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DesktopWeb FormText   lightning strike : resolutionTue, 15 Dec 2009 03:31:28 GMT # 

this was finally all wrapped up. the notebooks that were damaged were 'fixed' with ethernet notebook cards, or usb-to-ethernet adapters. but that left damaged ethernet ports on an xbox 360 and a Netgear ReadyNAS. since i want to use Netflix streaming with the 360, i'll end up replacing it with a new one. in the meantime, i've just been using it with a wireless adapter. that left the ReadyNAS, which effectively became a brick without the ethernet port. Netgear refused to fix it, because it was out of warranty, even though i was willing to pay for repairs. i also didn't have any luck finding an electronics shop that gave me confidence they could repair it. plus it wont work with usb-to-ethernet adapters. so the only way to get to the data is move the drives over to my 2nd ReadyNAS (which still works). Netgear refusing to repair the device put me off ReadyNAS, so i'll ultimately move the data to a 2nd WHS device.

my home owners insurance would cover the lightning strike, although there is a $1000 deductible for personal property damages. since my claim would be less than that, there was no need to file. fyi, my rates would not have gone up since lightning strikes are not my fault ... disregard the lightning rods, kites, and blasphemy.

so that left filing a claim to APC. it took a while, and i had to ship 2 heavy UPS to them, and then it took even more time, but they did agree to pay the claim. also, one of my UPS was no longer supported, and they shipped me a newer replacement for free. i'm not sure about the 2 UPS that i just shipped them ... i'm wondering if i'll get the newer model back? anyway, APC earned a customer for life.

now i'm waiting for the next lightning strike. the main addition is a power cleaner on the outside of my house. so a surge should be stopped before it even gets in, or before it gets close to a data line. if a surge were to come in through the data line, then that should fry my cable modem 1st ... if it were to get through the data protection of an UPS before that. all my devices are still on a UPS (some of them newer models). finally, i have some additional data surge protectors (APC) between long runs of ethernets. so if a surge did get inside the house, and jumped to a data line, the damage should be localized to 1 room, instead of knocking out equipment all over my condo.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : food showsSun, 25 Oct 2009 17:17:53 GMT # 

er, um ... i've been searching for healthy cooking / food science shows. notice that most of these are for foreign audiences. here's what i've looked at :

BBC The Truth About Food - 6 part series about being healthy, sexy, feeding kids, etc... good stuff. i like how the UK will somewhat abuse the people they use in their experiments.

Food Detectives - food science. so far there experiements are entertaining, but i'm not sure i've gotten much use out of them. granted, i've only seen a couple episodes.

Food Investigators - Australian series that is mostly about how to pick healthier foods. i like it.

Good Eats - educational and entertaining. the problem is alot of the dishes have been too unhealthy. so i generally watch it to learn cooking basics, how to pick ingredients, and then i look for healthier preparation options online; or i make my own substitutions. but the host, Alton Brown, just lost something like 45 lbs ... so i'm holding my breath that the series will become healthier.

American Test Kitchen - this is real similar to Good Eats. they go in depth about 1 dish / ingredient, talk about cooking options, tools, etc... this show stands out in that they seem to frequently show what can go wrong.

What's Really in our Food - i think this is New Zealand. similar to Food Investigators, they help you decide the healthiest foods to eat. i like it.

Biggest Loser - er, um ... i tried to watch this, but i hated it. its way too much reality tv, too much intensive training, and barely any nutrition. people commonly refer to losing weight as 80-90% nutrition ... but instead the show seems to show 80-90% training.

what else should i be watching?


DesktopWeb FormText   treadmill desk with weight vestTue, 13 Oct 2009 18:34:01 GMT # 

i like the treadmill desk, but the problem is its been a bit too easy. if i increase the speed, then it becomes much more difficult to use the mouse accurately. the other option is too increase the incline. this increases the diffuculty at lower speeds, but changes the ergonomics. this wouldnt be a problem if i could easily change the height of the desk. its also not as 'smooth', because my trunk isnt as stable vertically. but now i've started to wear a weight vest while walking on the treadmill desk. this increases the difficulty at low speeds and doesnt mess up the ergonomics. started out by adding 20 lbs ... and love it. now it actually feels like a workout. it really works the leg muscles and forces the core to activate. i wish i'd been doing this from the beginning, and adding weight to the vest as i lost body fat. as far as vests, my vest is long-wide and goes up to 40 lbs. the plan is to outgrow this vest, and then switch to a short-narrow vest that can hold more weight. also, i need to make sure that the side straps are padded (and/or low), because my inner arms rub against the straps because of my lats.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : positive food reinforcementTue, 22 Sep 2009 17:42:07 GMT # 

when i was on an AI kick, I had a spider bot. started out using negative reinforcement to train it, but it would still find content i did not like. the key was to train it with positive reinforcement, and it ended up getting lost in good content. now i use that same technique for my diet.

instead of concentrating on the foods i cant have, i just think about all the good foods that i should eat. there are enough good foods, that i really dont miss the processed crap. so i really like the book The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth along with the website whfoods.com. along the way, i've been having to learn how to cook. as Andy suggested, i turn to Alton Brown and Good Eats. i like his series because each episode generally concentrates on a single type of food. alot of times, i'll decide to try one of the healthiest foods from a source above, and then i'll see if there is a Good Eats episode dealing with it. of course i just skip the desert episodes. there really needs to be more 'healthy' cooking shows, something like these Cooking with Christina episodes on bodybuilding.com. speaking of bodybuilding.com, i started out reading there nutrition articles to figure out the macro-nutrient percentages i should be aiming for. it also has an endless supply of bodybuilder diets that i can attempt to figure out which one works best for my body type. so i've really had to relearn what food is. this has required alot of experimentation. so i make it a point to get at least 1 new food every time i go to the grocery store. this has helped me to rediscover alot of foods and find many new ones. there's been a couple times where i've taken an unlabeled veggie up to the grocery store checkout line ... and nobody even knew what it was (i.e. parsnips).

as far as organics, i saw the Penn & Teller Bullshit episode. so i dont really bother with organic veggies or fruits. i'll sometimes get organics just because the package might be smaller. otherwise, i might get the organic variety of a processed food. granted, i dont eat many processed foods to begin with ... but the organic variety generally wont contain unnecessary additives like high fructose corn syrup. about the only thing i regularly get that is organic, is organic decaf coffee beans.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : progressTue, 22 Sep 2009 14:55:38 GMT # 

for the last 4 months, my bodyweight kept bouncing between 196 and 201 lbs; although the goal had been to get below 195 lbs. so i backpedaled and started experimenting with the diet. i tried a seriously low carb approach, but that destroyed my energy levels and ability to think. then i tried just getting starchy carbs before and after a workout. the problem with this approach is that i never seemed to wake up in the morning. so i found out that i require starchy carbs in the morning (to get started) and then before and after workout. that worked for about a week, and then my energy levels would start dipping.

what seems to be working now is to have a mandatory 'cheat' day. for 5 days, i eat 1500-1750 calories per day. 40 grams fat, around 125 grams carbs, and over 200 grams protein. these days are mostly lean meats, fibrous veggies, some starchy veggies and some grain. i dont get any fruit or dairy on these days ... so there is very little sugar. on the 6th day, i 'cheat', and get about 2500 calories. i change things up by eating over 250 grams of protein, around 300 grams of carbs, and only incidental fats (less than 20 grams). the additional carbs come from more grains and starchy veggies, plus lots of fruit and dairy (tons of sugar). this cheat day seems to keep my metabolism from becoming too efficient. it also keeps my energy levels from dipping too low.

on the new diet, my bodyweight just dropped to 194 lbs. this is significant because it makes a total loss of 50 lbs. for bodyfat calipers, my chest and thighs still measure around 4-6. my belly had been measuring 15, but now its down to around 10. for measurements, my waist dropped from 36 to 35.5. belly (measured at belly button) dropped from 36 to 35. love handles dropped from 37 to 36. so this is the first time my belly measurement dropped below my waist measurement. visibly, i still have some fat covering my lower abs. the love handles are smaller but starting to shape up. the new stubborn fat seems to be some lower back fat.

the new goal is to drop below 190 lbs. i'm going to keep the diet as-is until my energy levels start dropping. then i might switch from 5 days on 1 cheat, to 4 days on 1 cheat.


DesktopWeb FormText   new article : /dicResKitThu, 03 Sep 2009 22:44:48 GMT # 

/dicResKit is a simple article providing an overview of the Dictation Resource Kit (DRK), which can be used to generate language models for speech recognition and speech synthesis.


DesktopWeb FormText   /eva : dictation resource kit (round 2)Tue, 01 Sep 2009 23:28:04 GMT # 

integrated DRK grammars into /eva. first, the code works on both Vista and Windows 7. i'm still trying to figure out why the previous n-gram loading code worked on Vista, but not Windows 7. second, this allows me to automate generation of the grammars nightly on a deployment machine. the only requirement is installing the DRK to the deployed machine, which is much easier to swallow than installing Visual Studio and Speech Server 2007 to get the Conversational Grammar Builder installed. that said, i'd still rather have a simple executable that i could hand a corpus text file and get back a compiled n-gram (.cfg).

i've only done minimal runtime testing, but so far, the results from using an n-gram with AppendRuleReference seem to be better than using a DRK language model with AppendDictation(topic). that's strictly from looking at the SemanticValues returned from Recognition. second, i'd also have to rework my search logic. the problem is i normalize the music library in my own code and store the original values and normalized values to a dataset. but then the DRK can normalize the values again, so i'd have to remap that normalized value back to the dataset to get the search logic to find more matches. e.g. my logic currently normalizes '808 state' as it is, but the DRK will normalize to 'eight zero eight state'. for now, i'm just skipping the step of using the DRKs normalizer.

so i've still got problems. the n-gram seems to give better results but there isnt a way to automate generating grammars and the code isnt working on Windows 7. vs the DRK language models, which dont seem to perform as well recognition-wise for this task, but they can be generated automatically on a deployment machine and the code is working on Windows 7. er, um ... so i'm stuck with using the DRK for now.


DesktopWeb FormText   /eva : swapping ngram .cfg for DRK topicSun, 30 Aug 2009 01:56:15 GMT # 

i've got a helper class for generating DRK (Dictation Resource Kit) grammars now, and have used it to re-generate all the n-gram grammars used by /eva as 'dictation language models'. i still need to think about what process i want to generate the grammars and where they will live. but as a sanity check, i wrote the code to make sure /eva could use the new grammars. still need to check it Windows 7.

SemanticResultValue srvSearch = new SemanticResultValue("search tracks for ", "search tracks for ");
GrammarBuilder gbFilenameGram = new GrammarBuilder();
string topic = "grammar:dictation#DrkFilename";
gbFilenameGram.AppendDictation(topic);
SemanticResultKey srkFilenameGram = new SemanticResultKey("valSearch", gbFilenameGram);
GrammarBuilder gbSearchForX = srvSearch.ToGrammarBuilder();
gbSearchForX.Append(srkFilenameGram);


DesktopWeb FormText   /eva : dictation resource kitSat, 29 Aug 2009 03:40:46 GMT # 

the problem with not being able to load conversational grammar (.cfg) files on Windows 7 is related to the main issue with /eva to begin with. the problem is i've had to manually generate n-grams using the conversational grammar builder in Speech Server 2007. instead, this process should be automated so the n-grams can be recreated nightly or as new music files are added.

Nick (MS) tipped me off to the Dictation Resource Kit. its not pretty, but it looks like it will work for generating the grammars that i need. and it'll take some grunt work, but i think it can be automated. finally, i would have to create the grammars differently in code, and that might mean they would work in Windows 7. the one ugly part is that the grammars have to be registered ... and i'd rather my app didnt touch the registry to avoid the security hassle.


DesktopWeb FormText   /eva : grammar failing on windows 7Fri, 28 Aug 2009 19:14:57 GMT # 

another fallout from the lightning strike is it killed the harddisk on the /eva server. so i swapped out the harddisk and upgraded it to windows 7. but now 2 of grammars will not load. the problem is when i reference an n-gram (conversational) .cfg grammar from a dynamically built command-and-control grammar. so the user would say 'search tracks for gabriel and dresden'. 'search tracks for' is command and control, while 'gabriel and dresden' would match an n-gram utterance. the code follows (works on System.Speech on Vista, but not on Windows 7):

SemanticResultValue srvSearch = new SemanticResultValue("search tracks for ", "search tracks for ");
string musFold = SettingsImpl.GetGramDir();
string ngramPath = musFold + "NgramFilename_EN-US_UntitledCommand1.cfg";
GrammarBuilder gbFilenameGram = new GrammarBuilder();
gbFilenameGram.AppendRuleReference(ngramPath, "#UntitledCommand1");
SemanticResultKey srkFilenameGram = new SemanticResultKey("valSearch", gbFilenameGram);
gbSearchForX = srvSearch.ToGrammarBuilder();
gbSearchForX.Append(srkFilenameGram);


DesktopWeb FormText   lightning strike : electricianWed, 26 Aug 2009 18:30:03 GMT # 

electrician came by, actually the same guy that helped me out about 2 years ago, and is confident that it was an electrical surge that crossed over to my data line; and that my UPS would not be able to protect against it. his suggestion is to install a power conditioner, at the circuit panel, that will protect my entire house. based on the number of problems i've had with electricity in this condo ... i'm sold. on the plus side, it might lower my electricity bill too. that should get installed next week.

aside, i just noticed that one of my newer UPS already has ethernet protection. the only problem is its not gigabit. so i'm going to move that to protect the ethernet coming out of the cable modem (since its not gigabit), and then i might install one of these for gigabit protection on my LAN.

that leaves NetGear, who is taking too long to get back to me about repairing my ReadyNAS. and now i need to get with APC to see if they will cover some of the damage to my equipment.


DesktopWeb FormText   lightning strike : cable companyTue, 25 Aug 2009 20:32:07 GMT # 

still trying to find out how my equipment was damaged, and what i can do to keep it from happening again ... so i called the cable company to send somebody out to check. they say that everything on their end was grounded properly, and the house looks grounded properly too. i showed him how my TV was on an UPS with coax protection. he said that wasnt even necessary. anyway, i'm not removing it because the TV survived. on the data side, the coax going to the cable modem is on an UPS (without coax protection). he said that the cable modem would be fried if that is where the spike got in. that makes sense to me too ... but i'm still going to put that coax on a newer UPS with coax protection. on the other hand, the UPS seemed to work and everything stayed powered on ... plus only ethernet ports were damaged ... which makes me think it got in through the coax. anyway, the technician admitted he didnt know much about electricity ... so i've got an electrician coming by tomorrow.


DesktopWeb FormText   lightning strike recoverySat, 22 Aug 2009 17:48:58 GMT # 

my cable modem, router, and hubs all seem to be working fine. i have no clue how they were not knocked out but 5 of the ethernet ports on my devices were? anyway, i found a long ethernet cable that had a good connection and ran it to the 5 devices, and they're all dead. sucks! so now i'm trying to rebuild the network.

1) the ReadyNAS is dead to the world. without ethernet, i cant get to the data. nor can i plug in a usb-to-ethernet adapter. all i can do at this point is send it off for repair. i dont have critical data on this drive ... but this is bad. i'm assuming the data is fine, but there is no way for me to know for sure.

2) my dev notebook is now on a usb-to-ethernet 100 Mbps adapter. i've ordered a gigabit usb adapter to try out next week. i found an ExpressCard gigabit adapter, but then i realized the ExpressCard slot is positioned exactly where i place my wrists, so it would not be usable.
this is kind of weird. the ethernet port that was hit stays lit up (orange) even when a cable is not plugged in. software-wise, the computer no longer even sees it as a usable device.

3) server - gigabit pcmcia card.

4) xbox 360 - for now, i just put it on wireless, and that is working fine. ultimately, i want to get it wired again for netflix streaming, so i'll wait to see about rumored price drops on the elite model.
this one is also a little weird. there are no lights on the ethernet port to check, but if i have a cable plugged in and run the network test, then it notices that there is a cable and keeps trying to switch between LAN and wireless, although the LAN has no connection.

5) xbmc - i'm going to check today to see if there are even any used xbox1 available. this also gives me an excuse to check out the Sage HD Theater or the Xtreamer. I'm leaning towards the Sage because it has an SDK that I could write some custom apps with. but i'm not in a huge rush to fix this because i can also stream with the 360 and Popcorn Hour; although the 360 has minimal features and the Popcorn Hour has a crappy UI. i'd check out getting xbmc running on an AppleTV if they had a windows boot loader, but they are still working on it.

finally, i have to look for a new UPS. i'm still assuming that the strike got in through the coax of the cable modem. i've seen UPS that have coax input and output, so i'll start there. also saw that there might be some UPS with ethernet jacks. so i'd run the coax through the UPS before going to the cable modem, and then have the ethernet out also go back through the UPS ... just in case.


DesktopWeb FormText   lightning strikeFri, 21 Aug 2009 19:11:57 GMT # 

condo was hit by a bad lightning storm last night. knocked out the power and set off all my UPS in the middle of the night. when i first moved in, i had an electrical problem between the street to my house ... so i bought tons of UPS at that time. anything and everything computer-related is on an UPS. but that didn't seem to help at all, because it looks like i lost 5 ethernet ports from the hit : ReadyNAS, xbox 360, xbmc, server notebook, and my main dev notebook. all of them seem to have a dead ethernet port. i'll send the NAS off for repair. the xbox and xbmc are disposable. server notebook is now on a pc gigabit card. and dev notebook is on an ethernet-to-usb adapter because i could not find a pc 'express' wired ethernet card in-store. serious PITA.


DesktopWeb FormText   treadmill desk : acclimationSun, 26 Jul 2009 17:13:28 GMT # 

its just walking ... how hard can it be? although my life is sedentary, i am in good shape, but the treadmill desk does take some effort. been walking 2-4 hrs everyday. it sounds like alot ... yes and no. 2 hrs is only 2 miles (at 1 mph). compare that to pedometers which want 10,000 steps (approximately 5 miles) a day. but it is alot, because it started out awkward to walk at such a slow speed. plus its a longer amount of time than i usually do cardio for. i've actually been sore from it. first, i've been trying the whole barefoot thing. there's the idea that we are made to run barefoot and studies showing that athletic shoes haven't been reducing injuries. so i've been mostly walking barefoot, and my bare feet aren't used to that much abuse. they were really sore early on to the point that i had to wear shoes for a couple sessions. but my feet seem to be getting used to it and i haven't had any foot pain lately. when i do wear shoes, i can increase walking speed; although that decreases mousing accuracy. second pain point has been my hips. after an hour of walking, my hips started to have some discomfort. i've torn a hip flexor before, so i might just chalk that one up to an 'old war wound'. for now, i've been limiting each session to about 1 to 2 hrs, and do that 2 times a day. the plan is to slowly increase the time of each session. third, my butt was sore. at normal walking speeds, i would use my thighs more, and they would become sore. at the slower speed, it really works the glutes. thats just standard muscle soreness and can be ignored. finally, eye discomfort. for the first week, my eyes felt a bit strained. this is from walking and reading at the same time. they do seem to be adjusting and dont feel strained anymore.

but the good news is there are frequently sessions when i 'forget' i'm even on the treadmill desk, and i look down to see a ton of time has passed such that the minutes have rolled over on the console.


DesktopWeb FormText   treadmill desk tweaksSat, 25 Jul 2009 23:07:56 GMT # 

hmm ... i probably shouldn't be labeling the treadmill posts as 'brawn'. the treadmill desk is pretty much a direct mapping of 'brains and brawn'. i.e. i like it.

couple minor tweaks this weekend. i put some high grip contact paper on the desk shelf to keep my keyboard from sliding around. that was getting annoying. also, found some small bungie cords to secure the wire shelf to the treadmill frame. the wire shelf is light, so the bungie cords have made it a little more stable. started with the cheap $35 wal-mart shelf. lowes has a shelf with the same measurements for about $75. but the lowes model has thicker legs and is heavier; i might switch to that one to get even more stability.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : treadmill desk trackballFri, 24 Jul 2009 02:21:38 GMT # 

started out trying to use a mouse. the problem is my entire forearm moves when walking, so that makes it difficult to mouse at the same time. next, i tried a finger-controlled trackball. this worked better because my forearm movement could be ignored. but my arm positioning made it a little awkward (ergonomically) to use my fingers for control. finally, i tried a thumb-controlled trackball (logitech trackman). this seems to work best for me, because i can put a little more pressure on the opposite side of my hand for stability when walking, and its easy to lift my thumb off the ball to keep it from bouncing around. this trackball has a scroll wheel, but no back button. this would be a killer if the microsoft ergonomic keyboard 4000/7000 did not have its own back button. anyway, to make it usable, i still have to turn the trackball speed down to about 50% for any sort of accuracy while walking. its easy enough to target most anything, except when it comes to resizing a column/panel within a window. IIRC 'project origami' had some control tweaks to make it easier to use the OS with touch. i'm hoping Windows 7 has some similar enhancements. also, i'm using the trackball on a mouse pad with integrated wrist rest to keep my wrist in a neutral position. so that gets me a decent control setup for the treadmill desk. now i need to get a microphone setup.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : treadmill desk keyboardTue, 21 Jul 2009 03:31:10 GMT # 

the ergotron keyboard mount had a -5 degree slope, along with a gel wrist rest, to keep your wrists straight. with the shelving desk, it felt a little like my wrists were bent too much. went to look at keyboards tonight and found the microsoft ergonomic keyboard (4000/7000). these stood out because they have a plastic attachment to provide a -7 degree slope (it also has a wrist rest). plus its split, which makes finding the home keys easier without having to look down. the split also lets me keep my elbows a little wider, which is more natural while walking. anyway, i think the negative slope is necessary when standing at a desk. its definitely helping to keep my wrists in a more neutral position. ... i still haven't figured out which pointing device to use. testing 3 trackballs, a standard mouse, and the natural mouse that came with the ergonomic 7000 set.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : treadmill desk v2Mon, 20 Jul 2009 04:10:07 GMT # 

so i basically did this build for v2. except his is 2 tier and he uses shelving components. my local Lowes and Home Depot only sold the entire shelves, and not components. the Container Store does have components online, but i didnt check my local store. regardless, i took measurements for what components i would need and just happened to notice that a modified wire shelf would work perfect. found a black 4-shelf system at wal-mart for $35. measuring 54 high x 36 wide x 14 deep. my treadmill is something like 34 inches wide and i need the keyboard to be at least 48 inches from the ground. i used 14 inch wire cutters ($15) to cut the 2 bottom shelves so only 3 sides remained to connect the 4 legs. the 4th side of these shelves was removed, along with the inner wires for the shelf for where my legs will be stepping. the very bottom shelf is up high enough, so that i can raise the treadmill to its highest incline. the 3rd shelf also lost a side and its inner wires so i could push the entire unit closer to the console. the last shelf is mounted close to the very top for my keyboard and mouse. on top of that, i took a 36 width x 16 depth shelf ($10) and drilled 3/4 inch holes in it, then set it on top of the final wire shelf to give me a wood surface to work on. plus that adds a little weight to the setup. its definitely a little more sturdy than the keyboard wall mount, and adds surface area, although i should add more weight to it. also need to pick up a keyboard wrist rest. not sure about the keyboard height/angle either, it probably needs to be a little higher.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : treadmill desk deskThu, 16 Jul 2009 03:13:32 GMT # 

the wall keyboard mount is decent, but not great. it moves around just enough to jar my favorite trackball, which makes trackballing extremely difficult. there's not much mousing surface area, so i wouldnt even try to use a mouse with it. also, the mounting arm blocks one of the cup holders. i pretty much have a drink around at all times, so i'm reluctant to give up a cup holder. next, it only fits a small to mid-size keyboard. i'd rather have a full-sized keyboard, with a split to make finding the home keys easier. right now, i keep finding myself looking down to find the home keys. also, a full-size keyboard would have the extra buttons to help reduce mouse usage. so far, i'm finding keyboard usage easier than trackball usage, so i'm using more keyboard shortcuts. finally, the wall mount doesnt provide any extra desk space. i don't need a ton of space, but i would use it if i had it. that said, the dual wall mounts look very slick. as a replacement, i'm probably going to try this build over the weekend. but i'll stick with the single tier model, since i dont need the upper tier for a monitor, and it'd just get in the way of the console and its prized cup holders.


DesktopWeb FormText   changing default audio deviceTue, 14 Jul 2009 05:04:21 GMT # 

so i wrote the little app to change default audio device. except it doesnt work anymore. the code should work, but it throws the obligatory security exception. it used to work when i tested the code for /eva. it works by changing the defaut device in the registry. the downside to this technique is having to manually provide permissions to those registry keys, which i didnt want to do with /eva, but would be ok for the treadmill desk setup. anyway, i changed the registry permissions, but it still exceptions. PITA! i hate when Vista looks like its going to give me the access i need, but then it doesnt.

but there is another little app, Vista Audio Changer. it works by recreating the user clicks to change default audio device, so registry permissions aren't necessary. i'll probably use it until i migrate to Windows 7 ... which i'm assuming provides better audio APIs ... please


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : treadmill desk softwareTue, 14 Jul 2009 01:56:37 GMT # 

my goal is to be able to swap between sitting and the treadmill desk quickly. so i use my main dev notebook while seated. the display is duplicated to the treadmill desk monitor. the keyboard and the trackball desk for the treadmill desk are connected to a USB hub. chose not to mess around with wireless. for mic input, i think i can use a Y-cable to connect 2 mics into 1 mic input.

audio output is still a problem. i use the notebook speakers when seated. on the treadmill desk, i'd like to use the monitors built-in speakers. but when i connect a cable to the headphone output of the notebook, it cuts off the notebook speakers. there doesnt seem to be a setting (bios or OS) to change this. then i tried adding a USB sound card, but Vista doesnt automatically support sending output to 2 devices. maybe there is a virtual audio device that i can set as default, and have it output to 2 enabled audio devices (notebook and USB sound card). else, i'll have to use external speakers for the notebook too. for now, i'll write a quick tray app that i can 1-click to swap default audio device. maybe i can detect when the external monitor is turned on/off, and have it automatically switch at that time?

anyway, if i can get sound working, then swapping to the treadmill desk will just involve turning on the treadmill and the monitor (which will turn on sound). and swapping back to sitting will just involve turning off the treadmill and the monitor (turning off sound).


DesktopWeb FormText   got the treadmill desk setupSun, 12 Jul 2009 15:22:36 GMT # 

posted at 1 mph.

i'm used to a 17 inch notebook monitor, so i'm loving the 23 inch monitor for the treadmill. its arms length away and visibility is fine. i'm not used to reading while moving, so we'll see how i adjust to that. the ergotron lx wall mount works great too. also setup the ergotron lx keyboard. first, i'm not sure if i like where i mounted it. set it up so that i could fold the keyboard out of the way, which might be nice. but the problem is the mouse pad is right next to the wall mount when its positioned. so i might re-install it to make the mouse pad area less crowded. but i need to pick up another trackball first, because that might make it a non-issue. definitely cannot see using a mouse on the keyboard mount, because the surface area is just too small. also, the keyboard mount is a little wobbly while walking. its not bad, but i think a simple desk across the hands of the treadmill might be slightly more stable. finally, i need to get a centered keyboard, without number pad. i'd definitely get used to it, but its an OCD thing for me to keep things aligned.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : treadmill desk equipmentTue, 07 Jul 2009 23:48:49 GMT # 

for a treadmill, i got the Sole F63. its the most stable treadmill i could find for $1000. its got a good size belt, motor, and its relatively quiet. no major complaints so far. its water bottle rack is not in a usable position, but i dont mind because it adds stability, and there are more cup holders up on the console. also, its heart rate monitor handles are a bit too low for me to use comfortably. but it comes with a chest strap if i really wanted to use it.

for output, i ordered a widescreen LCD monitor and an Ergotron LX wall mount. the treadmill will be placed alongside a wall, and then the monitor will swing out in front of it (from the side). the wall mount is really flexible so positioning shouldn't be a problem. for convenience, the monitor has built-in speakers. alternately, the treadmill has an audio input jack and speakers.

for input, i ordered an Ergotron LX wall mounted keyboard tray. i'm hoping this will let me easily move the keyboard out of the way when i want to just use the treadmill as a treadmill. the worry is that the wall mount might not be stable enough to let me use a keyboard and trackball while walking. that will be something i have to try to find out. the backup plan will be to build a small desk/shelf that sits on the arms of the treadmill to hold a keyboard and trackball. that is where the stability of the treadmill will really matter.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : end of month wrapupThu, 02 Jul 2009 22:57:04 GMT # 

crap ... i did not meet this months goal to get below 195 lbs. lowest i got was 196 lbs. i hate not meeting a goal. at least there is some good news and my bodyfat measurements did keep getting smaller. so now my belly is measuring below 15. chest and thigh measurements are staying the same. the rest of my measurements stayed the same as last month too, except my waist dropped another 1/2 inch. and my calves finally gained a little ... damn you calves.

guess i hit a plateau? searched around for how people got through their plateus, and all the advice was stuff i'm alreay doing. double crap! my calories have been well below 2000. the problem seems to be that my body is ridiculously efficient. pair that with a sedentary job and my body has no problems getting by with minimal calories. so calories are already low, and i do not want to cut them further. instead, i'm going to relax things for a bit. nutritionally, i'm going to try a more low-carb approach. i'm going to cut out all grains and just get carbs from veggies. they'll be mostly fibrous veggies with some starchy variety before workouts. i'm also going to add back in fruits, primarily berries and apples. dairy will remain limited. protein is always high. will slightly increase fat intake too

my workouts also hit a wall. energy levels were down and i was having trouble concentrating at the gym. so i'm taking some time off from the gym to recharge and let the body heal. on the home front, i picked up a treadmill for the treadmill desk. hoping to get time this weekend to look at monitors and wall mounts. probably another couple weeks before i get it all setup. i'm really interested to see if i can actually code while walking. i definitely think my preference for trackballs will be a benefit. just starting to get acclimated to it by using it while watching tv. might try playing an xbox game with it after that. hmm ... guitar hero on a treadmill? maybe not.


DesktopWeb FormText   silverlight on the xbox 360Thu, 02 Jul 2009 17:42:43 GMT # 

finally. and the latest netflix app for MCE is silverlight. now they just need to support MCE hosted silverlight apps in an extender session to an xbox 360. then MCML could be dropped.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : tightening the beltMon, 22 Jun 2009 03:29:30 GMT # 

was feeling good about the diet last weekend. it looked like i was on target to meet this months goal. the problem is my weight rebounded back up. so i'm going to make my diet as strict as possible for the rest of the month. cutting red meat, dairy, fruit, sugars, and sugar substitutes. reducing fats to 15%, protein will be just over 200 grams, and carbs will be about 150 grams. carbs will be split between fibrous veggies and some complex carbs. similar to how a pre-contest bodybuilder might diet. its not the healthiest (nutritionally), so this won't last long.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : mid monthMon, 15 Jun 2009 03:25:35 GMT # 

bodyweight dropped to 197. that's a new low weight (since the previous round of cutting). the current goal is to get below 195 by the end of the month. bodyfat percentage has been measuring about 9% (unofficial). visibly, i'm starting to see some more ab separation. keeping calories at 2000. only nutritional change is that i added some milk and fruit sugars back in. did this because my energy levels were dropping a little. i've cut protein to allow for the extra carb calories, but am still keeping protein above 200 grams each day. the major change is that i've started doing morning cardio too. low intensity, so it doesnt burn many calories, but it really seems to get the metabolism jump started. one problem is that i haven't been sleeping great. for sleep, i shoot for 8 hrs each night. i need 8 hrs to heal torn muscles, burn fat, release some GH. but i keep waking up lately. my diet, activity, stress levels have been the same ... so i'm not sure what's going on. i'm considering a sleep supplement, but they are kind of scary. i have no problem taking supplements to jack up my muscles, but my brain is another story.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : 2nd month of cutting planSat, 06 Jun 2009 14:50:22 GMT # 

this months goal is to lose 5 and get under 195 lbs. for nutrition, i'm going to stay at 2000 calories (20% good fats, 225 grams protein, the rest as carbs). its actually more like 2100 calories, because i allow myself to snack on low cal items throughout the day, but they are too low cal to count without feeling silly. this technique of shooting for really low caloric intake and then allowing small 'cheats' throughout the day seems to work best for me; compared to having a higher initial caloric intake and then not allowing any cheats. on heavy weight days, i will add in some extra starchy carbs post workout. for cardio, i'll do 30 minutes each day. it will mostly be lower intensity post workout, but i'll jog on my off day. if i need an extra push to meet the goal, then i'll add in an additional 30 minutes of low intensity cardio in the morning. for lifting, i need to increase the weight and lower the reps. probably 3 to 4 sets of 7 to 10 reps. workouts are split for 5 days on and 1 off : chest, bis/traps/abs, legs/calves, back, tris/shoulders/abs, off

for bodyfat, my chest is measuring 4-6, thigh is 5-7, and belly is 15-17. so that is where i'm still carrying most of the fat. upper abs are visible, but the lower 4 are still covered by a sheet of fat. love handles are there too. i really wish spot reduction worked, but it doesn't, so i'm going to have to keep pushing my bodyfat percentage down. keep hoping that i reach some point where i've cut enough fat from the rest of my body that it just starts shedding off my belly. it seems that my bodyfat measurements for my belly have to start converging with my chest and thigh measurements sometime soon. i'm also hoping that when i start to bulk back up, that my body does a slightly better job at distributing fat throughout my entire body.

been preparing my own meals, so i'm slowly learning how to cook (a little). anyway, i just started marinating. started out with some store bought marinades, but i just noticed they all have high fructose corn syrup ... as the 2nd main ingredient (behind water). WTF! i really did not expect a sugar substitute to be in that many marinades. now i'm having to play around and make my own.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : 1st month of cutting wrapupMon, 01 Jun 2009 00:02:38 GMT # 

this wasn't a good month. started out at 205 lbs, and the goal was to get below 200 lbs. then i got the flu and dropped below 200 lbs in less than a week. since then my bodyweight has been bouncing back and forth between 200 and 202 lbs. i'm hoping that my bodyweight kept fluctuating like that because it was regaining some of the muscle i lost during the flu. else, i need to re-evaluate how many calories i actually burn per day. or i'm underestimating how many calories i consume per day. started out consuming about 2300-2400 calories per day (20-25% good fats, 250 grams protein, the rest as carbs). for the last week, to drop below 200 lbs, i switched to 2000-2100 calories (20% good fats, 225 grams protein, the rest as carbs). i also added back in some high intensity cardio (i.e. jogging). was hoping to avoid jogging because that really saps my leg strength for lifting, but i seem to get better weight loss results from jogging, and weight loss is the current priority.

the good news is i did make it just under 200 lbs. for bodyfat percentage, i had been measuring 10-11%, and now i'm measuring 9-10%. another cool measurement is that my waist and belly (at belly button) both measured in exactly the same. those two measurements have slowly been converging. i still have a little flare out at my love handles ... which are going to be stubborn. i'm also happier with what i'm eating this round. mainly, i'm eating most of my protein (150g) vs what i get from protein powders (75g). and i'm getting protein from a wide variety of sources. each day generally consists of a protein from eggs, beef, chicken or turkey, fish, and cottage cheese. the protein powder sources are whey, isolate, and casein. also eating more veggies this round. sugar intake is kept to about 5% per day, and sodium is kept around 2.5 grams. i had been getting ALOT more sodium from deli meats the previous round of cutting.

of course, with low calories, my strength and energy are down. this becomes a battle against my ego. its mentally challenging for me to tear myself down while cutting. especially now that its summer and the punk kids are coming back from college. the testosterone tells me to eat some more carbs and kick their ass on the weights. instead, i have to keep that under wraps and ignore when somebody is lifting heavier than me. that is why i've never been able to switch to bodybuilding in the past. granted, once i get leaner, the plan is to bulk back up ...


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : mid monthSat, 16 May 2009 21:12:51 GMT # 

it took another week, but i finally regained most of my strength after having the flu. kept my calories above 2400 to try and speed up that recovery. bodyweight rebounded a little back to 202, and now its hovering around 200. for the rest of this month i'm dropping calories to 2300. hopefully that will put me on track to lose about 1 lb a month. my plan this round is to slowly drop calories over time. next month i'll probably drop it down to 2200 calories, etc... with 2000 being the lowest i would go. another option is to add in some extra cardio along the way. nutritionally, i'm targeting 20 to 25% good fats, 250 grams of protein, and the rest as carbs. there is some variation here, because i'm also modifying calorie levels based on the intensity of the workout. so i'll get extra calories (mostly carbs) on heavy days, and less calories (less carbs) on light days and days off. this has the added benefit of forcing me to vary what i'm eating from day to day.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : transitioned to cuttingThu, 07 May 2009 02:15:35 GMT # 

the 'flu diet' worked too good. lost 5 lbs in a week. strength and energy levels are down. at least i've recovered enough to start working out again. since i lifted heavy the last 2 months, this month will be : lower weights, higher reps, more sets, and slower tempo. also switching back to doing cardio everyday. this time i'll only do low intensity cardio to burn fat. for nutrition, i estimate that i need 2750 calories a day (including a workout). dropped to 2400 calories to start off, will keep dropping over the following months. the biggest change is that i'm now preparing all my meals. so i'm pretty much off processed foods : sugar intake is reduced, and sodium is reduced a ton. finally, i cleaned out my kitchen last weekend. there were some foods and supplements that i could eat while bulking, but they have to go while cutting. most dairy and fruits are out too.

i was 205 lbs last week, but went under 200 today. bodyfat is about 10 or 11%. if my measurements and estimates are correct, i'm hoping to finish this round in 3 months. 5 months max.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : not the swine fluFri, 01 May 2009 03:17:39 GMT # 

my germ collection center is the gym. since i had heard about swine flu on monday morning, i made sure to wash my hands after the monday afternoon workout. of course i get the flu that night ... and it kicked my ass. didn't need to visit a doctor, so i have no way of knowing if i had the swine flavor. i'm assuming i just had the regular kind, and it's just coincidence. the only thing that would lead me to think it was the swine flu, is that i've been ultra healthy for the last year, so my immune system is maxed, and the swine flu supposedly tears up good immune systems.

at least it had good timing, because i needed to get away from the gym for more than a couple days. the bad news is my diet is all screwed up. only managed to eat about 500 calories within the first 24 hrs. that sucked! right now i'm just trying to push caloric dense foods to get my energy (and any strength) back. so dairy and fruits are back in. been getting lots of simple carbs, because that is about all i can stomach. slowly increasing protein intake, because its way down, but my appetite isn't interested in the protein at all.

i had been really motivated to start another round of cutting tomorrow. that's been delayed.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : treadmill deskTue, 21 Apr 2009 02:46:49 GMT # 

been kicking around the idea of setting up a treadmill desk for a while. finally went and tested out some treadmills this weekend. the Sole F63 is my current choice, but i'll end up trying a bunch more. the site linked has some good posts about what to look for : large belt, quiet but powerful engine, stable frame, warranty, etc. i don't want to build a frame around the treadmill, so i'm leaning towards mounting an LCD screen on a side wall so that it can swing out in front of the treadmill. then i'll make a minimal desk that rests on the treadmill frame for a keyboard and trackball. i'm assuming a trackball will be easier to use than a mouse while walking. will use a KVM switch to move between walking and sitting, because i'm doubtful that i can actually code while walking ...


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : transitioning off bulkingTue, 14 Apr 2009 03:25:41 GMT # 

i've been at a caloric surplus and have put back on about 5 lbs to get to 205 lbs. bodyfat percentage hasnt changed much, so i should have gained mostly muscle. at least my upper body looks visibly bigger and i've regained some strength (e.g. back to 315 lbs on bench for reps). on the other hand, my belly measures larger and looks softer. i could continue bulking, but i'd rather get synced up with the seasons and lose some more fat during spring and summer. for the rest of this month i'll drop 250 calories each week to get back to maintenance caloric levels. will start adding back in more cardio too. then i'll spend 3 to 5 months at reduced calories. the new goal will be to get below 8% bodyfat. afterwards, i'll do a long term bulking phase for 4 to 6 months during fall and winter.

made some more nutritional changes. my grocery store stopped carrying 'without-yolk' egg beaters, so now i have to separate the white from regular eggs. i'd previously cut out most dairy products, so i haven't been getting enough calcium. fixed by adding a daily calcium supplement. that little change seemed to help my strength too. to avoid eating oats all the time, i'd been eating grits for breakfast. ends up grits aren't that great nutritionally (low fiber and higher GI). now i use pearled barley. the final change is that i'm going to go all-out for this next round of cutting by preparing my own lunches. that change will reduce my sodium intake by 1/3. it will also knock out some sugar and remove all flour from my diet. i'll make some other changes from the last cutting phase too. first, on heavy leg days, i'll increase carbs to maintenance levels. next, i'll stick with more low intensity cardio.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : cooking steel cut oats overnightSun, 05 Apr 2009 18:36:00 GMT # 

i now prefer steel cut oats to rolled oats. did a bunch of searching, and this is the cooking technique that works best for me (quick and easy). before bed, bring 4 cups of water to boil in a pot on the stove. turn off the stove and pour in 1 cup of steel cut oats. stand there for a minute and make sure it doesnt boil over. cover the pot and let it sit overnight. when i wake up, store the cooked oats in tupperware (5-6 cup container) in the fridge. to serve, just cut out a 1/4 of the oats, add a little water, and heat in the microwave for 1 or 2 minutes. stir in protein powder for flavoring and natural almond butter for good fats. as for taste/texture, i'm not picky, but i did not notice a difference between the batch of oats that i had cooked on the stove standing around and stirring for 30 minutes.

other techniques involve crock pots (with low setting), rice cookers (with brown rice or porridge options), and pressure cookers.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : oats, oats, and more oatsThu, 02 Apr 2009 14:53:32 GMT # 

oats are my biggest dietary addition. they are a slow burning complex carb that keeps me full and wont cause an insulin spike. now i eat them all the time. first, for breakfast, i'll have 1/2 a cup or oats (carbs) with 1 Tbsp of almond butter (good fats) and 1 scoop of protein powder (protein and flavor). sometimes i use this combination as a snack later in the day. then i might have a homemade protein bar, which has oats for carbs. later on, i'll have a protein shake with some raw oats blended in.

i've been slowly graduating up the oats scale too. started out with the pre-packaged oatmeal ... ends up this has too much sugar and sodium. the next step was the big pack of quick oats from the store. these cook instantly because they are cut pretty fine. then i moved on to rolled oats. i buy those in bulk from a whole foods store. these aren't cut as fine and still cook quick enough. visibly, they look much better than quick oats. currently, i'm playing around with different ways of cooking steel cut oats. these taste great, but the cooking time (30 minutes) is a pain. for now, i'm cooking up a big batch, storing in the fridge, and then reheating in the microwave. i need to try soaking overnight and cooking with a rice cooker in the morning. also might try a small pressure cooker.


DesktopWeb FormText   no longer an MS MVPWed, 01 Apr 2009 05:12:58 GMT # 

the streak is broken. ended up with 6 different award categories in 6 years : tablet, embedded, web services, media center, office communication server, client app dev. i'm assuming that's some sort of record for being noncommital? if so, i retire as the undefeated champion of my own little world.

decided a year ago, at the 08 Summit, that i was going to concentrate on -brawn and finally switch to working out like a bodybuilder. made alot of progress; and that conversion is still in the works. on the brains- side, i wanted to move away from a bunch of short (~1 month) articles that i never use and end up as dead code that people write me about years later. instead, i wanted to switch to a long term project that i actually use. that is eva.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : 3rd week bulkingTue, 31 Mar 2009 22:15:36 GMT # 

i've increased calories by 250 to reach 2750-3000 calories a day. i think 2750 is my new maintenance calorie level; 2250 + 500 for working out. it used to be 2500 + 500 when i was heavier. i've been keeping sugars between 5 and 10%, fat at 20%, protein just over 250 grams, and carbs over 300 grams. even though i'm just now reaching a surplus, i've re-gained about 5 lbs this last month to reach 203 lbs bodyweight. so i'm not sure what is going on? maybe my caloric requirements are even lower than i'm estimating, or i'm counting calories incorrectly, or my body is just storing water weight and glycogen (from the extra carbs). i guess i could be gaining muscle and/or fat already too. at least my bodyfat measurements have stayed about the same, so that is good. the problem is both my bodyweight and fat percentage measurements have become less consistent (happened the last time i tried bulking too). my measurements are much more consistent when cutting. as far as muscle, which is the goal; my upper body (chest, shoulders, traps) look visibly larger. there are moments when my strength returns too. i.e. i managed the 130 lb dumbbells on bench, although i'm still just under 315 lbs on straight bar bench for 5 reps (previous norm). for measurements, my chest and belly increased, and calves decreased. damn you calves. been lifting them regularly, and they just wont grow. they are showing a decent amount of definition, which is kind of cool, but i wish they would start growing.

for nutrition, i keep making changes. been using a food scale, to re-learn portion sizes ... because the portion sizes that restaurants use are ridiculous. Target just started carrying stevia, so i've been trying that in tea. also started making no-bake protein bars (oats, protein powder, natural peanut butter, fat free sugar free jello packet, water). when cutting, i like the 'pure protein' bars you can get at retail. they have a good mix of fat/protein/carbs, are low sugar, low GI, taste decent, and come in smaller 50 gram bars. but i want more carbs for bulking, and most everything else has too much sugar. by making my own, i can make the nutrition profile to suit exactly what i need. finally, i just started messing with my cheat food ... chocolate. honestly, i didnt realize that most everything was chocolate-flavored sugar. so far, i've only made chocolate almonds (100% bakers cocoa with chopped almonds). that is high fat with no sugar, and gives me another option to get some good fats when i'm under the 20% mark. hopefully that will appease the choco cravings, and the bitterness will keep me from going crazy and eating it all at once.


DesktopWeb FormText   eva : closer to n-gram genThu, 26 Mar 2009 19:08:51 GMT # 

ignored the ConvertGram() method from SAPI 5.2. it looks like that method just converts the CFG format into a byte stream format that Speech Server can load quicker. maybe CFG+? ... just uneducated guessing. regardless, that method call is not necessary, so i went back to changing the dependencies to SAPI 5.3. one method call was giving me problems, because the old code was passing String.Empty, but the new method was failing until i passed in null instead. that was found through trial and error. mostly error. it looks like its now processing the n-gram correctly. but now its failing on save ...


DesktopWeb FormText   eva : trying to generate n-gramsThu, 26 Mar 2009 01:09:48 GMT # 

eva uses large n-grams for music searches. these n-grams are pre-generated from a music library because they take a long time to build. the problem is MS does not programmatic APIs to build these grammars. they only provide APIs for GRXML. so i have to manually use graphical tools to build them. or i have to deploy dev tools to eva's server, and then i could automate the build process. but i really just want an API. the other option is to use the System.Speech.GrammarBuilder to programmatically create a grammar at runtime that behaves like an n-gram. i do this for audio books. the problem is its slow. it takes over a minute to build the audio book grammar, and that grammar is much smallar than my music grammars.

using Reflector, I've found the class Microsoft.SpeechServer.GrammarTools.GrammarBuilder. it takes a TrainingSet and outputs a byte []. the TrainingSet is just an object representation of what the conversational grammar builder uses. so i can programmatically create a TrainingSet object, populate it with text samples, and call BuildCFG. save the byte stream to a .cfg file and it loads in System.Speech.SpeechRecognitionEngine and works! ... it's an n-gram. so that gives me an API on my dev machine. the problem is it uses Interop.SdkSpeechLib, which i can grab from \windows\assembly. but it depends on a COM lib from SpeechServer ... which would entail deploying Speech Server to eva's server. which i really dont want to do because eva uses System.Speech. so i decompiled Microsoft.SpeechServer.GrammarTools and tried building it against an Interop.SpeechLib COM wrapper which depends on SAPI 5.3 (Vista). that took a while, and i can almost get it to work, except for this version of SAPI is missing the command ConvertGrammar ... which sounds important. anyway, i have to try skipping that call and seeing if it really is important. the other option is to try installing UCMA 2.0 SDK to eva's server, which installs a server version of SAPI, and see if Interop.SdkSpeechLib will reference that. serious pain ...


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : meal timingsWed, 25 Mar 2009 00:40:38 GMT # 

i eat all day. as soon as i wake up and right before bed. many small meals keep your metabolism going and help avoid an insulin spike. my 3 types of meals are : protein shake, snack, and more traditional meals. meals range from 250-400 calories, snacks are 150-250, and protein shakes are about 100. so i'll get calories every 2 hours. but the real goal is to not go more than 3 hours without eating. also, meals are scheduled around working out, so i have a morning and afternoon workout schedule. these schedules are the same for cutting and bulking, i just eat less calories when cutting.

8am protein shake
9am meal
10am pre-workout drink
-morning workout
12pm post-workout drink and protein shake
1pm meal
3pm snack or protien shake
5pm meal
6:30pm protein shake
8pm meal
10pm snack
12am protein shake
-sleep

8am protein shake
9am meal
12pm meal
2pm protein shake
4pm meal
5pm pre-workout drink
-afternoon workout
7pm post-workout drink and protein shake
8pm meal
10pm snack
12am protein shake
-sleep


DesktopWeb FormText   eva : 1 month testMon, 23 Mar 2009 00:25:51 GMT # 

wanted to test eva's reliability, so i've been running the same version uninterrupted for the last month ... and it worked. the alarm woke me up each day, appointments have been announced, and it never crashed. the only problem is i've got some small memory leaks from all the DirectShow usage. it's a serious pain to find these leaks.

over the last month of testing, i've mainly just been making small tweaks on my dev instance of eva. most of the changes have been to provide more verbal feedback, to tip me off when a false positive has occurred. and the URL changed for streaming C89.5, so now i have feedback for when a stream fails to play ... instead of just sitting there thinking its taking a really long time to buffer ... sitting in silence ... like an idiot. one of the new features i'm working on is unit conversions (e.g. pounds to kilograms). there have been a number of times when i've needed to perform a unit conversion in the kitchen.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : nutrition labelsSun, 22 Mar 2009 00:51:26 GMT # 

used to just browse the aisles and look for keywords like 'low fat', 'high fiber', 'healthy', etc... except those products are typically good in one aspect, but then poor in another. e.g. low fat foods typically have alot of sugar. now i ignore the marketing and go straight to the nutrition label. first, i steer towards unprocessed foods. next, i check to make sure the serving size is not deceptive. then i check to make sure sugars and sodium are low. sugar should be around 3 grams or less, 5 grams max. i'll also look at the ingredient list to limit sugar substitues : splenda, sucralose, aspartame, high fructose corn syrup. sodium should be less than 100 milligrams. although some of my protein and workout drinks are closer to 200, and my cottage cheese has about 400. supposedly there is low sodium cottage cheese, but its not available where i shop. those 2 reguirements (sugar and sodium) quickly rule out most products. then i'll look at carbs, protein, and fat. the percentage of each depends on when i'll be eating the food. i want more carbs early in the day, and steer towards more protein later in the day. the amount of fat depends on if its a good or bad fat. e.g. any trans fat is out. but i have some wiggle room here because i generally have to supplement good fats to get over 20% per day, which is needed to avoid going cataolic. for now, i ignore fiber, potassium, and cholesterol values. one value i need to look into is sugar alcohols ... not entirely sure what that is? finally, i might look at the ingredient list again. if the ingredient list is long, with names i cannot pronounce, then i'll put it back.

finished a 2nd week of bulking. calories have been around 2750, which should be at maintenance level. bodyweight got up to 201, but is back to 200, and bodyfat percentage is still 10%. visibly, i think my muscles look slightly fuller, from the extra calories/carbs; and i have more energy for lifting, so strength is slowly increasing. the bad news is my appetite is also increasing. i feel hungrier than when i was cutting, so i'm having to restrain myself from really packing away the calories and bulking too fast. going to wait a couple days before adding 250 calories ... or hold off til next weekend.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : eating outSun, 15 Mar 2009 20:37:41 GMT # 

i can generally find something healthy (or at least decent) when eating out, IF the restaurant provides nutrition info. i'll check online first. if they dont have any, then i contact them through email. others provide partial nutrition info, for the stuff they think is healthy ... so i want these to provide the entire menu. the other pain is the ones that provide the individual ingredients (e.g. for a burrito), but dont provide a web app to help you calculate the total. i'll write and complain to these sites as well. sometimes you can find a 3rd party nutrition site that has calculated the nutrition info for popular items. if i still go to one of those restaurants, and i know their website was lacking, then i'll ask them for nutrition info when i get to the restaurant. sometimes that'll bring the manager out so i can ask them directly, to put it on their radar. anyway, it shouldn't be this difficult. i think New York recently voted to require calorie info on menus ... that needs to catch on.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : carb highSat, 14 Mar 2009 18:41:46 GMT # 

bulking is my element. to gain muscle, you need to perform the core lifts : bench, squat, deadlift. these core lifts are what release testosterone. i'll bench and squat year round, but i despise deadlift, so it gets saved for when i feel like some masochism. today was heavy leg day, so i busted it out, and it tore me down. its one of those workout sessions where you have to use both handrails to get down the stairs, and you have to contemplate if you're legs will hold out for the drive home. then its time for recovery. although the 'bodybuilding for endomorphs' says to avoid dextrose and high carbs such as waximaize, i'm going to ignore that on heavy days. so i took a full scoop of waximaize post workout ... 40 grams of quick carbs ... AWESOME! after 11 months of a carb deficit, i can basically feel my muscles healing. serious endorphin high ... this is why i'm addicted to workout out. next time though, i should probably split the waximaize dose up for pre and post workout (20 grams each). i also have to avoid overtraining, because i'll crave this feeling, so its easy for me to start working out too much, instead of giving myself time to heal.

finished my first week of bulking. weight started at 218, then it steadily increased to 220, so i was going to leave calories between 2250 and 2500. this was confusing to me, because 2500 calories should still be a deficit, or at least maintenance. my only guess is that my body is storing away extra water and glycogen from the increased carbs, because my bodyfat percentage was staying just at 10%. well, i woke up today back at 218, so i'll increase calories by 250 for 2500 to 2750 a day. i'll probably shoot for 2750 on heavy days, and 2500 on light days. maybe 2250 on my day off.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : eating like a bodybuilderSat, 14 Mar 2009 03:18:04 GMT # 

what i eat throughout a day has slowly been changing over the last year. i'm getting to the point where i eat mostly like a bodybuilder. its radically different than how i ate over a year ago.

waking up - Syntha 6 protein shake. this supplement has protein, carbs, and fat; since my body is starving after 8 hrs of sleep. the only thing i dont like about it is that it has Splenda, but its about the only protein drink i want in the morning.
breakfast - grits with egg whites / egg beaters OR oatmeal with whey protein. for fats i either eat some almonds or add some almond / peanut butter to the oatmeal.
pre workout drink - no-xplode or gaspari superpump 250. sometimes i'll take Animal Cuts as a thermogenic.
post workout drinks - Cell Mass mixed with berries. 15 minutes later i'll have a protein drink.
lunch - usually grilled chicken from Subway, roast beef or turkey from Firehouse, or tuna from Potbelly. wheat bread, without cheese, without sauce, and with all the veggies. these sandwiches have alot of sodium, so i could improve here by eating at home. e.g. some lean meat with a complex carb like sweet potatoes or brown rice.
mid day snack - this changes based on what i'm doing. if i'm cutting, it will just be a protein drink. if i'm bulking, i can mix in oats or fruit. add some almonds for fat. sometimes i have a protein bar.
afternoon meal - lean meat and mixed veggies. almonds for fat. lean meats include chicken, turkey, beef, fish, shrimp.
dinner - lean meat and mixed veggies. almonds for fat.
night time snack - low fat cottage cheese or low fat yogurt.
before bed - casein protein drink. need this to get me through 8 hrs of sleep.
liquids - throughout the day i drink water, decaf coffee, decaf tea, BCAAs drink, greens drink. every once in a while i'll have an 8 oz decaf and diet soda. all of which are 0 or low calories.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : bulking plan revisionsFri, 13 Mar 2009 03:07:07 GMT # 

i've been doing some more reading and have decided to follow this plan : bulking for endomorphs. this plan should help me minimize fat gain, and there are only small changes to my current plan. first, i'll limit complex carbs to breakfast, pre and post workout, and also lunch. i'll have to switch to getting more fibrous carbs from veggies. another change will be to get some good fats every meal to help with insulin levels. i've generally been doing this already, but this provides some reasoning behind it. i was also going to try a waximaize supplement post workout, as a carb boost, but this article says it might not be necessary for my body type. i've already been avoiding high dextrose post workout drinks, just to keep sugar intake low. on off days, i will reduce calories. finally, i will only add more calories when weight gain stalls. hopefully that will maximize lean muscle gain. if not, its easy to add more carbs.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : previous bulking problemsWed, 11 Mar 2009 02:55:07 GMT # 

started too fat - started at about 15 or 16% last time. above 12 or 14%, you'll likely gain more fat than muscle. starting at lower bodyfat percentages, i have a better chance of gaining more muscle vs fat. at that time, i should have done a maintenance month instead.

did not slowly add calories - by going from a 500 caloric reduction to a 500 surplus, my body could not keep up, so it switched to storing fat.

too much protein - at that time, my percentages were 20% fat, 40% protein, 40% carbs. so i would get more than 1.5x of protein grams per bodyweight in lbs. thats more protein than i needed.

not enough carbs - needed the extra carbs for energy and recovery.

too much sugar - from fruits, dairy, and a sugary post workout drink. going to cut out the sugar substitute products too.

didnt train heavy enough - tried lifting 10-12 reps when i had more calories. instead i should have been lifting 5-8 reps, and saved the higher reps when on a caloric deficit.

way too much sodium - was probably getting about 7.5 grams, or 3x what i need.

not enough water - was getting too much caffeine at the time, and that was dehydrating me.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : bulking planTue, 10 Mar 2009 02:53:28 GMT # 

my body type is a mix of meso- and endo-morph, so i can gain weight (either muscle or fat) easy. the problem is most bulking articles are written for ectomorhps (hardgainers), so i have to be careful. for nutrition, i'll have to keep eating clean. i wont have any cheat days and alcohol stays off the menu. if i dont eat clean, and just eat regular, then i'd probably gain too much fat. i've been at a 500-750 calorie deficit, so i'm increasing to maintenance by adding 250 calories each week. it'll take 3 weeks to reach maintenance, then i move to surplus calories. with a surplus, i'll add 250 calories every 2 weeks. chances are that i can only go 500 to 750 calories over maintenance. so i'll weigh and measure bodyfat percentage everyday to make sure that my bodyfat percentage isnt increasing too fast. for bodyweight, i only want to gain 1 (max 2) lbs a week. if i start gaining too quickly, then i'll reduce calories. and if my bodyfat percentage were to get to 12%, then i'd start transitioning back to a caloric reduction for another cutting phase. the additional calories will come mostly from carbs for energy and recovery. fat will be kept at 20% throughout, while protein will only be slightly over my bodyweight in grams. carbs will start about 40% and might increase to 50% when at a surplus. so i'll always get more carbs than protein. supplements stay the same, the only difference is i might switch to some protein drinks that include more carbs. lifting will be heavy weight at 5 to 8 reps. tempo will be quicker contraction and slower return. the schedule is 5 days on, 1 day off, to allow for more time to heal major muscle groups. cardio will be reduced to every other day. time will be limited to under 30 minutes, and primarily lower intensity. but i'll still probably do 1 high intensity cardio workout (jogging or stairs) each week. on off days, i wont lift or do any cardio at all. could potentially lower calories slightly on off days too.

er, um ... that's definitely the most planning i've ever put into gaining weight, so i hope this works better. one thing i'm ignoring is the articles recommend bulking for 6 to 8 months. i might do that later on, if i were starting at a lower bodyfat percentage. also if summer weren't coming up. this (short) bulking phase is really just prep work for another cutting phase in summer. then i could do an extended bulking phase next winter. if i can do extended bulking phases at all ...


DesktopWeb FormText   I HATE CASEY CHESNUT ... the song?Sat, 07 Mar 2009 22:57:35 GMT # 

myspace music link. i think they hate the drummer (same name), because i dont wear hats or tight pants. i don't know the drummer, so i dont hate him, but i could learn to.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : bulkingSat, 07 Mar 2009 05:39:31 GMT # 

still have some belly fat, and i lost some muscle while cutting. i could keep dieting for another 2 months to get to 190 lbs, which should put me about 8% bodyfat (that's around six pack territory). the problem is i've been on reduced calories for 11 months, so my progress has slowed, and i really want to regain some of the muscle i lost. so i'm going to switch to bulking for 2 to 3 months. since i still have to figure out how to bulk properly to mostly gain lean muscle, i'm not sure what my goals should be? i can say i'd like to regain the 5 to 10 lbs of muscle i lost, regain strength, to get my bodyweight back up to about 210 to 215, and keep my bodyfat under 12%. its inevitable that i'll regain some fat in the process, but the goal is to gain primarily muscle. last time i tried this (6 months ago), i gained about 40% muscle vs 60% fat and water. i need to improve those percentages. when cutting, i was losing 75% fat and water vs 25% muscle; so for bulking i'd like to gain about 60% muscle vs 40% fat and water. the major change from last time will be nutrition. last attempt i immediately jumped from a 500 caloric reduction to a 500 calorie surplus. when i spoke to a nutritionist, they recommended i add the calories back in slowly. e.g. add 250 calories each week until i get back to maintenance level, and then slow that even more as i hit a surplus (e.g. 250 calories every 2 weeks). that will allow my body to get used to the additional calories and become less efficient. for percentages, on reduced calories, i targeted 20% fat, 37% carbs, 43% protein. the additional calories will be carbs, to target 20% fat, 42% carbs, 38% protein. extra carbs will provide energy and help muscle recovery. other changes are that i've been reducing my sodium intake. lifting will be heavy, and i'll change the workouts to allow for more rest between bodyparts. cardio will continue to alternate between high and low intensity days.

after a couple months of bulking, i should have regained some muscle (along with some fat) and my body will become use to more calories. then i'll be in a good spot to transition back into a cutting phase for summer. the additional muscle will burn more calories, and my metabolism will be less efficient than it is now. if i bulk for 2 months or 3 months will depend upon bodyfat percentage measurements. if i'm gaining too much fat, then i'll return to cutting after 2 months, else i'll continue bulking for a total of 3 months.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : final results (11 months cutting)Sun, 01 Mar 2009 01:44:07 GMT # 

alright, i just finished up 11 months on reduced calories (a couple months were increased calories where i tried to gain). for body weight, i lost 45 lbs. started at 245 lbs, and i ended up under 200 lbs. for body fat percentage, i started out around 22+% (estimate), and ended up just under 10%. so out of those 45 lbs, i lost about 35-40 lbs of fat/water and 5-10 lbs of muscle. something like 75% fat/water vs 25% muscle. i did lose some strength, but not too much ... and re-gaining lost strength is easy. for measurements, i lost : 1 inch off arms, 3 inches off chest, 6 inches off belly, 4 1/2 inches off waist, and 2 inches off my thighs. my initial goals were : figure out nutrition, change to bodybuilding workouts (vs powerlifting), and get to 10% bodyfat. so i completed those goals.

now i'm heading to the MVP summit, so i wont be lifting or adhering to any diet. it'll be a good break to eat some varied foods and just let my body heal. only problem is i have become accustomed to meals every 2 to 3 hrs, so i'll need to carry emergency rations with me.

when i get back, i get to start BULKING!!! that 5-10 lbs of muscle i lost ... i want it back. just so happens i can gain weight easy. the problem is : how do i gain mostly lean muscle and only a little fat? that is what i'll be trying to figure out next. still figuring out what the new goals will be.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : lessons learned (reduced calories)Tue, 24 Feb 2009 14:49:08 GMT # 

what i learned from the last 11 months experimenting with nutrition.

nutrition nutrition nutrition - i've worked out for years, but never spent the time to figure out nutrition. now its entirely clear that nutrition is the biggest factor for fat loss, while working out has other benefits. this has become more obvious as my metabolism has slowed with age.

count calories - started out by starving myself the first month. this brought my energy level way down and was not sustainable. counting calories allowed me to eat more and still lose weight (e.g. 1-2 pounds each week). this helped me keep muscle, have energy to workout, and was sustainable for a longer period of time. this also let me keep a balance of fats, carbs, and protein; along with monitoring how much sugar i was getting. and i've just started using it to help reduce sodium.

fat is not bad - started out by going low fat everything. this took my fat intake down to practically nothing. except this brought my energy level down, i was hungry all the time, and i had trouble thinking. also, my body went into a fat hording state. that was fixed by consuming 20% of good fats per day. related, low fat products add in more sugar for taste. so the only low fat products i eat now are no/low fat dairy products (e.g. milk, cheese, cottage cheese).

fat calipers - a scale is useful, but fat calipers are very useful. by checking bodyfat percentage, along with bodyweight, i can make sure that i'm mostly burning fat, and that i'm not in a catabolic state and just losing muscle mass. a fat caliper is probably the best fitness purchase i have ever made.

liquid calories - never realized how many calories i consumed from drinking juice and soda (not to mention the sugar). so i switched to mostly zero calorie liquids : water, coffee, tea. that brought up the problem that i was getting too much caffeine, so i've switched to decaf coffee and decaf herbal/green teas. i still drink many calories from protein drinks, so i will try to switch to 'eating' more protein when bulking. some of my pre/post workout drinks were heavy too, so i've switched those to lower calorie alternatives. also, i didnt have any alcohol while dieting, because its just empty calories and interrupts the fat burning process.

make small changes over time - screwed this up a number of times. first, i cut out all fats at once, which crippled my ability to think. then, when i was bulking, i switched from a 500 caloric deficit to a 500 calorie surplus, which probably shocked my kidneys to no end. my last mistake was drastically reducing my sodium intake, which totally dehydrated me. er, um ... hopefully i've learned my lesson to make these changes over time.

dont diet too long - started out with about 3 months of reduced calories. the first month was real bad because i was basically just starving myself. in the 3rd month, my body went into a catabolic state, so my energy level was way down and strength started to drop dramatically because i was burning up muscle mass. it took me a month being on a caloric surplus to return to an anabolic state. since then i've been making sure to at least do a couple weeks of maintenance calories between 2 months of reduced calories.

what you eat, and when - i've known for some time that many small meals throughout the day works. but now i try to eat certain foods at certain times. so i try to get most of my starchy carbs earlier in the day. i also try to avoid fats and carbs at the same time; but eat fats with protein instead. and there were a couple meals where i was getting about 60 grams of protein at once. found out that you want to limit protein intake to about 45 grams per meal, so i had to modify my schedule to split that amount up.

portion size - related to small meals, now i get less than 300 to 400 calories each meal. but i'll do that 6 to 7 times a day, which makes me feel like i'm eating all the time so i don't get hungry. also, i un-super-sized all my plates and certain food items. the smaller plates give me the satisfaction of 'cleaning my plate', and it keeps me from loading too much on in the first place. an example of a smaller food size is using an english muffin, instead of a slice of bread, when i have peanut butter. the smaller surface area of the english muffin reduces the amount of PB i pile on.

glycemic index - to some degree, i eat foods with a lower GI. the idea is that lower GI goods will keep your sugar levels from spiking so your body can concentrate on burning off fats. overall, i just try to keep my sugar intake below 10% each day, and that forces lower GI foods. regarding sugars, i also try to limit sugar substitutes.

cardio zones - for me, cardio works best at low intensity as soon as i wake up, and/or after lifting weights. lifting weights will burn off the stored glycogen, and then the time i spend doing cardio will be mostly burning fat. now i'm into the habit of alternating my cardio workouts. after a leg day, i'll do light cardio (e.g. walking) for recovery. a moderate intensity day will be on the elliptical, stair climber, or walking hills. for high intensity, i'll do interval training by jogging on a treadmill. then i just cycle through those 3 different routines for some variety.

separate weights from ego - i've tried switching from powerlifting to bodybuilding before ... multiple times ... all failed attempts. the problem is i'll see somebody lift a heavier weight, and i go back to lifting heavy again ... it's a vicious cycle of testosterone. so i finally injured myself enough times to realize this was not sustainable. i've been able to drop the amount of weights that i lift, do more reps, and really concentrate on form and tempo. now i can alternate each month between lifting heavy for strength and lifting more reps for size. my joints thank me for this.

grocery stores are evil - most everything in a grocery store is not 'meant to be part of a healthy diet'. the bodybuilder forums sometimes refer to it as walking the perimiter, because that is where you can find the raw foods. if you start walking up and down the aisles, its mostly crap. there used to be too many products for me to choose from, but now it has become a challenging hunt for foods that are good for me. and i totally ignore the deceptive labeling for 'no fat', 'low sugar', 'high fiber' etc... and go straight to the nutrition label to compare. of course the nutrition label can be deceptive based on serving sizes and being able to round down to 0 by lowering the serving size. bastards.

drag your friends into it - blogging my weight loss goals helped. it definitely helped me to tighten up the diet a couple times when the end of a month was approaching and i wasnt to the new goal weight. my friend helped out by letting me weigh in on his WiiFit. the seriously obese avatar (based on BMI) was wrong ... but also motivating. and my mom even cut back on xmas cookies, which is my kryptonite.


DesktopWeb FormText   eva : z-wave round 2Tue, 24 Feb 2009 01:26:34 GMT # 

looked at z-wave again. got some new hardware, updated firmware, new beta API, etc... the good news is i could get basic home automation to work easily enough : turn on/off lights, ceiling fan control, thermostat. since z-wave uses RF, the poor wiring in my house doesnt matter. all that is interesting, but the devices are very expensive. and my main goal is to replace the X-10 remote keypads that i am currently using as secondary controllers for eva. the bad news is i cannot get that scenario to work. as somebody pointed out in a forum post, the remote devices i want to use are 'controllers', and z-wave doesnt support 'controller' to 'controller' communication in the manner i need. that, or its just a limitation of the current API. there are some other remote 'scene controllers' that might work, but then the problem becomes cost again. z-wave needs some more time to bake, and for prices to come down.

might look into Insteon next


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : sodium refluxMon, 23 Feb 2009 19:52:43 GMT # 

slowly been looking up the sodium amounts for when i eat out. ends up most everything is loaded with sodium. one sandwich at potbellies .... 1600mg (2/3 of the daily amount). a 6 inch subway sandwich (no sauce or cheese) might have 800mg. last week i had estimated that i was getting around 5 grams a day. that estimate was low, i was probably getting 6 to 7 grams a day. so i'll reduce sodium on all my other meals/snacks, to keep me just above 2.5 grams per day. i'm not really that concerned about sodium; i really just want to keep it between 2.5 and 5 grams per day. i'd only really need to worry about reducing it if i was going to diet down to a ridiculously low bodyfat percentage for a bodybuilding contest ... which i would never do. but for kicks, i tried reducing my sodium intake to around 1500mg one day last week. did that by preparing all my meals at home. lets just say that was stupid. the next day i had dropped 1.8 lbs (of water weight) and i looked more 'cut' at the gym. but i felt dehydrated as hell, was tired all day, and i could not concentrate. someday i'll learn to stop making drastic nutritional changes in a short period of time. made sure to get about 5000mg the next day, and i'm slowly dropping that amount down. right now, i still look 'water soft'. by reducing sodium, i should stop carrying so much water weight. finally, it looks like the bodybuilders only worry about sodium when they are cutting, but might actually take in additional sodium when they are bulking up, to help keep their muscles hydrated.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : sodium reductionWed, 18 Feb 2009 23:37:36 GMT # 

rule 1, dont add salt ... ever. switched entirely to 'no salt added' canned veggies. that knocks off 150+ mg per serving. next, i was getting about 600 grams from packaged instant grits, so i switched to quick grits with 0 sodium. oatmeal is the same way. the packs have about 300mg of sodium, but plain quick oats have none ... so i'll have to start adding my own flavoring. i'm ultimately supposed to switch to steel oats, but the prep time is holding me back for now. related, instant cream of wheat has 160mg of sodium, while 'non instant' cuts that amount in half. then, pre-cooked meats were providing 1000+ mg. if i grill my own, i can cut that down to around 200mg. finally, my cottage cheese has 380mg. it seems like all cottage cheese has about the same amount of sodium, so i'll just keep alternating with yogurt which has lower sodium. making those changes cuts 1500-2000mg of sodium each day, and will put me just above the reccommended 2400mg limit. now i have to wait and see if this reduction in sodium will help me to shed more water weight.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : sodiumWed, 18 Feb 2009 00:30:08 GMT # 

a trainer at the gym mentioned i'm getting to the point where i should look at sodium intake. we're supposed to limit sodium to about 2400mg a day. on reduced calories, it looks like i'm getting 2x that per day. and i dont even add salt to anything! once i start pushing more calories, i could easily see that increasing to 3x. even though i'm eating 'clean', my problem is i still deal too much with pre-packaged foods (for convenience). the simplest changes i can make are to : only get 'no salt added' veggies, start grilling my own meat products, and swap out some of the pre-packaged foods (e.g. instant grits and cottage cheese). i had already been choosing 'no salt' veggies if they were available, so it will be easy to make that mandatory. for grilling, i was going to have to make this change for when i switch to a caloric surplus. switching to regular grits, instead of instant, wont be too bad either; and i assume there is a better cottage cheese option if i dont buy the single serve packages.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : to cheat day OR not to cheat daySun, 15 Feb 2009 16:57:12 GMT # 

keep going back and forth on this one ...

started out reducing calories by 500 a day, which resulted in losing 1 lb a week. then one day out of the week, i would 'cheat' and go slightly over my caloric needs. on these days, i would still eat 'clean', and mainly just get extra carbs. once a month, i would realy cheat, and go 500 to 1000 calories over my daily need. on these days, i would just eat the junk i craved, so an extra 1000 calories was easy. the concept behind these cheat days is to keep your body inefficient. you dont want it to get used to operating at reduced calories. this seemed to work for me, because i could sometimes feel my metabolism kick up a notch on those cheat days to compensate. finally, after 2 to 3 months, i would go for 2 to 4 weeks at maintenance calories, to avoid going catabolic and burning up muscle. one problem with this approach is that i had to closely monitor calories to stay within that 500 calorie range. but it is fun when you get towards the end of the day and you see that you need to eat more!

at one point i tried reducing calories by 1000 a day, which resulted in losing 2 lbs a week. but i really dont want to lose weight that quickly, in fear that i'll burn up too much muscle. so i've adapted this to provide some wiggle room. now i eat most of the same foods that would let me get a 1000 calorie reduction, but i can 'cheat' a little each day by having extra 'clean' snacks, or swapping out a 'clean' meal with something that isnt as great. this also keeps me from having to count calories, because i've already got a built-in 500 calorie buffer. i still have a slight 'cheat' day about once a week where i eat maintenance calories, but i only do the true 'cheat' day on holidays, where its socially much harder to avoid the junk food. an advantage to this approach is that its easy to tighten things up and drop weight quick.

not sure which approach i like better, but the 2nd approach seems to be working for me at the moment; so long as the extra 'cheat' calories are mostly from clean foods. if the extra calories were coming from junk, then the 1st approach would win out. and i'm just not sure the 2nd approach is keeping my metabolism inefficient.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : mid month (snacking)Sat, 14 Feb 2009 23:51:01 GMT # 

the goal is to get below 200 lbs. started out at 203 ... so i thought it would be easy. then i unexpectedly gained 4 lbs the first week jumping to 207 lbs. i have no clue how i gained that much weight. i did cheat at a superbowl party, but not 3500 calories worth. everytime i think i've got nutrition figured out, something like this happens. so i've been on a 750 to 1000 caloric reduction for the last week. weighed in at 202 lbs the last 2 days and that puts me back on track.

aside, when it comes to snacks, i cannot handle moderation. if i buy something to snack on, i'm going to eat the entire thing immediately. e.g. movie snacks are gone before the trailers are over. the whole concept of somebody buying a bag of individual candies, and then consuming the bag over a couple of days is nonsensical. therefore i cannot keep snacks in the house at all. so i only need the will power to not buy snacks at the grocery store ... which is easy. the only way i could have snacks is if there were something like a time-locked safe. then i could keep snacks in there, and it could only be opened once a day. i could probably handle that. take a couple snacks out, close the door ... and once the sugar gets me all ramped up i would start trying to crack the safe, but it would keep me out until the next day. that is ... until i became a master safe cracker. it would also need some sort of weight sensor, so if i took all the candy out at once it would self destruct ... or something. maybe a timed treat dispenser? that would only release a couple small snacks a day (ala pet feeder). of course it would need some elaborate locking scheme that kept me from busting into the main compartment.


DesktopWeb FormText   eva : bluetooth hand/headsetsFri, 13 Feb 2009 14:43:32 GMT # 

a user interacts with Eva using microphones. the VoiceTracker mic would be nice if used in small rooms with low background noise. it lets you interact with Eva at anytime, but you have to pause any music or audio book before you can speak a command (this gets annoying). since my main usage scenarios are music and audio books, i switched to wireless mics because you can speak commands while the background noise is still playing. these have been working great, and i just have them in the same places where you would put a remote control. my main issue with these mics is they dont have any sort of security.

been playing with bluetooth hand/headsets. the ThinkGeek retro handset is a nice form factor. the main problem is you have to hold a button for 5 seconds to turn it on ... way too long. the handset scenario is pick it up, speak a command, hear the answer, and set the handset down. the 5 seconds waiting before you can speak a command is an eternity. on the other hand, the handset adds a private speaker, so if music were playing out the main speakers in a zone, you could still hear speech responses from eva over the handset speaker, without having to pause music playing over the main speakers. so the bluetooth handset needs a physical switch to turn it on/off; or a tap-and-talk button. to be really bad ass, the handset would need a dock that charged it, and it automatically switched on when removed from the dock.

also tried a traditional bluetooth headset. again, this takes 3 to 5 seconds to turn on or off. for a headset, this is less of an issue because you wear it. you turn the headset on, and then just use it from room to room. but to have music follow you, you still have to tell Eva which zone to transfer music to, because the headset would not be tied to any particular zone. also, you wouldn't hand an ear piece over to a friend to use (without ear condoms) ... a mic handset is less disgusting (cover the mic before you cough). plus i'm not commanding eva non-stop. the goal is to reduce the number of commands that have to be spoken, so just having a mic within arms reach is fine. finally, i think wearing a bluetooth headset makes you a douchebag.

another problem for both devices is range ... 33ft is for personal area networks, but doesnt cover a home. that might be solved by the AirCable bluetooth range extender. so neither of these bluetooth devices are going to make it into my own setup. but i am going to keep looking to see if there are some other bluetooth devices that are more user-friendly, because the private speaker is a compelling scenario.


DesktopWeb FormText   eva : speech visionThu, 12 Feb 2009 15:56:04 GMT # 

wired.com asks Why Can't We Control Gadgets by Voice Alone?. of course there is the holy grail where the computer properly recognizes everything you say. but we are not there ... plus shortly after that, robots start hunting humans. until then, command and control works great. but there are still problems for developers and end-users.

for developers, the hardest part is creating grammars. there needs to be a library of grammars that developers can pull from. it needs basic rules like dates and integers, along with higher level grammars for specific tasks (e.g. music player grammar). plus it would need support for multiple languages. because there are a ton of different ways somebody can say a date. i shouldnt have to create that from scratch, and then try to create that from scratch for a different language.

for end-users, they would become accustomed to speaking the same commands for different gadgets. i.e. there is the scene in 'I Robot' where the girl is trying to control the CD player, and she is speaking different commands trying to find one that will work. for basic tasks, the commands need to be standardized, so a user can say 'next song' to any speech-enabled radio; instead of radio A listening for 'next track', radio B listening for 'next', and C listening for 'next song' (just an example, the grammar could support all those phrases). those standardized commands that a user expects for certain items would be specific grammars in the library for developers. so if a developer was creating a music playback device, they would support the basic radio grammar and then extend it for features specific to their device.


DesktopWeb FormText   eva : morning vs afternoon vs evening vs nightWed, 11 Feb 2009 16:11:16 GMT # 

for greetings, /eva will dynamically speak 'good morning / afternoon / evening / night' based on the time. the problem is, when does it switch from one to the other? this is what i'm using so far.

morning - 3 am to noon
afternoon - noon to 5 pm
evening - 5 pm to 10 pm
night - 10 pm to 3 am


DesktopWeb FormText   eva : may not crashTue, 10 Feb 2009 15:55:53 GMT # 

Eva is my alarm clock, so she/it has to be bulletproof. the app cannot crash, nor can it get into a blocked state. so there is tons of exception handling and logging to let me know what is going on in the system. anything that might crash or hang is spawned on a separate thread, in case it needs to be aborted. e.g. i'm using a 3rd party lib for reading ID3 tags, and it hangs on some random mp3 files (like 1 out of 10,000), so that has to be handled. the heavy use of DirectShow is problematic too. first, its really easy to introduce memory leaks. that code has tons of redundancy for releasing references to COM objects. the trickiest part with DirectShow was event handling. started out handling the events myself, but it was possible to get into a state where DirectShow was blocking. it would take skipping through hundreds of mp3 files to recreate this, making it near impossible to recreate and debug. anyway, i tried adding tons of thread handling to avoid race conditions, etc... but the end fix was to just use the applications message pump and have it handle the events. not sexy ... but it cleaned up the code and it is reliable, so that won out. the last problem is that some video files, actually its the codecs they require, will flat out crash DirectShow and the hosting app with an unhandled exception. it doesnt matter if the app is handling 'unhandled exceptions' ... that gets ignored, and the app crashes. to handle this, all music videos have to be pre-scrubbed before being moved into the library. this involves having a separate app try to play each music video in a separate process, and it checks the exit code to see if the process crashed. again, ugly ... but effective. finally, eva will auto restart if an unexpected crash does occur. in this situation, eva speaks to all zones that she is shutting down and starting up ... to let me know there was a catastrophic failure. for hardware, eva is on a notebook (which has a battery) and on an UPS, and the speakers in my bedroom are also on an UPS. if the Windows Home Server were to crash and the music files for the alarm cannot be found, then it plays a default beep. about the only way i wouldnt hear the alarm is if i manually turned down the volume on the speakers. aside, for testing, eva has a built in test harness. this uses hundreds of example commands that randomly get sent to eva for processing from a random zone. its like having multiple users sending a command(s) every couple of seconds.


DesktopWeb FormText   eva : audio books and audible.comMon, 09 Feb 2009 16:41:54 GMT # 

i was an early adopter for audible.com, back in 2000. kept it until 2004, until i got fed up with DRM. so i've got over 100 audio books with them ... and i want /eva to play them. they've got a DirectShow filter, which is good because eva uses DirectShow extensively. it looks like i can create a DirectShow graph and then eva will be able to support the audible format (.aa, which i think is encrypted .mp3). not sure if i can use their newer codec, but an older codec can be found, and that definitely looks usable. their format also has some additional metadata like: cover art, author, summary. plus the filter creates a small window with 2 buttons for skipping chapters. not sure if that interface is documented publicly, at which point i could ask eva to 'skip to next/previous chapter'. on deployment, the user would have to install the filter on that computer and play a .aa file which would prompt them to enter their audible credentials to activate that computer for audible content. or i could use an old workaround and convert all the .aa titles to mp3 ... yep, hate DRM

adding in 100 audio books to eva requires some new commands. now 'list audio books' just returns a limited # of audio book titles (with author name, if available) to randomly browse the library. and now there is a command to 'list authors'. the next new command is 'search audio books for X' (e.g. search audio books for Dune OR search audio books for Frank Herbert) to just do a keyword search based off of title and author metadata. that supports some naming convention to order a series of books, e.g. i cant remember if 'the butlerian jihad' comes before 'the machine crusade'; so they are spoken in the proper order. finally, i added a command for 'what books are opened?', to return the most recent book titles that have already been started. those commands let me work with a large audio book library without having a display.


DesktopWeb FormText   i need to check out the SageTV HD TheaterFri, 06 Feb 2009 22:17:39 GMT # 

my media setup is stuck between 2 devices : XMBC for SD, and Popcorn Hour for HD. this is because XBMC doesnt support HD on a hacked Xbox1, and the Popcorn Hours UI is too slow for large media libraries.

but the SageTV HD Theater looks like it might be what i was waiting for. check out that beautiful codec support! plus, it can obviously work with SageTV, which would give me the ability to write my own apps for the living room (since MCE has lost all momentum). i have yet to check out SageTV, but their extender definitely trounces the Media Center extenders.

i've actually been hoping that a new AppleTV would come out to support 1080p (running the XBMC hack), or that the linux flavor of XBMC would get ported to the PS3. guess there is also the chance that the Popcorn Hour will dump their web-based UI for something faster. they did speed it up (slightly) with the latest firmware, but the page refreshes still suck.


DesktopWeb FormText   eva : 'dont piss off the user' guidelinesFri, 06 Feb 2009 15:02:42 GMT # 

no blocking - /eva is designed to be interrupted. in general, she only speaks short amounts of text, but a longer example is speaking the weather. so you can speak another command, she will stop mid sentence, and then respond to your next command.

avoid dialogue - for now, i'm avoiding dialogue entirely. eva doesnt even ask for a confirmation. so everything is a single command. if that command is misrecognized, you can either speak it again or disable the previous action. my usage behavior has changed over time because of this, and because recognition is excellent. so i pick up the mic, turn it on, speak the command, turn if off, and set the mic down before Eva even has a chance to respond to the command. also, if Eva doesnt have a high confidence value, she will repeat what was recognized, which lets the user pay a little more attention to what happens next.

reduce spoken commands - its all about speaking, but speaking the same thing over and over can get annoying. an example is Eva started out with traditional music controls (next, previous, etc). but it got ridiculously annoying saying 'next track'. so that spawned the commands 'start scanning music', 'play similar', and 'search tracks for'. those commands now reduce the amount of talking that i have to do. now 'next track' is not used to search for music, but only to skip past a track i dont want to hear.

notify the user - the goal is to avoid having the user say something, and then just sitting there not knowing what is happening. examples are eva will beep if there is going to be a potentially long running operation like a music search or web call. if speech is misrecognized, that is signaled with 3 quick beeps. if recording is taking place, or a voice note is waiting, there are periodic beeps for that.

alternate / optional grammar elements - i start out with very strict grammar commands. but there are something like 125+ commands now, so a user cant really be expected to remember those word for word. as a command is misrecognized, because i say it slightly different, i've been going back and adding those alternate or optional words to the grammar. that is where the voice commands that i think up while coding have the potential to be slightly different than what i say naturally as a user.

find something - if i make a search request for music, then some music needs to start playing. Eva really works to avoid the 'no tracks were found' scenario. this is done by building the search with tons of failover. multiple search requests are performed, starting with a strict search, and then gradually getting less strict until a matching track has been found.

avoid false positives - recognition is excellent, so Eva generally does what i say. periodically, Eva rejects what i say, and signals with the 3 quick beeps. the more annoying scenario is a false positive, where something is mis-recognized and Eva performs an unintended action. some of this is helped by disabling other grammars in certain scenarios. e.g. i've changed it so that when a voice note is being recorded, only high priority grammars are active and the rejected audio beeps do not play. if a false positive does keep happening, then i go and change the wording of one of the grammars to make the phrase be more distinguishable.

recognizer sticking - dont currently have a fix for this one. rarely, about once a week so far, the speech recognizer seems to get in a bad state where it misrecognizes something, and then keeps misrecognizing that phrase repeatedly. its like the weighting gets into some bad state to favor that phrase no matter how articulate i speak the command. it might get stuck for 3 to 5 repititions. highly annoying. i'm thinking about keeping a running list of the last # recognitions, and if it repeats for 3 times, try to do something to 'kick' the recognizer out of its bad state. then i'd have to ignore this for some commands, like 'next track', which could legitimately be spoken repeatedly.


DesktopWeb FormText   eva : year searchThu, 05 Feb 2009 18:18:57 GMT # 

Eva, play year seventies / eighties / nineties ... all those searches feel comfortable. but what do you call this current decade ... the ones? the aughts? and is the next decade going to be called the teens? it just does not sound right (to me) to say 'play year aughts'.

searching by year was taking too long ... just long enough to make me think something had broke. so i refactored music search and sped it up across the board. the speed increase allows eva to sneak in multiple searches, so now all the music searches start out with a specific search and then some more generic searches until one succeeds. and with the speed increase, i can now search by century :)

Eva, play music from 21st century


DesktopWeb FormText   eva : USB headset adaptersWed, 04 Feb 2009 15:32:33 GMT # 

Eva needs each zone to have a separate sound card. this allows Eva to know where speech is coming from and the ability to send audio to different zones. i had a bunch of USB headset adapters, so i tried those. the adapters from the Logitech USB premium notebook headset seemed to work best. Plantronics headsets were not able to power non-powered handset mics (used for dev), and an Altec Lansing adapter seemed to require more power. i still seem to have an issue with powering the USB headset adapters on a powered hub. if i put 3 adapters on a hub, they work fine for speech. and 2 of the adapters can play music at the same time. but if i try to play music with the 3rd adapter, then one of the adapters will stop responding to mic input. its like it has enough power for 3 speakers and 2 mics, but the 3rd mic is too much. else, its a problem with the Logitech driver. i need to get a 2nd powered hub and try 2 headset adapters on each hub. also need to try 3 adapters connected to the host computer without using a hub at all.


DesktopWeb FormText   eva : name and voicesTue, 03 Feb 2009 14:50:57 GMT # 

/eva's was originally called Alice. the idea was to find a female voice with a british accent, sort of like the Red Queen from Resident Evil. but then i got sick and tired of saying Alice. of course Wall-E inspired Eva, and it stuck. but the name is configurable and also optional. when i started out with always-on omni-directional mics, having the name was necessary to avoid false positives. now that i'm using directional mics, its not as necessary, but it does help avoid false positives when using voice note and intercom functionality.

for voices, i looked at Ivona and Cepstral. they both have excellent voices, but Ivona requires you to contact them to make a purchase. you can easily download a demo voice and i like how their demo voices play seinfeld-esque type background music to mark that they are not licensed. the problem is the voices dont seem to automatically break up sentences. so it reads 'dot', instead of pausing to end a sentence. this might just be because the voice is unlicensed too?

Cepstral's online store is simple enough to purchase from. the only problem i had was not initially running the installer 'as Administrator', so the license key did not take. and i cant stand how their demo voices say 'this voice is not licensed'. that gets annoying real quick. i was also worried that i would need to buy a concurrent license to support multi zones, but that has not been an issue because my code synthesizes speech async and then plays back using DirectShow to support multi zone. if there were alot of zones, and Eva spoke large blocks of text, then a concurrent license might be needed. bought Cepstral Allison, it sounds real good most of the time, but she ends her words oddly some of the time in a way that really annoys me, so she did not beat out Microsoft Anna.

Microsoft Lili is cool too, because i have yellow fever. she will speak english with chinese phonemes, so it sounds like a native chinese speaker speaking english. the only problem is when speaking numbers or dates that have not been converted to english word form, because they get read in chinese. also, Lili isnt available on Vista home premium, which is the version of the OS on Eva's host computer.

as a man, i cannot use a male voice for synthesis. the only exception would be if it sounded like HAL. but there definitely needs to be more blatantly sexual female voices.


DesktopWeb FormText   eva : speakersMon, 02 Feb 2009 15:13:13 GMT # 

Eva uses speakers in every zone. for now, the speakers are always-on, drawing 2 to 6 watts. since Eva has alarm functionality, the speakers have to work, so i make sure that they automatically power back on after losing power. i also look for speakers that have some bass/treble adjustment, so i can find some setting that works decent for both speech and music. i prefer that the speakers do not have an easily accessible volume control. the goal is to set the hardware volume of the speaker system, and then never change that hardware level again. because if the speaker volume is turned off, then you will not wake up to an alarm. in software, speech is set to its maximum volume, while the music volume is 70. this allows you to hear Eva speaking, but you can still crank up the music. started out getting 2.1 speaker setups, but i really like the Creative Labs Inspire 2.0 speakers, and will probably get another set of those to reduce the amount of sub woofers in my home. er, um ... because right now i'm staring at eva's subwoofer stacked on top of my home theater subwoofer. the bad thing about the speaker setup is the 75ft audio cables running through my house. there need to be more wireless audio options ... with security.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : end of monthSat, 31 Jan 2009 21:53:52 GMT # 

bodyweight hung around 203 for the end of the month. so i should be able to get under 200 lbs easily next month. have been doing split leg workouts this month (heavy and light). also, swapped out yoga for more jogging and stairs. that worked for the first 3 weeks, but my legs have been dead for the last week. had my last leg workout today, a light day, and it felt like my quads were going to give out. visibly, my legs do look slightly more defined. my last arm and back days were crazy too. all i did was bodyweight. so just non stop chin ups, dips, and pull ups. probably did 75 to 100 total pull ups for the back day ... and i'm feeling it.

next month is going to concentrate on abs. i think every other workout will have some ab exercises thrown in. legs will go back to once per round of workouts. probably need to stick with light leg days until they recover. also, going to change the upper body workouts. instead of chest / back / arms split, it will be chest and tris / back and bis / shoulders and traps. the shoulder and traps day will be the high intensity cardio day. some yoga will get worked back in for cardio too.


DesktopWeb FormText   eva : microphonesFri, 30 Jan 2009 14:57:35 GMT # 

Eva started out with always-on omni-directional mics in mind. so i picked up a VoiceTracker to try out. it works really well in smaller rooms with minimal background noise. it did not work so well in my living room, which is larger, and has alot of background noise (tv, set top boxes). the distance was about 12 feet, beyond that i had to really speak up to be recognized. my bedroom is electronic free, so it worked much better there. but then there was the problem of having to pause music before i could speak a command. the X10 remotes were used to support this. another problem was when using the intercom functionality. it was possible to get into a feedback loop.

so i switched to wired handsets. handsets are nice because they can be used while music is playing. this also takes care of any feedback problems, but it also kills the 'spy mode' functionality. plus wires suck.

finally, i switched to the wireless mics i am currently using. the sound quality is great, there are no wires, and work throughout my home. i assumed they would need to be charging all the time so i opted for a set that came with a charging dock. ends up that is nice but wasnt necessary. i've been using them for a week and have not had to recharge them yet. and the problem with this specific set of mics is the batteries are not user replaceable. also, there isn't any security, so baby monitors are probably picking up my voice notes.

my dream mic would be wi-fi based (for security). it would also have some buttons built-in. the main button would be a push-to-talk button (e.g. push button, speak command, release button). it might also have a switch in case you were going to have a long conversation using the mic. finally, there would be some remote buttons that would let you send commands to the PC without having to add an additional keypad remote to each room.

bluetooth headsets. definitely can be done ... personally, i just can't wear one, even in private. but i will be trying bluetooth for a later version, along with some other technologies. but the wireless mics were a natural progression, from always-on omni-directional mics, which didn't require any code change for V1.


DesktopWeb FormText   eva : multi zone audio etiquetteThu, 29 Jan 2009 14:45:02 GMT # 

been trying to balance etiquette vs functionality for working with multi-zone audio. this is Eva's current setup.

1) starting music
you can only start music for the zone you are speaking from.

2) transferring / sharing zones
you can only transfer music or turn music zone on or off for your current zone. these rules avoid somebody turning on music and then transferring it to a zone where somebody is sleeping. but a friend pointed out a problem ... this also keeps you from saying 'play artist marvin gaye' and then 'transfer music to bedroom'. wink wink. there is still the issue of zone 'tug of war'. so somebody else could start music in their zone. then you could transfer it to your zone. then they could transfer it back, etc... but i like being able to tranfer music from anywhere, because that favors the lazy user. e.g. if i left music playing in my upstairs bed room, then i dont have to go back upstairs to turn it off, i can just transfer it to where i am, and then stop it.

3) music control
you can only control music for the zone you are in, or for shared zones as long as you are in one of those zones that is shared. this avoids somebody in a different zone changing your music.


DesktopWeb FormText   eva : ghosts in the machineWed, 28 Jan 2009 15:05:47 GMT # 

have you ever been woken up by a synthesized voice? let me tell you ... Scary. /eva has woken me up in the middle of the night a couple times. each time involved her repeatedly saying 'you're welcome'. she does have a 'pleasant' grammar to respond to thank you, good night, and such. but the question is who (or what) was saying 'thank you'? so i started logging all the audio input. ends up it was white noise that was getting introduced on the line. that is actually why Eva has 'demon mode' functionality, because the first thing you have to do with white noise is play it backwards to listen for any demonic voices. the funny thing is static played in reverse sounds just like static ... boring. the workaround for that was to add a dummy grammar of 1 and 2 word commands that would be recognized, and then nothing would happen (i.e. Eva would not speak a result). but then i added the functionality for 3 quick beeps on rejected recognition. this lets the user know that Eva heard something, but it couldnt be recognized. this caused Eva to wake me up again, this time she was beeping at night. checking the logs, it was white noise again. so i changed out the cabling for better shielded cables. next night, more beeping ... but this time i noticed the time ... backup time. so somehow whenever a Windows Home Server backup kicks off, its introducing noise. i'm not sure if its from the wires physically running past the WHS, or if its just the act of backing up on Eva's host computer? anyway, the collected samples of static have all been very low volume (~100, while a spoken command is ~2000), so the current fix is to just ignore any low volume rejected recognition events. if that doesnt work, then i'll have to write a method to check for static itself.


DesktopWeb FormText   new article : /eva (speech-controlled multi-zone home automation)Wed, 28 Jan 2009 05:27:00 GMT # 

oh yeah, i used to post about tech stuff. been off contract, so here's my last 3 months: /eva. and my friend got an awesome new camera, so the vids are in HD ... you've been warned.


DesktopWeb FormText   customer serviceWed, 21 Jan 2009 20:32:08 GMT # 

as a customer, i seem to be wrong ... alot. or maybe i'm just becoming more of an asshole as i get older? regardless, every time i call in to somebody's customer service nowadays, it seems like i have to talk to a manager to get anything done. i always come to an impasse with the 1st customer service person, where they say 'we don't do that'. then i have to pull out, 'let me talk to a manager'. and then either the 1st service person does what i wanted in the first place, or i actually talk to a manager and they take care of it. entirely the wrong way to keep me as a customer. not to mention it puts me in a pissed off mood, and then i have to blog about it ... ARGH!


DesktopWeb FormText   feature creepSat, 17 Jan 2009 04:54:39 GMT # 

ok, now the app is feature complete. still have a huge list of features to add; but they are either too risky, will take too long, or not that cool. was supposed to be primarily testing this week, but i kept thinking of quick additions i 'had' to make. some of the products at CES didn't help. at least one of the new features forced me to fix the last known major bug. it was a pain. some threading nonsense in DirectShow ... could never pin down the exact cause, and it was difficult to trigger. the fix ended up being to use the apps message pump instead of handling eventing on my own. can't tell you how many locks and exception handling i put into place before punting. not a pretty fix, but reliability wins out. did some hardware changes last week too, now i just need to swap out some wiring. next steps are to flesh out the test harness, develop a test script, and get a friend to visit for some usability testing. artificial deadline is 2 weeks.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : mid monthThu, 15 Jan 2009 14:54:14 GMT # 

weighed in under 205 lbs and measured under 10% bodyfat, so i met this months goal. guess i was feeling guilty after the xmas cookie massacres, so i've been opting for higher intensity cardio workouts (jogging and stairs). at 10%, my upper belly is gone, and i just have a slight lower belly. lovehandles are smaller now too. can sometimes see the upper 2-pack of my abs. lower abs are still too soft to see, but i 'notice' them more. e.g. i seem to get better ab workouts now because i can feel my abs moving and causing pressure against my skin, and that helps me contentrate the work. from the caliper readings, my thighs and chest have stayed mostly constant and only lost 1 or 2 millimeters. now the fat is being taken off my belly almost exclusively, because it lost at least 6 millimeters in the same amount of time.

now i'm getting real close to being under 200 lbs ... which i dont really like. cant wait to start putting lean weight on and getting closer to 220. in street clothes, i dont look as 'big' as i used to. but in the gym, i think i still look 'big'. even though i've lost 40 lbs and my measurements have dropped, the muscle definition helps out alot. my man boobs definitely look bigger because the upper belly is gone.

strength is definitely lagging now. been lifting heavy for 2 weeks, and still havent hit 315 for 5 reps on bench. close, but it had only been taking 2 weeks to recover. hope to get it next week. lifting heavy legs is a challenge too, but legs are somewhat getting a pass due to intense cardio sessions. it has helped to split the leg workouts into a light and heavy day, opposed to just killing them on a single day, and then waddling around sore for 2 days afterwards.


DesktopWeb FormText   cant rememberMon, 12 Jan 2009 21:55:23 GMT # 

i get people that will write me with questions from tech articles i was writing years ago. if the person has actually done their homework, i like these emails. dont like the ones that are '(insert sob story), give me the code'. anyway, i have a crappy memory, so i generally cannot help. first, i blame culture. honestly, most of the stufff our culture cares about is not worth remembering. so i've developed a highly tuned crap filter. er, um ... am i just retelling a george carlin joke? ... it sure feels like it. anyway, my brain recognizes that its crap and never stores it away. so i think my brain has inadvertently become too good at forgetting things. second, i only have a short term memory. to me, people that can remember their childhood either dont do anything new, or they are crazy, or they were beaten (boo, hiss). i can remember back like 2 months. period. been coding this current project for 3 months, so i'm beginning to hit the point where i start to rewrite a piece of functionality i wrote over 2 months ago. serious, i'll get a build error that it cant figure out which method name to use, because i ended up naming the new method the same as the old method.


DesktopWeb FormText   app is coming togetherMon, 12 Jan 2009 05:59:57 GMT # 

found a hardware setup that i really like last week. the hardware setup is to a point that i'm enjoying testing. speaking of testing, it hit 8 hours of no exceptions from a monkey test before i stopped the test. i'm not sure what its really called, but i call it a 'monkey test'. its got a built-in test harness to just randomly trigger the most common commands every couple seconds, as well as emulating concurrent users. it also lets me look for memory leaks, because it has to be bulletproof. i'll extend that test next week to cover almost all of the commands. the last main feature was complete last week, so now i'm just using it and tricking it out with smaller features that i want.


DesktopWeb FormText   did i say somethingSat, 10 Jan 2009 03:06:05 GMT # 

forget, but i think the estimate was our brains dedicate 66% of its cycles to vision. can definitely 'see' how much i depend on vision when i'm working on an entirely speech-based app; because i keep running into the situation where i'm debugging the app, and i have a UI trace or console out that lets me know something has happened or is happening. but then i go and test it without a screen, and i forget to add some audio prompt to signal a result, and i'm just sitting there like an idiot ... in silence ... did it fail to recognize? did i speak a valid command? did i forget to turn the mic on? are the speakers on? did kitty kitty chew the wires? er, um ... did the app crash? and then it ends up that it worked, i just forgot to play some noise ... because i'd been relying on the visual cue when debugging. ugh


DesktopWeb FormText   what can i sayThu, 08 Jan 2009 16:16:51 GMT # 

my pet project is speech based. the odd thing is the commands that i come up with to control the app while coding are slightly different than the commands i want to intuitively speak when trying to use the app. the 'coding' words are definitely more terse and typically follow a rigid pattern with related commands. it really doesnt help that i have some dyslexic tendencies. transposing words ... not good for speech recognition. it also doesnt help that i suck at grammar. because if anyone reads this blog, they know i can construct a run on sentence an innumerable amount of ways.


DesktopWeb FormText   feature completeWed, 07 Jan 2009 00:33:05 GMT # 

been working on a self-learning project for over 2 months now. just got the feature working that inspired its creation in the 1st place. yea! will post some vids later this month.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : love/hate holidaysTue, 06 Jan 2009 06:22:23 GMT # 

what i love ... college chicks at the gym.

what i hate ... douchebag college guys at the gym. 1) dont wear a hat to the gym. 2) if you still wear a hat ... do NOT tilt it. so i'm lifting heavier and wearing sleeveless shirts more frequently to mark my territory. cant help it ... testosterone.

now the new years resolutions are in full swing ... which is fun to watch : 1) new years day, saw an out of shape older lady whose face was entirely red and looked like she was going to pass out. she was stopped at the stairs, trying to talk, while a trainer was asking her if she was ok and if she wanted to take the elevator. aside, a gym elevator should only be used by injured/handicap people ... and maybe the older lady that tried to make up for years of neglect by almost killing herself at the gym on new years. chances are she wont be back til next year. 2) another guy came in and it looked like he tried to relive his high school bench pressing days. he lifted it off, lowered it to his chest, and he was pinned. then he left in shame ... doubt he'll be coming back. 3) kid standing in front of the dumbbell rack while he lifted. he puts the weights down and is talking to a friend. its the weight i need, so i lean over and grab it. he says 'but i'm using it'. i point to the other set of dumbbells that are the same weight on the lower rack, that i could not get to while he was standing in front of them. he says 'oh, i guess they weigh the same'. yep, i guess they do. 4) guy walks up to a bench press with 45 lb plates on each side. he takes off the plates and drops them flat to the floor. the bench press has 2 empty weight trees on each side ... he just ignored them. jack ass. then he proceeds to do 'good mornings' with the empty bar, facing in the direction of a raised platform for 'good mornings' and other lifts. so he's also a dumb ass. 5) lady using cables to work on her tennis elbow. the problem is she's using the only open squat rack in the gym ... and its leg day! 6) the oblivious/obnoxious headphone guy. got his headphones cranked up loud enough for those around him to hear and actually recognize the song. even worse, he's singing along. plus he's not paying attention to what's going on around him, so he's just getting in peoples way. 7) the weekend warrior. i swear one guy showed up wearing : thin soled lifting shoes, matching under armour shirt and shorts, lifting gloves, 2 tennis elbow straps, wrist straps, weight belt, ipod, do-rag (is that how you spell do-rag?), while carrying around his keys, cell phone, towel, and water bottle. the beautiful thing ... the guy looks like the animated character from 'the critic'. NOTE to self, dont ever use another sentence that requires the use of the word 'do-rag'. 8) chalky. i didnt see this person, but i know they were there, because they left broken chalk in front of the dumbbells. so i'm looking at the dumbbells, and the set that is chalky ... the 80s. er, um ... if you cant grip 80 lb dumbbells without chalk, then you dont need chalk. 9) the 1/4 squat/bench guy. this guys actually a regular, but he just pissed me off. i finish up on bench at 315 for reps. controlled down-up ... would have been 3 green lights in a powerlifting meet. guy next to me has 315 on the bar. he gets a spotter and then proceeds to lower the bar about 3 inches and then lifts it up again ... for reps. then he gets up with a proud smile on his face and gives me a look like he thinks he is just as strong. i laughed. whenever i unknowlingly provide a spot for one of these guys, i tell them to never ask me for a spot again. its just a waste of both our time.

the good news is all the people that dont really belong at the gym will be gone by february. over 17 years of being a gym rat, the new faces that i've seen show up and actually transform their body in a 'new years resolution' sort of manner ... did not start on new years day, they show up randomly throughout the year when they have really decided to commit.


DesktopWeb FormText   brawn : chin/pull upsTue, 06 Jan 2009 02:41:32 GMT # 

like to incorporate body weight movements when strength training. it seems to force my body to keep the muscle and shed fat. i've been doing chin ups and pull ups regularly for about the last 4 months, and i finally reached my goal of 15 reps on each (210 lbs bodyweight). yea! what seems to be working is to do at least 3 sets of each when i'm training for size, and only do 1 set to warm up when training for strength. on the other hand, i need to stop doing dips altogether, because i did a set of 40+ on the same day. still, i haven't felt like i've been getting good tricep workouts at this gym. my only guess is because they dont have a true V-bar. pretty sure every gym i've ever been at has had a V-bar. some of the bars are close, but wider (like a U) or straight, and i dont get as a good contraction with them. might have to bring in a weighted dip belt, but then i run the risk of mooning everybody. there is no good way to get in or out of a dip belt with a couple plates on it. anyway, i'm thinking about starting to work on 1 armed chin/pull ups. not the 1 handed-assisted style; can already do multiple reps of those. already tried 1 arm, and i can just feel the weight of my body on each joint. at least i already have the hand strength. hmm, might start trying after i lose some more weight.