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          Bistro MD diet foods delivered

          My wife did some research and found BistroMD had some good reviews (and are one of the few that offer gluten-free options)–they seem to be the gourmet version of delivered diet foods. (First week’s shipping–$25–is free with coupon code “Free Shipping 08”) We’re going to give it a try… I’ll write more once we taste it, and post updates on our weight loss.? Wish us luck!

          UPDATE 30 May 2009:

          After 2 weeks of strictly following the diet, I’ve lost 11.4 lbs and my wife has lost 5.4 lbs (as measured on our Wii Fit).? The first few days took a little discipline to get through the hunger because of the smaller portions, but now that our stomachs have shrunk, it’s not hard at all–we fill up really easily now! And whenever I’m a little hungry, I just try to remember that my next meal or snack is only an hour away (since we got the plan with snacks, I have something to eat every 3 hours).

          The food quality is surprisingly good, especially given that we’re just reheating frozen foods.

          BistroMD appears to ship using Fedex Ground–and since we’re on opposite coasts, their Monday shipments don’t arrive until Friday.? Since last weekend was Memorial Day, they didn’t ship until Tuesday, so we received our boxes on Saturday–we were scared that they wouldn’t deliver until Monday, and who knows if the food would stay totally frozen that long.? But it all worked out (the dry ice does keep everything really frozen).? If you want to ensure that you don’t have to bridge a day if your next shipment is late, I recommend that you wait a day or two after you receive your first box before getting started.

          The only thing about the whole program that we feel a little funny about is that once you’re on the subscription, they charge you on Wednesday for the following Monday’s shipment, which we don’t receive until the following Friday… so we’re paying for food 9 days before we receive it.? This means that you’ll only be a few days into week #1 when they charge you for week #3.? I understand why they do it this way, but it still feels sketchy.? Once we decide to go off the plan, we’ll still be eating their food for a while.? Otherwise though, we wholeheartedly recommend the BistroMD program–we’re seeing the results, it’s easy to stick to, and the food is good.? We give it an A.

          UPDATE 6 June 2009:

          After 3 weeks, I’ve now lost 13.6 lbs and my wife 5.8–but she’s not at all upset: she’s been working out like crazy and feels great, so she’s not judging by the pounds.? The results are definitely visible.

          I haven’t been working out at all–you know, trying to be all scientific to be able to measure the results of just the food.? But this week I’m going to start doing some light 30-minute workouts.

          For at least the last two weeks, BistroMD has messed up my wife’s gluten-free order by forgetting to put in any oatmeal, which her menu calls for 4 times a week.? We ended up just buying a box of Quaker Weight-Control oatmeal, which seems comparable to what BistroMD sends me.

          Stephanie Meyer Twilight Playlists

          My sister (and just about every other woman I know) loves the Twilight book series… and then she discovered the playlists Stephanie Meyer listened to while writing them–and she loves those too.

          I reconstructed the playlists the best I could using Amazon’s music library (some aren’t in the library)… you can buy them pretty cheaply (usually 99 cents; and with no copy-protection) from Amazon…

          Now that the movie is coming out, there’s a soundtrack for the movie, but there’s no overlap with Meyer’s playlists.

          Online Traffic School

          ?? I got a speeding ticket a few weeks ago.

          I’m planning on taking a class on gototrafficschool.com, an online traffic school.? I’ll write a review after a finish… wish me luck!

          UPDATE:

          Ok, so in the mean time, I took the class, and my wife did too (rolling stop at a stop sign). It was a really great experience, for what it was.? It’s possible some aspects of the course might be different based on jurisdiction (mine is Los Angeles), but I think the things I have to comment on are probably pretty common across the board.

          The course was divided into about 18 chapters. At the end of each chapter they ask you 2 questions, and then you can move on.? The quiz questions are for the most part so easy that you might be able to answer them all correctly without reading the course.

          I guess for these online traffic schools to get accredited, they have to have a way to enforce your spending the required number of hours in the course over all (mine was 6 hours).? They seem to use javascript in some way to keep track of idleness in your browser; I didn’t try to completely figure out the restraints, mostly because it was pretty generous.? It would definitely timeout if you left a chapter open for 2 hours, but if you check your email in another tab for 20 or 30 minutes, it does keep counting down without timing out.

          The one thing I didn’t like about it is that it doesn’t tell you that you timed out right away.? One time I left the page open to a chapter, went away for a while, and then came back and read the chapter.? When I clicked to go to the next chapter, the clock reset back to the time when I first went to the original chapter–ie- I lost the time I spent actually reading because it timed out before I came back–but it never told me.? That sucked!? On the whole, though, I was able to complete the course pretty quickly, since I spend a lot of time on the computer anyway.

          I don’t have much basis for comparison, but gototrafficschool.com was clean and simple to use, so I’d highly recommend it.

          SLR-like digital camera

          We had a baby recently, and I wanted to get a better camera than my simple point-and-shoot Casio.? When I started researching, I thought I might like a digital SLR, but I quickly realized that I’d have to fork over at least $400, if not much more, and SLR cameras seemed to be a bit of a money pit after the initial purchase because of all the add-on lenses and other paraphernalia you start to feel obligated to buy.? My max budget was $300.

          So I discovered what they call “SLR-like” cameras… they look kind of like DSLRs (larger form factor with large diameter lens) but they’re definitely not: no mirrors or moving parts to allow you to see through the viewfinder exactly what the sensor will see; while you can sometimes add special lenses, SLR-like cameras typically are used with the lens that is built into the camera body; and the sensors are smaller than real DSLRs, meaning that they aren’t as sensitive in low-light conditions.? On the other hand, because of the mechanism inside SLR cameras, they don’t have any video camcorder modes.

          dpreview.com is a famous site for camera reviews–you can get lost in there for hours.? At the suggestion of a friend of mine who’s a pretty serious amateur photographer, I quickly narrowed in on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18 (he loves the Leica lens)… but at around $350, it was slightly more than I was hoping for.? After some more research, I found that the previous model, the DMC-FZ8 had just about all the features of the FZ18 I cared about, but for around $100 less.? I made the purchase through Amazon for $244.09 (the price appears to be higher now; in fact, the price for the FZ18 is lower than the FZ8!).

          On the whole, I’m very happy with the purchase.? The picture quality is far better than a point-and-shoot, and if you master some of the fancy features, you can squeeze even more quality out of it; on the other hand, the quality is really not great under low-light conditions, which is often the situation with baby photos inside your house.? The body of the camera is smaller than it appears in the photos–it’s actually quite light and portable.? I’m also very happy I got a camera with a video recording feature–we’ve been using that a ton with the baby.? But the thing that blows me away the most is the battery life–we use it for about 3 weeks in between charges… it’s kind of incredible.

          Freestanding towel rack with warmer

          My wife and I are very lucky: we have a very large walk-in shower, with a glass wall and door.? The bad news is that the glass of the shower is so large that we don’t have a wall near the door where we could mount hooks for hanging towels… and we didn’t want to make any holes in the glass for mounting special hooks or rails.

          Warmrails Vauxhall Towel Warmer RackSo I began my search for free-standing towel racks.? I’ve seen a number of these over the years, including some that look almost more like coat racks.? But then I came across towel warmers on amazon, and found just the right match: the Warmrails Deluxe Vauxhall Freestanding Towel Warmer & Drying Rack.? It may be too large for some bathrooms, but it’s perfect for our particular needs.? It has two columns of rails, so I keep my towel on one side and my wife’s on the other.? The warming feature was really just a bonus, but it’s turned out to make quite a difference–our towels dry very quickly and we can wait an almost disturbing amount of time between washing them, since it takes almost two weeks before you can smell any humidity in them at all.

          If you search around you can find a lot of other sites that carry this model, but at the time Amazon had the best price at $360 including free shipping.

          Permanent roof ladder with handrails

          I live in a one-story house and have been thinking about building a simple deck on the roof.? While I’m not quite ready to begin construction, the roof is flat and could be used right away for casually enjoying a little mojito while watching the sunset.? So I figured an interesting first step would be to get a permanent ladder in place.

          It’s pretty scary climbing on the roof right now using a portable stepladder because you kind of have to swing your leg over the edge of the roof, which is tricky going in either direction… I had this image in my mind of a ladder that is attached to the wall and has handrails at the top so that you can easily step onto and off of the ladder.? I know I’ve seen these before, usually as part of a fire escape or for commercial buildings… it took me a while to find it online.? The usual home improvement sites didn’t have anything remotely like this.

          10-foot fixed access ladder with handrails

          I finally came across a site called globalindustrial.com that has all sorts of industrial products–beyond what you’d be able to find at something like a home depot.? These guys call it a “fixed access ladder”, and the particular variant I was looking for is a “walk-through with handrails.”? The ladder comes in all different heights; this link is for the 10-foot ladder, which I think would be right for my roof.? $287 is a little more than I was thinking to pay, but it’s not unreasonable, really.