Friday, January 28, 2011

Days Growing Longer Faster

At the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, night loses the upper hand and the days begin to get longer and longer. At first slowly, imperceptibly, then faster and faster until we reach the middle of spring when each day is three minutes longer than the day previous.

I found this great graph that illustrates the rate of change.

On December 21, the winter solstice, the daily variation is nearly zero, which means that the length of daylight on that day is pretty much the same as the day before and the day after. 

Now take a look at today, the tail end of January. Each day is more than two minutes longer than the day previous. Tomorrow's daylight is going to be 2 minutes and 23 seconds longer than today's. 

During the entire month of March, each day will be more than three minutes longer than the day previous. That's more than an hour and a half gain in daylight over the month. 

You can see that the curve also flatten in March, and at the spring equinox the rate of change begins to slow until we pause at the summer equinox toward the end of June. Just like at the winter equinox, the rate of change is essentially zero, and the difference in daylight between the days is measured in seconds.

At this time the days start getting shorter and shorter, the rate of change accelerating and reaching a peak of around three minutes shorter per day at the end of September, at the Autumnal equinox. 

But after that, the rate of change slows and slows as we approach the winter solstice when the rate of change again becomes zero, when we again pause before reversing...and the whole thing starts over again. 

I just wanted to share this. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Weight, Cholesterol Down

Since October of last year, I've lost 25 lbs and have lowered my cholesterol. This, simply by applying the excellent advice I received from Bend nutritionist Gina Bailey (whose shop is located in the Boom Boom Beauty Room building, one of my favorite building names—and I hope it's one of yours, too). 

The process has been painless. I had to give up on junky food, eat more, smaller meals, and get into the habit of making nutritiously-dense, low-carbohydrate and low-sugar meals high in protein, which is extra-challenging for us non-meat eaters because we have fewer options for proteins. 

But I'm a closeted chef so I really don't mind the cooking. No, I really don't. I enjoy the ritual of chopping and sauteéing, seasoning and dishing.

People have noticed the change. Downtown, at Santiago's Top Leaf Maté shop (excellent maté, I'm a purist, as my reader knows, and only drink it raw) I ran into a young woman who works at the Wine Shop next door. She asked whether I had changed my hair or something because I looked younger?

(Sweet kid. I made a note to give her a bigger tip next time, and maybe write her into my will.)

I felt pleased. I said I've lost weight.

But there is a bigger picture here, my friend. This is not just about getting a compliment from a kind person, this is about seeing the objective health benefits that accrue from weight loss and from change in diet. 

I'm talking about real data from lab tests. The kind your doctor can discuss with you, like my M.D. did with me yesterday. 

We reviewed the results of last week's blood tests and my cholesterol profile has dramatically improved:

Collection Date

Component Range 01/25/10 03/24/10 05/28/10 07/08/10 01/13/11
Cholesterol OPT: < 200 161 181 144 169 126
Triglycerides 30-150 88 88 112 105 48
HDL OPT: > 40 54 56 46 54 50
LDL OPT: <100 89 107 76 94 66
VLDL 4 – 40 18 18 22 21 10
CHOL/HDL OPT: < 4.97 3 3.2 3.1 3.1 2.5
NON-HDL CHOL OPT: < 130 107 125 98 115 76
Big changes, and all for the better. Cholesterol is down, LDL is down, HDL is up.

Here's what I find interesting: 

  1. I have been on statins, cholesterol-reducing drugs, since 2005, and on the highest dosage of simvastatin a doctor can easily justify giving since 2009. Prior to changing my foods, my lipids profile was not looking good.
  2. These improvements in cholesterol and the rest of the lipids are not correlated to BMI or weight loss, so this improvement comes entirely from diet.
  3. This food plan has me eating the opposite of what we are normally advised to eat: Instead of avoiding cholesterol-rich foods, I was told to eat whole eggs because a body needs cholesterol, and instead of avoiding saturated fats, I was told to cook with highly-saturated fatty acids coconut oil.

Results contrary to what most of us believe. Go figure. Gina gave me some papers to read about cholesterol, but I figured I'd just skip the reading this time and simply follow her advice. The evidence is in the lab results, and they speak volumes.

My blood pressure and heart rate are also down (my resting HR is now 61), and other than some BPH (normal for us old guys), I'm feeling right good.

My internist is pleased, my nutritionist is pleased, and Mrs Elliott is tickled. 

I'm fortunate to have such good support.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Why Even Own a TV?

Mrs Elliott and I spend over a hundred bucks a month for cable. That's a lot of love.

How does cable pay us back?

Like an abusive lover. Here's what's on tonight* (HDTV listings, only, if it ain't HDTV, it ain't worth watching):
  • Discovery (1080i) has Pitchmen at 7 p.m., Dirty Jobs at 9 p.m. and Auction Kings at 10 p.m.
  • CW (1080i) has the series finale of Life Unexpected at 8 p.m.
  • NBC (1080i) has The Biggest Loser at 8 p.m. and Parenthood at 10 p.m.
  • ABC (720p) has No Ordinary Family at 8 p.m., V at 9 p.m. and Detroit 187 at 10 p.m.
  • Fox (720p) has Million Dollar Money Drop at 9 p.m.
  • CBS (1080i) has NCIS at 8 p.m., NCIS: LA at 9 p.m. and The Good Wife at 10 p.m.
  • TBS (1080i) has the season finale of Glory Daze at 10 p.m.
  • TLC (1080i) has What Not to Wear at 9 p.m.
  • FX (720p) has Lights Out at 10 p.m.
  • Comedy Central (1080i) has Tosh.0 at 10 p.m. and The Onion Sportsdome at 10:30 p.m.
  • USA (1080i) has the winter premiere of White Collar at 10 p.m.
  • TNT (1080i) airs Southland at 10 p.m.
  • Versus (1080i) has The T.Ocho Show at 10:30 p.m.
  • ESPN (720p) has college basketball with Michigan State/Illinois at 7 p.m. and Kentucky/Alabama at 9 p.m.
  • ESPN2 (720p) has Colorado/Nebraska college basketball at 7 p.m. and Australian Open 2011 tennis at 9 p.m.
This, my friends, is crap TV. Good thing we have a Netflix-enabled Bly-Ray player, so we can watch some slightly less-crappy movies.

* List lifted from

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Non-Dining Experience Leaves Bad Taste in Mouth

"It's just not nice," exclaimed Mrs Elliott as we walked out of Marz Bistro last night. "Someone needs a lesson in manners."

We've eaten at Marz a couple times in the past, but never on a First Friday because they've been so crowded. This time we made a point to get there early, packing a Marz $35 gift certificate that had been given to us last summer.

There were still tables, and we felt that we'd lucked out.

But when I handed the certificate to the guy who was seating us, he hesitated, and showed it to a manager-looking type woman who was folding napkins or something.

"It's too old," she said. "We discounted them to half value a while back, and now they are too old to be used."

Well . . . no. There's a problem right there. According to this page on the Oregon Department of Justice's website, gift cards and certificates do not expire.

The page states that,
[...] the value on a gift card can no longer be reduced because you have not used the card or a certain period of time has passed since the gift card was purchased. Additionally, you may not be charged a fee to use the card, such as an inactivity fee, a maintenance fee or a service fee.

Gift cards may only have an expiration date if the card is marked with the expiration date (in at least 10-point type), the card does not expire for at least 30 days after it was purchased, and the card was sold for less than the face value of the card.

The card has no expiration date on it.

[Addendum: Mrs Elliott's recollection is a bit different than mine. She says that the woman (who didn't bother to get up) said that they had been half-valuing the certificates for a while, but now they've just stopped taking them. A bit different than saying they were too old, but the effect is the same, in my mind.]

Okay, okay, to be fair, the place has since been sold to Gavin McMichael of the Blacksmith. John Gottberg writes "Gavin McMichael’s new venture [Gatsby’s Brasserie Bar] is scheduled to open January 19 in the soon-to-be-former Marz location in downtown Bend. Marz is open for one more week, serving Wednesday-to-Friday lunches and Wednesday-to-Saturday dinners."

So maybe McMichael is not legally obliged to accept gift cards sold by the previous owner.


But the place still has the "Marz" sign over the door, they are operating under the name "Marz," so we had a fair expectation that the card would be honored. 

The staff could have been instructed to explain the situation and could have offered a free appetizer or something to at least partially cover for the inconvenience, and we would have accepted that. Instead, they flatly declined the card.

We could have argued the point, but there were diners there, staring. Besides -- I've read Fight Club and I know what kind of evil shit food servers can do to your food if they are pissed off at you.

Instead, we walked out.

So, new owners or not, Marz/Gatsby’s has just been dropped from our list of downtown dining places (we're not feeling too will-disposed towards Blacksmith, either), and the operation hereby receives The Jack and Mrs Elliott What A Bunch Of Tools Award.

It doesn't have an expiration date.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


A chimp in a yukata taking a picture of a bikini model.
Here's a photo from the early '60s which needs a whole lot of explaining.

What we see here is a chimp in a yukata taking a picture of, we are told, a bikini model.

Why is he dressed like that? At the time, smoking jackets were considered the height of savoir-faire for your available straight bachelor playing the field, so maybe this little guy was some kind of suave man-about-town (like Jack). But human women? If so, that's one seriously twisted chimp.

And what possible interest could a chimpanzee have in photography? Sure his little hands are dexterous, but can he focus? Press the shutter release? And what would a chimp do with such a photo?

So many questions.

Women Laughing Alone With Salad

Ha ha, she said. has a photo series of women laughing alone with salad. Click on the link and you'll see a mess of photos of women, well, laughing while eating salad. Alone.

My friend Bruce Miller and I have been discussing this imagery. We both understand that that we're viewing stock photography to be used in print ads promoting healthy dining or to flog salad dressing.

Taken out of context, though, viewed by someone from the 535th century or an aboriginal Australian, someone who does not know women of our time want to be slim, these images would be a puzzle. If they have lettuce where they are then they will know that a salad is something that needs concentration, willpower, some free time, and strong molars to grind through. Hardly a laughing matter.

Taken as a whole the images are, to me, slightly weird. I don't recall ever hearing about women alone eating salad, laughing. Miller tells me that he has never witnessed such a thing.

Maybe some of the ladies can comment on this. Click on the Comment link, below. You can leave your comment anonymously if you wish. Tell us: do you, anyone you know, laugh while eating salad alone?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Down a Few Dress Sizes, Seven Years No Itch

As I posted in September, I sought the aid of a nutritionist to shake off a few pounds. We made some corrections to my eating habits and the result has been good. In July my doctors' scale put me at 212 lbs. (In July of '09, after being in a wheelchair for two months following ankle surgery I weighed 218 lbs.)

Yesterday, on the same scale, I weighed 192 lbs.

That's two to three dress sizes, I guess. Hard to say exactly because it takes anywhere between seven to ten pounds to go down a size, depending on body type and the sizes you're going switching between (there's only an inch between some sizes and two between others), and I don't wear dresses, mainly.

But if I did I'd sure be tempted to go on a buying spree. 

I set my food plan aside last night. Not just because it was New Year's Eve, also because it was our wedding anniversary. Mrs Elliott and I counted on our fingers and compared notes, and near as we can tell we've been married for seven years.

Best thing I ever did, marrying this woman. She's the one that told me it was high time I rid myself of a few pounds -- generally speaking, she's the one that lets me know when I get too far off course. Her price is far above rubies. Maybe as high as diamonds, but now we're haggling.

One of the things we like to do for a romantic evening is cook together, and we cooked up a fine meal last night. Just check out this menu:

Garlic, Chickpea and Spinach Soup

Pears with Ricotta and Gorgonzola Cheese, Green Olive, and Date Stuffing

Phyllo-Wrapped Roasted Asparagus with White Wine and Shallot Reduction in Herb Butter Sauce

Leek Soufflé

Blueberries with Whipped Cream

Everything was delicious. (The soufflé was a bit heavy -- it rose fine, but it was wet inside. My first thought was that I had made a mistake by returning the cooked leeks back into the sauce, making it too heavy, but re-reading the recipe this morning I see that I did it right. So my working theory now is that it needed more time in the oven to fully firm up. But it tasted great so no regrets there.)

We re-read our wedding vows to each other, we sipped Champagne in the spa, we listened to music, I surprised her with a fine French perfume.

I'm a damn lucky man.

Drifting to sleep I listened to Bend greet the new year with a few firecrackers and, probably, a gunshot or two. Reminded me of the ten years I lived in Vista, Ca., where one is lulled to sleep every New Year's eve with the sound of guns starting at 11:55 and peaking at midnight with a constant barrage of semi-automatic weapons fired into the air.

I hope y'all have a happy and prosperous 2011.

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