SCD – Update – Month 3

Another month of SCD passed too quickly. Weight loss not as good as I’d wanted, minor increase followed by stagnation for 2 weeks.

This was mainly due to not performing exercise as I’d planned (maintained walking 30 miles a week). Lack of energy is an excuse, but the effect on willpower is undeniable; Averaging only one session a week. My cause wasn’t helped by discovering how to procure Krispy Kreme donuts, opting to demolish a tray of 12 in two days…

Wk 9-12 Weight Kg Notes
Before 78.7 Another notch up the belt, slide both hands down trousers
After 77.4 34″ trouser waist

While the numeric loss is pretty poor at 1.3 Kg, moving from 36″ to 34″ is an important personal milestone.  I’d last been 34″ when I was eating fast food every day.  Being on your feet 7 to 12 hours means you can eat a horse, metaphorical not the Tesco kind, and not gain weight.  Had a nice reward, finding a new pair of 501’s bought just before starting out on the road to lardy-ville.

Having reached the 10% goal and being tantalizingly close to 10 Kg loss, I’m not going to stop yet.  To correct this months biggest issue, I’ll consider an EC stack, ECA minus the A as aspirin and empty stomach isn’t a smart idea.  Hopefully that will be enough to keep me exercising, but I’m pretty confident of surpassing last months losses, due to a new weapon in my SCD…

drum roll  Post cheat day fasting.  Reading around on a variety of SCD blogs and forums, I came across the idea of fasting – not something I jumped at!  The logic is, you’ve been stuffing your face on cheat day and it’s side effect that you don’t make any loss for a couple of days afterwards.  So why not give yourself a head start or reset into the next week.  Cravings for carbs should be low as you’ve had them within the same time-frame, but the effect on the body is greatly reduced.  Some suggest the body benefits in other ways, that a break from the digestion workload allows for a higher degree of internal cleansing (that’s clear pee, not getting kinky with water-jets and vacuums).

I really didn’t think I’d last beyond mid afternoon, but almost time for bed and the hunger pangs have only just started to become annoying.  Cooking dinner for others wasn’t a problem either!

Guess I should stop writing this and go to bed, or I’ll be online masticating to pictures of iced donuts.

SCD Update – Month 2

Again, no significant exercise during the month, apart from 30 miles a week walking to work.

Wk 5-8 Weight Kg Notes
Before 81.0 36″ trouser waist, Medium shirts
After 78.7 Another notch up the belt, slide both hands down trousers

The improvement wasn’t as good as the first month.  Week 5 stagnated with no weight loss, resuming again slowly in week 6, with largest improvement in week 8. So only 2.3Kg lost, about 1/2 Kilo a week.

Considered giving SCD a break for a month but, passing points such as <80Kg meaning I’m no longer clinically over weight, a renewed vigour is felt.  This month will feature weight training, as done at home only have access to 90Kg stack on a ‘full body’ unit with bench.  Although outgrowing my current setup, I expect the diet will mean energy reserves are much lower and hence failure point a set or two sooner than usual.

SCD – Extra Benefit: Teeth

A month into SCD, I noticed my teeth were looking better. omg not eating between meals and consuming sugary drinks & sweets has other benefits 😉

Figured now was the best chance of a breakthrough from dingy yellow to something approaching white. So off to Amazon to buy the stuff you’d rather not put into a real shopping basket. After reading a load a reviews I settled on this:
Plus + White Ultra 5-Minute Whitening System

The results are impressive, the photo doesn’t look as good as real life though.
N.B. Eyes providing a white reference, not completely insane.

SCD & Me

Sounding like a medical condition, SCD stands for Slow Carb Diet (not to be confused with specific carb diet for digestive problems), a variant of the low carb high protein diets made popular by the Atkins diet.  Differences being small quantities of carbs from low GI (Glycemic Index) sources are allowed, such as beans, vegetables and their fibre are encouraged, aiding satiety.  Although the body’s multi-fuel function of relying on fat is exploited more, it’s not turned to exclusively by inducing Ketosis.  Another difference is that SCD solves the problem of commitment by including ‘cheat days’ that are fixed each week.

I discovered SCD while reading The 4-Hour Chef, though The 4-Hour Body
has more information about the diet. My only real deviation is to have a little cheese occasionally, the rule is that all dairy is cheat day only.  The lactose (milk sugar) slows the weight loss.

Sunday to Friday

Meal Food Items
Breakfast 3 scrambled eggs, 80g spinach or spring greens, coffee.
Lunch 50g sauerkraut, 1 can tomato soup with 80g chicken breast slices
Dinner 80g spinach or spring greens, main meal item such as bol of spagbol or fish etc.

Cheat day is fantastic, like a mini Xmas (without the stilton), typical:

Meal Food Items
Breakfast Toast with butter and Marmite, 1 fried egg, OJ, coffee.
Lunch Bap with egg & bacon, lettuce and cheese, can of soda, treat: choux bun
Afternoon Snacks Treat: flapjack, cup tea, 100g chocolate bar.
Dinner Qtr Pounder, Fries, Onion Rings, milkshake, icecream with fruit
Late Night Snack Chocolate muffin

Not done any exercise over the month, to get a base level, apart from about 5.5 miles a day walking between home and work.

Wk 1-4 Weight Kg Notes
Before 86.5 38″ trouser waist, Large shirts
After 81.0 36″ trouser waist, Medium shirts

The first week was especially difficult, initial craving for carbs is very strong, now it’s a more gradual sensation of hunger. A side benefit is that the absence of insulin spikes due to heavy lunches and simple sugars, less sleepy mid after-noon and generally better vitality. Will review progress in another 4 weeks, unsure if I can expect similar weight loss figures to take myself from 6% to 10% reduction from starting point.

Peugeot 306 Wipers and Drainage

For a while the wipers on my trusty 306 were failing to start in cold weather and when initially activated. The sweep wasn’t particularly powerful either, suspecting an electrical fault, purchased a new unit from a breakers.

Within a few days the unit arrived ~£25. Fitting wasn’t particularly difficult, took around 30mins to fit, without the aid of instructions or the great video I found afterwards.

Peugeot 306 – Fitting a wiper motor & armature

Yet again drainage is responsible for repair work. Normally you’d be pretty safe to do this task with battery connected, but I found the wiper motor sat in a pool of water. The water running of the windscreen on the drivers side drains via a small hole in the plastic tray into the wheel arch. Feeling around the arch I located a screw which has fallen into the hole and along with debris had blocked the drain.

There was a bolt missing from armature fixing plate, this was it! The position would have made it impossible to work loose, the likely explanation is that the bolt has been placed in the drain tray while working on car – the only time this area has been touched was when the heater matrix was replaced by a Peugeot dealership!

As in the video above, the drainage areas accumulate a lot of mud, oil and leaves. Clearing the caked up mess can save repair work later on. It’s a task that requires few or no parts to be removed from the car, but I’ve never heard it mentioned as a part of routine checks…

Trek America Westerner 2

The trek was undertaken in June of 2012.  Due in part to a desire to ignore that it had been and gone, I wasn’t ready to finalise the experience by writing this.

Adventure trek holiday, circular trip: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, San Diego, finishing after 14 days in LA.

This was my first holiday and as a single traveller I wanted something that didn’t require too much organizing and gave the safety net of being part of a group.  For this Trek America fits the bill perfectly, with a few clicks you can find and book yourself a seat on any of a wide variety of trips.  The offerings aren’t expensive, a major expense is air travel (though pretty reasonable in its own right), thus the more time you can spend at the destination the better.

Rough guide to costs, as mileage varies all figures rounded appropriately.

  • £1,000 14 day trek joining fee
  • £600 Airfare
  • £400 items bought for the trip, and related misc costs
  • £1,000 Hotels, groups food, meals out, snacks, activities (helicopter ride, Vegas show, etc.), souvenirs.

At around £3k this isn’t an especially cheap holiday, around £200 per day.  This is a comfortable spend without worrying too much about the money, it could be accomplished on a tighter budget at around £2,250 though this would mean having and making do with pretty much everything (I already had a significant amount of kit), and missing out on most of the optional activities.

One of the highlights of the trek is the Grand Canyon, the photo above is from a visit to view the sunset.  The lowering sun accentuates the difference in colours between the lower and upper strata’s, this is the best point to take pictures, when the sun does slip over the horizon the canyon is universally dark.

The photo above is taken from within a helicopter, the use of a circular polarizing filter allows for usable photos that ignore the otherwise large amount of reflected light from the window.  The glass was curved and the helicopter moving around, requiring some quick adjustments and a few compromises.  The flight was with Maverick Helicopters, a professional outfit that operates a friendly and informative tour of the canyon, the experience is very interesting and feels like only a few minutes but was still good value at $220.

We started in the valley, and following the path aptly named ‘Four Mile Trail’, well almost, it’s actually closer to 5  We did this in a few hours as a group, you only really appreciate it when looking down, and yes we walked up!  With 1km climb this is rated as 7/10 difficulty.  Before we started the trail, the leader failed to check if people had enough/any water, fortunately when I pressed the point everyone seemed to be carrying at least some.  Group clothing varied, casual to moderately unsuitable.  Fortunately these concerns were reduced by only carrying small day packs for essential gear and the containment of the trail.  Our leader asking for frequent position updates (not with us), when we had little reference that he could correlate (nobody knew either the length of the trail or the height gain), didn’t inspire confidence, and was frankly too amateur for a group leader.  However it’s a man-made path, which requires little to no navigation skill, this was highlight of the tour from a ‘big scenery’ perspective.  I’ve got plenty of fantastic photos, but non of them does is justice.

Vegas as with pretty much everywhere we visited, was spacious, thoughtfully laid out and clean.  It would have been a real challenge to find dog muck, puke or litter.  Vegas is extremely touristy it has something for everyone.  The day is an extremely dry heat, best for very slow walking and lots of indoor activities.  The nights were refreshingly cool, suitable for pool parties, clubbing or taking in a show.  Tickets for shows are readily available, and highly discounted when bought a few hours before a show.  I was fortunate to watch Fantasy at Luxor, a tasteful topless show at a particularly nice hotel for a mere $55.  Another great activity in Vegas was ‘The Gun Store’ an indoor range where you can walk in and fire handguns, rifles and machine guns.  I got to play with a desert eagle, mp5 and sniper rifle; chosen because these are the items I use a lot in computer games.  The .50 desert eagle has a really powerful recoil on a scale I wasn’t prepared for, awesome fun!  Pleased my groupings were good (except the mp5 on full auto).

One of the less stand activities was Keough ditch hot springs, off the beaten path we (finally) found a quiet oasis of hot puddly goodness to a sound track of high voltage power lines.  In England, that’s a quiet fizzle, but in America everything is bigger and better (they should have gone with Tesla) – sounds like a bug zapper on turbo.  Like everywhere in California, the area was unspoilt by trash, keeping it special for your exploration.

Reading this post back, it’s clear I’ve only mentioned a few of the highlights of the 14 day trek, there really would be too much to write about.  For the faults, the trek was amazing and an experience I’d love to repeat.  The group dynamic worked well and was mostly hassle free, it’s a great way to meet like minded people and my only regret is that I’d failed to convert more of them to long term friends.  Everywhere I visited was very clean, free of crime and not even intimidating.  The weather was fantastic and the people friendly.  Before the trip I was agonising over tipping, but it’s really quite simple and, the quality of service exceeds our own begrudging politeness.  Even though it was two weeks, too many places were visited and so a massive amount of time was spent driving.  As a previous governor of California said – I’ll be back.

Stamp Collecting – Pre-soak Sorting

Attempting to check each stamp 1 by 1 would take an incredibly long time, it’s highly inefficient and quite difficult to focus on many rules at once. But pattern matching and repetition of a few rules can be processed reasonably quickly. With differing results it’s clear that a process is required. Several stamps are held at a time, splitting the primary assessment between sight and touch makes it far easier to complete without overlap (rubbing head & patting tummy). The primary goal assessment is completed very quickly, the 2nd and third goals are then complimentary and with a calm clear mind the task is completed with reasonable speed (I’ve not actually timed it). The process works by making the question easier to answer and reducing fatigue from pushing the brain to failure by constantly changing questions and possible answers. I’m observant of detail anyway, but still find significant improvements in the handling time the more relaxed I am.

Primary Goal

  1. Paper colour separate all coloured papers, very pale blue/yellow are fine, as is natural colour of cardboard but otherwise not.
    They will be processed similarly but avoids risk of damaging other stamps, esp. metallic and red paper. Beware that that the inside of an envelope is often not coloured, so don’t assume from one side that the stamp living on the other will be mounted to plain paper, esp. red.
  2. Padded envelope plastic backing requires longer soaking and size likely to weigh down other stamps.
  3. Plastic mounted on plastic, a stamp can often be removed by gently stressing and peeling back the plastic at an acute angle.

Secondary Goal

  1. Suspected uncancelled if unsure place in this pile, as it’s far easier to identify cancelled stamps with evidence from the surrounding paper.
  2. Border/Gutter stamps with border attached (requires more care to soak).
  3. Multiple stamps joined by perforation (requires more care to soak).

Tertiary Goal

  1. Stamps obviously not mounted (such as the glue having dried out and fallen away from the paper).
  2. Damaged stamps (separate but don’t assess, torn, stained, heavy scratching, angry Biro cancellation).

Results of 1st pass

Top-right clockwise: thick backing, waste paper, damaged, uncancelled, normal handling ready for soaking, special interest (items to check immediately, postmarks, etc.), coloured paper.

Try really hard to focus on the goal of the sort and not be overly distracted. Discipline will lead to quicker completion, accurate filtering and allows for important distractions.

Uncancelled stamps are stamps that have been applied ready for postage, but have either been salvaged before the service is used or after, when the stamp is not cancelled. Estimate £30 of uncancelled stamps. Note that identification & collection of uncancelled stamps is a purely a hobby activity, pricing these stamps at current values is an aspect of the collection. Attempting to rip-off Royal Mail by using fraudulently acquired postage stamps is illegal

Uncancelled Stamps

Sleeping Bags

The first of a few posts relating to pre-Trek with Trek America on their W2 tour. Complaints on the forum about carrying sleeping bags, and exchanging tips on how best to sneak it along as an extra walk-on luggage item. Tried to explain what I think is the problem, but you can only say ‘bag’ so many times before all the words meld into one! So as promised here is a brief explanation of sleeping bags relating to carrying.

As I post more, it’ll probably become clear that I’ve got a little hiking experience and slightly more style snobbery. Leading nicely into the type of sleeping bag you may have. The most important factor in all outdoor kit is what type of outdoors-man will use it, or rather how you will get it from one place to another. If camping is something that follows a day of hiking, carrying everything on your back, your kit has to be good, really good. If you rolled into a camp site on a sunny afternoon in a tank laiden with a £100 plastic fantastic hotel, with the knowledge you can jump back into a warm car if everything goes Pete Tong, your appreciation for camping and the kit you use will be very different.

Both types of camping are valid and can often be seen coexisting on camp grounds around the country, but mixing the equipment up is a bad idea. After a hard day, Mr Atlas needs a comfy nights rest, he’ll likely be carrying a Thermarest, a stuff-able travel pillow and a good quality sleeping bag rated for the environment he’s in. Mr Astra however will be on a budget, doesn’t know the weather and is subconsciously reinforcing the assertion that he doesn’t like camping anyway. He’ll be towing a sleeping mat, the pillow he uses in bed and have a sleeping bag that is little more than a padded envelope.

Even Mr Astra would enjoy the next day better if he gets a good nights sleep, to do that you need a reasonable level of padding to cushion your hard poky bits but most importantly an efficient way to trap a large amount of air close to your body. Your option is either to heat up the air held next to you, or heat up the planet. Down (fluff feather like material from geese or ducks) is awesome at giving you a great nights sleep, being highly compressible and light. A synthetic bag is great at being cheap. My current bag is a Titan 650 from Mountain Equipment, shown on the left in the pictures below. The synthetic bag on the right, is responsible for a few bad nights, perfect for sleeping on the floor round your mate’s house…. your mate with central heating.

Any sleeping bag (or Thermarest) will become badly damaged if left compressed, but an unpacked sleeping back is unruly. A storage sack allows the bag to air, usually made of a light mesh material, but shouldn’t be used for transporting the bag. The down bag on the left is it’s storage sack.

Left: Down, Right: Synthetic

The down bag on the left is now in it’s stuff sack. The stuff sack is a strong small bag/case about 1/3 the size of a pillow case. The stuff sack is so called because that’s how you get the sleeping bag into it! With the zippers closed and the bag flat, grab the feet end of the bag and stuff it into the stuff sack, working the rest of the sleeping back into the sides, filling the sack evenly (don’t try folding or rolling). A stuff sack will cause less damage than a compression sack whilst offering pretty good size works best with down bags.

Left: Down, Right: Synthetic

The bag on the right shows the synthetic sleeping bag in a compression sack, these are sacks with straps and buckles like on a rucksack, that allow the air to be forced and held out of a sleeping bag. While offering the bet size, they do the most damage to sleeping bag. Even though the loft (amount a bag expands to) is much lower on the synthetic bag, and with compression straps done-up, the bag isn’t that much smaller than the down bag in the stuff sack. A cheaper synthetic bag requires the extra compression due to the less compressible nature of filling – foam, nylon weave, etc.

Note that your sleeping bag may come with all or none of the sacks mentioned (commonly compression sacks are bought separately). Now you know how to identify the sack available, if your packed sleeping bag looks much bigger, you’ve probably got Mr Astra’s highly inefficient £40 duvet substitute; Maybe it’s time to replace it?

If you are looking to buy a new bag, please understand the competitive nature of bag ratings. A bag rated for -10 to +20 doesn’t mean you’ll get a good nights sleep at -10. It means you won’t die, an extreme rating is actually specified as being curled up in the foetal position, outside of comfortable limits whilst maintaining thermal equilibrium – means you’re not continuing to get MORE cold, but don’t expect to get good sleep, if any.

Changing the back box of an exhaust on a Peugeot 306

Dump the clutch pulling away from right-hand merging junction, low thud followed by tractor roar.  The thud wasn’t a disagreeable noise, and thus was ignored.  Noticing a tasty sports car in the rear-view covered for the new roar, only further down the road realising the throat was linked to my foot.  Again not entirely disagreeable, the new exhaust note was scheduled for investigation when I got home, surely 5 minutes wouldn’t be a problem?

2 minutes later, coming off a roundabout, finally a noise to fit the problem.  The sound of steel dragged over asphalt encouraged the application of hazard flashers followed by pulling into a conveniently placed lay-by.  However the sharp turn into the lay-by started a race between the back box and the offside wheel, the wheel won launching itself up and over the defeated back box;  It had the last laugh cookie cutting the bumper with the tail-pipe.

The next day I got quotes from a Peugeot dealer and a local garage, £180 and £160 respectively.  Armed with the knowledge an OEM fitment made from aluminium could be bought for around £25, the quotes were turned down.  Whilst steel is better and likely to last a fair bit longer, aluminium is suitable for the age of the car and it’s anticipated life. When purchasing a replacement back box you want to make sure it’s designed to fit your vehicle, it’s doesn’t have to look exactly the same, as the mountings will take account of any difference to ensure you don’t need costly and time consuming bumper modifications.  After checking out a few online stores I settled on one that asked for a few details about the model to refine the parts list.  Selecting the back box, flange clamp, new rubbers for mounting and a tube of exhaust paste/putty.  The total order (inc. delivery) came to around £40.

Peugeot 306 1.6 XT Back Box

Peugeot 306 1.6 XT Back Box, new and old.

Quite a few tasks can be accomplished at home, with a friendly neighbours tools or a slightly bigger wallet.  Scissor jacks generally get bad press, but if you listen to everyone you’ll believe you can’t do anything without several thousand worth of shiny tools in a shiny garage equipped with inspection pit and hydraulic ramp!  The scissor jack supplied with the car, located in the boot, fits nicely under the jacking points.  The designated jacking points on the sill are marked with notches on the thin metal strip at the lowest point on the body, place the jack slightly behind the notch between the notch and the wheel.  With the scissor jack located securely and the base on a firm surface, the car can be raised about a foot in 30 seconds.  I’ve used a trolley jack in the past, but without a block of wood with a grove for the sill you’ll mash the sill on the flat plate (not good).  An axel stand can be placed under any secure point that will bear the weight of the vehicle, I’ve chosen the point the rear shocks attach to the rear wheel.

AxelStands suggested placement

Axel stands suggested placement

After doing the same on the other side, bouncing the car to ensure the stands were steady, I was set.  I should point out that this isn’t a guide to jacking your car nor do I include enough health and safety advice; The aim is only to provide a little more confidence for amateur mechanics on this model.  Please consult specific manuals such as Haynes, research relevant safety procedures, read equipment instructions and use your head. I would add that even with two axel stands in place, I kept the scissor jack deployed as backup but would never consider working under the car with just the scissor jack.

My 306 is particularly good for avoiding bodywork rust, however that doesn’t stretch to everything else attached to the underside.  Getting the old clamp off was a real challenge, grr was used to full effect, but the torque wrench started clicking to say it was going to give up before my wrists snapped.  More penetrating fluid, a few taps of a hammer (not on the torque wrench!) and a bit more grr the rusted part came off.  I have to admit the first time I looked at this, I cocked it up.  Light was failing and the pipe coming out of the back box had such a clean break I thought it was part of the mid-pipe and should slide into the flange of the back box.  No joy as of course the remaining pipe was the same diameter as the internal of the new box!

A new day dawned and so too the realisation that the remaining pipe section’s flange and the mid-pipe flange had rusted together imperceptibly.  It’s far easier to see in this photo than under the car, the camera was a great tool for getting a closer look.


Mid pipe with back box flange

Drenched with penetrating fluid and prised apart with aid of an awl and locking pliers.  The mid-pipe flange was slightly rusty but cleaned up to a sound finish with a wire brush.  Exhaust putty is one of those great unexplained things in life, where applying basic logic will get you into trouble.  Sure you want to fix your exhaust in one place, and even if you notice there are 6 joins in the entire system, using a sixth of the tube is a great way to make an epic mess, I’d guess the tube would be good for 10 cars.  The paste/putty provides an airtight seal, but you don’t want to cause an obstruction.  Apply two tooth brush loads to each flange at the mating point and also within the cup of the flange clamp.

With the new rubbers on the back box mounts, slide the rubbers over the mounts under the car.  Now position the flanges together and secure with the clamp.  In the absence of torque settings (which usually means it’s not an exact science) I went with really tight.

After some basic checks the car was down off the stands, total time around 1 hour.  £120 to £140 saved and a warm feeling inside.

Copying between flash memory and HDD via USB

This post applies to any storage medium connected via USB on Windows 7 x64 

I run an 8GB USB flash key, with TrueCrypt in traveller mode filling majority of stick.  Within this encrypted volume, Portable Apps provides me with all the applications I need.  This setup allows me to do everything from online banking to writing websites.  My problem occurred when I tried to backup the key.

The copying process started fine, but soon became slow and died with a message to the effect that the source drive was not present.  This happened repeatedly, each time I checked the drive and found the drive letter showing but not fully connected.  I’d gone through various attempts at copying single folders and files off, but always came undone with email 300MB, and above.

Looking back, this has happened twice before, I’d previously thought the fault lay with either the flash drive itself or the integrity of the volume in file produced by TrueCrypt.  I’d Googled the problem and found hardly anything relevant.  Some stuff from M$ suggesting issues between NForce chipsets, though no resolutions or anything directly related to my system.  Until…

I have gone to the properties of the USB HDD in Device Manager and then to the Policies tab and have set the device to “Better Performance” as opposed to the default of “Quick Removal”. BE AWARE: you must now make sure you do safe removal before unplugging the device or you risk data loss (no big deal to me as I always did safe removal anyway).

This strangely seems to remove all curruption issues but must be done on every USB HDD as it is a policy for that device and not all USB HDD’s. Once set on that PC it should remain set for future use. 

I’d ensured the policy item was set to quick removal deliberately (though this is the default for flash memory), the idea is that the OS won’t cache data for writing at a potentially more optimal time instead forcing immediate writes and allowing removal of the drive without first having to perform writes.  While this is true, it’s misleading as users generally believe this means they can yank the drive out.  The system might be writing at the moment of yanking or more likely a program you are running has a handle on the drive.  This includes programs with bugs using shared resources.

Screen capture of setting location

This is where the setting is changed

For this reason and seeming as I have to follow a sequence for dismounting the TrueCrupt volume it makes hardly any difference to me.  It worked a treat, immediately after the setting change, I was able to copy an 8GB file between the USB drive and the computer.