If, like me, you tried to access this site yesterday, you probably didn’t have much luck. The MySQL service was acting up again. It seems to be doing that with greater frequency lately and I’m not sure why. My host has created a task that restarts the MySQL service every morning. I assume that’s why the site seems to be behaving today. That’s a good thing, however, I don’t like the fact that the site was down for a whole day. It’s a terrible inconvenience to you and it probably cost me a few bucks in Adsense revenue.
One of my 2006 New Year resolutions was to sell and buy something on eBay. I tried in earnest to buy football tickets, but I quickly tired of the process. I’m not a particularly rich guy, but I won’t soon be going through that process again to save a few bucks. I didn’t end up buying those Cotton Bowl tickets from eBay and I’ll never get that two hours back.
I am, and was, a bit of an eBay noob, so I’m sure I wasn’t doing it right. I looked for people selling Cotton Bowl tickets that had only a few minutes left in the auction. I would bid just higher than the latest bid and I would be the winner for about 7 microseconds. I quickly learned that you can bid an amount, and eBay ups your bid as necessary to win until it reaches that amount. I progressively bid more money until I got to the point that I bid what I was willing to pay. Not exactly the bargain I was expecting. However, at the very last moment, I would be overbid and lose. I was overbid by the same person in each of the seven auction in which I participated. There’s a game going on there whose rules I am keenly unaware of. I gave up and paid face value for the tickets – something I should have done two hours before. Maybe tickets to sporting events are different from other things, but I won’t be buying anything from eBay any time soon. My time is simply worth more than that. But I tried.
Today, the wife and I were hovering over a big box of books. We decided to unburden ourselves of most of the books and started going through them. In the end we had a keep pile, a salvage pile, and a throw pile. I told her that the options for the salvage pile (about 100 books) was to donate them to the local library or to sell them on eBay. We decided to sell them on eBay. My local library sucks eggs. That may inspire some people to donate their salvage pile, but not me. If they’re not even going to try, why should I.
I went on to eBay to sell some books. I sorted the books into groups that I would sell as a bundle and chose the bundle of how-to-play-poker books to sell first. The series of forms that I had to fill out were confusing and unintuitive. When I finally figured everything out, or so I thought, I clicked the “Save and Continue” button. It did nothing. It brought up a new page that looks exactly like the page I just left. I was expecting a new page that said “Click here to confirm your item for sale” or “Hey, you screwed up this part. Fix it and try again.” I went to live chat, but they were too busy to talk to me. I sent them an email (another strange process) and I can expect to hear from them in 24-48 hours. That’s great. I’m a little sour on the process. I’ll follow through with this sale, most likely, but the Omaha Public Library can probably expect a donation of about 96 books next month.
Last fall I read a book entitled The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. When I say read, I mean listened to. Whenever possible, I buy books on CD and try to make the most of my 25 minute commute. I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone that asks. As a result of reading this book, I went on a diet. That’s not particularly earth shattering. I’m a fairly fat guy and I’m constantly going on and off diets. My theory for this diet was that what I was eating was as important as how much I was eating. If I ate the right kinds of foods, the portions and metabolism would take care of themselves. No need to count calories or weigh myself.
The theory was half-baked from the start, to say the least. But I wasn’t really doing anything so I had nothing to lose by trying the diet. The rules of the diet were thus:
- I can only eat things that have ingredients that I know.
- I can only eat things with 10 or less ingredients.
- I can only eat things with ingredients that I judge to be minimally processed.
- There are times when it’s O.K. to break the rules.
Here’s a brief explanation of the rules:
- Take a look at the ingredients of the some of things in your pantry. Do you know what guar gum is? Maltodextrin? Sodium benzoate? I don’t. I only ate foods that had ingredients that sounded like food. I ate Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Medium Shells. Ingredients: 100% Durum Whole Wheat Flour. That’s an ingredients list I can comprehend. The sauce that I put on that past was Amy’s Premium Organic Pasta Sauce. Ingredients: Organic tomato puree, organic onions, organic extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, organic garlic, spices. That last one is a little dubious. Why not just list the spices? But I started to get an idea of which foods were good and which weren’t. I wouldn’t trust ‘spices’ on a product that had a bunch of stuff I can’t pronounce, but Amy’s seemed to be a straight shooter.
More examples? I have salad dressing that has among its ingredients; high fructose corn syrup, xanthan gum, sorbic acid, and sulfites. I started using Ginos Wine Vinaigrette with these ingredients: Soybean Oil, Wine Vinegar, Garlic, Salt and Spices (hmmm, more spices).
Great River Pancake Mix: Organic whole wheat pastry flour, organic corn flour, organic buttermilk powder, organic wheat bran, baking powder, sea salt. Full Circle Maple Syrup: Organic maple syrup.
These examples are on edges of what I ate. The vast majority of my meals consisted of fruits and vegetables. Man, did I eat a lot of salad. It’s very difficult to find foods that come in a package that meet these criteria. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I did get sick of salad and apples.
- I originally started at five ingredients or less, but I upped it to ten. If I stayed true to the first rule, the second rule was never an issue. Food with a lot of ingredients always contains something I never heard of.
Meat: This is pretty much a vegetarian diet. Meat was certainly acceptable as long as I knew all the ingredients – which was almost never. To know the ingredients of a pork chop, I had to know what the pig ate. To know what made up the steak I wanted, I would have to know what the cow was fed. That limited me to non-farmed fish and grass-fed beef. I live in corn-fed beef country so that’s not so easy to find. In fact, I had no meat during my three months on this diet except for a talapia filet. Cows don’t eat corn naturally, so I wasn’t going to eat corn fed cows. Same with pigs, chickens, and turkeys.
On exception I made to the meat thing was eggs. There something about vegetarianism that I just don’t like and that’s B12. Apparently vegs take B12 supplements because they can’t get enough without eating meat. I ate eggs from cage-free, vegetarian fed chickens. The first thing I learned on this diet is don’t trust packaging. I don’t believe for a minute that these chickens were cage-free. And while they were probably not fed any meat, they also weren’t allowed to eat what they would normally eat. It was a violation of the rules, but I made an exception anyway.
- This was an important rule. I could learn, for instance, that maltodextrin is just corn or that xanthan gum is just corn. Corn is good, so I can eat stuff with maltodextrin and xanthan gum. Following this logic, I could eat almost anything. Everything in that carton of ice cream can be traced back to something that’s food. There’s no plutonium in it. There are some foods that do contain petroleum products, according to the book, so not everything would be kosher.
I had to choose foods that were minimally processed. Foods that were as close to their natural state as possible. Everything in a store is processed to some degree. Someone had to pick that apple from the tree. Someone had to pick that asparagus and put the twisty tie around it. But just as corn-fed cows don’t appear in nature, neither does xanthan gum.
- I might as well be honest about breaking the rules. People who lose weight and keep it off probably don’t cheat, but if I have to live like that, I’ll pass. When someone invited me out for dinner, I went. I ordered the menu item that was as close to compliance as I could, but I know every rule was broken. When I went to football games, I drank beer. I skipped the stadium dogs, but I drank beer. I didn’t want to be maniacal about this. Reasonableness rules the day.
The result is that I lost a few pounds, but the theory was debunked. The portion sizes didn’t self regulate and my metabolism didn’t change, at least to the extent where it offset the caloric intake. It wasn’t a total bust, though. I had more energy in those three months than I’ve had since high school. I was getting by on seven hours sleep (unheard of for me), no naps on the weekends, and I quite consuming caffeine. I felt great every day and was never dragging.
You might be thinking that this sounds expensive. It was. Cheap food is bad for you and expensive food is good for you. That’s the general lesson I picked up. Most of the food I bought was fresh, which meant that I had to go to the store every other day or so. It’s hard to compare the food bill from every other day to the old way of once per week, but I think I only spent slightly more on this diet. I bought less food, but paid a higher unit price.
I miss the extra energy and the general well being that I experienced on this diet, so I’m starting it up again. One thing I’m adding to the diet is cereal. I still won’t drink milk, but there are some cereals that get close to minimally processed. Also, it’s nearly summer where I live so I’ll be drinking gin and beer. In spite of these changes, I still think there will be benefits.
One of my favorite Excel MVPs told me that his all-time favorite band is The Clash. I’ve never been a Clash fan, but I decided I’d better get an album and see if I like it. If you have a Clash album you’d recommend, recommend it to me.
O.K., enough rambling. Back to Excel posts tomorrow. Actually, I have at least one more Outlook post, but I’m sure I’ll start using Excel again soon.