Working It Off

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It’s time for me to break my silence about my journey. This is a journey that has not been sponsored by random people on the internets. This is not a journey that has been told about in the news. Also, this is a journey that is still going on which will likely only end the day that I die.

It’s also a journey that I have not written about at great length to anyone until now, because I this has been very much a private journey that I have been taking which has been shared with just friends, family and my work mates. Also, I am a very quiet person and tend to not open up much about myself to most people.

I have been extremely overweight since I was a small child. When I was in school, I was the kid who was always picked fun of and singled out for embarrassment, such as the time that an opposing baseball team actually specifically hit balls towards me because they knew I couldn’t field them properly.

Also, when I was in High School, my marching band was invited to perform in a lengthy parade in the winter. While I did some of the exercises in preparation of the parade, but at the end it was decided that I would not march due to concerns over my not being able to make the entire route. Had I not made the entire distance, there would have been no way for me to leave the parade route. Also, for that trip, it was decided that it would be best to buy two airplane seats for me.

Through college, the situation didn’t improve over that time mostly due to the fact that I had unlimited dining in the three meals a day I had access to. A typical breakfast for me would be eggs piled quite high, at least 7 or 8 sausage links and toast as well, plus hashbrowns when available. That was in 2002, and I’ll pick up the story in 2011.

At that time, nobody knew what my actual weight was. The scale that I had went up to 200kg – 440lb, and every time that I would stand on the scale, it would just say “error” meaning that I weighed more than the maximum weight. I estimated my weight at maybe 450 or 460lb, but in hindsight, I think my weight was pretty close to 550 or 600lb. We will never know the truth of that time in my life. But that has changed.

When things changed for me was when I took a trip to Australia to meet my best friend, Snoskred, in person for the first time. While on the way, it was a struggle for me to fit into the airline seats, especially on the long-haul flight from San Francisco to Auckland where the arm rest did not go all the way back up, so I spent nearly 14 hours in a 747 with an arm rest in my left shoulder. On nearly all of the other flights, I had a row to myself, but still was unable to put down the arm rests in those seats.

I didn’t notice the things that were going on during that trip, for example, having to use a specific car because I probably would not have fit into the other car that they had. One thing that I did not see was a group of tourists on an escalator who pointed in my direction, and then decided that staring was not good enough, so they took a photo. Of me. I didn’t know about this for quite some time after the trip actually finished.

Carrying all of this weight around had its complications for me as well. One of which is that I had poor coordination, especially when walking around. When I was in Australia, we were walking along one of the beaches, and while going down a slight embankment on the sand, I fell backwards into the sand, then needed a moment to recover from the fall. Then when I was on my own in Hawai’i on the return trip, I was walking from the airport to the post office. On that walk, I came across a curb and not realising that it was a slanted curb, I stepped and there was nothing there, so I wound up falling again.

Another complication is that the weight affected my posture greatly. When I would sit with my legs up, for example in a recliner, my legs would be splayed in a fashion like this – \_/ (but with the feet quite frequently completely at 90 degrees to my midsection).

Turning things around started in the build-up to my trip to Australia. I joined a gym and began going every day after work, starting with just doing the treadmill and then moving to the elliptical machine and pulling in some weights as well. I did look a little bit at my diet, but was not completely focused on my eating. Because of the exercise I was doing, I did lose some weight by the time I went to Australia, but it was only the beginning–and still no idea of what I actually weighed.

In the beginning of 2012, Snoskred — who I will say has been responsible for the vast majority of my successes in the last 11 years of my life through her encouragement and, at many times, showing me the “tough love” that only a true friend can show — got me to finally order Nutrisystem. That is the time when the weight has really started to fall off. It would be yet another month or two after starting Nutrisystem that I would finally get a number on the scales.

That number was on April 19th, 2012. I was able to weigh in at 201.7kg, 444.7lb.

I’ve been continuing with Nutrisystem and exercising at least 3-5 times per week (at least 30 minutes of good aerobic work on the elliptical, bike or treadmill) for nearly the last 4 years.

In that time, I have not had any issues where I have tripped over uneven surfaces, and while it is something I have to be aware of, I am able to comfortably place my legs in the correct position when sitting in a chair – i.e. the feet pointing upward instead of pointing to either side.

Am I where I want to be? No. Unfortunately, for the last 2 years, I’ve stayed in the range of 330-350lb, with my current weight at 348.2lb/157.94kg. My goal is to get myself down below 300lb/136kg by the end of this year.

I will now share a photo of my body – the one on the left is in Australia and the other is 2 years later in Hawaii.

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Considering that we will never know what the starting weight was, it has been a long journey, but one that will keep on.

The Sunday Snap, Week 1

This line that Snoskred wrote caught my eye…because I fit into both categories –

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Do I read the posts? Yep.

Do I have folders on my computer with digital photos…um maybe?

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This just covers from December 2009-July 2010. Never mind the mind-bogglingly insanely large number of photos that I have in my Mac’s Photo Library, plus the photos that I have laying around on CDs and DVDs going back to 2003 when I got my first digital camera, a Sony Powershot.

Anyway, today’s photo doesn’t come from the selection of folders above, but it is from the Canon camera on November 4, 2011. The location was somewhere near Mayfield NSW while Snoskred, her Other Half, and myself were heading to Canberra for the weekend while I was visiting them.

At the beginning of this particular routing to Canberra, there is a sign advising that there are dirt roads. The problem is that, of course, the quality of the road can be quite varying and the traffic quite low. I do remember quite a fair number of bumps along the way, and even having to ford a stream or two.

We also had to stop for this –

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Which I believe is actually the first wild kangaroo that I saw on my trip. It was really no different to coming across deer while driving around here though as a good reinforcement to pay attention to the road and keep a keen eye out for any beady eyes you may spot along the way. 🙂

The $100 Question

Or, Sephy has money he can’t decide what to do with!

For the purpose of this post, I’ll just cut right to the chase (and will mention more about this shortly) – The robots won out over the fruit (And I really think that I made the right decision for a long number of reasons).

One of the first things that I activated on my new phone – the Galaxy S6, for those keeping score I did buy the more expensive of the two phones I was looking at – was the Samsung Pay feature, which links very nicely to one of my two cards that I carry in my wallet for payments…this one just happens to be the one linked to my Costco membership, but that’s immaterial to this discussion.

It was after then that, while watching TV, I saw an ad for Samsung Pay with a tempting offer – sign up and use Samsung Pay by a certain date and get $100 to use at samsung.com. So, I signed up –

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To be perfectly honest, I was sort of expecting that since I had already activated my card as part of Samsung Pay prior to enroling in this offer, I would be turned down. However, this email came in on the 9th –

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Which leads to my conundrum. I have $100 to spend at samsung.com, but there’s so much to choose from to decide what I want to use it on. For starters, I could choose to use it towards accessories for my phone, for example, a simple case or even a wireless charger (which would not be the most useful since I have a power pack and can do a charge from there, plus the charger in my car which will charge the phone as fast as the fast charger). There are even other headsets that I can buy such as the Samsung bluetooth headset that is out there, but I am not a fan of bluetooth headsets due to the delay that you get when you are playing audio through bluetooth.

But then, I started thinking…there are other things than accessories to buy from Samsung…there are TVs, Blu-Ray Players, Tablets (which I don’t need since I just bought an iPad in the last year), and even cameras. You can even buy refurbished goods for a good deal – for example, this camera is only $130 (or $30 after my discount code).

What I have to look at, though, is what do I really want and what do I need? I have had my TV set for 6 years and it has a bit of a unique “feature” in that part of the screen will frequently discolor itself making the right quarter of the screen viewable – it’s a feature that I’ve dealt with for quite some time now.

Interestingly, I’ve had my camera for about 6 months less – it’s gone tens of thousands of miles with me via road, sea, air and rail

I do have until the 31st to decide what to do with this $100, but still haven’t decided how to use it. Feel free to leave a comment with maybe a suggestion on how to spend the money 🙂

Fruit vs. Robotics

13467490375_a614990236_zSamsung Galaxy S5 vs Apple iPhone 5 by Kārlis Dambrāns on Flickr (CC-BY 2.0)

I have been the owner or user of various Apple hardware for around 8 or so years now. The first one was an iPod nano. Sure, it was small (4GB), but it was an introduction into the world of Apple hardware.

When the iPhone first came out, I wasn’t sure about it, but oddly, there was a feature that I loved about it, how it would make the numbers look correct when you entered an international number. But it wasn’t until it was mentioned to me that the iPhone was a thing of awesome that I decided to jump ahead in Apple technology. To the iPod Touch, which I still have and it still works. 🙂

Moving ahead to July, 2010 and I decided that it was time to get a proper mobile phone after 5-1/2 years of using various flip phones, so I bought the iPhone 3GS (a decision made on the merits of cost, since it was half the price of the iPhone 4 at that time, plus I had to pay a $125 deposit to the mobile phone company). I put tons of miles on that phone – it went with me to Michigan, almost to Canada, Australia, Hawaii and at least once down to Illinois.

I also picked up an iPad 2 in 2012 for free (thanks to my work’s rewards program!), which has been passed along to my mom for her to use. The reason? I bought myself an iPad Air earlier this year (thanks to a combination of Costco rewards and gift cards from work). 🙂

In 2013, I had to give up on the phone (despite it having lost the ability to make noise some months earlier and the vibration function had totally given up!). Why did I give up on the phone? There was an incident…

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I think that’s a good enough reason 😉

Well, that and the offer I got from Best Buy just about the same time – buy a new iPhone 5 online and get $50 back. I’ll just leave it here to say that the ordering of the phone and the actual retrieving of said phone were two different things. The email said that it shouldn’t take more than 45 minutes. It took more like 2 days, and two different trips to Mayfair Mall to get the new phone.

I was so shocked at how fast the phone was right out of the box! Not only was it an improvement of three generations of phones (having skipped over the 4 and 4S), I had access to the LTE Network for AT&T, which gave a speed test result of something like 2x as fast as my home wifi!

Now that my iPhone 5 (well the new iPhone 5 that I just got a couple of weekends ago due to another incident not related to dropping it on concrete…check this one out –

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Yeah, that doesn’t look right, so I googled and found out that this is related to a battery bulging problem, and Apple are replacing the phones if it’s confirmed to be the case. So, a trip to the Apple Store later and a visit to the Genius bar (which they didn’t seem too much like geniuses considering that they were having issues removing covers from iPhone 6S Plusses ;)), they told me that I would get a new phone, but I’d have to wait…on the Saturday it was ready and I picked it up. 🙂

The other side

So, let’s go on a parallel track; let’s say a parallel world where there were no Apple products. Such a world exists and I’ve dabbled in that world a couple of times. The first was when I was in Australia…it was a gift for my trip back to the ‘States, and the expectation was set that there were some issues with it – Wifi didn’t work, and it was very wonky, especially when it came to powering on and off. The latter was certainly true, but to all of our surprise, the wifi did work on it 🙂 You can check out this tablet (prior to it having been upgraded to a proper version of Android) –

Unfortunately, the wonkiness of the tablet led to it falling into disuse after a short while since it would stop holding a charge, which was disappointing, because it was quite handy to me for reading at night. Its only downsides were that it was not terribly portable (mostly due to not being able to hold the charge) and that the screen wasn’t very responsive to my touching at all.

So that led me to actually go out and buy a Nextbook 7S tablet from Big Lots. This was a small improvement over the original tablet in that it did work…at first, but I still had issues with the tablet. Namely, the fact that since the touchscreen was resistive, you had to press really hard on the screen for it to respond. That is, when the screen actually would recognise your inputs as it would constantly lose its calibration, and even when pressing the calibration targets, you would have to do it numerous times to work correctly.

That was a major component of the decision to pick up the iPad since I had already had my iPhone for 2 years at that time and was accustomed to the ease of use of the Apple Products.

Where to from here?

If you read this far, you’d think that I am completely against Android products due to poor experiences with previous products. For a while, that was right, but as time has moved along, I’ve seen how things are going with Android – especially with the products from Samsung.

No doubt this is influenced by the fact that I have heard nothing but good things about Samsung phones and tablets from Snoskred (since it was her who told me about the awesomeness of the iPhone in the first place), who came to me as a surprise having bought a Galaxy phone about 2 years ago. I will note here that I was at first disappointed because of losing some communication functionality, but that was quickly resolved with a link to KakaoTalk and Google Hangouts.

So, it led me to thinking – what services or apps are there that I use which are iPhone only, and I came up with only two so far –

  1. Overcast – This has become my podcast player of choice since hearing about it on the Hello Internet podcast. The major reason that I use if is its feature called “Smart Speed” – where it will cut out the silences in a podcast. Since installation, it’s saved me somewhere over 15 hours of time in listening to podcasts. As far as I know, there isn’t anything similar on Android (though this can be compensated for by going with a faster playback, like 1.25x speed)
  2. Solebon Solitaire – This is one of the few games that I play on my iPhone right now, and it’s not available on Android. However, there are plenty of other solitaire options available on Google Play, so I’m sure that I could find one to suit me 😉 

There was a third one, the OlloClip, but as it turns out, they are making units for the Galaxy range as well – at least for the S4 and the S5

Yes, I did just get a “new” iPhone, but let’s face it…this is a phone that is using three-year-old technology. I’ve found it being quite finicky in its use lately (e.g. when I’m swiping pages, it will stick sometimes, plus I have quite a few crashes…not to mention the issues that I have with Chrome). For me, it’s about time for an upgrade…so I looked more at the options.

In comparing the iPhone 6S ($199.00 on contract–don’t get me started on these “pay as you go” plans like AT&T’s Next), the Samsung Galaxy S5 ($0) and Galaxy S6 ($129.99) objectively (i.e. not looking at the software), I get this list of advantages for the iPhone (even if you look at the 6S plus which is $100 more) –

……………….

None, really. Consider this – the base model of the S6, despite being $70 cheaper (just the same off contract…$649 for the iPhone vs $584 for the S6) has twice the storage, 1.5x the RAM, better display (1440p vs just over 720p in a similar sized frame, 1080p for the 6S plus), better camera…oh, and it’s lighter (it’s almost lighter than air! I checked one out at my local Best Buy the other day…it was quite an amazing feeling!).

There’s also the OnePlus X that’s being released this month at $249 unlocked without contract, which I like since it’s a one-and-done transaction–just buy it, activate it on the AT&T Network (even just plug the SIM card and MicroSD in and go). Bizarrely, this phone actually has an FM radio included in it which piques my interest 🙂

So, the real question is, with the variety of phones out there that have better specs than the iPhone, why not switch? I already use Google Music for my music, have Dropbox, Box, and multiple Google Drive accounts where I can store my photos (I don’t use iCloud’s photo stream…there was a small incident where I wound up using my data when it was uploading through my mobile hotspot) and with the exception of the two apps above (and the Olloclip), everything else that I use is available on Android…

All I’ll say is I’m watching for deals, and watch this space.. 😉

Three New Costcos!

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This week is a pretty awesome week for those of us in Wisconsin…there are three new Costco stores opening! Of the three, I can see myself shopping at one of them regularly and the other two when I am in their area and need something from there (or just want to have a look around, though the products should be about the same). For Costco, opening multiple locations in a region in a short time is not unusual. They’ve done it in Australia before, but this is the first time that more than one location is opening at one time in Wisconsin.

Actually, these will the the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Costcos opening up in Wisconsin in 2015, with the other one, which I have visited already, having opened in June of this year. This will make a total of 9 warehouses in the state – I’m sure there are more, but there hasn’t been any more rumors or information on future locations. Needless to say, I’m kind of excited 😉

What’s the big deal?

Well, this goes back about 6 years ago, when there was just one lonely Costco living anywhere in Southeastern Wisconsin. If you didn’t go to this store, you either just didn’t go, or you had two choices – go to Madison or go towards Chicago – and you’d have to get pretty close to the city to get there. 🙂

I don’t even remember now why I wanted to check the store out, but I did one day and when I had an opportunity to be in the vicinity of the store, I went in and checked it out. My first impression was, well, it’s a good store, but is it really necessary? The next week, I purchased a membership…thus beginning a good relationship between business and customer. You may say that I’m addicted to Costco, but that site’s been taken already 😉

Since then, I’ve been in a total of 8 Costco locations – three in Wisconsin, two in Illinois, one in Australia, and two in Hawai’i…and I’ve bought something in every single one of the stores I’ve been into (including a PS3 in my only visit to one in Illinois and a tank of gas followed by a single bottle of allergy medicine in the newest one in Wisconsin…that one was for export purposes ;)).

Everywhere I do go, I spread the “gospel” of Costco to people – whether it’s the $10 veggie tray or all of the awesome things that I get for “free” from there thanks to the money I get back from my purchases through a combination of the Executive membership I have plus my Costco American Express card (which is going away in favour of a new deal with Citibank and Visa next year). I talk about it so much, Costco is a bit of a running joke at work with those who know me well there 😉

There’s so much to love about Costco, but one of the things that is awesome is that you don’t see a single ad for Costco on TV or on the radio. Nor will you see them placing inserts into the newspaper – even on Thanksgiving when literally everyone advertises in the newspaper…even their competitors over at Wal-Mart with their Sam’s Club brand. The only advertising you will see Costco do to potential new members is sign up booths around the local area like this one (which was taken in August) –

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The Now Hiring sign has gone away, but the tent is still there. From what I read on Reddit, apparently there’s an open house the night before the opening…which may explain why they only open one store a day…move all the vendors from one location to the other 🙂 As much as I’d love to go (had I known about it), I have to work on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, so I won’t be able to go to any of the open houses.

However, I’ll be visiting the one in the top picture on Saturday…I’m expecting it to be an absolute zoo like a normal Saturday

I will show you one thing I highly doubt these Costcos will have…since this was removed from the warehouse it was pictured in over the last 3 years (note the price of gas…$4.179/gal. or $1.104/L for regular, as of 11/1/15 it was $2.299/gal or 60.8¢/L…and at the Costco pictured below, 10c/gal cheaper!). It’s a self-checkout, a/k/a “you do the work for us without pay”

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Over to You

Have you ever shopped at Costco? If a Costco opened in your area, would you try it out? The Membership fee ($55 + tax) is refundable. 🙂