General Archive

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

King for Three Minutes

Yesterday, I became king over the demesne and holdings of Sensible Castle in Shanballymore, Cork, Ireland. Here is the official decree granting my kingship. Admittedly, it was a short reign of only 3 minutes. And the legality is a bit questionable. But I didn't let that stop me from issuing my decrees and feeling royal.

Lord Jeff the Wise on his throne
The king on his throne

Behold, the kingdom that was under my rule:

Sensible Castle

Sensible Castle Sensible Castle Sensible Castle Sensible Castle

Sensible Castle Domain

And hear ye my subjects, the laws that I have decreed:

Lord Jeffrey the Wise Coat of Arms

Miracle whip is an abomination and shall be banned among all subjects of the Sensible Castle.

Birds are dinosaurs. Subjects saying feathered dinosaurs look like overgrown turkeys will be sent in a time machine to face deinonychuses.

Should I die, become ill, or incapacitated during my reign, my power shall pass to Queen Irma, and hence to our heir, Lady Alexandra.


The full story is that this was part of Cards Against Humanity's holiday promotion last year, Eight Sensible Gifts for Hanukkah. As their eighth gift to those who participated, they bought an honest to goodness (more or less) castle, and allowed 150,000 people to rule over the domain for a reign of "not less than three minutes, and also not more than this". My reign had been scheduled for yesterday.

To see videos and images of the castle and its grounds, as well as the current ruler and their decrees, go check out the website:

Who Is the King Right Now?

Image Credits: All castle images were screenshots from Who Is the King Right Now?. According to Geek Dad, they were taken by Rory Bristol. The other photos were by me or my wife, with the map and decree of kingship coming from Card's Against Humanity.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

How I Lost 40 lbs in 6 Months

Vibrating Belt MachineLike I mentioned in a recent entry, for the past several months, I've been trying to lose some weight and get in better shape through a combination of diet and exercise. And I think I've been doing a pretty good job. So far, I've lost right around 40 lbs, and gotten several compliments from friends about the difference they've noticed. And quite a few people have asked me how I managed to do it. So, I figured I'd share the answer here on my blog. It's a combination of what worked for me, plus links to some of the better information I've found sorting through the multitude of weight-loss information out there. Maybe this will help out someone else trying to lose weight.

Continue reading "How I Lost 40 lbs in 6 Months" »

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Nutrition Supplement Crankery

Protein SupplementsToday's entry isn't particularly constructive, but it's a short rant I want to get off my chest.

For the past several months, I've been trying to lose some weight and get in better shape through a combination of diet and exercise (and I've actually been doing pretty good so far - the real test is going to be if I can maintain my reduced weight & active lifestyle once the weight loss portion is over). But part of this has involved delving into the fitness subculture, especially the nutrition side of it, as I'm trying to be sure I get all the nutrients I need with the limited calories I'm consuming, and being able to find solutions that fit into my overall lifestyle and schedule (i.e. quick and easy).

So, even though I don't consider myself any type of body builder or fitness freak, I've begun eating protein bars and drinking protein shakes to help supplement a few key nutrients* (mainly protein, obviously, but also fiber and even carbs). I don't eat protein bars for every meal throughout the day, but they make for great snacks to give me those nutrients I'm looking for in a concentrated package without a lot of excess calories, especially right before and right after the gym.

But this is where a lot of the frustration comes in - there seems to be a huge overlap between the market for fitness nutrition supplements and the Whole Foods anti-science crowd. You know who I mean - the folks who don't understand chemistry and think that an ingredient with a long chemical name is automatically unhealthy**, and who are opposed to genetically modified crops simply due to fear mongering despite GMOs having so much potential to improve nutrition and reduce environment impacts (more info - Why I Oppose Organic Food and Answering Quora on the Safety of Organic Foods and Microwaves). I mean, just do a search on Amazon for protein bars, and note how many of the products are gluten free***, non-gmo, organic, or some combination.

To be sure, not everyone in the fitness subculture is also part of the Whole Foods anti-science crowd, but enough are that many products cater to them. It also becomes annoying when trying to research products. As an example, take a look at this article, Are Quest Bars Really as Nutritious as Claimed? Their image at the top of the article claims that "It's hard to call this bar real food", and then has a bulleted list explaining why: "*Processed sources of protein / *Fake fiber / *Artificial sweeteners". Oh the horror, processed food. And their claim of 'fake' fiber isn't really well founded. But as Luddite as the article was, one of the comments really made me laugh, but is indicative of the mindset of this sub-subculture, "Microwaving these is just taking out all of the nutrients inside+ adding radiation to your foods - same with anything else. Microwave = bad!!!"

To be fair, almost all of the other comments to that article were in support of Quest Bars, showing that quite a few people in the fitness subculture aren't part of the Whole Foods subculture. But good luck finding a protein bar that uses the most advantageous GMO crops or the most productive farming methods to help reduce habitat loss.

Image Source: Erica D. House Motivation + Inspiration

*Actually trying to figure out just how much of each major nutrient you need is a whole 'nother can of worms. I may go into this in the future, but for now, since protein seems to be one of the big debates, here's the best article I've come across on that, The Myth of 1 g/lb: Optimal Protein Intake for Bodybuilders.

**Okay, I was originally just going to link to this in parentheses, but I can't resist quoting it, so now it gets to be a footnote. Go read the article, Everything is Made of Chemicals. They quoted an example from an informational brochure put out by

"If someone came into your house and offered you a cocktail of butanol, iso amyl alcohol, hexanol, phenyl ethanol, tannin, benzyl alcohol, caffeine, geraniol, quercetin, 3-galloyl epicatchin, 3-galloyl epigallocatchin and inorganic salts, would you take it? It sounds pretty ghastly. If instead you were offered a cup of tea, you would probably take it. Tea is a complex mixture containing the above chemicals in concentrations that vary depending on where it is grown." - Derek Lohmann, research chemist

Everything we eat is made up of chemicals, most with long, scary sounding names if you're not familiar with them. But whether or not you can pronounce the name of a chemical has nothing to do with how safe or healthy it is.

***There's nothing particularly wrong with gluten free. I remember when I was going through some issues a few years ago, and my doctor had me go gluten free for a couple months to see if that was the cause. It wasn't, but those months let me see how hard it is for the people who have to give up gluten permanently. It's tough. Gluten shows up in so many places you wouldn't even expect. So, providing gluten free options certainly helps those people out. The problem I have is the mindset for why these companies are making gluten-free products, simply as part of a fad diet that's demonized gluten for the general population.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Answering Quora - Which one is harder, engineering or medical?

I recently came across the Quora question, Which one is harder, engineering or medical?. I figured that being an engineer myself and knowing quite a few people in the medical field, I was in a pretty good position to answer. So, I relatively quickly hammered out a short answer, which has since turned out to be by far my most viewed Quora answer. It's a little surprising considering how little work this answer was compared to other things I've written for Quora, but I guess that's the way it goes. Anyway, below is a copy of what I wrote.


I'm an engineer. My wife is an RN, and through her, we have several friends who are MDs. I've even gone along on a few medical missions and witnessed surgeries first hand. And I would say that you can't make a blanket statement that one is harder than the other. They're both diverse fields, with more and less challenging paths in each.

For example, as an engineer, you could earn your bachelors degree, then go off to a manufacturing company in a well established industry, and do nothing but look up values in tables and plug in numbers in already developed formulas. That's not very challenging at all. Or, you could earn a PhD, go off to a research institution, and try to solve new and fundamental problems in your field (e.g. Advanced Rotorcraft Technology - Research). Medicine ranges from family practice to epidemiology to pathology to surgery to countless other fields.

I do think it's more stressful / difficult to actually become a medical doctor than an engineer. MDs have to go to graduate school, pass their licensing test, and complete their residency (almost like an apprenticeship). Engineers simply need a bachelor's degree. Granted, engineers can earn PhDs, and can do a lot of on the job training and continuing education throughout their careers, and can do the EIT to PE path (our own version of an apprenticeship, which is more important in some fields than others), but all that's not required to simply become an engineer.

So, it depends an awful lot on the specific field of engineering and medicine. There's probably a higher minimum level of competency among MDs than engineers because of the more difficult path to become an MD, but at the more challenging levels, I think they're comparable. After all, the two go-to phrases to emphasize intelligence are 'rocket science' and 'brain surgery'.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Answering Quora - What are the plot devices you would like to see less of?

Film ReelI answered a Quora question a few weeks ago on What are the plot devices you would like to see less of?. Although the questioner originally asked for only three plot devices per answer, I couldn't help myself and added two more. This has actually become one of my most viewed answers on Quora. Anyway, below are the plot devices that drive me up the wall (slightly edited from my Quora answer). Note that nearly all the links take you to the appropriate entry on

Out-of-Context Eavesdropping, Not What It Looks Like and other related tropes.

Someone overhears only a small part of a conversation, pieces together what they think the conversation is about, and come to a conclusion wildly different from what was actually being said (I'm going to kill him tomorrow ... at basketball). Similar examples are seeing the characters do something that looked suspicious when viewed from only one particular angle or at just the right moment. These are so unlikely to occur at all in real life (most people would simply assume they overheard something out of context), and the problem could usually be resolved with a simple question that never gets asked.

Idiot Ball

This is when characters seemingly go out of their way to act stupid. The worst example of this I can think of is Dracula. *Spoiler Alert*. Even though one character had already succumbed to Dracula, and all the lead characters knew this and believed in vampires, when another character began displaying the same symptoms, it never dawned on them that maybe Dracula was working on her, too. (In fact, Dracula has so many bad horrible plot devices I could on at length on how much I disliked that book, and have - Book Review - Dracula.)

Arbitrary Skepticism, Flat Earth Atheist, Stupid Scientist, Agent Scully, etc.

This is the tendency of so many writers to treat skeptics and scientists simply as cynics or denialists. It's especially bad in stories where in that fictional universe, evidence for the supernatural/monster/alien is all over the place, but the skeptics still refuse to believe. Perhaps the worst example of this in a story I've read is in the Left Behind series (I only got a couple books into it). After all these events that just scream Rapture and that the fundamentalists were right all along (billions of people disappearing in an instant, Israel being miraculously saved from an invasion, fire breathing prophets), all the religious skeptics go on continuing to dismiss religion out of hand for some reason (more info - Some Early Thoughts on Left Behind, More Thoughts on Left Behind After Finishing the Book, and Book Review - Tribulation Force).

Alien Invasions (Planet Looters, Easily Thwarted Alien Invasion)

Alien Invasion movies are almost universally awful if you apply any type of rational thinking to them. First, the motivation is almost always ludicrous. This is a civilization with the technology and resources for interstellar space travel. What could they possible need from Earth that wasn't more easily attained elsewhere? Even if for some reason they wanted to come to our solar system, there are all the objects in the Oort Cloud and Kuiper Belt that would provide huge amounts of water, metals, or minerals, without the cost of removing them from Earth's gravity well. And when they do actually attack, in so many action movies, it's like the aliens have no concept of strategy or tactics. They send in a bunch of small fighters or foot soldiers to shoot up civilians (e.g. The Avengers or Cowboys vs. Aliens), when they could just drop bombs from orbit without ever exposing themselves to our military. Or, considering their level of technology, they'd probably have weapons even more effective than plain old bombs that they could utilize. It's just ludicrous to imagine that their invasion strategy would be to send a bunch of their alien soldiers into Manhattan.

Santa Claus Movies Where Kids Should 'Just Believe'

These movies irritate me to no end. In fact, I've written about it this blog before in the entry, Yes, Virginia, There Are Liars. Why do so many movies make it a virtue to accept something on blind faith without evidence, when we should be teaching our children critical thinking skills. Skepticism is what keeps people from buying timeshares, giving their credit card numbers to Nigerian princesses, or believing they've won the Internet lottery. It's a skill that should be fostered, not made to seem like a character flaw. And the Santa Claus movies are especially irritating because every sane adult knows the truth about Santa. We're not just telling kids to have faith, we're telling them to have faith in a known lie.

Image Source: Wikimedia


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