Sunday, June 28, 2009

Roger Ebert on "Transformers"

Roger Ebert's 1-star review of the new movie "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" is a real delight. A couple of excerpts:

"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" is a horrible experience of unbearable length, briefly punctuated by three or four amusing moments. One of these involves a dog-like robot humping the leg of the heroine. Such are the meager joys. If you want to save yourself the ticket price, go into the kitchen, cue up a male choir singing the music of hell, and get a kid to start banging pots and pans together. Then close your eyes and use your imagination.


The human actors are in a witless sitcom part of the time, and lot of the rest of their time is spent running in slo-mo away from explosions, although--hello!--you can't outrun an explosion. They also make speeches like this one by John Turturro: "Oh, no! The machine is buried in the pyramid! If they turn it on, it will destroy the sun! Not on my watch!" The humans, including lots of U.S. troops, shoot at the Transformers a lot, although never in the history of science fiction has an alien been harmed by gunfire.
Go read the whole thing.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Mathematician's Lament

I really enjoyed this, and I think you will too:

A Mathematician's Lament

Read whether you love or hate math.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Dysfunctional Company

Every time I get a new job, I start off with a very happy view of the new company. Internal divisions and politics are invisible to me, I am not aware of any possible mistakes that the company may be making, and the place just appears to me as a companionable group of people all striving towards a common purpose.

People are not eager to disabuse you of these notions either. They don't know you yet, so they won't complain about other people to you, or about the company itself. They're certainly not going to harsh your new job buzz by telling you the whole thing's going into the crapper because management can't tell its ass from a hole in the ground.

Over time, you slowly learn. So-and-so is an incompetent bully. Promotions haven't been decided fairly. Department Y is a bunch of morons. The CFO is an alcoholic. The last few announcements by management turned out to be morale-destroying lies.

(None of this is true of my current company, incidentally. I wouldn't dare blog about the things that are actually true.)

This disillusionment phase is always a little bit hard on me. I want to know the gossip and news, but part of me also wants to retain my state of innocence. I like believing that I'm working for a really functional, good company without any fatal flaws.

But it occurs to me that companies are actually just like people. If a person isn't obviously dysfunctional or grossly flawed, you will still learn, if you get to know them well enough, that they have deep flaws or dysfunctions of some kind. Often there are obvious ways you can imagine them optimizing their behavior, but which they are unwilling or unable to adopt. Sometimes these prove to be intolerable, but usually they just go into the overall balance of your feelings about the person (and can even endear them to you).

Why should a company be any different?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Metaphor and Mapping

If you look at the longitude and latitude lines on a globe, you may notice (if you haven't in the past) something interesting: we don't handle north-south and east-west the same way.The longitude lines are great circles that meet at the north and south poles, while the latitude lines are just horizontal (if you will) circles of varying size, like cross-sections of the planet.

I commented to Ed recently that we should try doing east-west like we do north-south, and he said, "But then, if you went east for a while, you'd eventually be going west."

"What?" I asked.

"Well, now, if you go north far enough, then eventually you start going south, so if we handled east-west the same way..."

And that was a very weird thought. At first I couldn't make any sense of the idea that if you go east for a while you'll find yourself heading west (because it's not true), and then I started wondering why it does seem to make sense for north-south. Why am I comfortable with the idea that once you're at the north pole, if you keep going, you're heading south?

Is it purely because I was educated about how latitude/longitude lines work?

Then it occurred to me that it's because I think of the north pole as "up" (the way that north is up on most maps). And so I associate it metaphorically with the direction that heads away from gravity. And clearly if you were to climb up a sphere for long enough (using your sticky gecko feet), you'd get to the top, and if you kept going, you'd be headed back down. While if you just geckoed your way sideways around the sphere, there wouldn't be any reversals.

Is it natural that we think of north as up, or is it just a convention? Clearly it's a matter of convention whether north or south is up, but could east or west be up just as easily? We would then picture the earth as rolling around through its orbit rather than spinning, and we would view the solar system as being a flat vertical plane rather than a horizontal platter.

What do you think?

The Real Purpose of Neosporin

Last night, while cutting up some peppers, I sliced a bit of the end of my thumb off (just the skin). Trying not to drip all over everything, I had Ed apply a bandaid (feeling grateful, once again, that we have the nice fingertip kind that are shaped well for just such a purpose). It was partly successful at containing the mess.

This morning, I went to change the bandage. I was completely unable to remove the portion of the bandaid that was on the actual wound. I tried soaking my thumb in a cup of warm water for about half an hour (seriously) and it still wouldn't come off. It was too painful for me to pull it off and I didn't really want to start it leaking again.

Yes, I am the biggest wimp ever.

So I went to a clinic today to say, basically, "What the hell should I do with this thing?" In the meantime, I had cut away all of the old bandaid that I could, and put a new one on top of it.

It turns out it is important not to let a bandaid become a permanent part of your body (who knew) so the doctor took it off (almost painlessly somehow, though it did reopen the wound), had me soak my thumb for 10 minutes in lidocaine, and then had a nurse clean it up and dress it with some neosporin and a new bandage.

I feel I now know the real point of neosporin - to keep your bandaid from sticking. Duh.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

New Blog, Extra Boring

I've decided to try keeping a food and exercise diary in the form of a blog. If you like to read it, it is here:

Fuel and Motion

I imagine it will be fairly boring, so (obviously, as though you wouldn't anyway) feel free to skip it.

The Sally Series!

My professor for Advanced Calculus next semester emailed us the name of the book we're using for the class, so I was able to order it. It came today.

Imagine how pleased I was when I saw a logo in the corner letting me know that it is part of the Sally Series. Apparently this one is Book 5.

Now I want to collect the whole set just for the name.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Every time I see this advertisement I am attracted to it:

...and then I go look at their offerings.

And I think, really? Simple? Less > More? That goes with paying $55-60 for a pair of sneakers? For real?

I guess it is "less > more" in the sense of "I will be rich in this way of paying a lot for a few nicer items rather than having a lot of junk." But that's not really what I think of as simple. I think of simple (in the positive sense) as meaning that you don't obsess over the brand of your tennis shoes.

I'm glad they make the planet happy, though.

An Amusing Smackdown

I came across this bit of advice from a Carolyn Hax live advice discussion:

Bethesda, MD: What's the best way to deal with a supervisor who has inane policies about attendance? I'm a good employee, but I have a tendency to come in 15 or so minutes late, and if I do, my supervisor takes away vacation time. It's not like I have to be at work to answer phones or because someone's expecting me -- my work is almost totally independent. I do end up putting in an eight hour day (I'll stay late when I come late), but my supervisor has said that she doesn't want me to do that. These policies make no sense and only serve to lower the morale of the workplace. Short of quitting, is there anything I can do? She's totally inflexible about this, and talking to her does no good.

Carolyn Hax: Show up on time.
Love that.

The End of Overeating

I've finished David Kessler's book "The End of Overeating." It was a pretty short and easy read, and aside from a bit of annoyance over a misdefinition of "heritability", I don't have much to say against it. I guess I'm not sure whether his ideas justified an entire book, as opposed to perhaps a long magazine article.

I did get something new out of it. I had already believed that people are getting fatter because we live in this environment that is full of food engineered to be as delicious as possible that can be obtained and consumed 24/7. I think that's kind of a no-brainer if you have thought about the issue at all. Part of this is the market at work - companies have been motivated to learn how to make tastier and tastier food, while our health is none of their concern - and part is a change in social mores such that snacking anytime, any place no longer seems gauche or inappropriate. (According to Kessler, snacks in America used to be something only children got. And in France, people still don't eat outside of mealtimes.)

But what I hadn't really "gotten" before - although I'd thought of it obliquely from time to time - is the way that these "hyper-palatable" foods act sort of like drugs in setting up a cue/reward/craving cycle. Instead of having a normal relationship to food, a lot of us think about some of our favorite foods all the time, and obsess over them. Plain, enjoyable foods don't trigger these kinds of responses, but the kind of layered/loaded extravaganza foods that are marketed to us do.

I remember as a kid, I used to fantasize about everyone else disappearing from the world. I still think about that sometimes, but as a kid, the first thing I did in this fantasy was go to McDonald's and eat all the french fries I wanted.

On vacations, I am always really interested in what we're going to eat for meals. It's probably the most interesting aspect of most vacations for me.

I moved away from Houston almost 9 years ago and I still obsess over some of the restaurants there.

These are not healthy ways to feel about food. After all, I live in an environment of plenty, and unless the world changes, I should never be threatened with starvation. (Even if my life radically changes for the worse, there are food stamps, food banks, etc., to help me out.) I don't obsess over air or water, so why should I obsess over food?

Kessler doesn't really recommend a "diet" per se (in fact, like most sensible folks, he's into the idea that you're changing your habits forever, not going on some kind of "plan" of limited duration), but the last parts of the book do have recommendations about how to eat better and (possibly) overcome what he calls "conditioned hypereating."

His recommendations aren't very systematic, but they boil down to strictly avoiding hyper-palatable foods (at least while you get them under control), finding healthy foods that are satisfying and enjoyable in appropriate quantities, using rules/planning to guide your eating, not engaging in will power struggles over food with yourself (i.e., using rules to avoid the "I want that / I shouldn't eat that / But I want it / But that's bad" type of inner dialogue), and developing negative attitudes towards hyper-palatable foods (viewing them as the enemy and something you're tricked into wanting, similar to how our view of cigarettes has changed).

I found the advice realistic...maybe too realistic. It did instill the good idea of mentally focusing on changing my relationship to food in this way that would be very positive, but it basically made me feel much more pessimistic about being able to do it. When I finished the book I was pretty much ready to give up on the whole thing and just be fat and food-obsessed instead.

Anyway, I'm basically in favor of the book - I think it raises important issues and has basically sound advice about them. And it was interesting to read.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Bit Ambiguous

I did a double-take at the first sentence of this Denver Post article:
A Thornton restaurateur who served Peking duck to President George W. Bush — along with several Democratic and Republican politicos — could serve 20 years in federal prison on a charge of laundering money connected to a marijuana distribution ring.
Wait - several Democratic and Republican politicos were involved in a marijuana distribution ring?

Oh, no, they just ate Peking duck. Well that's better.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

David Kessler in Salon

Salon has an interview with David Kessler, former head of the FDA, about his new book "The End of Overeating." He talks in the interview about what (in his view) causes people to overeat, which is basically just conditioning based on our experiences of eating rich food. For instance, he says,

In people who have a hard time controlling their eating, their brain circuits remain elevated and activated until all the food is gone. Then the next time you get cued, you do it again. Every time you engage in this cycle you strengthen the neural circuits. The anticipation gets strengthened. It's in part because of ambivalence. Do you ever have an internal dialogue? "Boy, that would taste great. No, I shouldn't have it. I really want that. And I shouldn't do it."

That sort of ambivalence increases the reward value of the food. It increases the anxiety, it increases the arousal, it keeps it in working memory. We're wired to focus on the most salient stimuli in our environment. For some people it could be alcohol or illegal drugs or nicotine or sex or gambling. For many of us it's food.

He seems to be at least a partial advocate of rules-based eating:

The question is, how have [some people] stayed lean? For many of them the fact is, they're in torment. It's a constant struggle. Others have laid down new learning, and that's made it easier. They develop rules for themselves that they follow. Then, you're not constantly eating in a chaotic, disorganized way. You're not constantly being cued. Your brain's not being constantly activated. But those rules have to be unambiguous, and they're not easy to follow.

In the end, they have what's called a critical perceptual shift. They look at food differently. How do you really cool a stimulus? How do you decrease the anticipation of the food, the power of the food to activate, to grab attention? The answer to that is you view the stimulus differently.

Some people -- and I'm not advocating it -- become vegetarian. That makes it easier. They look at animal fats and proteins and say, "I don't want that." Some people look at food and say, "That's highly processed, I don't want that. I want real food." Some people look at large portions and say, "I don't want that, that looks disgusting."
I find that my no-grains diet is working pretty beautifully. I'm not sure yet whether it will have the desired results (weight loss), but it's definitely making controlling my eating pretty easy. Aside from occasional, brief, intense cravings, I'm not finding it difficult not to eat grains or potatoes. I just don't eat them. There's no wiggle room, no way to start eating the plate of fries Kessler talks about, and so no problem not eating the entire plateful.

My current "rule" is that I can eat grains/starches reasonably freely for one meal per week, I can eat them if no other food is available and I need to eat (which may come into play when, for instance, I visit my vegetarian relatives, who always cook at home), and on geniune special occasions (like cake at a birthday party). "I especially want french fries right now" is not a special occasion.

Anyway, in the usual way that people enjoy information that confirms what they already thought or were doing, I enjoyed the interview.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Madame Bovary vs. Anna Karenina

After Sally mentioned being disappointed by Madame Bovary (which I had mentioned in connection with Anna Karenina), I decided to read it again. I read it in high school - 10th or 11th grade - but I didn't remember much except that it was about an adulterous wife. (I hope that's not a spoiler for anyone.)

I haven't finished the book yet - in fact, I haven't gotten to any adultery yet - but it's amazingly different from Anna Karenina. They were published about 25 years apart, and I'm curious if the differences are about changes that happened over that time period or differences between French and Russian culture, or just differences between the authors themselves and their styles.

The difference is hard to characterize. If I'd read MB before AK, I think I would have found it very normal for what it was, and exactly as expected. But having read AK, I'm finding it more difficult to get through. (Let me say explicitly what should be obvious - the books are similar enough in some sense that comparing them makes sense.)

When you read AK, it feels like you really get, on a true psychological level, what is going on with the characters, like you are right in with them. With MB, it's more like looking at a diorama - everything is removed, small, somewhat intricately described but without real "life" to it. Or like the story is wrapped in several layers of tissue paper.

Anna Karenina is just so much more...modern.

Friday, June 12, 2009


I hope you hear that title in a zombie voice.

I'm running out of books that I know I want to read, and it seems all I do is read recently, so I need recommendations, please. I'm partial to fiction but also enjoy non-fiction, especially social sciences. I don't generally enjoy mysteries, history (though I readily enjoy books written, or set, in the past), or biography.


Thursday, June 11, 2009


I have to admit, I am getting a little sick of this cold chilly weather bullshit we have going on here.

Monday, I wore tennis shoes to work so that I could work out afterwards. I ended up feeling a little odd about walking in a treadmill in my khakis, so I walked in the small park across the street from my building instead (which was nicer anyway, pretty much). But it was so chilly - at 5:30 in the afternoon, people! - that a sweatshirt would have been really nice. It took me a good 10 minutes of walking to warm up enough that I wasn't uncomfortable.

Tuesday night, Ed and I played tennis (first time we have played together! it was a lot of fun) and it was barely warm enough to wear shorts for it. And, of course, that was a very pleasant temperature to play in, but that's as high as it seems to get lately.

Right now it is raining and probably 60 degrees outside.

Meanwhile, here is why Natalie Dee hates people:

We had a really warm winter, so I guess this is what we get. But there's a reason I didn't move to Seattle.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Autism and The Curious Incident

I just finished reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which has an autistic (asperger's, I think) narrator. I enjoyed the book and found the narration very convincing - not that I know much about autism and was judging it on that basis, but more that I was convinced the narrator was a real person relating his actual experiences. I also solved a small mystery myself before the narrator did, which does not usually happen when I read mysteries, so that was good.

Afterwards, I was looking at the reviews on Amazon, and, as I sometimes do, I decided to look at the one-star reviews. When I'm reading reviews for their intended purpose, I find I can often learn more about a book (bad and good things) by reading the negative reviews, and I was curious what I would see here.

What I found was a curious dichotomy. Many people objected to the book's portrayal of autism, and they fell into two distinct categories:
  • People with Asperger's ("aspies"), and a few parents thereof, claiming, "Autism isn't like that. It's not nearly that bad."
  • Parents of autistic children claiming, "Autism isn't like that. It's much worse."
For instance, one reviewer writes
Having lived and worked with people with Asberger's syndrome (the type of autism Christopher Boone [the narrator] supposedly has) and having a mild case of it myself, I can confirm that the title of my review, sadly, is true. Instead of turning the narrator into someone we feel was a genuine Aspie, Mark Haddon has taken a fifteen-year-old boy younger than his years and given him the stereotypical traits of autism. He's also exaggerated them greatly; when I read the parts where Christopher says that he feels sick if he thinks about telling a lie, or if something in his living room is rearranged, or if he's in a crowd, I thought I must have been seeing things. I'm also not keen on the way, every second chapter, we have information about Christopher's problems rammed down our throats. A normal autistic or Aspie wouldn't do that, and it makes the book seem like a thinly-disguised fact book.
Another ("Catherine") writes

Since I have been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, let me just say that Mark Haddon should spend some time interacting with individuals who have Asperger Syndrome. The character he has created is not an Aspie, it is a sick coagulation of characteristics that span the broad range of autism all thrown together and labeled by him as "Asperger" because he needs his character to be gifted enough to write a book.

Most people with Asperger Syndrome lead very normal lives and are able to learn to function and interact in society. I'll admit that I would much rather sit and read a book then go to a party, but I wouldn't sit and read this book. I couldn't finish it because the portrayal was so upsetting, and the foul language was overwhelming. It is this kind of trash that makes life for people with Asperger so difficult, and increases the misunderstanding that society has for us. If you really want to understand how a person with Asperger thinks and feels then talk to one of us, or look up information on the internet. Don't go to a fictional book written by an uneducated author.
A third says

I find it hard to believe that Mark Haddon is an autism expert, because Christopher Boone isn't like any other child with Asperger's that I've ever met. We aren't all innocent and naive...on the contrary, we're often very aware of what's going on around us. We don't all talk and act like little children. We can usually realise if what we're doing is upsetting other people. We don't all have to go to specialist schools and need constant help from our support workers just to get through the day. We aren't so eccentric that we judge what our days are going to be like from how many cars we see on the road to school. We don't waffle on about frivilous things like maths problems and our favourite books. Haddon obviously thinks we do, and that shows us just how much he knows about people with Asperger's. As soon as I realised that Christopher was a stereotypical person with Asperger's, I could tell straight away that the book was going to make a reference to us being unable to cope with change, and indeed it did. Only it was worse than I had expected...the book made the implication that, if the slightest thing around us changes, we become dizzy and feel sick. I'd thought I'd misread it at first, but I hadn't. Of course, millions of people around the world will now think that's how we all act. Is it any wonder the attitude towards people with Asperger's has changed so much recently?
A parent ("JB"), on the other hand, says
Granted this is fiction. Granted that autism is a spectrum disorder. People with autism vary from mildly afflicted to profoundly afflicted, but if I wanted to get an insight into the autistic mind, this book is off course.

The child in this book would be classed as extremely high functioning. Not as a kids with autism. Aspergers, almost definately. ANd believe me, there are huge differences between Aspergers and autism. Aspies can talk. Aspies can write. Autism is different. Read Making Peace with Autism by Susan Senator for a real glimpse of autism.

For me, a mom with a child with autism, if my child could grow up to be this high functioning, I would be thrilled. This is written by a writer who thinks he has a handle on what autism is. He should come spend a week at our house, or any of the others that I know who have kids with real autism.
Mataja K writes

I hated this book. However, you may like it if you don't actually know much about autism and you've never lived with an autistic person. As someone who's done both, I find it nauseous becuase it's a growing trend of fictionalizing and heroizing what is a debilitating disease that as of yet has no cure. If you want to dismiss the seriousness of autism, read this book! It gives the protagonist waaaay more logic and order and an extraordinarily higher IQ than most autistic persons have. In essence, this is a "theory of autistics" fiction book, not an actual account and shouldn't be taken as anything more than a way for non-autistic people to pretend that they understand more than we do about the autistic world. The fact is the autistic world doesn't make sense, and they wouldn't be giving you these detailed explanations as if they're Plato or Aristotle or some other philosopher who's just rattling this off the top of their head. For those who choose to read it, remember this is fiction, not fact, and it was not written by someone who is autistic, and however much he knows, the fact is that autism is infinitely more incomprehensible, disturing, and debilitating that this book will let you know.

Presumably there are positive reviews where people said the depiction of Asperger's or autism was dead on. I just thought the dichotomy between people who said it was too positive and people who said it was too negative was interesting. I guess it makes sense that autistic people who write Amazon reviews are mostly more functional than Chris (though I could easily imagine him reviewing a book online), while parents with less-functional autistic kids are more motivated around autism than those with high-functioning teenage or adult kids.

But I also think (uninformedly, perhaps), from what I've read by aspie writers in the neurodiversity crowd, that, at least for aspies, life makes a lot more sense from the inside than it seems to from the outside. Adults seem to describe a lot of situations where their bizarre childhood behavior actually made sense in ways that they weren't able (or didn't think) to communicate to their parents or teachers.

For instance, one guy said that haircuts actually hurt him physically as a child, thus his screaming made sense and he was not reassured by being told they did not hurt, which contradicted his experience. Having atypical experiences that those around you do not believe in is bound to make you seem crazy, so if you are unable to recognize people by their faces, or if particular sounds or sights easily overwhelm your sensory processing, or if your mind is different enough that you tend to make different assumptions from those around you, you might seem much more erratic and bizarre than you would to, say, someone who experienced the world in the same basic way. (For instance, screaming in surprise at a very loud clap of thunder might make you seem bizarre/crazy/unruly to an alien with a limited sense of hearing.)

One of the ideas people have about autistics is that they are "mind blind" - they don't really "get" that other people have their own minds and perspectives, and thus aren't able to correctly predict the state of other people's knowledge or how they might respond to things. I have heard some aspies claim that this is not true, and that instead it is only that autistics think differently and expect others to think the same way as they do, and counter that neurotypical folks read the minds of austistic people just as incorrectly, so that it is more like two alien species interacting with each other, not that one side or the other has a particular deficit. (I don't know which perspective is correct.)

Anyway, just some musings.

Monday, June 08, 2009

No Grains Update

So far, the cunning plan is going pretty well - I haven't eaten grains, potatoes, or sugar in the past week (not counting small amounts that may be found in sauces or the like). And last night when (on a whim) I went to the gym, I was 7.5 lbs lighter than I had been on Monday. Even for a first week that is pretty nifty.

I'm eating fruit like crazy, I guess because I can't have other sweet things. I'm amazed how few calories are in most fruits. I've been having lots of blueberries and strawberries mixed with plain Brown Cow cream top yogurt. This is clearly one of the foods of the gods.

Meals are trickier, and I'm having to get more flexible about my ideas of what a meal is. Last night for dinner, I had beef fajitas from Whole Foods (the kind that come raw, marinated and mixed with peppers and onions, which I cooked in a pan with some olive oil). Once I got over feeling sad about not having tortillas, or at least rice, with them, they were actually fantastically good. The quantity I had wasn't really sufficient for a whole meal, but I didn't need a whole meal either, because I'd been snacking a lot of the day.

We have friends who come over most Sundays to do a roleplaying game, and I like to have some snacks on hand. I decided this week not to have snacks I couldn't eat, so I put out blueberries, stawberries, and a package of shrimp cocktail (i.e., cold boiled shrimp with the tails on, plus cocktail sauce), also from Whole Foods. The fruit was popular but the shrimp were not, so I ended up eating most of those (I thought they were fantastic).

Dinner Saturday (returning to the "what's the for dinner") topic was a hamburger patty made of about 1/3 lb of lean ground beef, topped with spicy brown mustard, plus half of a raw red pepper, sliced up, plus a cup of a creamy tomato soup. That was pretty tasty.

We ate out Friday night and I finally, for the first time, had the canonical Atkins food - a bunless cheeseburger. With that I had a mixed greens salad with ranch dressing.

Anyway, enough about food. I also made it to the gym three times last week, which is not very many times, but not nothing either. I swam two of those times and walked (on a treadmill) the other time.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Trivial Math Problems

Sometimes I find myself trying to solve a math problem that turns out to be ridiculously trivial.

For instance, yesterday I was thinking about whether walking to work would be feasible. I live about 2.5 miles away from my job, and I could tolerate it if it took an hour to walk to work. How fast (in miles per hour) would I have to walk in order to cover 2.5 miles in one hour?

Oh yeah.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

My Cunning Plan

Since I began dating Ed, I have gained back the 65 lbs that I lost a few years ago.

When I told him this the other night, he asked if he had in some way influenced this, and the answer is, yes, but not in the way one might think. Ed does not ply me with bonbons or keep me from exercising. But I only lost all that weight before by concentrating on weight loss a whole lot, and Ed has been a lot more fun to concentrate on. As well, being in a relationship has made me happy and content in the usual way that often leads the newly married to gain a bit of weight.

I don't hate being fat that much. I'm not too self-conscious about my body, for instance, and Ed doesn't seem to mind (so the whole "how will I ever find someone to love me" whine is not really relevant, if it ever was). I am able to find clothes that I'm satisfied wearing. I don't go around feeling fat all the time in some kind of oppressive way.

But it isn't healthy, and it does make me much less fit than I could be otherwise, and I do notice those things. And, the thing is, I could kind of accept it, except that I keep gaining weight inexorably and I don't know where it would stop. It's easy to fall into the trap of feeling accepting of the current weight "as long as I don't gain any more" and ending up like the proverbial frog in the pot of slowly boiling water. (It is not true of frogs, by the way, that they will allow themselves to be boiled, however gradually one raises the temperature.)

I've tried losing weight here and there, but never been able to stick with anything longer than a few days. I seem to encounter a brick wall of non-caring pretty soon, and just revert to whatever I was doing before.

But I actually feel motivated right now, as though enough is finally enough, perhaps. (We'll see.) And I have devised an experimental weight-loss scheme, and this is the fourth day, and I can sort of imagine myself sticking with it.

grains, glorious grainsIn short, I have given up grains, potatoes, and sweeteners. This means basically bread, noodles, rice, cereal, french fries, anything battered, tortilla chips, sodas, and so on.

I am excluding grains that are invisible and inconsequential - I will not trouble myself over whether a sauce was thickened with cornstarch or whether spaghetti sauce contains some sugar or corn syrup.

Whatever I do for weight loss needs to be compatible with eating out and with convenience foods (like pasta sauce in a jar), and this diet seems to accomplish that. In restaurants it basically looks like a low-carb diet, but I have no intention of restricting any other carbs: it's open season on fruit, milk, vegetables, and beans, for instance. So this diet will probably end up being somewhat low in carbs, but not specifically by design.

It hasn't been easy so far - the things I've given up are some of the Very Best Foods - but I've managed it, and I think it's getting easier. It's too early to say whether I'm losing weight doing this, but I do find that a lot of my meals are the same size as before except without the starches, which would obviously cut quite a few calories.

I am attracted to the utter simplicity of this idea. And, of course, I have (probably fantastical) hopes that this one particular sacrifice will, by itself (or in conjunction with a moderate amount of exercise), result in some meaningful weight loss, without my having to strenuously guard my diet in other ways. (By "strenuously" I mean something more than just "no, two bunless bacon cheeseburgers is not an appropriate dinner").

I may allow myself one meal with grains per week, because I really do hate to give up some of the restaurant food that I love. But I'm not sure if I want to do that this first week or not.

Anyway, I'll try to post about how this works out. If you never hear anything about it from me again, chances are I lost interest and jumped back in the steamy frog-pot.