Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Fitbits, sleep and nightmare scenarios

Two weeks ago I bought a fitbit.
I've had activity trackers before. Pedometers, mostly, and I found the simple ones usually worked best. This was great for the budget, since they always (always) fell off, usually into the toilet - though I did have one migrate down my pant leg.

I purchased a refurbished fitbit through Groupon, which meant it cost about 1/2 what they charge in the store - which suited my inner cheapskate. It doesn't have any complicated programming or buttons to push, and it's basically a pedometer you wear on your wrist. But it's a pedometer that links to a webpage where you can (if you choose to do so) keep track of not just your steps, but diet, water intake and even sleep.

I did not purchase this to do the "10,000 steps a day". I got it for information. I know from my previous pedometer experiments (before I dropped them in the toilet) that keeping track does motivate me to get off the couch more. Not "Join Cross Fit and start doing 10K's" more, but more than I would normally do.

And I'm a bit of a geek, so having a tool that tracks my progress and make pretty charts and statistics of my activity without my having to do anything other than wear an (admittedly dorky) bracelet? That is pretty cool.

If you are more of a social butterfly, you can also join the forums and do the social media thing. This is not really my cup of tea. It seems almost everything  has a social media option these days - I'm just waiting for my lettuce to have a user group. (

I move about as much as I thought I did, which is to say, pitifully little (I average about 2 miles a day). But what I found most surprising was the sleep logging function. Before, had anyone asked, I would have said that I slept well: around 7-8 hours a night. I generally wake up once, around 3am, pet the cat, roll over and go back to sleep. Well, according to the fitbit, I've been living (sleeping?) in a fool's paradise. This is what an average sleep log looks like.

I wake up a lot. In two weeks, I've only managed 7 hours of sleep once. Though to be fair, I have been watching the conventions, and those are enough to give anybody nightmares.

Anybody else experimenting with fitbit out there? Are the fancy ones worth the price? Will thousands of people voluntarily giving their biometric data to the cloud result in a dystopian nightmare future where everyone is required to wear tacky rubber health monitoring bracelets by our new corporate overlords, the insurance companies?

And if you fall behind on your sleep, you will be  denied caffeine and forcibly re-educated in government run sleep centers painted in soothing colors and filled with hypo-allergenic pillows. (Which you will be billed for - of course.) These are the kinds of thoughts you have when you are sleep deprived.

Monday, July 18, 2016

My plan for the rest of the year

Houston's town hall, lighted to honor the victims of the massacre in Nice - July 16th
"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the Sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a Promontory were, as well as if a Manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee...." 
John Donne                        

Civilization only continues when we participate. Therefore I will be watching the Republican and Democratic conventions, because even my one vote counts. I will be having dinner parties, drinking wine, going to public festivals and planning trips by air, no matter what foreign or domestic terrorists are out there, because I will not have my life controlled by the religiously intolerant and mentally ill. I will be adding to my retirement fund, because no prophet of the end times has been right yet.

And I intend to do it in great style, so bring on the champagne.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

An abundance of basil

I have a large pot on my patio filled with basil. I've cut it back, but that only means it will grow back even more thickly. I don't know what to do with it all. There's only so much pesto a person can eat.

I'm can dry some of it, but then what?

I am appealing to your wisdom. What do you do with an abundance of basil?

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Holiday Fun

My local Boy Scout troop raises money by placing flags on your lawn on patriotic holidays, specifically Memorial Day, Flag Day, July 4th and Veteran's Day.  I like that they are using high quality flags (the stars are embroidered, not printed) and that they've aligned it with my front door, so I can see the flag most of the time (I have a glass panel front door.)  It's also kind of festive to walk around the neighborhood and see all the flags.

So with my house properly adorned for the holiday, I did the most American thing I could think of: I went to a baseball game. It was the Houston Astros vs. the Seattle Mariners and our team won!  It was fun, though for me the best part is watching the crowd.

Orbit, the Astros mascot.

I also had my first chili cheese hot dog. This has confirmed my belief that sauerkraut and mustard is the only way to dress a dog. Never again.

And since it was an afternoon game, I was home in plenty of time to watch my neighbors set off at least a thousand dollars worth of fireworks. 

Happy 4th!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Spicy Grilled Shrimp

One of the benefits of living in Texas is the easy availability of good quality barbecue. It is something I desperately miss when I leave (that and decent salsa). But sometimes the soul gets tired of debating the merits of wood chips (mesquite or hickory) and dry vs. wet rubs and wants something lighter.

Soaking the skewers beforehand

These grilled shrimp are easy, the spice level is not overpowering but definitely there and they are great to eat hot off the grill. I've also turned them into shrimp salad and thrown a few (chopped finely) into an omelet. I love a versatile protein.

Marinating shrimp

And they are a cinch to make, the hardest part is threading them on the skewers, although I don't know why you couldn't just pan fry them. I may try that next time, because I am definitely making these again.

Random Tangent: Does anyone know why in restaurants they peel and de-vein the shrimp but leave the tail on? Am I the only person that finds that annoying? The way I see it, if you are going to peel the shrimp, finish the job.

Spicy Grilled Shrimp (courtesy of Food 52)

  • 1/3 cup Sriracha
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 handful cilantro, roughly chopped, plus more for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds large shrimp (16 to 20 count), peeled and deveined

    1. Mix together the Sriracha, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, cilantro, and sugar. Season aggressively with salt and pepper. Put in a 1-gallon plastic bag, add the shrimp, and mix together in the bag. Marinate in the fridge for 2 to 4 hours. Or longer. (Note: I left mine for a day and a half. I was busy.)                
    2. Heat a grill. Skewer the shrimp and grill until pink, 2 to 3 minutes per side.
    3. Remove the shrimp from the grill, slide the shrimp from the skewer using a fork, and pile on a serving platter. Sprinkle with finely chopped cilantro and eat!