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What am I eating now? » 0number of comments:

It’s been a week since I finished that clean eating challenge. Oddly enough, I didn’t go straight for a cheeseburger like I thought I would. I was feeling pretty good, and I wanted that to continue. So my diet this week has been a little “cleaner” than it was before the challenge.

I stayed off the caffeine for another week, although I did have some diet soda this weekend. I want something more interesting than just water sometimes. I’ve been drinking a lot of seltzer, but that’s harder to find out and about. Keeping that to a minimum though.

I had a bunch of leftover spinach and arugula, so I ended up eating a lot of salads this week–spinach with chunks of carrot, diced ham, and cheddar, or arugula with feta and asparagus and leftover salmon.

It’s summer time, so breakfast was mostly variations of “overnight oats.” Side note: This is a really handy and simple recipe: 1/4 cup of rolled oats (not instant, not steel cut), 1/4 cup almond milk (you can use stuff that comes out of a cow if you prefer), 1/4 greek yogurt, 1.5tbsp chia seeds, and 1/4 cup something else. I tried it with blackberries, mandarin oranges + a bit of orange marmalade, and apple sauce + cinnamon. Mix it all up, store in the fridge overnight. It’s ready to eat in the morning. Very versatile.

On the less clean end of the spectrum, I also had chicken tacos (for 2 meals), which only had onions and red peppers as far as vegetables go. And I did have some pizza on Friday for lunch. I have no regrets. The Hurricane pizza from Casa Pizza is delicious, and I held myself to a reasonable amount.

I guess I don’t have a clear definition of what people mean by “clean” eating. Do they mean avoiding highly processed foods? Or avoiding red meats and carbohydrates? It’s a vague word. I’m kind of going by the old Michael Pollan rule of thumb about eat food, not too much, mostly plants.

I’m more interested in exploring healthier options rather than focusing on what’s no longer “allowed.” For example, I’ve gone back to this Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health cookbook. Tonight I made a salad of red leaf lettuce (given to me by my neighbor today from his garden!), feta cheese, chopped almonds, and this avocado citrus dressing. It’s a creamy dressing, about the same consistency as ranch dressing. It’s reminiscent of guacamole but thinner and milder. It’s very good, and it’s about 15 calories per tablespoon (compare with 73 calories per tablespoon in ranch dressing).

I also made some sweet potato, apple, and chipotle soup to go with the salad. I’d made this before, and it’s still tasty. I, naturally, just followed the recipe so now I have an absurd amount of soup. I’m freezing half of it for later.

There’s a lot of interesting stuff in this cookbook that I’m looking forward to trying. I’ll let you folks know if I find anything really tasty.

Buzzfeed Clean Eating Challenge, Part 2 » 0number of comments:

I’m on the final day of this clean eating challenge.

I’ve held myself to it more strictly than I had planned to at the start. I actually did abstain from caffeine, for example. And I feel pretty good right now.

The only variation from the plan was that I had an Athena Wrap from Gansett Wraps instead of eating leftover chili on Thursday. And that’s mostly vegetables with some chicken so it fit the spirit of the challenge.

More disorganized thoughts:

  • The cravings started about a week in, for anything not mostly made of plants. I was hanging out with some friends in a park on Sunday, and one person brought this turkey club sandwich that I eyed with great envy.
  • This has faded somewhat now, but boy I tell you I am going to really enjoy a cheeseburger and some fries tomorrow.
  • I don’t actually miss caffeine that much. I’m actually thinking of continuing to abstain. I tend to live with a constant low-level background hum of anxiety, and this has been been reduced this week. Not sure if I can attribute that to avoiding caffeine, the reduced sugar/wheat in my diet, better nutrition from all the vegetables I’ve been eating, or just a less stressful than usual week.
  • One of the appeals of this meal plan was that I wouldn’t have to decide what to eat for a couple weeks, so I’d have more time. But it backfired. Food prep has taken a lot longer than usual for the duration of the challenge.
  • Some of the plan’s instructions are incomplete or ambiguous. And in some places she gives measurements by “bunch” or “head” when a volume or weight would be more valuable. For example, I’m convinced that the baby bok choy she’s getting is much smaller than the baby bok choy I found in my grocery store. There’s no way that 6 heads worth of that is supposed to fit into a parchment wrapper 12 inches across. I couldn’t get even half of that to fit.
  • She also has you buy more arugula and spinach than you actually use. Most of the other ingredients got used or at least have a long shelf life.
  • I’ve actually dropped a belt size. :-) I’ll have to weigh myself tomorrow.

The Meals (photographed when I remembered to do it):

  • Wednesday Breakfast: Scallion and Feta Omelet: OK, not likely to repeat this one; there are much better things to put into omelets.
  • Wednesday Lunch: Greek Salad with Lentils and Lime Vinaigrette: Better than I expected.
  • Wednesday Snack: Mango Banana Smoothie with Chia Seeds: Made it a point to actually eat the snack today. This was really good.
  • Wednesday Dinner: Roasted Chicken Breast with Fennel and Spinach: I had never eaten fennel before. It’s not bad, licorice-y, but who ever wrote this recipe likes it way more than I do. I think it makes a good accent food, but I don’t think I care for it as the center focus of a meal.
  • Wednesday Night Snack: 2 dates each stuffed with an almond: This is a bit sad
  • Thursday Breakfast: Cauliflower Omelet: Half a head of cauliflower is too much to eat in a sitting, even if you really love cauliflower. Had to throw like half of this away.
  • Thursday Lunch: Quinoa-Fennel-Blueberry Salad with Mint and Lime: Again with the excess of fennel.
  • Thursday Snack: Carrots and Hummus: skipped it again
  • Thursday Dinner: Simple Roasted Salmon with Green Beans and Lentils: Salmon is good stuff. And I accidentally bought extra so I might do that again this week
  • Thursday Night Snack: Blueberries and Almonds. Simple and tasty
  • Friday Breakfast: Chia Seed Pudding with Mangos and Pistachios: Nice to have a breakfast that requires no prep time. Mangos have a good flavor.
  • Arugula Salad with Salmon, Green Beans, and Dijon Vinaigrette: She has you mix up the leftover salmon from Thursday into a tuna-salad like consistency, which actually works pretty well. I liked this.
  • Friday Snack: Carrot and Cucumber with Hummus: Skipped again
  • Friday Dinner: Black Bean Chili with Greek Yogurt and Zucchini Ribbons: The paprika infused yogurt (where I’d typically use sour cream) was a neat touch.
  • Friday Night Snack: Pistachios and Blackberries
  • Saturday Breakfast: Asparagus with Poached Eggs: I made fried eggs instead.
  • Saturday Lunch: Kale Salad with Tomato, Black Beans, and Feta: Canned black beans lose much of their appeal if you don’t cook them. Gross.
  • Saturday Snack: Almonds + an orange
  • Saturday Dinner: Turkey-Basil Meatballs with Collard Greens: It’s obvious now, but I had no idea how easy it was to make meatballs. I’d been just buying frozen meatballs before when I’d make spaghetti, will probably not do that any more. Had never eaten collard greens before (despite my Southern upbringing). They’re OK, just another kind of leaf really.
  • Saturday Night Snack: Dark Chocolate. Mmm. :-)
  • Sunday Breakfast: Blueberry Yogurt Smoothie: I keep forgetting how much I like smoothies, especially on warm days.
  • Sunday Lunch: Shakshuka: As made, this just asparagus and eggs with tomato sauce. :-/
  • Sunday Snack: Strawberries in Almond Butter: This is really delicious
  • Sunday Dinner: Roasted Eggplant with Chickpeas, Cauliflower, and Lemon-Parsley Yogurt: I think I either overcooked the eggplant or cut it up too small. I liked the flavor but there were hard bits throughout that made the texture unpleasant. Also, roasted chickpeas are several times better than the raw canned chickpeas she has you put in a previous day’s salad.
  • Sunday Night Snack: I substituted a pear that I had skipped on a previous day for these sad dates + almond things
  • Monday Breakfast: Sweet and Savory Apple Omelet: This was an interesting flavor, but I think I’d prefer to have scrambled eggs + an apple rather than this mixture.
  • Monday Lunch: Raw Collard Wraps with Turkey Meatballs, Avacado, and Dijon: I really liked this. Collard greens make for excellent wrap materials.
  • Monday Snack: Blackberries with Greek Yogurt
  • Monday Dinner: Fried Quinoa with Snap Peas, Mushrooms, and Scrambled Eggs: This was really good, like fried rice but using quinoa instead.
  • Monday Snack: Pear with Almond Butter
  • Tuesday Breakfast: Cauliflower Hash with Fried Eggs: Cauliflower is no substitute for potatoes and don’t let anyone tell you it is
  • Tuesday Lunch: Arugula Salad with Eggplant, Avacado, Feta, and Chickpeas: Serviceable, but not especially memorable
  • Tuesday Snack: Red Pepper with Hummus: Skipped again!
  • Tuesday Dinner: Kale and Shrimp Bowl with Mushrooms and Avocado: I really liked this. I haven’t made mushrooms part of my diet so much, and I don’t know why. They’re delicious.
  • Tuesday Night Snack: Blackberries
  • Wednesday Breakfast: Kale and Banana Smoothie: This was much better than it was last week. Actually freezing the kale and letting the blender run for longer seems to have helped.
  • Wednesday Lunch: No Mayo Tuna Salad in Romaine Cups: Pretty good. I like this using large-leaf things instead of bread idea.
  • Wednesday Snack: Banana Avocado Pudding: I had accidentally eaten all the avocado, having put it all into the kale and shrimp bowl from last night. But a banana smoothie was pretty great.
  • Wednesday Dinner: Snap Pea Salad with Feta, Radish, and Hard-Boiled Egg: I am not a fan of hard boiled eggs. They’re a gross texture. I mean, they’re edible but not something I like to eat.
  • Wednesday Night Snack: Dark Chocolate
  • Thursday Breakfast: Blackberry Yogurt Parfait: Blackberries and nuts, yes please
  • Thursday Lunch: Subbed in that wrap from Gansett Wraps. Which was delicious.
  • Thursday Snack: Ate the peanuts but left the pear; that wrap was pretty big
  • Thursday Dinner: Asian-Style Cod in Parchment with Bok Choy: This was actively gross. Maybe I didn’t cook it quite long enough or something, but this is the one meal I can’t see someone with a different palate liking. Bleh. Cod is not for me.
  • Thursday Night Snack: Had the chocolate without the almond milk again
  • Friday Breakfast: Overnight Oats with Strawberries and Chia Seeds: Very tasty, and again, nice that it was ready by opening the door and eating it. I’ve got a note saved in evernote with different flavor ideas for overnight oats that I think I’ll be experimenting with over the next few days.
  • Friday Lunch: Snap Pea and Radish Salad with Quinoa and Arugula: OK. More filling than I expected
  • Friday Snack: I actually ate the carrots and hummus this time. It’s very tasty. I like hummus.
  • Friday Dinner: Spicy Tamari Shrimp Lettuce Cups: Possibly my favorite meal of the whole experiment. Reasonably quick to make too.
  • Friday Night Snack: Apples and Honey. Mmmm.

One more day to go!

Buzzfeed Clean Eating Challenge, Part 1 » 1number of comments:

Against all past experience, BuzzFeed has actually published something worthwhile. It’s a comprehensive 2 week healthy meal plan, with a grocery list and exactly what you need to do each day to prep for the next day. You’ll have to forgive the BuzzFeed-y presentation (or just download the PDF summary with all the recipes but none of the pictures).

But it looks really well thought out, so I thought I’d give it a try. My thinking is that it’ll at least be a crash course in a few more healthy meals. I’m already eating things I’ve never had before.

Thoughts so far, 3 days in

  • The grocery bill on this was pretty high. To be fair though, much of that was on stuff that will outlast the 2 weeks of the challenge (almonds are expensive!)
  • I had started off with an almost empty fridge.

  • The meals are physically massive, but they’re mostly plants, so they’re not that bad in terms of calories. For example, Sunday’s lunch consists of 1/2 a bunch of asparagus, 2 cups of arugula, a large tomato, a little cheese, and 3 eggs (for men).
  • The recipes are pretty simple and the weekday lunch ones are designed for portability.
  • I like the variety of meals; I tend to cook one thing and then eat it until it’s gone
  • However, I am spending way more time than usual on food prep, which I like somewhat less.

The meals so far:

  • Sunday Breakfast: Kale and Banana Smoothie: This is not great. I’m sure it’s healthy and all but I hate the texture.
  • Sunday Lunch: Shaved Asparagus Salad with Shallots and Fried Eggs. This one will likely be making it into my regular rotation, although with one fewer egg and a bit less tomato I think. Was very tasty but a lot of liquid runoff.
  • My favorite meal of the challenge so far.

  • Sunday Snack: Carrots and Hummus: Didn’t eat, was too full
  • Sunday Dinner: Roast Chicken Bowl with Quinoa and Kale: Also likely to make it into the rotation, simple to make and tasty
  • Sunday Evening Snack: Pears with Almond Butter: Did not eat, too full.
  • Monday Breakfast: Overnight Oats with Blueberries and Chia Seeds: I liked the flavor but I think I used the wrong kind of oats, steel cut instead of the more traditional shape which I think has more surface area. Was very thick and dense, could not finish it.
  • Monday Lunch: Kale, Chickpea, and Fennel Salad with Orange Vinaigrette: SO MUCH FENNEL. But not bad, totally serviceable lunch.
  • Monday Snack: Sliced Tomato with Basil, Feta, and Balsamic: Ended up not eating this because work got too busy
  • Monday Dinner: Napa Cabbage Wraps with Chicken, Tomato, Mango, and Avacado: I liked everything but the cabbage here (but my grocery store didn’t have the Napa cabbage, only the ordinary kind, which I’m sure makes a difference, at least in shape and probably in leaf integrity).
  • Monday Evening Snack: Was at a friends house and ended up eating some cheese instead of the orange. But oranges are tasty too. :-)
  • Tuesday Breakfast: Blackberry Yogurt Parfait. Very good, I don’t know why I don’t eat more blackberries, will have to correct that.
  • Tuesday Lunch: Asian Chicken Salad with Tamari-Lime Vinaigrette: Tasty; an excess of cabbage though, but again, wrong cabbage.
  • Tuesday Snack: Lemony Avacado: Actually ate this snack. I like avacados.
  • Tuesday Dinner: Cauliflower Steaks with Lentils: This tasted better than I expected. You roast the cauliflower for half an hour which lets it carmelize. Had never eaten lentils before, very earthy flavor to them. I don’t know that I’ll ever eat this again, but it wasn’t the torture I expected (not a huge fan of cauliflower and was not looking forward to them as the center of the meal).
  • Cauliflower Steaks with Lentils

    Not as bad as expected!

  • Tuesday Snack: Hot Chocolate: I ended up eating the chocolate and leaving the almond milk out of it, it’s too hot for hot chocolate.

More updates, later in the challenge. I’ll have to actually take photos of the rest of the meals after I make them. Or, you could look at the professionally photographed ones in the article that look much better than mine! 😛

ASUS RT-N65U Custom Firmware » 0number of comments:

If you own an Asus RT-N65U, you owe it to yourself to upgrade it to this custom firmware. I know that it looks a bit sketchy, but this firmware takes all the features that ASUS shipped with the router and makes them better.

For example, the router ships with a bittorrent client that will download files onto an external hard drive you plug into the router. The stock firmware makes you log into the router’s configuration website and manually upload the .torrent file to start a download. This custom firmware watches a folder on the hard drive, so you just drop the .torrent files in there and it starts downloading them.

The DLNA client is simpler and better organized (sorting the files by name instead of by date which makes much more sense). And this custom firmware includes a VPN server which I don’t think the original firmware did at all.

Installation is simple. Just download the file, go into the router, choose Update Firmware, and give it the file you just downloaded. It’ll reset all your settings though, so write down your wifi settings and port forwarding settings and all that if you want to keep them.

I am pleased.

Skills of an Artist » 0number of comments:

I’ve been looking for a hobby that doesn’t involve looking at a screen, since it feels like most of my waking hours are spent staring at glowing rectangles. So I decided to try learning how to draw.

I had heard good things about Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and now I know why. I’m a couple of chapters into the book and I’ve already gone from terrible stick-figure-style art to this drawing of my left hand.

Picture of left hand in the V for Victory sign

V for Victory

This is a huge, huge improvement over my previous skills, let me tell you.

The trick is: draw what you see. It sounds silly, but it’s not. The brain translates what you see into symbols. If you look at a chair, your brain does not spend a lot of energy processing details about it unless something is odd or out of place. It just says “that’s a chair” and moves on.

When you try to draw that chair, you likely will have trouble because you’re trying to draw the mental shortcut for a chair (“well I know a chair has four legs, so I’ll draw those…”) rather than imitating the lines and curves of the object in front of you.

The exercises in the book are designed to short-circuit this symbol processing so that you can more accurately draw what you see. For example, one of the first exercises is to copy a drawing from the book after turning it upside down. This makes it much easier to see the actual lines rather than seeing eyes and a nose and a mouth.

If you want to learn how to draw in a realistic style, you could do a lot worse than this book.

Make Twitter Less Sucky With Stylish + This User Style » 0number of comments:

I wrote up a quick-and-dirty “User Style” to make Twitter not suck so bad. Now it looks like this:

Here’s how to make it work on Firefox: Install Stylish and restart Firefox. Go to twitter.com and log in. Click the Stylish icon in the bottom-left corner, choose Write New Style -> For This Page. Give it a name of your choice and replace the text with the contents of this text file. Hit save. Enjoy.

Lift » 1number of comments:

Lift

Lift is a free iPhone app which helps you achieve daily goals. It’s pretty and it’s simple: You make a list of habits that you want to achieve every day (say “Floss” or “Exercise” for example). Then you go them and check them off as you accomplish them. Over time, your chart fills up with little green dots that mark how frequently you achieved your goals.

It’s essentially the grown-up equivalent of those little sticker charts that parents and elementary school teachers use to motivate kids. It’s free for the iPhone, with Android and web versions promised for the future.

Fever » 4number of comments:

Much and more has been written about Google executing Google Reader. That decision has eroded the last of my trust and good will for the company and has forced me to seek an alternative RSS service.

After some research, I went with Fever, for many reasons:

  1. I host the software myself, which means that I don’t have to worry about whatever service I jump to canceling on me again.
  2. The installation process is fairly easy, compared to some of the other self-hosted programs I researched.
  3. It syncs with Reeder, my preferred iPhone feed reader.
  4. Their site works right now. Many of the alternatives I was looking at are barely keeping up with the strain of the mass exodus.

Two caveats: First, you’ll need web hosting. System requirements and installation difficulty are similar to WordPress. Second, Fever is not free: It costs a one-time fee of $30.

I am pretty impressed with Fever so far. It works smoothly, imported my old data without much fuss, and syncs with Reeder just as I had hoped it would

It also has some neat features of its own. The main selling point is the Hot list. Fever has you break your feeds into two categories. “Kindling” are your must-read feeds, the ones where you want to read every single post. “Sparks” are low-priority or high-volume feeds where you don’t necessarily care about every entry.

Kindling is handled pretty much the same way Google Reader handles feeds, while Sparks are kept separate. They are combined in the Hot List: Links that several of your feeds point to are ranked higher, highlighting most talked about stuff. It’s a pretty neat way to handle the information overload you might otherwise experience with a traditional feed reader.

Overall, I think it’ll work for me. I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone since it does require a measure of tech-savviness to set up, but if you are able and willing to set it up it’s a worthy replacement for Google Reader.

Upgrading the Kindle Fire to Android 4.2.1 » 3number of comments:

I’ve got a first generation Kindle Fire. But I was frustrated by the Amazon software: You can’t install apps from the Google Play store, and a lot of features that other Android tablets have are either disabled or crippled.

So, thanks to the hard work of the folks down at the XDA Developers forum, I replaced the software with the Android 4.2.1, the same software that runs the new Nexus 7 tablets.

I have found the Android experience to be superior in almost every way; the only thing I’ve given up is the ability to watch Instant Watch videos and the ability to use the Amazon Prime Lending Library, two features I never used anyway. In exchange, I now have a full-featured tablet.

Here’s how I did it (mostly for my own reference if I ever need to do it again); no guarantees that this will work for you:

  1. Use the Kindle Fire Utility to install FireFireFire! and TWRP. FireFireFire is a bootloader, a menu that lets you choose between the standard firmware and something else when rebooting. TWRP is a recovery tool that lets you backup, restore, wipe out, and install software onto the tablet.

    Getting these installed is the trickiest part of the process. Here are the details:

    1. Download the software and unzip it to a folder
    2. Make sure the Kindle is unplugged from the PC
    3. If your Windows user name has a space in it, you’ll need to edit the install_drivers.bat file: on Lines 9 and 10, put quotes around anything that has %userprofile% in it, so that they look like this:

      if not EXIST "%userprofile%\.android\" ( mkdir "%userprofile%\.android\" )
      copy drivers\kindle\adb_usb.ini "%userprofile%\.android\adb_usb.ini"
      
    4. Open a command prompt as administrator and navigate to the folder
    5. Run install_drivers.bat, allowing the unsigned driver to install
    6. Plug in the Kindle Fire
    7. Run run.bat
    8. At the bottom of the menu it will say “ADB Status: Online.” If it does not, reboot the kindle and then push 0 to check again. If it still does not, something has gone wrong and you’re on your own.
    9. Once you’ve gotten that sorted out, select the menu options for Install FireFireFire and Install TWRP. Everything should just install smoothly from there. If it does not, check that forum thread for the Kindle Fire Utility linked above.
  2. Boot into the TWRP recovery by turning off the Kindle. Turn it back on, and then tap the power button once the Kindle Fire logo pops up to switch into Recovery Mode.

  3. Push the Back Up button in the TWRP menu to back up your current data. For this and the next few steps, you can also follow along with this guide; he’s got screenshots.

  4. Factory reset your tablet by tapping Wipe, then Factory Reset. THIS WILL ERASE EVERYTHING. MAKE SURE YOU DID THE BACKUP STEP FIRST IF YOU CARE ABOUT ANY OF THE DATA ON YOUR TABLET.

  5. Go back to the main menu and choose Mount; this will make the Kindle show up as a flash drive on your PC. You’re going to need to copy over 3 zip files:

    1. The main Android 4.2.1 software.
    2. The Google Apps. Download CyanogenMod 10.1.x for Android 4.2.1, currently the top link.
    3. If you use a non-gmail email account, you’ll need the AOSP version of the email app here.
  6. Once you’ve gotten those zip files copied over to the Kindle, unmount it from your computer, then go to Install and choose all three of those files.

  7. Once installed, it will give you the option to “Wipe Cache/Dalvik.” Do that.

  8. Reboot the kindle. If all went well, you’re now running Android 4.2.1 on your Kindle! If it did not, at least you made a backup, right?

Podcastle » 0number of comments:

I’ve been catching up on Podcastle episodes lately and there have been some excellent stories in there. I can’t say too much about the stories without spoiling them but I’ll try to describe them briefly:

Outlander was just fun and clever, a tale of a barbarian nobleman who joins high society.

I thought the concept behind Another Word for Map is Faith was fascinating, the idea of missionary-cartographers who bend the landscape to match their maps.

Fable From a Cage probably should have been run on the horror podcast Pseudopod instead. It’s a dark story, about a thief and his encounter with a faerie.

The Axiom of Choice is a take on the old Choose Your Own Adventure stories I read as a kid. It may take a couple minutes to get used to the reading, but the reward is one of the best stories that Podcastle has run in a long time (and there have been a lot of good ones!).

I also loved We Never Talk About My Brother. A story about Jacob and Esau, but not the ones from the Bible. The reader really adds to this one; the midwestern drawl is perfect for the small-town narrator of the story.

I’m currently listening to a reading of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. Steve Anderson has read a bunch of stories for the Escape Artist podcasts and it’s not hard to hear why they keep bringing him back.

Good work, Escape Artists!