Sunday, March 31, 2013

Weight Watchers, It Works!

My wife and I started Weight Watchers on January 11, 2013. Obviously, the primary goal is to lose weight and it is working.  As of today, we each have lost about 20 pounds each, so about 2 pounds  a week, which is a healthy amount to lose each week.

Weight Watchers is not about watching calories but uses a points system to help with weight loss.  A male weighing about 255 pounds has a daily point target of 48 points, a set of weekly 49 points and finally when you exercise you get so many points to use later that week based on the amount of exercise you do. For instance, if you do 40 minutes of elliptical training you earned 4 points.  Your primary goal is to use your daily points and if need be dip into your weekly points.

With Weight Watchers, you track your points each day and your weight once-a-week.  In addition, you can track some body measurements since you may not just lose weight but you are probably losing inches as well.  In some cases, in a particular week you may not lose weight but you may gain weight and the only indicator that things are changing with your body are the different measurements.

For tracking, you use the Weight Watchers web site and if you have a smart phone you can use the Weight Watchers application.  There is even an application for doing bar code scans of products at the store to determine their point value.  Newer products are probably not in the scanner tool but you can enter the fat, carbohydrate, fiber and protein values to get a point value per serving.

The cool thing about the points plan, is that you look at serving size and later when on maintenance after losing the weight you want, it will help you remember what a is a reasonable serving size.

There are times when using all your points can be tough, since you want to lose weight and try to eat less then you should eat.  One thing that helps is if you have a partner and you are working together on the points.   My wife and I each have our own accounts and we do breakfast and lunch separately, but dinner we do together.  We usually end up with between 18 and 20 points for dinner and it can be tough to fill those at times.  We bounce ideas off each other and come up with a plan for dinner.

The one thing we have a tough time figuring out is pasta and other items that are based on dry uncooked servings and what you have to measure out is cooked.  Still working on this one but we work around it the best we can.

I started to workout on the elliptical trainer about three times a week and built up to 40 minutes until March when I had to have surgery.  Since the surgery I have not worked out but I am still losing weight and I find that I am not hungry and usually pretty full 95% of the time.  If I need something extra like chocolate or peeps on graham crackers, I can do it since there are weekly points.  You just have to watch that you don't over do it and stay within the points.

I was a little reluctant to try Weight Watchers but wanted to lose weight and support my wife in her weight loss goals.  It is working and easy to use.


Saturday, March 30, 2013

Backups, Who Needs Them!

Do you do backups of your data, of your photographs?  Do you do on-site or off-site backups or both?

Consider this: You have 10 years worth of +Quicken data for your home or business.  In addition, you have 25 years worth of family photos that you paid hundreds of dollars to digitize.  Your house gets hit by a tornado, lightning or even a fire destroying everything and you have no backups.  How do you get your data back?  You don't if you are not doing backups.  This loss is going to potentially cost money and the emotional lose is there as well.

Tomorrow March 31, 2013, is World Backup Day, http://www.worldbackupday.com/.  It is a reminder to look at what you are doing or not doing for backups.  Backups should be a multi-tiered approach a combination of on-site backups and off-site backups.  The backup plan should include a plan for daily, to weekly and even monthly backups along with regular testing of a recovery.  Backups without the ability to recover your data is only half the solution.

On-site backups include using a Network Access Storage (NAS) something like +Drobo 5N 5-Bay NAS Storage Array filled with disk or even a Drobo 5D 5-Bay Storage Array, Thunderbolt/USB 3.0.  You may consider in the long-term to get two of these devices and use one for off-site storage and swap the devices out every couple of weeks.

Currently, my plan includes getting one of the Drobo NAS devices filled to the brim along with the 3 TB USB backup device and the 1 TB USB backup device I am currently using.  The plan includes backing up to each and then ultimately to the Drobo.

One solution for off-site backups include the cloud.  To me the cloud was a very scary place but the technology and bandwidth considerations have improved a great deal.  Using +Comcast.com, you would originally have a 205 GB limit per month, but last year Comcast took that limitation away.  The part was the technology issue.  How to get a full initial backup done in a reasonable amount of time.  The backups needed in my office took up 650 GB and grows about 2 GB to 20 GB after each photo shoot along with all the other data within the office.

Two solutions possible solutions, +Carbonite and +CrashPlan.  Carbonite minimizes the use of bandwidth, is secure and has several reasonable options for one, two or more computers. Carbonite does not offer a SEEDing service at the time I tested it.  My testing lasted about 9 months and in that time I could not get a full initial backup completed especially with the weekly growth I was experiencing.

CrashPlan has multiple options for the home or business, is secure, options for one, two or more computers plus the ability to backup a friends computer or backup to a friends computer. CrashPlan even offers a SEEDing solution for a cost. CrashPlan backs up the most current files first then goes through to the older files.  CrashPlan did not seem to care about bandwidth usage other then what the ISP might limit.

I ended up on February 15, 2013, moving from Carbonite to CrashPlan.  The solution I select was the CrashPlan+ Family Unlimited Plan.  I did get a significant discount for moving from Carbonite to CrashPlan for the first year but the yearly rate was even better than Carbonite's.  I was concerned about how long my initial full backup would take since I was not planning on using the SEEDing solution.  Based on information from the CrashPlan site and my available bandwidth via Comcast, I was pretty sure the backup would take about a month.  I am please to say it took a month to the day.

Each month, I select a directory and do a test recovery to validate I can get the data back to my machine.  CrashPlan has some great FAQs about switching machines if you get a new or if the worse case happens and you lose your entire machine how do you get all your data back.  I recommend before doing any kind of recovery you read the FAQs and if you are uncertain about how to proceed reach out to CrashPlan support.

Now, backups occur daily or right after a photo shoot to my local devices and an on-going backup everyday to CrashPlan.  I still need a new NAS solution to buy as my old NAS device has given up the ghost.

Your backup plan should consider both multiple on-site backup solutions and an off-site solution.  For off-site it is as simple as taking a backup device to the office or putting one in a safety deposit box or backing up to the cloud.  If you have no plan in place, create a plan, start small and grow your plan to fit your needs.

One concern I have with the cloud is what happens if the service I use goes out of business?  This is a concern for any cloud service.  Ensure you have built into your plan a solution in event this scenario happens.

If you do not have a backup plan or you are not doing backups, consider getting started today and worse case start tomorrow.  Realize everyday you put of doing any kind of backups off, you risk of losing data goes up.

If you have any comments or ideas, please comment.

Friday, March 29, 2013

5th Friday Poetry

Since it is the 5th Friday of the month, I thought I would share a bit of poetry.  Two poems for your reading pleasure.

After the dreams I had this last week, I remembered this poem.


Dreams
16-Oct-2004

Dreams may appear
when they are not wanted,
become shadows in the mind,
and over time disappear.

The dream came,
clouded my mind like a flurry
of static on TV.
Flashes of light,
a story,
in color, not black-and-white,
of people known and unknown.
Where did the faces come from?
Movement and flight,
my vision intensifies
as I fall.
Smack!

I awake
sun shines through the window
where there had been darkness.
The light guides my path.
Where it leads, I do not know.
I walk and walk.
Danger lurks in the periphery,
Something grabs me,
sinks a nail in my neck.

I awake in full
aware of the dream
within a dream,
I wonder if I am awake.

Dreams appear
when they are not wanted.



After learning to walk on the winter ice and snow in Alaska, this poem worked it's way out of my head.  For me it brings the view of the aurora and the feeling of the cold and snow.  Just a memory now but something I won't forget.


Winter's Night Walk
21-Oct-2004

On a dark moonless night
overcast with snow laden clouds
there is only the white crunch
of snow  as each foot falls.
Breathe out, a gray fog.
Breathe in, sinuses freeze.

Stop, at forty below,
do not breathe.
Listen, then listen some more.
Hear the clatter of snow flakes
as they strike the ground.

Breathe, inhale deeply.
Smell the whiteness
of new fallen snow.
Do not move as the warmth
of the falling snow calms
the mind. Look up,
the sky begins to clear
and above the clouds...

A green rivulet of light slithers
across the black, growing wider, deeper,
while the hiss of auroral static
catches in the ear,
the roar of the universe,
as the green vaporous light
shimmers in the cold.

Turn, walk home.
Feel God's presence
in the cold green light,
the star-filled sky,
and each falling snow flake.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Getting Fit and Losing Weight

On January 11th, 2013, my wife and I started on +Weight Watchers and have had some good success.  No we did not lose 100 pounds in 3 months but we have lost about 10% of our original body weight and that is great.  A 10% loss in 3 months is good from a health standpoint.  In addition, we are learning what a real portion size is and when we reach our goal weight, we should be able to maintain that weight.  I would recommend Weight Watchers for guys.

One thing I was missing was how I was doing fitness wise.  Last time I lost a lot of weight, I tracked steps each day and other exercise.  So I started looking for a pedometer that would track steps but more.  My ideal pedometer would track steps, heart rate, calories and help motivate me.

I looked at Jawbone Up band by +Jawbone and it looked cool, but I did not like the interface to download the data, it seemed a little clunky.  The one feature I liked was the silent alarm that buzzed you every hour you were sitting still and got you moving.  The ability to keep it on wrist was good but if I went swimming I would probably have to take it off.  The price was okay at about $129 but just a bit more then what I wanted to spend.

I looked at the  Nike+ Fuelband but between price and that it did not do as much as the Jawbone Up, I dismissed it. Also, Nike has a habit of interfaces that a clunky and just a pain to work with.  The Fuelband and its interface could be great but $149 is a bit overkill.

After some thought, I remember a friend who had a Fitbit One  by +Fitbit and was having success with it.  It was not a band but Fitbit was coming out with a band.  The Fitbit One tracks steps, stairs climbed, sleep, calories and gives you an activity score.  Priced at $99 from Amazon.com, though if you search on Amazon you can find one for around $95.  My thought was get the Fitbit One start tracking steps and I pre-ordered the Fitbit Flex and then compare the two. Based on the initial information provided by Fitbit, the Flex would provide all the same information as the Fitbit One but on my wrist so I would not have to worry about taking it off and losing it.  The one problem I have had with the Fitbit One was I forgot to put it on after a shower so I lost 4 hours worth of data.  Also, it would sync with the iPhone via Bluetooth and have the data on their website.

Still the feature missing is a heart monitor.  I did get a Polar H7 heart rate monitor that will sync with my iPhone and then I can transfer data to the Fitbit site manually.  It would be nice to have a heart rate monitor that works with the Fitbit and have all the data in one place without manual intervention.

Right now I think the best fitness tracking device is the Fitbit One and until I can try the Fitbit Flex, I'll stick with the Fitbit One.

One thing I would like to see happen would be if Fitbit and Weight Watchers partnered together and you could get all the food and exercise data in one place.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

First Infrared Pictures with the D800

On March 02, I went up Pingree Park Road past the Jack's Gulch camp ground to take pictures with +Justin King.  I thought I would try some infrared photography with the D800 looking over the High Park Fire burn area.

The Gear

Camera: Nikon D800
Lens: Nikon 28-300mm F3.5-5.6
Filter: Hoya 77mm RM-72 Infrared Filter
Tripod
Remote shutter release

The Picture Details

Aperture: f8
Shutter Speed: 30 seconds
Lens: 28mm

The Shoot

I setup just off the road in a small valley with a creek running through it.  One of the things I wanted to happen with the picture was to get the wispy clouds that a long exposure would give as well as seeing what the burn area would look like in infrared as compared to trees not burned.  First goal was to get the focus right, so first I used the auto focus without the Hoya filter and then set the focus to manual and put the filter on.  In addition,  making sure the vibration reduction was turned off.

The picture below is the result and partially what I expected but also there is a oval of over exposure which was very disappointing. All of the pictures I took with the filter looked similar to this one.


After some research, a hypothesis was formed.  The D800 view finder has a switch to put a cover in place which I did not use.  It was an extremely bright day and the sun was off my right shoulder.  So I'll be doing some testing of this hypothesis over the next couple of weeks.  Closing the view finder will probably have an impact on my night time photography as well, so this will need to be tested out at night as well.

I was able to salvage the picture somewhat and experiment with Lightroom 4.3 and Photoshop CS6 setting to get the look of an actual infrared picture.


The cool part is I was able to validate that I got the clouds looking like I wanted and to try out the infrared filter under actual conditions in a setting where I was not rushed.

As I test out infrared in the future, I'll post more information about the post processing with Lightroom and Photoshop.

See update at Second Infrared Pictures with the D800.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

So you need a TURP done - Two Weeks Later

Two weeks later, well let me back up to Tuesday a week ago.  See my previous post on TURP.

I went in to the the Physician Assistant (PA) to check on things after pulling the catheter out.  They asked for a urine sample, well they did not get one.  They did an ultrasound on my bladder and got a 91.  Not bad considering in the hospital I was having number between 200 and 400, with the average being in the 350 range, which means my bladder was not empty.

I did say that if anyone brought up re-inserting the catheter, doing any poking or prodding that I would run away.  For some reason I was in a lot of pain and also had eaten something that was giving me excessive gas which was not easy to get rid of, due to not wanting to put pressure on my system.

So I left and basically things were good, until Thursday.

Thursday, I go in to urinate and I see a bit of blood (some amount of blood is to be expected but it should not be copious amounts of blood) and I see popping out a blood clot the size of a Daddy Long Legs Spider and it felt very strange coming out. Thursday through Saturday I was seeing multiple large clots and again it was to be expected to see some but I did not expect them to be that large.  Now the clots are basically small and do not happen as frequently and I still see blood.

Monday I saw the doctor.  I went off the drug phenazopyridine that helps decrease urinary track pain and makes the urine a neon orange Sunday at noon and the pain was back.  Basically, on a scale of 0 to 10 (zero no pain), the pain I was having was at about an 9.  With the drugs the pain was down to a 3, which was fine.  The interesting part, I am having two sets of pain, one burning sensation on the initial start and then a significantly greater pain towards the end of going   After giving a urine sample and getting the ultrasound (which was zero, my bladder was empty), I described this to the doctor.  Basically, I am doing good and probably in pretty good shape.  The burning sensation is normal and basically under control.  The significant pain at the end though is not normal and sounds like bladder spasms.  There is the possibility that an infection is in place which could be causing the pain, as well, so my urine sample is being checked in the lab and I'll know Thursday if that is a factor.

So to control the bladder spasms I got another drug called Vesicare, which helps with the spasms.  I started that last night and last night it helped a lot, this morning not so much.  From what I have read, it builds up in the system and so over the next few days it should help during the day.  Also, in about 3 or 4 weeks I should be able to go off it.  I think my bladder has learned that it will always have something in it so does not know how to handle being empty.

I am on 6 more weeks of no exercise and no lifting over 10 pounds.  The issue being that where they removed parts of the prostate around the bladder and urethrae there are scabs forming and if I put to much pressure on my system they will break off, start bleeding and create large clots which could block the urethrae which is not good.  

I still expect at the end of 6 weeks to go off the other drugs I was taking and all should be good.  Another update on this topic in a week or so.

So you need a TURP done


If you are male, read this with a thought to your health.  Also, ensure you have handy your stuffed unicorn, soft fuzzy bunny or soft fuzzy kitten in case the detail is too much for you.

So two years ago I had an issue, I was “peeing in morse code.”  Also, my PSA had jumped up from the normal baseline for me of 2.5 to a 7.  This was very much a sign of BPH or what is an enlarged prostate (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benign_prostatic_hyperplasia.)  Note, BPH in and of itself is not bad but if not dealt with can lead to prostate cancer. So we started a treating with drugs which worked well but after a year it was making me dizzy. So we changed from one drug to two drugs but they were only about 75% effective and inconsistent.

So early in February we needed to determine what was going on inside my body.  Was the prostate causing issues and if so what were they.  Well, I went through a procedure called a Cystoscopy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cystoscopy.)  The scope looked to be at least 2 inches in diameter and about 8 feet long;  well not really.  (Please realize this scope is going in through your urethra and looks way too big to fit.)  In actuality it was about ¼ inch in size and about 2 feet long.  They gave me a local anesthetic prior to insertion (no needle thank God) and then inserted the camera and started the video feed on the monitor next to me.  The doctor was kind enough to ask me if I wanted to view pictures but I said “Hell No!”   Via the procedure it was determined my prostate was constricting my urethra and a node of it was encroaching on my bladder both of which were not good.

There were some options; stay on the drugs, try a procedure called TUMT or TUNA which were in office or a TURP (actually a Bipolar TURP.)  (Video of procedure here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GmDwPdP-0VA.) The drugs were not working the TUMT and TUNA were not an option for me due to the encroachment, so we went with the TURP.  The TURP involves an overnight stay in the hospital with a postoperative catheter which pushes fluid into your bladder and then lets it out via the catheter. The catheter is normally removed within a couple of days, though some get it removed the day after surgery.

So on Monday, March 11th, I went in for the TURP.  Later that morning I woke up with some minor pain and a 2 inch diameter catheter made of fairly inflexible silicon plastic (again this one was really about 3/8th to ½ inch in diameter.)  Remember it has a tube for pushing fluids in, a tube for fluid extraction and a tube that inflates a balloon in the bladder to hold it in place filled with 35 mls of fluid.  It important to note that catheter cannot be extracted with the balloon in place.  For even more information on catheters see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urinary_catheterization.

So Tuesday morning, I talk with the doctor.  He says that 20% of the patients go home with the catheter (leading me to believe 80% went home without one.)  So I told him lets play the odds since I did not want to go home with a catheter.  Well, so they remove the catheter (no pain killers;) first they deflate the balloon ensuring all 35 mils of fluid is out and then slowly start pulling.  Now I was told no pain (well on a scale of 0 to 10) it was actually about a 2 and felt very very strange or weird as one of the nurses told me later that day. Next I got to work on trying to urinate which works but now I must be able to empty my bladder three times and then they ultrasound (bladder scan) and the numbers must come back below 200.  Mine after two tries came back between 225 and 350.  The doctor determined I needed to go home with a catheter.  The nurse was told me I was lucky since I was to get a coude catheter which could be inserted much easier.  

Now this catheter was about 2 inches in diameter and 4 feet long.  It looked that way to me anyway.  It was really about ⅛ th inch in diameter and probably about 18 inches long. A nurse with 40 years of experience got the joy of inserting this new catheter into me.  A catheter going in is not as fun as one coming out; a bit of pain for about 30 seconds and yes that same strange/weird feeling except stranger and weirder since something was going into an out hole.  After about 20 minutes of training on how to change from a leg bag to a large bag for sleeping to keep them clean and me free of infection.  

Finally, it is time to go home to learn how to sleep on my back and sleep in my own bed.  I did not mention that I only got about 4 hours of sleep Monday night, with the noise the IV machine was making, along with the hiss of air from the oxygen line and finally I honestly think they design hospital hallways to funnel noise into the room.  I could hear conversations from way down the hall and when walking out Tuesday (since I don’t remember the trip to the room that well) I notice the closest room was at least 15 feet away if not more but I could hear everything.

So now I am home with a catheter, leash filled with urine.  Yeah, I could drink tons of beer and not worry about getting up but there is just a little more to life then tons of beer (Yeah, I know that is heresy to some.)  The big issue is the comfortableness of something hanging out of you and some slight pain.  I learned a bit of humility and gained respect for those that must wear a catheter everyday with no sight in end.  

Finally, Tuesday the following week, 7am, a beautiful morning and I get the experience of taking the catheter out myself.  Yes, I get to cut the balloon line in the catheter, ensure the balloon is empty and then it is suppose to just fall out.  Not!  I had to gently pull it out inch by inch, at least I did not have to put it in.  Yes, there was that strange/weird feeling  and it was just plain weird.  It was out.  The cutting of the balloon line took about 30 seconds, rubber does not cut well even with sharp scissors because you are being extra cautious with the scissors since these sharp items are very, very close to your family jewels.

I'll be posting an update for the Pre-Post-OP appointment and status. See my week 2 update.