Thursday, August 4, 2016

The pirate with a mouth...

Agreed, this is not much of a post, but this was a gift I received for my recent birthday from my wife and son. It was a random Deadpool key chain, with several possible variants not determinable from the packaging. Fate must have been smiling upon me because lo and behold, guess which one I got!


Argh!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Them purty fishies look like salt water...

As a family we have pets. We have a dog, a beagle, which I will undoubtedly post about one day and we have an aquarium.

Our first fish aquarium was a little one gallon tank for a betta my son won at a fair. This fish lasted for about two years. After him, we tried many different fish until we upgraded to a five gallon Fluval Spec V aquarium.

Fresh water aquarium keeping can be a challenge. Despite my many years of personal and professional experience with fish keeping (my first jobs in high school and college where in pet/fish stores and I was a marine biology major for a while), our little tank never really flourished.

Enter the Mbuna

In the last year I changed the aquarium occupants to a mbunas, also know as African cichlids. Mbuna (pronounced boo-nuh) is the Tonga word for rockfish referring to the colorful and amazing fish living amongst the piled rocky shores of Lake Malawi in Africa. Lake Malawi, bordered by Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania, is incredible in it's own right. It is a rift lake and is the ninth largest and the sixth deepest lake in the world. It also has more species of fish than any other lake in the world, estimated to be about a 1000 cichlids alone. This region is also near where Australopithecus afarensis was first found.

Due to the depth of the lake, mbunas have evovled very deep and varied coloration and due to their territorial natures, then are very active, aggressive fish. These fish are readily visible, not startled by people outside and always a pleasure to watch. They don't play well with other fish in the aquarium and they pretty much get the aquarium to themselves. They need a lot of hiding places to feel secure.

Below is our take currently:

Normally, mbunas are known for uprooting plants, but due to the small size of the fish and large size of the substrate gravel, that isn't much of an issue. The mbunas all have territories and are quite happy in there aquarium chasing around, hiding and munching on the plants. The live plants are from all over the world and flow gracefully in the filter current. I am frequently replacing plants as they chomp through bits of them.

Our five little mbunas are named after members of The Beatles, in reference to the little yellow submarine in our aquarium, and in honor of my son's grandparents. The photos below are not from our actual fish, but Wikipedia images, but they show each species:

PaulPseudotropheus demasoni is rather timed and hangs mostly in the left of the tank:



John and GeorgeMaylandia estherae are a bit different. John is the boss, largest and orange with dynamic gray mottling. He is constantly exploring. George is solid orange more timed and hangs in the middle:




RingoMelanochromis auratus is very bold and roams throughout the tank:



PeteLabidiochromis caeruleus - Pete, named after the first drummer, is semi-timed and hangs on the left. He was hiding in the aquarium photo above:



People often see these fish are remark that they look like marine fish. I could never support having a marine aquarium. Mbunas breed very readily in captivity and are excellent parents, protecting their young aggressively. All of my fish are domestically bred, as are the vast majority of fresh water fish you find in most stores. Very few marine fish can be breed in captivity, and the resulting damage to our ocean reefs is horrible:
If you love marine fish, visit an aquarium, such as the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific or the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  Better yet, take up Snuba, snorkeling or even scuba diving and visit these beautiful fish in their natural habitats. I'm considering one day going to Malawi to dive in Lake Malawi.

I have really enjoyed these fish. Following simple rules, including making sure the water conditions are good, they are very hardy and easy to care for. Most new aquarists overlook these fish, often found on the edge of aquarium fish sections. I was once guilty of this too. In time I was able to convince my family to adopt these little mbunas, and we haven't looked back since!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

May the Lego Be With You...

Like most children, my son loves Lego and Star Wars. Like most fathers, I love Lego and Star Wars with him. Even though he isn't the best at keeping Lego creations together once built, and can wreck the coolest Rebel ship faster than a trigger happy Death Star gunner, I've worked to build him a "bad guy / droid" collection of Star Wars Lego minifigures:


In the photo above, starting in the back tier from left we have:
  • Clone Trooper — Episode II-III
  • Imperial Storm Trooper — Episode IV-VI
  • Imperial Storm Trooper Sergeant — Episode VI
  • Imperial Storm Trooper Captain with Desert Backpack — Episode IV
  • Imperial Snowtrooper — Episode V
  • Imperial Scout Trooper — Episode III, VI
  • Imperial AT-AT Driver — Episode V
  • Imperial Gunner — Episode IV, VI
Middle tier, left we have:
  • Emperor's Royal Guard — Episode III, VI
  • Imperial Shadow Trooper — Battlefront
  • Emperor's Shadow Guard — The Force Unleashed
  • First Order Storm Trooper — Episode VII
  • First Order Megablaster Heavy Assault Trooper — Episode VII
  • First Order Riot Control Storm Trooper — Episode VII
  • First Order Snowtrooper — Episode VII
  • First Order Flametrooper — Episode VII
  • Captain Phasma — Episode VII
Bottom tier, left side back:
  • Darth Sidious / Emperor Palpatine — Episode I-III, V-VI
  • Darth Tyranus / Count Dooku — Episode II-III, Clone Wars
  • Grand Inquisitor — Rebels
  • Jango Fett — Episode II
  • General Grevious — Episode III
Bottom tier, left side front:
  • Darth Vader / Anakin Skywalker — Episode I-VI, Rebels, Clone Wars
  • Darth Maul / Maul — Episode I, Rebels
  • Kylo Ren / Ben Solo — Episode VII
  • Boba Fett — Episode II, IV-VI
  • C-3PO with red arm — Episode I-VII
Astomech Droids, left to right:
  • BB-8, flies with Poe Dameron — Episode VII
  • R2-D2, flies with Anakin Skywalker, Luke Skywalker — Episode I-VII
  • Imperial R5-J2 — Episode VI
  • R3-D5, flies with Saesee Tiin — Clone Wars
  • R5-P17, flies with Obi-Wan Kenobi — Episode II-III, Clone Wars
  • Imperial R2-Q2 — Episode IV
  • Imperial R2-Q5 — Episode VI
  • C1-10P "Chopper" — Rebels
Altogether, this is a pretty complete set.

Now if I can only keep it intact for my son to enjoy, before that Dark Side takes him and he wrecks it!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Chromebook as a True Replacement Workstation

I've always been impressed with the concept of Chrome OS. The capability of Chrome browser as not just a solid web browser, but also an application suite with the additions of Gmail, Google Drive, Google apps, etc., just seemed like a solid solution for what most people need a computer for lately. Being that it's built on Linux made a lot of sense to me.

I don't like Windows. It takes a lot of time to boot up, even on newer computers. There's still the constant threat of viruses, malware and the constant stream of system updates. My laptop now lives in the closet, turned off.

I don't like Mac. At some point in the last few years, Apple seriously jumped the shark with style outweighing function. You have to use their desktop applications to get true value, and they always seem lacking. I think the real purpose of a MacBook is to be displayed at a local Starbucks while you sip on your double espresso, half-caf-mocha-extra-foam-machiato-frapa-whatever.

I'm a software developer. I develop almost exclusively in the terminal environment, secure shelling into servers using the Linux environments to write code with the most glorious of IDEs (yes, it can be a powerful IDE when extended) Vim. I love Linux too, but the desktop environments are no different to me than Chrome with a terminal. As a practice of sound business practices, I don't keep code on my local workstation, that stays on a server, with code in a repository.

So, why not Chromebook?

This is my personal workstation, an ASUS Chromebook Flip. The fact that it clam shells into basically a full touchscreen tablet is merely a bonus. This is light, rugged, very compact and runs for a ridiculous time on a single charge. With Google Drive apps, I have all the office based apps I need. With Google Photos, I store all of my personal photos and videos online in the cloud. With Google Play I enjoy my entire musical collection, e-books and even entire seasons of Gotham. I can even re-watch Serenity anytime I need my "shiny" fix.

I don't need to edit feature length motion pictures, and my policy on photography is less is more, so web apps like Pixlr do the trick for me. UML and other diagrams are handled via Lucidchart and remote development is done via VPN and Secure Shell.

With the file system mirroring Google Drive, and the ability to mount Dropbox, Box.net, FTPs, etc, I have access to my entire document collection. I pay $9.99 a month for 1 Tb of online storage which suites me well. Add a Digital Ocean droplet in the cloud and I have my very own Ubuntu server to develop and geek out on to my heart's content.

For more serious working, I flip the Chromebook to tent mode and then connect my multi-channel Bluetooth keyboard and a Bluetooth mouse. I personally recommend the two following: 
Add in my Nexus 6P and I have the entire Google-verse at my finger tips. With the amazing announcement that the Android Play store is coming to Chrome OS, my device as one of the first supported, it really becomes an full tablet. I could be playing Minecraft PE with my son in a matter of weeks on my Chromebook.

So why this article? Mostly because I read a lot of posts about how Chromebook will never replace a laptop / desktop. It did for me.

Soon it will also replace a tablet for me too.

I, for one, welcome our new Chrome OS overlords.


Saturday, June 4, 2016

A Real Diet for Fast Weight Loss

Originally I posted this email, sent to a friend, to help with her dieting goals, but I decided to share this here too, now with some grammatical edits and blog formatting. This is based on sound professional nutritionist consultation, in addition to bariatric surgery requirements. It's modified for non-surgery users, allowing for normal food days. As an obvious disclaimer, always consult with your doctor before trying any new diet.

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So the gist of this diet is pretty simple. No Atkins or Paleo Diet, just sound nutritionist information, known since the 1960's, that the core of successful weight reduction comes from understanding what food is, and what it needs to do for a more than fluffy body.

Let's break down the basics. Food comes in four types with different caloric amounts:

  • Protein (4 calories/gram): your basic biological building blocks. Complex full proteins are found in whey, eggs, fish, beans and meats. You need 70–90 grams a day to maintain proper tissue repair and replacement. Less than this and your body will pull protein from your muscle and tissue.
  • Carbohydrates (4 calories/gram): Fuel, pure and simple. Sugars are quick fuel; others are more complex, but still just fuel. Excess fuel will be stored in the body in rather unattractive ways. 
  • Fats (9 calories/gram): Fats are necessary for lubrication of joints, skin, hair and other maintenance related functions. Excess converts to fuel and will be stored in further unattractive ways.
  • Alcohol (7 calories/gram): Only good for stressing livers and encouraging personal life choices that often involve nudity with undesirable people, and expensive impulse purchases on Amazon and eBay. Excess converts to stores of fat, unless you are a rock star and consume nothing else.

The diet, for those that haven't had/going to have bariatric surgery, is two fold. Protein fasts, along with smart food choices days, including at least one cheat meal a week. I'll start with the the protein fast.

Protein Fast

Two of the following pure protein shakes will provide 35 grams each of protein. Two a day is sufficient to reach the required level of protein:


Costco sells other brands, and there are others, but the cost of getting these in 12 packs via Amazon is very convenient. They are sweetened is sucralose and are very low fat calorically speaking. They are no more that 170 calories each, making a grand total of 340 calories for two, and they provide complete protein requirements for a day.

Additionally you will need vitamins. Currently I take the following:


The Flintstones vitamins I would recommend two a day. I take three due to post surgical malabsorption, but two will give you all you need, including 18mg of Iron per vitamin. Additionally, they are something silly and sweet. If you find a multivitamin with the same amounts of two of these that you prefer more, then try those. Take them with the protein shakes and at the other normal skipped meal time.

The Viactivs chew will complete what you need for calcium, however the better value in them is that at only 15 calories each, they provide a psychological treat that will help you cope with the fast. Take two of these at mid-morning and early afternoon, an hour away from either shake for better calcium absorption.

Additionally, you will need to consume a total of 64 fl oz of fluid a day. You get roughly 22 fl oz from the shakes, so 42 fl oz remain. If you aren't a big water drinker, fluid solutions include herbal tea; sugar free, non caloric water enhancers such as Crystal Ligh; sugar free tang and Kool-aid; Dasani water drops and Nestea water enhancers. Check your local store for the squeeze bottles and look for 0 calories. These help trick your stomach into believing you have actually food in it.

Additionally, you can also drink no fat broths, such as beef, chicken or vegetable. Typically they are around 5–15 calories per 8 fl oz. These really help, plus add a little savory into what you ingest. 

Also, sugar free Jello is a winner with when you need something slightly more solid. Try the snack sizes. They run 5–10 calories.

So, with the above protein fast you will consume about 370–450 calories a day, meeting all or your physiological needs. Additional calories will come from your stored body fat reserves, quite quickly.

Now here are the negatives. You will be hungry. This is the most extreme healthy diet you can do. You will be ravenous, but don't cheat. Additionally, since you will be at an extreme calorie deficit, you can get very tried. If dizzy or tired, take it easy, but you should be fine. You can easily lose a half pound or much more based on your adherence. The math is simple:

  1. The average person needs between 2000–2500 calories a day to maintain their weight based on normal activity.
  2. 3500 calories equal 1 pound of body weight.
  3. Being at a deficit of assuming a 2000 calorie metabolism and a high protein diet of 400 calories means you will lose .46 pounds a day if you sit on your bum watching TV all day with broth and jello for dinner and dessert. More with even moderate activity.

Try this for say four to five days a week, more if you can handle it. I recommend weekends for eating the modified diet.

Modified Diet

For your other days, I recommend a modified diet focusing of a few changes in what you eat. This will help even your off fast days to lose weight too, not sabotaging your protein fast days.

Protein first. Your food should be focused on what your body needs first. Eat proteins first, and mostly. Eggs, chicken, fish, beans and low fat dairy will be your friends. Make sure you get in your 70–90 grams of protein.

Chew chew chew. Most people eat too quickly, chewing enough only to swallow. Try not to eat in front of the TV, focus on chewing and enjoying your food until the consistency is that of applesauce. This aids in digestion, nutrient absorption, preventing indigestion and slowing your eating to make you fuller faster.

You don't have to eat it all. Eating those last couple of bites may seem obligatory, but damn guilt over the world's starving. It's wasted regardless of you eating it our not, and a couple extra bites might be enough to add more weight to yourself.

Avoid starches and higher fats. Never fill up on bread or the tortilla chips. Fries, chips, candy and sweets all secretly hate you for humanity's historical devouring of them. The are also poor fuel and like to invade bellies, bums and thighs. For fats, try to downgrade them. Replace butter for lower fat margarine, or better yet olive oil. 1% milk instead of old "Low Fat" which is not low fat.

Look at the Nutrition Facts on food you buy. Look at serving size, which is often a lie (a can of Coke is not two servings). Look at Calories and Calories from Fat. If the calories from fat is higher that 25% of the total calories, it's not low fat, regardless of how many times the packaging says low fat or healthy. Also note that zero fat is often higher in sugars. Watch sodium if you have high blood pressure too.

Lastly, but not least, eat at least one cheat meal a week when you eat this modified diet. Looking forward to that meal will help when you are struggling. Make it a good one. Maybe meat lovers pizza, but don't eat the crust. Bacon cheeseburger, with small fries. Grilled chicken, instead of southern fried (though I do miss Popeye's chicken and biscuits!)

The more you do, the better it will work for you, along with the protein fast. Also, take your vitamins too.

Exercise

Despite the hype, exercise doesn't make you lose weight, it only helps with a good diet. Cardio leads to a stronger heart. Weight training leads to toned muscles. Yoga lends to flexibility and snootiness. Cross-training leads to bumper stickers and annoying your friends.

Simple exercise is what you need. Walking, with or without a dog, earlier in the day is better and will kick up your metabolism and burn more calories. Activity with a purpose is more doable that running on a treadmill. Gardening, biking, kayaking and hiking are infinitely better for your body, and your mind.

Conclusion

This diet works. It works simply because you are giving your body what it needs, and not what your emotions want. It will be surprising how fast the weight can come off. Weigh yourself daily, preferably in the morning at the same time. Understand how your weight is affected by your food, and choose good food over empty calories.

I other words, be happy and healthy!