Monday, January 28, 2013

3 Things You Should Never Put in Your Sink

Three things to never ever put in the sink are:

  1. Knives. I've mentioned my one kitchen rule before: Don't put knives in the sink! To summarize, if you put a knife in the sink, it may be covered by water, soap suds, or other dishes, which obscure in from view so that an unsuspected soul who reaches into the sink may lose a finger. Also, knife blades can get banged out of shape by a stainless steel sink and all the crap put into it.
  2. Wood cutting boards. Wood cutting boards should never be submerged in water. It ruins them. Clean a wood cutting board by quickly sudsing it under running hot water, and then dry it immediately and thoroughly. 
  3. Cast iron. One of the quickest ways to ruin cast iron is to expose it to water. Most cast iron can be cleaned by wiping out the grease and gunk with a paper towel, or by burning off any crud (which causes excessive smoke, but occasionally needs to be done). Some people recommend cleaning the interior with salt. Whatever you do, never put any cast iron pan or skillet into a sink, where it's always inevitably wet. And please for the love of all things good in this world, never let water stand in a cast iron pan, whether it's in the sink or elsewhere.
Instead, leave your cutting board next to the sink with your knives resting on top of it until you're ready to wash them. Leave your cast iron pan on the range top until you can wipe out the grease and gunk with a towel.

Take care of your things, and they will last longer and work properly.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What to Eat and Drink When You're Sick

I'm sick. I rarely get sick. Four weeks ago, I went through an extraordinarily stressful couple of days, and I came out on the other side with a stuffed up head and some breathing problems. It took about a week to kick, but I didn't feel too terrible. I still managed to swim at the gym and hang out in the steam room, which was the most therapeutic thing I did for both my stress and lungs, as well as accomplish basic chores around the house and go to work.

Now, the same thing is back, but I feel really run down this time. I set in fully today. Even walking the dog was a struggle. I got up off the couch a few times to try and get some housework done and had to sit back down, exhausted, almost immediately.

It's evening now, and I'm already starting to feel a bit better. Drinking glass after glass of room temperature carbonated water with lemon and a pinch of ground red pepper (cayenne) seems to be helping. A friend recommended something similar but made into a hot tea of ginger, lemon, cayenne, and sugar substitute.

Of course, another friend or two suggested a hot toddy with ginger, or just adding bourbon to the ginger-lemon tea.

My lunch made me feel better, too, a packet of soup mix (I was out of broth and stock, which I usually keep in the freezer) or broth loaded with fresh chopped onions, cilantro, and jalapeño.

Three weeks ago when I was barely done fighting off the stuffy nose and cough, I went to a Vietnamese cafe near my office and had some pho with lime and fresh sliced jalapeños on the side so they keep their kick and crunch rather than wilting in the broth. The broth-jalapeño combination is one of my favorites, and it really is best with cilantro, too.

For me, it's the combination of clear liquids, spice, and citrus that seems to do the trick.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Naked on the Page

This is not me. My fingernails are not that well manicured,
and my waist is bigger. But I like how this body has a little
smoothness to its curves.
A few years ago, I wrote three rambling posts about getting skinny one summer when I lived alone and had complete control over literally everything in my life. In those posts, I write about the obsessive behavior and mental state that were needed to lose a few pounds.

The Concept
More recently, I've been tinkering with the idea of doing an extended version of something similar for work, where I have become the resident "expert" on fitness gadgets and technologies.

What I've been brainstorming is a series of blog-like posts that take a more personal and introspective approach to covering fitness tech. I want to include more of the psychological and physical issues a person undergoes when actually using fitness technologies, things like activity trackers (i.e., smart pedometers), calorie-counting apps, and social networks designed to motivate people toward living a more active lifestyle. MIT's Technology Review has had a few series of articles similar to what I have in mind in its Measured Life section.

When I write reviews of fitness gadgets, it's always the case that I've tested them over multiple days and sometimes even two weeks. It would be unfair to write about something I've used for only a few hours if that product is designed to be used over the long term. But it's tough because a "review" should still be objective and not too personal. Readers want to know a little bit about whether you (the product tester and writer) liked the product, but they don't want to hear too much about your experiences if they are not relevant to their experiences.

With fitness technologies, though, even two weeks is a relatively short amount of time to test a product. It's easy to have the wherewithal to put up with a gadget for two weeks if you know that you can put it down and forget about it after the final day. (I should say that on at least two occasions, I've continued to use a product after I wrote and published a review, and then I updated the review a few months later with even more insight into how the product works over the longer term. But that's somewhat rare.) And it's just as important to think about the very personal ways in which these gadgets, apps, and online services creep into our lives and our mental well-being.

The Elevator Pitch
So at present the elevator pitch sounds something like this: I want to write a long-term but finite series of very personal articles, with a blog-like style, about what I experience while using different fitness and health technologies. It necessarily will cover the emotional and psychological effects, as well as physical. Part of the personal experience will include visiting medical professionals, like nutritionists and personal trainers, to see if their advice matches what I get out of the technology.

Naked on the Page, or Just Vain?
I'm still bouncing it around in my head and trying to get feedback from a few co-workers and friends. (Comments welcomed.) The real worry is that it is a vain project to write about myself at length, although to be totally honest, it's still a rather scary proposition to be naked on the page.

When I wrote those posts (linked above) about "getting skinny," I had butterflies in my stomach for days before I decided to publish them. When I wrote a product review of a Wi-Fi bathroom scale and had to shoot a video to go with the review, I swallowed my pride and got on the scale to show how it works, even though that meant my weight would be seen by everyone who watched it.

It feels like a double-edge sword. I could very well get over myself and see this kind of work as something I suffer through to benefit others. Take one for the team. Be the person who's willing to be naked on the page so other people don't. On the other hand, I worry that people will see the endeavor as an act of vanity, that they'll not understand that it actually takes a lot to share those kinds of details about oneself publicly.