And she says Wii, Wii, Wii all the way home (The Diet, Day 12)

I woke up this morning to the realization that I had to buy a Wii.  Strictly for medical purposes, you understand.  School starts for me on Monday, and something has to control my stress levels and keep me motivated to stick with a fitness plan.  Treadmills are fine for what they do, but treadmills are boring.

Stress relief.  Exercise.  Not boring.  Something I can do indoors because it is still too hot to move outside.  Something I will want to do when I come home from work in the afternoons.  Something that burns at least more calories than sitting on the couch.

I had to think about these criteria for about 10 seconds before I found myself in Best Buy.

Me:  I want that Wii.

BB Geek:  Would you like to pay $30 extra to have the Geek Squad set it up for you?

Me:  I don’t need a geek.  I have a teenage nephew.

My nephew is now the owner of some sort of fake automated weaponry, by the way.  I’m not sure how that became an added cost of the Wii, but everything does have its price.

I am officially the worst Wii player in the history of Wiiers.  That’s good.  I won’t be so good I bore myself any time soon.

In other news, I stuck to the diet all day long except for the tiny sliver of birthday cake I consumed from, you know, an innate sense of obligation.  I burned that off yelling at my nephew for laughing at my Wii skills.

The iPad is learning to cook (The Diet, Day 11)

If I could send the iPad to the kitchen to make a diet-worthy sandwich for me, I would.  Alas, even Steve Jobs hasn’t gotten that close to living the Jetson’s life.  So I just asked the iPad about sandwiches.  More specifically, I downloaded a couple of cookbooks after I realized the sandwich I’d just made had about 350 calories despite the fact that I’d done everything to diet it up right down to the extra thin bread and the fake mayo.

It’s a sad diet that sucks the joy of a grilled cheese out of you.

And now I have cookbooks in my Kindle for iPad.  I haven’t read any actual recipes yet.  In an ordinary cookbook, I would have just flipped over to the middle and looked around for something good to eat.  In the digital version I thought I’d better read the introduction while I was there.  Maybe cookbooks aren’t for Kindle.  Flipping here and there seems to be a necessary element of cookbookery.

I feel like calling Nicholas Carr right now to tell him that Kindle is killing my non-linear reading habits.  I don’t even skip the ends of novels to find out if the hero’s love interest is still alive in the last chapter anymore.  I doubt I’ll ever make it to the sandwich section of a cookbook I feel compelled to read in order.  Another collateral loss for me in the diet zone.

This conundrum reminds me, though, of a time when I heard on the radio about a “redneck sandwich” contest.  You were supposed to send in recipes for the most rednecked up sandwiches you could think of (excluding bologna and spam by virtue of being way too obvious).  I think my recipe was for a fried squirrel salad sandwich.  I would never consider eating any part of that, but it seemed like the ultimate redneck choice to me.

The most disgusting sandwich eating I’ll actually admit to is a pickle and mustard sandwich.  I used to eat them.  I don’t know why.  As a child, I also ate mayonnaise sandwiches and sugar sandwiches (but not mayonnaise and sugar sandwiches).

None of those meet my current needs for quick and easy meals that conform to The Diet.

I think I might start making hummus sandwiches with that silly thin bread.  If I dip the bread in some garlicky olive oil first, that might even be good.

Favorite vegetarian diet-worthy sandwich, anyone?

Two iPods and a Key Lime Yogurt (The Diet, Day 10)

The Diet has calmed down to the point that it doesn’t constantly torture me, at least not in my own home.  We’ve established a tentative truce, though lasting peace negotiations are still underway.  I did have one episode today in which it became absolutely necessary to consume something I could call junk food.  That turned out to be a veggie chili dog without the bun.  Put the veggie dog on the plate.  Cover it with veggie chili.  Cover that with sauerkraut, pickle relish, mustard, and (if you must) just the tiniest dusting of cheese.

J. Alfred Prufrock must have been on a diet when he said, “I have measured out my life in coffee spoons.”

Me too, man.  I feel your pain.

The veggie chili dog, however, was really very tasty even if it did need more cheese.

And then I had one of those oh-my-god-school-starts-next-week-and-my-house-is-a-disaster moments.  One of those I-need-to-do-two-months-worth-of-cleaning-in-one-hour moments.  I didn’t quite make my goal.  I did about an hour’s worth of cleaning in one hour, but I wrote it down on my diet journal as an hour of exercise.  Oh, yes.  I did.

That put my exercise tally up so high for the day that I was low on my calorie tally, and I had to have a key lime yogurt to make up for it. At this point, that’s almost as good as peanut brittle Ben & Jerry’s.

But enough of that.  I want to tell you about my system for heavy cleaning that doesn’t yield so much in heavy results.  I listen to an audio book while I work.  This is for motivating purposes.  If I had to think about what I was doing, I’d have to quit and do something else.  Housework lies outside my field of expertise.

So I have two iPod docking stations and two iPods.  On one end of the house, I had The Time Traveler’s Wife going.  On the other end of the house it was The Lost Symbol.  You can’t do heavy reading on a heavy cleaning day.

I listened to a few minutes of one, hit pause, went to do something in another room where I listened to a few minutes of the other, hit pause…and so on.

Pretty soon I found myself wondering why Robert Langdon’s future self didn’t warn him about the mess he was walking into chasing after those symbols. I also wondered why Dan Brown keeps writing the same book over and over and if the answer might be that he hasn’t yet been to his own past.

But I figure I burned 50 calories alone today just hitting pause and play buttons, and I can say that if you ever need to trick yourself into working outside your field of expertise, the two iPod system is not the worst thing you could try.

For the love of the iPad

I’ve been asked to give a 45 minute talk next week on the iPad in education. I have about 30 seconds worth of stuff to say on that, so it occurs to me that I might need to devote some time today to thinking about it.

I’ve been reading some of Steven Krause’s posts about the iPad. He has good links and good points to make. That’s helpful, but I’m still not sure what to say. I think maybe I’ll just plug the iPad into a projector and spend 45 minutes saying, “Oh lookie here…pretty stuff.”

My main thought after that is that it’s about a year too soon to be able to really say what the iPad can do for the classroom because the applications that we’ll all be most likely to find useful are still being developed. This thing only come out in April, and no one knew what it would look like until it arrived.

That said, maybe I have a thought or three…30 seconds worth of them if I’m lucky.

1. Instant access. The web has developed into an instant access machine, and the iPad only highlights the desire we’ve all developed to acquire our information and entertainment via the microwave method as opposed to the slow cooker method. I can get books, movies, music, audio books, and games all in an instant just by touching a spot on the screen. That’s addictive, and it is, I think, the way our students will expect their courses to be delivered–not just with Burger King’s “have it your way” offer, but we drive by their houses and don’t keep them waiting while we fumble around rolling our windows down.

2. Device synchronization. It’s not about the iPad instead of a laptop or the iPad instead of a smart phone. It’s about the iPad in addition to those other devices. It’s not about figuring out how we can do the same things differently on a different device. It’s about figuring how we can do new things on a different device. It’s also about figuring how to make what we’re already doing workable in a cross platform world. Already, I have had to figure out how to sync my work when I do some of it at home, some of it in the office, and some of it in the library. Now I’ll be figuring out how to do some of it, not just from another computer, but from another type of computer altogether.

3. Mobile access. Yes, this is just a reiteration of #1 and #2. Devices like iPads and smart phones mean that we need to make anything we deliver electronically to students accessible through mobile technologies. That doesn’t mean we’re replacing the lab computers for these pocket gadgets. It just means that the students are going to want to have full access to their course materials whether they are in the school lab, on their home laptops, or standing in line at Walmart, holding an iPhone. It’s a fast food nation.

4. Use the tools, Luke. Use the tools. No one teacher has to invent new ways to deliver content to the iPad, nor do they have to wait for textbook companies to sell them products made for iPad. Plenty of free online tools have already figured this out. WordPress, the software that powers this blog, for example, is very mobile friendly, and the site Scribd is my favorite new place to post class content because it offers easy document publishing as well as multiple download formats.

So there’s my 30 seconds on the iPad. More later if I think up another few seconds worth of stuff to say.

Wherefore art thou, Treadmill? (The Diet, Day 9)

If you tuned in to yesterday’s episode of the Diets of My Life, you know that after one full week of dieting I lost exactly nothing, according to my bathroom scales. By mid-morning I was at Bed, Bath, and Beyond purchasing new scales. Clearly there was something malfunctioning.

My scales are quite suspect. They are old. My floor is uneven. They give different readings depending on where they are positioned on the floor. No amount of attempting to adjust the balance changes that fact. It seems likely they are unreliable.

So I got some fancy digital scales that laid claim to being “highly accurate.” Maybe they are since they say exactly the same thing no matter how many times you kick them over to a different spot on the floor. The problem with that high accuracy, however, is that they say I weigh ten pounds more than the other scales did. What a double-whammer of a day to first lose nothing and then find an extra ten pounds.

My friend says I should take the new scales back for a refund immediately, but I suspect they might actually be more accurate than the old ones. I think I’ll try a two scale system for a while and see what happens.

I don’t know. This is just too harsh to sort out right away.

The end result, though, is that the only way I’ve been able to live with myself is to pull my treadmill out of hiding. I did 30 minutes on it last night. I’ve done 15 so far today, but I plan to have another round before long.

I’ve been walking in the mornings with Patricia of next door. We walk for about 25 minutes on average, I think. We may be doing a whole mile in that time, but I wouldn’t guarantee it. We take dogs with us and stop a lot.

Because I’m feeling desperate, I couldn’t leave the results of that to chance. I had to do some calculating.

You have to burn off 3500 calories to burn off 1 pound. That means you need to burn off 500 calories per day in order to burn off 1 pound per week through exercise. If you can burn approximately 100 calories per mile from walking, you need to walk five miles per day to meet the 1 pound per week goal.

I won’t be doing that. The best I can walk a mile right now is in about 20 minutes. Unless there is some sort of new math involved that I don’t understand, that means I need at least 1 hour and 40 minutes worth of walking per day to meet a five mile goal. I actually need a little longer since the first mile is a more leisurely mile.

I’m about to start back to work, and I do understand my personal limitations–physical, temporal, and otherwise. I’m going to set a goal of walking 2.5 miles per day. I’ll count the mornings as 1 mile. That leaves me with thirty minutes of treadmill time remaining.

That’s somewhat depressing when I consider that I’m setting a goal of walking enough to lose an average of 2 pounds per month. It would take 20 weeks of that just to burn off the extra 10 pounds I found on the new scales.

I’m going to try not to think of it that way. I’m going to attempt to fill my head with a bunch of yammering about heart, lung, bone, and joint health instead. If anyone would like to give me a sales pitch on that, I’m listening.

Julie and Julia and Sharon

I watched Julie and Julia last night. If you are trying to diet, you really should watch a movie that features butter as a main character. Maybe it’s a test of your own character if you don’t go microwave a vat of it and slurp it down before the movie ends…or at the very least slather up some popcorn with it.

But no…I watched the movie and didn’t eat through it. I only yelled a little at Netflix when it bumped me out of the movie three or four times. I’m going to quit trying to stream during peak hours, I think, but I’m trying to quit so many things now that streaming movies seems low on the social order.

I loved the movie. It’s a cutesy feel-good flick that made me wish I had my own blog. What could I write a blog about, I asked myself, as Julie asked herself the same.

I was somewhat annoyed, though, that the act of blogging and the act of taking on a major creative project was portrayed as self-centered. Is creativity self-centered? Is writing? Is art in general an ultimately self-centered act? I don’t know. Maybe art is mission work in its own way because it brings comfort and pleasure to others.

That’s what a friend told me when I said that I felt guilty over writing a fantasy novel because it wasn’t about anything important to the world. It was just something that gave me pleasure to do. She said, “If it brings pleasure to anyone, it’s important. Offering people even a brief time to feel good in a world full of struggling and pain is the best anyone can do.”

Maybe, and maybe it is still selfish. I don’t know.

I was enamored enough with the movie that I thought I’d read the book. I’ve read the Julia Child book My Life in France, but I haven’t read the Julie Powell book Julie and Julia. I went over to Amazon to look it up. That’s when I noticed that Julie Powell has a newer book called Cleaving.

Also autobiographical, evidently much of the new book concentrates on the fact that she has an affair.

Now, after butter and Julia and Paul Child, Julie Powell’s husband was my favorite character in the movie. He was beyond supportive.

So, of course, if she’s going to go and cheat on him after the end of the movie when finally after all of his support she catches her big break and gets rich, I don’t want to read about it. Just finding out that’s what the next book is about makes me not want to read the first book either. It makes me suspect that the problem all along was her, that blogging wasn’t a narcissistic pursuit, but that she was just a narcissistic person, and that this was all toned down a bit for the sake of the movie. If so, I don’t want to find out. I don’t want to have my experience of an enjoyable movie ruined by reading a book in which I find out I don’t really like the characters.

I would have for sure purchased Julie and Julia if Cleaving didn’t exist, but now I’m not going to buy either.

That leads me to wondering if I’m being too judgmental. Possibly. I understand that people who do selfish things aren’t always in control of themselves. I read just the other day about the neurology behind high levels of alcoholism in writers and artists. You know those inner censors you have to turn off in order to use your imagination? Well, they are censoring a lot more behaviors than just dull-mindedness. When you turn them off and keep them off long enough, you really don’t know what you are doing. Add to that excess adrenaline and other whacked out bodily chemistry, and you have a real disaster in the making on your hands.

It’s easy enough to understand how people, who aren’t really total jerks after all, make unfortunate choices when they are physically and emotionally strung out.

But you see, this is my blog, and it isn’t about Julie Powell. It’s about me.

However I rationalize it, I just don’t want to read a book has the potential to ruin my experience of a movie I’ve already seen.

That’s that. Moving on now.

Meeting Minos at the scales, or after one week on The Diet

For the gluttonous, Minos wraps his tail around himself three times, indicating that they are not the worst of the sinners, but they indeed face severe consequences. Their punishment lies beyond that of the lustful. They go to Circle 3, whereas even the most famous of illicit lovers reside in Circle 2.

In Circle 3, Cerberus, the three-headed dog, chews on the gluttonous as they lie in their eternal beds of stench and sewage. They have made their own filth, their own unwanted excess, and they must wallow in it.

The tempest of the lustful would be far preferable. While still a torment, it is at least a torment that smells better.

Minos doesn’t get much credit as a judge these days, but he is still the judge of the bathroom scales. Those seeking penance for their sins of gluttony still approach him with fear and trembling.

Minos is determined to make me suffer.

After one week on The Diet, I have lost exactly nothing. Not a pound, not an ounce. The lizard that lives in my crepe myrtle has lost more weight than I have this week.

When you are young, I think, Minos is more indulgent. Smaller penances reap greater rewards. When you are old enough that you ought to have learned your lessons by now, you have to live with the full awareness of the mess of your own making much longer before Minos begins to relent.

The climb out of perdition is steep and not for the weak of heart.

Oh, Minos, you jerk. You have not defeated me yet. I’ll see you again next week.

On the road to curried chickpeas, or Day 7 on a diet

Life is okay today. I’ve been cooking. I haven’t been hungry. I haven’t gone over my calorie limit for the day. I’ve eaten an assortment of good vegetables. I think I’m starting to get the hang of this dieting thing. It is an acquired skill, it seems, but I’m usually a fairly quick study.

I made random stuff: curried chickpeas, broccoli-mushroom stir fry, a green bean and tomato something-or-other. I made too much of all of it, which is sort of the master plan. I don’t want to cook again until life gets hard again. I hope that will be at least several days.

The chickpea stuff and the green bean stuff I think I can eat on top of salads this week. This is my plan to avoid salad dressings. I’m making things that come with their own sauce. In the case of the chickpeas, it is a curry-yogurt sauce. Usually, I use coconut milk with curry. It was painful to me to give up the coconut milk, but yogurt doesn’t taste bad at all as the creamy agent of the dish. I hope I don’t change my mind about that tomorrow. I have lots of curried yogurt chickpeas.

The leftover broccoli and mushroom stir fry I plan to use in a crustless egg beater quiche. So I guess I do plan to cook something else this week, but once I make the quiche, I will have several days worth of breakfast on hand.

The green bean stuff just happened. It was an unplanned culinary event. My cousin posted a green bean tomato thingie on her blog today, and I thought it sounded good. What I made isn’t like what she made. The only ingredients I had from her recipe were the green beans and tomatoes, so I just sort of made up something of my own. I’d tell you what I did, but you’re better off going over to Kelly’s blog and using her recipe. She has a plan. I just had an unplanned event.

Anyway, I ate the beans warm today, but I think they will taste good cold too, and I plan to eat them on salads this week.

I’m glad I decided to go on a diet that didn’t require me to cook anything. I would have never gotten started any other way. Once I started, though, and more importantly, told people I had started, I couldn’t keep it up without cooking my own healthful alternatives to the unhealthy junk I’ve been eating.

Funny how that works.