Sunday, May 31, 2009

Hike up to the fire tower on Vanderwhacker Mt.

Yesterday I went hiking with the Hiking Mates from Meetup. We were still in the Adirondacks, but went past Lake George for the first time (for me) to hike up to the fire tower on top of Vanderwhacker Mt. The closest town is Minerva, NY.

It took about two hours to drive there from the Albany area with the last portion over a fairly bumpy road so try to bring a four wheel drive whoride if you can. Someone made it nearly to the trailhead in a Chevy Cavalier so I guess you don't need four wheel drive, but it won't hurt.

It rained on the way up, but stopped before we got there. The "trail" was mostly up a stream bed or maybe the trail became a stream. The first part is flat, but then gets pretty steep. It's only about five miles down and back, but it took me about 1.5 hours to get to the top. I was first again because I can't stand to hike behind people. I want to keep my heart rate going as I hike as well.

We had lunch at the top at the fire tower. Even though I'm scared of open heights, I made myself climb the tower. I was holding on to the railing like a little bitch, but I'm proud that I did get up and down without any trouble.

The hike down took much less time, but was still pretty slippery.

Here is a picture of some of the fire tower:

Here is the view from the mountain:

As usual I took a bunch of short videos of running water and any animals I saw and stitched them together. In one you can see a toad. I had trouble keeping him centered because he blends in pretty well. He jumped away because I spooked him on purpose with my foot.

Short vacation to Key West, FL

I went to Key West, FL over this past Memorial Day weekend because I haven't traveled much in the past few years. I had a credit with Southwest so I used that to fly down to Ft. Lauderdale. I rented a car, a Prius because I had never driven one, and then drove down to Key West. I stayed there three nights and mostly bummed around. I hit up two beaches in Key West and two in Bahia Honda State Park. The sand is mostly crushed coral in Key West, but was a little finer in Bahia Honda. The weather was "great," but was unbearably humid for me. I definitely got enough sun.

I hit up the Hemingway House. He was a big fan of cats so there are something like forty cats living on the property. One was lazing around and the other was after a lizard.

Key West is a strange sort of town. It's pretty touristy, but the tourist parts are jumbled in with the regular parts. The food is great. I highly recommend La Siboney, a Cuban place, and Blue Heaven, a seafood place. Banana Cafe is a decent place to get breakfast.

People smoke like chimneys in Florida so be prepared if that bothers you.

I bought the tank from Hertz so I didn't need to fill it up before bringing it back. I drove nearly 500 miles and still had about 4 gallons left when I returned it. That's rockin' about 60 mpg which is pretty damn good and better than most Prius owners get. I get great mileage on my Mazda 3 too and it's because I drive the speed limit and accelerate slowly from a stop and coast to a stop.

The Prius is an interesting car for sure. It took me a while to figure out how to start it. I didn't think it had that much pickup which is contrary to what I've read and what other owners have told me. It has a smooth ride, but isn't as quite as I thought it would be. The view out the back is terrible so you need to be more careful when switching lanes.

Here's a collection of clips I took while down there:

Saturday, May 30, 2009

I live with regrets.

Fitness update

I think that I've managed to stall the recent upward trend, but it's tough to tell. I'm no longer going to track the body fat percentage daily, but I will the weight so that I can input it into my 50 Million Pounds challenge.

I need to get more active. I think I eat pretty well so I've got that part of the equation covered. I will go hiking again today, but hiking once every couple of weeks doesn't really count. I need to find an ultimate frisbee group or pickup basketball or something like that.

Friday, May 29, 2009

50 Million Pounds

Tired of being a fat ass, I made an account on 50 Million Pounds. I think it'll help motivate me since it has a good tracking function and it has some good recipe ideas as well. I ordered a pedometer so I can try to get 10,000 steps in and then try for more and more each day. I try to take a walk after lunch each day, but I think I should take one after dinner as well. I read that it's good for digestion.

For the record, I'd like to lose about 15 pounds of fat.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Leg scar

Here is the big ass keloid scar on my right thigh. I started using snail cream again and, after a month of twice a day application, it seems to be smaller. It's not as long across my leg and it's not as wide.

I don't care about the aesthetics as much as keloid scars are really sensitive. I get them thanks to a small fraction of American Indian ancestry. My ancestors on my mom's side were land rapers and helped themselves to whatever they found.

Old food pictures

Some food I've grubbed on over the past month or so. It looks like nothing but chicken.

Old Cat and Thomas Mountain Pictures

I took these pictures when I hiked Cat and Thomas Mountains on April 18.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


I voted for him and was pretty stoked that he won, but I'm starting to worry that his inexperience is going to fuck things up worse. I don't really like his solutions for the banking and automotive messes and it sounds like we're going to bailout California. I know we can't let these big industries fail completely, but we should not bail them out willy nilly. Some of them definitely deserve to fail.

I know that a lot of the bailout was done by Bush, but Obama hasn't done enough to correct those mistakes.

I'm also worried about his MPG proposal. As a quasi-Libertarian, I would rather the government just tax gas enough to hit $4/gallon. Let people decide if they want fuel efficient cars or not. Picking a fleet MPG might eliminate a lot of choice. What if I have a boat and want to haul it around? Do you really think we'll have trucks that get 30 mpg?

White trash

I realized in the car today that I feel there are a lot of white trash in the Albany area. That got me thinking as to what my official definition of what white trash is. It's one of those "you'll know it when you see it" kind of things, but maybe I can flesh out the definition a bit. Being white trash doesn't necessarily mean you're poor. However, being white trash does mean that you have bad taste. You'll also be more likely to buy something cheap instead of something with value. I think that explains the proliferation and success of Wal*Mart. The stuff they sell there is usually crap, but it's cheap. Never mind that those jeans will wear out after a year, they're only $20. White trash are also less likely to accept the consequences of their actions. They generally aren't that well educated and look down on people who are. They have small dreams and generally amount to jack shit.

White trash people are found in trailer parks driving Hyundais and Pontiacs because they go for the lowest initial dollar amount rather than something that will last. They usually have a lot of kids who watch a lot of TV and misbehave. White trash people also smoke like crazy.

One big indication of being white trash is how you drive. White trash drive recklessly, changing lanes often without signaling, tailgating, running red lights and rolling stop signs. White trash doesn't realize that stop lights in most places are synchronized to driving the speed limit. If you drive faster then you'll get caught at a red light.

Fun at the allergist's

I was dying from allergies my first summer in grad school. A chick I was dating at the time suggested I see an allergist to get tested. I got a scratch test and tested positive for nearly every thing except for barnyard animals. I got allergy shots for 5-6 years and it seemed to help quite a bit. I moved to California and went off my meds to see how I would do. I was dying so I hit up an allergist and he put me on Allegra, Nasonex, Singulair and Mucinex (OTC). The three prescription medicines cost me about $80/month. I did ok, but not great. I get to Albany and run out of medicine so I hit up an allergist. I had my first appointment this afternoon and it was an eye opener.

Firstly, I'm closer to 5'10" than 5'11", but more importantly, I tested negative for everything they scratched me with. Even the histamine control didn't itch that much. That means I've been taking an antihistamine for the past two years for no fucking reason. Not only did I waste money, but I exposed myself to drugs/chemicals unnecessarily. Super weak. I think I got a doctor who just throws drugs at the problem or maybe he gets a cut from the drug companies. It turns out that I just need to take Nasonex for the polyps in my sinuses. That was the cheapest medicine of the three. I blame myself for not getting another scratch test in California, but I'm not happy with my doctor. I'm really unhappy with his office because they're charging me $15 to get my records sent over to my new office. I had to go through some bullshit website. I did that about three weeks ago and the records still haven't shown up. I got tested again, but my new allergist wants to see the CT scan done last year.

I haven't been that happy with American medicine in the past few years. Something has to give. It's expensive, but it seems the insurance companies are the ones making out.

Anyhow I've got my Nasonex now so I should be good to go. The good thing is that I'm no longer allergic to cats and dogs so I could get a pet for my new house. Sweet.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Energy credits

There are some tasty tax credits out there if you eco-pimp your home this year. You can get 30% back up to $1500 with a maximum of $1500 for all credits. $1500 is 30% of $5k which is not chump change, but I would get $1.5k back next spring. I would like to get an energy audit done to see how efficient the house is. Then I might spend the $5k on more insulation and new windows. My cousin sells solar panel installations in Phoenix and he said that they recommend you fully insulate your house first. I want to get a solar attic fan as well. The question that wasn't clear to me is the 30% off just materials or does that include labor? If it's just materials than the tax credit will essentially pay for your labor. Hmmm... a solar attic fan is about $600 so figure $1k including labor since the dude has to climb my steep roof. That leaves $4k...maybe another $2k for insulation and then the remaining $2k for windows. There are four skylights in the main room of my potential pimp palace. Hot air rises so those could be a big source of heat loss. My parents redid two skylights and I think it was something like $500 each. I wonder if $2k is enough to lay down more insulation. I'll have to see what the energy audit says. The good thing is that I can add this cost directly to the value of the house and it will save me money in the meantime. I think return on investment for insulation is less than two years, but who knows? It's the right thing to do so I'll do it.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Safari for PC

On the advice of a friend, I installed the Safari web browser for PC. It is much, much faster than FireFox though I haven't figured out how to block ads. I don't know if it is as customizable, but it's great for general surfing because things do load faster.

False advertising

I really wish the government would crack down on electronics stores that are misleading people about HDTV and digital television. Maybe the people that work at the stores are just ignorant. I was talking to my parents last night and they told me that they bought a special digital TV antenna. I nearly spit out my drink. It's bad enough that people assume HDTV means digital when it really just refers to the resolution. Digital versus analog describes how the signal is decoded. The antenna doesn't really know so you don't need a fancy one; just one that can receive the new frequencies. It's possible that an amplified antenna may need to be optimized for digital signals, but I'm not sure. If you want to receive digital TV then you need a digital tuner. For people with new TV's, that's not a problem, but a lot of folks will need the converter box.

Fortunately, for my parents, their old antenna was pretty junky so it's not a big deal. Indoor antennae are also fairly cheap.

Another sore point is infomercials advertising products that target specific muscles to reduce fat at the location. Bullshit. There is no such thing as spot reduction. I am living proof that you can get strong without losing fat. Your fat loss is determined by your sex, your body type and your genetics. Most guys put on weight around the middle. That's the first place it goes and the last place it'll come off. I read that, from an evolutionary perspective, fat around the middle is desirable because it provides energy storage without disrupting the center of mass. You would get eaten pretty quickly if you put on weight on your extremities.

Anyone telling you to do crunches to lose abdominal fat is full of it. Eventually, you will lose fat there, but most likely not right away.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Hiking near Tongue Mountain

I signed up for another hike near Lake George with the Hiking Mates group through Meetup. We met in Clifton Park at 7 and tooled up to the trailhead. I got to ride in a nice Infinity and I shot the shit about houses and whatnot with a husband and wife that I met on last month's hike. They're pretty cool for sure.

The weather started off good, but it did rain a bit during the last third. I think we hiked about 10 miles, but it might've been a little less. My scheme of petroleum jelly on the usual spots where I get blisters plus liner socks proved out as I am blister free today. I did get bit a couple of times so I need to remember bug repellant for next time.

I was able to hike at a quick pace for most of the hike, but there was a straggler or two holding up the group. I like to hike quickly to keep my heart rate up to get my fat ass in shape.

Here's a video of some clips I took with my Flip Mino. I'm trying to capture a yellow bird in one clip and a frog in another. You can see him hopping around if you look closely.

I've now done two hikes around Lake George so I think I'm ready to see a different part of this area for sure. I'll have to poke around the upcoming hikes to find something good.

Fitness update

Well, it's not looking that great. As you can see from the chart above, I'm still trending upwards. I've been trying to eat less sugar, but it's tough because I self-medicate with food and sugar especially. I have been doing my strength training and it's working, but I'm getting stronger without losing weight which is pretty common for me. Fortunately, I'm going for a long ass hike early today weather permitting.

Friday, May 15, 2009

House progress

So far so good. I've signed the contract and so have the sellers so I guess it's with the lawyers now. I talked to my mortgage broker and he's going to start filling out the mortgage application. I've got all the documentation he needs except for W2's from 2007 and 2008. I have them, but they're boxed up and in storage. I just need to hit up Spansion to get them to fax them to me or hook me up with access to print them.

I've been thinking what to work on first. I think I want to get a pool table by the end of the year and an outdoor kitchen in time for next summer. I'll pimp the outdoor kitchen out with a wood firing oven, a wood firing barbecue, a sink attached to a garden house and some counter space and cabinets. The whole thing'll sit on a concrete slab with some sort of lattice work above. Maybe I can get some plants to grow on it. That would be pretty good. Or maybe I could put up some solar panels. That would be even cooler. I'm not sure what they would power though. I guess they could power a battery pile which could power a small fridge and some lights. That would be pretty cool for sure.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

House buying update

I went and looked at a place on Sunday and it was kick ass enough that I put in an offer. That offer was rejected so I put in offer + 5k. That offer was rejected, but I accepted counter offer 2 = offer + 10k. Kick ass. I still need to get the place inspected and the attorneys need to look everything over, but it seems like I'll be the proud owner of a house on June 24. About fucking time considering I'm 33 years old. I still haven't done jack shit with my life, but at least I'll get to jack in my own place. It has a nice open plan and a jacuzzi. I'll have to put that to good use for sure. I'll take out the bar so I can fit a pool table and I'll replace the ugly ass green carpet in the main bedroom with bamboo flooring.

I'll have to think of ways to eco-pimp it: solar attic fan, tankless water heater, energy efficient windows, etc. Those all cost money, but directly add value to the house and save me money.

I'll also get an $8k tax credit next year and part of my closing costs include money for property taxes so I should be ok financially.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Flat

For some reason Staind's A Flat has been in my head. I really like these lyrics:
All the demons in my head won't leave me
I know I can hear them
All the sacrifices made for nothing
Don't show can't believe in
Want to show you that I'm good for something
I can't you won't let me
All your artificial words won't heal me
Because you can't accept me
A bit depressing, but that's how I get when my allergies are acting up. Just a couple more weeks until I can see the doctor. I'll get a prescription or two and be good to go.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Fitness update

I've been tracking my measurements every day now just to see the variation. I figured out how to get Star Office to do what I need it to do so I can show my progress. Unfortunately, you can see that the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays combined with my unemployment have nearly undone all of the hard work from last summer. That's definitely not cool. I have started strength training again which should help my metabolism, but won't do too much for my fat. I need to get some aerobic activity in.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Feeling lost

I'm not sure if it's due to allergies or not, but I've been feeling really lost this week. I called the allergist yesterday, but they aren't available until two weeks from today. That's a long time to go without prescription medicine. Super weak.

I think I need to make more of an effort to make new friends here. I should sign up for more activities. I'm part of a hiking group, but the weather has sucked. There is also a volleyball group, but most of the members played in college. I'm just looking for some exercise. I'll contact the organizer to explain my situation. I tried to find an ultimate frisbee group, but the only one I found is associated with U of Albany and plays during the week. That's tough for me due to work and I just found out that there aren't any showers at work either. Bum deal.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


I thought I could get away with seeing an allergist out here, but it ain't gunna happen. I've gone to spend around 9:30 the past two nights because I've been exhausted due to allergies. Mine don't make me sneeze or water my eyes, but they do make me really tired. I have been trying to conserve my prescription allergy medicine for "emergencies," but I'm nearly out. OTC medicine just doesn't cut it for me. I guess I'll have to find an allergist and make an appointment. Hopefully they won't suggest that I go back on shot therapy. I did that for about seven years in Ithaca and it's a royal pain in the ass.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Getting old

For some reason, I've been finding a lot of gray hair. My hair was blond when I was younger (actually it was nearly transparent), but turned brown when I got older. At first I thought I was rockin' some more blond hair, but when I look closely I can see that it's gray. Weak. I'm only 33. That's too young to get gray hair. At least I know I look alright with a shaved head.

Swine flu

I don't understand all the fuss about swine flu. Sure, some people got sick, but ~ 10k people die every year from the flu. Why are we getting worked up about ~ 100 deaths? Why does the US media feel the need to incite panic? Is it really just to boost ratings? Is that what we've come to these days?

This whole issue does highlight that humans need to be better stewards of the land and the animals that share our planet. The take-home lesson is not to try to factory farm animals just to save 50 cents per pound at the grocery store.

Fitness update

Unfortunately, little to no progress was made this week. As I start to get into things at work, I'm more tired when I get home. That's a pretty piss poor excuse, but it's all I have. My weight and body fat percentage more or less held steady whereas I'd like to see them both decline. I'm going to Florida for Memorial Day weekend and will be shirtless down there while on the beach. I don't want to embarrass myself too much so I'm going to use that trip as motivation to get into shape.

I would go hiking more, but it has been rainy lately and I don't have my fully waterproof boots with me since they are still in storage.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Router fixed

I asked the good folks on LJ Genie about my problem to get some advice. One person had very simple advice: don't use any wizards. If you're able to just plug your computer in and connect then the router should be able to do the same. Sounds simple enough. I reset the router, plugged it in without changing any settings and it worked great. The wireless worked as well and is very fast since I've got an N router. Of course, I'm nowhere near N speeds, but my router is not the limitation. I logged in to the router to change the wireless name and to add a passcode.

Sweet. I usually just hook stuff up and then look at the instructions, but I thought I would play it safe this time. That'll learn me.