My fitness plan has been simple: eat whatever the hell I want and don't exercise much. That's had the predictable effect at age 37 that I should lose a fair bit of weight. I've always been suspicious of specific diets and I'm too lazy to exercise properly, but I finally found something that seems to be working for me. Simple calorie counting.

The key enabler for me is the free iPhone app Lose It!. I finally have in my pocket a simple way to track what I eat during the day. It's incredibly eye opening to learn, for example, that a tablespoon of butter is 100 calories, or about 4% of what I should be eating a day. Or roughly the same calories as in a small 8oz glass of juice. Now I have a specific measurement of putting less butter on my bread or drinking unsweetened iced tea.

What you eat is energy in, what you do is energy out. There's a surprising amount of specific research on metabolic rates for people. Lose It! follows the Mifflin Equation to calculate the calories you burn simply for being alive, then bumps it up 145% to account for your daily activity (may be a bit optimistic). A 3500 calorie deficit translates into a pound of flesh, so eating 500 calories a day less than your calorie need will result in losing a pound a week. Exercise helps too, of course: 20 minutes of walking = 100 calories.

A lot of the discussion about weight and fitness is tied up in emotional discourse, judgement, and poorly tested theories about how bacon is a Fatkins diet food, how you can change your metabolic rate, or you should only eat what they eat in Provence. And it may be simply controlling calorie intake and getting a bit of exercise isn't the whole story, but it's a helpful place to start. If nothing else I'm now much more aware of what I'm eating.

  2009-04-28 17:58 Z
I've recently had the pleasure of selling a house in San Francisco. The long list of random fees in the transaction process encouraged me to dig up the documents from when we bought the house, in 2002, and looked at the random fees we paid then. All told buying and selling the same house in SF cost $3800 in pure administrative friction, or roughly 0.5% of the value of a typical SF home.

Buying: $3215

$900 Escrow fees
$40 Escrow: notary fees

$765 Mortgage: loan origination fee
$400 Mortgage: appraisal
$36 Mortgage: credit report
$61 Mortgage: tax service
$350 Mortgage: loan processing fee
$50 Mortgage: wire fee
$18 Mortgage: flood certification fee
$595 Mortgage: administration fee

Selling: $583

$32 Title: Recording Notice of Default
$50 Escrow: Draw Deed
$17 Escrow: Overnight delivery
$40 Escrow: Notary

$10 Mortgage: county recording fee
$45 Mortgage: reconveyance fee
$30 Mortgage: expedited payoff service fee

$75 Underground tank inspection fee
$160 3R report fee
$124 Hazard for 3R report fee

Mind you, this isn't counting for the big stuff: 5-6% real estate agent fee, 1% county transfer tax, 0.3% title insurance policy, or 1-3% in points paid on the mortgage rate. This is just the little crap. You know, $50 to pay for the frickin wire transfer. Telegrams are expensive, I guess.
  2009-04-17 20:37 Z
I've been working on understanding the unique language of Craiglist man for man personal ads. Here's one measure: a list of the words that show up frequently in ads but relatively seldomly in ordinary English, in particular television and movie scripts.
pic host cock stats suck masculine asian discreet horny oral smooth reply neg hairy im bi cum thick email hiv latin hosting std hwp seeking vers ddf gwm athletic sucking uncut lbs latino gl muscular jock porn cocksucker slim poppers nsa ur bj pnp horned bb discrete seeks etc rim versatile dd dont stocky beefy shaved cocks submissive swap emails sensual loads bod toned anon anal dom cuddle bs chubby dominant blowjob goatee shaven hookup font husky replies cant serviced stroking asians whats completion slender ft cuddling buzzed stds mod filipino moderately kink muscled oakland servicing nips unzip uc orally boyish cl yr br scruffy endowed
The word pic (or pics) shows up once every 120 words in a Craiglist ad, but only one in a million in TV/movie scripts. Cock is about 800 times more likely to occur in a Craiglist ad than in a script. The non-sexually-explicit terms like moderately and masculine interest me most.

For completeness, here are the top words that are common in TV scripts but not in Cragislist m4m ads. A lot of proper names and feminine terms.

she's uh mother um hmm whoa mrs daughter killed wedding sonny upset theresa ooh she'll luis grace they'll sweetheart julian antonio ms charity billy ray miguel kay evidence sweetie shawn mommy mama barbara elizabeth congratulations aw mother's jennifer witch skye father's gosh ian maria powers mitch witness eddie hank grandma harmony bloody everybody's
  2009-04-10 20:34 Z
I've found a miracle cure for spring allergies. A Sinus Rinse, also known as squirting warm salt water up your nose. It is, quite frankly, disgusting. But it works.

Very simple idea. You get about 8 ounces of warm salt water. Warm water, preferably previously boiled, and definitely not cold or hot (it's going inside your head). Then you dissolve a magic salt packet in it, a balance of NaCl and NaHCO3 that makes the water have roughly the same salt concentrations as the inside of your sinuses.

Then you fill the little squeeze bottle, stick it up one nostril, tilt your head forward, and squeeze the water in. Hopefully the water splutters out the other side, or a bit down the back of your throat. It feels a bit like getting hit by an ocean wave and drowning. Messy business that requires a sink, although I manage to keep my shirt dry.

Like I said, it's disgusting, but it seems to really work for my pollen allergies. I guess I'm flushing irritants out of my sinuses. A quick rinse after coming in from an outdoor walk and I'm much better off the rest of the day and night.

It's simple enough you can probably make the stuff at home. But for $10 at your pharmacy you can buy a Neilmed kit with bottle and a zillion premeasured salt packets. Your hippie friends may also suggest a Neti Pot, which is a similar idea, but I'm told the positive pressure of the squeeze bottle is more thorough than just gravity flow.

  2009-04-07 16:24 Z
I'm 37 now. Most of my friends my age are just now having babies or are thinking about it. Ken and I have no desire to raise children ourselves, and honestly not a lot of interest in babies. But I get it now, how natural and deep the experience of having children is. And so I'm very happy for all my friends who are having kids.

The one thing I ask of my friends and readers: if you're going to have kids, please do it soon. I worry for my friends who are waiting to 35, 40 before deciding to have a baby. I hadn't understood this, but making babies is actually pretty difficult. And it only gets harder the older you get. For instance, six week miscarriage rates go from 15% on average up to 42% at age 40.

Many of my friends having kids now have had some sort of trouble: difficulty in conceiving, or a miscarriage, or a scare at birth. Fortunately everyone's turned out OK and they're happy parents to happy children. As far as I know, none of them regret waiting. But even if waiting until you're 35 to have kids is pretty common in the US now, consider not putting it off any longer than you need to.

  2009-04-06 19:11 Z