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Archive for October, 2010

Hallowe’en 2010

This past year, I decided to put a little bit of cleverness into my costume.  Ironically, this one really didn’t take me a long time to come up with.

This year for Hallowe’en I decided to dress up as the CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs.  Dressing as him was actually pretty easy.  All I did was bring out a black sweater with a turtleneck-ish neck line, wear sneakers and blue jeans, grow out my beard a bit, wear glasses (already done) and make up a sign to wear around my neck to make it easy for people to see who I was:

image  image

Compare to the real one:

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To make it clear to people who I was, I had to add a sign around my neck.  Steve Jobs has come out recently speaking against Google Android (competing with the iPhone) saying that the iPhone is superior because it is a closed platform.  Quite frankly, given that Android phones are selling like hot cakes and could potentially cut in to iPhone sales, it comes as no surprise that Jobs would make this claim. 

In addition, the iPad and iPhone has no Flash support, which is software from Adobe.  Flash is the software that makes a lot of different web pages look really nice and pretty.  The reason that Apple won’t support it (ie, render it in the Safari browser on mobile devices) is because it is buggy and prone to crashes.  Apple and Jobs are pretty big on preserving a great user experience and when Flash crashes on the iPhone or iPad, people think that it is Apple’s fault.  It’s not but that is the perception.  To counter this, Apple alleviates this possibility by doing their own YouTube app on the iPad and iPhone and not supporting Flash.  Jobs has also publically criticized Adobe Flash because of this and it has led to a bit of a war of words between the two organizations.

So, in order to make it clear about who I was supposed to be, I wore a sign around my neck indicating that I was against Flash:

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If you flipped the sign around, it was clear that I was against Google Android:

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This was a rather geeky costume and you had to know the inside story behind this, but the whole point of it was to be clever instead of obvious.  I call it “The Thinking Man’s Costume.”

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Right now, I am thinking of throwing in the towel when it comes to my condo. What do I mean by that? It means I am thinking of doing the one option I never wanted to – move into it.

It’s currently sitting empty, trying to get rented out and not moving. There is a glut of apartments on the market right now and my apartment is not renting even though it is cheap. I am sick of losing money, I could it to way better uses like LASIK, investing, a new laptop, charity or traveling. But no, I have to stay in a holding pattern because of this uncertainty. It is now starting to get to me and I want to stop the psychological anxiety. Sigh.

I have pretty much decided that if it does not rent by Feb 1, 2011, I will move into it. When I tell people that plan, they say “Oh, that’s a good idea! Do it!” In my view this is the least desirable option. It will bump up my cost of living by 50% compared to if I were renting (only) and owning a place is not a 50% upgrade in living conditions.

I keep getting told about the benefits of owning a place. t the end of it all, I will have an actual thing to live in. Maybe, but the total amount of interest I have to pay is more than double the cost of the place. And because I expect the place to be worth worth maybe 10% more than I paid for it at the end of 30 years due to the real estate glut, this means that I paid twice what the property is worth. And, that excludes the cost of property taxes, mortgage insurance, maintenance and home owner dues. I could have taken that $250,000 and invested in the market and gotten back more than half of my money the way I am with real estate.

However, I have no one to blame but myself. I am responsible for all of this. I am bitter and regretful of my terrible decision, but it is what it is. Time to move forward and figure out my next steps. And that is to move in. And if I am going to move in… And maybe I should just bite the bullet and do it sooner rather later. Admit defeat quickly, regroup, and move on. If that is what I am going to do then moving quickly on it is probably the way to go. I will lose some tax write offs, sure, but you have to do what you have to do.

Blargh.

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As I have commented in previous posts, I seem to have a habit lately of getting sick on airplanes.  Earlier, I had attributed this to breathing in recirculated air.  People on the plane cough, it gets into the circulation system and I end up breathing in that same virus and hence get sick.  I can’t really avoid it because like the rest of the mammal population, I need to breathe. 

However, it turns out I may have been wrong in that assessment.  Yesterday I was in the doctor’s office, waiting to get some advice on my hips (both of them, not just the one that still feels bad).  I picked up a copy of Readers Digest, something I haven’t done in quite some time.  I flipped through it randomly and came to a section on “50 Things an airline pilot won’t tell you.”  I was intrigued seeing as how I fly on planes all of the time.

They had stuff like if an engine died, they wouldn’t alert the people on board because they can still fly with one engine out (lots of planes do).  Or, flight attendants roll their eyes when they are carting the tray down the aisle and you get up to go to the bathroom.  Do you really have to get up now or can you wait a few minutes?  Or, you should always carry a pen with you because if you’re clearing customs, you are going to need a pen.  So carry one!

The one thing that caught my attention was about the quality of the air.  It’s recirculated but it also is filtered.  It is cleaner in there than it is in most office buildings.  The air quality is not the reason you get sick.  They do wipe down the bathrooms but not the seats, so if you press the button to recline the seat, that’s where the germ factories are.  Those things are covered in germs, you get them on your hands, put your hands to your eyes, mouth or nose and then boom – you’re infected.  It is not the air from my previous trip that got me feeling ill, it was my own ignorance of what I was doing!  It was my own fault (probably)!

Well, that’s the bad news.  The good news is that I can remedy this situation by (a) not touching anything, and (b) bringing along some of that anti-bacterial hand soap cleaner stuff and using it every five minutes.  Heck, I might just go through an entire bottle on every flight.  Man, that’s going to be kind of expensive.

This is an aside, but colds are caused by viruses.  They are not caused by being chilled.  If you are reading this today and thing that by going outside and getting chilled, this makes you catch a common cold, you are wrong.  A cold is caused by a virus and viruses have to be acquired from someone else, usually by you touching something and then putting your hands/fingers to your eyes or nose.  Being chilled might weaken your body’s immune defenses and make it more difficult for you to defend against a cold virus, but it is not what makes you sick.

I just had to point that out because certain family members of mine for years used to make that very claim.

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Why am I a sports fan?  The teams I cheer on are always letting me down.

Well, I should be more specific.  The football team I cheer for is always letting me down.  And this season is no different.  My Canadian football team, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, are absolutely awful this year.  They are on track to likely finish with their worst record since 1998.  They have been getting worse each year since 2007.  They have 10 seasons in the past 16 where they have had a record less than 0.500 (only 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2007 were winning seasons).  They cleaned house this year and still suck!  Why am do I remain a fan after so much futility?

I guess because I am a loyal fan and not a fair weather fan.  Yuck.  When you get emotionally invested in a team, it doesn’t feel good when they lose.  Worse still, you get really frustrated when they lose all the time.  Players are not attached to teams (most players).  But fans are. 

You would think that in an 8-team league, the balance of power would eventually shift.  But geez, how do you miss the playoffs 4 times in 7 years (58% of the time) when you have a 75% to make it each year?  If we went by random chance, only making the playoffs 3 times in 7 years, then the probability of that occurring is only 7%.  This means that my team has to really suck to make the playoffs only 3 teams in 7 years when the odds of them making it is 3 in 4.

But you know what?  I’ll be back next year and I’ll be saying “Well, maybe this year it’ll be different.  Because, there are only 8 teams in the league.  Maybe this year’s the year!”

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Recently, over the past week or so (perhaps two?) I started feeling an odd pain in my knee.  It wasn’t “in” the knee but instead was in the back of the knee.  It felt like a kind of scratching, sand-paper pinching feeling and it only happened when I was walking and fully extending my leg, and only when I was walking quickly.  I also only felt it in the back of my left knee.  And more confusing still, it was intermittent.  I didn’t feel it all of the time, only occasionally and I couldn’t consistently reproduce it.

I wasn’t sure why I was feeling this particular feeling.  I was actually starting to get a little worried because I felt like my body was deteriorating.  Why does just walking cause me physical discomfort?  I started to jump to the worst case scenarios: I either have some torn cartilage in my knee (and the same problem in my hips never healed) or maybe some damage to my ligaments.  That worried me.

I started massaging the back of my knee, really working my fingers in there.  I looked up some symptoms for my pain and something bad sounded like Baker’s Cyst.  Yet when I looked up that condition, I was pretty sure I didn’t have it because I don’t have a bulge in my knee.  So anyhow, as I worked my fingers into the back of my knee, it felt a little sensitive.  It wasn’t as bad in both knees, mostly my left knee.  So, that me thinking: what kind of pain could this be?  Tendinitis?

As I was saying in another post, I went to the gym 4 times last week (Sun, Tue, Thurs, and Sat).  I went to a different gym on Saturday and I worked out on some elliptical machines, but they felt different than they normally do.  They forced me to take shorter strides and I didn’t like them.  It was awkward on my legs, although it was probably a decent workout.  Afterwards, I felt okay although a bit rubbery in my legs as I am trying to go a bit more intense.

Well, fast forward to today, and my calves are sore.  I have rarely felt sore muscles in my calves (it’s usually hamstrings or quads, especially after playing sponge hockey all those years).  The soreness is not in my lower calves but located primarily in the upper calf and extending… into the back of my knee.  And, I have it in both knees. 

So, what I am thinking is that the elliptical machines are the source of my knee/calf pain.  The ones at my normal gym have been causing a bit of pain, but the ones at the new one really exposed it.  Walking around now is actually kind of sore but I don’t get the knee pain (sand-paper pinching) I was getting before.  My theory is that I was not overdoing it with the other ellipticals due to the way I can extend my legs, but these ones forced the shorter strides, worked out my calf muscles more intensely than the other ones and ended up unmasking the source of the pain.  In other words, I most likely have not got any ligament or cartilage damage in my knee, my muscles are just not used to the workout.

Incidentally, the reason why people feel muscle soreness is because of exercise that lengthens the muscles, and not from exercises that shorten them.  So, doing bicep curls goes from a position of extension to a position of contraction – that shortens the muscles so you shouldn’t get bicep curls.  Exercises like going downhill stretches the quad muscles and therefore will cause people to feel sore.  I think that using the ellipticals stretches my calves and hence – the soreness.

Whew.  I may be getting old, but at least the only parts of my body that are deteriorating are my hips and not my other joints.

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On this blog, I have commented numerous times that I seem to be able to lose weight without even trying.  Indeed, I weighed the same amount a few months ago as I did 9 years ago living in England.  I felt pretty good about that and attributed it to my lifestyle of not eating much junk food.

Well, fast forward a few months from those blog posts and I now seem to have encountered the opposite situation.  I seem to slowly, slowly, slowly be gaining more weight.  It’s not a lot, at this point it is 3-4 lbs.  But the point is that it is 3-4 lbs.  I would weight myself in the morning and make note of where I was.  And I seemed to be a little on the light side.  Now, when I weight myself in the morning vs at night, at my lightest point (which is in the morning) I am most definitely not at the weight I was at only a few short months ago.

I find this very puzzling and it forces me to go back and evaluate my lifestyle.  What has changed in the past few months?  I think my diet is still more or less the same:

  • I still drink water and refrain from sugary drinks.  I do this as much as I have for the previous couple of years, nothing has changed in that regard.
  • I eat yogurt + cereal for breakfast for the past couple (few?) weeks.  Is that it?  Perhaps this breakfast contains more calories than what I had previously which was a couple of slices of toast, butter and jam or honey (plus a glass of orange juice).
  • My girlfriend makes lunch for me all the time (yep).  But she doesn’t give me anything particularly unhealthy (rice and chicken and vegetables with limited oils and sauces) which actually a bit healthier than what I would eat in the cafeteria (pasta, stir fries with rich sauces). 
  • I don’t go out to eat any more now than I did before… I think.  I’ll have to check my credit card records to verify this.
  • I go dancing less during the past few months than I was before, although dancing was never really that great of a work out.  I move, sure, but not enough to lose large amounts of weight.  However, I have been working out at the gym a lot more and a lot harder.  This week I have gone three times, and I work out for a bit more than an hour and then stretch for 20-30 minutes.  And I seem to be burning oxygen more efficiently because I have to lift more weight/run faster on the elliptical as my previous regime was getting too easy.

    Incidentally, the reason I started going back to the gym was to work on the muscle groups surrounding my hips.  I am trying to strengthen those rather than do a general body work out (arms, chest).  I’m not really in it to look better, only to ensure that the muscles on my hip do not degenerate.

So there you have it.  My life style is no more unhealthy and I think it is actually a bit healthier.  At the very least, the exercise I have been getting over the past month is certainly more intense.  The theory that I hope is true is that I have been converting some body fat to muscle and muscle weighs more.  If it’s not true, then it’s a sign that I am getting older and my metabolism is slowing down.  Ugh.  That would be most unwelcome news.

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Two days ago, my girlfriend as in my room (or maybe I was at her place, I forget… despite the fact that it was only two days ago) and commented that I should go to my couch and get my green pillows.

“Say what?” I asked.

“Your green pillows!” she reiterated.

“My what?”

“The pillows on your couch!  Aren’t they green?” It was more of a statement than a question.

“No,” I answered.  “My pillows most assuredly are not green, they are the same color as the couch!  Which is also not green!  My couch is black!”

“No, it’s not!” she protested.  “My couch is black!”

I became a bit more defensive.  “Perhaps it is,” I acknowledged, “but by no means is mine green.  Maybe it’s a charcoal-black or charcoal-grey color.”  Anyhow, this went on for about 30 seconds and then I finally offered to go and take a look at said couch/pillows.  Below is a snapshot photo:

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Notice the color on that pillow?  It isn’t green, that’s for sure.  Not by any stretch of the imagination.  She didn’t relent, and tried to compare it to one of my green (olive colored) shirts.  But I rested assured in my knowledge that my couch and pillows are not green.  They are grey/black.

That’s the bottom line.

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