Plant-Based – the urge to watch videos

The last time I ate plant-based I spent a lot of time watching vegan and plant-based documentaries and youtube videos. It was my main connection to other plant-based eaters, since no one I know is plant-based. After a while I stopped watching, having absorbed about as much information as I needed.

But it’s been awhile so I started again. The first documentary I saw was called The Marshall Plan. The whole movie is free on youtube. It’s a documentary about the town of Marshall, TX that embraced plant-based after its mayor had success using this way of eating to treat his prostate cancer. It’s an amazing story. But not necessarily a great documentary.

A lot of “documentaries” are really sales pitches, rather than unbiased, unvarnished examinations of the dietary evidence. One of the things that irked me about The Marshall Plan was the splicing of Rich Roll interview clips among clips of Marshall residents, which made it seem he was a resident as well. Rich Roll is a well-known podcaster and plant-based speaker. Maybe he’s been to Marshall, TX, since they often invite speakers. But he’s not a resident, he’s from Los Angeles, and he started his plant-based diet well before the mayor’s plant-based initiatives. But if you don’t mind the fact that it’s a little amateurish and not unbiased, The Marshall Plan tells an interesting story.

I also watched a speech on youtube by Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller) that he gave to Google. He wrote a book about his 110 lb weight loss by adopting a version of plant-based diet. He talked about how moderation and portion-control don’t work for most people. I completely agree. In fact, about 10 years ago I lost weight following a portion-control plan from Walter Willett of Harvard Medical. I lost weight but was hungry every minute of every day. I don’t think any weight loss plan can be successful if you need to constantly battle your own body. In fact, portion-control is such a terrible way to live that it makes me wonder if those that recommend it are serious, or are just trying to induce people to give up the attempt to get thin.

Penn also said that people who lose weight fast tend to keep it off longer. My personal experience is that whenever I dieted I lost weight fast. I also gained it back fast when I stopped. Maybe it’s true for other people, but the speed of weight loss hasn’t had any effect on whether I stick to the plan.

He also said that it’s easier for people to make a major change in their diet than a small one. I completely agree with that. One of the objections my family had originally was that the plant-based way of eating was too radical. But that was what allowed me to completely break from the unhealthy diet I’d been on. Going back to it now is like slipping on an old coat that fits me perfectly. There is nothing “radical” about it to me now, but only because I spent 2.5 years doing it before.

When Penn did the video he’d been 17 months on the plan and said he still felt great. I remember feeling the same way. I quickly got used to being thin with no health issues. But it took a long time to get used to feeling good.

Looking forward to it again. Hopefully only another few months away.



Back to Plant Based (again, again)

I’ve said this twice before, but I am back to Plant Based again. I was a successful whole-food plant-based person for 2.5 years, having lost 60 lbs and regained my natural weight and my health. Then, like an idiot, I went back to eating the old way almost 2 years ago. I regained all the weight, although strangely not the health issues. I made an attempt at going back to plant-based twice before, but it didn’t last.

So what’s the difference this time. For one thing, I have stuck with it for 3 weeks. Not a lot, but longer than the last 2 times. For another, I really am committed to it. About the only things I am doing different this time is I plan to be a little less strict. If there is nothing compliant to eat a restaurant, screw it. I’ll just eat the best thing I can find.

My family took it in stride. No one said to me “you are getting too fat, go back on the diet” and no has said “oh no, not the plant-based crap again.” They’ve said nothing, other than when we go out to eat. When we choose a place they say “but what are YOU going to eat?”, even though I always tell them not to concern themselves with my diet.

The reason I gave it up after 2.5 years was that I was sick of being alone. I hated eating different meals than everyone else, hated how hard it was to find food I could eat at restaurants, hated people making a fuss over me or going to extra trouble at family gatherings. It was easy to SAY “I don’t care. I am slim and healthy and that’s all that matters.”, but in the end it’s NOT all that matters.

And that hasn’t changed. What’s different is I am sick of being overweight. My clothes hurt again, and either I go up another size or I lose weight. The only thing I know that works is plant-based. It’s the only way of eating I’ve ever done that doesn’t leave me hungry, and consists of lots of food I like to eat.

The funny thing is I didn’t give up eating plant-based because I needed/wanted to eat meat again. It tastes good I guess, but I don’t crave it and I didn’t miss it much. I don’t like cheese other than mozzarella, so it’s not something I miss on this plan.

The effect of going back to plant-based has been the same as the first time. I felt better right away. Removing a lot of the salt from my diet meant I lost water weight immediately. I am not weighing myself so I don’t know what I started at or what I weigh now. But my clothes fit a lot better than before, after only 3 weeks.

In terms of food shopping and preparation I feel like I never stopped. It’s nothing new to me, I did it for 2.5 years. I know what I like and what I don’t. As long as a eat a variety of different things it doesn’t matter if I avoid stuff I hate, like kale or sweet potatoes, and eat bok choi and white potatoes instead.

So, what about the future? At some point, probably 5 months from now, I will have regained my weight – about 150lbs. What then? Will I stick to it or not? I can’t say. I was foolish for stating “This is my way of eating now” the last time.

I’ll just do the best I can. At least I know this works. All I have to do is stick with it and I’ll be fine.


No surprise – Chevy Bolt is not selling well

When the Bolt was first released I wondered why anyone would buy one.

Well, it’s been 6 months and Chevy has sold a whopping 7,600 of them, and has shut the factory that makes the Bolt and the Sonic.

Meanwhile, Tesla is about the start shipping the Model 3. The Model 3 sells for the same price as the Bolt, gets about the same miles-per-charge, but looks fantastic and is a state of the art vehicle. As of May 2016 Tesla said they received pre-orders for 373,000 cars. I think they took a $1,000 deposit per pre-order.

Even if half the pre-orders never materialize, that’s still an astounding 186,000 Teslas vs. only 7,600 Chevys. It makes sense to assume all the early adopters interested in the Bolt already bought theirs. The outlook for Chevy selling many Bolts is grim.

This isn’t hard to understand. If GM were going to sell a new state-of-the-art car, assigning it to their bottom-of-the-barrel division was stupid. A BMW or Mercedes or Audi buyer would not get a Chevy. But they would certainly consider a Tesla. It’s not just status – if you compare the cars, the Bolt is clearly the ugly step sister. Given that they cost the same, the choice couldn’t be clearer.

I don’t know whether to be happy about this or not. On the one hand it’s good that Chevy failed with the Bolt, because other car companies need to know not to devote resources if you don’t have a clue what will sell and what won’t. But on the other hand I want cars made better, and Chevy’s failures with the Volt, and now the Bolt, may suppress development of updated technology. Car companies don’t want to emulate Chevy and may be unwilling to risk failure by taking a leading role.

I guess the bottom line is this – if you are a car company and can’t figure out what a good car is, then get out of the business.



Moto Z2 Play – barrel distortion

Update: In actual use, zooming in to eliminate the barrel distortion is not practical. I find that it’s helpful to keep the phone vertical when I take a picture, rather than tilt it. I noticed that my wife’s iphone 6S has similar distortion when I tilt the phone to take a picture, so it may have been unfair to ding the Z2 Play for this.

So far I like the phone. It’s light, thin, fast, has a nice screen, and I really can’t think of a single negative.

Original review:

Just replaced my old Samsung Note 2 with a new Moto Z2 Play. The phone is terrific, and a big improvement over my old phone in almost ever regard. The screen is bright and sharp, the web and all the functions are speedy. Overall I am very happy with it so far.

But I wanted to discuss a weird “feature”. The camera has has a single lens. It’s wide-angle, which means it shows more of what you’re pointing your camera at. It has a wider angle than my old Samsung, and wider than my Ipad.

The problem with wide-angle lenses is they are prone to barrel distortion. Barrel distortion causes the outer edges of the image to distort (stretch and flatten). So, if you take a picture of someone blowing out a candle, surrounded by family, the birthday person is likely to look fine, but the family members around them may look like they have misshapen heads.

There are ways to use this effect to make a picture interesting. A classic one is a surfer on a wave – the surfer is undistorted, but the water around him curves. But for pictures of people, the effect is terrible.

I’ve found two ways to mitigate the effect while taking a picture. 1) Use landscape mode. That way you maximize the amount of undistorted area in the middle. 2) Use the digital zoom and move back to capture the entire image. By zooming, you cut out the distorted areas of the image. The camera is capable of shooting 12 megapixel images, so even if you crop half of that to get rid of distortion you still have a large 6 megapixel image left.

You can also correct distortion after the fact if you have photo editing software with a lens correction feature. I use Lightroom, which fixes it easily. I corrected portrait mode pictures with a distortion setting of -25. For landscape pictures I just cropped out the edges.

Otherwise the camera focuses fast and the colors are fine. The images are a little over-contrasted. The camera has some “professional” settings that let you manually adjust exposure, focus, ISO, shutter speed and white balance. None of the settings help with barrel distortion though.

This phone is not Moto’s flagship phone, but I don’t think the barrel distortion is related to cost savings. I think Moto just made the wrong choice when they decided to opt for a wide-angle lens.

Other than the distortion issue, which appears to be correctable, the rest of the phone is great. I am glad I have it and will keep it despite the camera.

Ring Video Doorbell – a positive review for a change

I have written several critical reviews of the Ring Video Doorbell, particularly regarding the motion sensor, which detects motion far away regardless of the settings I choose on the app. Having the device save hundreds of videos of trucks going by 50 feet from my house was an annoyance, so I discontinued the $30 cloud video service, and just use the doorbell as a video doorbell/intercom.

Since I don’t capture video in the cloud, and I have the motion sensor alert turned off, the device effectively functions as if it has no motion sensor. And it works just fine. By limiting the device to it’s strengths I am very happy with it.

I still wouldn’t consider it a security device, but as a video intercom that is functional from home or away from home, it works great. I can see my callers, talk to them over the device and send them away if I choose, whether I am at work, in the car or at home.

I have the original version of the doorbell, not the new one and not the Pro. Based on reviews, I hear the Pro has a superior motion sensor that might solve the problems I had with my version. However, the Pro needs more power than a typical doorbell, so I might need to replace the transformer in the wall (assuming I can find it).

For now I am happy with the doorbell as it is.

Lately when delivery people ring the bell, they often ask “are you home” when I respond. I suppose these devices are becoming commonplace. For $200, if you think of it as a superior way to answer callers at your door, it’s probably worth it.