Enabling remote logging

I was experimenting with rsyslog to allow remote logging and within 20 minutes, I had two rogue log entries show up from random hosts.

Jan 17 05:00:23 64-181-24-18.unassigned.ntelos.net kernel: Configuring keys for mac:14:5a:05:ad:6b:cd, sc_hasclrkey is set
Jan 17 05:01:05 64-181-24-18.unassigned.ntelos.net kernel: Configuring keys for mac:14:5a:05:ad:6b:cd, sc_hasclrkey is set

So what is interesting about this? I’m on comcast in PA. The host that sent this is on ntelos.net, or Lumos in (most likely) West Virginia. For some reason, a system there is sending a log message to my IP address. I just now am accepting it.

Audible Thoughts

Recently, I’ve been working my way through the Ender’s Saga audio books. I had read Ender’s Game back in grade school, but I didn’t know there was a whole series. They’re a really good read.. or listen, as the case may be.

I’ve been listening to the Ender series in mp3 format. First, I had them on a thumb drive which was read by my car’s radio. I find it very convenient that a radio in my car can directly read a thumb drive’s file-system and play any audio files found on it. My wife has the same feature in her car and updates her thumb drive quite often with different music.

When I was listening to Ender’s Game, I noticed that sometimes when I turned off the car, it would forget my place in the current file and start from the beginning. With Ender’s Game, the book was split up into lots of small MP3s, several per chapter, so this wasn’t too big a deal. I soon determined that the trick was to make sure the track was playing before I shut the car off. If I had it paused for some reason (say a phone call) when I shut the car off, the file would restart when I started the car back off. If I just turned off the car while it was playing, it would resume perfectly.

However, after listening to the third book, “Xenocide” for around a week, somehow it went back to the beginning of the book. I did some fiddling with the and found I couldn’t find my place. After further examination, I discovered that this book is split into 3 MP3s, each over 6 hours long. My radio doesn’t have the ability to forward within each track. Not many MP3 players do.

I was able to resolve this by moving the book to my Android phone and setting up a Winamp playlist. Here, I can slide a little dot to any position in the file (and therefore the story) I want. I can also listen to the book outside of the car and keep my place. Rather nice.

I am still bit annoyed about the need to do this. To me, this represented a huge shortcoming in audio books. After reflecting on this, I realised it wasn’t a shortcoming in audio books, but rather in the particular format and players involved.

In my last vehicle, I had listened to some audio books on mp3 on cd. Here, it was one huge mp3 for the entire book. However, the cd player *always* resumed at the same place. I knew that if I took the CD out, I would go back to the beginning though. This was another shortcoming. The CD player considered each MP3 a track and couldn’t fastforward within a track itself, only from track to track.

Some of the original audio books were on tape. I suppose there might have been some on records, but the first format I’ve ever been familiar with was cassette tape. Tape players had no concept of tracks, everything was just a position on the tape. Ok, I know I had one tape player that would attempt to detect when one song ended and the other began, which would stop a fast forward when it reached a silent spot. But by and large, you navigated every second of the tape using fast forward and reverse. Tape was probably the best implementation of audio books.

Then came audio books on CD. Most CD players I knew back then, along with some modern ones we have in our house now works track by track. Discmans, home theatre stereos and vehicle cd players almost universally have this limitation. I know a few players that can fast forward within a track, but there isn’t that big of a market for this feature, so it gets left out. Audio books on CD were a step backwards from tape.

Today, we have audio books in a digital format such as mp3 or wav. These have a big advantage that they can be purchased online and downloaded. But unless you have a “smart” player such as a computer, ipod touch or smartphone, you have the same limitation as a CD. Even the non-touch ipods have ‘track by track, file by file’ controls.

I suppose this problem will correct itself as tablets, smartphones, and all manner of personal computing devices proliferate. For now though, a decent audio book experience is limited to tape or “smart players”. There is a wide range of inexpensive (and expensive) mp3 players that will most likely end up frustrating anyone getting into audio books.

Impressive Notebook

Those of you that know me probably wouldn’t guess this, but I actually work with a bunch of nerds, geeks, and freaks. Pretty much all of my coworkers have smartphones, and many of them have at least one tablet. Every time a new portable computing device launches, it’s a guarantee that someone in my group will show up with it. Since all these devices are nearly similar, no one is really impressed when a new one shows up in the office.

A couple weeks ago, a friend of mine was studying for the GMAT test. With the GMAT materials is several sheets of laminated graph bound together. The idea is that you can practice on this with dry-erase markers while studying. I thought this was an ingenious idea. I had once tried to use a small whiteboard for temporary notes, but it lost its usefulness after a few notes. The graph paper “notebook” worked out to about 6 long sheets (3 pages front and back, legal sized), so you had plenty of room to take notes. I looked them up online, and one pad was running around $25. I tabled that idea.

This week, I remembered the pad and thought “I could just get some graph paper and laminate it myself!”. I stopped in a Big Lots and Dollar General. No graph paper. Then I went to target and found some. But while I was looking at that and trying to decide how I would bind it, I came across a  5-Star Flex Binder. The binder itself could be opened flat and came with dividers, graph paper, and regular lined paper for $10. I figured this would work out better than any homemade solution I would come up with.

Anyways, I carried this thing fresh from the store into work. It caught everyone’s attention. In the parking lot, a coworker was like “look at you all impressive with your notebook”. I had it lying on my desk and everyone that passed it took notice. Where a $500 tablet gets a yawn, my $10 notebook was drawing a surprising amount of interest. I may have started something new.

To complete my story, I discovered that I did NOT have to laminate the graph paper. Three of the “divider pages had an insert for a full sheet of paper. I was able to place the graph paper into these plastic sheathes and they work great for dry erase markers.

 

 

It was a  so I can definitely see why they are envious. Even the binder rings are flexible!

For Sale: Dirt Devil Ultra Vision Turbo.

For Sale:  Dirt Devil Ultra Vision Turbo.
Price: Make an offer
“It Kinda Sucks” – John Hogenmiller, USMC

I once owned a regular Bissel bagged vacuum cleaner.  For the better part of a decade, I would turn it on and vacuum the floor. Before that, my sister owned the vacuum and did pretty much the same thing.  It was a rather boring device that picked up debris from the carpet and would place it in a bag.

Like all good things, this boring vacuum cleaner broke.  A plastic part that held the upright portion to the base developed a crack.  This prevented the belt from tightening properly, leading to breakages.  Perhaps some JB weld would have held this piece together.  However, we had received some money from our wedding and decided to replace this 10+ year old appliance.

We picked up a Dirt Devil Ultra Vision Turbo.  Robin had been saying she wanted something red, shiny, powerful, and fast.  I felt this “turbo” vacuum cleaner would fit the bill.  As we began using it, I often thought back to how boring the old Bisell was compared to this new vacuum.  You see, Dirt Devil had done some research and found that most people found vacuuming to be a boring job.  In a survey, 93% of all respondents stated that they would rather do “anything else” than vacuum.  Dirt Devil decided to change all this.  They had all the data.  People hated vacuuming.  The Ultra Vision Turbo was designed: not so much with vacuuming in mind – but to challenge people.
    
That’s right.  Before getting this vacuum, it had never occured to fight with my vacuum.  It never occured to me to question its functionality.  Dirt Devil has changed the way I look at vacuuming.  The first thing I noticed when we first used it was that it seemed to only pick up half the dirt.  In fact, I often had to question if it was picking up the dirt or if it was just spreading it around.  I knew that if I turned it off in one room and carried it to another, dirt from the first room would be deposited in the second.  This was part of the mental challenge.

The next thing I noticed was that it was constantly getting clogged.  With the older bagged vacuums, air flowed through a 1″ x 3″ straight plastic chamber to the bag.  With the new bag-less (and even most of the bagged) vacuums, this is replaced with a 1.5″ diameter bendy hose.  This feature isn’t specific to Dirt Devil, but it does an amazing job of trapping dirt, lint, and dog hair in each bend.  The cool thing that Dirt Devil did is that they require you to use a philips screwdriver to remove the hose enough to unclog it.  You can plan on doing this at least once for every two times you vacuum.

The other nifty feature of this vacuum is a thin, fragile belt.  The thin belt is crucial.  If you had a durable belt like the older vacuums did, you might never have to replace it.  Our last vacuum had the same belt for over 10 years — the original belt from the store.   With the Dirt Devil, you get to replace the belt once a year or more.  The vacuum currently needs its third belt in under two years.  Much like the last time I went to pick up one of these belts from the store, Wal-Mart is sold out.  They are a hot commodity.  They have the same exact vacuum, some filters, and an empty peg where the belts would go.  It’s a lot like new game consoles being sold out everywhere, but for all eternity.
   
Sometimes.. you just don’t know what the problem is.  In this case, you do exploratory maintenance.  This involves taking the vacuum apart and cursing at it until it works again.

So if you’re looking for a vacuum that needs maintenance as much as your floor needs vacuumed, the Dirt Devil Ultra Vision Turbo is for you.   I picked up a Bissel bag-less.  I would have got the bagged version, but I saw it had the same hose setup as the bagless.  It did get the clogged hose, but the hose is transparent.  I can see the clog.  It lets me stretch the hose out to get the clog moving again.  It also picks up all the dirt I can see or feel with my bare feet.  It fails to dump dirt from one room into another.  It is.. a boring vacuum.

4HB Stalling out, changing course

As I have mentioned before, Ii have been following the diet and exercise regime as laid out in Tim Ferris’s The Four Hour Body.  The slow carb diet  implies that you can lose 20 pounds in 30 days.  Over the month of February I lost 5 pounds, going from 200 pounds to 195.  It wasn’t as fast as claimed, but the weight loss was consistently going down, so I figured I would stick with it.  The other factor I was supposed to track was my gut’s measurements (this is actually more important than the bathroom scale weight), which has stayed consistently at 39″. 

In March, the weight loss just stalled out.  On the weigh-in day/binge day morning, I would be at 195.  At the end of the day, I would be back up at 197 or 198.  It would then take the rest of the week to  get back down to 195.  My overall weight had stopped decreasing for 4 weeks now.  If my gut was decreasing, I would be ok with this, as that would mean that I’m adding muscle mass as I’m supposed to doing the Occam’s Protocol workouts.

As always in times of crisis, I turned to the Internet.  I found a forum called fourhourpeople.com where they discuss their workouts, menus, and progress.  I soon learned that the Slow Carb Diet and the Occam’s Protocol/Feeding were actually two separate programs.  They have overlap on the diet, but are two separate approaches.

One big change is that with  Occam’s feeding, you are to consume large quantities of calories and protein.  Then, instead of a binge day, you have a reverse binge day with reduced calories.  The exercises rely on an increased amount of calories and protein to work, followed by a day of reduced calories.  Slow carb relies on an influx of simple carbohydrates once a week to “kick-start” your metabolism.  By doing the exercises and the binge day together, I could very well be slowing down the results of both programs.

The Occam’s Protocol/Feeding section of the book is rather poorly written.  Throughout the book, Tim focuses on “simple to follow” plans, stating the complicated will fail.  The Occam-related chapters, however, spread important facts out everywhere in paragraph form.  By reading other people’s reviews and summaries of the chapter, I was able to go back and pick out the important details, but it took some searching.  Here is the best guide to Occam’s Protocol/Feeding I have been able to find: http://wiki.dandascalescu.com/summaries/tim_ferriss_-_the_4-hour_body/from_geek_to_freak_-_gaining_muscle#Preparation

The slow-carb diet is much easier to explain and follow, with clearly spelled out rules:
http://gizmodo.com/#!5709913/4+hour-body-+-the-slow+carb-diet

So I have been trying to decide how I want to proceed.  Do  I switch over to Occam to build muscle mass?  In theory, doing so will also accelerate fat loss as muscles burn more fat and calories than no muscles.  So switching to Occam, if it works, should “re-shape” my body.  Also, gaining muscle is my ultimate goal, as I want to get back into shape.  Ideally i would build my body back up, lose weight, and then start into a running program. However, despite success stories on Four Hour Body, the back of my mind is also worried that it will just make me fatter (Occam’s feeding adds starches back into meals), which I would then have to work even harder to lose.

If I go completely and only into the Slow-Carb diet for a month, I should see some dramatic weight loss.  This would be the easier, safer approach with easily confirmed results.  If I lose the weight, I would feel better about gaining weight under Occam’s, knowing that I can lose it again.

For this week and possibly next, I’m going to “fall back” to only the slow-carb diet as I do some more research and try and figure out what I want to do. 

4HB: 28 days later

I started the 4HB diet/exercise plan on January 30th, and we are no 27 days in.  For those that don’t like to read a lot, I lost 5 pounds, putting me just barely ahead of the soup diet.  However, I do find this diet MUCH easier to stick with for the long term.  I don’t feel the need to “cheat” on it that much at all.  As such, I’m going to continue following it into March.  I have yet to see a reduction in the waist line or hips, but I figure when I get
down 10 pounds or more, I should start seeing that — it’s got to go
somewhere.

Interestingly enough, when I started entering all my weights into fatsecret.com, I found I am pretty much back to where I was in October at 196.  I have been recording my weight somewhat religiously this month, so the chart looks more and more jagged.

weight history - October to March
You’ll notice that on my binge days (Saturdays) my weight spikes back up several pounds.  However, each time it does, it goes up less than it did the previous week.  My Saturday morning weights are: 2/5: 197, 2/12: 197, 2/19: 195.4, 2/26: 196.

Because of these jumps, I have to wonder if the “binge days” are really helping or not.  I know that they help with the mental aspect – it’s much easier to not cheat if you can look forward to having that food you want in a few days. But does it really help to “kick start my metabolism” as Tim claims?

So my plan for March is to experiment with getting rid of the binge day, and change it to one binge “meal” each week (pizza OR ice cream OR waffles, instead of all three).  We shall see if the weight loss becomes more pronounced doing that.  I can’t see myself being disciplined enough to sustain that type of diet for an extended period of time, but once I reach my target weight, I can switch back to the binge day method.

Exercises:

I have been following the Occam Protocol exercises as best I can with my schedule, but I haven’t been able to follow it exactly.  I have put Workout A and B closer together than recommended (2 days instead of 4), and I didn’t really “get” that the important part of the workout is the rep you fail on.  So early on, if I got to 10 reps and the last one was hard to do, I stopped there.  The part of your workout that counts is that millimetre by agonising millimetre maximum effort push to move the weight and failing.  Additionally, I have talked to some other “gym people” and they recommend that going a week between workouts would be better than going two days between them.  You want to give your muscles enough time to recover.

I also was completely ignorant about the Incline Bench Press.  I know what that is with the free weight option, it’s a bench that is slightly inclined and you do a bench press.  I figured the machine would look the same.  I don’t have a spotter, so I was scared to really do the free weight option — you’re supposed to go until you fail, and that doesn’t work with free weights by yourself.  They do have a squat machine with hooks that can put a bench under.  I was able to use that for one of my sessions, but it’s still not optimal.  It turns out that the incline bench press machine looks almost exactly like the shoulder press machine, the handles are just positioned differently. So last week was my first time using the correct machine (and therefore, exercising the right muscle group).

I also ran into a pleasant, yet hindering surprise with the leg press.  I have had to keep trying different machines in order to actually fail.  The first machine, one I’ve used several times in the past, tops out at 340 pounds.  I had started at a lower weight, did 10, and I kept incrementing the weight, doing 10 reps each time, until I maxed out the machine and did 12 reps at 340 pounds.  I’ve tried some different machines over different sessions and it seems that I need 420 pounds to really give my legs a proper workout.

Essentially, a lack of experience has prevented me from doing an optimal workout (at least as Tim defines it), but hopefully I’m on the right track now.

4HB Workouts and Diet

First off, the top rated review for this book on Amazon sums the book up better than I plan on doing.  Read that and this, and you might not really need the book.  Before writing this out, I was wondering if Tim would come after me for revealing items in his book.  However, after seeing the key elements discussed in the Amazon reviews and all the youtube video demonstrations, I figure revealing the “what” doesn’t matter.  Tim uses his book to explain the why, along with providing a lot of background information and examples.  As I am just in my first week, I don’t know if it works or not.  I will follow it as closely as possible, and if it doesn’t work, I’m not going to ask for my money back.  People who buy books that promise to make you into a superman while eating 4,000 calories and working out less than 4 hours a month deserve to have their money taken.

Basically, I have first-hand experience in loosing weight for 30 days — it’s not the soup thing but the 1500-1700 calories per day thing that will let me loose weight.  So this is just an experiment to see if Tim’s method is actually faster.

Diet

The 4HB Diet plan is fairly simple and not too original.  It’s a low-carb diet with a binge day that you can use to satisfy all your cravings.

Rules:
1. No “white” carbohydrates

2. Eat the same few meals over and over again

3. Don’t drink calories 
(no sodas)
4. Don’t eat fruit (or dairy)
5. Take one day off per week

When I did the 30 days of soup, I added some non-soup days as a sort of concession “on these days, I’ll let myself eat a little bit more and it shouldn’t hurt too much”.  However, the binge day concept is more along the lines of eat whatever you want, as much as you want.  It’s supposed to kick-start your metabolism and help with the more mental aspects of dieting.  Instead of denying myself pizza or waffles, I’m giving myself a food to look forward to on Saturday.

Exercises

There are 4 exercises that make up the 4 hours in the 4 Hour Body.  Each exerciese only takes a few minutes to complete and if you do just those exercises, you’ll spend probably 15 minutes each session, times twice a week for 4 weeks.  There are two optional exercises for abs and arms that take a bit more time, but 30 minutes is pushing it.  So it’s actually less than 4 hours for the new you, assuming it works.

You do two sessions each week with 3-4 days between each session.  You start with 3 days between them and go to 4 days as you add more weight.  The idea is that each exercise damages your muscle just enough to start the rebuild process and any additional exercise is wasted effort (according to Tim).  However, if you work extra muscle groups like the abs and arms, then those won’t affect the impact of the “required” exercises.

All exercises use a 5-second cadence of 5 seconds up, 5 seconds down.  You are supposed to do 1 set of 7 or more reps.  You go until you fail.  If you put on 100lbs and fail at 5 reps, you stop there.  If you put on 80lbs and end up going to 9 reps, that is where you stop.  At each session, you adjust the weight based on how well you did on your last session, trying to fail on the 7th rep.

Session A:
 Pull-downs
 Shoulder press

Session B:
 Inclined Bench Press
 Leg Press
  After the leg press, do 3 minutes at 85+rpm on a stationary bike to loosen up the leg muscles.

The optional ab exercises (do with session A) are the Myotatic Cruch* (a swiss ball exercise), and the “cat vomit”. This frenchfrye guy has a series of videos where goes through the workouts, including the free weight options I didn’t describe.

* Myotatic Cruch – the guy in the video forgot to keep his arms aligned with ears.  The point is not to move your arms, but move your torso, including the head.

The 4 Hour Body.

I came up with the 30 Days of Soup myself. I work nights Sun-Wed/Thur
down in Virginia (leave Sunday, come home either Wednesday or Thursday
off the rest of the week). It became conveinent to just eat soup while
down in VA, but at home my eating was all across the board. My exercise is also kind of hit or miss.

I decided to try eating
soup only for a full 30 days to see how it went (without increasing my exercise). Turns out I couldn’t stick with it, but I was loosing
between 1 and 2 pounds each week. Basically staying between 1500-1700
calories for me allows me loose the weight, 1700-2000 seems to be the
“stay the same” range, and somewhere above that is where I would start
increasing.

So knowing something that works (hitting a certain calorie range), this month I decided to experiment.  If the experiment produces no results, I can fall back on what I know works for me.

For this month, I’ve decided to try stuff from “The 4-Hour Body” and see
how much impact it has. It will either have no impact, a little
impact, or high impact. Essentially, it’s a low-carb diet with 1
“binge day” each week, with two 30-minute workout sessions each week.

In
this first week, I went from 200.4 to 197.4 lbs and from 155.75 total
inches to 155 total inches (measured across waist, hips, each leg, and
each bicep). The next two weeks will show if that’s a fluke or a steady
trend.

A failure in discipline, a lesson in status quo

So here we are 26 full days in – I technically started on the evening of January 2nd, so January 3rd is my first full day.  I’d say that after the 15th, I have barely touched a can of soup.  While at work, it’s rather easy to stick with the soup option.  I basically get hungry, go to my drawer, and get a can of soup.  At home, I have more choices.  In fact, the last half of the month, I have taken a number of days off, making every week a short week.

When I’m home and it comes to making a choice about what to eat, the fact that I’m on a diet barely registers on my mind.  My brain pays no attention to that fact.  It’s not like I have an argument with myself over eating either soup or a hamburger and then give in — rather, I just grab something.  Sometimes it’s soup, other times it’s a bag of M&Ms.

The one thing I have managed to do is to track my food intake.  I’ve primarily been interested in calories, with a secondary eye on sodium intake.  I was originally shooting for approximately 1500 calories per day, over 26 days though, I am at an average of 1712.  I kept being amazed by how many calories everything has.  “LIte” syrup has 100 calories in a serving.  I did however, find some Splenda-based syrup that is only 30 calories per serving.  Since I love waffles and pancakes, I will be purchasing this type of syrup more often.

>>> # starting from Jan 2nd
… print (1450 + 825 + 2473 + 1220 + 1190 + 1980 + 1910 + 1630 + 1338 + 1734 + 1653 + 1190 + 2497 + 1630 + 1370 + 2680 + 1078 + 1694 + 1264 + 2662 + 1366 + 1820 + 1877 + 2511 + 1862 + 1616)/26
1712

Weight-loss: I went from 204 lbs to 200 lbs at a steady decline.  My weight loss moved decently in the beginning, and then levelled off as I strayed further and further from the original diet plan.

Excercise:  During this experiment, I did almost no exercise — I wanted to see how well a strict diet did.  Unfortunately, since I didn’t keep a strict diet, it’s pretty inconclusive.   It did however, test my ability to stick to a diet, even a temporary one.  Going into this, I figured that I would do much better at sticking to a diet than I would at motivating myself to do exercise.  To a point of watching calories, I was mostly able to.  To sticking with a certain food regime (even with allowances on certain days a week), I failed.

Looking forward: For February, I’m going to continue tracking my calories, but I’m also going to attempt to increase my exercise.  My two primary exercises I’m hoping to get into will be sprinting and the 100 push-ups plan. I did the 100 push-ups before, but did not complete the program.  Hopefully between February and March, I can push myself to do so.  As for sprinting, up until this point, I have been focusing on distance and endurance — walking or jogging for several hours at time.  My goal now is to go fast and sweat quicker.  I’m not sure if I can really do this on the treadmill or elliptical — I’ll have to look around.  Otherwise, it will be an outdoor activity (as it was meant to be).  Hopefully snow and ice won’t interfere too much.  Even if it does force me indoors, I can still set those treadmills up faster than I can run.  It is just somewhat tricky press the speed buttons as you’re running.

Ten days in..

The 30 Days of Soup is turning into 30 Days of Mostly Soup.   That is to say, I’ve been sneaking in other foods here and there.  For example, on Tuesday I made some Waffles.  The problem is that I love waffles.  Four waffles and a tablespoon of syrup is 458 calories, whereas one of my soup meals is 420 calories.  Then today, I had 4 tacos.  That is 840 calories, which is quite a lot.

At the very least, I’m holding to my personal goal of ~1500 calories per day.  On my “transistion day” last week, I blew way over with 2473 calories, but the other days have been fairly close.  I gathered up my calorie counts for the last 10 days below.

>>> print (1450 + 825 + 2473 + 1220 + 1190 + 1980 + 1910 + 1630 + 1338 + 1260)/10
1527

On the other hand, I have not been to reddit at all this month, and I’ve only been on Facebook for a bit on Saturday.  I sometimes find myself sitting at the computer staring at the address bar, trying to think of something to type in to amuse myself.  I am checking my email more often, but since I don’t get too many important emails each day, that only distracts me for a short period.  Instead, I have actually been filling my spare computer time with learning Python and working on some web applications for a customer. 

So despite not completely sticking to my 30 Days of Only Soup goal, I have been sticking with the spirit of the goals fairly well.  I’ll do another weigh in this weekend to see how my weight loss is coming along.  Essentially, I’m moving towards a more reasonable diet, which is what I planned to do in February.  Once I approach my desired weight and start looking at maintaining (which I am very good at doing), I shouldn’t have much problem shifting back closer to a 2000 calorie diet.