Weight loss update: Week 2

By | April 21, 2019

This is a follow-up to Weight loss update: Week 1

I did not lose any weight this week. However, I have decided that since I already eat a pretty reasonable diet — breakfast/lunch/dinner-wise, anyway, I’m going to focus on getting more physically active, and hope the weight loss comes along as a result of that.

This past week I walked from work to rehearsal of the Aurora Chamber Singers rather than driving, and walked back at the end to pick up my car. Round trip about a mile, but that’s something. And then today Jay and I walked 4.5 miles.

I really, really, really want to get back in the habit of doing a daily walk at lunch and to doing yoga classes after work. The reason I haven’t been is twofold: on Mondays and Tuesdays, when I could’ve gone to a class or something, I’ve been too lazy and tired after work to trudge the whole block to Sangha Studios on Pine Street in Burlington for yoga. And on Wednesdays and Thursdays I have rehearsal of musical groups I’m in. And on Friday, I guess I tend to want to leave that open for doing something with Jay. Of course, I could do yoga on the weekends.

“Concert season” will be wrapping up soon with concerts of the Aurora Chamber Singers on May 11 at the College Street Congregational Church in Burlington (information here) and Me2/ Orchestra at Lamoille Union High School in Hyde Park, VT on May 18. (information here). (There’s also a concert of Me2/ Orchestra in Montreal on May 11 but I can’t go because of the Aurora Chamber Singers concert the same night.) Once rehearsals wrap up for the summer, it’ll be a lot easier to get exercise in.

It’s also easier when Jay’s in town because he can guilt/harangue me into going to a yoga class after work or come by and drag me out on a walk. Burlington (where I work) has lovely walking trails, especially along the waterfront, and I work a block from the waterfront.

Then, too, I plan to start aikido lessons once the concerts are over. I’ve already got my gi (the white jacket and pants that you wear while out on the mat) and made connections at the local dojo on Pine Street (also a very short distance from my office).

So I do have plans. I just need to stop making excuses to myself and carry them out.


Diet Update: Week 2

By | April 21, 2019

This is a follow-up to Diet Update: Week 1.

On Sunday of last week, my weight stood at 243.8. I weighed myself after coming in from gardening this afternoon and my digital, WiFi-enabled scale dutifully registered my weight as 237.4. For what it’s worth, my weight two weeks ago was 252.2.

I know. That’s impossible. No one loses fifteen pounds (okay, 14.8 pounds) in two weeks unless they’re on the Bataan Death March.

There are factors that can skew the numbers — am I hydrated or not? Have I, er, been to the bathroom? I have to assume, given my results just now (again, 237.4, down 6.4 pounds from a week ago), that I am:

  • somewhat dehydrated
  • er, “empty”

At the end of the day, I do have a theory. I’m losing weight because:

  • I’m crash dieting, eating 1200-1600 calories a day of mostly vegetarian protein sources
  • I’m getting a bit more exercise (multi-mile walks twice in the last seven days)
  • I’m shedding the excess water that my blood pressure medications have caused me to retain.

I know water retention due to medication is no joke; last summer they tried me on a drug called Bystolic and I promptly put on about ten pounds. In one week. They took me back off it — the excess weight almost immediately went away.

So here’s my theory: something is causing my body to start shedding the excess water it’s been retaining ever since I went on those meds. Maybe it’s the longer hours of daylight. Maybe it’s the significant reduction of my food intake. Maybe it’s getting a bit more exercise — I’ve gone for walks twice this week (and I should have done more).

It’s a mystery.

“The Frosted Pop-Tarts of Credit Unions”

By | April 21, 2019

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you a tale of silliness.


  • Carole hates processing her personal email. A lot of it is stuff that’s only somewhat important, if that, and she finds it frustrating to have to sort through it all.
  • I read incredibly fast. I can’t sing worth a damn and I’m overweight and un-athletic, but I can read really, really fast.

So… Carole has me process her inbox for her and let her know what’s actually important. I draw the line at reading all the email content — I go by the sender, subject, and the first-line preview that Gmail gives you. So if you’re wondering if your private emails to Carole are getting read by me first — actually no. I just mark things that look unimportant “read” and leave the rest for her to follow up on.

There are, however, a few exceptions to this process. Chief among them are the “customer surveys” that various organizations and merchants send out now and then. I know Carole’s never going to do any of ’em, and I know that in the long run, what one person says in response to a “how do you like us” survey from one’s local supermarket (for example) isn’t really going to matter much.

So I fill out the surveys Carole gets in her email, and I tend to be very, very silly.

My attitude is that “some poor bastard has to sit there reading all the responses to the free-text comments at the end of surveys, and I might as well give them a little dose of surreality”. For example, I went through a period a year or two ago where my answers to just about every survey had to do with the pending zombie apocalypse (and I say that as someone who’s never seen a single episode of The Walking Dead — I just thought it was funny).

Generally, I do all this with no expectation of ever hearing back from the merchant or organization who sent out the survey, even if I tick the checkmark that says “you can contact me about my responses”.

But… well, we got this card:

And inside we found this:

And we opened it and we found this (click to enlarge to full size):

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge


But it gets better.

They actually called up as well and left a voice mail thanking Carole for “her” survey response.

Apparently, “Carole” really made their day.

You know what, though? I have no idea what I said in that survey.

Except, of course, that apparently it involved frosted Pop-Tarts.

Weight loss update: Week 1

By | April 14, 2019

My weight is down about 2 pounds from a week ago. Sounds good I guess, but I don’t think it’s anything to shout about. I’ve weighed myself several times this week, and I’ve seen the numbers go down a little, up a little, down again… I know that it isn’t really valuable to weigh in every day; I know that differences of a pound or two from day to day aren’t significant and that they represent the weight of water, undigested food, etc. I also know that net pounds lost only tells half the story, because a pound of muscle lost is worse than useless. I’ve got to pick up some resistance exercises to keep from losing muscle mass.

I haven’t been keeping an obsessive log of my food intake because I know that, for the most part, I eat healthy food and not to excess. Although maybe I should keep track; it’s hard to know how much over diet I go on a given day because of eating out once or getting free bagels at work. Free snacks, especially carbs (which is what most freebies are), are my weakness.

What I really need to change is my activity level. I have been trying to do that this week. Last Sunday Jay and I went for a 4-mile walk outdoors. On Monday I treadmilled for about 20 minutes. On Tuesday I rode the exercise bike for about 40. It’s hard to keep track of all these things, even with a Fitbit watch to record my activities…because for the most part, it doesn’t record them automatically. I have to stop and start the record. I nearly always forget. But I’ve started manually entering all my activities into Strava, in hopes that seeing a record of it will give me positive reinforcement. It’s been a good technique for me before.

Oh yeah, I also did a few exercises with barbells on Friday. Bicep curls, deltoid extensions. I need to get more systematic about that and add a whole range of exercises.


Diet Update: Week 1

By | April 14, 2019

One week ago I weighed 251 pounds. Today I weighed myself mid-afternoon and the scale read 243.8.1I’m using a WiFi-enabled digital scale that automatically logs my weight to the WeightGurus website.

I know that seems impossible, barring surgery.

I’ve been really watching my caloric consumption for the last week and I’ve tried to exercise: a half hour on a stationary bike, a half hour on a treadmill, a couple of walks. Somehow it added up to precipitous weight loss.

I think the key is that I’ve been eating a high-protein diet (with some vegetables; I’m not insane) composed largely of things like MorningStar Farms meatless patties, Quorn patties, and so forth. They fill you up and they taste pretty good and consequently my body accepts getting only 1,600-1,900 calories or so a day.

It’s a bit easier to diet when I’m on the road for work — there’s no pantry full of snacks in my hotel room and I can control my intake by buying my meals at the grocery store one day at a time. I eat about 400 calories of some sort of ominous meat substitute for breakfast, skip lunch, and then have 1,200 calories or so of beans and meat substitute for dinner. (Skipping lunch sounds dangerous and scary, but the fact is, when I’m working I’m usually not hungry at lunchtime and I’ve been skipping lunch for over twenty years.) I would have liked to have gotten in more exercise after work, but one night I had dinner with my work teammates and another night I just plain wasn’t feeling well.

I am somewhat proud of myself for what I did the night we all went out to dinner. We wound up at an Italian restaurant and multiple cheesy appetizers got ordered. I kept passing the plates as they went by and didn’t indulge. Then people ordered big-ass plates of pasta and so on — I ordered a spinach salad. I knew that a few forkfuls of some giant cheesy pasta dish — or almost anything else on the menu — would have been more calories than I’d allotted for the entire day. When we were done and returned to our respective hotels, I topped off that spinach salad with some more Gardenburger-equivalent patties.

I was hoping to lose two pounds this week. I knew that to lose more, I’d have to do a lot more exercise than I wound up doing. And somehow I lost over seven pounds. The only explanation I can come up with is that some of that weight loss must have been water weight.

Ten years ago, when I last went on a huge diet and lost sixty pounds, I found that it was absolutely essential to track my caloric consumption meal by meal, food by food, using an app. And that’s what I’m doing again this time. If it goes in my mouth, I enter it in the MyFitnessPal app. If the food in question isn’t already in their database, I add it. It’s virtually impossible to enter the calories for a giant plate of restaurant food, so I tend to avoid restaurants while I’m trying to lose weight. (Well, that’s what I did last time I lost a ton of weight, ten years ago, and that’s what I’m trying to do again this time.)

This weekend Carole and I basically just ate meals from Blue Apron. Their meal kits supply reasonable portions and don’t give you the option of going back for seconds… and conveniently, they tend to already be listed in the MyFitnessPal food database. This coming week I’ve got another trip — all the way to Phoenix and back. The plan, again: calorie tracking, calorie tracking, calorie tracking. Lots of protein and foods with fiber. Exercise as often as I can manage it.

I don’t expect to be sitting here a week from now bragging about losing another six to seven pounds… but I do hope to be down at least two more. Wish me luck.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. I’m using a WiFi-enabled digital scale that automatically logs my weight to the WeightGurus website.

Wherein: We Are Fat

By | April 8, 2019

Jay and I are fat.

We’re suffering from the same fate that afflicts a lot of prosperous First World people with demanding jobs and insufficient get-up-and-go: ample “padding” and clothes that don’t fit any more.

It doesn’t help that:

  1. Jay suffers from major depression
  2. I suffer from depression and a certain amount of media addiction (translation: I watch way too much TV)
  3. We both suffer from seasonal affective disorder to a certain extent — we tend to cocoon during the long dark winter months and get almost no exercise
  4. Jay travels for work and isn’t here at the end of the day to kick my ass and get me to exercise
  5. Jay travels for work and so he’s not here at the end of the day so I can kick his ass and get him to exercise
  6. We snack too much
  7. We’re both really, really, really good at making excuses

Thus, we’ve decided to take the dramatic and possibly futile step of publicly sharing our attempts at losing weight. We’re planning on posting weekly weight and exercise updates … hoping that sharing our progress with the world will keep us honest.

We have every app in the book (MyFitnessPal, MapMyWalk, Strava, Fitbit, Google Fit, MyRally, Mindbody). We have Fitbit Ionic smartwatches with GPSes. We have a smart scale that syncs our weight automatically to four of those apps. We have a treadmill. We have a stationary exercise bike. We have actual bicycles that we could, you know, use once in a while. We have kayaks for when Lake Champlain gets above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Jay has fitness centers in all the hotels he stays in. We have free weights — dumbbells and mini dumbbells in various sizes.

None of those make a bit of difference if we don’t use them.

We know diets can work if you have enough willpower. Back in 2009, Jay got … a bit zealous and dropped his weight from 238 (or so) to 178. He did this by strictly limiting his calories to about 1400 a day and spending an hour on an inclined treadmill at 4.7 miles an hour. Obviously, that’s kind of extreme. And it led, in Jay’s case, to a slow rebound back up, via various plateaus every ten pounds or so, to where he is now. Neither of us expects to repeat that kind of monastic discipline; we’re ten years older and have ten more years’ worth of bad habits. But still…

I’m not going to say what I weigh now. Let’s just call it X. My goal is to get down to X-30, ultimately. And X-10 this year, preferably by the end of the summer.

Jay told me to go ahead and share his actual weight – as of this morning he’s at 251 pounds. He’s 6’2. He wants it to be noted, furthermore, that based on his height and weight he’s got a BMI of 32.2 and that means he’s obese. If we wants to be out of the “overweight” zone on the BMI scale he’s got to get his weight down below 195. (Yes, we know the BMI concept has its flaws.) So that’s Jay’s goal long-term — to get back down south of 195. And in the short term, he wants to get back down below 220. So, a loss of 30 or so pounds for him as well.

We’re both planning on walking the 2019 Twin Cities Susan G Komen 3-Day in mid-August and we’re planning on doing as many training walks as possible. We did a four-mile walk yesterday on a chilly, but not cold, day. We’re going to increase our distance week by week until we’re doing 13 miles and 15 miles and so on. Last time we jointly did a lot of training (again, back in 2009) I got in much better shape. So that’s the ace in our sleeve – we’re going to do a crazy amount of walking.

We apologize in advance if our posts about our weight loss progress become annoying — but it seems like holding ourselves publicly accountable is the only option we have left. Thanks in advance for your understanding and support.

Anyone looking for a wedding officiant?

By | April 2, 2019

For what it’s worth, if anyone out there is looking to tie the knot this summer (and has a willing partner lined up) and wants to hold the ceremony in northern or central Vermont, I’m a legally elected Justice of the Peace (which you can check here) and am empowered to conduct weddings. I’ll even do the ceremony for free (schedule permitting). You want me to wear a rubber octopus on my head and wear sun-god robes, that’s fine with me. I mean, I’d probably need you to chip in toward the cost of the robes, but otherwise, I’m up for pretty much any bizarre freak-out-the-grandparents thing you might want to concoct.

My front lawn is available if you’re not particularly choosy, but there are any number of parks and things in the area that would probably work as least as well. I live in Richmond, VT and so am within a short drive of Burlington, Montpelier, Waterbury, Middlebury, and so on. Contact me at jp@furrs.org if you’re interested.

Break Out The Yeti Chow, Hilda

By | March 23, 2019

Yeah, we got a … bit of snow.

This isn’t that unusual for Vermont, but still. We’re really ready for warmer weather.

Springtime In Vermont

By | March 22, 2019

Springtime in Vermont, ladies and gentlemen.

(We’re looking at a possible six to twelve inches today, with likely high winds and power outages. Fortunately, the whole house is backed up by a pair of Tesla Powerwall 2 batteries.)

Town Meeting Day 2019

By | March 19, 2019

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You may recall that I’ve been working on my plans for brutal world domination in my spare time, and lately, those plans took another step forward! I got to exercise my status as member of the Richmond, Vermont “Board of Civil Authority” and help run Town Meeting! Next stop, THE WORLD!

Okay, I guess I should back up a bit there. Town Meeting?

Okay, see, in Vermont, the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March is “Town Meeting Day“. The voters of each town come together to meet, discuss, and vote on important matters like the town budget … and occasionally, on some rather strange not-so-important matters as well.

This was my first Town Meeting Day as a Vermont justice of the peace. The assembled JPs for each town (my town is allotted 12) make up a body called the “Board of Civil Authority”, which basically works out to “the folks who run the elections and maintain the voter list” and “the folks who hear petitions for tax abatements”. We didn’t have to do much to actually organize the voting; our town clerk took care of that. But I helped set up the gym and the voting machines the day before and I spent pretty much the whole day of Town Meeting proper sitting at a table with a stack of town ballots and a stack of school board budget ballots looking voters up in a notebook and checking ’em off and then handing them ballots. (We had it down to a science — one table for people with last names starting with letters A through L, and another table for the M through Z people. Two people at each table; one looks the name up, and the other hands the voter their ballots. We were a well-oiled machine.)

Polls are open all day on Town Meeting Day from 7 am to 7 pm for residents to vote via Australian ballot for town offices (selectboard, town constable, moderator, library trustee, stuff like that) and for the school board and school budget… but that’s not what really makes town meeting day Town Meeting Day. The Australian ballot is for the boring stuff — town offices and the school budget. The really fun stuff gets hashed out at a 9 am mass meeting where anyone who’s a) registered to vote and b) has enough free time to hang out in a gym for hours on a Tuesday morning, gets to discuss weighty matters of town business and ultimately vote on whether to adopt the town budget. You don’t necessarily get a representative sampling of the town’s electorate… but that’s understood and kind of expected. Town Meeting Day wouldn’t be the same without the quirkiness.

Most towns hold their meeting at the local school; for example, our town meeting takes place in the gym at Camel’s Hump Middle School We also use the school cafeteria; most towns hold town meeting in the morning, get the budget taken care of, and then break for lunch before resuming in the afternoon for any remaining business. I have a feeling that the “town potluck” aspect of Town Meeting Day is what some people like best. You hear stories waxing lyrical about the macaroni and cheese Mrs. Johnson used to make each year before she passed… and stuff like that. In Richmond, the ladies of the town grange sell baked beans, sandwiches, donuts, cookies, and what have you; their baked beans are semi-legendary. Then after that, we come back together for anything else people want to bring up. If someone wants to introduce a motion to declare war on North Dakota, they can do that. If they vote to declare the town a nuclear-weapons-free zone, they can do that too. This year a lot of towns passed resolutions taking a stance against climate change.

It’s a day for democracy on a very local level.

My duties as name-checker and ballot-hander-outer kept on going during the meeting proper; I had my back to the rows and rows of chairs facing the stage where the moderator and selectboard were seated, but I could hear everything just fine. It was sort of amusing watching voters — the ones who came by just to cast their ballot for town offices and the school board budget — blanch as they realized they were going to have to cross in front of everyone to get to the voting booths.

The town budget presentation was pretty straightforward and nothing strange happened during the ensuing discussion … which kind of disappointed me.

See, I’ve rarely made it to Town Meeting in the past; I’m one of the working stiffs whose job just doesn’t lend itself to taking a day off midweek to hang out with my fellow voters at the school. But this one time that I did go — probably about fifteen years or so ago — the discussion relating to the school budget was absolutely hilarious. (This was back when the school budget was discussed and voted on in the town meeting proper; they subsequently changed it to Australian ballot because it was getting voted down in open meeting too often.) It’s not unusual for people whose kids are grown and gone, or who never had kids in the first place, to question the need for “spending so much” on the schools. And so that one time, people kept trying to amend the budget to remove this line item or that line item in the name of saving a token few thousand dollars. The poor town moderator had to keep explaining that the content of the budget was not up for vote; the school board is entrusted with that. The only thing the town voters were legally entitled to do was vote on the total amount to be spent. Voters who objected to a teacher’s aide being funded could move to strike exactly that much money from the budget, and their motion, if passed, would accomplish … pretty much nothing. The school board could still fund that position and reduce a different line item by the amount of the voter-demanded adjustment. (It’s like saying “I object to you spending $15 of your salary on that punk rock CD, son, so I’m reducing your allowance by $15.” Son’s still going to buy the CD.)

But anyway, since the school budget was moved to Australian ballot a few years ago, the 2019 town meeting budget discussion focused entirely on the town budget — highways and roads, police, stuff like that. And while there were a few questions, it wasn’t really a controversial issue. We didn’t even count the votes; it was just one big “ALL IN FAVOR: AYE ALL OPPOSED nay THE BUDGET PASSES” thing.

And then the meeting broke for lunch in the cafeteria. I stayed put, because I was so into my “HEY LOOKA ME I’M A JUSTICE OF THE PEACE AND TOWN ELECTIONS OFFICIAL” thing and wanted to keep on looking names up and handing out ballots.

After an hour or so for lunch, about half the crowd that had been there in the morning trooped back in and attended to “new business”. .. which mostly consisted of random complaining about this and that (parking in the “downtown” area, such as it is, especially). No motions were introduced and there was nothing to vote on. So we wrapped it up and all the attendees went home or off to work … and my fellow election officials and I got back down to the important business of … looking voters’ names up in the book and handing them ballots.

Voters kept coming by all afternoon, but it was pretty slow. We had more than enough bodies on hand to do the work of the ballot-handing-out, so I excused myself and went home and fed the cats and came back around 5:00 to be there for the after-work voting rush, such as it was. That was when Carole came by to vote; I got her to take several photos of me being all Mister Important and stuff, but alas, the volunteer working with me at the table for the people with last names starting with letters A through L told me she did not like having her picture taken and did not want me posting photos of her, so this is what you get — cropped (see below). I’m sure, though, that the excitement and drama still comes through.


At seven pm, we closed the doors and wrapped up. It took about ten seconds to find out the results — the tabulation machine spat out a tape with the total votes for each office and ballot question. (We only had two contested offices — one Selectboard seat and one seat on the Library Trustees. Neither wound up being especially close.)

But then came the real fun — the school budget. Richmond is part of a consolidated school district with four other towns — Huntington, Bolton, Jericho, and Underhill. Two JPs from each of those towns had to take their locked school board ballot box and bring it to our voting location, since we’re central. And two of us Richmond election officials had to stay as well (I, of course, had volunteered). We had to open the boxes, take out the big pink cards with “shall the budget blah blah blah be adopted YES NO” on it, and “commingle” them. Meaning, we had to dump them all on a table – over 2,000 of them – and sort of mix them around with our hands before gathering them back into stacks to feed manually into the tabulators. The idea was that by mixing the ballots up we wouldn’t know how the vote had gone in any given town, even though the ballots had no town-of-origin mark on ’em. (I honestly didn’t see the point, but who am I to argue with tradition?)

With two tabulators and three humans feeding the ballots into each, one by one, it took us about an hour to feed them all in.


And then when all was said and done, the budget passed by a wide margin. I was very glad about that, because frankly, it drives me crazy how some towns’ voters seem to take an infantile joy voting down their school budget over and over. I’ve seen towns have to hold follow-up budget votes three times before they finally manage to pass a revised budget. After each failure, the school board has to go and meet and issue a revised, lower, budget proposal. And, of course, a lot fewer people come out for the subsequent votes, so typically it’s the people with a real axe to grind who show up to cast a ballot. No wonder it can take multiple tries to get a school budget passed. So, like I said, I was very glad our budget passed; thrilling as the exercise of my official responsibilities was, I don’t want to have to do it again for a year or so.

People always ask “Why don’t we hold town meeting on a weekend, or in the evening, or just do away with it entirely and have everything, including the town budget, get voted on by Australian ballot?” The answer? Tradition. No matter what alternate time of day or day of the week you propose, there are always people who object based on various imaginary or real conflicts they’d have. Some towns have moved their meetings, and others have switched to all-Australian-ballot voting, but the vast majority of Vermont towns still do things the old-fashioned way. (If you’re curious, there’s a map that breaks it down.)

I guess it’s those baked beans that the Ladies of the Grange sell. No one wants to miss out on those, right?