Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Interest rates are crazy low so I'm thinking about refinancing.  Unfortunately, my loan-to-value is pretty high so I don't have much equity.  I don't think closing costs would be more than the equity I do have and I have an FHA loan which has a streamlined refinancing option.  I think I might be able to save roughly $200 a month which isn't anything to sneeze at given I live paycheck to paycheck.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

You might be wondering where I've been. Well, I flew out to Portland and then we drove up to Bellevue, WA for Thanksgiving. I took a bunch of crappy photos with my Droid, but Blogger wouldn't let me upload them en masse so I put them in a Picasa album:

I'm not sure how well it'll work, but it was easier than bringing in each picture separately. The locations aren't quite right, but they're close enough.

Anyhow, I had a great trip - my brother got married since his now-wife's visa status is/was iffy and I got stuck in Chicago last night. Good times.

I did go bowling so I am a small step closer to polishing off another challenge.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Fitness update

For various reasons, I choose not to take my measurements tomorrow so I did them this morning.  I know it may sound like wishful thinking, but I do not believe the body fat readings from this morning.  I can't see how I gained two pounds of fat this week by eating better and exercising more.  This reading also doesn't jive with the jiggle and flab grab tests.  Maybe it's because it's cold and dry.  I don't know.  It's just one reading and isn't that important because it's pretty easy to tell if you're in shape - just look in the mirror.  Of course, being a big ol' dork, I like to have a way to quantify my fitness.  I could also use navel circumference since it picks up the love handles.  When it hits 32", I'll know I'm ripped.

I did a full week of exercises from Lauren's book and I know it's working because I have more energy, I've been in a better mood and I'm horny as all get up (local ladies, help me out!).  Heh.  It sounds strange, but I can almost feel my metabolism shifting.  The good news is I haven't been stuffing my face with bad food.  I went out to eat with my dad and his coworker yesterday for lunch, but we had Indian food which is pretty healthy for sure.  My dad and his coworker were out here for a work trip so I got to see him twice - once when he came over to check out my place and then at lunch.

Anyhow, I think this new exercise scheme is working well and I'll definitely be able to stick with it because nearly all the exercises require just your body.  Thanksgiving is coming up, though, so I'll need to be careful about my eating.  My parents also tend to have a lot of snacks around as well, but I think my discipline has improved greatly.

My previous goal was to drop ten pounds of fat, but if I can't trust my scale, then I'll revise the goal to drop four inches off my navel circumference.  Then, my navel circumference would match my waist which is what should happen when you're in shape.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sweet and sour meatballs

The main course for dinner tonight was sweet and sour meatballs though I have plenty of green on my plate as well thanks to salad and broccoli.  I got the recipe from a blog, Kitchen to Kitchen, when I was searching for something else.  Some of the other recipes on there look pretty tasty as well.

The meatballs were easy to make and turned out well.  The recipe said to use a really lean meat so I used turkey.  The blog author used elk, but I'm not sure where I'd get elk around here except maybe off the road.  Heh.  I would definitely make this recipe again though I'd probably make more sauce as the author suggests.

I've now banged out 79 new recipes towards my challenge.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Protein bars

I would like to eat more protein, but commercial protein bars are little better than candy bars so I thought I would make my own.  Hmmm...this recipe for no bake oat bars did not work out well for me because it's too dry.  I think I need to use oilier peanut butter or more liquid.

My friend says she has a good recipe, but getting it from her has been like pulling teeth.

The bone dry protein bar mix:
It's a new recipe so now I've polished off 78 towards my challenge.

Fitness update

I didn't make much progress this week, but I think I am newly motivated to get into shape.  Yeah, I think I say that every week and every week I slip a bit further into chunkitude, but I'm serious this time.  Heh.  I think I now have a good tool since I bought a book by this guy when I was poking around on Amazon.  I highly recommend it and I don't want to exaggerate, but I think it'll turn my life around because I always feel better when I'm in better shape and I think this book will help me get there.  I read through it already and he has some interesting ideas on fitness which match my experience.

Firstly, he emphasizes high intensity strength training over low intensity aerobics or cardio.  He claims there are studies showing no heart benefit to cardio over strength training.  He also points out that low intensity exercises only help us become more efficient at those exercises.  Let's say you jog three or four times a week.  You're going to improve, but what's happening is you're becoming more efficient at jogging rather than becoming stronger.  Your body will shrink muscles not in use which is not really the point unless you're training for a road race.

He also gives some good information on nutrition which is mostly in line with the South Beach Diet.  He advocates eating a lot of protein every two to three hours.  You should eat just fruit, vegetables, protein, eggs, nuts, seeds, fish and maybe dairy.  It's kind of like a paleo diet and you adjust the caloric intake based on whether you want to get lean or build muscle.

My goal is to get to ripped and to reverse some of the trends of aging so I'll focus on his program of strength training for a couple of hours a week.  It doesn't sound like it'll be enough, but the impact of a high intensity exercise lasts long after you finish it in contrast to a low intensity exercise which is easy to recover from.  I have probably mangled the theory so read the book for yourself.  It's only $10 and all of the exercises can be done at home with just your body and sometimes some household supplies.

He breaks the exercises into four groups: push, pull, legs and glutes and core.  You can mix and match or focus on one group a day.  I think I'll focus on one group a day since my plan is to pick and choose different exercises each day.  I don't want to do the same pull exercises on every pull day, for example.  He has enough variations for me to use muscle confusion which is essential to preventing plateaus.

Anyhow, I think I have the tools needed to reverse the pathetic body fat trends of the past few months.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Posture fixed

Today I had an appointment with my chiropractor and he moved me onto maintenance so I think I'll consider this task complete.  I've had a good number of appointments to get readjusted and I've been mostly keeping up with my posture exercises at work and at home.  I need to do a better job of doing the prone Bruggers and the wall squats at night, but I do the seated Bruggers at work.

I'm not sure if my spine is actually straighter, but I think I feel less crooked and feeling less cooked was definitely my number one priority.

I've now polished off 7 tasks.

Closed water system

In the past, I've done some rambling on an off-grid house and today I was wondering if you could build a closed water system.  Most people pull city water and output waste to the sewer so you get charged twice for water used.  I think it would be pretty easy to build a filter for the dooker and the stuff in piss, but you would want to sterilize the water or you'd have cholera constantly.  Rather than use chemicals maybe you could use UV.  However, UV requires a lot of juice so you'd need to be able to generate a hefty amount of electricity from solar, wind and hydrogen cells.

The good news is you could hookup your gutters to the system to collect rain water.  Unless you live in the desert the rain water would compensate for watering the garden and other losses.

An interesting project would be to design a completely self-sufficient house without a septic system.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Gah.  It only took one day of work to wipe out more than two-thirds of my good mood.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Properly motivated

For some reason, I woke up this morning properly motivated to get my fat ass in shape. Maybe I know I feel better when I'm in better shape or maybe I'm disappointed that I've failed so far to prevent the winter fattening. My pushup challenge isn't going well because my wrists are weaker than the rest of my body - probably due to too much time spent on the computer.

I can't wait for the beginning of the year and assume P90X is going to save my bacon. If I'm not in the proper shape, I won't be able to do enough of the exercises to get anything out of it. For the rest of the year, I'm going to get up early three days a week to do some strength training. I'll try to add some cardio on the off days. I also ordered up an incline bench to do crunches and back extensions and a dip station to do...well, dips.

I'll wrangle my eating habits back into shape by avoiding sugar again. I've been stress snacking and it's doing quite a bit of harm. The more sugar I eat, the worse I feel which encourages me to eat even more sugar to feel better.

If I don't make significant progress by the end of the year, then I will buy any local reader of this blog a nice dinner.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Peppercorn steak

Tonight's dinner was peppercorn steak with a pomegranate glaze and a salad.  I think the picture shows the right proportion of steak to salad and I didn't even eat all the steak shown.

The steak turned out well though I might have used a little too much rosemary.  I don't think I've done much cooking with pomegranate before so it was cool to try something new.  I would recommend cooking the steak on the grill though instead of in a frying pan as the recipe suggests.

I've now banged out 77 recipes towards my challenge.

Baked sweet potato sticks

The sweet potatoes looked much fresher at the store today so I got some to bake up according to this recipe I found online.  The recipe is simple and turned out alright, but I didn't taste anything other than sweet potato.  I'm not complaining, but I don't need a recipe to tell me to cut up a tuber and bake it in the oven.  In any case, sweet potatoes are chock full of vitamins and minerals and taste sweet, but have a low glycemic index.

Simple as it is, it counts as my 76th recipe.  Just 24 more to go towards my challenge.

Hot water update

I exchanged an e-mail or two with plumber and he said that it's not worth insulating the hot water pipes because my basement is fairly warm.  He also counseled against a recirculation system since it's costly and will erode my energy gains.

To solve the shower pressure problem, he suggested switching to just one shower head.  Now, I'm smart enough to know that only one shower head will have more pressure, but I didn't realize it would achieve fire hose level.  I took a shower for the first time this morning with just one shower head and it felt a little like sandblasting.  I feel really clean, but the pressure was bordering on painful.  I may need to get a shower head to restrict the pressure a bit or perhaps I can get a restrictor to put in series.  Anyhow, there are many ways to reduce water pressure so it's a good problem to have.

The impression I'm getting from people, including the plumber, is to man up on the hot water wait time at the faucets.  It seems I was spoiled before because the water heaters were set at a high temperature.  I guess I'm greedy because I want instant as well as continuous hot water.  I had asked about the efficacy of a point of use (POU) electric heater at each faucet and the plumber said it would help speed up the heating process, but he didn't comment on whether I would still come out ahead from an energy perspective.

An Ariston electric POU electric heater would provide either 2.9 or 3.9g of hot water using a 1.5kW heater.  It's hard to estimate the energy hit because 1.5kW is the peak power and the heater wouldn't need to kick on often or for very long as it takes about 30s for the tankless to provide hot water to each faucet.  The heaters are about $200 so I might get one and have the plumber install it in the main bathroom when he installs the new toilet.  I'll try it out and see how much it improves the situation because I like to wash my hands in warm water, but I don't want to wait 30s for the water to heat up.  A lot of cold water would flow in 30s which would cause my water bill to spike.

It is possible for me to install both the toilet and the electric heater, but I'm worried the conditions will be less than ideal in my bathroom.  I'm not sure in what condition the plumbing is in and the install quote I got is reasonable.

The situation may be closer to worst case since it's just me here.  A larger family would use water more often so there would be more hot water in the pipes.  However, I don't think the financial cost nor the extra energy will be extravagant since it'll cut down on water waste.  The heater will take up space under the sink, but I don't consider that a real downside since I store nothing there.

Fitness update

Sweet.  The fattening continues.  Gah.  I haven't given up quite yet, but I'm having trouble summoning the willpower and discipline to get in shape.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tankless water heater...activate

Today the plumber, Chris Collins, finished installing my new Rinnai 94Lsi tankless water heater.  It took him about a week, but he didn't work every day due to some flooding emergencies elsewhere.  I decided to go tankless because I was able to centrally locate it in my basement and it replaced an aging 40 gallon tank and a soon-to-be-old 50 gallon tank.  The US government is offering a 30% tax credit on tankless heaters so I'll get some money back next year.

I tried it out when I got home from work and was disappointed to discover it takes longer for the water to get hot, but once hot,  it'll stay hot for longer.  I'll also be able to have hot water on demand since I don't need to wait for a tank to refill.  Before, I would run the dishwasher and then wait a couple of hours before running the laundry or taking a shower or whatever.  I think I'll have enough pressure to shower while the dishwasher is on, but I'm not sure.

It'll be interesting to see if I save money since natural gas is cheap around here.  I may even break even because I'll use more water waiting for it to get hot.  Hmmm...it's much to early to have buyer's remorse, but it'll be something for me to keep an eye on.

In any case, if you're in the Albany, NY area, I highly recommend Chris Collins as a plumber.  He's knowledgeable, efficient, conscientious and charges a fair price.  Since he does quality work, he's usually busy, but not to the point where I would consider taking my business elsewhere.

Here's a picture of the unit installed in my basement:
The yellow line is the natural gas.  You can see a red and blue valve in the lower left hand corner.  Those are maintenance valves and are highly recommended.  The water around here is hard so you need to flush the system every now and then.  If you do not have maintenance valves, you'll need to cut the pipes off to get access.  Pretty stupid eh?  I'm not sure why maintenance valves aren't standard, but it didn't take much convincing to get me to buy some.

The unit needs to be vented so Chris had to drill out a hole in my foundation near my deck.