Social Calendar for Dieting

Normally I’m pretty good about what I eat.  I recognize that I have a voracious sweet tooth and have learned to just avoid anything with sugar.  My nemesis in particular being cookies and ice cream.  For whatever reason these two foods disable my “you’re full now” button; I’m only able to stop stuffing sweets into my pie hole when my body is forced into emergency maneuvers and engages gag reflex before I get it through my skull to stop.  I learned long ago I have no willpower.  I can only make like Easwaran and run as fast as I can in the other direction.

However, every now and then my uterus will demand a sacrifice to my waistline, or I’ll need emotional comfort the likes of which can only be found at the bottom of a Ben and Jerry’s carton.  I find also that once I’ve “blown it” this gives me free license to eat like a big Fatty McFatterson for the rest of day, or sometimes number of days.

There are a lot of calorie counter and food diary apps out there, but as far as I can tell from the glancing google search I did, none of them do exactly what I want.  First of all, it’s hard enough to keep a food diary, much less an accurate one.  Not only do I have remember everything I ate that day, but I have to consider portion sizes as well?  What if I forget to document a day?  You can’t honestly expect me to remember anything that happened 24 hours ago.

Usually I’m told to “develop a new habit” or something equally as smug.  Which I get to a degree, if I really wanted to change the way I eat, I should commit to all habits that enable me to make better choices, of which, keeping a food diary has been proven to be the most successful.

However, if a picture is worth a thousand words, and if you’re already in the habit of whipping out your phone and snapping evidence of your meal everytime you eat out, why couldn’t you build on that habit?  To help develop this habit, the app could at first give you gentle reminders to take a photo of your meal before the time you normally eat.  This has the added benefit of helping to create good habits like eating breakfast (which I have no idea how people skip… seriously, I’m like a reverse gremlin) or eating smaller meals more often in the day.

This is where the social aspect comes in.  After you upload your photo of your meal, it’s rated by the community.  Not just your friends, but anyone who decides to follow you.  They will either give you a 🙂 🙁 or :/ (which apparently WP does not have an emoji for “meh”).  Nothing scientific, nothing too specific, just good, bad or okay.

Most people are able to look at a meal and accurately determine if it is overall healthy, could use some improvement, or not even close.  A picture of what you eat is more helpful in a lot of ways because you can see size and composition.  If what you think is a serving size is actually three, the community will correct you.  If you’re “chicken salad’ is actually five deep fried tenders garnished by a few bits of diced tomato and iceberg lettuce, you will mostly likely see 🙁 🙁 🙁  Ratings are accumulated for the day, averaged and added to your calendar.  If you had a good day, you’ll see 🙂 for that day.

Which is what I’m looking for.  Not so much the thoroughly detailed analyzation of what I put into my body, but an overall indication of how I did that day.  Something simple I could quickly compare against days.  When I pull up my calendar in the morning, I could feel proud of myself if the week looks like this: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 or I can mentally prepare myself for the day if yesterday was 🙁

If you wanted to take this a step further, you could pay professionals to follow you.  That way you could have some assurance aside from herd mentality that what your eating is good.  They could also give you tips on what to do differently to improve each meal.

Sharing this information with your friends would be encouraging.  If you had a good week, your friends would congratulate you, or you them.  If you have a 🙁 day, the app would notify your friends, and they can reach out and offer support.  One of the most effective ways to lose weight and maintain weight loss is by using a support network.  A lot of old school weight loss solutions relied on this aspect, but as far as I’ve seen, it’s missing from the latest technology.  Which is ironic, considering it was the latest technology that spurred so much online social networking.

Or maybe it’s not missing, but is so complex that normal people are turned off by it.  It seems like a lot of these apps are aimed at people who, if not already are crazed fitness buffs, are well on their way to becoming so.  Tracking everything our body does is interesting… but tedious.  Most people are interested to know they did or did not drink enough water that day.  Most people are not interested in what the percentage of water they drank went to making sweat, various enzymes, or waste.  Okay, I’m sure we would all check that once, but every day?  Especially if it’s means having to keep very detailed records of water intake, plus wearing some device at all times to monitor your body.  What is the point of knowing all that anyway?  Will it make you that much healthier?  Or happier?

Obviously (hopefully?) this scenario is made up, but I think most people would agree that knowing ALL of this information about your body is not going to add to the quality of your life or mental well being.  If anything, it might detract from it.  All I want, and what I think the average person wants is an overview.  As long as I see 🙂 for that day, I know I’m headed in the right direction.  That alone will make me feel better about myself and want to continue to expend the small amount of energy needed to continue going.

So there you have it.  I’ve basically invented Emoji Jenny Craig–minus the meal plans, of course.  EmoJenny Craig.  Emoji-nny Craig?  I’ll stop now.

Sky Scrapers that Direct Wind Up

From the title of this post you might have guessed that I am not an architect, or have too firm a grasp of physics for that matter.  What I do know is that tall buildings create wind tunnels, which sucks for the people on the ground.  Especially those of us in skirts and dresses…  (Pro-tip for city newbs, remember those cute shorts you never get to wear because it’s always “too cold”?  Here’s your chance!)

I’m sure people who do study physics know why this happen.  I know that skyscrapers are tested for wind load to make sure they can stand up to high winds, but why don’t we do anything about the resulting wind tunnels that are created?  Is this factor even taken into consideration when developing plans for a new building?  Or is there anything that can be done?

Without any substantial knowledge on this phenomenon, I’ve created a few mock ups:

skyscraper directs wind up
Skyscraper directs wind up

Or, in the case of buildings already in existence, perhaps something can be done to break up the wind?  Or, at the very least, take advantage it.  Just think if wind turbines were small enough to be attached to the outside of a building! They could be attached to light poles, sign poles, have their own designated poles installed.  We could paint them and call it art!

Skyscraper directs wind up, and converts to energy
Skyscraper directs wind up, and converts to energy

It’s the best of all possible worlds, we could be creating great green energy AND beautifying the city!  Nobody could argue that power would only be generated a faction of the time because it’s always windy.  Environmentalists might raise a stink because wind turbines kill birds.  And it’s true, the huge windmills you see on the Altamont pass are notorious for decapitating various birds, (some of them endangered, blah blah blah), but there’s a flaw in their argument.

Perhaps the happiest accident of all, these as-of-yet uninvented turbines will be small enough to kill the only birds that live downtown.  And I’m not talking about the Parrots, they generally stay away from tall buildings.  I’m talking about pigeons!  Filthy, stupid, inbred flying vermin.  They really are the worst animal on the face of the earth.  Even rats are better.  Rats at least eat actual food.  And if one of their own was as retarded as a pigeon they would kill him.  And then, probably eat him, because they are rats, and rats roll hard.  But their still not as bad as pigeons.

I once saw a pigeon that had a missing foot and then somehow managed to stick it’s stump into a turd ball of some sort.  Maybe it’s smarter than I give it credit for, and it did that on purpose because the turd ball created stability, but probably not.  It was the most wretched looking creature I’ve ever seen.  I’ve never wanted to put something out of its misery so bad in all my life.  And this was when I was living in the outer Richmond.  It’s supposed to be nice out there.

After that I lived in the Tenderloin, and I’d see these old crazy grandma’s feeding the pigeons and I just want to yell at them.  Of course, being old and crazy and living on the streets of the Tenderloin, I’ll either speak their language, or they’ll take their crazy to a whole new level I’m not willing to experience.

You know I used to think pigeons were cute?  Growing up, in the country, pigeons were just the poor man’s dove.  They made pretty cooing sounds and had shiny, iridescent feathers.  My cousins would actually shoot them and then eat them.  Like they were some foreign delicacy.  Yet city pigeons somehow go from being squab to flying poison bags.  The homeless don’t even touch city pigeons because they know it would be certain death.

Anyway… there might be a quick backlash because of all of the mangled pigeon corpses littering the ground, (I won’t mock that up), and the city might have to step up their street cleaning plans in the first months after the tiny turbines are installed.  But that will only last as long as pigeons remain.  Which, one would hope, will not be long.  Then San Francisco would be a pigeon free, manageably breezy, clean energy paradise!

The Perfect Shower

All of this writing about water conservation has made me wonder about what other measures cities in arid regions have done to solve their problems.  For instance, Israel built a desalination plant.  Which is really their only option, considering their geo-political circumstances.  If you want to spend billions of dollars the state does not have, and would like your water bill to increase 200%, then by all means, jump on board the de-sal band wagon.

Australia is still dealing with a drought so widespread and for so long, that people are just starting to thinking of it as the new normal.  It’s sobering to read how bad things have to get before people start to take serious action.

Which bummed me out, so I tried to think about what we could do that hasn’t already been done somewhere.  One of my greatest pet peeves is running water for no apparent reason.  We could all blame the people who do not turn off the faucet when they brush their teeth, but the bigger culprit is running water to wait for it be hot or cold.  Wouldn’t it be great if each tap had their own tankless heater?  (Which, by the way already exist, even if they need a little bit more time before really perfected.) Then you could have automated faucets like those installed in public restrooms!  You would only turn on the water when you need it, it would stop automatically and it would be instantly hot.

Then I was reminded of the biggest water saving rule I’m consistently guilty of breaking: the long shower.  I admit it, I can’t help it . . . especially if I have to wash my hair.  (If you saw how little hair I have, you would realize how ridiculous this is.)  For some reason a shower is my personal black hole I slip into.  Even when I try to be conscious of what I’m doing, I still end up taking a long time.  Not to mention it’s a big hassle turn the water off and on again in between rinsing.  Once I finally get the water to the correct temperature, I have to turn it off, only to do it ALL over again!  There’s no picking up where I left off with my shower, it’s like a first date every time.

However, that could ALL change if I could set the how long the water would be on for AND the temperature it came out at.  (I live in an old building spliced into three different apartments that all share one water heater, so this my wet dream if you will.  Pun totally intended.)  No more hot/cold dancing in and out of the water.  No running the water for minutes until it’s hot, and then over correcting so it is not scalding; and no more mindless standing beneath water that has finally reached the perfect temperature for what has it been now?  Ten minutes?  I should probably start to wash something.

All would be storied past!  I could set the temp of the water, set a timer for four minutes, hop in and forget about it!  When the water shuts off, I know it’s time to shampoo.  Then hit the “on button” again to rinse and repeat.  I’ve just saved 2/3rd’s of the water I would normally use the in shower without having to sacrifice experience!  Now if I could only figure out a low-water solution for baths…

Smart Greywater

It’s too ridiculous to think that California has gone this far in it’s history without enacting some of the most forward-thinking water conservation policies yet.  We’ve consistently set the bar for air quality standards and fuel efficiency in cars, (to give the most readily available examples.)  We take pride in the fact that as California goes, so goes the nation, especially when it comes to conservation.

However, the closest we’ve come is a road map that was in introduced back in 2008 as one of the last things Arnie did as gobernator.  Which delineates the steps the state can take “to achieve a 20 percent reduction in per capita water use statewide by 2020.”  It’s a good start, but no policy has come from it yet.  Incase anyone is keeping track, we’ve got less that six years to 2020.  I didn’t read all 76 pages of the plan but I’m going to go out on a limb and say we’re not nearly as far along as where we should be on paper.

Urban water use accounts for 10-15% of demand, and while it is not the biggest slice of the pie, it’s good to be as efficient as possible across the board.  Especially since 2013 saw California’s biggest population growth in nearly a decade, and 2014 feels like it’s continuing in the same vein.

Think about what we use the majority of our residential water for: bathing, cooking, cleaning and… watering your lawn.  Aside from your lawn or garden, used water gets sent to the sewer along with everything we flush down the toilet.  Which is a little extreme if you think about it, because the water you just took a shower in isn’t so dirty that you need to send it off to a plant to be treated with everything else, you just wouldn’t want to drink it.  But you could water your lawn or garden with it.  This is called a greywater system.

This idea is not new by any means.  Unfortunately the state has not encouraged residents to use greywater to conserve, and more often than not, local regulations around greywater are unclear, if not discouraging altogether.  Not to mention–contrary to what the media would have you believe–all Californians are not uber-liberal, tree-hugging hippies, and would not take or have the time, effort and resources to install their own system.

But desperate times call for desperate measures, and I think it’s past time that California make it mandatory for all new houses built come equipped with a greywater system.  Every fixture should have an easy on/off switch that will direct water running down the drain to your greywater system or to the sewer.  That way if you need to clean your bathroom you can easily direct water to your sewer, and then turn it back to greywater again.

Now, lets pretend that California did push everyone to have a greywater system installed in their house.  Here we get to the real problem with widely implemented greywater.  How many of us know exactly when to turn it on and off?  Do you know what chemicals are in your body wash?  Or your laundry detergent?  Or your dish soap?  If you water your lawn and it dies the next day, you would probably be a little frustrated at your government for forcing you to install this system in your house.

This is where the “smart” part of “smart greywater” comes in.  If we want our plumbing to really reflect the type of technology we are capable of inventing–and are in fact inventing now–the smart system would be able to detect chemicals that are not okay to go into a grey water system and automatically switch off to run to the sewer!  How awesome would that be?  This will help folks who do not know or are unsure how to use greywater at first, to gradually work their way onto a new system.  They’ll be able to track when the greywater is turned on and know those products are okay, as to when it shuts off, which might be self explanatory if they’re using bleach to scrub off mildew.  Eventually, people we be educated on what they can and cannot use for maximum conservancy.  Not only will greywater give you a two-for-the-price-of-one water use deal, it has the added benefit of making people really think about the products they are using!

Of course “smart” greywater technology has not been invented yet so to speak, but that’s not to say it would be beyond creating.  Once invented, it would be easy enough to install on all new houses going forward.   Too bad plumbing isn’t sexy, so no one is interested in making their house more efficient.  (But my phone on the other hand can take my temperature, pulse, tell me how many calories I burned, and soon be able to tell if I’m pregnant or not…)

The downside to all of this is it would be a big deal to install on homes already created, requiring all sorts of new plumbing.  Which would make this idea one of the costliest, most time-consuming and frankly hardest over all to implement.  Which is a real shame, because I think it would be one measure people could take where they would see the biggest difference.

Another problem with this idea brought to light by the same aforementioned friend from my last post, who highlighted a project he worked on in the Pacific Northwest, where some areas have had trouble with clogging sewer systems when enough reusable water was diverted: there wasn’t enough liquid to keep the solids moving freely the way the system was designed.  Sooo… there’s that.  But then again the whole sewer system idea hasn’t really changed since it was invented over a hundred years ago.  It could probably do with a little revamping as well.