Archive for May, 2007|Monthly archive page

Personal Challenge #7: Floss Like Your Life Depends on It

Candy Hearts

Researchers found that people with gum disease were two-and-a-half times more likely than those with healthy gums to experience a medical “event” related to heart disease.

This challenge is to floss everyday for two weeks. You know you should. You remember all the things that your dentist tells you with every visit. You want to grow old with your teeth. It isn’t hard. It doesn’t take long. So, why not?

Now for the clarification on that “two-and-a-half times more likely to have a heart attack” statistic: Statistics lie. Although there are several theories that could explain a causal link. In truth, many of the risk factors for heart disease and the risk factors for gum disease are the same. When you try to factor out these common risk factors out of the data, there is not enough correlation in these studies’ sample sizes to confirm causality.


The Power of a Life List


At the age of fifteen John Goddard listed 127 goals he wished to experience or achieve in his lifetime. The list is impressive and audacious, but the results have been truly incredible.

I am astounded at the contents and success of this list. How many of these have you done? How many of these do you think you could you do? What would you put on your list? Do you have one? Why not?

Result for Challenge #6: Photography Weekend


This challenge was aimed at novices, because I too am one.

Based on some things I read this weekend, here is my interpretation of the the process that a savvy photographer with a average (or better) analog camera might follow:


  • A given light level,
  • A given film ISO (the films sensitivity to light)
  • A desired depth of field (e.g. Is everything in focus or just the foreground/middle/background?)

The analog photographer will choose:

  • An aperture setting
  • An exposure duration that must be calculated by the photographer or the camera

Because this challenge targeted novices with average (or worse) digital cameras, much of this process is quite different. For an average digital camera:

  • There is no film and therefore no ISO value to be concerned with.
  • The camera is reasonably smart about deciding the exposure duration based on the lighting.
  • The depth of field is always (impressively) wide. Which is very nice, until you decide you don’t want it.

Another piece of advice that I figured out on my own is this: Don’t let your digital camera decide if you need a flash.

  • Digital camera are very good at capturing existing light in an average indoor setting, and using the flash indoors drowns out this surrounding warm natural three-dimensional light. So, consider turning your flash OFF indoors, but be sure to hold your camera steady while you take pictures.
  • While outdoors, considering turning your flash ON. When your nearby subject is surrounded by a lot of bright sky and bright background, your subject could use an extra bit of oomph to stand out. Your flash can provide exactly this.

I completed the challenge, and I took many experimental and many bad pictures. I accidentally left my camera behind for much of the weekend. So, I got a late start and even resorted to using my phone’s camera. Here are some of my pictures:

Continue reading

Personal Challenge #5: Week with no TV

Turn Off the TV
We will now start the “Week with No TV Challenge”, as we described earlier. Now is a great time to start adopting a healthier and more fulfilling lifestyle.

What to do:

  • Take that list that you made of all things you wish you could do if you had more free time.
  • Add a few more items the list, and put it right by your TV.
  • Turn off the TV. Put the remote away. Unplug the TV. (Why unplug it? Because you need to create greater distance between you and the empty things in your life, and to create less distance between you and the fulfilling things in your life. Even small changes in these distances can create significant changes in behavior.)
  • Make a mental note of the date. No more TV until a week has passed.

Some rules:

  • You can choose which day this week to start this challenge.
  • You can choose to try longer than a week, if you would like.
  • You may decide that you can still watch TV at the gym while you are exercising on cardio equipment.
  • Any decisions, time-lines, exceptions, or rules that create before the week starts must be adhered to after your week starts. You cannot abandon a promise to yourself in a moment of weakness.

Personal Challenge #6: Photography Weekend

Take Pictures!It is a holiday weekend here in the States, and many of us will be heading off to various places to spend time with friends and family.

Don’t forget to bring your digital camera. If you are like me you’ve used a camera hundreds or thousands of times, but you still don’t’ really know much about the art and science of photography.

Your challenge for this weekend it to take at least 60 pictures of these places, friends, and families. Take close-up, landscape, abstract, still-life, and candid shots. Play with your camera’s features more than you typically do. Pay more attention to and experiment with composition, lighting, and aperture (whatever that is).

Experiment. Explore. Make mistakes. Learn. Enjoy.

Ben Franklin’s Moral Perfection Project

Managing Goals
Today a guest blogger at offers some solid advice about the importance of focusing on goal at a time. Here is her post on The Power of One and below is Benjamin Franklin’s blog posting autobiography on the same topic.

While still a young man in Philadelphia, Franklin made a list of thirteen goals of virtue for himself, and devised a method to perfect these virtues.

These names of virtues, with their precepts, were:

  1. TEMPERANCE. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  2. SILENCE. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  3. ORDER. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  4. RESOLUTION. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  5. FRUGALITY. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
  6. INDUSTRY. Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  7. SINCERITY. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
  8. JUSTICE. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  9. MODERATION. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  10. CLEANLINESS. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
  11. TRANQUILLITY. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  12. CHASTITY. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
  13. HUMILITY. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

His Plan:

My intention being to acquire the habitude of all these virtues, I judged it would be well not to distract my attention by attempting the whole at once, but to fix it on one of them at a time; and, when I should be master of that, then to proceed to another, and so on, till I should have gone thro’ the thirteen; and, as the previous acquisition of some might facilitate the acquisition of certain others, I arranged them with that view, as they stand above.

He Continues:

And like him who, having a garden to weed, does not attempt to eradicate all the bad herbs at once, which would exceed his reach and his strength, but works on one of the beds at a time.

A couple other interesting notes:

  • He only gave himself one week to acquire each virtue. If you ever make a list of habits, I recommend at least three weeks to acquire a each new habit. This has been show to be a more effective length of time.
  • He found the virtue of ORDER the most difficult to attain. He said that his excellent memory reduced the necessity and the benefit of organisation. Later in life, as his memory started to fail, he regretted his disorganisation more.
  • Be warned, as much as I agree with this “one goal at a time” philosophy, this Personal Challenge blog could easily have a half dozen goal-based challenges going on at the same time. I think one can juggle several balls in the air if one makes sure that each ball has its own space to move in.

Time to Prepare for Challenge #5: Week with no TV

Turn Off the TVLost, American Idol, 24, all your crime shows, and who-knows-what-else are over for the season. Now it is a great time to start adopting a healthier and more fulfilling lifestyle.

Next week there will be a “Week with no TV Challenge”, but, before then, you can do something simple to get ready. Make a list of all things you wish you could do if you had more free time. The list could include cleaning, organizing, cooking, trying a new hobby, spending time with friends, exercising. While you are at it, make a list of books you want to read, and pick up copies of the ones you don’t have yet. Make these lists as long as you can. Keep these lists with you and add to them as you think of things.

Next week, we hide the remote, and put these lists in front of the TV.

May Challenge: How to Make Exercise a Daily Habit

Exercise!When forming new good habits, it helps greatly to have an initiation period when the habit is done every day for at least three weeks. I am now most of the way through a 30 Day Exercise Challenge, as challenged by a great blog called Zen Habits.

For the last several months prior, I was only exercising one or two days a week, though trying unsuccessfully to increase that number. Accepting this challenge was a huge motivational factor to making a real commitment to building a new positive habit.

Challenge #4: Teach Your Dog “Take It” and “Drop It”

My Dog AbbyAfter all the basic obedience commands are covered it is too easy to stop there. Don’t forget that being a dog’s owner and leader come with an ongoing responsibility to engage and teach your dog. For this challenge. teach your dog a new trick, one that reinforces your leadership role and one that will come in handy in many different situations.

This is a perfect opportunity for clicker training.

I chose this challenge for two reasons. One, because I haven’t been spending quality time doing training sessions with my dog lately, and two, because my dog, like many others, enjoys playing keep-away a bit too much, both with people and with other dogs. I would not ever want to see a fight when another dog tries to take her toy.

A warning, be aware of the concept of possession aggression. If your dog is aways afraid that everything he has will be taken away, he could start to covet and guard these things. When training, be sure to promptly replace anything you take with something of equal or greater value.

Disclaimer: I am not qualified to give dog training advice. Do your own research. Use common sense. Consult an expert if any dangerous behaviours exist.

$100 Philly Cheesesteak

$100 Philly Cheesesteak When I lived near New Haven CT, and would go to a social gathering, an inevitable age-old conversation would come up: “Whose pizza do like better Pepe’s or Sally’s?” When I moved to Boston, the same conversation was, “Whose cannoli you like better? Mike’s or Modern’s?” Now that I have moved to Philadelphia, and the conversation here is, “Whose cheesestake do you like better? Pat’s or Geno’s?”

Not too long ago, a local up-scale restaurant had a brilliant marketing idea and created an indelible and fascinating new add-on for the local conversation: “Have you heard about the $100 cheesesteak at Barclay Prime restaurant?”

My fiancée loves these conversations about local food lore, and when she first heard about this intriguing food oddity, it captured her attention, and she has been taking about it ever since. When her friends at school noticed this admirable and persistent fascination of hers, they decided to buy a gift certificate for her to experience this strange and exotic culinary mystery.

So, Friday night we went and she had it. It was a brioche roll filled with shaved Kobe beef, lobster, and garnished with shaved truffles and melted Taleggio cheese and accompanied by a half bottle of Champagne.

I don’t eat meat, but from what I hear the combination made for an over-the-top, rich, decadent, incongruous, epicurean Frankenstein that was less than the sum of the parts. Fortunately, the cheese steak was just one part of a larger experience.