Dieting again — with new toys

Back on June 18th I posted about failing my blood test in a big way, how sitting on my ass for essentially a year of Covid lockdown while watching TV and eating comfort food delivered by UberEats (and every other delivery company, I was signed up with THREE of them) every day had resulted in my blowing up to 202 lbs (from a starting weight of 160) into a size XL; so that not only was I resorting to living in T-shirts inherited from my dad and sweat pants purchased from Amazon, but when I finally was fully vaccinated and went to the doctor for blood tests and stuff, my liver numbers (which I had already brought down into the healthy range back in 2018) were once again not only wildly out of control, but were actually WORSE than they had ever been… this was not a huge surprise because my liver was so enlarged that I could feel it like a football under my ribs pressing out — very uncomfortable — after almost every meal, and towards the end it was making it painful to sleep on my right side… so yah THAT bad

AND… just for shit and giggles, my sugar levels, which I had also dieted back into the healthy range in 2018 where now not just boarder-line diabetic, which is where I pretty much had maintained it for years … were now full out diabetic. The doctor said she was giving me a few months to get it under control before resorting to drugs or insulin, but that was where I was headed if I didn’t drop weight.

So that’s what I’ve been doing for the most part these last few months. Last time I posted about this, August 4, 2021, I had successfully lost 17.5 lb (like 2.5 lb a week) and today, Sep 19th, I’ve continued the trend … it’s slowed a tad to around 2.2 lb a week … so I’m now 174.2 (close to another 10 lbs lost). This was achieved on my own, no paying anyone else to help me. The method is a combination of things….

Partial Fasting: Firstly, I’ve been consciously doing something that I had also been doing unconsciously back in 2018, which is partial fasting… I wake up fully dehydrated, weigh myself… and THEN drink black coffee and water… so calorie free liquids essentially …. to rehydrate myself…. and then eat lunch snacks and dinner (in other words restrict all my calorie consumption to over the course of about 8 hours out of 24), and then make sure I STOP eating a good 4 hours before going to sleep (and making sure I get the full 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep a night, as needed).  And when I say I stop eating, I mean not even so much as a grape (to paraphrase Oprah, who is where I initially got the idea)… Oh, and I stop drinking even water maybe an hour before falling asleep …. Be warned, this does tend to send you to bed feeling a bit wanting a snack, but you have to fight it.

From what I’ve recently read about the power of fasting, which is now ALL the rage — like I said I was doing it without knowing I was doing it back in 2018 — your body needs a 6 hour gap from your last calorie consumption to when it starts resorting to using fat instead of what’s in your belly… and the more time it has without food the more fat it’ll burn… so that 4 hours of not eating + about 8 hours of sleep, plus 2 more hours in the morning before I put any calories in my mouth = 10 hours of my day when my body has to burn fat for lack of my giving it anything else to burn.

Before I was eating right up till bedtime, sleeping maybe 8 to 10 hours and eating as soon as I woke up… so I only had 2 hours a day to burn fat … after a day of eating things like a cheeseburger, fries smothered in cheese, a chocolate shake with chocolate cake in it, and topping that off with dessert … and that was just dinner (so yah, no chance THAT was going to get burned away).

I have also found this not eating for four hours before going to sleep did wonders for addressing my acid reflex issues which resulted in GERD (and WITHOUT DRUGS… I had been popping TUMS® Antacid ultra strength before going to sleep during lock down)… because I had been stuffing my gullet till right before I went to sleep…

Splurge days: once a month I get a splurge day… just one… and I eat till I make myself sick. I’m talking completely blowing the diet with non stop shit I shouldn’t be eating till I’m asking myself why the fuck I did it. I’m talking fried chicken wings dipped in ranch dressing, pizza, ice cream, cheeseburgers and brats, go for it. Actors who have to lose weight for roles talk about this … and I find it maintains sanity and tends to line up nicely with things like thanksgiving, Xmas, Jewish holidays, being invited to friends for dinner, etc. It keeps you sane and provides your metabolism with a kick in the ass. Just don’t go kidding yourself that you can do it more than 1 day a month. 

Weighing myself daily: The one thing I NEVER do when gaining weight is weigh myself. To be honest in 2018 I didn’t do that either… I just went by the size of my clothes. And I know they say NOT to do this… it can be entirely frustrating… and can discourage the average dieter who is denying themselves in order to lose weight. HOWEVER the “diet” I’m on is mostly medical (diabetes control and liver issues) so for me low carb and low fat is something I’m probably going to have to do for the rest of my life and if I HAD continued to do it the first time … LIKE I WAS SUPPOSED TO, instead of convincing myself that the problem was “fixed” I would not be in the situation I am now. That said, if you take away carbs and fat, there’s really not much left to gain weight on even on the days you do over eat. Additionally… there’ve been a few days where the weight went up instead of down or staying flat, so it keyed me into things I can no longer buy… Pistachios from Costco are on that list. I like them too much.

To date I’ve been using the same bathroom scale my brother bought me for as a going away gift (I was moving to SF) like 15 years ago. The thing still works, and its impressively accurate… only of late its become sporadically LESS accurate (as in radically different weights within a 15 minute period in spite of not eating or using the bathroom). So I figured it was time for an upgrade, one of the new ones with all the bells and whistles that measures way more than just your weight. At first I was looking at Withings body+ which is sold at the apple store (and amazon of course), ’cause I’m an apple person and it’s supposed to synch with apple health app and its the one a lot of my friends own, but paying $100 for a high tech scale which most likely won’t have the longevity of the my old scale, just didn’t rock my boat. After much hemming and hawing, I opted for Wyze Scale for 1/3 the price, which showed up on a lot of same lists, and sometimes was considered a better scale… especially when I searched for the most reliable scales rather than “best of year options”. Got it yesterday.

I unboxed it, did everything it said to set it up… happily both it and the old scale registered me as being the same weight, so I knew both were accurate, YAY! And then I went over the apple health app on my iPhone and of course, it did NOT synch as promised. Went to multiple web sites, worked my way through the instructions multiple times, tried various suggested fixes… nothing. I got and phone and called tech support but it being a Sunday evening, well no one was picking up, so decided I would try again today. Went to sleep, and when I woke up like 8 hours later…  I did my morning weigh in on both scales, still got the same number both times…. but this time when I went to apple health to input the data manually, to my delight, it was already there.

Apparently it took the scale a few hours to get linked…. the scale comes with it’s own app, and it’s supposed to share with the apple health app, but I have no idea HOW it does that. Hopefully this was a one time thing and from now on going forward it’ll work like clock work… one can only hope.  But it was nice to see things like BMI calculated for me automatically, along with metabolic age, a metabolic rate (it thinks I burn 1421 calories a day minimum), visceral fat, level of protein in my body (apparently it’s too low… I need less fat and more muscle tone), bone mass, lean body mass (apparently I should be weighing in at like 115, not 175… which I knew), body water %, etc.

It’s amazing what these new scales can do for $33 bucks! Granted they’re not 100% accurate but they give you a ballpark idea.

Carb control; Because of the diabetes, I’m not allowed to have more than 28g of carbs at any one time so as to not spike the sugar in my blood. This is highly limiting but do-able. Last time I did this (2018) the one thing I really missed was pasta. I love pasta. Granted I’ve tried the veggie substitutes, pretty much lived on riced cauliflower… but all of these leave you wanting and feeling like you’re denying yourself … which in fact you are. This time around I got super lucky… while at Costco (and my readers know just how much I love Costco) I stumbled across a new product I’d not seen before, “Healthy Noodles” manufactured by Kibun foods.. a product that for the most part they ONLY sell via Costco, except in a few limited parts of the country, mostly the South/East — and if you live in Colorado I’m sorry, they don’t sell it there.

With this new product I’ve been having every conceivable noodle combination, sometimes twice a day, and losing weight while doing it. And because unlike pasta/noodles this product has 6 grams of carbs, which is a LOT, it leaves you feeling full at the end of the meal. Add veggies in along with it and well… do the math. I’ve had spaghetti with meat sauce (I make it as low fat as conceivably possible, using ground bison instead of beef), fettuccine alfredo with various proteins and veggies added, beef stroganoff, Ramen/Chinese/Vietnamese noodle soups, chicken soup with noodles, macN’cheese, and 5 way chili….. all while losing weight.

For those unfamiliar with it, this is a variety of shirataki noodle, which is something you can pretty much find nation wide in any whole foods or organic section of a supermarket, but….and this is important…  that usually doesn’t quite hit the spot… because firstly, you KNOW you’re not eating pasta; A) it doesn’t feel like pasta in your mouth, or B) it doesn’t SMELL like pasta… and C), most crucially, there’s an actual health risk involved in eating it (which is why in some of the nanny states — socialized medicine — its actually illegal to sell). With THIS brand, none of those things is true … its close enough to the sensation of eating pasta as no never mind, there’s no “fishy smell” (people who are polite call it that, I call it what it is, which is it smells like a woman’s V’JayJay). Where with all the other brands — and I’ve desperately tried pretty much all of them over the years — you feel like you’re eating rubber, with this brand you can feel it falling apart when it comes in contact with the digestive juices in your mouth, and this is a VERY important difference (read on).

Listen carefully, Shirataki in it’s pure form (and there are other manufacturers of this stuff selling it formed like pasta noodles) is something I’ve been familiar with since I was in my 20’s, back when I did two summer internships in a row for companies in Japan. It is a non-digestible carb (you’re digestive system literally can not break it down, only your teeth can do that) that the Japanese make into a cake called konnyaku, and refer to as diet food… because after you’ve swallowed it it’s going to come out exactly the way it went in, as though you had swallowed a marble. It’s great for filling the stomach and your body can not derive any calories from it… in it’s pure form. HOWEVER, if you eat it made into noodles, and you snarf those down without chewing it…. well you know how, if you have a bunch of silver jewelry chains, or maybe bungie cords all bunched up together, how they turn into a gordian knot? Imagine that knot forming in your tummy and completely blocking your digestive track, which your stomach acids can’t eat through… so that the only way to get it out is surgery… I’m not making this up… it happens. Well that’s what can happen if you eat this in it’s 100% Konjac (the name of the root from which Shirataki noodles are made) form, so you have to be REALLY careful about chewing it up before swallowing it… and the texture is a bit like trying to chew up a rubber band, with the same squeak squeak squeak sound happening in your mouth.

I have over the years tried MANY different brands of these sorts of noodles, and NEVER found one that really felt like I was eating pasta, UNTIL this one. ALL of them the texture was just wrong, or my poop came out looking like noodle casserole (which was kind of scary — keeping in mind what I said about the possible need for surgery). This brand is the ONLY brand I have found so far that feels like pasta in your mouth (albeit overcooked noodles, there’s nothing ‘al dente’ going on here), has no smell at all once you’ve rinsed it out (it is stored in liquid in plastic packets) and where you can feel it falling apart in your mouth and your poop looks normal, even if you accidentally snarf them down — so no risk.

The only issue is if you, like a friend of mine who is a breast cancer surviver, can not eat soy for some sort of medical reason; if that’s the case then you shouldn’t eat this. This has NO net CARBS (the fiber and carbs are the same and cancel each other out, more specifically the carbs all come from the Konjac which as I said are undigestible), and the 30 calories is from the protein provided by the soy…. but it does have 30 calories per serving (2 servings in each bag)… but compared to 155 to 190 calories for a bowl of pasta noodles, not to mention the 40 grams of carbs, that’s not really a huge concern.

Low Fat: And of course, because of my liver, and the calories in fat, I try to keep my fat intake low and limit it to only healthy fats, so like Salmon, or Sablefish, occasionally Tuna (which is problematic because of other reasons which most of you are already familiar with, that are doubly problematic with a bad liver), avocado, olive oil, etc.

Exercise: And of course I’ve been exercising… in addition to walking, I’ve added weight training and signed up for a gym membership. I try to get there at 6am when they first open up and almost no one else has arrived. I find that first hour there’s maybe five or six people in a space big enough for 30 or 40 under normal conditions (and that’s including the equipment). At fist I was going to a private gym where you work with a trainer on machines, but now I’ve switched to the University facility (which is ginormous) near my home, and work out on my own. Happily, the University is one of the ones that has mandated full vaccinations for all students and staff, AND they follow the mask mandates as well, so I feel pretty comfortable working out there, especially during the hours when it’s mostly empty.

The movie to show trend in Musical Theater as seen by me, on the London stage: The Lion King, School of Rock, and 9 to 5: the Musical

About two years ago I wrote about how I had seen the stage musical production of Waitress while in London, and you might want to read that review before this one. It was a musical version of one of my favorite movies, so I was excited to see it… but ultimately was more than a bit bit underwhelmed. Ultimately over the course of that same summer I saw FIVE stage musical productions that had begun as popular movies.

According to wikipedia there are 217 musicals that have been made over the years based on movies, and while this is by no means a new phenomena it seems in recent years to be on that is escalating.  The reason generally given is that musicals are so expensive to produce that in order to ensure success producers tend to prefer to fund sure bets. If the movie was a hit — it stands to reason — it already has an embedded fan base who like me, with regards to Waitress, will buy tickets for the stage version simply because they loved the film… and as long as the musical is essentially true to the movie those audiences will be happy and tell their friends. Back in the day, this used to be why books were made into musicals, but now a days not as many people read as in the past (here are the statistics)…  So while for instance Game of Thrones (the books) were a huge hit, I think its safe to say that no where near as many people read the books as saw the TV series, and I’m going to hazard a guess that sales for the books increased a lot after the HBO version was released — but if those purchasers actually took the time to read said books (they all would make good doorstops, and each in their unabridged audible versions take about 30+ hours to complete) I’d be surprised.

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THIS is where you be buying your theater tickets day of show, here or the theater’s own box office, no where else. Those other booths are rips offs for tourists.

All that said, I’m going to write about the Movie to Musical productions I saw in the summer of 2019, partially to give my review of them, but also to discuss the overall trend.

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The mother of this recent uptick in the trend is the long running show, The Lion King. This as most of you already know began as a Disney cartoon/musical and was converted to the stage in an incredibly innovative way that utilized puppetry and dance to bring puppets to life in a really magical way — especially considering the newness of the form. (At this point regular theater goers are more used to it and hence less impressed)

The above video shows a modification of the show done for an award ceremony that gives you a good idea of why, if you buy tickets for this show, you REALLY want to be seated on or near one of the center aisles — and not one of the exterior ones as I was

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… as The Lion King takes on a sort of 360 degree quality with the performers popping up or travel through various locations around the theater, breaking what is called the 4th wall (the line between the viewers and performers). And yes, if you have not yet seen it this show really SHOULD be on your list of of must see’s, even if you have no kids.

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Believe it or not I couldn’t find this when first came here because I couldn’t see it

Another show I saw, was School of rock, a musical version of the already music heavy Jack Black movie. In case you’ve been living with your head in the ground, this movie was SO popular that there is now a chain of music schools, with outlets around the WORLD, all called “The School of Rock” in honor of the movie.

C967DFA8-C4B4-430B-853B-06CC99B66E21.JPGIn fact a recent participant on the hit TV show American Idol (entering it’s 20th season/year, so that at this point all the contestants grew up watching the show) was a teacher at one of the branches of the chain.

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In case you’re still confused, these are places where kids can go for after school music lessons of the strictly NON classical variety (to be fair there has always been a hole in the market in that regard; I myself asked my parents for music lessons thinking it would be modern music and got stuck playing classical piano and violin — SNOOZE. REALLY, kids should start out playing popular music and then if they are any good switch to classical and or jazz).

Once you’ve entered the theater it’s CLEAR that this is a show parents take their kids too, simply based on the concessions stand’s offering which included stuff I’d never seen at the theater before, including cotton candy, neon colored slushes, and a photo booth…

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That said, the adults also got THEIR ‘candy’ which included not only the mandatory bar serving hard liquor and wine like in every theater, but also alcoholic ice cream and popsicles — which was a first for me.

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The musical, as the following video shows, is essentially a mirror reflection of the movie only with narrative songs (songs that add to the story) thrown in to supplement all the music that was already there.

In fact my major complaint was that while the show was highly enjoyable it stuck TOO closely to movie in one crucial point. The guy they hired for the role was hired in large part (I’m guessing) because he looked a lot Jack Black, a big chubby guy… RATHER than finding a guy who could channel Jack Black‘s energy, which in large part is what made the movie a hit. That said, it was enjoyable and the audience loved it.

Sort of a cool thing, which allowed for the video above (shot it myself) was that unlike every other theater in London which has multiple signs saying DON’T video or even take photos, in this theater they held up signs saying, ‘go ahead and video!’ understanding I suppose that kids would upload it to their accounts making their friends pressure their parents to bring them.

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The 3rd, movie to musical production I saw that summer was 9-5 the musical based on the iconic hit movie from the 1980’s that at the time was staring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin with Dolly Parton as an also ran…

Ironically, while Jane Fonda was actually the one who had the idea for and spear-headed the movie, and was the one who reached out to Dolly to bring her into the production…  (at the time Dolly who’d never made a movie before), the transformation of it into a musical is ALL Dolly Parton — notice how in the picture of me in front of the theater the marquee has her name at the top?

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Also part of the production included a huge projected image of Dolly — look at the “o” in the 9 to 5 in the image above — who was not only talking to the audience but was then singing her hit song with the cast at the curtain call— it was kind of surreal.

According to Dolly, see minute 10:04 in the linked video about her life, she’d rejected all previous offers, but figured this was Jane Fonda & Lily Tomlin movie and if it failed it would be on them and wouldn’t blemish her career. Also, she was at that time trying to expand and cross over out of just being a country singer, so her one demand was that she got to write the movie’s theme song, which is still a song you hear today.

All that said, as a musical 9 to 5 was far more successful ‘as its own thing’ than the School of Rock had been, in my opinion. It was essentially the same story but the songs — all written by Dolly (who no one will argue is a very talented song writer) brought their own things to the show, allowing it to stand alone as it’s own thing.

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The musical was playing at the theater of the iconic Savoy Hotel in London — which opened in 1889. The hotel, and it’s theater, were built by the theatrical producer Richard D’Oyly Carte with the profits he derived from his Gilbert and Sullivan “opera” productions as a permanent location for them to stage even more of their works (of which there were many). The English language “operas” of G&S (if you aren’t familiar with them) sort of opened the door for the musical theater art form in England and the United States, and continues to be influential even today.

That said, the Savoy theater is a disabled person’s nightmare. The theater’s best seating, the stalls, is located deepest underground and the building was built in 1889, and there are no elevators for the patrons.

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At the time I found this sign absolutely comical, as there were to elderly people who were even more disabled than I was (I had major issues with my knees and hips at the time that have since gotten better with supplements to help regrow the cartilage and physical therapy). How helpful… only TWENTY-TWO steps to have to negotiate… think about that for a second… the only seats that were marginally accessible to the seriously disabled was the nosebleeds, which are only maybe five or more steps down from ground level
(Someone, I know not whom, uploaded a video of the broadway production to youtube… no idea how long it’ll be up there but it’s have almost 50K views, so if you want to see it you can — till it’s taken down)

Kolaportið Flea Market Reykjavík Iceland

On the topic of… if only I had like a month of doing nothing and going nowhere, I would catch up on all my back log of blog posts that I haven’t gotten around to writing up…

HA HA HA HA

I guess that wasn’t it. We’re a year into Covid and JUST NOW I’m finally getting to this post… Was here September 28th, 2019, and its now August 2021… OOPS…

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The Kolaportið Flea Market in the old part of Reykjavík is, according to Wikipedia, Iceland‘s ONLY flea market.

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It is open on Saturday’s and Sundays (only), and is located inside a large warehouse type building across the street from the harbor.

457EBD16-E3FD-498D-8465-A39FAA67F4C2.JPGGoods sold include used stuff, from clothing to books, as well as brand new hand knit sweaters made by local artisans (intended I think for the tourist market).

I say this because once upon a time, back when I was in high school (almost 40 years ago) we had an exchange student from Iceland and according to her ALL the women in Iceland knit … and did so obsessively. In fact according to her this was so culturally normative that it was a matter of course that they were allowed to do so while in class listening to the teacher lecture — and she found the fact that American schools banned her from doing so off-putting. Without those busy hands she found it significantly harder to concentrate. Now granted, that was 40 years ago, but I doubt things have changed radically in the years since…  As such, I find it HIGHLY unlikely that locals buy these sweaters. In fact I’m pretty sure 99% of what is sold here (with the possible exception of things like the home baked pastries) is really only for the tourist market, and I’ll get back to why I think that that…2A833EC2-0B17-497D-8311-5E03FB1D4042.JPG

Well let me correct myself…. in addition to fresh baked stuff, locals who live or work close to the market might pick up some of the fresh fish type stuff here (which also includes traditional fermented shark — which has to be fermented in order to be edible — a dish so inedible that TV shows use it in food challenges) mostly because it’s convenient.

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BUT… other than those two sorts of things that are sold here, everything ELSE is really aimed at the tourist market… And the way you should know this is … if you were there long enough to do comparative pricing, you wouldn’t buy most of what is sold there. In particular, all the candies that tourists pick up to take home as gifts.

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I will say this however, this is a GREAT place to TASTE said candies, get an idea of what you like…. and then take a picture of the item (you can ignore the name or brand) and then look for the same said item in any of the minimarts and grocery stores scattered around town.

This might seem like an odd comparison but go with me on this… I compare it to buying mattresses in the USA. In the USA, no two mattress stores have the same items in stock (if you’re looking at brands, styles or item numbers), so that you can’t do price comparisons. Don’t believe me? Try it (with the possible exception of say Ikea mattresses and the foam mattresses). We had a close family friend in the business who first explained it to us, and then years later I became buddies with one of the mattress kings of the San Francisco bay area, and he confirmed it when I brought it up. They might all be the same brands… but when you then try to find that one style/item number in a different store… you can’t. It’s intentional to keep you from price shopping.

(Instead what you need to do is to get down the specifics … how many springs per square inch, what tensile strength are the springs, how much padding, what type, etc., all the info most people never pay attention to… and then go to other stores finding the mattresses that meet those specifications)

With regards to the candy sold at the flea market, it’s pretty much the same thing. They take the candy and ‘rename’ it and repackage it…. and then double or triple the price. It’s why they can afford to give it away as samples.

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So for example, the Puffin Eggs (black licorice covered in chocolate and than a white candy coating), which I totally fell in LOVE with and could not find anywhere else…. however, upon researching on line as to where else they might be sold, I discovered it was ONLY available in the flea Market and some gift shops (also aimed at tourists) — but that it was just like what I said about the mattresses. What they really are is a candy called Djúpur, which is common as dirt in Iceland, and you can pick it up at 1/3 the price at any normal food market or gas station in small single serve bags … it is also sold in massive bags at the duty free as you’re leaving the country (and even cheaper if you pit stop at Costco, which if you’re in Reykjavík is pretty much on the route to the airport — for those who don’t realize it, your membership is good world wide at ANY Costco, the only issue is which credit card they use which varies — also make sure to check in at the membership desk first where they might have to issue you a temporary card– again depending on the country).

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With puffin eggs (and the other candies of that sort) what you’re paying for is the picture of the puffins and cute name… which is heck of beans more impressive to kids than the actual packaging which is kind of plain.

Icelandic sweaters and products - Freyja Djúpur Liquorice and Chocolate Pearls (150gr) Candy - Shopicelandic.com

Returning to the flea market, if you chose to buy there keep in mind that most vendors only accept cash. There is an ATM located inside the market but the line can be quite long, so it is recommended to get out cash in advance

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Hello from the Chicago suburbs

Well we live in “interesting times,” don’t we?

My last post was June 18, when my doctor said that the post lockdown damage was that I was now diabetic and my liver had grown (WAY much) during that time because of fatty liver disease. On that day my frame, which should be a size 4, weighed in at 202 lbs. Since then, about 7 weeks, I’ve successfully lost 17.5 lbs (like 2.5 lbs a week)… a few more and I’ll have lost the 10% body weight the doctor wanted to see before I have all my blood tests and such redone.

Instead of traveling I’ve been working out three times a week. I started out at a “prestige” gym, where you can ONLY work out with a trainer, on specialized equipment designed so that you couldn’t work on them independently even if you wanted to…and the main requirement for staff members seemed to be some experience with the equipment and being attractive and a size 4. That said, I went from being unable to get out of the sofa without flopping around like a fish out of water — because my core muscles were THAT weak — to feeling better than I had in months…

Since then the local university (which I live walking distance from) has opened their gym memberships back up to community members (during lock down they limited attendance to staff and students only, and extended other memberships for the period of the lock down). I signed up… it was $500/year and personal trainers were the same price for TWICE the time!! Where the prestige place charged no membership fee but $55/half hour, this University gym (which has AMAZING facilities, 80% of which I’ll never use) was $500 year, but you can always come in on your free time and work independently for as long as you wish, where you couldn’t at the other place, and here personal training is $50 for full hour.

Probably more importantly, my personal trainer here (while also being cute and a size 4) is a TRAINED trainer; as in she is a few credits short of being a physical therapist, and specializes in sport rehabilitation for the school’s athletes. So SIGNIFICANTLY more skilled than the other woman. While she still has me doing machines (this time, on my own time — after showing me how to set them up and telling me which weight to start at and being sure my form was right)… She instead spends our together time doing stuff to help with my particular issues, such as the right foot having developed a mind of its own ever since I had that horrible concussion back in australia so sever that it dislocated my jaw and damaged the speech centers of my brain … , it’s why I kept falling down and going boom over and over again in the months after my concussion… it turns out towards the right and starts dragging, which has caused me to trip on things like uneven pavement and door sills/thresholds.

Beyond that….
A friend and I have decided to do some “staycation”ing, in large part because right now the Chicago area is just SAFER than most of the rest of the country (vaccination rates here are high, in some cases VERY high, and as such we’re not seeing a lot of Covid cases) … so like a few weeks ago we went to the Museum of Science and Industry for the afternoon (after I was done working out) and we’ll go again next week to see a special exhibit we bought tickets for while there, focused on the Marvel Super Heroes franchise (tickets were sold out weeks in advance, so we couldn’t see it then). I’m not going to talk about the Museum of Science and industry much, as it’s sort of a Chicago fixture and world famous… other than to say, while they have updated stuff, they’ve essentially kept most of the classics I remember from my childhood. So they still have the coal mine ride (but I wasn’t interested in being cooped up in a badly ventilated space during Covid), and the the doll house is still there — it used to belong to a former child movie star of the 1920’s and she donated it to the city upon her death. For those unfamiliar, everything in it is real gold and gems, the books are readable under a microscope and the castle’s church has what is described as a sliver of the true cross. So NOT your average dollhouse. The craftsmanship in miniature is mind boggling.

Central hallway of what used to be the ground floor, with Thor flying over my head



While there I was making a point of telling anyone who happened to be hanging out by the back doors, which lead to stairs that face a little canal, that THAT was in fact the original entrance. The building which houses the museum was built as the “Palace of Fine Arts,” a part of the historic Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, and was designed so that you took a boat via that canal to the now unused landing, and climbed the stairs to what is now a set of unused glass doors… that people unfamiliar with its past think is just a back entrance. Nowadays we all enter via what was originally the back doors… Well, actually we USED to… They have since my last visit (maybe 15 years ago?) turned the parking lot into a huge lawn and instead dug down and created a multi storey parking lot beneath, and you now enter from there into the building via the basement… So for me it was revisiting a childhood favorite and appreciating how the city has tried to beautify itself, and increase practicality, while maintaining its historic value. Not sure what amount of our tax dollars went into this improvement but I think it was well done.

That said, we’re going to try checking out other smaller less famous museums that are in the area, places I’ve never gone to before and that most tourists never see… I WILL do dedicated posts about those.

OH! So… THAT’s why sitting on your ass watching TV while having delivery of all the comfort foods you could possibly want brought to your door — for a year and a half –isn’t good for you… she says facetiously

I have failed my blood test BIG TIME … my liver numbers (remember the fatty liver I got under control before covid?) are now so high that they couldn’t even do the test to see if I had cirrhosis because the machine would have given a false positive… AND my blood’s glucose levels doubled… for years they’ve sort of wiggled around type 2 diabetes sometimes edging up to pre-diabetic, sometimes back down in healthy level levels… well since Covid started, they’ve actually DOUBLED and are solidly in diabetic range … between the liver number and the diabetes… guess who’s in diet mode again…

Granted I was fully aware of the fact that I’d pretty much “outgrown” what had been my fat clothes and was now living in sweat pants and X-large Tshirts….AND back to my top weight (same as in 2015 when I discovered my weight by standing on a scale outside a grocery store — 200 lb) … but even considering all that … till I saw the blood numbers I was living in a sort of denial that things hadn’t gotten THAT bad. I hadn’t caught Covid … so I “still had my health”

HA HA HA HA

Well that’s over… I’ve been in diet mode all week, and combining it with the modified fasting I had been doing last time I lost weight without even realizing I was doing it (16 hours a day of no food — last eating anything is 6pm then breakfast at about 10am — every day) … hopefully between that and the working out 3 times a week with a trainer, I’ll have lost enough in the next 3 months that the liver doctor can do the cirrhosis test without having to put in paperwork to my insurance company asking for permission to do an MRI

Time flies while you’re NOT in lockdown

Was fully vaccinated by the end of April, yay team Pfizer, and May has flown by in a blink. For most of it just going to gym two to three times a week (my physical trainer is very proud of me even though I’ve not lost a single pound) was about as much excitement as I could bare. Got a flat tire fixed, and had my car’s starlink system updated (the satellite system that allows the car to automatically call for help in case the airbags get activated, irrelevant of if there’s cell coverage or if I’m conscious)… which was a major pain in the ass… TWO WHOLE DAYS of sitting in the dealership with them saying, any time now….

Other than that, nothing exciting has happened… life is slowly returning to normal, and mask mandates have been lifted for those of us who have had the jab.

Friends and I are starting to talk about some group travel. Now that they’ve been wholled up a full year, some people have reached out to me asking if they can join me once I decide it’s safe to get back on a plane. Till then I’ve suggested we turn our attention from travel away from home to staycation … My intention is start checking out things around the Chicago area and writing about that… as well as catching up on the about 125 location posts from when I was traveling that I THOUGHT I’d writing about during lock down but couldn’t bring myself to do… preferring instead to watch infinite amounts of television….

Am fully vaccinated!!!

Hello from Chicago! It’s been a good 4 months since my last post.

Today I am officially good to go! It’s been exactly two weeks since my 2nd jab and I am now fully vaccinated — according to the experts at the CDC (at least for the next 6 months based on current data). I celebrated this momentous fact by doing what before covid would have been the utterly mundane… I signed up with a personal trainer for a session in a gym to try to get back some of the muscle tone lost over the past year of barely moving…. without hurting myself. It was GLORIOUS! I was smiling uncontrollably for two hours after the half hour session was over… and then topped it off by making an appointment with the dentist to get my teeth cleaned. The prosaic has never been so exciting.

Got my first covid shot (Pfizer) on March 18th at a local walgreens. Signing up for it was a bit of a challenge. I had registered with my city but a few weeks had passed and they had not emailed me back with a when, so I started looking around and discovered the city where I lived was actually WAY behind the local pharmacies in handing the stuff out…. so that even though my obesity and other issues qualified me with my state to be getting a jab, the city was still only trying to finish vaccinating the older than 65 year olds. A friend suggested bypassing the public efforts and to go private instead, and suggested signing up for it online at midnight, and then again at 6am with a pharmacy, saying “if you wait till 12:15 am or 6:15 am they’ll be all gone.”

First thing I did was I compiled a list of all the local pharmacies in my area (ones with outlets within a 1 hour commute) that were offering vaccinations — some of which were via grocery stores, and included the hyperlinks direct to their various sign up pages. This was to not waste time navigating through to those pages during the aforementioned 15 minute window of opportunity. For a few days I tried it repeatedly, but with no wins. Then on about the 3rd day I decided to try again at 8am… after a complete fail at both midnight and six, to discover the Walgreens pharmacy chain was offering a handful of appointments that were scattered around the state … 1 here, 3 there… And as I was refreshing the page trying to find a time and location would work for me including the possibility of having to drive an hour to and from the location (my body clock being pretty screwed up at the point, so that I was falling asleep at noon and waking at 9pm). Then, suddenly at about 8:15am, 22 appointments suddenly appeared at a walgreens not 15 minutes away from my home — I shit you not! I tried to grab the first appointment of the day but between clicks someone beat me to that one, and had to settle for the 2nd appointment — I checked back and by 8:30 almost all of the 22 openings had been filled.

A word to the wise, I now know having discussed it with the pharmacist that they arrive in the morning, find out what shipments they’re due, and then leisurely upload appointments into the system, based on how many staffers they have who can give jabs and work schedules …  According to him this can happen anytime between 6am and about 8:45am… and I just got dead lucky having refreshed by screen at about 8:10, because once they go up they do tend to be snatched up within about 15 minutes to a half hour — to his experience.

Now here’s a thing, Walgreens, the pharmacy chain I used told me the 2nd shot instead of being 3 weeks after the first, would be administered a whole month later. I called them up and asked, as it seemed wrong, and they said it was perfectly ok and that the 2nd shot could be done as late as 6 weeks after the first with no negative affects. So I waited. On my third week the American CDC (Center for Disease Control) bitch slapped the company and told them in no uncertain terms this was NOT ok. According to a New York times article that I read, they were doing it because it made it simpler for THEM to schedule the appointments using pre-existing software, and that it had nothing to do with supply and trying to get as many first shots into as many people as possible as quickly as possible (which was the explanation they gave me when I asked). Once this happened, I called them to see if I could get it rescheduled to the next few days they said NO, because there were no openings. SO my 2nd shot was a whole month after the first making the process from first shot to full immunization last tedious 6 weeks of waiting, for as we all know a watched clock runs slow.

But it’s over now … at least for the next 6 months…  I have marked my calendar for mid September to remind myself just in case a booster is required at that time. Granted we still need to take the same precautions, but here’s the thing. Till now any time I went out to a grocery store or some such (which I did rarely) it was stressful as all hell. Invariably some idiot was either not wearing a mask, or wearing it with their nose hanging out, or worse on their chin. Even among those with masks, a good third were NOT wearing effective ones. There was no shortage of people with bandanas over their faces… or wearing masks made of materials that did nothing, or worse actually broke up the moisture they breathed out into smaller droplets that made them MORE likely to stay suspended in the air, and for longer… which increased the risk of spreading the disease.

Having lived in Asia for a while, there they understand basic science and know you wear a mask because it is not only rude but inhumane to infect the people around you with whatever germs you might be carrying. As a result they will as a matter of course wear masks even if they feel ok, but know they’ve been in direct contact with someone who was sick. Masks in Asia are so common place that I many years ago picked up a few child sized ones while visiting Tokyo Disneyland. Americans however can’t seem to grasp this concept, and think the mask they are wearing will protect them for other people who are not wearing masks. THIS meme which was making the rounds a while ago was probably the BEST explanation of how masks work

Why wearing masks is important: the Urine Test.

But here’s the problem… Americans are not exactly known for their politeness, especially if it means inconveniencing themselves. They’ll wear a mask to protect themselves, but they don’t really care about others… and if they don’t believe the mask will protect them (on top of not believing covid is a real thing) then they won’t wear one, or if forced to will sometimes INTENTIONALLY wear something that obeys the letter of the law but is actually a fuck you to the people forcing them to wear a mask because they know full well its NOT the right kind of mask.

As such, leaving the house would FREAK ME OUT, and I would return from quick trips to the shop completely stressed. Today I was able to go to the gym, and afterwards to pick up food from Macdonalds, with NO stress because I now believe (fingers cross, no evil eye) that even if I should become infected with covid, the statistical likelihood of it killing me has dropped significantly. Where the Spanish flue we know in retrospect had a mortality rate of 2.7% of the population, with the highest mortality rates among children and young adults, we know that Covid kind of flips that… the mortality rate for covid is about healthy young people is only about 0.9% (but that varies with age, health conditions, and how well prepared and or equipped the local hospitals are to deal with being overwhelmed with patients). For someone my age with my health conditions… and my obesity… the death rate is about 10% … TEN PERCENT!!!!

And even among those who don’t die, another 30% might end up as long haulers with permanent damage to their heart, lungs, etc., and most frighteningly … their BRAINS. The medical community has just started documenting a massive uptick in psychiatric issues among people who had mild cases that they were able to overcome without hospital assistance.

How scary is that!!!

So yes, going out today fully immunized knowing that my risk of any of that has dropped to about the likelihood of being hit by lightning … something I don’t go around worrying about … and being able to actually ENJOY being around other people (even with the precautions of masks and social distancing — which is not unlike taking normal precautions during a thunderstorm) was just WONDERFUL!

Still Alive and well and hanging out in Illinois

Happy belated Hanukkah and an early Merry Xmas to anyone reading this. Believe it or not I’m STILL not completely moved into the new apartment I bought right at the start of the pandemic. I have yet to finish setting up the spare bedroom and I don’t have a dining room table … but it’s not like I’ll be hosting any dinners anytime soon, and I tend to eat while sitting in front of the TV.

I WAS getting various repairs done around the new place, emphasis on the was. Shortly after moving in while having only half way unpacked the clothing that had been in storage in my friend’s attic the closets hardware, which had struck me as pretty shoddy when I bought the place, collapsed. As in the weight of the clothing caused the hardware to rip right out of the drywall it had been attached to… Happily my real estate lady had a closet company that is located in downstate IL that is happy to do jobs up here (a good 2 hour drive from their factory), that was really affordable. I got four closets redone for $2,250, which included custom cutting a pressed board frame that was installed into the closets that the hardware was then hung from (who in the heck thought drywall would support it I don’t know) with a smart design that doubled the closets’ storage capacity.

In addition to the closet, I was having furniture repaired, and other odd jobs done around the place that are yet to be completed. I found an upholster through a friend to redo an old but beautiful chair I’d inherited. They allowed me to source the material myself (I didn’t have to buy it through them) — found a source online via Etsy that was MUCH cheaper than what they or local stores were selling — and my guy said it was good quality when he inspected it. And then they only charged me $300 for the job, HALF what other guys were asking for the labor part of the job (I shopped around), and the final result is BEAUTIFUL. I also found a fully insured handyman through a gig economy (like uber) company for handymen called Andy on Call, that tests their workers skill sets, provides them with insurance and secured payment systems … but you still get to choose among their guys. And these guys (insured and you can pay with a credit card) were charging the same per hour as other independents that were referred to me that did were NOT insured and wanted to be paid in cash.

We got about half way through the various tasks I needed the repair man and the upholsterer to do, when the midwest’s infection numbers started to spike right before Thanksgiving, so we all agreed to delay completion till the numbers came back down to under 5K new cases a day…. happily (fingers crossed) the Illinois numbers dropped to JUST below that today… but Xmas is in a few days so I expect people to be stupid again… and then there’s new years. SO, I’ll wait till mid January to restart the work.

I also purchased something for the apartment I’d not intended to ever have, a highly rated treadmill that was on sale at Amazon during their black friday sale for 50% off. Took forever to arrive, but happily UPS brought it upstairs to right outside my apartment door — I was terrified they’d leave it downstairs by the mailroom in which case I’d been S.O.L. because I could never have safety gotten it to my apartment alone. It was heavy, about 80 lb, but I was able to maneuver it the short distance from the hallway into the apartment — not easy — and out of it’s box (I have almost no upper body strength and still have issues with dizziness)… It’s a collapsable treadmill designed to go under a desk for people who like to work while standing/walking slowly (the upper arm can be either up, or down and behind). It’s not great for runners — too short/narrow and no cushioning, but I have no intention of using it for that. It’s short enough that was able to fit it between my bookshelf and behind my couch, facing the TV — if I move the couch to the minimum viewing distance. So it’s a bit of crunch in terms of space. But I can watch TV while walking. Since it doesn’t really have side handles for me to hold on to I put a heavy high backed chair that was on my patio (heavy metal) to one side that I can rest my hand on it in order to steady myself when walking (otherwise I start to drift which could be dangerous).

That said, it is doing the trick and I’ve been able to get my movement rings on my apple watched closed daily, ireleant of the weather conditions outside. I do it while watch normal TV, but have also found Youtube channels devoted to videos people have shot that give you the false sensation of walking outdoors, through some of the most touristy places in the world… I’m personally loving the the ones shot in London in neighborhoods I’ve already visited. But of course on nice days I’ve been exploring my new neighborhood, which has some really nice walking areas just a few blocks away from my place.

Lake Michigan, adjacent to the Northwestern University Campus

I’ve also been perusing Facebook’s new marketplace, and found someone in my neighborhood who was selling a nice 100% oak cabinet for my living room, that was small and light enough that he could get it into his car and deliver it for me, for $50 cash (it’s now storing of my fancy dishes). So, at this point rather than buying more Ikea crap — I’ve already purchased 14 items from them, mostly bookcases, bedside tables and dressers, and since shopping at used stores or house sales would normally be my modus operandi for buying furniture, I’ve decided to try to find more used real wood items that same way. Real wood furniture used versus new Ikea crap for about the same price, kind of a no brainer. Like I said, I still need a dining room table and chairs, not to mention some more cabinets with drawers, etc. I think the last thing I MIGHT buy from Ikea is a twin daybed that converts to a double for the guest room… but again no rush unless a friend calls up wanting to stay here with me rather than finish lockdowns alone.

Alive and well in Illinois….

It’s now mid June, and while the pandemic numbers in the state have been dropping (in fact we currently boast the best job in the country at bringing those numbers down) this sucker is FAR from over. That said, it’s amazing how fast time has passed doing lock down. I’ve played an infinite number of hours of World of Warcraft and watched a load of Netflix, Amazon prime, Hulu, etc. What I haven’t done much of is listen to books on tape/Audible. OR for that matter written up the backlog of 150 posts about my travels … just can’t bring myself to be that productive.

The most exciting events of the past three months are…

  1. I am now the proud owner of my own apartment. I bought pretty much without really seeing it. Initially it was because I was in Florida (this was PRE Pandemic) and then it was because of the lock down. The walk through you’re supposed to do before finalizing the sale was my first time being physically in the space… it was all done remotely with the real estate agent walking through while I watched via FaceTime (we both own iPhones) and asked her to focus the camera on this or that. So all of that got done remotely. Its AN apartment but not THE apartment, the location rocks, and it was the most affordable I could find… but it’s sort of depressing little place — the intention when I first picked the place (pre pandemic) was to have someplace to retreat to in the neighborhood where my doctor and preferred hospital is (and one that was becoming increasingly difficult to find an Airbnb within), but to not really spend that much time there overall as I’d be traveling at least 7 months of the year if not more … HA HA HA HA HA
  2. Once the purchasing process was over, moving in during a pandemic was “interesting.” I had assumed I could just go to Ikea and get what I needed,  HA HA HA HA… I can’t even get delivery, and even if I did they’d drop it off in the building garage and not help me get it upstairs to the apartment. That said, I did manage to get the professional movers to unload my storage locker and bring the contents to my place… so I have a mattress and box spring (about 20 years old, my old bed from my dad’s place — I vacuumed it well).
  3. Over the course of the past few months there was a MASSIVE hail storm that took out my back window. Hail the size of golf balls.
    5D31955A-0E67-4F0D-BFAB-E07AF19CEDF7_1_201_a.jpeg
    Getting the glass replaced and the car cleaned out of glass was also a challenge, because of the pandemic. Happily I was able to get it replaced by one of those companies that drive out to where are and do it. There was a bit of delay because they didn’t have my glass in stock, but it was done in a few days. HOWEVER… the rain wasn’t done between the damage and the repair, so we had to cover the car with a massive tarp the Airbnb owner lent me, and the fist time we closed a car door the back window IMPLODED (so glad the tarp was on by then and kept the glass from flying out and hitting me or the family members who were helping me out).
    AF534339-CF1B-4410-B1DD-43E78D15C2A4_1_201_a.jpeg
    Ultimately in order to get it cleaned out, I took it to the dealership and they helped me because car detailers were not considered necessary businesses. They cleaned it as well as they could, spent a good two hours doing it, and then I went in with the Airbnb owner’s hvac and we found places their guys had missed… and in spite of that I’m still finding bits of broken glass weeks later… I pick it out, and next time I drive, there’s more… especially in the trunk space.

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bits of glass found in the trunk a good two weeks after the cleaning, in spite of it being spotless when they were done

All that said, I’m splitting my time between the Airbnb and the new apartment. I’ve extended my stay but am spending nights at the apartment. Sounds nutty I know, but I basically have a deal with the owner, if I get sick she’ll make sure I don’t starve to death during the high fever and hallucinations part of the illness (assuming I don’t get so sick as to need hospitalization … knock on wood!)

 

Hello from Lock down!

What a time we live in! I was spending my summer down at Disney World, yet again, when Coronavirus started up in China. At the Airbnb I was at, as luck would have it, we all came down with some sort of nasty upper respiratory infection that had the side effect of extreme exhaustion, so rather than going to the parks I ended up staying home for the most part. And then, the virus started to spread, but wasn’t in Florida yet, when I was scheduled to change Airbnb’s to a second location (what is it with Brazilians and their love of Donald Trump? Both locations hosted by Brazilians, both of them in love with the man and believe his every word) this time with a hostess who refused to believe the pandemic was going to be a real thing (just as the first Florida infections, from cruise ships, started showing up) and was out partying while I was huddled in my room and thinking, “going to Disney World probably NOT the best choice right now.” I.e., saw relatively little of the Mouse this year in spite of having purchased a one year pass.

The more this hostess refused to honor what was coming the more nervous I got about staying at her home. That and while I wasn’t so much worried about it killing me, if I got sick enough to NEED medical assistance I wanted to be ‘in network’ (as my health insurance doesn’t cover Florida) so being sick didn’t also result in going broke. SO, I  shortened my trip to leave the following week (instead a month hence)… and the following day Disney World decided to close up shop in 4 days.

EEK! Shit done got real! Disney doesn’t even close for Hurricanes!!

So I told her I was leaving the next morning (didn’t want to be stuck on the highway with all the tourists heading north), threw my stuff into my suitcases, loaded up the car and left. Believe it or not this hostesses’ response to the park closing was to bundle her four year up daughter and head to the parks “for their last two days in a while”… her comment being “the parks will be half empty, and I don’t believe this illness is going to anything worse than the flue. People are silly.”

Along the path up north I stopped for gas and food, and that was it. Totally not how I usually road trip, and my inner child was going, ‘but mom, we could stop here, or go there” and my neurotic adult voice saying, “shut up and be quiet, we’re not stopping!”

Along the way I could tell distinguish republicans from democrats based on how they washed their hands. Suddenly most folks (who bothered to wash at all) were doing it mostly as instructed in all the videos that were floating around the internet last week, which was never how folks had washed their hands till then… with a few folks still doing the 5 second throw water on your hands and leave. I assumed those folks were the republicans.

The room I had rented in Chicago was supposed to be from Mid April to June, but the guests who were booked into that space for the days before my arrival had just cancelled and headed home, so I was able to begin my booking in early March instead (a BIG house on Chicago’s north shore with a family I’d lived with previously), almost a full month earlier than expected.

On the 13th of March (while I was in Southern Georgia) I had gone to Costco’s website to order a delivery of groceries to arrive on the 16 (I got in late on the 15th but had thought I might get there on the 16th if traffic or weather was bad, etc.), but it never arrived even though my credit card had been charged. I emailed the company that night, they didn’t respond to the email till Friday the 20th. I tried calling customer service multiple times before that but didn’t manage to get through till Wed., the 18th — and that required over two hours on hold — at which point I cancelled the order because the guy said, “well we can try to get your order to you in 5 hours from now, but it if it doesn’t show up again you’ll have to call us again!” No grocery deliveries for me… and TODAY the Governor of IL who had allowed restaurants do continue to do delivery and take out, but not sit in, has put the entire state on lock down.

We live in interesting times.