Jumat, 31 Agustus 2007

0 Finding a Healthier Lifestyle - Making the First Cuts

CaloriesIn my previous article on Dumb Little Man, Finding a Healthier Lifestyle - Committing to Change, I discussed how to find the problem factors in your current lifestyle and how to become self-motivated during your lifestyle changes.

In the second part of Dumb Little Man’s Finding a Healthier Lifestyle series I’m going to introduce some simple habit changes that will result in significant improvements in your overall health and physical condition in the long run.

Lifestyles do not change over night. Lifestyle change is a continuous process of trial and error.

The first reaction many people have when they discover the need to change lifestyles is to drop all of their normal habits in favor of radical diet and routine modifications. Your body and your morale will not adjust well to such radical changes and you will likely lose interest after a month. Instead of radically changing your bad habits you should slowly improve them into good habits.

The basic rule of thumb for weight loss is:
"calories burned must be greater than calories consumed."
In order to adhere to this principle you are going to need to determine your average daily calorie intake and determine your average daily calorie output.
  1. Determine Your Current Calorie Consumption and Expenditure: If you’re overweight then you are certainly on the wrong side of the intake must be less than expenditure rule, so you need to assess the damage. Just how much greater is your intake than your expenditure? The best way to find out is to record your calorie intake for three days, using a service like calorie-count or FitDay. These services will also help you determine a ball park range for your average calorie expenditure based upon the activity level of your occupation and any additional activities that you log with the service. When I completed my three days of logging I found that:

    • I was consuming about 3500 calories a day;

    • I was burning about 2800 calories a day; and

    • my diet was too high in fat and too high in sodium.

  2. In the rest of the Finding a Healthier Lifestyle series I am going to refer back to food logging, so I strongly recommend using either one of the two services I mentioned. A logging service like calorie-count or FitDay provides a metric you can use to gauge if you’re heading in the right direction. It’s not 100% accurate but it’s certainly an improvement over not knowing at all.

  3. Making the First Diet Cuts - My diet overhaul began with cutting a few bad foods and drinks from my daily intake; it was not until much later that I adopted a much stricter diet. A few trends I noticed were:

    • lots of liquid calories from beer, liquor, and low-fat milk;

    • lots of starchy carbohydrates such as potatoes, bananas, and wheat bread;

    • lots of simple carbohydrates such as fruit juice, cookies, and breakfast cereal;

    • lots of red meat, particularly beef;

    • lots of fast (and fatty) food;

    • not a lot of fiber sources, such as whole fruits and vegetables; and

    • not a lot of white meat, like chicken, turkey, and fish.

    The items I listed are common diet deficiencies amongst college students like myself and overweight people in general. Here are the first steps I took to correct some of my basic diet deficiencies:

    • I cut all beer and liquor from my diet entirely for the first two months (eliminated all calories from alcohol);

    • I switched permanently to non-fat milk (reduced calories from fat);

    • I eliminated all fried vegetables from my diet such as onion rings, french fries, and fried zucchini (reduced calories from fat significantly);

    • I eliminated mayonnaise (reduced calories from fat);

    • I switched from sugary breakfast cereals to healthier ones such as granola with yogurt (reduce calories from simple sugars; increased protein and fiber); and

    • I stopped going to fast food chains like Wendy’s and started going to healthier chains like Subway and Panera when I needed a quick bite (improved everything).

    My decision to give up alcohol completely for a couple of months was difficult given the American College Culture, but it was the only tough change out of those listed. Eventually I dropped red meat entirely and adopted a rather rigid body-building diet structure. Take a look at your own diet and find places where you can apply some easy fixes; giving up whole or low-fat milk for non-fat milk is an example of a really easy change to apply.

  4. Improve Your Every Day Activities - The first change I made to increase my calorie expenditure was to increase the amount of calories I spent doing my everyday activities. I started getting up earlier and taking the long route to class; I took the stairs instead of the elevator; I started taking the long way to the bathroom; and I started going over to the local Starbucks half a mile from my dorm whenever I needed to work on my laptop. These simple expenditures increased my total expenditure by 100 calories or more every day. Small increases in calorie expenditure will provide a large cumulative effect over time.

  5. Begin Exercising - The first exercise I began to do was simply jogging a mile every day. At the end of each week I’d increment my total running distance by a quarter of a mile and start over the next week. Starting off with a very simple and very short exercise routines will help you get acquainted with athletic activities. I recommend trying a variety of activities until you find one that you enjoy and would do regardless of its health benefits. I eventually joined a boxing class, which I enjoy immensely.
Next week I’m going to share with you how to find a great exercise routine that works for you.

This post’s author is Aaronontheweb, and he blogs about ASP.NET, Web 2.0 Development, Online Marketing, and Online Business at AjaxNinja. His most recent article is Why I’m switching to Facebook.NET from the Facebook Developer’s Toolkit.

Kamis, 30 Agustus 2007

0 How to Win from a Loss

Last year I suffered a calf injury from running. I just couldn't shake it, no matter what I tried and I ended up racing with the injury still there. Not surprisingly, the race was an entire loss, or so I thought. It turns out that the injury was one of the best things that could have happened to me. I know this now, because of what I have learned and what I have changed as a result of that apparent loss. As a result of the injury, I have been able to understand and overcome so many of the limitations of my old running patterns. Looking back, my loss last year is leading me towards a spectacular win.

This has often been my experience. What starts out as a loss can become an exciting win which helps me to power towards later successes. Let me explain how.

First let's look at winning.

Winning in any situation usually feels great. It is often the end of a goal and a long process of action. So rightly, we can celebrate our victory. But what does it tell us about the next step? Not a lot. Winning is usually the end of a process, and in a way it can be a sort of dead end. I love winning and it is something that we should all strive for, but a win today often won't help us progress tomorrow.

…Then let’s look at losing.

A loss, on the other hand, immediately shows us where to go to work. If we lose an important client or our finger stumbles in the middle of a concerto we can't help but see the next weakness to work on. A loss is able to clearly display what our next priority should be. Where, a win can be a one time gain, a loss can lead to ongoing gains.

What can make a loss Productive?

The only thing that makes a loss productive is attitude. A loss in one person's life becomes a tragedy, the same loss in another person's life becomes a source of progress. The difference is in how the people see their loss. What then, is the best attitude to capitalize on a loss?

There are three attitudes that will make the most of a loss:

  1. 1. We must first take the attitude that loss is inevitable. Even the most skilled, motivated, golden person will experience losses from time to time. We have to expect that we can't win every time.

  2. Next we must take the attitude that a loss always includes a valuable lesson about winning.

  3. Thirdly our attitude should drive us to relentlessly pursue these lessons and make them work for us.
Check out this hypothetical situation:
  • You are in line for a promotion and a job opens up directly above yours

  • You think you are a walk-in for the position so you drop in your application

  • Two weeks later a new guy shows up in your department. He has come from another company and he has been given the job that you expected to get.
How do you feel? What productive lesson can you learn from the loss?

You watch this new guy carefully and you start to understand why he was successful in beating you to the job. You discover that he is an expert networker. After only a few days he is already on first name terms with people that you didn't even know existed. Not only does he know everybody but he is able to use these connections to get things done well. No wonder he was selected for the job, especially seeing as though he plays golf with your boss, goes fishing with your colleagues and has just invited you and the rest of your work group out to an exhibition later that week. Here is the lesson. If you were more involved with the people that you work with, then you would be more productive. If you take this lesson and put it to work, then for the rest of your life you will reap the rewards. Starting from this day onwards, losing that job may have made your career, but only if you put the lesson into action.

Bonus #1

The first bonus that comes along with this positive new attitude is that it enables us to extract value from past losses as well. Instead of becoming jaded old cynics, we can realize that an old loss can hold as much value as a new win if we are able to apply its lessons. Instead of having our lives ruled by regrets and failures, we are able to ask "What can I learn that will power me forward?" Remember, this doesn't take away the loss, it just turns it into a positive force instead of being a dead weight.

Bonus #2

The second bonus is that in some strange way it also becomes possible to look forward to future losses. We are able to embrace risk, knowing that if we win, we can celebrate and if we lose, we can learn how to increase our chances of winning next time. Either way we come out on top and so taking risks is not such a terrifying ordeal any more.

So from now on, we should never despair over a loss. Of course it is right to feel sadness, and to wish we had won. But our new attitude will remind us that losing from time to time is inevitable. That losing contains valuable, even crucial lessons for us. And that if we put what we learn into action we can soon experience gains that even outweigh the benefits of winning in the first place.

Which loss in your past can you learn from? What is the lesson? Which loss are you so afraid of, that you choose to avoid the risk in the first place?


This article was written by Tom O'Leary from www.LifeGoalAction.com. His site is loaded with tools that help people make the most of their finest asset...their lives. Head there now if you want to kick your personal progress into hyper-drive.

0 How to Teach Children and Learn from Them Too

Who Has More to Learn? Kids or Adults?

The bottom line is children and adults both have a lot to learn from each other. Children are a reflection of the adults around them. When they behave "badly" they are simply acting human. They need to be taught the skills to deal with life's challenges in the best way possible. When we (adults) act "badly," we also need some guidance. This article spells out the things that I've learned. Teaching and guiding children takes a lot of patience, but it's work that is well rewarded. The goal of this article is to help us all to understand children, to teach them well, and to learn from their natural common sense that we often lose sight of.

How to Handle Children When They Act Just Like You Do

When children act "badly," the first step is: don't get mad. Observe. What is going on? Analyze. Why is the child acting that way? The child is likely experiencing one of these: frustration, anger, sadness, exhaustion, jealousy, disappointment, boredom, the need to exercise, over-stimulation, loneliness, lack of control, fear, worry or some other distressing emotion. These are emotions and states that all humans experience, not just children. But they are even more difficult for children because they lack the skills to handle them. That's our job as adults to teach them and to model those skills in action. So how do you handle it? Try these steps.
  1. Observe and remain calm.

  2. Understand that there is a reason for the behavior.

  3. Try to figure out that reason.

  4. If possible, lead the child gently to a place where you can both calmly sit and talk together, eye to eye. If there are other people around it is a good idea to take the child aside for a private conversation. This will make things flow more smoothly and it will communicate to the child that you care.

  5. Help the child to identify his/her own feelings and reason behind their behavior. Ask questions calmly such as, "Tell me how your are feeling." Have compassion and understanding. By doing this, you are not giving up power. You are not "coddling." You are in a position of strength that the child will recognize because of the fact that you are in control of your emotions.

  6. Empathize with their feelings. Tell them that you understand how that feels and that you feel that way sometimes too. Let them know that it is ok to have these feelings and it is very good to identify how they are feeling and to express it in words.

  7. Teach them how to handle those kinds of feelings in a positive way. This is the hard part. If your child is not used to this, it might be difficult at first. Explain what behaviors are OK for letting off steam such as crying,talking about feelings, safe physical outlets such as walking, jumping, etc.

  8. Teach them the difference between crying out of frustration and crying to get something. Teach them to ask for things politely and how to handle when they don't get something that they want. For instance, "Joey, sometimes we can't have some things that we want. We all feel disappointed when that happens. It's important to first of all be grateful for all the good things that you do have such as our home, our family, our health, and the things that we love (toys). There are many who don't have the things that you have.

    Now with regards to the thing that you want, perhaps there is a compromise or alternative or way to not feel bad about that. Let's think about that together." Then ask the child questions to get them come up with their own solutions. You may need to work on it, but have patience.

  9. If, after talking things out, the child still wants to force themselves to cry or be upset, remind them that once you've talked things out that they need to begin to make an effort to move forward with feeling better. If they need more time, which is sometimes reasonable, then offer to let them take a break, rest, or nap before continuing on with the day. You could offer a
    hug. Another thing that works well is to try to get them laughing. I call it getting the "happy juice flowing." When we laugh we instantly create chemicals inside our body that make it hard to be sad. So try that. It works.

  10. For tantrums that are difficult to overcome sometimes you'll need to calmly explain a consequence that will occur if they continue to be disruptive. I suggest only using this when the child is clearly being uncooperative and you've made an attempt to help them through the emotion. Make the consequence something that will have impact, has a time boundary, and that you will follow through on. For instance taking away a privilege or a toy for a day. This can often nip things in the bud. If not, follow through with the consequence and when the child has calmed down go back to calmly discussing and guiding the child to understand what happened, how they felt, and how they can handle it better in the future. Having them come up
    with some of the answers themselves will make things cement better. Tell them a story about how you experienced something similar before. Let them know that you have faith in them that they will do better next time. Let them know you love and support them.

  11. And in the future when they do handle their emotions better, give lots of praise. Tell them how proud you are of their actions.

  12. Prevention Tip: Sugar and caffeine make difficult emotions 10 times worse. Children don't need either of these. For yours and their sake consider eliminating these from their diet. And also keep in mind that a child that is able to release their energy through exercise and play will be happier than a child who has sat on a couch all day watching TV.
The time when this is very hard to do is when you are feeling one or more of these challenging emotions at the same time as your child. That's when you need to remember your responsibility to set the right example. At the next opportunity find a way for both of you to get a break to rejuvenate. This will keep the pattern from repeating.

Things to Learn from Children

If you are lucky enough to be around children, you've probably noticed that they behave differently from adults. I suggest that many of these behaviors would be beneficial for adults to re-learn. The next time you are around children, stop and notice. What can you learn from them? How would being more like them help you to be a better person. Here are some things that I've noticed about children that inspire me to be a better person:
  • Fully Experiencing Joy of Little Things

  • Being Completely Present in the Moment

  • Uncensored Creativity

  • Lack of Pride - Forgive Easily

  • Unconditional Love

  • Happiness & Silliness & Laughter

  • Noticing Everything Around Them

  • Play, Play, Play

  • Eating Slowly

  • Day Dreaming

  • Always Moving

  • Always Stretching

  • Endless Curiosity - Unafraid to Ask Questions

What else can you add to this list? What are your thoughts? Looking forward to your comments!

Written for Dumb Little Man by K. Stone, author of Life Learning Today, a blog about daily life improvements. Popular articles
So You Want to Be a Writer and Should You Start Your Own Work at Home Business?

Rabu, 29 Agustus 2007

0 Robot City

South Korea plans to build a whole city from scratch dedicated to the robotics industry.

SciFi.com reports that the appropriately named Robot Land will "have all sorts of facilities for the research, development, and production of robots, as well as things like exhibition halls and even a stadium for robot-on-robot competitions. The $530 million project should get underway sometime in 2009."

Korea.net adds that the city's industrial output will have an "emphasis on so-called service robots that can clean homes and provide entertainment."

Now we just have to wait till the city secedes from South Korea; it then achieves a kind of limited national sovereignty; it seats a robot-ambassador at the UN; its Artificially Intelligent offspring form a Parliament, or a Ministry of War; they manufacture cannons and other violent forms of propulsive enginery, filling the sky with drones; and then human history becomes interesting again.

We'll read future Machine-Iliads, magnetically engraved on self-aware harddrives as the robots roll toward war with Beijing...

Selasa, 28 Agustus 2007

0 How to Keep your Teeth White

clean teeth
Back in January we posted about a goofy method of whitening your teeth with strawberries. At least it sounds goofy. It turns out that it does indeed work.

If you are not a strawberry fan or if you are simply looking for some more practical ways to whiten your pearlies, you could visit the dentist or you can do a little online research yourself. Actually now that I think about it, I don't think my dentist ever mentioned some of the tips that Ririan compiled.

Here are some of the stranger tips things that you may not have thought of.

The links you see are to independent sites that I found to backup the facts
  • Use a Straw: If you must have tea, cola or one of the other stain-mongering beverages listed above, be sure to use a straw. It helps the drink bypass the teeth and gums and cuts down on your chances for dingy teeth.

  • Swim at your own risk: Swimming regularly in pool water can cause stains — no joke! The chemicals used to clean pools can lead to a condition known as swimmers’ calculus that leaves brown stains on teeth. That build-up is tartar, so you’ll need to see your dentist for a professional cleaning to get it off.

  • Stop biting your nails: Crunch, crunch, crunch. Do you bite your nails? Habitual nail chewers damage more than their cuticles; they can damage their teeth, too. If you have weakened enamel, you end up with an exposed, dented, soft area in the center of the tooth. And that’s when the problem occurs. The denting is much softer than the enamel and if exposed to bad habits such as chewing nails, opening beer bottles, it will wear down. Often the middle part dissolves quicker than the outside and the brittle enamel is very prone to chipping, making the teeth look uneven and unattractive.
For the 15 remaining tips visit Ririan's post, 18 Fail-Proof Ways to Shine Up Your Smile

0 Google Homepage Update for DLM subscribers

There are thousands of people that have Dumb Little Man on their Google Homepage (40K or so). If you are one of them, this should make you happy because you must have noticed that the old widget was very slow. Today for example I added 3 posts to DLM and after 7 hours, most of you don't know they were published!

So, to make this simple. Anyone using Google Homepage (aka iGoogle) should click here and use this version. If you are using Bloglines or something else, don't do anything.

Add to Google

As of 3:28 PM today, here is the difference. As you can see, the one on the left is updated in a timely manner.

Again, any current iGoogle users should be using this gadget:

Add to Google

Thanks. It took me a while to figure this one out!

0 Tons of Homemade Solutions for the House

Did you know that dipping your car key in Vaseline and then sticking it into your door lock will prevent frozen locks? Hmm...me either. How about dirty toilets and Coke? Did you know that Coke can clean your toilets for you? Apparently , "You Can't Beat the Feeling" applies to toilets because the grime dissipates as the soda breaks it down.

Here are a ton of miscellaneous tips brought together by Gomestic. Have fun and actually you can probably save a few bucks with these.

The have listed all of these and a handful of other solutions at Household Science: Homemade Tips

0 Easy (and Sexy) Ways to Lose 50 Pounds a Year

For many people, losing weight seems like an impossible task. "I don't have the willpower!" they say.

But it doesn't have to be that hard. The basic rule of weight loss is that you take in fewer calories than you burn -- and if you want to turn a positive calorie balance into the calorie deficit you need to lose weight, just make some smart choices in what you eat and drink, and how you burn calories.

The second rule of weight loss is that if you take in 3,500 fewer calories than you burn, you'll (generally) lose a pound of fat. So if you can have a calorie deficit of 500 calories a day, you'll burn a pound of fat a week (7 times 500 is 3,500), which is about 50 pounds a year.

If you have been maintaining the same weight for a little while, you are taking in the same amount of calories as you're burning. So you just need to choose a few of the options below to lose 50 pounds in a year. However, if you've been gaining weight, you'll need to choose a few more of the options below to go into calorie deficit.

Remember that 50 pounds a year is only about 4 pounds a month, so you won't notice a huge drop in the first month. Be patient, stick with it, and you'll start to see weight loss in the following months.

Also remember that with any of the changes below, it's hardest for the first few days. After that, you get used to it, and it gets easier.

  • Drink water. If you typically drink lots of juice or soda or alcohol, replacing these calorie-filled drinks with water will cut a few hundred calories a day.

  • Exercise for 15-20 minutes. If you have a weight problem, chances are you also have a problem with regular exercise. That's probably because you tried to do too much. Just commit to 15 minutes a day. That's not hard at all. And don't do anything intense, especially for the first month. Take it easy -- do a few crunches, a few push ups, jog in place for a few minutes. If you do this every day, you'll burn 100-150 calories, depending on your size and metabolism.

  • Replace a fatty snack with veggies. Potato chips, fries, anything that's greasy -- those are laden with calories. Fat is the most calorie-filled food type there is. If you eat a snack like this every day, replace it with cut-up carrots, broccoli, celery, or a salad (with low-fat dressing, not anything fatty).

  • Have sex daily. One of the best exercises there is. Of course, you'll need to do it beyond your usual three minutes. If you can get 15 minutes of sex in a day, you can burn 150 calories. You also might need to find a willing partner. The exercise in the item above might help with that.

  • Replace a sugary snack with fruits. If you eat Twinkies, Ding Dongs, donuts, candy bars, a carton of ice cream ... you know you need to cut those out. Try fruit instead. Berries are my favorite.

  • Eat a healthy breakfast. If you eat eggs and bacon, or something covered in syrup, or anything else sweet or fatty, replace it with something healthier. Steel-cut oatmeal with blueberries, ground flaxseed and almonds is a great choice that is delicious. Also try whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk or soy milk.

  • Walk, and use the stairs. Park 5-7 minutes away from work, which adds up to about 10-15 minutes of walking a day, to and from work (in addition to the exercise mentioned above). Use the stairs instead of the elevator. That's about 100 calories total.

  • Use non-fat milk in your latte. If you use half-and-half in your latte, using non-fat milk will save you about 250 calories.

  • Skip butter. If you put butter on your toast, your roll, and your baked potato, you can save 200-300 calories a day if you skip the butter.

  • Plan snacks, don't snack randomly. Munching on little things here and there, throughout the day, can add up to hundreds of calories. Instead, plan on a midmorning and mid afternoon snack, and make at least one of them healthy. Don't snack in between snacks.
  • Go with red pasta sauce, not white. Marinara sauce instead of Alfredo will save you a couple hundred calories. Skip the meat too.

  • Eat baked chicken, not fried. Fried chicken contains a lot of fat absorbed from frying oil, as well as the fatty skin. Skip the skin, and bake the chicken. Herb it up good, with some pepper, and it tastes great.

  • Skip seconds, and eat slower. If you go back for an extra piece of meat and buttered bread, you're adding another few hundred calories. Instead, eat slowly, and you'll get full faster. Also, even if feel hungry after the first helping, wait for 20 minutes. Often, the feeling of hunger will go away.

  • Air-pop popcorn. Movie popcorn is full of oil and butter. Tons of fat. Instead, air-pop the popcorn. You can put salt on it, but not butter.

  • Go for pretzels, not peanuts. Nuts contain tons of calories. Instead, snack on mini-pretzels (not the soft kind), which can satisfy the salt craving without all of the fat.

  • Skip the muffin. Muffins are just cake, if you buy them at a coffee shop, donut shop, or grocery store. You can make your own muffins that don't contain all that fat and sugar, but instead, try eating the healthy breakfasts mentioned above.
Written for Dumb Little Man by Leo Babuata

Senin, 27 Agustus 2007

0 10 Tips to Make your First Year of Marriage Easier

I’ve only been married for seven years, and the US Census Bureau says most first marriages last only 7.8 years. I’ve done a lot to help maintain a happy marriage, but certainly not as much as I could have done. I am working on it though. There have been many ups, there have been a few downs here and there, but without a doubt the first year was the rockiest road and has left some memories that are difficult to wipe away.

With the divorce statistics getting worse every year, there’s no doubt America is in a marriage crisis. But it doesn’t have to be. Marriages, like anything else, take hard work and dedication. You only get out of it what you put into it. And believe me when I say, that first year can lay a foundation for a healthy marriage or a partnership that needs some TLC. Here’s what I’ve learned from my experiences and the marriages of my friends. I apologize for not references gay marriage here, alas I have no relative experience on that front (although I’m sure many of the same principles still apply).
  1. You are a partnership; 50/50
    If you come into a marriage with archaic notions of 50’s relationships you will not get very far. Men are no longer the hairy hunters, women do not need to be tied to a stove. Just try and remember that if you come home from work one day and the house is a mess and dinner isn’t made. If you have kids, your wife may have spent all day chasing after them. If your wife works, her day most likely sucked as badly as yours. Even if your wife is just at home all day, she’s not obliged to be your servant. Sometimes you cook and clean, sometimes she does. It’s 50/50.

  2. You are not the same
    This may seem as obvious as pointing out the difference between hot and cold, but the author of “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” sold millions of books for a reason. For instance, the first thing men usually want to do when they get home from work is to chill out and do nothing. Maybe watch TV, shoot pool, read a book, just something to get out of a work mindset and into a different mood. Women on the other hand want to talk. They want conversation. They want to unload their day, as soon as possible. It’s oil and water, they just don’t go together. When you both realize that, it will avoid a lot of arguments. How you reach a compromise is more tricky, but some guys have learned to talk about stuff that’s more interesting to them rather than the daily download, and their wives are happy about the genuine attention and conversation.

  3. Sex is important
    It’s not everything, but to say it doesn’t play a huge role is fooling yourself. After all, it was physical attraction that most likely brought you together. If you have differing sex drives, that can be rough. Work out a schedule that makes sure you get what you need and so does your partner. And sometimes affection doesn’t have to lead to sex. It’s fine to kiss and cuddle guys, sometimes women just need to know you care and aren’t just interested in the old in-and-out.

  4. Have the children talk as early as possible
    When my wife and I were talking about our future (before we were married) the question of kids came up. At the time I was 26 and I said, quite clearly, that I would not be ready until I was 30. I just knew it. My wife often brought the subject up but I was as sure two years later as I was the day I said it. I just wasn’t ready. We got pregnant in the winter after my 30th birthday. I think it’s important to be completely honest about this from day 1. Don’t pacify your spouse with a phony answer that will keep her happy and string her along. She’d be increasingly frustrated and it will always lead to arguments.

  5. Think “what would she like me to say?”
    All too often we focus on our own feelings, wants and needs. But pause for thought. There may be a way to say what’s on your mind in a way that she wants to hear. If you want time on your own one evening, she doesn’t want to hear “I want a night without you around.” Instead, maybe suggest she’s been working hard and deserves a night out with the girls. If she asks your opinion on what she’s wearing, don’t give the usual “it’s nice” or “looks fine.” She’s reaching out for a response that will make her feel good and she deserves a better answer. Maybe tell her she looks years younger in it, or that it really shows off her great figure. But please, don’t lie either. She’ll rip you apart and rightly so.

  6. Learn to suck it up and say sorry.
    I learned my lesson way too late on this one. Regardless of who started the argument, saying sorry is an easy way to end it. Most likely you were pretty insensitive during the course of the argument and said some nasty things anyway. But when you do apologize, make sure you know what you’re apologizing about. Saying sorry is hard enough for most people, but if her rebuttal is “what are you sorry about” you don’t ever want to answer that with “ummm, whatever it is I did.” That’s a night on the sofa right there.

  7. Don’t be a brick wall in an argument.
    As we’re on the subject of arguments, this one’s really crucial…don’t just sit there and say nothing, staring into space with a grumpy look on your face. For a start, it makes her feel like you’re not listening, and women want to be acknowledged when they speak. She wants to know you give a damn about what she’s saying. Keeping stony-faced with your arms crossed will prolong the agony and elevate the tension. Talk. Don’t shout. Just talk. It will help, a lot.

  8. Remember to make time for each other.
    Once you’re married it’s very easy to forget each other’s needs. Making time does not mean putting on a TV show or a movie and sitting on the sofa for 3 hours (although sometimes that’s nice…but not every night). Make time for dates. This is especially important when you have kids. You got married because you wanted to spend the rest of your lives together. All too often we fall into a pattern of just surviving day today, rather than living and enjoying each other. She is your best friend and your lover. She deserves your full attention, and vice versa.

  9. Throw some thought at gifts, not a bunch of cash.
    Jewelry is nice. Clothes are nice. Perfume is nice. But it doesn’t really say anything about how you feel about your spouse. It’s not really thoughtful, it’s just a generic gift. When birthday time comes around, or Valentine’s Day, think carefully about the one you love. What does she really like? What makes her smile or feel good inside? The simple things work, like compiling a CD of the songs you would both listen to while you were dating. Maybe you make her something, or get her something unusual like adopting her favorite animal at the zoo. You will have better ideas but be original and make the gift all about her. It works way better than flowers and candy.

  10. Don’t let the in-laws make your life hell.
    Before your wife started her life with you, she had another life. And it’s amazing how often that other life keeps butting its head in your business. Her mom will always be on her side, her dad is just protecting his little girl. Your own folks will be the same way, and before you know it you’re fighting each other by channeling the thoughts and ways of the in-laws. Just remember the most important person in your life now is your partner. You can’t pick your parents, you did pick each other. And you’ll hopefully spend the rest of your lives together.
I’m not saying that following every single tip will lead to a blissful marriage, but it will certainly help the first year go much more smoothly. If you can’t remember every single one and just want to walk away with one nugget of advice, just treat your wife like you’d want to be treated yourself…with affection, love and daily attention.

Written for Dumb Little Man by Paul Michael, a Sr. Writer for the budget living and life tips blog Wisebread.com.

0 Drains of Canada: An Interview with Michael Cook

[Image: The Toronto Power Company Tailrace at Niagara; this and all other photos in this post by Michael Cook].

Michael Cook is a writer, photographer, and urban explorer based in Toronto, where he also runs a website called Vanishing Point.
Despite its subject matter, however, Vanishing Point is more than just another website about urban exploration. Cook's accounts of his journeys into the subterranean civic infrastructure of Canada and northern New York State – and into those regions' warehouses, factories, and crumbling hospitals – often include plans, elevations, and the odd historical photograph showing the sites under construction.
For instance, his fascinating, inside-out look at the Ontario Generating Station comes with far more than just cool pictures of an abandoned hydroelectric complex behind the water at Niagara Falls, and the detailed narratives he's produced about the drains of Hamilton and Toronto are well worth reading in full.
As the present interview makes clear, Cook's interests extend beyond the field of urban exploration to include the ecological consequences of city drainage systems, the literal nature of public space, and the implications of industrial decay for future archaeology – among many other things we barely had time to discuss.
Or, perhaps more accurately phrased, Cook shows that urban exploration has always been about more than just taking pictures of monumentally abstract architectural spaces embedded somewhere in the darkness.

[Image: The Memorial Park Storage Chambers in Toronto's Belt Line Drain; this is architecture as dreamed of by Adolf Loos: shaved of all ornament, exquisitely smooth, functional – while architecture schools were busy teaching Mies van der Rohe, civil engineers were perfecting the Modern movement beneath their feet].

As he writes on Vanishing Point:
    The built environment of the city has always been incomplete, by omission and necessity, and will remain so. Despite the visions of futurists, the work of our planners and cement-layers thankfully remains a fractured and discontinuous whole, an urban field riven with internal margins, pockmarked by decay, underlaid with secret waterways. Stepping outside our prearranged traffic patterns and established destinations, we find a city laced with liminality, with borderlands cutting across its heart and reaching into its sky. We find a thousand vanishing points, each unique, each alive, each pregnant with riches and wonders and time.

    This is a website about exploring some of those spaces, about immersing oneself in stormwater sewers and utility tunnels and abandoned industry, about tapping into the worlds that are embedded in our urban environment yet are decidedly removed from the collective experience of civilized life. This is a website about spaces that exist at the boundaries of modern control, as concessions to the landscape, as the debris left by economic transition, as evidence of the transient nature of our place upon this earth.
In the following conversation with BLDGBLOG, Cook discusses how and where these drains are found; what they sound like; the injuries and infections associated with such explorations; myths of secret systems in other cities; and even a few brief tips for getting inside these hyper-functionalist examples of urban infrastructure. We talk about ecology, hydrology, and industrial archaeology; and we come back more than once to the actual architecture of these spaces.

[Image: "Stairs" by Michael Cook, from the Westview Greenbelt Drain].

• • •

BLDGBLOG: Is there any place in particular that you’re exploring right now?

Michael Cook: I am trying to piece together entrance to a drain here in Toronto. It’s part of a larger system. As part of their efforts to improve Toronto’s water quality on the lake front, the city built this big storage tunnel called the Western Beaches Storage Tunnel. It intercepts and stores overflow from a number of combined sewers, as well as from several storm sewers along the western lake front. I guess this was finished in 2001, but they had various technical issues, with the mechanics of it, so it was only operational this past summer.

But there are three storm sewers, I guess, that are part of this system. One of them is on my site already – Pilgrimage – and then there’s a second one that’s large and possibly worth getting into. It’s just not something I’ve investigated thoroughly, so... I’ll probably go down and look for that.

[Images: (top) "Transition to CMP," from Toronto's Old Ironsides drain; (middle) "Junction with small sidepipe (falling in on the right)" inside Toronto's Graphic Equalizer drain; (bottom) "Backwards junction" in Toronto's Sisters of Mercy drain].

BLDGBLOG: How do you know that the system fits together – that all these storm sewers actually connect up with one another? Are there maps?

Michael Cook: In this case, I have an outfall list that was prepared in the late 80s for portions of Toronto – so I know, from this list, what the size of this storm sewer was at its outfall, before it was intercepted by the new system.

There was also a fair bit of media coverage when the system was being built, because it was a huge expenditure on the part of the city. So we know which combined sewers are part of the system, and I do know where a particular storm sewer is when they intersect – I just don’t necessarily know which residential streets it runs under.

Basically, I have a starting point – and the way I’m going to do this is just go down there on foot and walk around the various residential streets, starting at the lake and moving north. I’ll see if I can find any viable manhole entrances – which involves being by the side of the road or in the sidewalk, where it will be possible to enter and exit safely.

[Image: "Emerging in Wilson Heights," out of Toronto's Depths of Salvation drain].

BLDGBLOG: What do you actually bring with you? Do you have some kind of underground exploration kit? Full of Band-Aids and Advil?

Michael Cook: I have a pair of boots or waders, depending on the circumstances. I’ll also bring one or more headlamps, and a spotlamp, and various other lighting gear – plus a camera and a tripod. That basically sums it up.

I also have a manhole key – that’s basically just a loop of aircraft cable tied onto a bolt at one end and run through a piece of aluminum pipe that serves as a crude handle. Most of the manhole lids around here have between two and twenty square holes in them about an inch wide, and they’re reasonably light. Assuming the lid hasn’t been welded or bolted into the collar of the manhole, it’s relatively quick and painless to use this tool to pull the lid out. It’s only useful for light-weight lids, though. In Montreal, for instance, most of the covers are awkward, heavy affairs that sometimes need two people, each with their own crowbar, to dislodge safely. Real utilities workers use pickaxes – but those aren’t so easily carried in the pocket of a backpack.

[Image: The outfall of Toronto's Old Ironsides drain].

BLDGBLOG: Do you ever run into other people down there?

Michael Cook: That’s never happened to me, actually. It’s just not that popular a pursuit, outside of certain hotspots.

People can accept going into an abandoned building: you might run into someone you don’t want to run into there, or you might find that part of the building’s unstable – but it’s still just a building.

Even people I know who self-identify as urban explorers aren’t at all that interested in undergrounding – especially not in storm drains. A lot of them just don’t see the actual interest. It’s not a detail-rich environment. You can walk six kilometers underground through nearly featureless pipe – and there’s not something to see and photograph every five feet.

[Image: An "A-shaped conduit" in Toronto's Belt Line Drain].

BLDGBLOG: Yet a lot – possibly most – of these drains are already named. Who names them, and how do the names get passed around and agreed on by everyone else?

Michael Cook: With people who drain, one of the first things you pick up is a respect for existing names – and the first person to explore a drain has naming rights over it. People generally respect that. Sometimes we’ll make exceptions – I know I’ve made exceptions a few times – but, ultimately, we depend on other people respecting our names.

It’s at once a completely pointless exercise; but, at the same time, it’s fairly meaningful in terms of having a way of discussing this with other people.

So that’s how it comes up. You then use that name, both offline and online. In Australia, they have a kind of master location list, that they keep within Cave Clan, but here we don’t have that level of organization, or that size of a community. It’s just a matter of publishing stuff on our websites.

That said, sometimes we’ll adopt the official name. This usually happens when we’ve been using that name for awhile before we find a way to actually get inside the system, and this usually comes about with something really big or historically significant. We’ll never rename the Western Beaches Storage Tunnel, for instance, though we call it the “Webster,” colloquially. When I find a way into Toronto’s storied Garrison Creek Sewer, the buried remains of our fabled “lost” creek, it won’t be the subject of renaming either. Those are the exceptions though; most of the time naming is one of the things we do to capture and communicate something of the magic of wading for three hours through a watery, feature-poor concrete tunnel underground.

[Image: (top) "Outfall structure in the West Don Valley," part of Toronto's Depths of Salvation drain; (bottom) The outfall of Toronto's Graphic Equalizer drain].

BLDGBLOG: A lot of these places look like surreal, concrete versions of all the streams and rivers that used to flow through the city. The drains are like a manmade replacement, or prosthetic landscape, that's been installed inside the old one. Does the relationship between these tunnels and the natural waterways that they've replaced interest you at all?

Michael Cook: Oh, definitely – ever since I got into this through exploring creeks.

At their root, most drains are just an abstract version of the watershed that existed before the city. It’s sort of this alternate dimension that you pass into, when you step from the aboveground creek, through the inlet, into the drain – especially once you walk out of the reach of daylight.

Even sanitary sewers often follow the paths of existing or former watersheds, because the grade of the land is already ideal for water flow – fast enough, but not so fast that it erodes the pipe prematurely – and because the floodplains are often unsuitable for other uses.

[Image: "Outfall in winter" at Toronto's Gargantua drain].

BLDGBLOG: How does that affect your attitude toward this, though? Do you find yourself wishing that all these drains could be dismantled, letting the natural landscape return – or, because these sites are so interesting to explore, do you actually wish that there were more of them?

Michael Cook: It’s an awful toll that we’ve taken on the landscape – I’m not one to celebrate all this concrete. If it were conceivable to set it all right, I’d be the first one in line to support that. And the marginal progress being made in terms of environmental engineering – building storm water management alternatives to burial and to large, expensive pipes – is a great step forward; unfortunately, its success so far has been limited.

Ultimately, you just can’t change the fact that we’ve urbanized, and we continue to do so. That comes with a cost that can be managed – but it can’t be eliminated completely.

[Image: Looking out of a spillway at the Ontario Generating Station].

BLDGBLOG: So do you actually have an environmental goal with these photographs? Your explorations are really a form of environmental advocacy?

Michael Cook: Well, I want to find something that goes a bit further than just presenting these photos for their aesthetic value – but, at the same time, turning this into some sort of environmental advocacy platform doesn’t really come to mind, either.

I’m very interested in urban ecology and in the environmental politics that take place in the city – and I’ve done some academic work in that regard – but I’m not really prepared to distill the photography and these adventures into an activist exercise.

[Image: The "spectacular, formerly natural waterfall that the [Chedoke Falls Drain] now feeds," in Hamilton, Ontario].

BLDGBLOG: I’m curious if you’ve ever been injured, or even gotten sick, down there. All that old, stagnant air – and the dust, and the germs – can’t be very good for you!

Michael Cook: I can’t say that I’ve ever gotten sick from it. Sometimes, the day after, you can feel almost hung-over – but I don’t know what that is. It could be dust, or it could be from the amount of moisture you breathe in. But it passes. It may even be an allergy I have.

I haven’t really done any exploration of sanitary sewers – that would be a different story. In Minneapolis/St. Paul they actually have a name for the sickness they sometimes come down with after a particularly intense sewer exploration: Rinker’s Revenge. It’s named after the engineer who designed the systems there. And a colleague caught a bout of giardia recently, which he believes he acquired exploring a section of combined sewer in Montreal.

So, obviously, there are disease risks in doing this, though they’re not as extensive as one might want to imagine.

The only serious situation I’ve ever been in, with a high potential for injury – and I was pretty lucky – was while exploring in Niagara. The surge spillways for the Ontario Generating Station used to carry overflow water from the surge tanks, and those were fed by the intake pipes. So the water would overflow from the intake pipes into the surge tanks, and then drain out through these helical spillways that spiral downwards to the bottom of the gorge. They then outfall in front of the plant into the river.

So we made an attempt to ascend both of these spillways, and we were successful in the first one; but the second one, we found, was more difficult toward the latter stages of the climb. We had to turn back just before reaching the surge tanks. On the way back down I lost my footing – I lost all grip on the surface, it was so steep and so slippery, and it was covered in very fine grit – and I ended up sliding all the way down to the bottom, nearly 200 vertical feet. And I was going at a very high speed by the time I reached the bottom.

I was very lucky to come away from that with just a few friction burns and a sprained thumb.

[Images: A "short drop" in Toronto's beautifully torqued and ovoid Viceroy Drain].

BLDGBLOG: As far as the actual tunnels go, how connected is all this stuff? Is it like a big, underground labyrinth sometimes – or just a bunch of little tunnels that look connected only because of the way that they’ve been photographed?

Michael Cook: Well, most of the drainage systems I’ve been in are pretty linear. You have a main trunk conduit, and then sometimes you’ll get significant side pipes that are worth exploring. But as far as actual maze-quality features go, it’s pretty rare to find systems like that – at least in Ontario and most places in Canada. It requires a very specific geography and a sort of time line of development for the drains.

You might end up with a lot of side overflows and other things, which makes the system more complicated, if the drain has several different places where it overflows into a surface body of water – or if there’s a structure that allows one pipe to flow into another at excess capacity. That sort of thing allows for more complicated systems – but most of the time it doesn’t happen.

You can still spend hours in some of these drains, though, because of how long they are. And sometimes that makes for a fairly uninteresting experience: drains can be pretty featureless for most of their length.

[Images: Four glimpses of the vaulted topologies installed inside the Earth at Niagara's William Birch Rankine Hydroelectric Tailrace].

BLDGBLOG: Are the drains up there mostly poured concrete, or are they made of brick?

Michael Cook: We have recently opened up our first significant brick sewer in Toronto – The Skin of a Lion – which is built from yellow brick and would probably date to around the turn of the last century. So there are a few locations where you can find brick, but most are concrete.

[Images: (top) Leaving the William Birch Rankine Hydroelectric Tailrace, Niagara Falls; (bottom) Tailrace outlet, William B. Rankine Generating Station].

BLDGBLOG: Does that affect what the drains sound like, as far as echoes and reverb go? What sort of noises do you hear?

Michael Cook: I’d say that every drain is acoustically unique. Each has its own resonance points – and even different sections of the drain will resonate differently, based on where the next curve is, or the next room. It all shifts. I often explore that aspect a bit – probably to the annoyance of some of my colleagues. I’ll make noises, or hum. Even sing.

As far as environmental noises, the biggest thing is that, if there’s a rail line nearby, or a public transit line, you often get that noise coming back through the drain to wherever you are. It’s very frightening when you first hear it, till you figure out what it is – this rushing noise. It’s not a wall of water. [laughs]

But the most common recurring noise is the sound of cars driving over manhole covers – which gives you an idea of which covers you don’t want to exit through. It also helps you keep track of the distance, and where you are – that sort of thing.

[Image: "Transitions" inside the Duncan's Got Wood sewer, Toronto].

BLDGBLOG: What kind of legal issues are involved here – like trespassing, or even loitering? Do you have to go out at 2am, dressed like an official city worker, or wear a hood or anything like that?

Michael Cook: For draining, the legal issues are pretty grey. After all, you’re on public property the entire time – so the risk of a serious trespassing fine is a lot lower. There’s no private security company looking out for you, and there’s no private property owner who’s going to be irate if you’re found inside his building. It’s a municipal waterway – it just happens to run underground. A lot of times the outfalls aren’t even posted with notices telling you to stay out.

Now, some people have been given fines for trespassing – for having been inside drains in Ontario – but these have been for pretty minor sums of money. It’s not something that I’ve ever had a problem with – and definitely not something that requires me to go in the middle of the night.

The only thing that really dictates what time you can go is traffic conditions. If you have to use a street-side manhole, you generally don’t want to be doing that doing the day.

[Image: "Deep inside the century-old wheelpit that is the beginning of the Rankine Generating Station Tailrace" (view bigger)].

BLDGBLOG: Within Toronto itself, are you still finding new drains, or is the city pretty much exhausted by now?

Michael Cook: We are still finding new tunnels beneath Toronto, and we’re on the trail of others that we know about but just haven’t discovered access to yet. There are also still a few underground gems in Hamilton that haven’t been seen by anyone except municipal workers and a handful of journalists. These days though, Montreal and Vancouver are emerging hotbeds for new sewer and drainage finds in Canada, thanks to explorers in those cities.

When Siologen came over here he found a whole bunch of new drain systems in Toronto – systems nobody else knew about. He had the time and the inclination to go and scout out a whole lot of stuff that I’d never gotten around to doing.

BLDGBLOG: How’d he do that?

Michael Cook: Basically by riding all the buses. That, and looking at a lot of little creek systems, and searching around for manholes – all of that.

But there are people who happen to read in the paper about some new tunnel project, or whatever, and so they pass that on to people who do this sort of thing. Outside of that, I don’t really know what to say. I guess some people have even found stuff after it’s been featured in skateboarding magazines.

BLDGBLOG: [laughs]

Michael Cook: Some of the largest pipe in the world is used as spillways for hydroelectric projects – big dams and that sort of thing – and usually the first people who find out about this stuff are skateboarders. Usually they try to keep the locations pretty quiet – just as we do. But I’m sure that, at least once or twice, some tunnel explorer has found out about a system through the skateboarding community.

[Image: Ottawa's Governor General's Drain].

BLDGBLOG: I’m also curious if there’s some huge, mythic system out there that you’ve heard about but haven’t visited yet, or even just an urban legend about some tunnels that may not actually be real – secret government bunkers in London, for instance.

Michael Cook: I guess the most fabled tunnel system in North America is the one that supposedly runs beneath old Victoria, British Columbia. It’s supposedly connected with Satanic activity or Masonic activity in the city, and there’s been a lot of strange stuff written about that. But no one’s found the great big Satanic system where they make all the sacrifices.

You know, these legends are really... there’s always some sort of fact behind them. How they come about and what sort of meaning they have for the community is what’s really interesting. So while I can poke fun at them, I actually appreciate their value – and, certainly, these sort of things are rumored in a lot of cities, not just Victoria. They’re in the back consciousness of a lot of cities in North America.

[Image: "Looking into the bottom of the William B. Rankine G.S. wheelpit from the Rankine tailrace"].

BLDGBLOG: Is there some system – a real system – that you’re really dying to explore?

Michael Cook: If I had unlimited funds, I’d really like to make a trip to South America and see some of the underground workings beneath Rio and São Paulo and Montevideo; and I want to go to Africa for a lot reasons but, obviously, it would also be really neat to see what’s built under some of the larger cities in Africa. It’s a place of real cleavages between modern development and the complete impossibility of expanding that development to the entire population. So great sums of money have been wasted on huge highway projects and huge downtown core projects that were completely unnecessary for anything other than creating the semblance of a modern city – but, undoubtedly, there’s subterranean infrastructure connected to all of it.

BLDGBLOG: As well as abandoned pieces of infrastructure just sitting up there on the surface – unused highway overpasses and derelict stadiums and things like that.

Michael Cook: Definitely. And huge mine workings, as well, in certain parts of Africa, that have been shut down.

[Image: Inside a distributor tunnel at the Ontario Generating Station drain; meanwhile, I can't help but imagine what it'd be like if architects began building hotel lobbies like this: you check into your boutique hotel in London – and nearly pass out in awe...].

BLDGBLOG: Meanwhile, urban exploration seems to be getting a lot of media attention these days – this interview included. How do you feel when you see articles in The New York Times about people exploring tunnels and drains?

Michael Cook: The problem I have with general interest reporting is that it almost invariably becomes, you know: look at this, isn’t this weird. Because that’s the easiest way of presenting what we do. It’s not about anything else – it’s entertainment.

So I’ve never really been interested in taking part in articles like that. They happen all the time in various places around the continent. Somewhere, there’s always a reporter who needs to file a story this week, or this month, and so they find an urban exploration site on the internet and they think, hey, that’s a great thing to write about, and then I can fill my quota. It’s not even that what they’re going to write is false or misleading, but it ultimately presents an incomplete and slightly cheapening image of what we do – and, in the end, it doesn’t really accomplish that much.

I think what I’m getting at is that the format of the newspaper article or the television news feature ultimately waters all this down and forces it into a specific block – that, while true of a certain segment of urban exploration, isn’t really representative of the whole. It has the effect of pigeon-holing the whole endeavor in a way.

[Images: Disused hydroelectric machinery: top/bottom].

BLDGBLOG: That implies that there’s a way of looking at all this that you think needs more exposure. What parts of urban exploration should the media actually be covering?

Michael Cook: I think, even among explorers, that we don’t pay enough attention to process. I think every piece of infrastructure – every building – is on a trajectory, and you’re experiencing it at just one moment in its very extended life.

We see things, but we don’t often ask how they came about or where they’re going to go from here – whether there will be structural deterioration, or if living things will colonize the structure. We tend to ignore these things, or to see them in temporal isolation. We also don’t give enough time or consideration to how this infrastructure fits into the broader urban fabric, within the history of a city, and where that city’s going, and whose lives have been affected by it and whatever may happen to it in the future. I think these are all stories that really need to start being told.

Which is something I’m starting on. It’s just not something that necessarily comes naturally. It requires a lot of work, and a lot of thought while you’re on-site – which maybe you’re not really inclined to do, because you’re too busy paying attention to the immediate, sublime nature of the experience.

But the basic linear photo gallery really bores me at this point – especially when you’re seeing basically the same photos, just taken inside different buildings. It has no real, lasting value. A lot of people have fallen into that trap, and a lot of people defend that – saying that they’re making art or whatever, or that it’s just for their own personal interest.

BLDGBLOG: So it’s a matter of paying attention both to the site’s history and to how your own documentation of that site will someday be used as history.

Michael Cook: If you decide to take a purely historical approach to it, though, I think the real question is: are these photos of asylum hallways and drainage tunnels ultimately going to be useful to anyone else at some point in the future? And the answer is probably not. Probably we’re photographing the wrong things for that.

Some architect or materials historian is going to be cursing us for photographing some things and not others, or for not taking a close-up of something – or for not writing down any supplementary information at all to help them identify this stuff.

So that historical angle, to justify some of the stuff we’re doing, falls down on further analysis.

[Image: Abandoned cash registers].

BLDGBLOG: It’s like bad archaeology.

Michael Cook: What’s that?

BLDGBLOG: It’s like bad archaeology.

Michael Cook: Yeah, basically. It’s like we’re just digging things up and not paying attention to where they were placed, or what they were next to, or who might have put it there.

Ultimately, we need some sort of framework, and to put more effort into additional information beside just taking a photo. That doesn’t necessarily mean publishing all that information so that everyone can see it – but just telling stories in other ways, and creating narratives about the places and the things that we’re seeing.

Otherwise, these are just postcard shots. We’re taking postcard shots of the sublime.

[Image: Inside The Skin of a Lion, Toronto].

• • •

While we were editing the transcript for publication, Michael wrote:
    I got into the storm sewer I mentioned [at the beginning of the interview], shortly after talking to you. It’s now on the site as Sisters of Mercy. Similar to Pilgrimage, it ends in a siphon, rather than a traversable passage into the Western Beaches Storage Tunnel, which I'm still working on finding. We've started exploring combined sewers as well here – so that opens up some other options.
    In the end, the access I found was directly above where the siphon begins, quite close to the lake.
So the explorations continue.
With a big thanks to Michael Cook for having this conversation – and for maintaining such a great website.

[Image: The "Three Musketeers" standing inside Toronto's Westview Greenbelt Drain; Michael Cook is the one on the right; one of the other two is Siologen].

For a few more images, meanwhile, feel free to check out the Flickr set for this interview (although all of those images can be found at Vanishing Point – in particular, stop by the Daily Underground).

(More underground worlds and urban exploration on BLDGBLOG: Urban Knot Theory, London Topological, Derinkuyu, or: the allure of the underground city, Beneath the Neon, Valvescape, Subterranean bunker-cities, and Tunnels, mines, and the "upwardly migrating void").

Minggu, 26 Agustus 2007

0 Finding a Healthier Lifestyle - Committing to Change

Everyone wants to live a healthier lifestyle and everyone wants to look better in their swimsuit. However, many people don't know where to begin or what questions to ask.

Six months ago I was in that very position with not a clue as to what I should do to lose weight. Today I have lost 40 pounds working out only five hours of every week and the weight is still going down, despite the fact that my occupation as a student and web developer is largely sedentary.

I am eating healthier, I look great, I am much stronger, and I am in better shape now than when I played football in high school.

Here are the steps I took to begin rebuilding my lifestyle:
  • Acknowledge Self Destructive Behaviors: One night I went out with a handful of my college friends and drink beer at a popular bar in Nashville. By the end of the night I had put away two pieces of pizza and seven pints of thick German beer. If that had been the first time I had splurged on food and drink I wouldn't have thought anything of it, but it wasn't. The following day I thought about why I let myself go at the bar, and it hit me: when I'm with my friends, I drink and when I drink, I eat. But that wasn't the only thing I was doing wrong. Here are some other troubling behaviors that I recognized:

    • I was always "too busy" to take the time to exercise

    • I was always "too busy" to prepare my own healthier meals

    • I didn't eat salads, fruit, or whole grain bread because I liked how cheese burgers, potato chips, and white bread tasted better

    • I ate whatever I wanted without regard to the toll it took on my body

    After honest introspection I found the causes of my problems. The thing is, these patterns of self behavior all boil down to a few simple causes:

    • social pressure to eat and drink in excess

    • time pressure to skip exercise

    • time pressure to skip preparing my own meals

    • personal preference for unhealthy food

    • ambivalence to my own health

  • So take the first step, take a moment to think about your daily routines and identify some of your habits and behaviors that create problems for your self image. Make a list of your bad habits or even the pressures that force you into those habits. This will help you identify which areas of your lifestyle need to change.

  • Realize the Succumbing to these Pressures is a Choice: One of the most influential books I have ever read is Stephen R. Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and the first thing I thought about after my introspection was a little theme from the book, which I'm going to paraphrase:
    Every thing in your life affects you only in the way that you choose to let it affect you.
    Many people, myself included, feel that they are unable to escape their self-destructive behaviors because society compels them not to through various pressures imposed upon them. This is false.

    To quote The Seven Habits directly:
    "People who exercise their embryonic freedom day after day, little by little, expand that freedom. People who do not will find that it withers until they are literally 'being lived.' They are acting out scripts written by parents, associates, and society."
    The choice I made was to recognize that I was being 'lived' by the pressures I had mentally placed upon myself. This was the most important and crucial discovery I made, and it is what has empowered me to be a healthier, more confident, and a more successful man.

    From this point onward, accept that in your previous lifestyle you choose to let these pressures live your life, and commit that from now on, you and you alone decide what will and will not affect you. Commit to embracing and expanding your embryonic freedom everyday.

  • Resolve to Change and Commit: Once you acknowledge that you have the power to be proactive and improve your lifestyle, you have to commit to changing yourself. The best way to create a moral foundation for your new lifestyle is to write down your goals and your commitments.

    Here is my list, which I keep on my cellphone so I can look at it whenever I think I may waiver:

    • I resolve to make my health, fitness, and happiness my first priorities, above my school work, above my career, and above my social life.

    • I resolve to be strong enough to resist the temptation to drink beer and alcohol in excess, even in the company of my greatest friends and loved ones.

    • I resolve to exercise frequently during the week, regardless of the amount of work I have to do and regardless of other time commitments. I commit to making time to exercise.

    • I resolve to overcome to resist the temptation for quick and easy meals; instead I commit to eat what is best for my body and I will eat it in moderation.

    • I resolve to understand my body's needs and to maintain it with utmost care.

    I highly recommend that you make a list like this yourself and keep it with you. Reading these words has helped me through many times when I felt like giving up. Make your own list, and read it when hard times arrive.

  • Prepare to be Self-Motivated: A lot of your friends, especially if they are also out of shape, may try to talk you out of changing your life simply because they are afraid to do it themselves and don't want to be left behind. Perhaps your friends will make fun of you for being the only guy eating a salad when all of them eat steak or burgers when you go out for dinner. Your own mother may tell you that you "look fine" even though you don't feel "fine."

    While most of your friends and family will likely be supportive, you have to rely on your inner strength and resolve to work through something as drastic as a lifestyle change. So you have to do two things:

    • Live without constant positive reinforcement from genuinely supportive friends and family; it will not always be there when you need it, so learn to stay motivated without it.

    • Ignore negative or discouraging thoughts, comments, and remarks; people who tell you that you can't do something are wrong and should be ignored. If you succumb to negative influence and lose your motivation then you will never be able to achieve the lifestyle changes you want.

    By no means should you ignore your friends or family, but you need to remember that what you want and what you think matters more than what anyone else thinks of you. YOU are the only one who has the power to change yourself. You have to motivate yourself to stay involved.
Now you have the moral foundation you'll need for the long road ahead by identifying the pressures that produced your current lifestyle, you've recognized that you have the power to choose not to be affected by those pressures. You've made your list of resolutions and commitments, and you've chosen to rely on yourself to get through the changes. You are ready to take the first step in a long journey towards self improvement.

Next week we'll discuss making the first cuts: initial diet, daily routine, and exercise improvements.

This post's author is Aaronontheweb and he blogs about ASP.NET, Web 2.0 Development, Online Marketing, and Online Business at AjaxNinja. His most recent article is Blogging for Business: Blogs are not just a fad.

Sabtu, 25 Agustus 2007

0 Becoming a shopaholic


I cannot resist the happiness that money can buy!

Due to my late hours, my shopping always used to be limited to just the rare occasions when I actually wake up and bother to go out in time before the shops all close.

HOWEVER, recently a very horrible (but still rather pleasing) event has just occurred in my life, and I'm telling you, this event is the one to blame for the lack of blogging recently.

Speaking of reasons for lack of blogging, I'm sure some of you have seen some photos on my friends' blogs about my new amazingly pink princess room, but I'm not ready to show photos yet!!

Must wait! Right now, I have not started painting it pink (stripes) yet, and the giant mirror still has to be mounted, encircled with pink fur, and blah blah blah.

A lot of work lar!!!!!!

I shall only show you guys when it is completely ready. :D

So yeah, I was saying... this recent activity of mine that has been keeping me from blogging...



WHY WHY WHY EBAY? Why you choose May and Choy as your ambassadors?! You must choose me mah! I am like (albeit only recently) ebay's biggest fan can?!

(No, ebay is not paying me to write this)

It all started when I saw Hayden Patteritte (or however to spell her name, I can't be bothered to go check) on TV show Heroes using the Juicy Couture Sidekick phone.

Even comes with its own chio pouch... kuakua...

Ok, so it's seriously gorgeous, and for a period of time, it was like the ONLY THING I EVER DESIRED.

Kelvin conveniently told me to try ebay - which, to be frank, I never used to trust because the Singaporean ebayers have blah items, and I didn't trust the overseas sellers with my money.

But desperate desires call for desperate measures, right?

So I went on International ebay to see if I can find this fabulous piece of calling machine.

And Voila, like 9 people were selling their Juicy phones!

Just before I bid, however, a forum I read said that the sidekick has to not only be unlocked for use in Singapore, but if successfully unlocked (which is unlikely because you need some code from T-mobile, a selfish US phone line provider), most of the functions will not even work.

What's the point of that bigass phone if I cannot email or IM on it?

I gave up on the phone, but it did not stop me from scratching out the word "phone" and just typing in "Juicy Couture".

What I saw almost killed me. Or my bank account, rather.


Being not available in Singapore (except for a puny counter in tangs selling only watches at a ridiculous price - what's your point, little counter, huh? Selling to leprechauns?), it really stunned me how gorgeous their products can be!!


Call me sua ku, but besides bags, tracksuits, shoes, socks, underwear and accessories, they even have travel packs and school supplies and laptop sleeves (which they proudly proclaim "Couture Computer") ok!


Well, those I can't afford, but there are a lot of other products that are at really good prices, and the items are all brand new!

Shipping, however, usually costs from $25 to $40(!) sing.


But worth it what, some things just cannot be found in Singapore.

I'm beginning to think that shopping here is really lousy.

These are the things I bought so far, in Singapore dollars (all brand new and authentic unless otherwise stated):

Juicy Couture top
$41.60 - with shipping $74.63

I cannot resist things that are baby pink and terry cloth combined.

I just can't. The Juicy people know my weakness....

Born in the Glamourous USA!!!

Juicy Couture Straw tote
$66.50, plus shipping $95.81

This bag was lightly used, but still, I like it so much! Just hope the chick who used it is not a gross person. Or dead. Or a diseased whore. Arghhh! Stop it.

There was another seller selling the brand new one for like $200, but the deal I've got seems much better. :)

Box of Fafi postcards
$13.60, with shipping $20

I love Fafi! It's really hard to find Fafi products, and I was thinking of painting Fafi on my wall (some of you might not know, but I'm pretty talented in drawing) so these cards would act as a guide. :)

Quidditch through the ages
$5.60 (kuakua so cheap), plus shipping $11.70

HARRY POTTER MANIA! I don't think Singapore sells this book, and plus, this is a true-blue Great Britain first edition!

Digressing, I was looking at random Harry Potter auctions, and some of the first edition signed copies of Rowling's books are going for as high as $10,000!!


I looked at those people bidding so much for a book, and it just struck me how sweet it is to look at all these anonymous ebayers, who, like me, love Harry Potter so much and I dunno, I got so moved, I actually cried.

I know, so stupid. But Harry Potter is so so so fantastic... Oh, Snape... Ok I'm gonna start crying again. To happier things!

Baby Phat halter dress
$40, plus shipping $66

With "Baby Phat" in cursive gold letters

Baby Phat products are really gorgeous too and they are not available in Singapore as well!

And baby pink + terry? Sigh... The dress hasn't arrived yet but I hope it fits.

Victoria's Secret Angel tote
$21 total

This is the only thing I bought from a local seller. I've been wanting a clear bag for some time now, all the better to show off my sparkly gadgets with. HAHAHA!

Juicy Couture Starlet Bag
$86 (really a steal compared to original price), plus shipping $110.

Don't think I have to say anything about this. The words say "Juicy Girl's Club" and "Juicy girl next door". Perfect for a casual day out in jeans. :D

z22 Palm PDA
$81, plus shipping $129

I've been looking for a nice looking and small palmtop in Singapore to no avail, but found this on ebay!

The bids started from $0.01 and went up to $81 - which I won. So so so happy!

Now it's diamante-encrusted (pics later) and helps me keep my appointments, which I kept forgetting, much to the anger of many people. Sorry lar!

Playboy satin jacket
$56, plus shipping $74

Playboy products are also very cute but unavailable in Singapore! This jacket is quilted all over and is satin grey and baby pink!


Juicy Couture wallet
$54, plus shipping $89

I love it soooooo much! :)

Juicy couture tracksuit (Model not included)
$80, plus shipping $106

Perfect for those late night supper sessions, or to fly to exotic countries in! Softest terry, J zip puller, with sweet pink eyelet lace on the sleeve-ends! =D

And perhaps the most absurd steal of all...

$0.01, plus shipping $40

Ridiculous or not you tell me?! I dunno how the seller can manage to earn back his cost lor!

The iron works FANTASTICALLY (ceramic-coated negative ions technology blah blah) and is a awfully cute shade of pink!


And even with shipping, $40 for hair iron is very cheap lor. HAPPY!!

My guilty splurge...

Juicy Couture watch
$312, plus shipping $330

It's so ex leh, but the authentic ones (I saw at Tangs) can go up to $1,000 plus!!! Madness.

And I really, really like this. Sigh... I'm becoming a shopaholic with no sense of control.

I'm sorry if you guys are bored with my shopping products, but I HAVE TO SHARE ALL THESE WITH PEOPLE!!!

I am also gonna buy...

Shoes! Ebay shoes are so cheap, all the starting bids are like $15! I just don't know if I should get size 5 or 6 (US the size is different one, our 5 seems to be their 6), must wait for the sellers to get back to me.

Ok ok, enough of shopping! My point is just that ebay is fantastic and they should endorse me!!! Hehe... I just love winning a bid - fighting with somebody else and finally wrenching the item from some disappointed chick's hands is AWESOME!


For those of you who liked Girls Out Loud, there is virtually no hope for a season 2 (apparently people wrote in to MCS to say I am racist blah blah and that the show is promoting wrong values such as plastic surgery and exotic dancing *rolls eyes* - and Mediacorp takes such dickheads' opinions very seriously)...

But I'm pleased to announce a slightly similar substitute of it... except without my fantastic co-host Rozz.

Munkysuperstar is now producing XIAXUE'S GUIDE TO LIFE - a lifestyle program of me talking and doing nonsense!!

"Wanna learn how to make money doing nothing? How to find true love? How to lose weight without exercising? Xiaxue shows you how with practical and definitive advice! But don't take her too seriously; it probably won't work for most of you."

Fortunately for me, whenever I talk and do nonsense people seem to find it amusing, thus, a show is born!

The first ep is available here:

Getting my first tattoo!
Does it hurt?
How does the procedure go?
Check it out yourself. :)

Nope, it won't be on TV, but isn't it better to see it online where you can hear all my vulgarities loud and clear - anytime you want?!



P/s: Hairspray is fucking fantastic. I swear, everytime that Zac Efron comes to the screen and does his wink or "And I'm... Link..." thingy, THE WHOLE CINEMA SWOONS. Did anyone else notice this phenomenon too? A swooning cinema? I swear it's damn amazing, even Brad Pitt doesn't get such responses.

Alot of good shows recently ah!! I also liked 881, Evan Almighty (so many cute animals) and I can already predict I will love Ratatouille. Yeah la maybe I spelt it wrong, but the time I still cared about people commenting on my English has long passed! Can't be bothered!

I blogged this post for 5 hours straight, and I am finally joining poor Mike in bed at 6.30am. -_-
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