopoeic.


Click here for examples. Be sure to read the comments, too.

Your Challenge, Should You Choose to Accept It

Write a poem or flash fiction story (no more than 200 words) using onomatopoeia. You may post it here, in the comments (in which case you grant me the perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive right to display it here on this blog, at least until you come back and hit that little trash can icon), or you can post it somewhere else and come back to leave a link to it as a comment to this post.

Be creative and have fun. Wheeeeee!

My PC Talks to Me

My PC is psychic. I kid you not. If I put my cell phone near it, it starts going "Bzzt-di-di-di-di-dit" several seconds before the thing actually rings, when I have an incoming call. Unfortunately, it refuses to screen my calls and tell me whether I really want to answer them.

It frequently make this annoying whiny humming noise unless I kick it gently and then keep my foot pressed against the front bezel or the right side of the case. Needy, high maintenance thing! Why do I think this one's not worth bringing up to tech support? I mean, hell - those people wouldn't even stop scratching their heads long enough to come up with a snappy retort. (And this just begs for several, doesn't it?)

This post has been brought to you by the letter "O" and the word "onomatopoeia."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sounds Like a Tamagotchi

My son thinks I have a Tamagotchi riding on my arm. Now and then, the bodybugg™ sends off an alert (talking to the mothership, no doubt) and sounds just like a happy Tamagotchi. It sends a little vibration to my arm to let me know it's paying attention. I've gotten to where that doesn't make me jump out of my skin and cling to the ceiling tiles with my claws. Other times, it sounds unhappy, like it needs to be fed; in fact, it does. That's the low battery alert.

It has been a busy, crazy week at work. Two days in a row, K. and I have missed our lunchtime workout at 24 Hour Fitness. If I didn't have a personal training session scheduled tomorrow, I'd take my swimsuit and have a nap in the hot tub. The "addiction" phase is setting in, though - I feel so much better after working up a sweat that it's hard to skip it. It leaves me cranky. Lord, it left K. really cranky today around lunch. We ate separately, at our desks.

I finally told my husband I was skipping out on dinner to go to the gym after William's Tae Kwon Do lesson. Hey, Vincent - did I mention that Amber (my trainer) and Stephanie (K.'s trainer) rock? So do Felipe and Jeremy. Always so demonically cheerful, too. "Have a great workout!" I've started driving the few extra miles back to the club close to my office, because the equipment is newer, the crowd's smaller, and everyone there is so friendly. (Not that they're NOT at my other location, but most of the people I knew two, three years ago have moved to other locations.)

I've signed up for Saturday morning's Boot Camp. Why I do this to myself the morning after a personal training session with Amber is beyond me. I guess I'm a glutton for punishment, or an endorphin addict.

I haven't taken the survey yet - every time I'm up here on the PC, I realize I need my membership card and number. It's downstairs. And I'm lazy (either still sleepy and haven't had enough caffeine in the mornings, or doped on endorphins and can't keep my eyes open at night). But I've passed that link on to K., and I will take it in the morning.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Always Easier to Give Advice than to Take It

The only thing more fun than Problogger Darren Rowse asking his Twitter followers for advice is being one of the Twits he quotes in his article, 13 Tips to Recession Proof Your Blog.

Follow Darren on Twitter @problogger.

I Thought Smoking was Illegal in California?

When did California take up smoking?

Looks like the state's just puffin' away...

I have friends who live just a few miles from this - please spare good thoughts and prayers for their safety.

Poetry to End Poverty

A Mother Weeps

With hungry eyes and fearful glance
Her child squats with dirty feet
in crumbling doorways -
Wonders why angry men
Burn flags, feed each other bullets.

Nurtured in ignorance, fed on hate
He plays at dangerous games
And shouts, "I am a man!"
No food today, and yet
His belly’s rounded, full of faith
And dynamite.
A mother weeps.

Kiva - loans that change lives: Help end poverty



A Daughter Comes of Age

At half past six, she sits alone,
With a week-old crust
of tadik and a pan
of rusty, dusty water
and the memory of angry words -
words they never
read from the Koran.

At seven, she crawls inside
The hated veil,
Shroud of mystery,
Mother's womb,
Just to see what it feels like,
To be a woman.

At half past eight, she brushes off the flies.
Looks into the lifeless eyes
of the one who gave her birth.
To be a woman?
She knows now, what Death feels like.

Help Stop Violence Against Women at Amnesty International USA



Growing Up: Just Pennies a Day

"Clean your plate,
or it'll rain! Don't you know
there are children starving in Africa?"
Colombia, Peru, Philadelphia,
Miami, Australia, Los Angeles, New York...

You knew. You knew
I wanted to scrape clean my plate,
scrape clean my soul,
tie it all up with brown twine,
mail it off, care of Unicef...
If they're so hungry, maybe they'd appreciate
cold liver and onions.

But I am saved,
for just 42 cents - pennies - a day,
courtesy of the land
waaaaay over there,
where children are fed,
palaces raised -
and absolution is bought
For the price of your morning coffee!

Give the gift of hope with Heifer.


This post is part of Blog Action Day 08 - Poverty

Trockle Trick-or-Treat Tour Has a Winner!

Michael Pelham of Houston, Texas has won the customized Halloween short story and illustration featuring Trockle and his son and a $20 gift certificate to Congratulations, Michael!

We have had so much fun on this tour! Trockle still hasn't settled on what he wants to be for Halloween, but he has been trying on new costumes at every stop. At Auntie Lynne's, he almost decided on "Jedi Ghost" - Luke Skywalker with a halo and angel wings. All of our hosts have been so kind, spoiling them rotten with Choco-Tacos, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and enough candy to make Willy Wonka sick.

Elysabeth Eldering challenged everyone's creativity and encouraged readers to imagine and describe their own monsters. Trockle found two new playmates: V and Fretta. The next day, Ron Berry (formerly "Surreal Writer," now "Unwriter") interviewed author Holly Jahangiri (me!) and Trockle.  Throughout the week, Trockle's Auntie Lynne shared her children's reviews of the book, Trockle. Katherine, 12, and Brendan, 10, share their impressions of the tale (I think they should get extra credit in Language Arts for this, but maybe I'm just biased).

The "wrap-up" found Jordan painting murals and me lolling on the couch with my tongue hanging out, having had one too many Choco-Tacos. But here you are, and I'd encourage you to check out all the great blogs that left their porch lights on for us as we ran around the Cyberhood yelling, "Trick or Treat!"

If you missed our adventures earlier, be sure to visit Trick-or-Treat? Trockle's Adventures Continue.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Kudos to 24 Hour Fitness

Maybe it was mere coincidence that just two days after I wrote Endorphins: Reward for Attending "Boot Camp" and asked (okay, shouted) for 24 Hour Fitness to switch to a more balanced news station, I hopped on the treadmill for the usual lunch hour death-march to nowhere, and saw MSNBC on every third screen. Or not. But whatever prompted the switch - THANK YOU.

Really. Thank you. I like to think that you - yes, YOU with the Blackberry (I see you!!) are paying attention to your customers, and I wanted to let you know I noticed. And it made me smile all through that hot, sweaty, slightly painful 30 minute hike.

Dirty Deeds, Done Dirt Cheap

We share the planet with these people. And they vote.

I understand, now, why I could never think of a snappy retort to this sort of taunting back in middle school: These folks wouldn't know logic if it bit 'em on the butt. Or, as my dad used to joke, "My mind's made up; don't confuse me with facts."

"Obama, Ayers - look at the connection," says one woman, as if those words uttered from her lips, alone, are damning proof that Obama has terrorist connections - or is, himself, a terrorist. One wonders if she could articulate exactly what the problem is, or if she, like Sarah Palin during her interview with Katie Couric, is simply spewing talking points, or "code." Who is Bill Ayers, really? For one thing, he is currently a distinguished professor of education at the University of Illinois-Chicago. He was never convicted of a crime.

"Look at the name," says another. "The only thing different between Obama and Osama is the b s." Apparently, the name one was given at birth is evidence of character or criminal tendencies. Are these people adults? This goes beyond mere ignorance. This is childish name-calling and stomach-churning ignorance. This is bullying. And I'll bet you these folks claim to be "good Christians." Good country people...

Let's do look at the Obama-Ayers connection, though. Lord knows, I wouldn't want to be supporting a terrorist:

  • Both Obama and Ayers were members of the board of an anti-poverty group, the Woods Fund of Chicago, between 1999 and 2002.
  • Ayers contributed $200 to Obama's re-election fund to the Illinois State Senate in April 2001. ($200? Ooooh, that'll take care of a few yard signs...)
  • They lived within a few blocks of each other in...Chicago, and moved in the same liberal-progressive circles.


That's subversive stuff, there. My goodness. I'd better run background checks on everyone I associate with today - see what they were up to when I was eight year old. So what of this "Weather Underground"? (Never mind that I've been a member of this Weather Underground since Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana - great source for tropical storm updates!)

"The war was escalating, and murder was escalating, and it was all being done in our names," says Bill Ayers, "So, the sense was that we had to do whatever we had to do in order to stop the war."

But didn't they kill people, these "Weathermen Underground"? "Between October 1969 and September 1973, the Weather Underground claimed credit for some twenty bombings across the country, in which no one was harmed — save the three cell members who perished in a Greenwich Village townhouse in March 1970, when one of their creations detonated prematurely." So...three of their own members blew themselves up. In their rage and frustration over the fact that peaceful protests weren't stanching the flow of blood in Asia.

In the early 1970s, mind you, I was in elementary school - as was Obama. My dad worked at Kent State University, and my mom and I had just dropped him off at the campus after having had lunch with him, when we heard this news on the car radio:

Luckily, my dad was able to call home and let us know that he was okay, before all the circuits went busy. He was across campus and knew less about what was going on than we did. I don't remember much about the Vietnam War "era." How many seven-, eight-, or nine-year-olds do you know who watch the news, let alone follow politics? (Remember: We had three TV stations back then - none of this satellite or cable business - and most of us had to be in bed by 7 or 8 PM. Our parents wouldn't have let us watch the slaughter in Vietnam on the nightly news!)

While I don't condone the violent riots and protests that took place then, I don't see that they're relevant to Obama's campaign. But to anyone who disagrees, I say, "Let's look, then, into McCain's alleged association with terrorists, too."

...unlike the attacks on Obama and Ayers, McCain's terrorist connections have an important policy dimension. No one imagines that Obama is going to implement a policy of covert symbolic bombings in America as Ayers did, and Obama has strongly condemned what Ayers did decades ago.

However, McCain has never condemned the Contras or Oliver North or G. Gordon Liddy, and that raises many policy questions. Would McCain ever allow a Watergate-style criminal ring in his White House? Would he ever sell weapons to a regime engaged in supporting terrorism? Would he illegally engage in covert propaganda aimed at Amricans? Would he ever try to secretly fund a guerrilla force committing acts of terror? Unlike the guilt-by-association smears against Obama, McCain's friendship with terrorists is more than just a character issue.

Source: or

Or not. 

In the end, he can't destroy a good man outright. He may let his running mate do it, but it's just too much and he cannot help but defend Obama, who he calls a "decent family man" and one "you don't have to be scared of as President of the United States." On the other hand, he'll let his henchwoman do his dirty work.

The McCain campaign knows that Obama isn’t a Muslim or a terrorist, but they’re willing to help a certain kind of voter think he is. Just the way certain South Carolinians in 2000 were allowed to think that McCain’s adopted daughter from Bangladesh was his illegitimate black child.
But words can have more serious consequences than lost votes and we’ve already had a glimpse of the Palin effect.

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post reported that media representatives in Clearwater were greeted with taunts, thunder sticks and profanity. One Palin supporter shouted an epithet at an African-American soundman and said, “Sit down, boy.”

McCain may want to call off his pit bull before this war escalates.

"Unleashed, Palin Makes a Pit Bull Look Tame," Dana Milbank, Washington Post (Tuesday, October 7, 2008; Page A03)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Skinned Knees, Bruises, Mosquito Bites, and Big Silly Grins

I've always told my kids, "If you don't have a few skinned knees, bruises, bug bites, sunburns, scrapes, and scratches - you're not having a childhood, let alone having any fun at it." We planted a maple tree in our front yard, hoping it would grow with William so that when he was ready to try tree climbing, he'd have a tree with good, strong, well-spaced branches. But for some reason, neither of my kids took to riding bikes until late in childhood - or early in their adolescence. I don't know which of us was more nervous when William's Scout troop decided that October's camp-out would involve biking around Lake Somerville. He didn't even own a bike; he'd outgrown his first one without ever riding it.

We bought another, and it sat in the living room for a few weeks. He didn't want the neighbors to see him struggling to learn. Hurricane Ike didn't help matters much. But time waits for no man (or boy) and this weekend was the camp-out. For a while, it looked like there wouldn't be enough drivers to get all the boys there and back; William admitted he wouldn't be heartbroken to give up his place if need be. I'd already told the scoutmaster and one of the older boys that he didn't ride, and knew it was no big deal. But they had enough seats and seatbelts, and off he went on Friday looking reasonably well resigned to his fate. He looked like he might even have a good time.

Turns out the trails were sandy and a challenge for even the experienced riders. But William stayed back at the campsite with one of the adults and practiced riding until he got it. When we got back home, he immediately took the bike for a spin. Turns out biking's a whole lot easier on asphalt than on grass, sand, dirt, or gravel. He rode until he was flushed; he fell and scraped his knee, but that was nothing - he was having a blast. There's just no stopping him now.

"Hit the showers," I told him. He had dirty rivers of sweat coursing down his ruddy cheeks and forehead, blood and dirt caked on one knee, enough bites to mimic a rash on the backs of both calves, and the happiest grin I've ever seen on his face.