Monday, December 2, 2013

Thanksgaining [J39.9 BLOG]

NOTE: This blog was previously published under the [JESSE 39.9] blog at but has been absorbed into Jesse's main blog for archival purposes.
Well, Thanksgiving didn't quite go as planned. I gained 3 pounds. I shouldn't be surprised given what I ate, but I can surely recover next week.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

He Was Fast, He Was Furious

Somehow, I got sucked into the Fast & the Furious franchise after watching the first movie. When you're involved in such a long movie series (the 10th longest franchise, starting in 2001; they are filming F&F 7 now), you get ensconced in the plot; you empathize with the characters; you start to believe they are real. Well, the actors are real, and Paul Walker (Brian on the show) died in a car crash last night in L.A.

Less than a week ago, he was rallying fans for Philippines Typhoon Relief. And, in fact, he died after leaving a charity event for the relief. (Side note: Vin Diesel had hoped to film F&F 7, 8 or 9 in the Philippines).

An unsettling quote from Walker in the video above: "Sometimes, you just have to check yourself."

The success of the franchise is undeniable; Buzzfeed says:

"Fast & Furious 6, which has pulled in $788 million worldwide. It has become the crown jewel franchise for Universal Pictures, affecting the livelihoods of not just the actors involved, but also the many artisans and technicians who make the films possible."

The question being asked is, can the franchise continue without him? I would say probably not, they've been lucky to see the long success they have and this makes more sense than letting it jump the shark. Buzzfeed goes on to say:

"It’s unclear how many scenes in Fast & Furious 7 that Walker had left to shoot. But even if the 40-year-old actor had wrapped his part of the film, Wan has the deeply unfortunate job of finishing a movie in which one of his lead actors died under circumstances that are profoundly close to scenes in which that actor himself undoubtedly took part."

It's hard to explain (to my non-blue-collar friends) why I'm so into the movies. Part of it, of course, is simple machismo - as a guy, I'm a sucker for a move that is, essentially, one long car chase. But there's something more to it than that, and the attraction to the series has been examined in a couple of blogs, including calls the series "smart" and CriticWire says "It's not just smart; it's actually elegant. It's borderline ingenious" [in its complexity]. Even Variety weighs in with "5 Things F&F Got Right."

For me, in the end, I think it's the characters, and that's why I took time to write this blog today.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

A New Space

We're beat. We spent most of today moving furniture (some in and out windows!) at Kristi's Mom & Dad's house. But now we've ended up with a nice little space, our own little guest room where we can stay when we visit (and more importantly: get work done on the computer). The larger guest room is being readied for additional family. We're about to go out for what I call the "victory dinner," where the family eats like kings after a long day of work (like after one of our mammoth yard sales).

Kristi's work at home (she has at least 3 "official" jobs) sometimes requires a second computer monitor (as does mine), so we brought along a 17" Dell monitor that we can plug both of our computers into, and just use the switch depending on who needs the monitor most. The little alcove where we put a small table and chairs reminds us of an efficient business-professional-ready hotel room. Since Kristi moved up two years ago, we've been sitting on her bed on the computer, or trying to fit on to a crowded noisy kitchen table. This is much more comfortable.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Week 5: Thankslosing [J39.9 BLOG]

NOTE: This blog was previously published under the [JESSE 39.9] blog at but has been absorbed into Jesse's main blog for archival purposes.

It's week 5 of "Jesse 39.9" and I've lost a total of 15 pounds -- which is good, because it's Thanksgiving Week. W're heading to York to eat with Kristi's parents... I'm not going to go nuts this year, but I do intend to have a good meal, a soda (the new Mountain "Dew Game Fuel") and a little dessert.

For those keeping track, I'm down from 230 to 215 = 38.4% of my goal already!

Thanks for the Giving

The calendar has once again rolled around to Thanksgiving, and I'm at Kristi's parents' house enjoying a good meal and good company with family. One of my favorite thing about Thanksgiving is the ride -- over the river and through the woods, as it were (Did you know? That song was written about a Boston suburb in the 1880's, when snow was common in that area at the end of the Little Ice Age.

(Speaking of Ice Age, it's the coldest Thanksgiving since I've been blogging (2005), if not the coldest day in 20-30 years, here in Central PA. Above are videos I took on the drive down.)

If you make that trip on Thanksgiving Day, as I typically have, there's a lack of traffic and a peacefulness to the drive that transcends a rushed vacation or a weekly drive. To think about all those families, each at work on their own Thanksgiving Dinner or preparing to drive to theirs -- this, to me, is the real peace that represents the day and it just gives me a warm feeling inside.

After dinner, I like to sit down and do some reading -- something that I rarely have time to do in my work-a-day life. I used to read Wired Magazine on paper during the Holidays -- now I read it electronically on my Kindle. WeatherWise magazine is still on paper, and of course I'll look through the newspaper's Black Friday ads, even though I probably won't go out to get anything. It's all just part of the tradition. But first, there's FOOD (not as much as last year, due to Jesse 39.9) to be had.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Week 4: 222.2 [J39.9 BLOG]

NOTE: This blog was previously published under the [JESSE 39.9] blog at but has been absorbed into Jesse's main blog for archival purposes.
Another week, another couple of pounds lost! I weighed in at 222.2 pounds this week; subtracting for clothes, that puts me at around 218 -- 12 pounds down so far. I think I really have the hang of this now.

Another hurdle was passed today... I had two nights of not-so-great sleep, but even though I was tired at work I didn't drink a soda or have an unhealthy snack. I've actually found that Gala Apples help quench the fatigue (which also naturally goes away after 20 minutes).

Apple photo by the Canadian School System. Exercise continues - and I'm glad to see the weight loss graph continue to go down!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Soda Demon [J39.9 BLOG]

NOTE: This blog was previously published under the [JESSE 39.9] blog at but has been absorbed into Jesse's main blog for archival purposes.
In order to get this weight-loss thing kicked off, I've identified some villains who have made things hard in the past, and I'm going to bring some of them to light over the next few weeks.

Tonight's topic is: SODA. POP. COLA. Whatever you call it in your neck of the woods.

To me? Pepsi and Mountain Dew are the nectar of the gods. This is probably my number one offender. When I weigh too much, I average 10-20 cans a week. When I stop, I magically lose 5-10 pounds. That's because they are essentially bags of sugar.

I know this, and yet it doesn't stop me from drinking it. I'm addicted to the taste, and I never chide people who can't quit nicotine or hard drugs -- I have a hell of a time neglecting sugar, and it's not as addictive. Mountain Dew & Pepsi are my drugs of choice. And they keep making better Mountain Dew flavors!

I also drink it because of the caffeine. I'm always tired (I take several medicines that may cause this, although I'm sure being overweight doesn't help).

I don't like coffee, tea, or diet soda, so that's a big problem. I don't feel that I can be "on" in social situations unless I have caffeine. I don't think I can drive. I don't think I can go to a big meeting at work. Well, over the next month I'm going to challenge all of these.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Week 3: The Fast & The Foodiest [J39.9 BLOG]

NOTE: This blog was previously published under the [JESSE 39.9] blog at but has been absorbed into Jesse's main blog for archival purposes.
Week 3 of Jesse 39.9 is complete. Three weeks with less than 1 soda and very little sugar. I'm now at 220 lbs, 10 pounds down from when I started (remember, you have to subtract clothes from the scale numbers that I show here). The lightheadedness from last week is getting better. I don't feel as tired from the carbs that I used to eat either though. Basically I used to get tired mid-morning, then drink soda, get wired for an hour, then tired again; repeat mid-afternoon. Now I'm just normal all day. It's a gift and a curse.

If I continue to lose 2 pounds per week, I'll be to my goal of 39.9 pounds in another 15 weeks, or around the end of February. That's probably not going to happen, because I may not lose weight Thanksgiving and Christmas week (though I'll try) and I'll be in NYC for a week in February. But I'm not turning 39.9 until May 2014, so I've got time to spare.

This week's hurdle was going out of town. We visited Kristi's parents in York, Pennsylvania, which we do every couple of months. Typically I drink a soda and maybe have a candy bar on the way down so I can be cognizant while driving. This time, I had a water and some seeds & nuts, and I did fine. While there, we had a birthday dinner with soda, cake & pie but I only had a water and 1/2 a piece of key lime. Like the movies, I returned home much less out-of-it than usual.

The next day, before our trip back, we ate at a steakhouse. That usually means a burger, fries and a soda for me, but I didn't want the carbs to make me tired on the drive home, which would in turn make me need to drink soda. So I got a grilled chicken salad and a water (I was too sad about that to take the obligatory picture of my dinner, so I took a picture of the window (see above). I was able to drive home without getting tired. I have to remember these benefits when I get tempted.

I continue to ramp up the exercise... I'm up to 30 minutes on the Elliptical in the garage, and 10 minutes of the Bow-Flex with six different exercises. I'm shooting for once a day for that workout, so if I miss a day or two over the course of a week, I'm OK.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Week 2: Gravity [J39.9 BLOG]

NOTE: This blog was previously published under the [JESSE 39.9] blog at but has been absorbed into Jesse's main blog for archival purposes.
The second week of Jesse 39.9 is going well. I lost about 5 pounds, from 230.2 to 225.4 (subtracting for clothes). This is more than I expected to lose.

As we move forward, I'm going to discuss several "hurdles" to weight loss. Excuses, if you will, that I would have used in the past to eat badly.

The weight loss hurdle this week was: THE MOVIES.

I go to movies in a theater half for the big screen, half for the popcorn. But when Kristi and I went to see "Gravity" last weekend, I was determined to only have a few pieces of popcorn, two cookies I had brought with me, and a few sips of soda (the first soda I'd had in two weeks, which coming off of a 3-4-a-day bender is amazing).

It was a great movie, and I came out of it feeling much less "brain foggy" than I usually do after reaching the bottom of a big bag of popcorn, a large soda, and a large box of Junior Mints.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Monday, October 28, 2013

Week 1: Success! [J39.9 BLOG]

NOTE: This blog was previously published under the [JESSE 39.9] blog at but has been absorbed into Jesse's main blog for archival purposes.
The first week of Jesse 39.9 is going well. I lost about 5 pounds, from 230.2 to 225.4 (remember on the photos of the bathroom scale, I have to subtract the weight of my clothes). I'm not really surprised, because this always happens when I stop drinking soda and eating bad food. Next week will be harder.

My body is punishing me a bit and I'm going through a bit of withdrawal from lack of caffeine and sugar. I've been tired this week and a bit listless. It doesn't feel good. But, as they say, no pain no gain.

I literally have not had a sip of soda during the last week. I can't remember the last time that happened and it's quite unlike me. I'll be talking a little more about that demon later on.

I did, however, decide to have an orange scone and 1/8 a cup of so-called "Iced Cream" this weekend. Here's hoping that doesn't kill me.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Jesse 39.9 [J39.9 BLOG]

NOTE: This blog was previously published under the [JESSE 39.9] blog at but has been absorbed into Jesse's main blog for archival purposes.
I've decided since I'm going to be 40 next year, that I need to solve my weight issues now. I'm sure a lot of people say that and don't last long. I will succeed where others (including myself over the last two years) have failed. I'll tell you how, but first, some history.

The biggest changes in my weight during my adult life are shown on the graphs below, first showing the last 7 years, then the last 20 years:

Generally, I have struggled losing weight since I got my first apartment in college in 1994. The Great Stomach Flu of 2007 knocked me down to 187 pounds, the lowest in 13 years. After I got divorced in 2010, I started running 20-30 miles a week and eating a carb-free diet. The reward from this was a loss of 40 pounds (the diet also caused kidney stones, but that's another story for another day). When

I started getting back in the dating game in December 2010, on my doctor's advice, I stopped losing weight. After meeting Kristi in April 2011, I became much happier and started eating more (plus Kristi is a really great cook and butter has something to do with that). Although I never really recovered from the gain, I managed to keep it in check during early 2012 when I upped my exercise schedule (we'll go more in depth with exercise graphs later).

That brings us to today; I'm now 75 pounds heavier than I was two years ago. By May, I'll be 39.9 years old. Between now and then, I intend to lose 39.9 pounds... hence the name of this blog (it's also an inside joke on my divorce blog which was called "Jesse 2.0." This blog (like Jesse 2.0) is mainly for me to keep me on track, but if some of the techniques I use help you too, all the better.

Reasons I think I'll succeed this time:

- I know that I have done this before; I know I am capable of losing this much weight.

- My wife Kristi and her daughter will be there for me. It's easy to lose weight when you live alone, not as much when you're both tired and neither wants to cook. But she has committed to using less butter, helping me portion control, and keeping us out of the drive-thru.

- I still have Sudafed on my side. Without it, I probably wouldn't have lost the 40 pounds back in 2010. I take it for my allergies, but a side-effect is loss of appetite. I'm never hungry, I'm just used to eating too much.

- YOU will also be on my side. I'm reactivating the "J-CAM," a webcam at my job, to keep myself honest (I decommissioned it in 2012 due to technical problems). The whole world can now watch me at work and lambaste (mmmm... basted lamb...) me on Social Media if a candy bar or soda can ends up at my desk.

So here's where I'm starting (subtract 2-4 pounds for clothing)... around 230 pounds. Tomorrow I'll discuss how it's going so far, and bad habits that led to my 75-pound gain. You can keep up with my progress here on Blogger, on my Runkeeper profile, or on my public Facebook Feed.

Friday, March 8, 2013

We Went to New York City -- And Survived!

Kristi and I have just returned from our first trip to New York City together (and my first trip there ever). It was a whirlwind tour. Because my travel life can be summed up on one Google Map, I was concerned, never having been to the big city. I don't really like not knowing how to do things I need to (like check in and out of hotels, park, get a taxi, etc.), and I don't particularly like people, so, while I was looking forward to the trip, I was a bit anxious. After the first couple days though, I was navigating the city like a pro.

We arrived Monday afternoon (my boss drove, fortunately) and left Friday afternoon (on the MegaBus). The ride and accommodations were paid for by AccuWeather; in turn, I attended about 15 events at Social Media Week 2013. I hoped for a hotel with a view, and I got one. The Hampton Inn in Soho is a 19-floor building (we stayed on the 15th floor). As if the view out our window wasn't crazy enough...

The view from the 19th floor balcony (which Kristi discovered on Tuesday) was even better...
Our hotel, and all the SMW events, were in Manhattan, so I didn't actually set foot on Long Island (which is mostly residential and not as tourist-trappy, but also more drab and dangerous, according to locals). Manhattan has come a long way in the last 10 years. Giuliani really cleaned the place up and Manhattan is a great place to visit today. Most tourist attractions, including but not limited to the Empire State Building, Times Square, 9/11 Memorial, New York Public Library, Central Park, Penn Station and Grand Central Station, and the American Museum of Natural History are all there.
I'll attempt a day-by-day description of our adventures here, though I'm sure I'll forget something. I didn't want this vacation to be one of those where I take a lot of good pictures, then forget about the whole thing. So here goes... (time-lapse video of our car ride near the city below):

MONDAY FEB. 18, 2013:
It's about a 5-hour trip from State College. We stopped at a Subway (in a CostCo) in the Poconos for lunch. Before you know it, we were starting seeing signs of the city. That's when I adhered my GoPro HERO3 wide-angle camera to the rental car's windshield and started taping. Here's what it the approach to Manhattan (through the Holland tunnel) looks like at 200x speed:

Our hotel room was TINY (but of course, this is New York City, so all stores & rooms are tiny. That was the biggest difference I noticed in our hotel. The view out the window though, as noted above, was great -- and a little overwhelming.

My first task was to go uptown to the Radio City building where AccuWeather has an office.

Fortunately my boss helped me flag down a cab. I've probably been in a cab a couple times in my life, but I paid great attention, knowing I would have to do it on my own the next morning. Cabs have come a long way in the last 20 years. In NYC, they have TVs in the back which provide local news and (of course) the AccuWeather forecast. You can also bring up a map with a GPS tracker of the taxi's location.

You should also know this: The roads in Manhattan are TERRIBLE, the experience is akin to continually running over railroad tracks. And the cabbies FLY, sometimes at 40-50 mph (even though the city speed limit is 30). We ended up with a nice melting pot of cabbies over the next 24 hours -- from Pakistani and Indian to Russian, German, and Jamaican (the last fellow who brought us back to the hotel, who, while engaging in small talk with us, said "I luv da city doh. Wouldn't give it up for the world, mon.")

Disappointingly, the AccuWeather office wasn't open, so we took a cab right back to the hotel. My boss had a dinner date, so Kristi and I began walking uptown, looking for a place she had heard of called "Papaya Dog" (claiming the best hot dogs in the city, although of course it isn't the only one that boasts this). We were also determined to find the Lomography camera for Kristi, because she's super into film cameras (blame the hipsters for bringing those back).

Our walk was interesting and we wanted to stop and take pictures of everything. I couldn't believe it, here I was in the biggest city in the nation. 8 million called this place home - more than Los Angeles and Chicago COMBINED. Much of the city's patrons were tourists, and it was a great cross-section of people. English wasn't heard as much as other languages.

First we stopped at a Record Store (yes, kids, a real record store). It was super campy and had two cool gray cats.

We then found the Lomography store first, and I took pictures within while Kristi investigated their wares. After emerging from there, we went to the Papaya Dog (so named because of a famous Papaya drink, which I had, but was not overwhelmed by). The hot dogs were great, as advertised: Gourmet Hot Dogs. One of our goals when we came to New York City was to eat cheaply. A lot of people said it couldn't be done, but a soda and two hot dogs for both of us was only $10 at Gray's Papaya. The next night we came back, and discovered that you could get two slices of pizza for $2.50, so it's possible to eat there for as little as $5.

NOTE: Predictably, I was never able to finish this blog. Here's a GoPro Hero2 video that compiles my various cab trips and (I think) gives you a flavor of the city: