Monday, December 29, 2008

Why do I bother with this health thing?

A few weeks ago on Remembrance Sunday there appeared on British TV a programme "The Fallen", an ages long documentary about every single death suffered by British forces out in Afghanistan and Iraq. I'm afraid I could only watch small segments as I found it too upsetting and moving but I pondered upon the sacrifices made by these brave men and women for us. I recall one of Tony Blair's speeches when he looked convincingly at the people and blurbed on about Britain being "the best". Quite what best at bugger knows. Best at heart disease, cancer, diabetes, alcoholism, drug abuse, crime?

I have seen so many near and far to me suffer from our lifestyle of being "the best" It encompasses rich and famous as well as people close to me who have diabetes, cancer, heart problems and high high blood pressure. Our lifestyle with its dubious "pleasures" such as smoking which cause cancer, alcohol which lead to alcoholism if not checked, and eating red meat full of fat call me to question what being "the best" means. Don't we owe it to The Fallen to endeavour to make The West some kind of beacon of hope for a better future, and part of that future one filled with healthier people?

Maybe it is just me but I believe that many of these are lifestyle related. I'm a sinner trying to be an saint. Last year I can remember cycling from the bakery with my wholemeal vollkornsemmel rolls with the salty taste of a hangover from drinking too much beer and wine the night before and thinking how pointless growing my own veg is if I don't change my own lifestyle. I might as well be dead. So I endeavoured to reduce my own vice which is alcohol consumption. I buy now "Radler" which is basically shandy, as my evening beer drink. It was I just learned invented by a worker on the Munich-Holzkirchen railway so he could drink but not get plastered, and ater sold to people who drive cars to beergardens and cyclists so they don't swerve their way home. Cycling pisht on a bike? Nah not me ossifer. I still have "wobbles" but my consumption is radically lower than it used to be. I'm always looking to improve. A friend who is an expert cyclist told me Radler has too much sugar and recommended Tgernseer Light Beer which is healthier.

Thanks to Jamie Oliver who not only in my opinion should be knighted but sainted, many of us have taken our first baby steps into food preparation and cookery. It has given us, at least me, a feeling of control over what we eat, more personalisation over what my family puts in their mouths, and moreover a sense of pride that my efforts have simply given them al good health. This achievment outlines just one half of my project.

The first half, the growing and cooking of my family's foods is established as a regular annual thing now as we look farward to the new growing season the the possibilities it may bring, and the pleasure in cooking that food in our new country Bavarian style kitchen which is so nice to be in compared to the old one.

So begins this year the second half of our mission. Fitness. I'm not that fit, but nor am I a fattie. But I want greater self esteem and to reduce my stress levels. I believe weight loss monitoring to be a central way to manage both sides of the same coin of health, nutrition and fitness. The path there is long and rocky but at least we have through the mists, discerned that a path exists.

Hey that sounds deep like some kind of Guardian article dunnit? :)

The rollercoaster went up...then down

This goes to show how difficult it is to do this health thing.

Rollercoaster up...

As recommended by John Walker I sat there with my gram measuring scales this morning calculating how much gloop I slop on my semmel or breakfast roll. I weighed the half of semmel at 30g then after careful measuring weighed the butter at 10g and the honey (fantastic local organic from our town) at 10g. All well and good....

Rollercoaster down...

A visit from a friend this afternoon brought cake before this gullible one's eyes, which was duly finished off.

Rollercoaster up again...

Utterly sick of the typical Christmas thing I began to surf the Vegetarian Society website says about what our body really needs. It seems armed with this knowledge we can make informed choices about what we eat. I think we as a family are headed towards a veggie lifestyle in future as I just came to the conclusion that I am uncomfortable around meat and scared of its preparation. I always thought that learning to roast a chicken was some kind of advanced goal in cookery but this I am questioning now.

Before Christmas I purchased Brussels sprouts hoping to eat them with the goose, however I realised only red cabbage and dumplings or Knödel fit to this meal. They lay in the fridge awaiting development until this evening when I found this way to cook them. However the verdict was that they were a bit hard. I think steaming them next time would help. Will retain an open mind on this recipe and return later.

Our neighbour who in fact has I believe Macedonian roots recommended I try Bulghur Wheat. A while back I bought some. A quick Google gave us the Arabic recipe of Mujadarra which always takes my eyes wistfully eastwards to hot days floating on the Arabian Gulf with sunlight blocked by an Arabian dhow gliding by. Will have try that.

The family didn't like my sprout recipe so I dug into the fridge again and found a load of carrots. Before Christmas I bought a juicer. It's not the best designed of kitchen gadgets - the stuff leaks out sometimes - but it's a good introduction to juicing and I duly plopped some carrots into it, which we sank well.

Rollercoaster back down again...

We end this post on a sad note.

Was surfing about the web early evening only to be dragged over by Wife to watch Take That with her on the tally. Good entertainment now from a group I used to absolutely hate in the 80s as manufactured pop. The evening's music was enjoyed with a couple of glasses of red wine, a couple of eggnogs, 3-4 biscuits, a few jelly bears and a beer lemonade Radler. Shit.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

How to get fit?

Well I have read the blurb in The Hackers Diet and made some decisions:

1. I shall save all my weight info online an The Hackers Diet webpage.
2. I will monitor my weight daily amd record it in our bathroom on paper then enter it in the computer. I've been having "issues" with my Windows box so I am after hearing via the web about the latest Ubuntu, going to run off that soon. I downloaded the latest copy but because my CD writer was in another PC havent installed it yet to burn it.
3. I will monitor my workouts too. Having spent time and money on our cellar and installed the cross trainer I dunno if there exists the need to do the Hacker Diet exercises as the cross trainer measures heart rate and kJ/calories burned. So I shall write down the figures down there like distance and cals on a piece of paper.
4. The missing link is the stuff going into the rubber bag. I need databases showing how many cals are in the guff I put in my mouth.

Yesterday at the bakery whilst buying my I asked the pretty girl which had low fat content. She didnt know so I've found a website in German which should help in that regard. Normaly I buy "gemischte Semmel" and don't pay much attention to what I buy. I shall change that. For example I just found out that soya semmel have half the cals of rye/roggen semmel. I don't agree with John Walker's idea of eating frozen packet foods - typical American! So this ection of losing weight is going to take a bit longer to figure out. I think an Excel or Oo Calc spreadsheet will help, not that I am any good at Excel or Calc.

Edit: just did another 25 minutes on the trainer

My wine gets a taste test!

You may recall that I picked 9.5kg or 19lb of grapes in summer. rather than do something noble like make raisins or grape juice for us to drink (we tried it and it was too syrupy) I put the juice into a bottle, added an airlock and fermented it three months. I offered some to visiting friends to taste today.

"Hmmm...trocken" (dry!)

What an accolade!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

15 minutes on crosstrainer at 82.9kg

today I did 15 mins on the cross trainer and weighed in at 82.9kg

I have decided to use The Hacker diet Online.

My Hackers Diet

In spite of a lot of faffing about I now have my weight loss thing set up on The Hackers Diet Online. You can see it on the icon right of here.

Yesterday I noted the number of kilojoules used so will note that today and find out what that means. It read 6669 at my last training session.

Npow that is set up I need to figure out the calories/kilojoules system. The "Diet" section of the PDF will be ny next segment to understand.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Been reading The Hackers Diet!

Rubber bag weighs 84.3kg and does 15 minutes on cross trainer before going to eat wild deer and eating 5 eggs for breakfast (two of his own and the unwanted ones from the kids)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

One animal was harmed in the making of this meal...

I woke up Christmas Day in this total mental funk which I think started after our last mountain bike trip where I realised the outdoor season was over and we would have to withdraw indoors for the winter only coming out for brief walks. We hada fantastic autumn full of wonderful bike trips in the hills near us loads of fresh air and great views, so the turning back of the clock messed up my body clock for weeks - I haven't slept properly for ages. Last autumn I dealt with this by self adminitration of alcohol based medication and I assumed that alcohol was the cuase of my blues, but this year I got it just as bad, even worse when I had enjoyed growing my own food with some success and being outfoors virtually all day in summer. I missed so much being outdoors with the changes of the seasons.

We bought a goose from the Lidl supermarket which I compromised with Wife on as I had wanted a free range turkey which I knew had had a reasonably happy life before it was killed. Watching some of Hugh Fearnley Whittingsall's River Cottage and Jamie's Fowl Dinners made me uneasy this time about where exactly our food comes from for this time of year.  

The whole Christmas thing with its commercialism utterly depressed me. We didnt buy loads of stuff but lots of it was plastic crap made probably by children in some Chinese sweatshop, before being shipped in some football sized container ship to some container port somewhere on the coast of Germany. 

We are as a family mostly what is known as ovolactovegetarian, which means we eat lots of veg, but also milk and egg products. But we do stray onto oily fish for the Omega 3 and poultry from the nearby farm. However I am starting to just get fed up with the whole meat eating rigmarole, but I am told we have to eat some meat as we have growing children who need protein. The whole Christmas thing leaves me cold now. I think it is time to get serious about veggie things.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Current weight

Rubber bag (see The Hacker's Diet) slorps onto scales and weighs 83.5kg

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What's a Watt? And how to cool down?

Okay three things came up in my questions of how to train.

The warm up I did was tzhat nice yoga stretch taught to me by a pretty American in Kathmandu on the rooftop of a backpackers hotel. To be honest it stsrted to get a bit hard. Ten years of ageing havent helped.

But how on earth does one cool down with this blasted thing? It has this "Erholung" button but buggered if I can figure it out. Bit more reading.

Watts measure resistance in training. Google should work here.

Starting to understand fitness

I've been using my cross trainer recently. It has this complicated computer screen thing which I always promised myself to understand. Show here in this blog page are my efforts to grasp this stuff mathematically as an approach to weight loss. It was by coincidence that I found this link.

As is typical of me I always do things at the wrong time. Just as Overindulgence Season hits us on Christmas Eve I get into weight loss. I compartmentalise things a bit I admit. Growing food was my focus last year. learning to cook it another, which are now established ongoing interests for me. The two new things I wisg to learn about are exercise to stay fit and alternative energy.

Exercise to me is the other half of being healthy. Thanks to the fact that we renovated our cellar and finally found a home for the cross trainer wich never got used a few years ago as it was in a too public position (I felt an idiot working out in my conservatory), and I bought a cheap MP3 player to listen to (working out is boring without music), I now have a chance to get a bit healthier. This blog will also chronicle that as well as my understanding of weight loss issues.

Time to hit the scales. As of 23 December 2008 I weigh 82.9 kg. Thanks to Wife measuring me I am 186cm high. Plug that into an online calculator to ascertain Body Mass Index and it shows that my BMI is 24.

According to the evaluations of this figure I'm just within the healthy limits, but I'd like to shave some off that. When I lived in the Gulf I swam almost every day and had a nice chest which I'd like to regain. I'd like to climb out of my inflatable swimming pool in summer a bit like Daniel Craig coming up the beach in a Bond film to impress the wife and any female visitors.

Reading the documentation dug up another calculable statistic, the Base Metabolic Rate. Again online calcs showed my BMR to be 1846.13. According to the Harris Benedict formula which I decided to use the 1.2 factor as I am hardly a sportsman yet:

Calories needs when sedentary = 1846.13 * 1.2 = 2215,356

15-20% of that is 332-443

So I need approx 1883 cals based on 15%

Such a shame that after sussing this out I went out for a pizza and a beer! Another calory bomb, equivalent to the guilt induced vegetable juice I made the day before (I added carrots, celery, apples and finally garlic to clean out myself after overindulging in my home made grape harvested mulled wine the night before then an hour later blasted into myself two whole Twix!)

Now I've started surfing around this problem I've come across a fascinating PDF written by the chap who founded Autodesk, the rival software to that which I used to use for years known as Microstation. He's written The Hackers Diet which takes an engineering approach to weight loss.

To train effectively I've read you need to use the five zone approach where your heart rate falls into one of the zones to achieve a goal. So now I need to figure out my max heart rate. According to this page it is 176,83 or 177. That's close to the simple calculation of "220 - your age" figure I've seen elsewhere. According to this page:

50% of your Max Heart Rate = 88.5
60% of your Max Heart Rate = 106.2
70% of your Max Heart Rate = 123.9
80% of your Max Heart Rate = 141.6
90% of your Max Heart Rate = 159.3
100% of your Max Heart Rate = 177

So then here are my heart zones;

Zone 1 50%-60% - bpm = 88.5 - 106.2
Zone 2 60%-70% - bpm = 106.2 - 123.9
Zone 3 70%-80% - bpm = 123.9 - 141.6
Zone 4 80%-90% - bpm = 141.6 - 159.3
zone5 90%-100% - bpm = 159.3 - 177

So now I know I should only take up my heart rate to max 106 on the cross trainer. Knowledge is power.

"The Hackers Diet" is an excellent book which takes an approach to health I can understand. I feel now I am starting to join up the dots a bit. I always knew intuitively that healthy eating and exercise were important, buthe exercise seemed too complex. Thanks to this book I am starting to gain someunderstanding of this side of the equation.

Nex things I think I should write about are what appears on the side of a packet. Diggng out a litre carton of milk we have values (in German in my case) for Brennwert/Calories, Eiweiss or protein, Kohlenhydrate or carbohydrate, Fett or fat and other stuff I don't understand yet. Cholestgerol is a target to Google and I'll dig up a link on that.......

Hi. I'm back. The Central Scrutinizer. A quick surf while Open Office installs its spreadsheet dug up facts about cholesterol, and the fact that there is "good" and "bad" cholesterol, and triglycerides.

Armed with this page of info we can change immediately the stuff we buy to get healthier:

1. Use liquid plant oils for cooking and baking. A big drop in butter consumption is indicated.

2. Ditch the trans fat - need to learn more about that. Done.

But what is transfat in German? die Transfettsäure. Job done thanks to

3. Switch from butter to soft tub margarine. It must contain no trans fats or Transfettsäure

4. Eat at least one good source of omega-3 fats each day. Hmm only became aware of this recently when buying fish so need to learn more. We need to eat more trout and salmon from the fish van.

5. Go lean on meat and milk.

so based upon that above we can: buy less butter, spread more olive oil on our bread instead of butter, and buy more low fat milk.

Right enuff of thst, time to chill to Banco de Gaia on the cross trsiner.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Getting into fitness

Spent 25 mins on cross trainer

Get fit!

Spent 25 minutes on cross trainer

Friday, December 19, 2008

Seed Saving

I've been a subscriber to Kitchen Gardeners International for a while now. Their "Eat The View" campaign to get Americans gardening by the example of the White House lawn being turned over to a "Victory Garden" is gathering speed which is encouraging.

From their forums (or is it fora?) I cam across this very informative page about seed saving which I need to absorb later in the next season. Seeds can be expensive, or at least good seeds, not the cheap packets in supermarkets. I think this craft will grow, certainly I wish to get more into it, then your garden becomes truly self sustaining if you save your own every year.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Peak Oil Cuisine?

All very well telling us to get an allotment, plant apple trees and all that, but has anyone actually thought about the items we use to cook which aren't from our allotments and gardens? For example, if the supermarket chains collapse and we are reduced to foraging, from where exactly is our olive oil going to come from? That Britain imports nost of its foods is well known, (not sure of the percentage in Germany) but from where might for example our cooking oils hail? 

Take olive oil. I cook a load with this stuff. We may have to find alternatives to this. Given that in Italy there have been cases of adulteration of olive oil with hazelnet oil, why not thus grow more hazels locally and grind these into oil? We could then have an excuse to plant more hazels in our gardens.

Where is our milk and cheese going to come from? We already occasionally obtain raw milk from the nearby farm but I can foresee a time when that might be a necessity, and we may need to learn how to make cheese and butter from this product. ourselves. From where are the bakeries going to obtain their flour? All that will have to change. 

It will be goodbye to Oriental food as those lovely ingredients become scarcer, unless they are grown locally. Last night on River Cottage HFW visited Birmingham where Jamaicans grow their favourite greens on their allotment whcih he had never heard of. A whole food culture will have to readapt to a post oil era.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Are we at Peak Oil?

Discovered a newsite The Oil Drum last night. Anyone who is interested in Peak Oil must know that there are two biggie oil fields, one on land and one in the sea. The first is Ghawar and I've driven all over it. The Shedgum escarpment used to be an old camping area for us. How naive I was not to know of the strategic importance of what lay beneath the wheels of my Lada as I drove over it!

This is one of the most ineteresting GIS/RS links I have come across in ages. Using Google Earth to estimate the wells in Ghawar.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Viva Where the Hell!

This blog returned to life with interest in a Europe wide solar power project DESERTEC

Sounds ambitious and exciting. I think it is related to the MARE Initiative which I think is more American in scope.

Then I got to ask myself: how might I be of service to such an initiative? After all I had many skills which might be applied: predominantly GIS development skills, language translation of technical German to English as I do that quite often for people I know already. I was also intrigued by the suggestion that desal water in the Sahara might enable the growing of crops. My horticultural knowledge might also be handy after all!

A quick surfabout for any stuff which has been done regarding GIS for solar insolation found this and this

This is what excited my interest.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Principles of Permaculture

Found this link to aid understanding of the principles of permaculture by David Holmgren who is one of the founding fathers of the permaculture movement in Australia.

I seem to already practice some of these in a way, but I wonder if it's possible to take each principle and turn it into an action?

Friday, December 05, 2008

Thoughts for next year

A timetable for jobs for my own garden - only with regard to things like succesional planting of lettuces, which clut too much mid summer.

Encourage bees - watch flower coverage through year. Bees are critical to pollination of plants. The reason I am told we had a low plum harvest this year was that the bees didn't like the wet spring. The growing season started late this year.

Hot bed then experiment with it to heat veg bed then winter garden

Forest garden - a la Robert Hart. I already have lots of hazel branch cuttings with which to start. Gooseberry bushes often appear in supermarkets.

Here is a list of plants for the Sonnenacker and veg bed I wish to try again:

Comfrey = Schwarzwurz {f} auf Deutsch. One of the most important to feed the plants. This year I will attempt to use no chemicals.


Swiss chard (Mangold)



Cabbage (not quite as much as this year)


Paprika Peppers

Chili Peppers



Different beans to this year - perhaps real beans you can harvest - possible chick peas?

Potatoes (baking, early)



Celery (the "Mirepoix" of cookery)

Sweetcorn (Golden Bantam)


Beans (try three sisters again)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Treasure Trove of information found

The good ol' USA! I've long admired their free information policies since my digital mapping days. I came upon this set of PDFs which might be of use to people getting into gardening/farming...

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Permaculture - can it save us?

Oh man I feel a bit like a DJ of web snippets in a way. My surfings related to organic stuff have led me through some interesting readings.

Shows how an Indian development org is removing petroleum related machines from its farms.

Is inspiring. I came across a video on the web about Robert Hart's Forest Garden. He set up a forest garden at his farm which provides him with loads of food and herbs.

is an interesting website devoted to the same idea, of forest gardening.

I possess three plum trees in my garden, as well as a hazel. I've been drawn more to these trees this summer and what to do with them. These sites are very inspirational.

"Punk vegan gardening"

Whilst surfing around the theme Permaculture I found a fascinating off print regarding organic gardening on the Spiral Seed website: Dig for Revolution.

It contains stuff which I already knew but the last bit is interesting as I wasn't aware about the issue of seed patenting. Read this:

and this:

When I buy my seeds from the supermarket in spring I'm going to have to check not only the species name but the variety name.

It gives me a new impetus towards seed saving which I wasn't aware of, an important part of permaculture.