Tired Shoes

I tend to be a one pair of shoes kind of guy, I buy a pair of all black shoes that can look presentable in a number of different situations, as well as provide a decent amount of comfort during their life, or at least that’s the plan. Sadly my short wide feet cause problems with my shoe purchasing, where I’ve been needing to buy a shoe size that’s at least 1.5 sizes longer than I need, and even then I need to get them in extra width. Back in April I had to replace my Wolverine iCS Lace to Toe Oxfrd shoes, they had lasted me a good 1.5 years at this point and had proven to be amazingly comfortable, and I loved the iCS technology (customizable support from the insert, done by an adjustable plastic/rubber plate in the heel). However when the time came to upgrade I was unable to locate the iCS selection of shoes (they still have them available but at the time it had been impossible to find) so I was sadly unable to replace with the same model of shoe (they currently do not offer the same shoe I had, sadly). I decided that I wanted to go back down to my old usual pricing of shoe since the more expensive Wolverine didn’t provide me with any abundance of added time with the shoe.

Thus back in April I purchased a pair of Michelin (yes that Michelin…vroom vroom) Remedy EVA SR Oxford Shoes. From the get go these shoes proved to be a poor purchase, as my feet began to hurt quickly while walking, considering that these were shoes aimed at markets of people on their feet all day I had found this a quite surprising aspect. Now here we are, around six months after my purchase and yesterday I noticed that one of the shoes was already starting to fall apart, and more interestingly not in the usual spot (I blame most of my shoe deaths on my fancy wide feet causing the sides to eventually give up their fight). This is what I found.

Not fun, so last night I ordered a new pair of shoes that I hope will arrive quickly. I’ve opted to try out New Balance this time, as it seems that everyone and their mother has suggested that brand to me when I mention my overly wide feet.  As for the other brands in here, I’d definitely recommend Wolverine shoes they were comfortable and had decent durability, they tend to be on the pricey side, but that can be a downside to quality. I would suggest everyone to stay away from Michelin as a shoe brand, while they seem to handle tires pretty decently their shoes do not seem to give them a good name. As for New Balance, we’ll see how it goes, but they certainly have the largest range of sizes especially where width is involved.

Saturday’s Meal

This Saturday provided a chance to continue the cooking challenge I presented for Thursday, since I had been provided with more ingredients than I used I decided to utilize some of them for dinner on Saturday. The ingredients I choose to use were:

  • Chicken
  • Peach
  • Yellow Squash
  • Mushrooms
  • Garlic

This time I started off by slicing a yellow squash, since this was a summer squash I decided that I would utilize them in full slices rind and all, a method commonly seen used with cucumbers for salads. I did fairly thick slices, not wanting to do them too thin at this point. I followed up by skinning a peach, and then chopping it into smaller piece, I only used a little over half of the peach for the dinner. It didn’t go to waste, we had it as a bit of a pre-dinner snack whilst I prepared the meal. After finishing up with the peach I then went back to the mushrooms I utilized on Thursday, there were still plenty left so I proceeded to chop them up, a little larger this time, and used about four or five of them. I then proceeded to cut up the chicken that was unused from Thursday, and in the final step (since I had decided later on to use it) I cut up the garlic.

I started off cooking by adding a tablespoon of vegetable oil to my frying pan, and turned the heat up to 6 (my usual temperature). Once it was heated up I added in the garlic (a suggestion from a friend after my previous post) and then the chicken. After letting the chicken cook for a couple of moments I proceeded to add in the peaches, and then tossed some salt into the mix. I did a bit of mixing to ensure that the chicken and the peaches were getting decent exposure in the small pan, and after a couple of minutes I added in the squash and mushrooms. I tried to mix everything up as best I could, as this had filled up the pan pretty decently, and let it cook for a few more minutes.

The result turned out decently, though I felt as if it was missing something. Perhaps an addition of the noodles or perhaps the chicken broth might have helped finish up this recipe decently. We’ll see what happens should I try to work on this one again. Although I’m excited to find out what I’ll be working with this upcoming Thursday.

A Cooking Challenge

So this week I decided to do a bit of a cooking challenge, every Thursday my girlfriend and I get together, usually at my place. Most of the time I cook us dinner, though there’s been times where we’ve gone out to eat instead. Each week I usually try to do something a little different with the ingredients I have at home, most of the time there’s not major changes to the plate as it usually consists of chicken, carrots, and broccoli (the ingredients I’m most likely to have in my apartment). This week I didn’t feel like restricting myself to the limited ingredients I had at my apt, as I’d likely just to make the same thing I had made previously, and that didn’t intrigue me much. So I came up with an idea, I told my girlfriend to go out and get some things from the store on her way over, whatever random ingredients she wanted to have for dinner. At first I think she misunderstood my intention as she looked up a recipe online and planned out a small simple dinner from there, thankfully our conversations of the day revealed this and I pointed out that I was hoping to “work my magic” on some random ingredients. When she eventually arrived she had a couple of bags with a nice assortment of ingredients, of course she pointed out that I need not use all of them (and I did not) it afforded me an opportunity to broaden my pretty narrow cooking experience and work with a few things I never had cooked with. Here’s a Nice list of the items she purchased:

  • Chicken (skinless, boneless breast)
  • Yellow Squash
  • Mangoes
  • Peaches
  • Portobello Mushrooms
  • Garlic
  • Broccoli/Cauliflower
  • Chinese Noodles
  • Lite Soy Sauce
  • Chicken Broth

So after some quick thinking (and a taste test of a mango, as I don’t have the taste filed away in my mental taste cards) I set off onto cooking. The items I chose to use for the meal were as follows:

  • Chicken
  • Garlic
  • Portobello Mushrooms
  • Mango
  • Broccoli/Cauliflower
  • Soy Sauce

I also utilized a bit of salt that I already had in my kitchen, and away I went.

First I went through quite a learning experience while handling the mango, the nice hard “center” of the mango proved initial cutting plans futile, and so I eventually settled down to cutting off slices from the surface until I had enough. I then proceeded to cut up three of the sliced portobello mushrooms, a little bit of the garlic, the broccoli and cauliflower, and the chicken. Granted I started my cutting acts with the chicken, but the mango proved more exciting to cut so I had started with that. I took a tablespoon of vegetable oil and tossed it into my all too small frying pan and set my stove up to 6 and waited for it to heat up. Once some smoke started to drift up from the pan (the sign I use to indicate it’s heated up enough for the food to be put upon it) I put the squares of chicken I had cut into the pan and started cooking them, a few moments later I added my chopped up garlic, and then after a decent amount of cooking (the chicken was pretty much at a nice shade of white by this point) I added in the mangos and gave the cooking a few more minutes, to allow all the juices of the mangos and everything to mix. I also added a little bit of salt to try to enhance the flavors. I took all of this and put it onto a plate to wait for later.

I added more oil, gave it a few moments to heat up, and tossed my broccoli, cauliflower, and mushrooms onto the pan. While cooking them I began to add liberal amounts of the soy sauce into the mix as well as more salt, I cooked this grouping up for several minutes and then tossed it into a mixing bowl.

I added my chicken/mango mix into the mixing bowl and began stirring it all up to try to mix the flavors, I would have preferred to mix them in the frying pan for best results, however the pan was far too small to do so effectively and I’ve learned my lesson to not overfill it in the past. The mix came together decently and I served the dinner with great success, out of the various dinners I’ve made so far I feel this has been one of the best. Admittedly if I were to try again I might add a tiny bit more garlic, and less soy sauce but overall it came out excellent and I feel I passed the challenge successfully, which makes me happy. I’m thinking of trying to turn it into a weekly affair, should the girlfriend agree to these terms of dread, and I say dread as I’m sure to come up with a failure somewhere down the line. Though I look forward to that, because I will probably learn more in the failure than I do with the successes.

As for the ingredients I didn’t use, I hope to cook something up on Saturday using some of them, since we’re planning on doing a nice Star Wars Marathon using the new Blu-Rays we’ll see how it turns out.

The Leveling List

So I’ve fallen pretty hard since my last posts, having gotten to a point that’s effectively square one, well almost. My weight is back up to where it was in March before I started trying to do the weight loss thing, and my motivation took a major dive. I’d like to toss around excuses and blame but I believe it all happened because I allowed myself to become complacent after having entered into what thus far appears to be a successful long term relationship, sadly sometimes there’s downside to having an ever accepting girlfriend in that sometimes you allow yourself to fall hard back into old habits that you’ve been slowly working hard to crawl away from.

While it might be fun and sometimes entertaining to blame the girlfriend for making me fat and complacent again the blame can only lie upon my shoulders, and so I accept that blame…just don’t tell her that.

In my attempts to try to get back into my healthy habits that I was attempting to develop I’ve opted to not jump back into the weight loss plan I had utilized before, while it was good and did help greatly it was only designed to work for 30 days and not necessarily for the long term, so I returned to the site where I had first heard of this information, Nerd Fitness. most of the stuff on the site I was already aware of, having read it previously in the year. There is one bit that I quite like that I’m thinking about trying to emulate, and that’s a sort of Epic Quest Leveling system that he uses. Based off of various RPG games out there he has a set of items, or quests, that he desires to do and each time he completes one he gains 20% experience towards his next level. While his list is certainly quite Epic, a majority of it is not things that I have any interest in. Admittedly it has a lot in common with those bucket lists that have become so popular these days, though it’s not intended to be something to do before one dies, instead it’s a list of things to perhaps improve oneself over the course of ‘leveling up’.

So I ask you dear readers, what little may exist out upon the wild plains of the interwebs, what suggestions do you have for my list?

Edit: Forgot to include a link to the list on NerdFitness for everyone Nerd Fitness: My Epic Quest

My Android Dreams of Electric Sheep

Just writing a short blog post this time, I had promised updates for whatever creative endeavours I attempt these days. This weekend I had an idea, and decided to start a project to create my own custom boot animation for my phone. After spending several hours of “creating” (mostly just a lot of modifying other pictures and connecting them together) and creating the individual frames for the animation I came up with a boot animation. The interesting aspect is that for Android phones the boot animation is a uncompressed zip file that contains a series of png files in seperate folders. Each png represents one frame. There’s also a text file that indicates what the fps is, and how many times to loop the various directories. This allows one to create a nice animation that will do an opening animation, and then loop a part at the end (if one so desires) until the phone finally loads.

Since this was just for my own fun, I wasn’t too concerned with it look flashy or fancy, I just wanted to get something that effectively met my basic concept. I feel I succeeded decently with this. If you are interested in what the animation looks like, I created an animated gif (it’s a big large so be patient if it takes a while to load) which you can see here. Also if you would like to see it in action I’ve got a youtube video of the boot animation (poor quality sadly) up here.

Feel free to let me know what everyone thinks.

The Downward Spiral

So, I’ve been giving some debate as to when to get into certain subjects into a more public light, as I’ve kept a few things on the down low. Admittedly I’m not sure that I can really call my blog the “public light” even for myself, since my usual avenues of communication tend to rely on Twitter, Facebook, AIM, or a few rare internet forums. Regardless of that I’ve decided to write a post about something that I’ve been attempting to do (with varying degrees of success) since March.

Lose Weight.

I suppose I should make some background notes about my hefty history, the lightest I can remember being is 180 lbs, this was back in middle school and I was about 4’9″ (give or take) at the time.  Admittedly through my growth spurt period and early high school years I tended to remain at that weight, but by the end of high school I had hit what I figured was going to be my all time high of 220 lbs. I did lose a bit of that weight during my short stint in college, however in the years following my weight fluctuated and eventually started a steady climb until I ended up somewhere in the 260 lbs range. In 2007 I had started a slight attempt to make some changes in my diet, starting a slow change away from soda into water or at least drinks I perceived as healthier than soda (some of which was incorrect). However January 2009 indicate a big turning point for how I viewed my diet and I ended up working harder to adjust the diet, eventually getting to a point where I was hovering around 230 – 235 lbs, which is where I was at come March 2011.

In March I decided that 30 years of doing little to remove the big stomach that plagued me the effective entirety of my life was too long, and opted to start a more active attempt to lower down my weight. I started a new diet and exercise plan that was relatively strict and lasted a little over  a month  and a half (slightly long than the plan itself had originally indicated.) Since that point I’ve had varying degrees of success of keeping it up, and am currently trying to get back into the exercise habit developed through March-April. However I will say that I started the plan at around 234 lbs, and as of this morning am currently at 209 lbs, so yay for that.

One of the big things of the plan is the diet, I’ve heard told a lot of times that 90% of weight loss is your diet, so I’ve chosen to focus the rest of this post on what I try to maintain for my diet. I’ll start off by saying that I try to keep the only beverages I drink to either Water or Unsweetened Iced Tea (Decaf at home, but it has become my beverage of choice while out, so I probably get some caffeine there). As for my meals it tends to break down in this way.

Breakfast is usually 2 eggs scrambled and 2-3 pieces of bacon, though with my recent return to the diet I’ve opted to try to cut out the bacon.

Lunch tends to be a steak ‘salad’ I make at home. I say ‘salad’ because I started turning it into a sautee or stir fry (not sure what the appropriate term would be). What I do is I take a small steak, cut it up and season it, take four baby carrots, cut them out, two handfuls of spinach leaves and rip them up, and one handful of frozen broccoli. I toss the steak into a frying pan once it seems to be cooking decently I toss on the broccoli, after a few minutes I toss on the carrots and spinach and then put it all into a small rubbermaid(ish) container, and also usually toss it straight into the fridge for a short cool-down period (or to keep good until the next day, depending on when I make it.) It proves to be a decently tasty lunch, though I’ll admit it takes a little longer for me to make than I would like.

Dinner is typically consists of a piece of chicken (boneless, skinless) and some vegetables (current asparagus and some mixed vegetables from a can). Nothing exquisite but it keeps me from getting hungry.

I also usually top off the day with a multi-vitamin supplement to help ensure that I’m getting the appropriate vitamins and minerals and such that my body needs.

As far as the exercise habits, I tend to stick to body weight exercises, they prove to be effective and more importantly don’t require expensive equipment or gym memberships to perform, perhaps I may give some details about these in a future post if there’s any interest.

Feel free to comment with any questions or comments as always, I’ll try to keep everyone up to date as to how I’m doing with my progress to attempt to thin down and get healthier.

Living Month to Month

I’ll admit that so far I’ve proven to be a poor blogger, I’ve had several blogs that all eventually devolve into archaic visages of posts long past. Perhaps there’s something that will change that, I can’t say.

Regardless lets get to the point. This year started off with a great bout of depression and awkward anxiety regarding the infamous mile marker of life known as “30″. It proved as a moniker of a large variety of failed goals and limited achievement in life. However since the dawning of the new decade of my life in early March I’ve been living in a more positive light than I have in a while. I’ve actually been losing some weight (something that I recently stalled on, but will be picking up again today.) I’ve also taken a more serious look towards my own personal style, and have recently started doing a more traditional style of shave (utilizing a mug, soap, a brush, and a safety razor). All in all things seem to be going well.

Today I came up with an idea (I’ll admit not an original idea.) of trying to learn a new skill/ability/hobby/whatever every month, devote an entire month to trying to create an ability that didn’t exist previous. Of course the issue becomes where to start, and at this point I’ve no idea what I should attempt to devote this month to. Perhaps I should focus on continuing my upward trend of breaking bad habits, or more correctly put, creating good habits and leaving behind the lazy bum that existed throughout my 20′s. We’ll see what comes about and perhaps I’ll keep what readership I have apprised of my eventual attempts. It’s almost tempting to just say that I’ll devote this month to mastering the art of the Wet Shave, but that just seems like a simple cop out to something I’ve already intended on doing anyway. I am of course open to any suggestions anyone may have, so feel free to comment away with any ideas you may have.

“The Quantum Thief”

As I indicated in a previous post, I recently won an advance reading copy of a book from Goodreads. That book was The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajanieml. Hannu is a Finnish born author currently living in Scotland and  The Quantum Thief is his first outing with a full length novel.  As part of the suggestion of the Goodreads giveaway program, I wrote a review over on that site and will provide that same review hear for those that do not follow me on that site.

First off I should say that I really enjoyed this book, when I had to fight myself away from reading it at times just to take care of other things I needed to, I do not know of a high compliment one could provide to a book.

While the story is engrossing and the characters have life to them, there is a negative side to the book. It proves to be a confusing read early on. You are dropped into a new universe with little explanation of anything at first, and only discover things at a later point causing you to spend a chapter or two potentially having little clue to what a character may be referring to, also the story has a confusing habit of jumping between the first person and third person writing styles, while the first person does remain fully upon one character, Jean le Flambeur, there are times where you wish the story stuck either with him in the first or in the third at all times, especially when the first person fails to add much to the overall story that one wouldn’t get from the third. This is compounded, at least to me, by the fact that after a while the story doesn’t feel like it’s Jean le Flambeur’s story, but instead is the story of Isidore, while it sets up that the series will appear to follow le Flambeur this particular tale felt more like Isidore’s story. Perhaps that could be that despite my desire to like and root for le Flambeur above all, I found myself on the side of Isidore in all accounts.

The ending of the story proves to be slightly unfulfulling as you’re left wondering at a couple of questions that may never be answered, and sometimes the action occurs quickly and feels lacking, almost like the literary equivalent of a Michael Bay blurry quick-cut action scene.

Despite all of these shortcomings the book still proves to be overall enjoyable, and something I would certainly recommend to other sci-fi fans should they want something good. It’s a superb initial outing for the author, and I would have faith that should he continue he’ll evolve into one of the sci-fi greats of the current generation.

When Worlds Collide

Despite my lack of commitment when it comes to the realm of graphic novels and comics, I’ve proven to be quite the avid webcomic fan, reading quite a few on a regular basis (or as regular as they post as the case may be for some.) It’s the one part of my RSS feeds that I tend to keep up to date with regularity. Many of you may be aware of some of my various loves for TV and Books, at least in the realm of Sci-Fi, so I’m going to leave everyone with a link today that combines two of those loves, and instantly became my favorite strip of the comic.

Hijinks Ensue – “Well? Do They?”

Enjoy!

Reading Good With Contests

Most of my readers should be aware of the fact that I am a member of the website goodreads. I’m quite a fan of the site, and sometimes tread into the areas that don’t deal directly with tracking the books I’ve read, am currently reading, or plan to possibly read in the future. If you are not aware of that and are actually on my site, instead of say an RSS reader, you can easily find my goodreads account by looking on the right side of my page where you should find a “Currently Reading” widget that should direct you to my goodreads profile.

One of the functions of the site which I haven’t utilized much is the giveaway section of the site. This is a nice area of the site where books are given away by publishers, authors, and perhaps other authorized entities via the goodreads site. Sometimes there’s only one copy available, other times there are many. Since starting to use this service in January of this year I have entered into the giveaways for about five books, though I’ve rescinded my entry in a few, thusly only having seen three to the conclusion of the giveaway period.  Those that follow me elsewhere should know what’s coming next, and those that don’t have probably already gleaned from my statements so far as to the next part.

Recently I’ve actually won one of these giveaways, they had proclaimed that it would take to about 4-6 weeks for delivery, however as I walked out of my apt on my way off to work this morning, I discovered a small brown package outside of my door. It contained the book I won in the giveaway bearing the fancy mark on the cover of “Uncorrected Advance Reading Copy – Not for Sale”, of which I posted a picture of on my picasa and linked on my facebook and twitter earlier today. The book itself is due out in the US in May, but has been out in the UK since September so one could find plenty of information about it, I’m sure.  However since it’s an advanced copy I’m going to make reading it a priority, which means a further delay in the Feist book I’ve been taking a break from, as well as a break from Terry Pratchett’s Sourcery which I had just started last night and hoped to complete before the weekend.

Since it’s a special situation overall, I plan to actually post a review about this book after reading, maybe breathe some life back into this ailing blog.