Sunday, June 29, 2008

My Final Paper - "Behold, the Magnificent Phonograph"

So, we have a final paper in my summer class on technology and interactivity. I wasn't terribly worried. It's only a "final" paper in that it occurs after all others. In truth, it's only worth about 4% of our grades, and I get 2% just for turning it in. Still, I somehow managed to make mine twice the required length. There's two reasons for this. First is simply because the required length is only 1000 words (remember, this is a discussion-based class). Second, I actually had a lot of fun writing it. You see, we had a choice of three different questions to respond to, and the one I chose was, basically, to write a "scientific/logical explanation for the layman that outlines the particular interactivity with a technology we have not discussed. You can be creative, humorous, and a little absurd but must also be intelligent, articulate, and well-informed." We had to also show that we did the readings in the class, but instead of needing to cite them, we could be allusive or imitative.

Anyway, I chose to write something like this for the phonograph, mainly because I felt we didn't spend nearly enough time talking about audio technology, focusing heavily on visual technology (also, I really like this recording). I decided to write as though I were from ye olden days, and I feel I'm more than a bit imitative of Oliver Wendell Holmes, who wrote our first reading.

Anyway, I kind of let loose when creating this, but I actually enjoy the results. I hope you will, as well. And I hope you'll come to the realization, as I did when halfway through, that this must have actually seemed like a frickin' big deal at the time.

(P.S. While I kind of muddle with timelines in this piece, this is an excuse to use my "1890s" tag for a second time. Score!)


Like a fine perfume, spoken words, carried by the talented voice of Len Spencer, seeped out the glass panes of the appliance shop to my ears as I was taking a stroll downtown. People casually walking by turned, to perhaps glimpse the man that the sound must have come from. One person even looked at me, as though I were some sort of ventriloquist.

But no; the voice may have been projected, but it was not by my lungs. Instead, it was by a small box, no taller than my chest. This box was the phonograph, a most wondrous invention. Created by Thomas Edison, it may prove even more influential than his electric lantern. With this mechanical device, you can do what one would think is impossible: you can capture sound. What’s more, you can then repeat this captured sound whenever you please. With such an apparatus, we have the opportunity to interact with family, with ourselves, and with the world in an entirely new – and beneficial – way. If you don’t believe me now, or if you’ve never heard of one of these phonographs before, then give me a few moments of your time to explain myself.

I think it prudent to discuss the technical aspects of one of these contraptions. After all, without a proper understanding of the mechanics of today’s technology, it is no better than some possessed trinket. You can just imagine good old Aunt Mabel claiming it to be a work of the devil, can you not? But no, it is not some infernal handicraft, but rather a precisely-tuned instrument. Yes, I said “instrument”. Because, you see, the phonograph works in exactly the same way as any flute or drum.

Let us consider the humble mandolin. When a musician plucks at one of the strings, that piece of catgut would move back and forth. These vibrations disturb the air, much like a well-thrown stone will cause ripples in a pond. However, once these disturbances reach your ear, they then vibrate the inner recesses of your ear, acting as a tiny drum. This, then, causes you to hear the sound in your head. The same holds true with a piano (the vibrations being on the strings inside), the drum (here coming from the skin you beat) and the flute (the very body of the instrument being the tool of the vibrations). And so it is true with the phonograph.

Of course, the phonograph does not use strings. Instead, it uses wax cylinders no larger than a jar of peanut butter. This cylinder is placed on what can best be likened to a spit over a cooking fire. In this way, a crank allows the user to turn the cylinder like a suckling pig. A needle then rests on the cylinder, and attached to this needle is a large cone, similar to a horn or trumpet.

What makes this apparatus so extraordinary is that it can perform dual functions; recording sound and playing it back. When one fastens a small attachment onto the needle, it allows you to speak into the machine. You can input whatever you want, from a friendly greeting to a song to a dramatic reading of Melville. When the large cone catches the vibrations of your voice (themselves created by the movement of the muscles in your throat) it will itself vibrate slightly, enough to move the recording needle up and down. Like a master sculptor of miniscule stature, the needle digs into the wax cylinder, forming small grooves. Within these grooves is magic. Not real magic, mind you; otherwise Aunt Mabel would get her torch ready. No, it is a modern magic, one which captures the sound, exactly how it is, and stores it, as though frozen in time, ready to be played back. And to do this, you simply remove the recording attachment and turn the crank as normal. Now, it simply works in the opposite way; the grooves bump the needle up and down, causing the cone to vibrate in a way which will replicate whatever sound was frozen on the cylinder.

What are amazing about these cylinders are their authenticity and their longevity. A parrot, for example, can “record” a speech, but when you ask it to speak the speech back to you, it will do so in its own voice. The speech may be accurate in its contents, but it is not authentic in voice. A phonograph cylinder, on the other hand, will remember and present you with the speech exactly how was first said. Were you in another room, you’d think speechmaker himself was the one doing the talking. Additionally, while one’s memory of a speech can fade with time, a cylinder will reproduce it with as much accuracy one year from now as it does today. Think of it as an entertainer who will perform unlimited shows after only one payment.

But the use of the phonograph goes far beyond that.

People speak of photography as though it were the second coming of the Lord. I can’t go anywhere without seeing a picture print or stereoscopic image. People flock to these devices, saying that they will revolutionize the way we perceive the world. They will make travel unnecessary, and they will allow family on different sides of the country to know each other as though they were next-door neighbors. All through the “power” of images.

Well, of course people are attracted to this concept. Of all the senses, sight is our primary one. Before all other information is gleaned from a new object or situation, we evaluate it based on what we see. Unfortunately, this also makes sight our most superficial sense. Even though we are told never to judge a book by its cover, that is exactly what we are forced to do with photography: judge something solely by its appearance, rather than its merit.

I hear tell of people putting together moving pictures. They take a number of photographs, all taken in close sequence, and display them as quickly as possible. The effect is to create movement. Currently, the closest we can get to something like this is the zoetrope, but the thought it that we will eventually reach a point where a single pane will be able to display the moving pictures, without any spinning. Personally, I’m not waiting with very much excitement. I’ve seen chronophotographs; I know how systematic human beings work. But what good is it to know that humans move? Animals move. Machines move. And that’s what these moving pictures show us: that we are mechanical as a steam engine.

Sound, on the other hand, is what separates us from the machines, and places us closer to the pantheon of the angels. For it is in sound that the soul comes through, be it through the heavenly voices of a church choir or through an inspirational speech by the president. We may not use sound as our primary sense, but it allows us to pierce deeper into the very core of one’s being. Hence, once the phonograph is ubiquitous, we shall engage in a new culture, one in which we judge others not on the trifling appearances of their clothes and face, but on the very sound of their soul.

But these philosophical ramblings mean nothing if the phonograph ends up serving no palpable purposes. Which indeed, it does. In fact, I dare say that the phonograph shall be the creation which, more than any other man-made machine, shall serve to change the way people around the world interact with each other.

Consider the opera. While an opera can be an uplifting experience, the practice of attending one can be less than pleasant. The modestly-paid enthusiast must attend a show by himself - or at best with his wife - as he cannot afford to purchase tickets for his family and friends. When he reaches the theatre, he must find an uncomfortable chair in a sea of strangers. Later, when his hunger arises, he must get up and leave the performance to purchase refreshment. What a needless hassle! With the phonograph, he can purchase an opera cylinder for half the price of an individual ticket. He can then invite his dear ones into his living room, where he can sit in his favorite recliner. The opera can begin and end whenever he desires. If he takes a break, so does the performance. He may repeat a particular concerto if he desires. He has access to limitless encores. His house, not the big house, becomes the local center of attraction. What a marvelous situation, when a man need not leave his house and still has the choice between “Carmen” and “Madame Butterfly”.

This also presents new opportunities for musical artists. Because one phonograph may record off of another, a musician need only complete his piece once, and it can be replicated as many times as his heart desires. No longer need he perform on every street corner and evening café. He may simply sell cylinders for 50 cents apiece to the general store. In this way, we may need to add a course in our music lessons about proper salesmanship!

And yet, it does not end there. This technology will eventually make written letters obsolete. After all, why should one wish to waste their time writing – or reading – page after page of correspondence, when they may simply place a cylinder in their phonograph and communicate the way it was meant to be done: with voice. Say I wish to send a romantic note to my sweetheart traveling across Europe. I could simply write down a poem, put in the post, and hope she understands its meaning. Or – and I sincerely prefer this – I could actually recite the poem to her, to inflect the important points, to punctuate what needs be punctuated. And in hearing my tender tone, she will feel as though my arms are enfolding her. A slip of paper cannot do that. Should she reciprocate, sending me back a cylinder with her delicate voice, I could close my eyes and imagine her very presence. Indeed, communicating with the phonograph is just like having a conversation with your eyes closed. It is the closest two people on opposite sides of the world will ever come to be.

In fact, once one thinks about it, the phonograph becomes the perfect tool for people to interact with each other. But is it only a means to this end? Certainly not! Should you choose it to be, the phonograph can be a character in and of itself. As Len Spencer’s advertising recording states, “When your wife is worried after the cares of the day, and the children are boisterous, I can rest the one and quiet the other. I never get tired and you will never tire of me, for I will always have something new to offer.” If only every houseguest could offer as much! You’ll notice how it speaks, though, referring to itself in the first person, as though it were a living, breathing person. I have yet to see a camera do that! And it couldn’t, because nobody would believe it. But the phonograph, with its ability to use sound, the foundation of the soul, actually has the ability to pass as a contributing member of the household – one which never needs to be fed.

But was Aunt Mabel correct this whole time? Is the phonograph actually insidious? Shall we lose ourselves in this machine? Not at all; in fact, we shall discover ourselves! We shall go past the superficial details of photography and understand what it is to know the world with our eyes closed.

I think that within a few years, when the phonograph becomes as omnipresent as a bedspread, you will not have to read this piece again. By that time, I will have recorded it on a cylinder and distributed it to all of my readers (who, ironically, wouldn’t be reading anymore). In doing so, all the tones, the inflections, and the passion that I’ve lost in transcribing my thoughts to paper will be regained. Your experience would improve tenfold. This discourse could continue for an infinite number of pages, but I believe you should have a decent understanding of the workings - and the merits - of the phonograph. If not, then I urge you to go to your local appliance store and experience the phonograph for yourself; I think you will be hard-pressed to hold onto that stoicism. Steam power may make travel across the world easy, but it is the phonograph which will actually bring us all together.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Lessons as a Lush

So, I finally went out to my "birthday dinner" with a couple friends. They tried to get me drunk.

I didn't get drunk, but I definitely got a little tipsy...I think.

I had (or should say, was forced to have) a large strawberry margarita, and then about half of a small watermelon margarita. I was trying to drink them as slowly as possible, mainly because I was concerned about the huge caloric cost of the drinks.

Eventually, I noticed that it became harder to think. For lack of a better explanation, my thoughts were on one side of my head, and when I tried to get to them, they moved to the other side of my head, and so on and so forth. So, to think of a sentence, I would have to move from one side of my brain to the other, like on a see-saw.

But the thing is, what they say about how you become more open and laugh more when you're a little tipsy, it was the opposite for me.

Maybe it had to do with the see-saw feeling. Say I wanted to say "Oh, yeah, I was just thinking about that." I would have to chase my thoughts in the middle of words, so that it came out like "Oh, yeah, I was j...ust thinking ab...out that." And I stared into space a lot. In effect, I became less garrulous, less smily-laughy, less outgoing, less fun, less social, less all-those-things-you're-supposed to be more of.

If I were to make a hypothesis as to the reason for this, what would I say? I would say that I like being in control of my mind and my thoughts, and having to chase them around is a demoralizing experience for me; hence, I become a lot more drab.

I would also say I'm somewhat of a lightweight. I don't know what the normal number of margaritas is to get someone inebriated, but I've definitely seen people drink more than that with no noticeable effects.

So let's recap:
-I can't drink much before I start to notice adverse effects.
-I become less fun and social and more insular when the effects occur.
-(Alcohol has a lot of calories.)
-I don't enjoy the experience of not being at total mental capacity.
-Alcohol and my bloodline doesn't mix well. (I didn't go over this, but rest assured, it's true.)

...Looks like I'll be the designated driver from now on.

(To be fair, I may not be inebriated at all. I'm writing this about 4 hours after the fact, and I don't think most tipsy people write an analysis of their being tipsy. But, then, I guess most people aren't me. Still, maybe the feelings I experienced were, in fact, self-induced, based on what I felt should have been my reactions. Oh, well. I most likely shan't be studying this anymore!)

Thursday, June 26, 2008


This weird symbol...

What could it be?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Quick Note on That Balloon Thingy

Lifted from Elderly Apple:

Also, in case you don't look much to the right [ed. here it would be to the left], I've joined this game called Balloonacy, in which I lead a balloon (I call mine Carmine the Camel) across the Intertubes! Because I'm not from the UK, I can't win the prize (a trip to Ibiza, but I can at least keep some British bloke from getting it! So! Once the race starts, support me!

Though I don't know how it works. So dang!

And you should support Carmine the Camel! He lost his entire family in a freak accident while visiting the pin factory. Now he's a vagabond! Support him so that he can find a true home during his travels.

Anyway, maybe you just have to click something to support me. Whatever. The race should have started by now, so click there and see what you have to do! It should last a week or so. Let's keep those blimey blokes out of Ibiza!


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Just to Prove I'm Still Alive

Not one Photoshop, but two (both utilizing the awesome power of Diffuse Glow)!

This next one I'm actually using as my current desktop.

Actual content coming, I swear.

Monday, June 16, 2008

An Aside on Fred Thompson

Now, I know next to nothing about this former Presidential candidate and prospective Republican running mate...

But God damn, this picture makes him look evil:
Put some flames and thrones stitched together of human bone behind him, and you got yourself a Grade-A candidate there!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

And my Plant's Name Shall Be...


Yes, it may seem to come out of left field, but I think it works. My plant looks like a François.

Actually, I thought of the name while listening to this song.

(NOTE: Your likelihood of understanding that reference are about 1 in 800.)

So now, François and Ichabod can live together in peace and happiness. Huzzah!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Name a Plant, Save a Child!

Well, if you can't do both, at least try the first!

Part of me wants a pet. Nothing really extravagant, just a little companion that I can have whimsical adventures with. Unfortunately, there's a policy against that (pets, not whimsical adventures).

Now, I know some fellow RAs had had snuck in little gerbils/hamsters/mice (okay, it was only one of those, but I forget which), but I'm not going to hassle with that.


Because I can't have a living, breathing, moving creature inside my room, I decided to do the next best thing: buy a living, reverse-breathing, and very much not-moving plant.

Take a look!
(As an interesting aside, these are some of the first pictures I've taken with my brand new camera.)

Anyway, this is an Echeveria, which is a flowering succulent plant. It cost me $12 from some nice lady in the BART station, and I chose it because a) it's big enough to feel significant; b) it doesn't seem like it would be a leafy mess when it wilts; and c) it's a low-maintenance, drought-resistant plant, which is good for someone like me, who has a thumb blacker than the midnight sky.

So far, this plant has been good to me. However, I've been a father to it.

You see, my plant does not have a name. Oh, I've been meaning to give it a name, but I just can't think of one that I'm satisfied with. I have a particular taste in names, and so far, nothing has tickled my fancy.

What's that, you say? Why don't I name the plant "Ichabod"? As a matter of fact, this was my first idea, and I was this close to naming it that. However, I soon remembered that Ichabod is the name of my companion rock. If you don't believe me, you can just ask him.

See? I suppose I could also name the plant Ichabod, but then I would be the George Foreman of inanimate objects.

So, here's the deal: my plant needs a name, and I'm going to open the comment section up for you all to add your two cents. I am very lenient about the name (it can either be male or female), but it must adhere to these two criteria:
1. It must fit the plant (obviously).
2. It would be best to be an anachronistic name (this is just a quirk of mine).

So then, have at it! My plant's future is in your hands!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

My Weight Loss 101: A Q&A Session (I Hope You Like Reading)

Hey, Andrew.

Yes, disembodied bold voice?

When are you going to post that piece on your weight loss?

What the hell are you talking about?

Didn't you say over a month ago that you would be writing a full-on post about how you lost sixty pounds? I did. What do you want me to do about it now?

Well, you could make good on your promise and write about it.

...Fine. But how should I go about it? There's lots of areas to cover.

How about I ask you questions, and you answer?

Eh...fine. Where do you want to begin?

Hey, I'm asking the questions here!


So, how did you do it?

Heh. This is the most common question I received, and understandably so. After all, people don't just lose a lot of weight by doing nothing. But, anyway, my answer is simple: diet and exercise.

That's all?

Heh. That's a common response to my answer. Most people seem surprised - and even a little disappointed - at the fact that I didn't do some sort of wonder program.

That's probably because this is pretty much The Biggest Loser

Um, I've only really only seen about two episodes of that show, so I wouldn't really know. But I guess I'll give you some more specifics:
Exercise: 30 minutes (plus 5 minutes cool-down) of elliptical trainer every day.

Let's stop there. Why an elliptical trainer?

Several reasons, really. First (and probably most important) it was available. Where I live (in a dorm), we have a small exercise room in the downstairs central building. How small, you ask?

Actually, I didn't.

Well, it has four ellipticals, two stationary bikes, two treadmills, and a rowing machine. That may seem large if you're comparing it to a home gym, but for a dorm serving 1000+ people, it's not very big. Anyway, as such, I'm limited to one of the machines featured there. Technically, I could go to the Recreational Sports Facility, which is built like a palace of fitness. They have nearly 40 treadmills alone! However, it's on campus, which is really inconvenient. So, I make do with what I have.

Now, amongst the four options I had (elliptical, treadmill, bike, and rower), why choose what I did? Mainly because, from what I can see, the elliptical is the closest you I can come to the perfect exercise machine. It provides a low-impact, high-intensity workout for both your arms and legs, and easily keeps track of what you do. Overall, I think you get the most caloric bang for your buck (this is a concept I'll refer to several times from here on out).

The stationary bikes are obviously good for your legs, but they do nothing, absolutely nothing, for your arms. Also, you can do a lot on them and not burn many calories. The rower, I'm sure, is better for muscle building, and for my weight loss period, I was mainly focused on cardio. Plus, the electronics were missing their plugs, so I couldn't track anything. :(

Well, what about the treadmill? That's the classic exercise machine, is it not?

Here's where it gets tricky. I actually think you can do more on an elliptical than a treadmill. When you're on a treadmill (or rather, when I am), every time your foot hits the ground, a shock goes through your system. This makes you exhausted faster, and so you end up stopping/slowing down earlier, netting you fewer calories lost overall. On an elliptical, though, your feet are always connected to the "ground" and so there is low- to no-impact when you're moving. This keeps your body that much more energized, enough to go further/faster and burn more.

There are also some other reasons I like the elliptical more. For example, if you wanted to watch a movie (either on a laptop or on the nonexistent TV in the workout room), the elliptical keeps you more steady than running on a treadmill would. Also, when your resistance is high enough, the elliptical can provide quite a workout for your arms, as well. And I had my resistance notched up to...almost...the highest amount. People often joked about slow I would be moving (relative to them). I'd retort about how their 10 mph efforts were going to waste when they were on level 1/25.

Okay, so you did some cardio, but-

Some cardio?! Mister, in a scant 30 minutes, I would lose anywhere from 550 calories (nowadays) to 750 calories (when I started)!

Okay, okay, but I was going to ask if you did anything else. Weights? Pushups? Situps?

Uh, no. That wasn't really my focus at the time, but I'm doing those latter two things nowadays (I'll talk about that later).

Alright, enough about exercise. Exercise can only get you so far anyway. What was this diet you speak of?

It's pretty basic: eat less, and eat better.

Didn't you do any sort of program? Jenny Craig? Weight Watchers? Slim Fast?

I did do Slim Fast, mainly toward the beginning. I've since kind of stopped using them, but I still have plenty of their products. Considering one of their meal bars has fewer calories than a standard candy bar, they're pretty useful. But I generally eat pretty normal food, just less of it. Mainly in the early meals. I just eat enough that I'm satiated. In dinner, though, I kind of kick back and indulge myself a bit. I never leave any meal hungry, but I always leave dinner full.

Ooo, now we're talkin'! What kinds of things did you have for dinner?

Here, I'll just show you a picture:
Aargh! Too much green! Get it away!!!


You would eat all that?

Sure would! This is a pretty typical example of what my dinner would look like. I'll explain each part of it. First of all, I mostly always got my food to-go, because 1)I had nobody to eat with (
*tear*) and 2) it made portioning a lot easier. So, a to-go box had two small compartments and one large one. In a big one will go any of the following:
Spinach (
Lots and lots of cherry tomatoes (
Broccoli (
Celery (
When available)
Lima beans (
Usually only when there is no celery)
Hummus (
The magic formula: I use it to dip the veggies into)

All raw and organic, if you're into that (I'm not).

Dear God, and I thought you hated vegetables.

Well, I've come to...appreciate them. Sometimes I'll just snack on a leaf of spinach or a celery stalk. But cherry tomatoes! I loooooove cherry tomatoes. I could just eat them forever!

Oh. Well, what else is in there? It looks like you have burger.

A Garden Burger.


I'll get to the meat issue in a minute. But yes, that's a garden burger with tomatoes and mustard, wrapped in lettuce. I've officially given up buns on burgers, as you may remember from a while ago.

And there's also some crisscut fries. I still like my french fries (particularly if they're baked). They are, I would say, one of my two Achilles Heels.

One of two? What's the other?

Take a look.

Consarnit! That looks almost exactly the same as the last one, except the spinach is covering something. What is that...?Ah, nachos!

That's right. I simply cannot say "no" to nachos. They could have ambrosia being served in one corner of the dining common, but if nachos were being served, I'd choose the nachos. They're just sooo good. And while I know that my somewhat-healthier choices of soy meat, black beans, and
are completely overshadowed by that molten trans-fat that is the cheese-like sauce, I DON'T CARE! Nachos make a shortened lifespan worthwhile!

Okay, okay. Nachos. But what were you saying earlier about meat? Have you become vegetarian or *gasp* vegan?!

Hell no! I would never give those nuts the satisfaction of my joining their ranks. No, I definitely still eat meat (and enjoy it), but I have a...method, you may say, which may be summed up in my "Things to Avoid/Limit" Mantra:
"Wheats, sweets, and mammal meats."

A rhyme. Cute.

Thanks! Keep in mind, this is not a hard-and-fast rule. I did not give up every instance of any of these. For example, on St. Patrick's Day, I was more than happy to eat Corned Beef. It's just a general guideline, as these three categories tend to have a greater caloric cost than other, similar things.

So, for meat, fish was still in my normal repertoire, as was chicken and turkey (I still eat chicken quite frequently). I guess you could say I was just giving up red meats. But I never had any intention of becoming vegetarian. I'm just a lacto-ovo-pollo-pescatarian.

What about desserts? It says you "gave up sweets", but how can anyone give up dessert?

Well, I haven't had ice cream in the longest time, if that's what you're asking. One thing not pictured above is fruit. I always pilfer lots of fruit, especially apples. But all kinds of fruit work great. For a period, I was enjoying bowlfuls of frozen grapes (one of the greatest fruit innovations ever). Right now is watermelon season, and half of my meals' weights are made up of the stuff.

But, as far as more traditional desserts, there are a couple things I would do. First, I would get myself a mixture of one-part chocolate milk and two-parts nonfat milk. Yes, that would be my dessert. Other times, I would have one of my Slim-Fast snack bars. One recent idea I've come up with is getting a "Freddo" from the Peet's Coffee next to the DC (essentially, it's a Frappachino). I'd get it no-sugar, no-whipped cream, and with nonfat milk. Essentially, as bare-bones as it gets. I would then stick this in the freezer, and then take it back out hours later, scraping off shavings so as to eat it slowly.

Oh, and I know this isn't a desert, but one of the best caloric-value snacks out there is actually Trader Joe's Salsa Verde. If you live by a Trader Joe's, you owe it to yourself to pick up a jar (or six). It is so good that I literally will take a spoon and eat the salsa by itself. I wouldn't do that with any other salsa! (Mainly because it's kinda gross.) The best part is, an entire jar is only 110 calories, so it's completely guiltless.

Also, mints make a good dessert, as they make you not want to eat anymore.

Okay, cool. So that's how you lost the weight. But exactly how much did you lose? And over what time period?

As it turns out, I kept a log of my progress. On December 28th (I guess that's my official start date), I weighed 232 lbs. On May 2nd (my official "end" date) I was 174 lbs. That's 58 lbs in 127 days, or about 1 pound every 2 days (and some change). That seems almost excessively dramatic, and were I a thinner man at the start, it definitely would have been. Of course, it was nowhere near constant. Over the course of the weeks, the weight lost would fluctuate wildly. I tried to keep my weighings as consistent as possible to mitigate this, but there's always lots of variables.

One interesting note is that the scale I bought when I returned to school was actually a body fat scale, which measures your body fat % (it's supposed to be more relevant than BMI) by sending electrical signals through and seeing how fast they move, as electricity moves at different speeds in fat than it does in water. So, on January 20, by body fat percentage was 26.8%. On May 9 (a week after the official "end") it was 13.4%. So, as you can see, I've effectively cut my body fat percentage in half. So I've got that going for me. I've also increased my body water percentage by ten percentage points, but I don't know what that really entails.

Isn't this too much? Couldn't it be unhealthy? Have you seen a doctor?

Yes, I did, and he gave me a (figurative) thumbs-up.

Okay then. Well, I know that you posted that one comparison Before/After picture. Does that mean you had taken a picture last year for the sole purpose of being a "Before"?

Yes. That picture was actually taken in November, so it's not completely representative of the exact change, but it's pretty close, if not even more dramatic. It's one of three "Before" pictures.

Ah! So there are more?


Are you going to show them?

Okay, you've twisted my arm. Sure, I'll show them. Just be warned that pretty much from here on out, I'm not wearing a shirt, so you may want to just stop here. (Especially if you're at work. These pictures may not have anything unsafe in them, but your boss doesn't know that!)

Duly noted.

Okay, here we go.

So, the main premise behind the comparison pictures was to do a somewhat tongue-in-cheek parody of those "Before/After" shots that you see on commercials. Y'know, where the before picture is all bleak and frowny, while the after picture looks like the person just won the lottery. Well, the latter two before pictures were like that. I let my stomach stick out as much as possible, and I had a utterly depressing face. However, I wanted one picture with me holding my stomach in, because really, that's how I (and I think most people) present myself. The face is also decidedly less frowntastic, and I thought it worked well to give a better picture of the actual me.

So, you may remember this picture from a while back. This was the halfway point, 30 pounds. The main things of note (besides the hair) are the slight indentations my armpits, the vertical stretching of my belly button, the less of an overhang of my stomach. One interesting note, too, is the fact that my pants hang just a bit looser on my hips.

And, for a change of pace, here's the thirty-pound mark compared with the sixty-pound mark. Note that the armpits are now full-on crevaces, my belly button has almost disappeared, and there is almost no overhang at all. Also notice that my pants now needed to have the cord tied. In fact, that barely helped, and they fall off at a moments notice; I've since had to retire them. :(

And this is the picture everyone is familiar with, which shows the weight loss quite clearly.

Okay, but this is nothing I haven't seen before. What about those other pictures?

I was just getting to them. Here's my front gut-sticking-out/sad-face picture.

Ew. Anyway, this was again the thirty-pound mark. Not much to say.

You're doing it wrong! You're supposed to be smiling in the "After" picture!

Oh, right. Well, I didn't. Unfortunately, I don't feel these pictures did a good job in portraying the extent of the weight loss. Yes, there are some indications around the neck area, but it's not dramatic.

If you want dramatic, you need to see the side pictures!

Good God, that's hideous. But it's the way I was...when sticking my stomach out as far as it would go. At the thirty-pound mark, it's really not as noticeable as I would like.

At the sixty-pound mark, though, it is. I mean, look at it. The second picture is still me forcing my stomach outwards. And yet, it's smaller than when I would suck in my gut at my old weight. I would say that's pretty dramatic.

I guess. But what about muscle pictures? Don't you have any of those?

Well, like I said earlier, I wasn't really focused on building muscles. So I don't really have anything special. However, as I also said earlier, one of the benefits of the elliptical is that it also works well for your arms. So I did build a little bit, plus I lost the fat covering them. I took some pictures that show that, but I actually think better showcase my new armpits, which are among my proudest points, because they are actually pits now, as opposed to just being under-arm areas.

It's fun to note that I call these my "Fierce" pictures because I can't seem to flex without making a truly psychotic face. Hence, I find them quite entertaining, which is the only reason I'm putting in more than one. Enjoy!

Army Man! Hut-hut and ten-four!

Like I said. Completely and utterly psychotic.

This one I just found hilarious for some reason. So much so, in fact, that I decided to turn it into this:

As you can see, the resemblance is uncanny.

Y'see the pose here is excellent. It would actually be a good picture, if I actually had what I'm supposedly showing off.

Okay, that's enough of that! Please!

You asked.

Regretfully so! So, new question: what are some things you've learned about your body?

What is this, a 5th Grade sex ed class? Anyway, I've learned a few things.

1. I have big ears. Yes, I've actually always known this, but my face has slimmed down
just enough that they stick out quite me, at least. While it seems nobody else notices, it's one of the first things I see when I look in the mirror. That will take some time, I guess.

2. I have a
ginormous chest! Look at this thing.

Yes, I'm sucking in my stomach, and yes, there are some light-and-shadow things going on, but still! My chest is now about twice the size of my waist at this point. I think I finally understand what it means to be "big boned."

3. My lower left rib sticks out significantly more than my right one. Apparently, this is a common thing, and as long as it doesn't cause any pain, I'll be fine.

4. My feet are really veiny. I won't put in a picture, as I've tortured you enough with that already. But still, the veins in my feet can stick out quite a bit, especially after I work out. I think I know which side of my family this comes from.

5. My back is bony. It makes sit-ups hurt quite a bit.

6. Stretch marks suck. They're one of the side effects of being quite overweight, and apparently, won't ever fully disappear on their own. (Note: the reason you can't see them on the picture immediately above is because I edited them out. They're no fun to look at.)

Okay, so let's talk clothes.

What about them?

How's the clothes situation been?


How so?

Well, to introduce it, take a look at this picture:

What's that? A paperclip on your belt?

Yes. This is a picture of the side of my pants. My belt, which used to only extend a few notches past center, now went all the way through that second loop near my back pocket. The paperclip was to make sure it wouldn't come out and flop around. I've since had to buy a new belt.

Here's some other examples:
-My high school ring is now too big. And since there's no jewelry size adjusters around here (that I can find, at least), I've had to simply put tape on it.

-Similarly, my watch and my gloves are experiencing a similar feeling of looseness.

-When we had a job fair a couple weeks back, I wanted to use the opportunity to wear my brand new suit. So, I put on the shirt, pants, and jacket, pants fell off. Literally, off. It's not that they were sagging; they were at my ankles. I felt like I was in some kind of slapstick comedy. I couldn't use my new belt to hold them up, since my new belt was too big, too. And my jacket...let's just say it made me look like a early 20th century hobo. I'm going to have to get it re-tailored sometime this summer.

-On the other hand, I was able to wear my old sport coat to the job fair, as well as to every other job-related thing this past semester. I also wore it in my "new-age millionaire" style, which is a plain white t-shirt, jeans, and an open jacket. Why I bring this up is because in the past fall semester, I always wore that jacket open because I had to. I couldn't actually close the jacket. Now when I wear it, it's actually quite loose. Looser, in fact, than when I wore it in high school.

-All my old jeans: gone. Sag-o-rama. In their place, new jeans, most of which I picked up from the Goodwill piles at the end of the school year. The system works!

So, overall, it's a mix of current stuff no longer fitting, and really old stuff fitting again.

Moving along, do you have any advice for someone who wants to lose weight?

Nothing particularly inspirational, but I guess if I can do it, anyone can. You just need to be committed.

...Oh, and there's a very good book out there that I really enjoy! It's called Eat This, Not That. It's a book filled with simple hints, tips, and facts about food in general, but the majority of the book focuses on what to get at a number of fast food restaurants to cut the calories and the fat. It's extremely interesting, and you'll learn some general rules of thumb, such as:
-Mayonnaise is the enemy. Always. Avoid mayo.
-Cheese also ain't so hot.
-"Healthy" foods aren't always that. Example: a bagel with cream cheese can be 700 calories with 40g of fat.

It's very eye-opening, but it's done in a way that doesn't accuse you of being bad (rather, it accuses the other guys). Like I said, I recommend the book, but if you're too cheap for that, you can always go to the website for a good percentage of the info.

More than anything, I would say just find whatever works for you. I really doubt my system would work for many people, as it was something I designed for myself. See what works for you, and go with that.

And it's always best to have a goal and a reason for doing things.

Oh, what was your reason?

I won't go into that.


I dunno. Several reasons, I guess. Becoming healthier is definitely the main one. Also, what if I wanted to make myself look more presentable to the fairer sex? Before, the ladies could easily reject me because of my weight. Now, they can only reject me due to my personality! There's other, smaller reasons, but there's really no reason to go into them (mainly because I can't think of most of them :\).

So, I guess the only question left to ask is, where do you go from here?

Interesting question, and one I've thought a bit about myself. Honestly, I put myself in a weird situation. I can't continue the way I was going; while I may not have been risking anorexia (as you may be able to tell from my dinner samples above), I would definitely risk wasting away. At the same time, my mindset is totally different right now regarding food. When I'm purchasing something (anything), I instinctively twist the package until I see the nutrition facts. If it's a snack in one small container (or, like a bar or something), I am extremely hesitant to get it if it's over 100-120 calories. Candy bars are effectively out of my mindset. I do everything possible to limit my overall intake, and that's going to be tricky to change to any great extent.

Considering that, I've reduced my exercise caloric loss a bit, and I've begun to focus more on muscle building. I've begun doing sit-ups and push-ups. For the latter exercise, I actually purchased the Perfect Pushup, which delivers a more intense, effective movement. It's tough, but I think its working.

Since officially ending my diet and exercise regimen, I've still lost some weight, though at a slower rate than before. I anticipate that it will continue for some time until I find my equilibrium point. Overall, though, I anticipate keeping the weight I lost off, and having a much healthier, slimmer life overall.

That's nice.

Thanks. Well, thanks for joining me. My fingers are now calloused from all this typing, so I think I'll call it a day.

Hey, Andrew! I just thought of something! You aren't smiling in any of these pictures! You've lost a lot of weight! More than post people can think of! Can't we have at least one smile?

Fine...just one before we're finished.


Saturday, June 7, 2008

More Pictures! More! Mwahahaha!

Okay, I've been in a picture-posting mood lately, so I'm going to keep posting some! Why? I dunno, I've been in a visual mood lately. Maybe it's because I've visited two art museums in the past week. Or maybe it's because I've finally broken down and purchased a new digital camera. It's a Norcent DCS-1050, which was only 85 bucks and got decent (enough) reviews. It's not that my current camera is bad, per se, but it certainly has its limitations, namely the fact that is uses a CompactFlash card and is really bulky...restrictingly so, in fact, for someone who doesn't carry a purse. I give it credit for working well for many years (having served my sister before me), but I figured I should experiment with something new; see how that works. I should be receiving this new camera fairly soon (in fact, it's already a few days late). Anyhoo, in the meantime, here are some other shots that were taken when I was showing off my crow shirts.

Look at my face! Look at it! There's murder in them eyes! Or...something! (Just a quick aside, I've been told by several people that I have big/wide eyes. I'll let you be the judge.) I found this picture so hi-larious that I'm actually using a close-up as my desktop picture.

I find the vertical nature of this one quite charming and perhaps even a little artistic. I just wish that I could have shown off more of my shorts (which are brand new some of the ones I took from the big piles of clothes on move-out day).

And this is me making a really cheesy face (there are some that are even cheesier; so cheesy, in fact, that they shouldn't be shown!). Almost like a sendoff to my old camera. "It's been good, kid. We'll always have Comic-Con."

Now, some other pictures! Not of me!

First, you know how I said that my addiction du jour is the game Mass Effect? Well, I thought I'd show off my character. In the game, you can choose your character (Commander Shepard)'s first name (I chose Solomon, since I obviously think it's a cool name), personal history (I made it so he grew up on a colony that was attacked by alien slave traders; everyone he knew and loved was slaughtered), and military history (he was on a mission when his squad was attacked by horrible aliens. All of his friends and allies were slaughtered. [Wow, tough life]). You can also choose what their face looks like.

I decided to make the character look like a more badass version of me, with a shorter goatee (I would have made it longer if possible) and a scar (hell yeah!). This is a result:
Ironically, despite the ever-angry look on his face, my character is actually considered a moral and military paragon. So that's good. When I do my second play, through, I'll be a woman and follow the path of evil. Since, as we all know, women are proven evil.

Finally, sometimes RAs will put on stress-relief programs where people are encouraged to "act like 5-year-olds". At these programs, they almost always have coloring books. Now, I take a decidedly...different approach to these, as you can see in the following:

G'night, folks!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

As My Birthday Gift to All of You

I give you the most awesome picture ever:

You can thank me later.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

On Loyalty, Shirts, and Murders

In consumer behavior, I learned that there are four types of loyalty. You basically have a two-by-two matrix, where one axis is something akin to "relative attitude" (so, how much you like it) and the other axis is "repeated patronage" (how often you buy the product). The four types are:

No Loyalty (Non-Favorable View & Low Patronage): I have no loyalty to the MTV or BET stations.
Latent Loyalty (Favorable View & Low Patronage): I like nVidia video cards, but I don't buy them a lot, mainly because I don't need to.
Spurious Loyalty (Non-Favorable View & High Patronage): I dislike Apple, the iPod, and iTunes, but the time and effort it would take me to convert thousands of AAC files to MP3s makes me keep buying them. (Also applicable to monopolies, like old school Ma Bell.)
Loyalty: (Favorable View & High Patronage): I would say I'm pretty loyal to Nintendo products.

Really, the sweet spot for any company is pure loyalty, because not only will consumers purchase your products often, but when people are truly loyal, they will actually go out of their way to recommend you to their friends. It is a good day when a company achieves loyalty.

And I think a company has earned mine.

The company is called "Stranded." I've mentioned them before; I think they may be a branch of Target (to whom I also have high loyalty), because that seems to be the only place that carries them.

Why do I like them? A few reasons.

1. The shirts are soooo comfortable. I don't know what they do to the cotton, but they're so soft and nice, it's like you're wearing nothing at all. Yes, they're a bit on the thin side as far as shirts go, but that's the price you pay for comfort. (And it's not like they're transluscent or anything.)

2. The designs are badass yet classy. One of the main problem I see with a lot of graphic tees nowadays is that they are either funny and immature, or badass yet gang-member-making-you-look-like-one. Stranded tees are definitely, while definitely having a fierce side to them, still have an old-world style to them, which makes them seem quite classy. Just look at some of their shirts. They can make a koi fish look cool. That's pretty good.

3. They make crow shirts. I loves me some crow shirts. In fact, I just purchased my newest crow shirt when I was at Target this past weekend, prompting me to realize that I had become loyal. So, let's take a look at my crow shirts, shall we?

Oh, you'll notice I'm wearing my hat in all of these. No real reason. I just think the hat goes well with crow shirts.

If I'm not mistaken, this was my first crow shirt. Unfortuantely, it's dark-on-dark style make it had to see any crows on said crow shirt.

Here's a close-up of that las crow shirt, so you can better see the crows (and don't try to tell me that they're ravens. Even if they were, ravens are just a subspecies of crow).

Here's me with a brown crow shirt and a surprised look. Grandmother, what big eyes I have!

I really like this one. It has such a sense of transcendence about it. Plus, save for droppings and/or other apocalypse harbingers, you have to admit that it would be pretty cool to see a murder of crows descend from the clouds.

This is the crow shirt that I just purchased. Three interesting notes. First, it's a collared shirt, which I haven't worn (barring formal shirts) since high school. Second, this is actually a size small. A relatively big small, but a small nonetheless, so that felt cool. Third, you have no idea how I literally stopped the cart I was pushing around when I saw this in Target and said aloud "Crow shirt!" It was love at first sight.

Here's a closeup.

You may notice that three out of four of these crow shirts also feature trees (two of which are dead, one of which has a few scant leaves). Maybe this means I don't enjoy crow shirts, but rather dead tree shirts. Or perhaps this love of crow shirts is a throwback to my childhood, during which I would always since about three chartreuse buzzards sitting in a dead tree...except with crows...y'know, instead of buzzards...*cough*

Takeaway: I am now loyal to Stranded tees (go to Target and buy them!) and I've used "crow shirt" in this post 15 times.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Yeah, so...

Hey, there!

Remember the game Mass Effect? The one I wrote that long diatribe defending?

Well, it was released for the PC this past week.

And it took me a day and a half to update the driver on my video card, but I got the thing to work, and I started playing the game.

And right now, I'm addicted.

Not to the "virtual orgasmic rape" simulations that the game offers (according to conservatives), but rather to dialogue trees. I'm addicted to freakin' dialogue!

Oh, and all the voice acting in this game makes me want to pursue some odd jobs as a voice actor.

But mostly, it's addicting. The hours just melt away. Which would be fine, were it not for school and sleep. But we'll get past at least one of those obstacles eventually.

*Sigh*...It's KotoR all over again.

(.....That's a good thing.)