Oldskooler Ramblings

the unlikely child born of the home computer wars

Archive for January, 2006

Three Cheers for Ritalin

Posted by Trixter on January 9, 2006

Most people who criticize “the mass medication of our generation’s children” with Ritalin, I have found, don’t really understand Ritalin or what it targets. They think that you take an overactive child with ADD or ADHD and then feed them Ritalin so that they slow down and just sit there, drooling. (Mancow Muller, as much as I enjoy his radio show, is especially guilty of promoting this idea.) Well, that is pretty much the opposite of the truth; Ritalin is actually a stimulant. A humorous yet still somewhat accurate portrayal of what Ritalin does can be seen in the Simpsons episode “Brother’s Little Helper“.

We just got back from Sam’s psych appointment and had nothing but praise for the 7-day trial of Ritalin we tried with Sam. Sam was normally unresponsive, distant, couldn’t hold a conversation, didn’t look you in the eye… par for the course for Pervasive Developmental Disorder, which is what Sam is affected with. But on this Ritalin trial, he really opened up: He looked you in the eye, heard conversations from across the room and joined in them, wasn’t behind the entire class in activities… a complete turnaround. It’s not the miracle PDD cure (there isn’t one), but it made such a difference that we’re adding it to his regular daily medication and have renewed hope for his educational development.

Perhaps the best thing about Ritalin is that it enabled Sam to finally play with his brother — and not just for twenty minutes, but for hours. I almost cried when I saw that (and I think Melissa actually did).

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Week #2

Posted by Trixter on January 8, 2006

After 9 hours of sleep and the usual morning defecation, I took my measurements:

  • 231 pounds
  • 31.5% body fat
  • Blood pressure 141/79

4 pounds and 1% body fat improvement! It’s nice to see The Secret in action. Not bad for just one week, and that was without exercise.

I’m rewarding myself with a can of regular Pepsi and a slice of apple pie. Before you flip out, the pop’n’pie is 500 calories total; it won’t break the bank, and besides you have to give yourself little rewards or else you’ll just break down and eat the entire pie.

Posted in Weight Loss | 3 Comments »

A Sam and Max of my very own

Posted by Trixter on January 7, 2006

Okay, once and for all: No, I did not intentionally name my children Sam and Max after Steve Purcell’s excellent comic series (or the Lucasarts game). But I am glad it worked out that way :-)

In a few years, they’ll be old enough to play it — I can hardly wait!

Posted in Family, Gaming | 2 Comments »

The Proof in the Pudding

Posted by Trixter on January 7, 2006

I’m realistic about what works and what doesn’t, and I know that exercise is key to losing weight faster (not to mention, you know, living longer). And I love running; it’s not complicated, it clears my head, and I get to listen to my favorite music or podcasts. Yet I’m not exercising for the entire month of January. Why? Because I’m so heavy for my frame that my knees and back are giving me problems. So I have to lose weight first through dieting, and that’s what really sucks because it’s a waiting game.

When I started this log, I decided for the first four weeks to measure my weight and body fat percentage every Sunday (since the year conveniently started on a Sunday, and I’m anal about things lining up). At no point was I going to obsessively take measurements every day — Sunday morning, that’s it. So, the 1st of January, those measurements were:

  • 235 pounds
  • 32.5% body fat

I have been putting all of my efforts into eating properly this week; tomorrow, I hope to see the proof in the pudding when I get on that scale. I am looking for any improvement to those stats. Here’s hoping.

Posted in Weight Loss | 3 Comments »

Habit #3: Noshing

Posted by Trixter on January 7, 2006

Okay, this one is as hard to give up as pop: It’s natural to snack on something while I compute, watch a movie, etc. It’s like a nervous habit. So how to mitigate the cost of the habit? Nosh on low-calorie stuff, obviously. Here is a list of snacks that I’ve found have a low calorie content and, somehow, don’t taste like ass:

  • Trader Joe’s Oriental Rice Crackers. They’re small and light, and a little sweet thanks to the Sweet Rice they’re made of. They’re around 110 calories a serving, and if you try to eat more than that, your tongue starts to burn — the self-limiting snack! Credit goes to Melissa for finding these.
  • Hot-air-popped popcorn. Must be popped via hot-air popper so you don’t use oil. Don’t put butter on it, although seasoned salt is just fine, or some of the other seasoned toppings you can sprinkle on it like Kernel Season’s (groan) Ranch or Nacho Cheddar. Go ahead and eat as much as you want; you’ll be full long before you ingest more than 100 calores. (And never ever eat the microwave stuff — it’s just plain nasty, almost synthetic. Come on, you know it is.)
  • Celery sticks. Don’t load them down with peanut butter or anything, just eat them. Strip the little strings off if it bugs you. Why celery? Because celery sticks are just plain hilarious: They have so few calories (9 or less) that your body expends more energy eating them than they provide! I suppose it is possible to, well, die if all you were given was celery to live on. Still hilarious.

There you go. Get snacking.

Posted in Weight Loss | 1 Comment »

Habit #2: Skipping Breakfast

Posted by Trixter on January 6, 2006

You would think that skipping a meal would be beneficial to losing weight. Unless you’re eating nine meals a day, you’d be horribly wrong. Skipping breakfast means that your blood sugar is low by lunchtime, and you’re ravenous, so you eat a giant meal. Quickly. So quickly, in fact, that you usually end up eating more than you really need to.

The solution is to eat something — anything — for breakfast, preferably something healthy. Me personally, I don’t have time, so I have a shake for breakfast (Carnation Instant Breakfast, Slimfast, etc.). They’re about 250 calories so they won’t break the bank. This way, I’m not dying by the time lunch rolls around, and I eat properly.

Posted in Weight Loss | 2 Comments »

The Secret

Posted by Trixter on January 6, 2006

There’s no big secret to weight loss. One of the revelations I took away from The Hacker’s Diet was that 3500 calories equals a pound. (Yes, I know nutritionists are having a conniption right now with that statement, but on average, across all types of food, that is a correct statement.) So how do you lose weight? Either take in less calories, or burn more than you take in. The Hacker’s Diet outlines a system where you can measure what you’re taking in, and then just subtract 3500 calories a week from what you ingest, et voila: You lose a pound a week.

I don’t have the patience for a complicated system, but Walker’s book was still an eye opener for me. How simple and dumb is it to lose weight? Well… simple and dumb. Just ingest less calories than you need, and your body will take the rest from fat. Duh.

The problem is how to ingest less without feeling hungry and crabby all the time. More on that later.

Posted in Weight Loss | 2 Comments »

Habit #1: Pop

Posted by Trixter on January 5, 2006

For two decades, I’ve had a pop (soda, soft drink, fizzy, whatever your local vernacular calls it) next to my keyboard every time I sit down to compute. I’ve been doing this since the family got a computer when I was 14. It got worse in college; I covered an entire wall with my discarded Mello Yello cans once every semester. Once I hit age 26, my metabolism slowed way down, and the weight started to pile on… Give it up completely and switch to water? I… can’t. I know that’s a cop-out, but that’s my problem; I can’t just give it up cold turkey. So just switch to diet pop, right?

The problem is, I can’t stand diet pop. I absolutely hate it. To me, it’s ass in a can. But I have to switch, because I’m consuming between 450 to 750 calories a day on just pop. (We’ll conveniently ignore the state of my teeth for now.) So I’ve done a lot of taste testing research, and here’s my list of diet pop for people who can’t stand diet:

  • Diet Dr. Pepper: Surprisingly close to the real thing. Must be the prunes.
  • Diet Pepsi with Lime: The lime is a blatant cover for the already citrus-y taste of diet sweetener.
  • Fresca: I didn’t even know this was diet until about a year ago! A pleasant surprise, because I’ve always liked it. Recommended.
  • Diet A&W Root Beer: If chilled to within a degree of zero celsius, it’s very hard to notice this is diet, and goes down smooth.

If you absolutely can’t stomach diet pop, then at least try Coke C2. I highly recommend this for anyone first starting their journey: It’s Coke, but with half the sweet (and therefore half the calories). It’s not terrible, and slowly gets you adjusted to the taste of pop that doesn’t have 150 calories of sweetener.

Posted in Weight Loss | 4 Comments »

Where did Trixter come from?

Posted by Trixter on January 5, 2006

Seriously, where did my handle “Trixter” come from, anyway? I’ve had the handle since 1986, long before the rock group existed. Some people think it’s because I knew software piracy tricks (cracking games, or at least figuring out how to copy them leaving the protection intact). Others think it’s because I knew programming and VGA hardware tricks during my active stint in the demoscene. But, honestly, I was taking a subway into Chicago to buy comic books with some high school friends in 1985, and “TRIXTER” was spray-painted on the inside of the subway car. It stuck in my head, and I used it as my first BBS login handle. Anti-climactic, I know.

Now you know the truth… which is why I can’t let you live.

Posted in Demoscene, Software Piracy | Leave a Comment »

A System of Weights and Measures

Posted by Trixter on January 5, 2006

I’ve tried to lose weight in the past, and there were two main obstacles:

  1. It was beyond my willpower to change my habits cold turkey
  2. After a while, the weight loss would stop or reverse, even during periods of regular exercise

The longest stretch I’ve ever been able to go was about 8 weeks, and then one or both of these would boot me off the path to improving my appearance. So I’ve come up with two plans to combat my biggest hurdles:

Don’t measure weight loss to track your progress; instead, measure fat percentage. A “good” problem to have when exercising and losing weight is to hit a plateau, because it means you’re gaining muscle, which weighs more than fat. However, even though I know this, it usually throws me off (“Why did I *gain* weight the last two weeks?”). So we bought a digital scale that also measures fat percentage. This neat trick is performed by having you stand on two metal plates while it zaps you with low-current electricity, then measures your body’s ability to conduct said electricity (which is affected by how fat you are). Your weight may go up and down, but your body fat percentage almost always constantly declines, so that’s what I’m going to pay attention to.

Changing habits cold turkey: Don’t. It’s not possible. Instead, you have to make very small changes, maybe one or two a week, until you don’t notice you’ve changed. Baby steps, my friend. Baby steps.

In future posts, I’ll be documenting the slow and gradual changes I’ve been making. Hopefully, other overweight computer nerds will be able to benefit from anything I discover.

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