All of a sudden a month has gone by without me publishing anything on here. I’ve drafted a couple of other, longer, posts but nothing ready for prime time yet (if any of this jibber jabber can be considered ready for prime time… but that’s another discussion…)
Anyway, perhaps “still fasting” isn’t quite accurate. My intermittent fasting experiment has been very intermittent. I practiced a 16 hour +/- fast for a couple of weeks pretty steadily. Then I tried a few days of 1 meal per day with about 23 hours of fasting. If 18 is good then 23 is better right?
Not really. At least not consistently in my (limited) experience.
I started feeling run down, got a cold, and then resumed shoveling pretty much whatever food I could find into my gob for the next few weeks. I have no idea whether getting sick had anything to do with fasting, but eating more felt right at the time.
But for the last week or so I’ve been back on the approximately 16 (fasting)/8 (eating) schedule and it’s been working well.
This time I’ve tried to be a little more lenient, especially on days that I lift weights. On rest days I will eat lunch around noon, then shut down the food train after dinner (around 6 to 6:30 p.m. usually). But days that I lift I will eat again after my workout, around 9 to 10 p.m. Usually a tin of sardines and some peanut butter with oats and honey (sort of a homemade granola bar mush – trust me it’s amazing).
I’ve also tried to put some intention towards cycling both carbs and calories. On rest days I try to eat less – both in total amount of food and of carb heavy stuff. On workout days I pretty much eat everything I see, but try to focus on good proteins and fats.
I was listening to The Tim Ferriss Show podcast earlier today (I think it was the episode The 4-Hour Workweek Revisited) and Tim was talking about how he always has this question queued up in his mind for when difficult situations arise:
How can I view this as a gift?
It really connected with me as a great way to flip the script when you’re first reaction may be frustration, annoyance, or anger. Instead, how can I learn from this? How can I see this as an opportunity?
This is in line with other Buddhist teaching I have come across, in terms of seeing Buddha, as a teacher, in others and looking at challenging situations as opportunities to learn. It reminded me of this quote as well:
In a work situation, if you have a particularly cantankerous boss who you think is a complete idiot, can you look at that person as the Buddha? As a manager, can you see that person who is working for you as the Buddha?
-Gerry Shishin Wick Sensei, “Zen in the Workplace”
After stumbling on some articles discussing intermittent fasting (like this one) a week or so ago I decided to give it a try. Started with a rough 16-8 routine of 16 fasting hours and 8 eating hours. I noticed that was pretty easy and it was more like 18 to 20 hours fasting most days. So the last two days I’ve done a full 24 hours, eating just one good sized meal each day and feeling great. It’s been an eye opening experiment from a mindfulness standpoint, challenging many assumptions I held about food, diet, and nutrition. Much more to come on this.
I spend a lot of time trying to improve building performance on other people’s buildings through my day job, but I especially love experimenting on my own house. I’m in the middle of renovating what will be the kids’ playroom, and wanted to add some insulation to the attic above. Here’s the story of my experience with DIY blown-in fiberglass insulation.
My attic already had some fiberglass batts. Of course they were a little sporadic and didn’t fit tightly around things like recessed lights. The lights are IC rated so the gaps just represent heat leaks.
To deal with this as efficiently as possible I figured blown-in insulation was the way to go. It’s easy to transport up through the small hatch into the attic (it travels through a hose) and fills in all the little gaps nicely.
I had to choose between cellulose and fiberglass blown-in insulation material.
While cellulose probably does a bit better job at reducing air flow, I’m not too concerned about this as my intent is to create an air barrier at the ceiling plane anyway. I didn’t love the idea of a bunch of fire retardant chemicals in the cellulose, but the real clincher for the fiberglass was the machine and the mess (or lack there-of).
My local Lowe’s gave me the Owens Corning AttiCat machine to go with the fiberglass material at no charge. There was no minimum purchase or other strings. The machine was easy to transport in my minivan (best work truck ever) since it easily came apart into two pieces. The bottom was a little heavy to lift into the van but nothing too bad.
In the YouTube videos I watched of other installs, cellulose looked really dusty. I’ve been in tons of attics with cellulose, but had never seen it installed before.
The videos of blown-in fiberglass, by contrast, looked shockingly clean. Normally I associate fiberglass with itchy four-letter-word-inducing misery, but this looked half decent.
Turns out, the videos were pretty accurate. The blown-in fiberglass was really low dust and I didn’t have any reaction other than some slightly red eyes despite my safety glasses. Full coverage goggles would probably have been better.
Setting up the machine was a breeze. It was supposed to come with a remote control on the end of the hose, but mine didn’t for whatever reason. Luckily I had a capable assistant to push the buttons. I still fed all the bags in.
I love photography and I love business, so I’m indulging my inner entrepreneur and starting a photography business. I also love my day job so it will be a photography side hustle and a fun experiment.
I’m a tinkerer. I’m the person who is constantly moving furniture around to optimize a room layout.
I like testing ideas and seeing what works.
Photography has been a hobby of mine for years, going back to a little Olympus APS film camera that I had as a kid. I get a lot of satisfaction from both the technology – the equipment and processing tools – and the art.
Over the years I’ve amassed a modest collection of basic DSLR gear and learned a bit about a variety of photo processing software. I still have a lot to learn but know enough, and have the tools, to make some engaging photos.
Since I’ve become a dad my subject matter has skewed heavily towards portraits. I find people are more interested in photos of other people too, so it’s practical both from a family documentation standpoint as well as entertainment value.
As a result I have quite a collection of family portraits to draw from, and creating a simple portfolio wasn’t too much effort.
After a couple hours of work over the course of several days, I came up with what I think is a pretty decent site to showcase my portfolio and solicit clients looking for a photographer in Stow, MA.
Now that the basic framework is in place I will start optimizing for organic search and other marketing. As it stands, no one would ever know it’s there!
First on the list is a more SEO-friendly main page, and then some location-optimized landing pages for surrounding towns.
Once someone finds it and decides to try out the service, then I can get some feedback and start optimizing the customer experience too. It’s all sort of a shot in the dark at this point.
I’m excited to have a platform to experiment on, and just see what happens. I have no real expectations, other than to have some fun and learn a few things – both about photography and about business.
I’ve already really enjoyed getting back into some simple WordPress website construction after taking most of the last couple of years off from working on my family travel blog. Not to mention the fun of going back through years of family memories!
I recently learned that Amazon reviews are not the idyllic community of engaged shoppers that I had subconsciously assumed. Naive me.
It all started with headphones.
I got a pair of earbuds as a Christmas present this year. In the box there was a little piece of paper with the typical “register for extended warranty” type stuff. It also said there were other perks for registering.
I usually throw those things right in the recycle bin. But on a whim I went to the website.
I couldn’t register for the extended warranty (since it was a gift I didn’t have the order number). I could, however, indicate interest in reviewing future products. I figured, why not?
A few days later I got an email saying they would like a new product reviewed, offering to refund the purchase price of a new pair of over-the-ear Bluetooth headphones. The email didn’t say anything about the review needing to be positive, or even that it needed to happen to get the refund.
So I took a chance and bought the headphones, thinking I could just return them if I didn’t get the refund (I don’t need another pair of headphones).
But to my shock the refund showed up in my PayPal account within hours of me submitting proof of purchase. Wow.
I used the headphones for a week or so and then wrote a review. I did give them 5 stars, which to me means a product I’m happy with and is a good value for the price, with no significant deficiencies (again given the price context). I think I was pretty balanced in the review text and I did my best to review as if I had paid for them.
I disclosed in the review that I had gotten a refund for the headphones.
What I did not know is that Amazon does not currently allow compensated reviews of any kind.
I don’t have a problem with compensated reviews (clearly). Reviews take time, especially decent ones that say more than “nice product” and I don’t have an issue with someone getting compensated for their time.
But the compensation needs to be disclosed. Then people can make of it what they want, and everything is in the open. Incentivizing people to hide their compensation sucks.
Amazon isn’t helping things here. Apparently compensated reviews used to be allowed, as long as they were disclosed. I think by forcing this underground they’ve made the situation worse. Data from this article in Forbes about “Amazon’s Fake Review Problem” supports my gut reaction here:
Since the announcement [that compensated reviews would be banned], though, there’s been no improvement. Indeed, ReviewMeta’s data indicates that the average review weight – the measure of how trustworthy reviews are overall – has almost halved since Amazon announced its strategy for dealing with the problem.
In any case, my overall trust in Amazon reviews is way down.
Having said that, though, I’ve rarely bought a well-reviewed product and found it to be lacking. It’s even true with my infamous headphones – they’re a legitimately good product.
Anyway, I’m done with compensated Amazon reviews.
But I am going to try to review more products that I buy for myself – do my part to counterbalance the system of undisclosed compensated reviews.
Overall the experience felt gross and I didn’t like it at all. I should have been more skeptical and checked the rules first.
Actually, there is a bigger take away:
Had I recognize fully that I didn’t need the headphones, and therefore getting them at no cost represented minimal, if any value, I would have ignored the offer. I wouldn’t have missed out on any happiness (the headphones didn’t solve any problem I had) but would have avoided the trouble and anxiety that resulted from the experience.
In other words, Dhamma is the ecology of the mind. This is how nature has arranged things, and it has always been like this, in a most natural way. The mind with Dhamma has a natural spiritual ecology because it is fresh, beautiful, quiet, and joyful. This is most natural. It is calm and peaceful because nothing disturbs it. It contains a deep spiritual solitude, so that nothing can disturb or trouble it. Its joy is cool.
Weights are scary right? I always thought so. Even in college when I actually went to the gym on a semi-regular basis I never strayed much beyond the various machines with little silhouette figures that show how to do each exercise.
Even that stopped when I dislocated my shoulder on the fly machine. That’s a story for another day, but the point is until recently I hadn’t been in a gym in like 15 years.
But great news! As it turns out, weight lifting doesn’t actually seem to be scary, and is actually pretty fun.
I had been running a lot since last spring, but with winter now fully upon us I’m finding it a lot harder to get out on the roads. Between the snow banks and earlier sunset it’s just not working. So I’ve been looking for another way to get some regular exercise (besides chasing my 3 kids and fixing up my dilapidated house).
I saw a chance to win a 3 month membership to a local gym at a fall festival and gave it a shot. With some luck I won and decided to use it as motivation to learn to use the free weights.
Not wanting to pay to join a gym, but also not wanting to invest in fitness gear left me doing mostly pushups, pullups, and the occasional 6-year-old curl. So the free gym membership was the perfect segue.
I told myself if I used it, and liked it, then I’d look out for some cheap weights to use at home.
Turns out I did like it, and it wasn’t nearly as scary as I thought.
For some reason it’s intimidating to jump into the free weights area and start lifting. Much more intimidating than using the machines.
Not going to lie, it took me a couple of trips to even venture into the free weights area. My routine was something like: warm up on treadmill, walk confidently towards free weights, see that some else was in that area, make abrupt turn like I was actually going to the water bubbler the whole time. Repeat.
There was always like one other person. Not empty, so I could try things without fear of being judged. Not a bunch of people so I wouldn’t be noticed. But one other person. Always.
But after lots of self-talk and studying of YouTube videos I managed to drag myself in there one night. I grabbed some dumbbells and did my best impression of the guy I had seen doing curls a few minutes before. No one laughed – call that a win.
After that I went to the gym pretty regularly for a couple of months before starting to look on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist for home weightlifting gear. It took about 2 weeks of scouring ads and several near-misses on good deals before I scored a complete package of bench, squat rack, bar, and plates plus some random other bits and pieces for $160.
That getup is now sitting happily in my basement where I cleared a space, and I’m loving the 30 second commute to the gym whenever I want to workout. That convenience has drastically increased my workout frequency.
I got everything before my 3 free months ran out too, so no gym membership fees either! Suffice to say I’m pretty happy with how this whole weightlifting thing is working out so far.