Japanese Call of Duty 4 DS Trailer

As some of you may or may not know, when I am not obsessively blogging about what I eat, what I did in the gym, or what I’m doing to pinch my pennies, I earn a living designing user interfaces (2D screens, buttons, icons, etc.) for third-party video game developer n-Space. I’ve also done some scripting and voiceover work for the company (if you’ve ever played the Nintendo Game Cube title Geist, I’m the creepy little ghost girl), but mostly, I tinker with Photoshop all day and try to figure out how to make something look very good with only 256 colors and 32×32 pixels.

Last year I worked on the user interface of a little Nintendo DS game known as Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.

Here is a rather flashy trailer for the Japanese release of the game.

Spring 2008 Garden Plans

So…I didn’t work out this weekend. Instead, DH and I dedicated Saturday and Sunday to Improving the Garden and Beautifying Our Outdoor Areas. Since this involved quite a lot of heavy lifting, digging of rock-embedded soil, laying down around 600 8″ brick pavers, weeding, and other fun activities in the Florida sun, I am counting this toward functional resistance exercise. My calves and quads are DOMSing already from digging, squatting and deadlifting, and the tops of my poor ears are stinging from sunburn because I stupidly chose to wear a baseball cap (which left my ears out to broil) instead of my usual floppy straw gardening hat.

Here’s the inventory of the weekend’s work:
– Planted an 18′ border of salvias
– Planted 7′ row of gladiolus bulbs
– Dug 75′ serpentine trench in side yard to conceal a 75′ soaker hose
– Dug up and transplanted ailing emperor lychee tree to a container with fresh potting soil
– Manually loosened and prepped ~60 sq. feet of soil for sweet potato planting
– Dug up existing sweet potato vines from veggie patch, harvested the tubers, and transplanted the vines to side yard for a new crop
– Dug 6″ deep trenches around the 8’x4′ veggie patch and inserted 12″x12″ pavers on their ends to create a 6″ raised bed. Next week we will dig up the non-tomato plants in the bed, buy a truckload of fresh organic soil to fill in the box, and re-plant the veggies in their new home.
– Cleared around 120 sq. ft. worth of old pavers and rocks from our walled courtyard.
– Removed ratty old weed stop fabric.
– Leveled the soil and re-covered with new weed fabric.
– Poured down sand and re-leveled.
– Re-paved entire courtyard with 8″x4″ Holland brick pavers
– Lugged new bags of rocks into courtyard and poured them into the borders next to the wall.
– Celebrated near completion of 2008’s spring gardening projects with a trip to the China First Buffet.
– Slept REALLY, REALLY well last night.

Below are some rather blurry and dark camera phone pics of the garden so far. It’s definitely a work in progress for us since we pretty much let it go last year. Chris has wanted to replace the old 12″ coral pink pavers in the courtyard off the master bedroom since we moved in, but didn’t get motivated until last weekend when he finally got around to taking measurements and calculating the costs at Lowes. Okay, so I calculated the costs while he browsed through the different paver stone options. We wound up spending around $350 for the sand, rocks, pavers, and delivery, but we figure it would have cost us over $1000 to have someone else do it for us, and now DH gets to brag that he did it himself. The funny thing is that he was delaying the project because he didn’t know exactly how to do everything involved, but all this time we had a huge DIY home repair book on our shelf that his big brother had given him when he bought the house in 2005. I pointed this out Friday night, and sure enough, there was a section on how to install cement pavers for an outdoor patio. It even had pictures.

😛

Newly re-paved courtyard

As for the garden–which is mostly MY baby–I neglected it horribly last year. With the wedding in July, I just found all of my spare time and energy sucked away, and I missed the best growing seasons for my area (winter/early spring and fall). I more or less limited my gardening to dumping many, many bags of mulch down to keep the weeds under control and allowed the sweetpotato slips I had originally planted in late 2006 to take over the square foot garden veggie patch with only a square of chives and a square of pimiento hot peppers growing. The rest of the garden was pared down to more established fruit trees, shrubs, and daylilies that didn’t need any special care. I didn’t even water anything!

So this year I am back at it and planning to grow another crop of sweet potatoes (super easy care in Florida’s long season of hot days), hot peppers, sweet bell peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, basil, cilantro, green onions, Swiss chard, ginger root, loose-leaf lettuce and fancy mixed greens, mustard, and MAYBE some zucchini and yellow squash. I don’t have a lot of space, so I’d have to hook up a vertical frame for the tomatoes and zucchini. I technically only have room in the raised bed for 32 full-size plants, so there will probably be at least a dozen container plants (primarily herbs and leafy greens that need to be protected from the full blast of the central Florida sun) in addition to the in-ground garden.

Basically, I’d like to grow the pricey specialty veggies that I can’t get from the local supermarket. The fact that my homegrown stuff will be organic is just another perk.

Raised bed made from pavers for this year’s square foot vegetable garden; the pavers are sort of dingy from years of use in the courtyard floor, but I plan to plant a border of marigolds and Bright Lights Swiss chard around the entire box to hide them.

Baby pineapple grown from pineapple top started in 2006

Dusty Miller and Salvia flower border

Transplanted Vardaman sweetpotato vines

Harvested mutant sweetpotatos!

Extra sweetpotato vines

So how about it? Anyone else planning to get at least some of their fresh veggies from their own gardens this year? What do you plan to grow? Have you started yet?

Related Posts:
Lazy Gardener’s Automated Seed Starting Chart for Microsoft Excel
DIY Seed Saving Envelopes

3/26/08 Log: The week in review

Let me catch up a bit:

Saturday – Went to Lowes and Home Depot with DH and priced out how much it would cost to re-do the pavers in our small walled courtyard off the master bedroom. DH had moved about half of the pale coral colored square pavers in there out to the other side of the house by our screened-in patio to make a paved grilling area. For the relatively cheap pavers and sand, it will still cost almost $300. Ugh. We wound up just picking up some red salvias, jalapeno peppers, and ichiban Japanese eggplants for the garden. The courtyard project will have to wait until this weekend.

That night we went down to Universal Citywalk’s new live band karaoke club Rising Star, and I got to go up on stage and rock out to Pat Benatar’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot and Carrie Underwood’s Before He Cheats in front of a huge audience. It was awesome. Totally beats the pants off of regular karaoke.

I’m going to ask for my own cover band for Xmas this year, seriously. Screw Rock Band and it’s faux guitars and drum kit; I want my own live musicians in a box.

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Sunday – Laundry, food prep, gardening. Lunch and dinner at my MIL’s house past Disney. Ate too many chocolate Nestle’ crunch eggs and was soundly trounced at billiards by my mother-in-law and her boyfriend.

Monday – 143.4 lbs after Easter goodies. TT Mass Fusion Workout A (Chest/Back). Increased all lifts by 5-10 lbs even though I only did bodyweight work last week. Resting and an infusion of chocolate Easter eggs apparently do wonders for my upper body strength levels.

Tuesday – Interval incline walk and stationary bike. Went grocery shopping. Unhappily noted that groceries are now averaging $20-$25 more per week than they did a year ago. Roasted a chicken and baked another batch of PWO granola chocolate chip cookies.

Wednesday – TT Mass Fusion Workout B (Lower Body/Core). Bodyweight intervals.

I’m finding motivation to be a problem these days. I just feel like a month of maintenance might be called for in April because I am just tired of dealing with caloric deficits and meeting numeric goals. I want to eat enough to maintain, work out hard but not in excessive amounts, and see where I’m at after 4 weeks.

There’s so much going on at work, in the garden, around the house, and with other projects that I don’t have the time to devote to mad logging/blogging of every little bite and lift, you know? An April Autopilot Non-Challenge would suit me just fine.

For now though, I have to finish out the TT 12-week challenge this week and my office fitness challenge next week. Then it’s straight into The New Rules of Lifting for Women Phase 1 or Jason Ferruggia’s Muscle Gaining Secrets’ Beginner Blast Off.

Review: Is P90X Right For YOU? (Requirements and Overview)

P90X parent company Beachbody must be spamming the heck out of the TV infomercial channels this month, because I keep getting emails from readers asking if P90X is right for them based on my run with the program a few years ago.

To cut down on the amount of copying and pasting I have to do, I’m going to post my responses here for the edification of all future P90X Googlers. 😉

If you haven’t been working out too much in recent years, particularly with heavy weights, you should definitely try out the P90X fitness test first before you buy the P90X program.

P90X is designed for men and women who are already at goal weight (or at least within a few pounds of it) and in very good physical condition with no major physical limitations or chronic injuries who just want to get leaner and become even more fit. It will increase your strength, flexibility, and muscular endurance and probably decrease your body fat as a byproduct of increasing your fitness, but it was not designed specifically as a fat loss program. In general, it’s not for those who have more than 15 lbs to lose, those who have been completely sedentary for more than 6 months, or those who have only done cardio and yoga and only want to tone up. It’s a hardcore home boot camp system, and while there are a few modified movements shown to decrease difficulty, there is NO beginner ramp up included to get you from 100% sedentary up to the recommended P90X starting state.

The program is pretty strenuous, especially the Chest & Back (almost 100% pullups and pushups), Plyometrics X, and the Legs & Back workouts. If your fitness level — strength *and* endurance — isn’t pretty decent already, you won’t be getting your time or money’s worth out of the program. You also won’t look like one of their 90 day “After” photos in 12 weeks, because if you look closely, most of those guys and gals were already close to goal weight or UNDER it, had decent cardiovascular endurance, and had completed at least one round of Power 90, Beachbody’s beginner/intermediate program, or the equivalent. They weren’t using the program to get into shape from a couch potato starting point; they were using it to build even MORE muscle mass onto already-fit bodies and to burn off the last 5% or so of body fat obscuring their existing muscles.

Don’t believe me? Check out Beachbody president Jon Congdon’s photos and stats here. Notice that he already had decent-sized arms, deltoids, and pectoral muscles in his Before photo, and the beginnings of abdominal definition in his obliques. He was already fit, but slightly soft with a little bit of subcutaneous fat. He was not obese or out of shape, and neither were any of the other success stories used in the infomercials or web site.

BeforeAfter

P90X refines and improves a fit but still slightly fluffy physique in 90 days into a lean and ripped physique, but if you are carrying more than 10-20 lbs of extra flab, your results will not be as dramatic, especially if you follow the calorie recommendations from their meal plan which is geared more towards maintenance of current body weight than fat loss. As with any workout and nutrition regimen, the results you get will depend completely on your intensity and consistency in your workouts, and in your compliance and consistency in the kitchen.

My husband, for example, completed a round of P90X Classic last fall with about 85% compliance to the workout schedule but without following the meal plan. As a result, he lost about five pounds of scale weight, lost inches in his waist, gained some in his arms, shoulders, and chest, and dropped about 3% body fat, but definitely did not achieve dramatic “After” photo results. He was already at a good scale weight at 155 lbs and 15% body fat (he’s 5’8″) when he started, but he had never lifted weights in his life more than once or twice, and had very little upper body muscle development as a result. This made the upper body days pretty challenging for him. (In other words, I could do more push-ups than he could, and we pressed and curled similar weights.) The program added muscle mass to his physique, but not huge amounts of it. In my objective opinion, all of the males in the P90X infomercial started out with more lean mass than my DH did.

Download and take a look at the workout log sheets and try to do one of the workouts as a sample. I recommend the Chest/Back workout. Each exercise is performed for about 30 seconds. If you can only do 25-33% of the reps (or under 10 full pushups) for each exercise, you should probably look at trying the Power 90 program or something more like Body for Life or Turbulence Training for 12 weeks first to get your weight down and your fitness level up.

You can also get up to speed and drop a few pounds first using some of the free at-home workout plans I posted here:

Fitness on a Budget Part 2: DIY, Nearly Free, No Gym Required Workout Plans

If your fitness level is good despite having more than 20 pounds left to lose – i.e. You could probably run 2 miles in under 18 minutes without walking, you regularly lift some heavy weights at home or at the gym, you can do 30 pushups without pause if you are male or 15 pushups if you are female (The official P90X readiness test posts numbers lower than this, but in my experience, a woman who can only do 3 real push-ups from her toes before face-planting in the carpet will not be able to do enough reps on Chest and Back day to get much of a transformation), and/or you have completed the equivalent of one 12-week Body for Life challenge – then you might still get some good results with P90X even if you have to modify some of the moves. You should also be injury-free.

The only caveats if you are in the “heavier than recommended” category when starting the program are that:

a) Your results may not be as dramatic because you will likely have to modify the moves or do fewer reps until your fitness level and scale weight are more optimal.
b) You will probably have to do more than one round of the program to reach goal.
c) You may get seriously bored doing the same workouts over and over for more than 90 days.
d) If you want to lose weight on the program, you will probably have to reduce the number of calories recommended by the meal plan.

P90X Ready

(Go ahead and start the program)

Extra Conditioning Needed

(Complete 12 weeks of Power 90, Body for Life, or Turbulence Training
for Fat Loss first)

  • Self-motivated (can workout consistently alone)
  • Within 20 pounds of ideal weight
  • Have been exercising regularly (strength training with heavy weights
    and performing regular cardiovascular training) for at least 3 months
  • Healthy and injury-free
  • Minimum 3 pull-ups for males; 1 pull-up for females
  • Minimum 5 inch vertical leap (male); 3 inch vertical leap (female)
  • Minimum 15 push-ups (male) or 3 push-ups (female; or 15 with knees
    down, though this is SOOOO lame)
  • Minimum 1 minute hold on a bodyweight wall squat
  • Minimum 10 dumbbell bicep curls at 20 lbs (male) or 8 lbs (female)
  • 2 minutes of jumping jacks, with the final 30 seconds performed as
    fast as possible
  • 20+ pounds over ideal weight
  • Have not exercised regularly in over 3 months
  • Have physical limitations, injuries, or chronic conditions which may
    be made worse by high-impact activity or fast-tempo weight lifting or
    pull-ups
  • Cannot make the minimum scores on the P90X Fitness Test

I won’t discourage you if you are completely gung ho about buying and trying P90X, but please try to be realistic about your current physical condition, your actual fitness level today (NOT how fit you were in your prime as a college athlete 10 years ago), and the very real possibility of injuring yourself performing some of the exercises in the program (Pull-ups and plyometric jumping are rough on your joints) if you have been out of the exercise saddle for a while and are deconditioned. If you have any orthopedic knee, back, or other medical conditions that would make fast-tempo lifting with challenging weights or high-impact jumping questionable, please check with your physician first before starting this program. I know that all workout DVDs say this, but in the case of P90X, this warning should be taken seriously. I was in fantastic shape after almost a year of BFL-style workouts with heavy weights and hard interval cardio when I did P90X, and I still managed to screw up my left elbow and wrist for several months between the (too) fast lifting and the large number of pull ups and chins required in the workouts.

With all that said, I DO like the P90X system and had very good results on it (starting from a pretty high level of fitness and sub-20% body fat, however). It’s physically challenging, not too boring for three months, and comes with a decent nutrition plan complete with recipes to help you succeed. If you are in good shape already and want a home workout system that uses minimal equipment but still kicks your butt daily, you can’t do much better than P90X.

True Protein Whey Isolate Powder Review (Premium Lemonade Flavor)

Basics:

Product – Whey Isolate Cold Filtration – Premium Old-Fashioned Lemonade flavor

Mixability – Very high. I just dropped the powder into cold water and it instantly started to dissolve with no lumps. After a few shakes in my shaker cup, the mixture was completely smooth with an opaque, creamy yellow color and a consistency similar to ready-to-drink chocolate milk: not super thick and sludgy, but not watery either.

Taste – Very sweet with a slightly bitter undertone beneath the lemon flavor. Think lemon drop hard candies ground up and mixed with protein powder. People who like lemon would probably find the flavor pretty innocuous.

Uses – Might make a decent additive in a protein enriched lemon meringue pie, a lemon smoothie, or lemon protein pops with SF vanilla pudding mix. Might also make for an interesting PWO protein cookie.

Maggie’s Supplement Sensitivity Factors:

Migraine – High. I feel a spike of the usual “OMG! Artificial flavoring alert!” headache reaction shoot behind my eyes every time I take a sip, so I do not recommend this flavor if you have sensitivity to artificial flavorings like I do.

Nausea – Medium. The combination of lemon flavor and high sweetness with the dairy/whey base make this one pretty hard for me to stomach without feeling slightly nauseous.

Bloating – None. Might be due to the fact that this is an isolate instead of a concentrate.

True Protein Gemma Protein Isolate Review (Vegetarian Protein Powder)

My True Protein order arrived today in a big cube of cardboard. I opened the box to find my vegetarian protein powder order (1 lb. citrus lime-ade gemma isolate, 1 lb. French vanilla cream gemma isolate, 2 lbs. Dutch chocolate soy isolate, and the premium flavor sampler of a dozen single serving whey isolate packets) wrapped up in a big translucent plastic bag. The 1 lb. and 2 lb. powders were shipped in heavy-duty food-grade plastic bags sealed with black zip ties and labeled with printed stickers describing the contents. The individual samples were stored in small ziploc baggies marked with a Sharpie marker. There was an option to have the powders shipped in plastic tubs, but I opted for the bags because I didn’t want any more giant plastic canisters cluttering up my cabinets.

True Protein order

I just poured my new protein powders from their somewhat ghetto-looking bags into some old empty protein powder canisters I hoarded for just this situation and tasted some of the dry gemma pea protein isolate in the citrus lime-ade flavor. I was pleasantly surprised. The texture is a lot more like cornstarch than whey protein–very fine grained and sort of clingy. The flavor was light and pleasant without being cloying. There is a distinctively beanie flavor to the protein that reminds me a bit of soy and/or Asian red bean paste, but I actually prefer it to the nauseating, sour milk aftertaste of whey.

I decided to go ahead and bake a batch of my much-missed granola choco chip protein cookies with the French vanilla cream gemma isolate. It turns out that the pea protein does not reduce and turn into super sticky paste like whey does when mixed with a liquid like the 1/2 cup of SF maple syrup used in the recipe. Instead, it absorbed all of the fluid and stayed sort of fluffy. I had to add another 1/2 cup of water to get the mixture to stick together, and I opted to use a muffin tin instead of just pressing 12 big cookie-sized patties onto a baking sheet because the mix just wasn’t sticky enough on its own. This gave me twelve 1″ thick rounds that I baked for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.

I just tried half a granola biscuit and WOW. Even BETTER than the original version using whey protein powder! This flat out tastes like a Chinese bean paste dessert with melted chocolate and nutty grainy things embedded in it. No sweetener aftertaste, no funky whey protein flavor, no bloating/gas from dairy, no migraine from mysterious additives, and no gunky whey paste stuck between my teeth or threatening to pull off my expensive porcelain crowns!

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!

More tomorrow when I make my first shake/smoothies from the citrus lime-ade gemma isolate and Dutch chocolate soy isolate powders. If the others are as good as the French vanilla cream, I’m never buying whey again.

==================================================================

UPDATE: I made my first gemma protein + fruit smoothie this morning using the following:

– 1 scoop French vanilla cream gemma isolate powder
– 1/2 c. frozen strawberries
– 1 c. water
– 2/3 c. ice

I blended the whole thing on the ice crush setting on my blender until it looked smooth. The powder mixed pretty well with no clumps, but there is still a slightly powdery mouth feel to the drink.

Basics:

Product – Gemma Protein Isolate – French vanilla cream

Mixability – Very high with a blender. Slightly powdery mouth feel–not granular.

Taste – Very sweet. No additional sweetener was needed. I actually think that the addition of something tangy would improve the mix. It DEFINITELY tastes like sweetened Chinese bean paste, which I like, but some of you may not. If you’ve ever had a Chinese moon cake before or a steamed bun filled with sweet red bean paste, it is reminiscent of that.

Uses – Great in protein bar and cookie recipes due to it’s fluffier texture compared to whey. Might also make a great healthy version of the steamed roll filled with bean paste or a good base for a post-workout “boba/bubble tea” drink with tapioca pearls as the fast carb.

Maggie’s Supplement Sensitivity Factors:

Migraine – None to low. I find the sweetness level a bit high, which sometimes has a way of setting off a headache, but so far I haven’t noticed any signs of a migraine.

Nausea – None to low. I LIKE the taste of sweetened bean paste, so I rather enjoy the distinctive flavor of this protein powder. No gag reflex yet!

Bloating – None.

Allergic Reactions – None observed yet.

True Protein (TrueProtein.com) Review

I just placed my first order with TrueProtein.com last week. This company was recommended by a co-worker and by strength and conditioning coach Jason Feruggia in his Muscle Gaining Secrets ebook package, and since the price of pre-mixed whey protein has gone up so much (~$38 for a 5 lb canister, plus another $4-$6 shipping), I decided to give them a try.

True Protein specializes in custom-mixed protein supplements at reasonable prices. The cost of a tub or bag of protein depends on the types of protein and additional components you add to your mix. They carry soy isolate, whey isolate and concentrate, casein, egg, egg white, gemma (made from peas), and hemp protein as well as over 2 dozen flavorings that can be used with any of the above and your choice of sweeteners, including the all-natural, plant-based Stevia.

You can either choose one of their basic formulas (just one type of protein + flavor + sweetener + vitamin mix) or pre-mixed solutions, or go crazy mixing up your own pre-, during-, and post-workout combos with their Custom Mix program. The per pound price of your custom mix updates on the fly so you can see how much your super mix will cost. My co-worker went the latter route and has his own pre- and post-workout mixes.

I’d rather just have straight protein and add my choice of healthy fat or carb to it, so went with basic protein with flavoring and no vitamin/minerals. I ordered the sample pack of 13 premium whey isolate flavors, 1 lb of citrus lime-ade gemma protein, 1 lb of premium French vanilla gemma protein, and 2 lbs of premium Dutch chocolate soy isolate protein. Total cost was $44.88, which is about how much 5 lbs of Dymatize Elite would cost me with shipping.

(I’m trying to move away from the dairy-based proteins because I have been unusually itchy since I started using protein powder in 3 of my daily meals with the SGX program.)

What I really appreciate is that I can order in increments of just 1 lb at a time in case I don’t like a flavor, and I don’t have to pay any more per pound for the small order than I would for 5 lbs at a time. They also sell JUST their flavoring powders alone for ~$4 per packet. Each packet supposedly contains enough flavoring for 10-15 lbs of protein powder depending on how strong you like your shakes.

What an awesome idea! I bet you can use the flavor powders in lots of other recipe applications, too.

Anyhow, as of this writing I haven’t received my order yet, but I’ll update my review once everything arrives. The ordering process was very easy, and they shipped the day after my order was placed.

Google for True Protein coupon or discount, and you’ll find several 5% off codes online, too.

Threadless.com $9 Shirt Sale (Extended to March 26!)

I haven’t been shopping much on Threadless, my favorite source of funny t-shirts, since I made my 1 year vow to not buy myself any retail clothing last June, but I wanted to let those of you who are still actively clothes shopping that they are running a $9 t-shirt sale through Wednesday, March 26.

Their girly fit tees are usually $17-$25, so this is a pretty slick deal. A lot of the guys’ sizes are selling out fast in popular designs, but there are still a ton of women’s sizes left. And there are some gems left in 2XL, my favorite size for refashioning fodder. I wound up picking up quite a few future birthday and Xmas presents from the sale.

There is also a limited quantity (5000 total uses) coupon for $5 off your $50 order using code spring08.

Here are a couple of my favorite food and fitness ones:

Runnin' RhinoChampion RunnerRefrigerator Running