Monday, March 16, 2015

Dieting -- The Magic Formula

I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating. Every day if necessary Smile

There is but one magical formula in dieting, that being:

calories in – calories out = weight lost or gained

So … calories in is food, calories out is exercise plus the calories you burn with your BMR, or basal metabolic rate. This rate is calculated based on your age, gender, and typical activity level at its simplest. It is often expressed as the number of calories your body requires to maintain your body weight without any additional physical activity.

The bottom line is that you need to know that number (Google for BMR and AMR, the active metabolic rate) and once you do, you can choose a calorie count per day to target for your weight management goals. In my case, I target a minimum per day of –500 calories, and I generally exceed that by a bit. Sometimes by a lot. If I exercise, I either take the excess weight loss, or I compensate with larger meals later. If you do some physical activity, don’t starve your body automatically. You should usually feed it when you are ravenous. But control the amount you eat to respect the formula.

This is my first half of March from


That is a steady 3 pound loss according to the green trend line. The actual line is all over the place because I’ve eaten out three or four times, with Fatboys burger and mashed, Scores club sandwich and (gack!) fries, Pho (the saltiest soup ever), and maybe once more than I cannot remember. In addition, I’ve eaten frozen yogurt 4 or 5 times and several of those Smart Pop bowls of popcorn for 220cals.

Yes the loss remains fairly steady. And the reason is because I respect the formula. If you can say that you do not cheat, then you can guarantee at least some progress.

Here is my current analysis chart:


March coincidentally starts on the great cheat day, where that red spike is. I went to a movie and then went out to dinner. That was my club sandwich day at Scores and it included a soup and mashed and the club was enormous. I had trouble finishing it, but in for a penny, in for a pound (pun intended.)

But I only missed by a very small amount because I ate light that day and finished the day off with a very light snack later on. That’s how it’s gotta be for it to work.

So from the red spike onwards, that’s a 3 pound loss in action.

YMMV, but I hope not …

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Nothing Special is now Mobile-Friendly!

Wow … I feel like a Neanderthal finally getting into the Homo Sapiens party … Google sent me a note that suggested that I fix my site’s mobile issues on certain pages. They tested a subset of the pages – 779 in total …

… and they found issues with 779 of them Sad smile

Cough. Oh well … it was time I looked into my Blogger templates anyway. And it turned out to be a 5 minute operation to add a mobile template. I remember looking at them a while back and discarding them for one reason or another. Good call, as 18% of my traffic comes from mobile devices.

So … anyone out there who might be looking at this on a mobile device, you would be doing me a favour by leaving a comment below letting me know what device you are viewing this on and what you think of the mobile template. Thanks!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Dieting and the Dreaded Plateau

Anyone who has seriously dieted (the politically correct term is of course “changed his or her lifestyle”) knows what it means to plateau. But, at least in the early stages of dieting, a plateau is a completely natural phenomenon. And it is usually fairly short term.

Have a look at my weight graph (I weigh every day when dieting and so have a very fine-grained graph showing the day by day fluctuations) and note the stages you go through when dieting.


First, we have the top of the final “Yo” in the YoYo sense. I was still in “don’t give a f*ck” mode at the beginning of the year. But was already mentally toying with the “lifestyle change.” Still, one of the symptoms that you are not managing your weight is a refusal to get on the scale :-) … and I am dead serious.

I learned long ago that not tracking and measuring regularly (your waste, you bank account, a project’s progress, and so on ad nauseum) means not improving or controlling. In other words, if you want something to get better, start measuring it.

So when I turned the switch in my head to “ON”, I immediately had that wonderful first week where all the salt and water flushes from your body. Your weight should drop like a stone. Note, though, that I generally start in a seriously draconian mode. It is no accident that South Beach and Atkins diets both have a “phase 1” where you are very limited in your food choice. This is something I naturally do anyway, and you can see how well it works.

After a few days to a week, you start to see fluctuations creep in. And they get bigger, and sometimes they last. This is normal and you should not freak out. Your body is constantly adjusting to your inputs and your outputs and so it is happily going to stop losing briefly at times. Do not throw in the towel!

You can also see that, once in a while, the body goes on a losing streak again and you make amazing progress, if only briefly. Once I am settled into the rhythm, I don’t get too bent about cheating a bit here and there. But I stress two things: Cheat a bit (and that means only enough to satisfy a or enjoy your date or whatever), and make certain that you track it.

This is what the last month and a bit looks like for me …


I am a bit low in calories at 2:11pm as I write this, sitting at 264 – this constitutes one Atkins Advantage meal bar – my favourite by far being the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough bar with its 220 calorie count – plus 34g of half and half cream for 44 calories. Cream in coffee is a guilty pleasure I allow myself because I always write it down.

Note the one red day … I went slightly over that day because I allowed myself to enjoy a friend’s company at the restaurant Scores with salad bar and soup, mashed potatoes and gravy, and a huge club sandwich that I finished. My stomach hurt after that but we also went to Kiwi Kraze and had a bowl of very low calorie frozen yogurt. I even stuck a few toppings on it. I was prepared for that meal though, and what I ate was all quite light, excepting the club sandwich.

This, plus a bit of Chinese food the day before with another friend and then again a day or two later with Jon, caused the week long plateau you see in the graph right above the March 2015 label in the x-axis (bottom.) This was a huge spike in weight that lasted most of a week, yet I was not worried. I knew that I had been naughty with a ton of extra salt and that it takes days to flush that out (for me at least.)

But flush it did … the spectacular drop in a two day period at the end of that week was the final result, and I ended up down overall. The slight increase today was simply the body rebounding, and that always happens.

What you should be focusing on in this case is the trend overall, and you can see that on the graph as the dashed green line. The line briefly flattened during the plateau, but was still slightly trending down, and now the trend has again strengthened. Just remember to isolate your cheats to important moments, and not just because you feel like it again today after doing it yesterday.

Now … if you end up in a huge plateau where things just don’t want to move – and I have been there before – it may very well mean that you have spent too much time starving yourself and need a boost to your metabolism. In such cases, I generally schedule a good sized meal so that the body forgets briefly that I have been starving it (in its opinion, anyway.) This often helps, but you should try to still stay slightly negative … i.e. a little green stub. This is better than a tall red spike that would indicate man overboard :-)

One last thing – I use to do my tracking of food and activity. The weight look and analysis panels are what you see clipped above, and they are extremely effective. They are more effective, though, if you don’t get into a false precision mode where you try to get the foods perfectly matched etc. You can usually get really close by choosing a food that is about the same, although you do have to be careful with processed foods as some are much worse than others. Just do your best and be happy that you can see your progress.

As for weighing in daily … I like it. A lot. I like to watch the trend and the fluctuations. It remains interesting even after years of doing it. Your clothes will tell you more than the scale does, so don’t worry about knowing your weight every day. It won’t bite you.

The scale I use is inexpensive yet very effective. The technique for measuring your food is easy. Switch on the scale and put your plate on it. Hit “TARE” to reset to zero. Add a food and jot down the amount. The scale stays on for a while, so you can pick up the plate and walk over to where the food is being served and then walk back for the weight. I keep a stack of index cards around to jot the foods for later entry into … it works great. I reuse them too, since I can just stroke out the last entry and start a new one. When you take the plate back to the scale, put it back oin and hit “TARE” again to zero it out. Next food … and so on.

You get used to the method and it adds little time. When I go to a restaurant, I just remember approximately what I ate and enter that later on. has mobile apps that have gotten quite good over the years, so that is an option too, but I would never interrupt an evening with friends for entering diet data. That can always wait in my opinion.

So … best of luck. Fear not the plateau, for it is a natural consequence of the ebb and flow of your diet.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The West End Well – Music Show Fantastico

The West End Well is a coop on Wellington Avenue in Ottawa. They have a nice little eating / bar area and what looks like a great kitchen. And there is a small grocery store up front … the perfect mix for a neighbourhood gathering place.

And they have a space for musicians to play on Friday nights. Nick and Dylan were given an opportunity to be the entertainment on Friday, 20 February 2015 and they did a great job. I brought some of my recording equipment and a couple of stills cameras just in case and in fact I was able to tap the headphone jack with one Tascam DR05 and attach the other to the mic stand to hear the audience.

I put the Panasonic G6 with the Sigma 30mm 2.8 on the table I was sitting at, which was front row center in relation to the microphone and I put the Panasonic GM1 with its little 12-32 kit lens on a small ledge that runs down the side of that area right in front of the huge California window to the kitchen. I brought an extra battery and was able to record the whole show on the G6, with the GM1 crapping out toward the end of Dylan’s opening set. I don’t really know why that happened, but luckily the G6 is the better of the two angles anyway so not a huge loss.

I also shot many stills during the show and published a selection of them to Facebook here:

I should mention that the stills were shot with the Nikon D90 and Tamron 28-75 and with the Olympus E-PM2 and 45 1.8. Both cameras performed magnificently.

Dylan led with 8 original songs …

Here’s his first song “Mary and Daniel” mastered in Adobe Audition CC and Adobe Premiere Pro CC (I used a trial version of them to evaluate whether I wanted to switch from Sony Movie Studio.)

Nick followed with a 13 song set, mostly originals …

Here is song number 19 from the show, one of Nick’s originals called “Time and I” … this one mastered in Sony Movie Studio Platinum Suite 13. I did reuse the Adobe Audition CC soundtrack, but Sound Forge would have pretty much equaled it.

This is a great place to gather and listen to music. I was really impressed. Check it out …

A note on mastering these videos … I have written a few articles lately about looking for something better than Sony Movie Studio and after an intensive learning curve with Adobe Premiere Pro and Audition CC and then for Cyberlink PowerDirector, AudioDirector and ColorDirector, I can safely say that Sony is the best bet for me. And frankly, anyone doing amateur video work on a very tight budget should have this on their radar …

I have been, and always shall be, your friend …

R.I.P. Mr. Spock

First round of tests … PowerDirector 13 and AudioDirector 3 versus Premiere Pro CC and Audition CC versus Sony Movie Studio Platinum Suite 13

Folks, I’ll give you the short answer right now … Adobe kicked Cyberlink up and down the field all day long … it was not even a contest in the end.

I had high hopes for Adobe CC, as I really like the suite of apps in general. Very powerful, a near infinite growth curve with plugins, very fast work flow and only moderately slow rendering. Certainly way faster than the Sony Movie Studio speeds. And CC supports multicam quite well.

Enter Cyberlink … their suite of apps is a pretty close match for Premiere CC et al. A separate audio app and a separate grading app that communicates back to the video editor make for a theoretically excellent work flow. It took me forever to figure it out of course … the videos are as much marketing as they are instructional and nothing of depth is covered well. There are far fewer users out there posting info, and mot of it is for older versions. Basically, this is like working with Gimp …. good luck.

But … I eventually got it to work and built up a decent looking file. One strength they have is multicam alignment by audio … it aligned perfectly, which is slightly better than Premiere pro was able to accomplish. That one needed a nudge on one channel. And … PowerDirector can handle an array of clips that line up all over the place. It takes a while but it got them all right. Premiere Pro gives up on the same set of clips, so this would be the major strength of Cyberlink’s suite.

On the other hand, were I a pro, I would just get Plural Eyes and stop screwing around with toys Smile

So work flow goes to Cyberlink for multicam alignment and Adobe for everything else. Adobe’s integration is far more discoverable. Everything works in the obvious way, unlike Cyberlink’s suite, which requires many wasted hours before you start all over having won some real knowledge the hard way.

And then there is rendering speed. Sony really annoyed me by taking 10 hours to render a 1:26 minute video at 1080p. That’s about 7x real time and I find it unacceptable.

Plus, Sony’s multicam workflow is really weak. As in, there isn’t one. Every cut is done manually and so is alignment of all tracks. I can do it, but why should I have to?

My first few renders with Premiere Pro were amazing. 2x real time. I’m not sure what I did after that because it jumped to 4x real time. That annoyed me, despite still being a lot faster than Sony (who always finishes last in every test of rendering speed.)

So once I realized how powerful and cheap the Power Director Suite is, I installed the trial and worked on a song of Nick’s (Time and I.) After the already document learning curve, I finally had a really nice 3:47 video that should have rendered in about 7 minutes, according to their constant advertising of their outrageously fast renderer.

And yet … a 3:47 clip took just over 1:36 minutes. That’s 28x rendering speed. Um … WTF?

Looking at the rather sparse info on Google, I know that the previous version had a serious rendering speed issue with NVidia cards. I use a pair of GTX570 cards that should be blazing fast. Yet rendering is a dog, and so is the preview. At first it worked well … but it degenerated over the two days I’ve used it to where I could not render anything in real time, even at the lowest settings.

So … 8 cores and two fairly high end CUDA cards and even Sony slaughters it.

I’m sure that there is a bug in there somewhere. And I don’t care.

But wait … it’s not done getting slaughtered. What about the quality of the rendered video? Well …

With Premiere Pro, the inbuilt grading is so good that I did not need to go to the external grading app. But the inbuilt support in PowerDirector falls way short of the mark. I just could not get a good look in the GM1 clips, as there was shadow that it could not handle. So I went through incredible pain trying to figure out the interface between Power and Audio Directors and finally got it when I watched their videos. They should put it up in a dialog on install – save yourself tons of time because our user interface is horrid … WATCH ALL THE VIDEOS YOU CAN FIND.

Meanwhile, after waiting an eternity for the render, the final result was just plain awful. The shadows were pure mush and there are terrible motion artifacts in the 24p output. Everything is jerky in the final video, while both Movie Studio and Premiere Pro render silky smooth video. As you expect!

The verdict

This is not actually a contest. There is a reason why Adobe can charge what they charge. It all just works. PowerDirector Suite was the front runner by a mile. Before the horse broke a leg, was stomped by stampeding elephants, and then blasted into ash by friendly fire.

I.e. it self destructed …

So … stay with Sony and buy Pro Edit? Or spend a lot more money on the Adobe Suite? I don’t really need CS CC since I own LR5 and CS5 outright, along with OnOne Perfect Suite and Nik Suite. I don’t really need Premiere Pro CC since I already own Movie Studio Platinum Suite. And I don’t really need DreamWeaver since I can just use Weebly, which is far easier to work with and creates beautiful web sites.

Hmmm … I may just have talked myself out of upgrading. So it’s back to the salt mines with Movie Studio I suppose …. sigh.

UPDATE – HOld the phone!


A 3.5 minute clip rendered in Sony Movie Studio in 1 hour and 1 minute.

That is 28x, to match PowerDirector …. so it looks like I need to diagnose what is going on with my computer before laying blame.

It probably won’t change the final choice though, because I found it really easy to master the latest song with Sony and frankly, Sony’s UI and clip adjustment interface take Cyberlink’s out behind the barn with a baseball bat. ;-)

So I might as well ride it out and see where Adobe goes with the next few increments of CC. They aren’t going anywhere after all :-)