Sunday, January 24, 2010

Chopping wood

A few days ago, I wrote about a massage I got a day after chopping wood in the forest. This is the fruit of my labor (and, no, the wheelbarrow isn't miniature-sized; the log was about 5 feet long):

Chopped wood

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Bing doesn't see this blog...

I just found out something interesting. Doing a search for "Umlud" on Bing doesn't come up with this blog. It comes up with comments (and commentary about my comments) in other blogs, but apparently - at least for right now - blogspot blogs don't show up (I found the same lack of a link to my Saginaw Forest blog).
Bing search 1

Even when I put in Umlud blogspot you don't get my blog:
Bing search 2

Even when I put in (the fricken' URL itself!) you don't get my blog; you get NOTHING!:
Bing search 3

Is this a giant conspiracy on Bing's part, since blogspot is owned by Google, one of Bing's big competitors? Just to see if this was an "anti-blog" thing (at least against free blog sites), I went to, found the (at the time) lead blog (Shizuoka Gourmet), and did a search for it ... and found, well, not the actual main page, but at least it exists:
Bing search 4

So... how is Bing supposed to be a better search engine than Google (let alone a competitive one)?

UPDATE: According to a friend of mine who knows more about these things than I do, it's more likely that Bing just hasn't found this blog yet. (Boo~!) Other blogspot blogs that have more traffic to them seem to be visible in Bing (although the use of blogspot as a search term doesn't actually help), and obscure wordpress blogs aren't necessarily on Bing. I suppose that if I wanted to do a comparison of the rather obscure Umlud, I should go to a site that does side-by-side comparisons.

Sore muscles and a wonderful massage

My log-chopping activities from yesterday meant that I was going around today with a sore back. I suppose one lesson here is that I should be more careful about how I conduct strenuous physical activities, in terms of how much work I take up, the pace of that work, and the physicality of that work. For example, if I took two hours yesterday instead of one hour, the pace of the work would have been a lot more easy-going and think that my back wouldn't have been so bad.

Luckily I was in town, and luckily, too, I was able to walk into the Relax Station massage parlor and get a 30 minute back masage. And ... mmmm! Delicious, on the edge of pain at times, but after 30 minutes, I felt completely rejuvenated, and ready to chop up some more fallen timber (as silly as that might sound).

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sometimes you just want to do something

All the news coverage on the tragedy in Port Au Prince, Haiti makes me want to do something to help. I've given money already, but that seems a little like it's not enough. A part of me wants to go there and help directly. However, I cannot find an easy way to manage that.

Sometimes waiting, watching, and trusting that the little help that you can (or systematically are allowed) to give will be enough.

Updating Saginaw Forest blog

I just finished updating some past entries at the Saginaw Forest blog from the caretakers' log: 1990 is completed, as is 1991.

It's interesting to see what previous caretakers (from 20 years ago) were having to deal with.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

My comment (on another blog) about obesity, BMI, and "blame"

Over at Sociological Images, there is a post showing a 1967 public service announcement (PSA) called "To Cure a Fat Child is not a Simple Matter".

One of the commenters there - attentie - wrote the following:
I think the focus should lie on promoting a healthier life style rather than thinner bodies at any costs. The real epidemic is not the fact that people are getting less atractive according to the modern beauty ideal (thin= beautiful) but that people are less active and eat more junk food and candy. Unhealthy diets or excercise routines (too much excercise can be very bad for your joints etc) are no solution. Little things, like walking or taking the bike to work instead of the car or eating vegetables and fruits every day, it all helps to stay healthier. If you lose some weight doing that, that is great, but it should not be the focus point IMHO.

What follows is my response to that comment (and, to a lesser degree, the issue of who is to blame about a fat child).

IMHO, too. Metrics of “thinness” don’t work for me; even though I might think of myself as not being “obese”, that is what I am medically classified as being (6′3″, 243 lbs = 30.4 BMI). (But then again, many athletes have very high BMIs: when he was still in pro-wrestling Dwayne Johnson – aka “The Rock” – was billed as being 6′5″, 275 lbs = 32.6 BMI.)

I was – a year ago – feeling that I was getting a little too chunky for my jeans (was up at ~260lbs), and so (instead of buying new jeans), I bought a new bike, and started cycling my commute instead of busing. I’ve not gone to the gym, except to do yoga (but stopped doing that about 5 months ago), and the only thing I do for “exercise” is ride my bike and go for walks.

I also changed up my diet, and eat out less often than before, but still enjoy a weekly beer night with my friends (don’t worry — I have one or two beers over four hours and never cycle home if I don’t feel safe). The eating out less has not only saved my budget (letting me pay off my bike a lot sooner), but it (I believe) helped slim me down, since I don’t make the heavy cream sauces that I am so partial to when dining out. In addition, since I make a lot of my own food, I am very critical about what goes into meals, and try to be more balanced with my ingredients.

Technically, I’m still “obese,” and in order to move all the way down through “overweight”, I have to either become shorter (not likely happening) or I have to get down to 200 lbs (something that didn’t happen, even when I was in peak physical condition in my early 20s). Despite all of this, however, I still feel that I am “healthy.” I am physically able to do a lot of the things that I like doing, I don’t have to wait several minutes to catch my breath after exertion, and I am happy with my own body image.

Why all that discussion? Well, I wrote up a blog entry about BMI a little while ago, looking at what its implications really mean, and came out with the conclusion that I don’t fit inside the general population parameters for which the BMI works: I’m either too tall (I am much taller than the original subject population from which the BMI was derived), of the wrong body proportions (I have an Asian build of a relatively longer torso and relatively shorter legs, meaning that my weight distribution is different than the original subject population), or more athletic (I’m not really a sedentary person, but tend toward athletic).

Furthermore, although the BMI seems a “scientific” and “objective” measure of obesity because it produces a number (and we tend to have social relationships with numbers that imbue them with an air of objectivity), it really isn’t. It’s based on a generalized trend of height and weight seen among sedentary male Belgians from the mid-19th Century. In addition, that relationship is a description of the general trend of that population, and not a predictive statement about any one person who is either in that population or not in that population.

The BMI still persists, though. Why? Well, because population trends that have a predictive ability at the population level tend to be useful (and BMI still is a good population-level predictor of health risk). It’s also useful because it is easy to calculate, requiring very little in terms of time and money to collect the data (as opposed to lipid panels, %fat calculations, etc.). And (perhaps most annoyingly) it remains a standard, and is thus something that is difficult to overturn.

What does YOUR BMI calculation mean, though? It could be spot-on (e.g., if you are over 30, you may well be obese), or it may be highly deviant (as in the case with Dwayne Johnson). This is called variability, and is one of the reasons why back-calculating population-level statistics to an individual is a statistical no-no (no matter how often we do it).

At the end of the day, is my mother to blame for me being 6′3″ and 243lbs? Well… since I’ve not been living at home for over 14 years, I would say… no. Also, since I’ve (hopefully) shown that BMI categories are socially constructed and have very statistical relevance when assigned to an individual, then I would say that even when I was 18 and going off to college (all 246 lbs of me), she still wasn’t “at fault” for making me “obese.”

UPDATE (11/17/2011 @ 11:28PM): The property of "objectivity" is a little difficult in the case of BMI. BMI is an objective measurement that it isn't subject to personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice. The measurement of height and weight (if taken properly) is objective. The calculation of BMI (using the formula) is also objective. The collation of height, weight, and BMI data from large groups of people is also objective. The analysis of BMI data as population data is also objective. However, the interpretation of the the population level metric to that of the individual (which is what I'm talking about here) isn't objective, specifically because it is subject to personal feelings, interpretations, and prejudice.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Cold snap in Florida helps with invasive species management

Who woulda thought that cold temperatures would actually be a good thing for Florida's ecosystems? Well, with temperatures reaching freezing, invasive iguanas are falling off of trees, their blood slowed in their veins, and pythons are moving out from their hiding places in the Everglades to sun themselves in an effort to keep warm -- only to be easy pickings for game wardens. (Via PhysOrg:)
Iguanas and other tropical wildlife are bearing the brunt of the severe Arctic weather in , where Miami's subtropical beaches have been left all but deserted this week with temperatures plummeting to around 32 F (zero degrees Celsius).

" impacts iguanas severely and many are killed," said Gabriella Ferraro, spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

"That is not a bad thing. It's a good thing, because iguanas are an exotic animal, they don't belong to Florida. This seasonal kill helps us to manage the population."
Travelers from Mexico, Central and South America originally introduced the creatures to Florida in the 1960s.

Although suffering from the cold, python snakes, which abound in particularly large numbers in Florida's Everglades swamp reserve, can survive in cooler temperatures.

"The good thing is that the cold weather brings the pythons out of the vegetation. They need warmer bodies and they come out to get some sun and so it is easier for hunters to find them," Ferraro explained to AFP.
Of course, this weather doesn't help the manatees and sea turtles which are also negatively affected by these temperatures, too.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Heavy snows

Just rode home through the relatively heavy snow that's been falling this afternoon. With my spiked tires, it's been helping keep me on the road. Actually, once I got west of Liberty and Stadium, the quality of the snow-plowing had gone down a bit, the cars (many of which didn't seem to have snow/winter tires) slowed down, and I was able to cycle with the flow of traffic.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Plowed road in the winter evening

The snowplow came out to Saginaw Forest, cutting a path through trampled-down snow and laying down a good layer of sand on top of it. Although a brown-and-white roadway doesn't make for a pristine photo of Saginaw Forest, the comfortable feeling of having a well-plowed road down to the cabin, combined with the rather picturesque winter evening sky, made for a good photo.

Winter evening

Google Trends indicates that ipods are for Christmas, while yoga, weight loss, pilates, and exercise are for New Years.

I was shown the coolness of Google Trends a while ago on a posting over at Sociological Images (Weekends Are for Porn).

Well, if you do a search on Google Trends for "ipod", you get the following graph:

Apparently, ipods are only really of interest as a Christmas gift item... What's interesting is that for some reason (whether it was because of market saturation, the iphone or the economy), the number of searches for "ipod" declined in December 2008 from the apparently consistent highs of 2005, 2006, and 2007. Furthermore, the number of searches in December of 2009 was even lower than that of 2008.

What about New Year's resolutions, though? If you do a search for "yoga, weight loss, pilates, exercise" you get the following:

A definite uptick just in the last throes of the year, tailing off (with remarkable consistency) sometime toward the end of each year. If you do a search for "diet", you will see a very similar trend. However, the values for 2004 were anomalous. It was -- if memory serves -- at this time when there was increased backlash against the Atkins and the South Beach diets (both high-protein, low-carb diets). I think that this was possibly the reason why the values for "diet" in 2004 were so different than in all the other years. More New Years resolution-type search trends can be seen if you look for "fitness, gym, YMCA". I would show the picture, but it looks pretty similar to the one above.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Used Zipcar... loved it!

Zipcar shoppingToday was my first opportunity to use Zipcar, and I loved it. I went online and was able to reserve a car only 20 minutes before I picked it up, and then I was able to go around and do all my shopping (Trader Joe's, TrueValue Hardware) and purchase so much stuff that I wouldn't have been able to do it all on my own on my bike, except for doing it over four or five trips, even with all four panniers. (The photo on the left was taken after my Trader Joe's shopping. I had yet to go to TrueValue to pick up 40 lbs of bird seed, a push-broom, and three boxes of fire-starter logs.)

... and I was also able to buy a push broom (something that I didn't really want to purchase and ride along while carrying it on my bike).

Then, while I was leaving the forest, I was able to haul out a bunch of trash: success! Although it added nearly $17 to my total shopping bill of the day, it was well worth it. Especially if I don't have to go out and purchase more stuff -- hopefully for the rest of this month (at least not in bulk).

The problem of not drinking coffee

Sometime near the start of December, I just stopped drinking coffee. I had worked myself up to drinking a whole pot of coffee in the morning -- and it not really affecting me. Today, I had two cups of coffee (one kinda shitty cup from the Fleetwood and another strong cup of Bolivian coffee from Sweetwaters) and now I'm just all jittery.

And from only TWO CUPS! I suppose I have two choices now: drink more coffee in order to regain my immunity to the caffeine or just moderate the amount of coffee that I drink. Hrm... I wonder which one I should do, because I really do like coffee, but I just can't be arsed with making it in the morning most days, and I don't want to spend up to $2.50 for 20 oz. of the stuff at cafes in town. (I need to figure out how much of a cost-savings it is to brew my own coffee...)