Want Fries With That?

Posted in Film on May 27th 2004 by Randy Reichardt

:: Bored? Need a jolt of wackiness? Watch Leonard Nimoy singing “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins

:: Congratulations to my friend Darcy, who posted the 1000th comment on my site.

:: Super Size Me is playing in Edmonton, and I saw it yesterday. I haven’t consumed any fast food from McD’s, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, etc., for months, but after watching this movie, I wonder if I’ll ever do it again. (My one weakness is pizza from Papadopolous in Edmonton.) In the film, director Morgan Spurlock eats three meals a day at McDonald’s for 31 days, with three doctors, a nutritionist and an fitness counsellor monitoring his body weight, blood, cholesterol, caloric intake, etc.

Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock hit the road and interviewed experts in 20 U.S. cities, including Houston, the “Fattest City” in America. From Surgeon Generals to gym teachers, cooks to kids, lawmakers to legislators, these authorities shared their research, opinions and “gut feelings” on our ever-expanding girth.

During the journey, Spurlock also put his own body on the line, living on nothing but McDonald’s for an entire month with three simple rules:

1) No options: he could only eat what was available over the counter (water included!)
2) No supersizing unless offered
3) No excuses: he had to eat every item on the menu at least once

It’s compelling viewing, if a bit skewed – who would eat 93 straight meals from McDonald’s, or any fast food outlet? Also of interest: his girl friend is a vegan chef, and prepares a vegan detox diet for Spurlock, whihc helps him quickly restore his liver function and cholestrol level when his month-long Mac Attack is over.

:: Nashville is six days away, and I feel completely unprepared for the trip. I’m hoping to change that this afternoon by getting a few things in order.

Quirkyalone

Posted in What? on May 25th 2004 by Randy Reichardt

Who are the quirkyalones? There are many definitions, but we’ll start with this one. Quirkyalones are romantics who resist the tyranny of coupledom. Whether by birth (womb quirkyalones) or through life experience (born-again quirkyalones), we are independent-thinking people who would prefer to be open to finding that magical click (and the myriad possibilities that life has to offer) rather than exist in a stifling or unsatisfying romantic relationship.

I remember reading about quirkyalones some time ago, and decided to visit the site tonight.The definition above is interesting to me, because I’ve always thought of myself as a hopeless romantic. I took the quiz to determine if I meet the qualifications of a quirkyalone. The results:

Your score was 121. Very quirkyalone: Relatives may give you quizzical looks, and so may friends, but you know in your heart of hearts that you are following your inner voice. Though you may not be romancing a single person, you are romancing the world. Celebrate your freedom on National Quirkyalone Day, February 14th!

I’m not sure that knowing I am romancing the world is much comfort.
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Rush Hour on the Information Superhighway

Posted in NYC on May 24th 2004 by Randy Reichardt

:: To feed my personal NYC obsession, I subscribe to Time Out New York. Although it arrives in my mailbox anywhere from 3-5 weeks after publication, I look forward to each issue. While its content keeps me up-to-date on All Things Pop Culture and All Things NYC, there are always well-written articles that pique my interest and result in further investigation on my part. In many cases, the articles are not necessarily NYC-centric either.

A recent example is the article, “Rush Hour on the Information Superhighway“, by Clive Thompson, which appeared in Issue No. 445 April 8–15, 2004.

A funny thing happened on the road to utopia. The Information Age promised greater efficiency, allowing us to explore new worlds online and enjoy more free time. Instead, we’re working longer hours and feeling more stressed as we drown in a tsunami of e-mail, blogs and Google searches. And nowhere is this pressure to stay connected more prevalent than in mediacentric New York.

Thompson succinctly addresses information bombardment and overload, focusing on four aspects: e-mail and spam, Google and googling, blogs, and TiVo (which, btw, isn’t available in Canada yet). As librarians and information specialists, we are bombarded with information from many sides every day. How do we deal with it? Often, we don’t – some, if not all of it flows over us like water off the back of a duck. We process a little of it. But being librarians, when we search for information we should know where and when to stop, and Thompson very correctly nails this in his discussion of searching:

That’s another conundrum of our age: New technologies seem only to amp up our desire for more. Consider Google. It is by all accounts an informational godsend. But since it offers hundreds of hits for even the most quixotic query, many people have no idea when to stop parsing the endless results, says Joseph Janes, chair of library and information science at the University of Washington’s Information School, who teaches a graduate seminar on the site and its impact on the culture. “It can make your life simpler, but it can also lead you down the path to perdition,” Janes adds. “You find things that point to things that point to things that point to things, and you wake up two hours later. Or maybe you’re looking for something that simply can’t be found on Google, and it takes you 45 minutes to figure that out.” Janes was trained as a librarian, and he says one thing librarians learn is when to stop: “We know when to declare victory—or to go home if the information just isn’t there.”

Consider that: knowing when to stop. It’s one of the many characteristics that define us as information and library professionals, and I think we should be proud of it.

BTW, the Time Out New York publishers and editors have quietly set a high standard for open access. They have uploaded the contents, except for listings of current events, of every issue since the magazine began publishing in 1995. New issues are archived online one month after publication. Issues can be browsed by date, and a search function is provided that allows keyword searching with the ability to restrict by section of the journal. As a good friend would say, totally brilliant. (NOTE: A slight variation of this post appears on Blogcritics.)

Caffeine and Candidates

Posted in Random Thoughts on May 24th 2004 by Randy Reichardt

:: Thank you to everyone who wrote or commented about my increased heart rate. Subsequent to having an ECG on Thursday and visiting the doctor, I stopped drinking my Starbucks French Roast coffee. Within 24 hours, my heartbeat was down to the mid-80s. I just checked it again, and the reading was 76 bpm, which for me is remarkable.

Shannon sent a link to an article about high caffeine levels in coffee.

The biggest bang for your buck, with more than double the levels of caffeine compared to the lowest levels, were found in coffee from Starbucks and Second Cup.

Of course, at Starbucks, rarely do they serve French Roast over the counter – you have to buy it and make it yourself, which is what I do with it at work. The article does provide responses from the coffee companies, including Starbucks:

We emphasize that any absolute numbers reported on caffeine levels in Starbucks coffee do not reflect what a customer would receive in every cup of Starbucks coffee. There are many variables that contribute to caffeine content from cup to cup.

Regarding Starbucks regular drip coffees, customers can expect an average of 160 milligrams of caffeine per eight ounces.

The article notes that “Health Canada recommends no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine a day.” That said, if the data from Starbucks are correct, even drinking 1-1.5 cups of regular drip French Roast shouldn’t affect my heart rate. Or should it? In this case, it appears that a particular brand of coffee had an effect on me. On the plus side, the ECG revealed that my heart is in great shape, with no abnormal rhythms of any kind.

:: It is a long weekend in Canada, Victoria Day, and it’s been somewhat lazy. In no particular order, so far today I worked out, weeded a section of a filing cabinet (and fed my paper shredder a lot of paper!), cleaned up stuff in the background of my web site, cut the grass in the front and back yards, watered the small patches of dirt in which plant life can be found, loaned a copy of Time Out New York to someone who is leaving for NYC on Wednesday. I still want to clean one of my bathrooms today if I can find the energy, and add some decorative rock to the base of my little oak tree in my front yard. I also want to put up my backyard canopy, with the help of a neighbour. And go for coffee and read a bit. I am feeling lazy and overwhelmed with life – no different from any other day.

:: A federal election has been called in Canada for June 28, which also happens to be my birthday. At this point in my life, I find most politicians to be without many ethics or principles, if any. In my front yard is a sign supporting the local Liberal candidate. I doubt he’ll win, but I would never vote for the right wing. This time around, I don’t know if I will vote at all.

:: Two weeks from now, I’ll be in Nashville. Three weeks after I return, it’s off to Winnipeg and Newfoundland and then back to Winnipeg. A few weeks later, it’s September. Summer moves by too quickly. It’s isn’t fair.

:: The guy who came to my door on May 19, asking for $5 to refill his daugher’s inhaler, never returned the $5.

Benefits of the Doubt

Posted in Miscellaneous on May 20th 2004 by Randy Reichardt

:: I was just on Cindi’s site, and she’s posted about the return of Andy Kaufman. Yes, you read that correctly. I mean, good feckin’ grief. Turns out, the 20th anniversary of his death from lung cancer was May 16, 2004. Yahoo! – YAHOO! – is running a story saying Kaufman is alive and living on the upper west side of Manhattan; don’t they check their sources? Didn’t they see Shattered Glass? His blog, Andy Kaufman Returns, is up and running. Snopes sez it’s all a hoax. But you can’t help but feel just a wee bit suspicious, knowing that this is something Kaufman would pull off, even from the grave. Kinda creepy, eh? Wait! Maybe Yahoo! DID check its sources. Maybe he IS alive!

:: Earlier today, I visited my physician at the Family Medicine Centre in Edmonton. I do that often, for blood pressure checks, mostly. This visit, however, was because on Tuesday afternoon I noticed, or rather, I could feel that my heart beat was higher than normal. I work out 4-5 times a week, 30 mins on a Precor elliptical cross trainer, and usually get my pulse up to ~160 bpm. I spend 5-7 minutes cooling down on the machine, during which time my pulse drops to ~110 bpm, before finishing my workout.

On Tuesday, near the end of my workout, my heart was was pushing 170 bpm for a couple minutes, and it felt good. However, I noticed that when I cooled down, it was still above 130 bpm. The rest of the evening and all day yesterday, I could feel my heart beating faster than normal. Despite having a physical scheduled for June 1st, I decided to see the doctor today. I had an electrocardiogram done, and the test suggested I have a condition called Sinus tachycardia, meaning a P wave greater than 100 bpm. The ECG also confirmed that my heart is beating normally, i.e., there are no erratic rhythms to suggest other potential problems. As well, I experience ventricular ectopic beats every so often, yet the ECG recorded not one VEB (this is a good thing!)

So what’s the upshot? My heart could be receiving extra stimulation, such as from caffeine, wild sex, or nasal medication with Epinephrine as an ingredient. Well, I drink black coffee, maybe 1-1.5 cups in the morning, occasionally a second cup later in the day, and have one or two lattes on the weekend. Been doing that for 25 years. I’m not using any nasal spray. I gave up wild sex a few weeks ago. But I did change my coffee from a Costco-sold brand to a fresh one-pound supply of Starbucks French Roast about a week ago. Hmmmm. The Starbucks French Roast could be driving up my heart beat. Well, Dr Bell is suggesting I lay off that coffee until I see him again, which is like, a total drag. I mean, I don’t smoke, don’t drink except socially, don’t use drugs, there’s not many vices left, y’know.

BTW, I did work out again tonight, kept it to ~160 bpm near the end, and feel fine. My pulse at the moment is 97 bpm…

:: Last night around 10:15 pm, my doorbell rang. At the door was a man in a baseball cap, maybe mid-30s, holding an inhaler. He told me his name and address, (he lives across the avenue), and said that his wife had the car and his credit cards, etc., and needed to refill his daughter’s inhaler immediately, and had no cash, and that he needed four dollars. I studied him for a moment, told him to wait a minute, retrieved a $5 bill, and handed it to him. I thought, what’s five bucks, and he seemed like a nice guy. He thanked me, I asked him to bring me $5 tomorrow when he had a moment, he agreed, and left. I haven’t seen him since.

I’m still giving him the benefit of the doubt for now. If he doesn’t pay me back, c’est la vie, I suppose. Maybe I have too much faith in the basic goodness of people, I don’t know. But refusing his request at that moment didn’t seem like the correct thing to do, and it was only $5, after all.
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Visiting Notorious C.H.A.

Posted in Friends on May 20th 2004 by Randy Reichardt

:: My pal Jennifer lives a few blocks away from me. We’ve known each other for, good God, almost 15 years. I drove over to her place tonight to meet her sweet 16-week old little girl, Charlotte. Check out the cool pic of Charlotte and Uncle Randy. It was nice to get out of the house, meet the Little One, and hang with Jen Jen, and go for a nice walk. The weather was overcast and mild and humid and just right. Thanks, Jen!

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