• Lifestyle

    Biking and running with the dog in the yard or park

    grass for dogs
    Photo by phillips_collin

    I have been working on my fitness and health lately. Started running and riding my bicycle and eating healthy. I think it is working. I have lost a few lbs. The other big change is I brought a dog into my life. The dog has been a huge adjustment. And I mean huge. Huge like our current president talks about huge things. I digress.

    The effort required for dealing with puppy energy has been exhausting. It is a workout in itself. My dog is a German Shepherd, which are athletic. He is the equivalent of a jock in the dog world. The problem is that he can’t jump. Well, he can jump, but I discourage it because (from what I read) it can be bad on their hips if they are jumping a lot. I had good luck reading information and reviews on http://nosynation.com/ and on https://www.germanshepherds.com/

    There’s a ton of information about what works when training dogs. For example: I did not know that a German Shepherd puppy should not do a lot of pavement pounding — walking for extended periods of time on concrete sidewalks or blacktop according to many people on germanshepherds.com.

    Needless to say, I waited until my dog was 16 months old before started running with him. It is a work in progress, because the minute I start running, he thinks it is time to get excited and goes rogue.

    The best way I have found is I let him off leash (he is fantastic with recall) and I run while he sniffs and runs to keep up with me. So far, this has been the best way to do it.

    Rather than run on pavement, I have been doing it on trails. This is better for my feet and knees as well as the dog. He can be in the woods sniffing and get some fresh air. To me this is a much better alternative than concrete. My lawn also has some of the best grass for dogs planted, so the yard is another place I let my dog run.

    Biking is next

    I saw an awesome video by Robert Cabral about teaching a dog to bike.

    This is my next goal. I want to teach the dog to run beside me while we do a short bike ride. The only issue I have is buying a tether to the bike. I am reluctant to spend the money. I would like to figure a way to make one on the cheap.

    I have not done much research on a DIY method yet but it is in the works.

  • Lifestyle

    Cowboy boots and belts

    I have been reading about cowboy boots and belts in the last day or two. It has been interesting to say the least. I am familiar with belts because I wear one to keep my drawers up daily. That’s a big duh no kidding. The cowboy boot thing I’m not to familiar with, so I did some checking about why wear even consider them because they look very uncomfortable. For a dude, I think the reasons are psychological. They increase the height of a short dude, helps that short dude feel tall. They take big gonads to wear, because they are so different in most locations. There are exceptions, especially if you live in a location like Texas of the Southwest. Another reason is that they are anything but plain. Most synthetic and dress shoes are nothing spectacular. They all look alike and have no character aside from a few outliers.

    I don’t think I could ever wear them because I’m not short, live in the north and am not the stylish. I did consider them at one time though after a buddy of mine wore them out to the club one night. I had no idea who made cowboy boots. There are websites with a fairly large list of cowboy boots brands. I can’t say I know the names but I do think I should do more research if I want to buy these things.

    I will say that a lot of girls will wear dresses with cowgirl boots and it looks good.

    That said, I came across a good guide on buying a belt on reddit.com. I also saw the site with the boot brands also listed a guide to choosing a belt. It listed a huge list of belt name brands and listed how to pick a belt but mentioned little to nothing about picking a belt width for a belt buckle. If I’m going to wear boots, I need a buckle that looks the part! I figure go big or go home.

    Well, that may not be true. I do think there are spurs for the boots, chaps, cowboy hats, and a Western shirt. I may only go home. I don’t think I’ll be going big anytime soon.

    I did learn that smaller width belts are more dressy, which I thought was the opposite. I always thought wide belts were more dressy because it shows more material, which seems to me to be more conservative and stable. Turns out I was wrong. Oh, well.

    I do think that a nice, wide belt is better than a thin one for practical purposes. I like to keep my pants up thank you very much. I also only like leather belts. I have had fabric based ones in the past and a couple of them were not very good. The leather ones keep my pants up very well. My experience tells me it’s the best choice for me.

    Now that I have all this information what will I do with it? Probably nothing. I thought it would be a good idea to write about it since I have not written anything on this site in a long time.

  • Lifestyle

    Dandruff shampoo and winter scalps

    There’s nothing more embarrassing than when somebody points out those tiny white flakes on my shoulder, so I work to get rid of them the minute I start scratching my irritated head.

    Besides, if I am always scratching my head, people may think I am more confused than normal!

    The good news: I can head off and cure dandruff with medicated products. I want review my favorite dandruff shampoos.

    First, though, we need to know what dandruff is.

    What is dandruff?

    Dandruff is a problem with your scalp. It is dead skin being shed from your scalp; the dead skin is the white flakes.

    You will be scratching your head and the flakes will be visible in your hair or fall onto your shoulders.

    It tends to be chronic, is NOT contagious, and affects men and women, from teens to adults.

    Most of the time I can use a good dandruff shampoo and it will clear up.

    If a medicated dandruff shampoo does not work or your skin is red, you should contact a dermatologist. You might have other issues — like something called seborrheic dermatitis. That sounds nasty, I know, but it is scaly, flaky, itchy, and red skin.

    Nizoral anti dandruff shampoo

    To me, Nizoral is the best dandruff shampoo — hands down.

    Nizoral comes in two formats: An over the counter or prescription forumula. The difference is the percentage of the active ingredient, ketoconazole.

    Ketoconazole, which is an antifungal agent, comes in a 1 percent version over the counter. That’s the one I’ve used.

    The benefits of this shampoo are that it is relativly mild, which means I can use it frequently. Nizoral recommends 3-5 times a week.

    It does not have a strong odor — just very lightly scented.

    It soaks into the scalp nicely when lathering and keeps my hair looking like it should — hair texture and quality are not affected.

    Best of all, it works. It cleared up my itchy scalp after about 2 weeks. I use it one week to keep my scratching and itching under control.

    The downside of this product is cost. Dandruff is chronic, which means one bottle won’t last for life.

    Cost is about $25.

    Selsun Blue

    Selsun Blue uses a different active ingredient than Nizoral. In Selsun Blue, it is selenium sulfide, which is an anti-infective and slows down the death of skin cells.

    Despite the medical jargon, it does not seem to be as mild as other shampoos. I thought it left my hair slightly stiff, but it does have a more shampoo-like quality compared to coal tar products.

    An important point is that the Selsun Blue smells like a medicine cabinet, I think.

    Does it work? It did help my itchy scalp and did get rid of that layer of dead skin cells, which caused flaking after about 3 weeks.

    One thing to keep in mind with this product is that it can discolor hair, especially if Is is blond or gray or not natural — i.e., colored.

    Price is about $12.

    Neutrogena T-Gel (coal tar)

    Neutrogena T-Gel has coal tar as an active ingredient and is a product from the process of coal manufacturing.

    I think it is really harsh. When I pour it onto my hand, I find that it’s brown and smells funky.

    I did notice that it causes my scalp to be dry; my hair felt tough and rough.

    However, it did seem to get rid of flakiness and itchiness after about a week. There’s good and bad with everything. The cost — at about $8 on Amazon — is not as pricey as the Selsun Blue or Nizoral.

  • Lifestyle

    Fitness delayed: New ASUS laptop computer to learn animation!

    I have been trying to hold myself accountable for the diet, but I wanted to learn animation as a hobby and got stuck with a lot of extra projects at work and have had to take on extra hours. What does that mean? I’ve slacked on the exercise and diet. I have chosen convenience foods, which are higher in calories, and haven’t exercised in a while.

    The animation thing required a new computer. Up until a few days ago, I used Linux operating systems and had no Windows computer. I could have turned an old computer into a Windows machine but I did not want to spend $100 on a license for a machine that was already at the end of its usefulness. Instead, I looked to buy a cheap laptop. Did some research and I read a review about an inexpensive ASUS laptop then bit the bullet and bought one.

    I know a little bit about computers. I built a few a couple years ago, but I don’t know a lot about current technology. Back in the day when I messed with them, 8x AGP cards with 512MB were the thing for graphics. Those graphics cards are obsolete.

    Like I said, I bought an inexpensive laptop for using Pivot and Flash animator. After messing with the computer for a while, I concluded that this article about ASUS being a good brand for computers.

    So far, I tried installing Ubuntu on it and all systems go. The laptop is a ASUS X551M. Everything worked out of the box, and I use the Windows side for animation and a few other Windows-only pieces of software.

    With Ubuntu, it’s fairly peppy and can run multiple programs on different desktops fairly easily. With Windows 8.1, it works fine.

    Sure, it could use more than the 4 GB of RAM it has and a faster processor but for the price and my use it was a no-brainer. This thing’s a good budget laptop there’s no doubt about it.

    One complaint I have is battery life. It sucks. It lasts less than 3 hours but when I looked at the Amazon description for the newer model it advertises 5 hours. (Mine is a slightly different model because it is an “M” rather than an “MA”.) It looks like the battery life has been improved.

    I use it mainly with Pivot Animator at the moment. It is plenty fast for that purpose. Once I learn Pivot, I plan to move into Flash. Then, we’ll be able to see how the processing speed and memory do.

    It does not have touchscreen but that was ok with me. (One less thing to go wrong.)

    The keyboard has a good size to it. I did end up putting a wireless keyboard and mouse on it because of the setup I use. The laptop is stationary on my desk next to my desktop so I don’t have to change positions much to toggle between desktop and laptop. (I wanted to learn Flash during the downtime when I was waiting for the other computer to process data. Efficiency, efficiency, efficiency.)

  • Lifestyle

    Some thoughts about weight (and how to drop a few lbs)

    I have found that most articles about dropping a few pounds don’t offer good losing weight tips. Most is fodder that peddles weight loss aids to shed fat. That exercise equipment and supplementation just fills the manufacturer’s pockets with your cash, and chances are you still don’t drop those 10 lbs. I know I don’t.

    Although what you are reading is anecdotal (all info comes with a disclaimer and is provided AS IS), I have based it on a little common sense, my own trial and error, studying the human body, and cycling and resistance training.

    I have found the easy way to lose fat and keep it off revolves around five good losing weight tips:

    1. Eat healthful foods
    2. Control your portions while eating just a little less
    3. Exercise a little bit harder or longer, including mixing up the routine
    4. Sleep well to recover
    5. Drink lots of water

    Each of these are in your control and are safe weight loss techniques. And you can do them.

    We’ll look at each in this in this article. First, though, let’s learn a little bit about metabolism because it can throw a monkey wrench into the ideas of good losing weight tips.

    What is metabolism?

    Your metabolism, which is regulated by your thyroid gland, determines how quickly your body converts food and drink into energy. The energy your body needs on a daily basis to keep your organs running is called the basal metabolic rate. This rate is affected by many factors, including body size, body composition, age, sex.

    Body size, body composition: Muscle mass requires calories, which means the body will need a faster metabolic rate.

    Age: The older we get, the less muscle mass we have, which decreases the amount of calories we expend.

    Sex: Frequency has nothing to do with this; it’s about the anatomy and physiology of men and women. Most men usually have more muscle and less body fat than women. The increased musculature of men typically increases calorie expenditure.

    You are probably noticing that you want your body to have increased calorie expenditure.

    Many times you can control this by eating slightly less calories at more frequent intervals, quality exercise, getting enough sleep, and improving your unhealthy habits, which we will get to.

    There are medications as well as medical conditions that can cause a slow metabolism, such as hypothyroidism and Cushing’s syndrome — these are items your doctor would need to diagnose and explain.

    Metabolism and healthy weight loss

    Although a slow metabolism due to a medical condition can be the cause of weight gain, there’s a higher possibility that you are not eating enough to achieve healthy weight loss.

    As mentioned, the body needs a certain amount of calories to keep your internal organs working, but if you don’t get enough calories, you will have a slow metabolism that will slow down your body processes, and conserve calories.

    That’s one reason why those I’ll-starve-myself-until-I’m-skinny diets are not good for you.

    They also force your body to cannibalize itself, eating away fat and muscle tissue, which is not a healthy weight loss technique. (You don’t want to destroy your muscle; you want to keep it to help you burn calories.)

    Your body will become malnourished, not getting proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Fatigue and illness will rear their heads. That’s bad and not safe.

    You can also lose weight through water loss, becoming dehydrated. That’s bad, too, because you’ll need to become hydrated soon or later and gain the weight back.

    Safe weight loss will increase metabolism naturally. There are a few ways to boost metabolism, which are related to those five ideas mentioned above.

    Eating six small, healthy meals a day

    Eating six healthy meals through the day will keep your metabolism going steady and provides one of the best good losing weight tips.

    The focus of a good, healthy meal should be on fruits and vegetables, with whole grains and lean protein sources such as fat-free milk, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts. Keeping saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and sugar low is important.

    Processed foods should be kept to a minimum — i.e., as a special treat every few weeks, not every week!

    Controling portion size

    It’s possible to eat healthy and gain weight because your portions are not in check. For example, if one serving size of chicken is 2 oz, then that 4 oz portion on your plate is going to have double the calories. Scale back portions and eat just a little less.

    This doesn’t have to be dramatic and you won’t even notice. For example, cutting out 150 calories a day, which is equivalent to one 12 ounce soda, will mean you lose 1/2 pound in a week.

    Small changes over time are the basis of healthy weight loss.

    Exercise

    Quality exercise burns calories long after you are done with it.

    I use two forms, including body weight strength training and cycling for weight loss. The point is that resistance training and cardiovascular exercise in combination are effective.

    Now, ladies, don’t think that weight training is only for men — quite the contrary. You won’t look like a body-builder from working the iron or doing body weight exercises. Getting big muscles requires eating a lot of protein to get your body to grow. Training with weights will also strengthen bones, which is beneficial for women who are at a higher risk for osteoporosis.

    Lifting weight benefits: One of the keys to resistance training for losing weight is doing compound lifts.

    Compound lifts activate more muscles, which means a lot of energy — i.e., calories — is needed. These lifts include movements such as pull-ups/chin-ups, lunges/squats, bench press/push-ups.

    Each of these exercises targets a muscle but recruits additional muscles to help the target muscle. As the fat melts away, the muscle will ideally grow slightly enough to fill in any sagging skin from weight loss.

    One note: The exercises can be done with body weight, dumbbells, or plates — at home or at the gym. The exception may be pull-ups/chin-ups, which require a bar to pull yourself up to. You can use a tree branch to do them or do them on playground equipment at the park, but it’s easier to just get a inexpensive doorway pull-up bar if you work out at home. (Don’t worry this is not a gimmick device.)

    Bicycling loss: Cardio is good for strengthening your heart, which is a muscle. I prefer riding my bike, but running, brisk walking, swimming, etc. are all good forms.

    The important point with cardio is to make sure your heart rate is elevated enough to get a workout. A little harder workout — say doing intervals — requires more calories than a steady workout and will help develop strength and lose weight.

    A long cardio session is good, too, for weight loss, but I’ve found that intervals twice a week will boost metabolism naturally and has a big effect on weight loss.

    The weight loss from exercise typically comes after the workout, so it doesn’t matter the time of day you do it — just that you do it.

    Sleeping well at night

    Your body recovers when it sleeps. Getting a good night’s rest is important to keep your body in tip-top shape and this is a very good losing weight tip.

    Drinking lots of water

    More than half you body weight is water. This substance is needed to carry all the quality nutrients throughout your body as well as remove any toxic materials.

    As you can see, good losing weight tips are healthy and safe. They don’t require a gym membership or supplementation, so ignore all those weight loss aids and boost your metabolism naturally.

  • Lifestyle

    When I get bored of indoor winter exercise

    Photo by storebukkebruse from Flickr BY-CC-2.0

    I get bored of cycling at times, or I can not ride outside because it is super cold. So what do I do? Go to the gym? I try. I get bored staring at a wall while running on a treadmill or elliptical. I try other things.

    One of my favorites is chopping wood. It is a great workout swinging an axe. I know that an “axe” is the wrong tool. You are suppose to use a good splitting maul. I just swing the dumb thing. It gets my heart rate up, and I generate a good sweat.

    It is more interval related. The motion of swinging the axe / maul involves the entire body. They I have to pick up the wood and stack it.

    I came across an article in Time, which indicated scientists found that “chopping wood significantly increases testosterone levels, even more so than competitive activities” like soccer. (Here’s the study.)

    Although I don’t eat enough to get grow like a bodybuilder, any increase in testosterone can help me.

    It beats going to the gym, which is so boring to me. What happens when the wood is chopped and stacked? Good question. What is even a better question is that what do I do with the wood after it is split. Sound obvious to burn it in the fireplace. But I no longer use the fireplace. It is just a decoration because it is always so messy.

    I read that a sledgehammer and tractor tire can offer a similar workout. I have not tried that yet, but I will.

    Another great one is using the medicine ball.

    Cool tip

    I recently came across this cool video that shows an “easier” way to chop wood. (It would be easier if he used a maul, rather than that axe.) His concept is neat though. Check this out:

  • Lifestyle

    Why I don’t like cycling

    Photo by Bill Morrow from Flickr, CC BY 2.0 license

    I wrote about what I liked about cycling, so I thought I would write about what I don’t like about biking in this post.

    Gear

    My biggest complaint is gear. This is twofold: It’s expensive and there’s just too much of it needed when traveling. This requires some clarification. I’m going to start with the traveling part.

    When I ride, I wear the full outfit — shorts, jersey, clipless shoes, and helmet. I know it looks funny to those not into biking, but it is very practical when riding. My biggest grumble is the amount of items needed when traveling.

    Everybody likes to travel, I’m no different. I like to travel with my bike. Transporting the bike is a pain the keyster. I need to (a.) take it apart, find a bike box, and ship it to a bike where I’m going, have them re-assemble it; or (b.) use a bike bag, which still requires partial disassembly of the bike. Both are a pain.

    I also have extra cycling clothing I need to bring. The shoes, the helmet, and 1 or 2 jerseys and shorts — depending on how much washing in the sink I want to do on the trip.

    This is expensive carting all this stuff. I’m not a fan of traveling with gear.

    I’m also not a fan of the crazy prices of bicycles, their parts, and clothing. I realize they are out to make money, but it can undermine the sport when a good road bike costs more than $2K and retail stores sell bikes for 200 bucks. People then think bikers are crazy for spending 2 grand on a bike. Maybe my complaint is more about retail stores. I still think prices are out of whack in bike shops, though.

    A good example is a road bike tire. Racing road bike tires can cost $60 bucks for 1 tire, which lasts around 1000 miles. I’ve bought car tires that lasted 25,000 miles for around that price. For the most part, decent road bike tires seem to average around $30 bucks at the bike shop I frequent.

    Engine matters, not cost

    Related to cost: The bike can only go as fast as the person pedaling it. It’s great to have expensive stuff, but if the rider is overweight and has no cardiovascular fitness, then a fast bike is wasted on that rider.

    A lot of people get so caught up with buying gear rather than riding the bike.

    I got caught up in the gear conundrum when I first started cycling. I saw all this cool stuff and thought, man, I gotta have it. I spent a lot of time researching and reading about new gear, which I could not afford. It was good that I could not go out and buy top-of-the-line DuraAce components. I was forced to use Sora, but I learned how to tune those Sora parts so they shifted flawlessly.

    I am not a fan of how people throw money on parts when simple tuning can solve a lot of issues.

  • Lifestyle

    Why I like cycling for fitness

    Photo: Maximum Panda, flickr. Used with a CC BY 2.0 license.

    When I started cycling, I did so out of necessity. I needed a way to get around town without driving my then-piece-of-junk car. It was an easy, cheap transportation method (much faster than walking) but I found it enjoyable. I stuck with it. I thought in this post I would present some info about what makes cycling great.

    Fresh air

    I don’t live in a polluted city. My idea of fresh air is a country road lined by trees away from civilization. I’m lucky that I live where the fresh air is abundant (well, sometimes a little too fresh when you are near a cow pasture. Ha ha.) It’s good to just get outside.

    Views

    The views can be spectacular when riding by bicycle. I can go places that cars can’t and that makes it worthwhile. Driving in mountain states is amazing, but being able to mountain bike on trails in those states is even better. The view is so awesome riding through the woods, down a mountain, or crossing a stream. Don’t believe me? Check out the 401 trail in Crested Butte for mountain biking. That’s not to say I don’t like road biking. I do. I do it a lot. It gives me a chance to pedal at a slower speed and see things I would normally miss if I was in a car.

    Feels good

    I don’t know why I feel better when I exercise, but I do. I’m sure there’s info and studies about how certain chemicals are being produced in the brain. I just know I feel better when I exercise.

    Related to feeling: It provides a sense of escape for me. I selectively ignore some of the stuff that’s weighing on my mind when I ride. My focus becomes more ephemeral — i.e., time to climb this hill or look at that deer in the woods!

    Community

    I like the cycling community, too. These are people willing to exercise and stay fit. Sure, there are eccentrics on every end of the spectrum.

    Gear

    I’m reluctant to mention gear for a couple reasons. The first is that most people don’t need to worry about gear. Whatever bike they have — as long as it fits and is mechanically sound — is good enough. The second is cost. It is great to have the latest bling but totally unnecessary. This stuff is expensive.

    It’s possible to buy the same style race bike that a Tour de France champion rode for under $10K. The performance of these machines is outstanding. They are really light, stiff, and haul. Race bikes are a lot of fun, but they are expensive and probably not worth it unless you are in the hobby pretty deep.

    I like to customize my stuff. For me, the customization process involves getting every part to fit and work for me. Part of this is my love of tinkering. I like to wrench on bikes. I like being in the garage.

  • Lifestyle

    Starting point

    I have always been an endurance junkie. I like to run and bicycle. Although I can’t run super long distances, I do like running. Cycling has always been my maintain for 7-8 years. I could hop on the bike and ride for a few hours at a time. During the ride, I would forget about stuff and just enjoy the sights and sounds. Unfortunately, I fell out of practice the two years. A one hour ride is my limit now. My fitness sucks. I plan to improve that though. I think I may try to log some numbers on this site, and I may try to write some health-related articles. I see where it goes. To start with, here’s my ride data from this morning.

    Route type: Flat
    Wind: 12 mph cross wind
    Distance: 15 miles
    Time: 1 hour 10 minutes.

    Not very impressive, but it’s a starting point.