Flour, rice and potato

I lost twelve pounds. I have eight to go. I stopped eating flour, rice and potato.

When I was a vegetarian, flour, rice and potato was mostly my diet. Tastes good, but you never really feel full. A while ago my doctor was concerned that my triglycerides were too high, and surprisingly, my cholesterol was too. Overweight and had high blood pressure. He started talking about needing medicine to control it.

I kinda snapped.

I changed my diet.1500 calories a day. No flour, rice or potatoes. Walk 2.5+ miles a day, five days a week. I monitor my blood pressure with an online-enabled blood pressure cuff. Tracking my caloric intake… weight with a scale that narcs on me. Its been working.

Now for the real trick. I have to normalize my diet.

I cannot eat 1500 calories a day forever. I have to adjust it to the proper amount considering my height, desired weight and activity. When I have lost 20 pounds, I need to be eating the right amount for that weight. I have to keep tracking the calories I consume. Add minor weight-training to keep my muscles working… and quite frankly, get to a point where I’m doing this all naturally… as if it’s just second nature.

Just one question… what do I do with flour, rice and potatoes? When I’m starting to increase my caloric intake to a normal level, where do those go? Potatoes are too easy to overdo… I’ll avoid them. Rice… well, maybe I’ll limit that to sushi. Flour? Bread? All my recipes… can I really re-introduce that again? Flour will be a real challenge.


When I was about four, I started banjo lessons at the old town school of folk music in Chicago. I ended them when I was around 8. I grew up with a lot of really good musicians around. From Wendy Warner playing the cello, to Jordan Rosen on the guitar, and others as well. (Hoff, Oakley, etc) I always felt the banjo was a second class instrument. I’d pick it up every once in a while, and pluck out a folk tune… then put it back. Folks music was good, but ‘county’ music as I knew it wasn’t good. And no one around me besides my parents thought the banjo was a ‘real instrument’. So it would sit in its case.

I tried the electric guitar several times. But it’d always bother me that I’d have to use a pick… I wanted to touch the strings. I just couldn’t get into playing it. Piano was okay, but I had the same feeling. I’d play for a while… then I’d go pick up my banjo. Then I’d obsess and play with the banjo for a while… eventually I’d grow tired of playing the same tunes and put it back in its case. Then I’d do something else, like baking or programming.

Several years ago, when my mom was seriously ill, I started trying to play the banjo again… try to teach myself. I wanted to show her I could play well after all these years. I’d practice what I knew, plucking away as I did years ago. I’d grab a new book of songs trying to learn something new. But I just never would progressed. She died before I got the chance to play for her again. I put the banjo back in its case.

We put my son on a piano when he was 4. Gave him lessons with a seriously good pianist who is great with kids. But he didn’t like playing. Switched him to electric guitar which he likes, but never wanted to practice. And I could see in him the struggle I had years ago. Its a lot of work. And you have to like it to really do it. He’d like to play what he knew, but never liked to learn something new. And honestly, being 8 is so young to work on an instrument seriously, but he didn’t have fun with it on his own. I could see in him what it was like for me. But now I was 42… and I saw that had I just played more when I was 8, I would be where I wanted to be now. I didn’t have to take it ‘seriously’… just play more. But play what?

After watching a bunch of videos of people playing the banjo on YouTube, I decided to start taking lessons again… and learn something that was really new to me. Clawhammer style. An old co-worker of mine was taking lessons from Joe Bethancourt and liked him, so I took a chance and took lessons from him too. I started in the middle of last year. I looked at sites like Banjo Hangout and other places to find stuff to play. I’m starting to learn to play new songs by ear, but I still read tabular music as well.

At Banjo Hangout, they have a ‘song of the week’ that people try to learn and show what they can do. The first one they did when they started the program was West Virginia Gals, which has an Irish feel to it. I told Joe early on that was the one I wanted to do. Over the months, I’d switch between songs but always thought in the back of my head that I really wanted to learn that one. Once I started getting the clawhammer technique down, and drop-thumbing, I tried the song again. Now that its almost St. Patrick’s day and though my playing of the song is still rough around the edges, I wanted to document where I am. So years from now I can see how I progressed. Without further ado, here is my variant.

Yeah, the lighting is a bit dark. I’m not used to taking videos…

The problems of food in America…

I pointed out in a previous post about my problems with chemically processed food additives like soy isolate. Then I tried to not eat that type of stuff even though I’m a vegetarian. Turns out I kinda mess up my diet and general health in the process.

Fundamentally, I’m fairly lazy in the food prep department. I try to make lots of stuff, but like most people I’m tired when I get home and don’t want to deal with it. While I’ve removed virtually all processed food from my diet, I didn’t really replace it with anything much. Salad, fruits and vegetables, which is good for you, but I still didn’t eat much of it. End result was large weight loss due to reduce caloric intake. But I recently realized that one component missing from my diet was iron.

The multi-vitamin I take is geared towards men and contains no iron; they assume men eat lots of meat and don’t need it. In the past few weeks I ‘forgot’ to make my beans that I usually make, and before I knew it, the amount of food with iron in it has dropped to almost zero. The result has been anemia, odd taste/smell sensations which can all be attributed to a nutritional deficiency of some form or another.

Since I became a vegetarian the amount of iron I eat has always been low, but never this low for this long. The impact on my health on my recent diet changes has been striking. Losing weight in a nice even pace, but I’ve had sleep disorders and a host of other issues that can be directly correlated to lack of some specific nutritional component or another. Being a vegetarian in a non-vegetarian culture is really difficult. Even though I’ve been doing this for about 14 years, I still struggle. The abundance of food in America is positive because people shouldn’t have these issues I brought on myself recently. Rather this abundance causes other issues that I’ve had to deal with up to this point. This culture I’m in makes it difficult to come up with rational choices on what you eat simply because you spend so little time dealing with it. You order it or buy it, eat it then do the next thing. Doing the ‘next thing’ is the American culture I grew up with. You go to the ‘next big movie’ or buy the ‘next big game/shoes/phone’. All those things take more time and resources then ‘food’ in America does. So quality food is really secondary much to our determent.

I’m being fairly reductionist here, but it seems obvious to me that the American culture relies on buying prepared food in some form or another. Canned food, sauces, frozen dinners, pizza, etc. You buy it because its easy to make and gets the job done. Each of those has issues with them (salt, preservatives, etc) that wouldn’t be there if you prepared them yourself. But the culture does not revolve around the kitchen, so no one wants to be in there. And if you go out all the time, then you have no clue what you’re really eating… giving the restaurant owner keys to your nutritional intake as well as your pocketbook.

So, how do I fix this? First change my multi-vitamin, at least that’s easy. Second, spend more time in the kitchen and get the rest of the family there too. I’m used to the format that if I’m cooking, Kirsten can do something else or visa versa. (I almost always clean the dishes, BTW). Also I need to get Jacob helping out in the kitchen more. I’m not sure I can fight this ‘next thing’ syndrome. That seems much harder then normalizing my diet.

WebOS vs Android

I just got an Evo to upgrade from my Palm pre. I’m most surprised by the Evo in that it is not a pure killer of the WebOS Palm pre.  Here are initial findings.

Hardware: Here there is no comparison. The Evo is fast and good looking. The Palm pre started with hardware issues (Slider, screen effects). Memory wise, the Palm pre plus is actually better, but evo’s expansion fixes lots of issues, and android 2.2 will make use of the SDHC card easy for applications. I got used to the pre’s keyboard, but honestly I don’t have a real preference (yet) between the on-screen one for the Evo or the slider physical one for the pre. I hate that using it takes away my screen real-estate, but not enough feeling there to really care. Size-wise, the evo is really big, almost too big, whereas the palm pre was really small, almost too small. (Same resolution). I’d rather error on big here though.

WebOS vs Android: Now this is very preliminary, so I can’t talk about much here. However, WebOS is far better in the area of multi-tasking from a usability perspective. You can easily see what applications you have open where the concept of ‘open apps’ is basically hidden from you in the android. Though that may be technically irrelevant, switching between apps (especially while talking on the phone) is far easier on WebOS then android.

The second thing that weirded me out was email/contacts/calendar integration. WebOS integrations seamlessly between Gmail, yahoo, facebook and corporate google apps account. One application for mail, one for calendar, one for contacts. Android has a gmail integration, and a mail integration. Two separate apps.  Now, gmail on android functions like gmail on the web browser, which is nice, but it makes no sense to treat these so different. Also, as of yet I cannot get my work calendar in my Android without having to share it with my personal gmail account. No question that palm having years to deal with these types of issues have paid off. Though I continue to be surprised that both integrated facebook calendar and contacts perfectly. (Where are my yahoo contacts?)

Apps is a no brainer. Android has more then WebOS.  But the apps ‘feel’ very different on the two devices. I’m not sure one ‘feels’ better then the other, but its a stark contrast. WebOS launches them, and switching between two active apps is as fluid as if you were on a computer having multiple windows open. Android seems to leave you in place when you go after the next app. You cannot see them as windows or are separate functioning applications. So WebOS has more of a computer feel to it and Android feels more like a phone. Which is better? Not sure yet, but my gut instinct is that I’d prefer the WebOS feel on a tablet. Honestly, I’ll have to see if this is just the process of getting used to Android after using WebOS for a year.

I’ll have to play more with media on the device to see how that is. I was never overly impressed with the pre there, and was still using my Cowon S9 (or even D2) instead of the pre. Evo will be well worth it if it functions well here too, though I’m really picky about that.  I’ll give another review in a few weeks and see if I change my mind from these initial impressions. I really was surprised that the Evo is not a ‘slam dunk’ as far as better then Palm pre… I do know that my wife would really hate to give up her pre.

My Grandmother’s recipes…

It looks like many of these recipes are most likely from my grandmother, not my mom. Kirsten thinks my mom kept her own recipes elsewhere, especially since we couldn’t find some of hers that we knew were written down. (For example, her famous Snickerdoodles recipe was no where to be found, nor the rum balls.) The recipe box itself was probably my grandmothers, and my mom may have started to add to it at some point.

Its a wonderful find, but I think were missing a notebook of recipes in her handwriting. I can verify the box origins with her sister, who is still alive. One thing we may have found via the box is my fraternal grandfather’s favorite drink/desert. It was written on back of his business card and stored in the box. 1oz Cognac, 1/4oz Creme de Menthe, and one scope of vanilla ice cream. We assume blended. I’ll verify that one with Dad tonight.

My Mother’s Recipes

Those who know me know how much I love to bake bread. Most do not know why though. I had originally learned to bake bread because it was one thing my mom felt she couldn’t do that well. She taught me to cook when I was little, and more so as I got older. I never did that much cooking for the family though; she had her own way to run a kitchen, and loved to do the cooking for all of us. When I left home, I decided to bake bread because it ‘seemed’ easy, and my mom loved to hear my latest success, and lament and advise for that which didn’t work.

My mom passed away last month. The months before she died were hard, as is coming to grip with the fact that she’s gone. I have the feeling that part of me still doesn’t believe it. This last weekend I spent at my Dad’s house trying to fix up the pantry for him and came across her box of recipes. Its packed with hand-written recipes that vary in complexity and styles. I asked my Dad if I could take it so I could transcribe the recipes and make them available to the family and he agreed; provided I brought the box back to him when I was done.

My goal now is to scan in each page of the recipe box, evaluate and interpret the text to fill in the gaps of what she cooked versus what she wrote down. This box easily spans 50 years if not more. I’m trying to figure out what the best way to save these recipes on the computer. Should I do it in book form? As a blog? Use available ‘recipe’ software? At this point I’m not sure what to do after I scan in the last page. Once I start converting them to text, I plan to start using them to cook for my own family. See if I can get the smells and tastes to drum up memories in me.

Tivo Upgrade…

With the Olympics being broadcast in HD on NBC, we wanted to get all of it on the TiVo. But our HD TiVo is basically out of room with the digital feed already on it. (We get OTA HD) So, I wanted to get a new 1TB drive external to it. Well, I simply could not find a ‘supported’ one. (No to Best Buy, Fry’s, Amazon without spending $350, even WD online was out-of-stock). So, with a quick look at this thread I decided to go for it.

The warranty is now voided, but I have to say that the insides are pretty spartan and nice. Hopefully when its copied over all will work and I won’t have to look to buy a new one by messing this up.