Need To Stay Up? Try Licorice. Just Have It Early.

Honestly, I am that guy.  There’s a bowl of Jelly Beans and I’ll get the black ones. 

Yep.  I like Licorice. 

Now mind you, I’m not exactly sedentary.  When I workout I get my heart rate regularly well over that weird math calculation of 220 – age = max rate.

If you’re 30, that’s 190.

I’m over 30 and I routinely peak over 210.  I asked my doctor once about it and he shrugged and said that I knew more about it than he did.  If you feel tired, slow down.

All those miles of inline skating did my heart well even years after I stopped doing 100 mile weeks.  At that point in my life my resting heart rate was 42 BPM.


There are times when you don’t want your heart ticking along like an old 1973 Chevy Nova’s 6 cylinder motor.  I swear those things came from the factory with a valve tap.

At the second mug of coffee in the chair with bouncy music in my head, things are ticking along at a normal resting rate.

That’s all well and good.  Coffee does its thing and we all know that after a bit it’s not keeping you awake.  Its basically psychological or to avoid an addiction withdrawal.

That headache-y, dizzy, grumpy face feeling could be just … oh go have another mug, we’ll all wait.  Meanwhile the meeting will go on.

We hit the Big Supermarket this week.  That is the one in the area that has all the weird special things that you really do enjoy but don’t get at the one closest to the house because you live in a walkable neighborhood and everything is small.

Ok, maybe you live in a suburb and have to drive a mile just to get out of your development, but I don’t.  I have a car and barely use it and that’s how I like it.  Walk to the shops.  I used to live in a part of Philadelphia that I had excellent mass transit and would regularly hop the big train to go into Center City … just because.

That is one of the main reasons why I live where I do in South Florida, Wilton Manors.  I can walk and do walk just about anywhere I have to.

We hit the Big Supermarket and I was able to get those oddball items.  Bar Cake of Red Velvet Cake.  Proper “Homemade” hoagie rolls.  Extra sharp provolone, tavern ham, lettuce, tomato, balsamic vinegar, and Sweet Onion.

Yes, lunch was a proper Hoagie.

Then I got to the candy isle.  Got exactly one package of British Liquorice.  That’s how they spell it there.  Extra letters and all.  Nice and soft and tasty.

If you like that sort of thing.

Now, Licorice has a definite effect.  I’d have two pieces of this stuff and skip the Red Bull.  It will definitely keep you going.

Coffee’s effect wears off in 4 hours.  That is why you can have coffee at dinner and still sleep at night. 

Licorice works on different pathways.  It actually elevates your heart rate.  It’s a workout in a little black squishy blob.

Mmmm Squishy Blobs!

But it also seems to work much longer with me.  I try not to have the stuff after lunch and only in very small amounts.  

I’m a tall guy, active, fitter than average.  I’m used to having my heart rate up ticking along.

I’m repeating myself.

But at 3:30 AM, waking up is not a good thing. 

So I got up and started writing.

I’ll lay off the licorice for a day.

Or the liquorice. 

Either way it will keep you up!


Reimagining the Desk – A Journey With A Stiff Neck

One of the earliest things that I had written about was my living room.   Specifically, I took a picture of my chair, my laptop, and the rest, and I then told the story of the Poang and how I tend to sit in my chair and write.   I also do more than that, all sorts of software development for fun and profit, as well as pretty much treat the thing as an office.

There’s a problem.

I originally thought that it was a Tall Guy Problem.  It’s not.  It’s simply a problem.

After reading Reddit and the Tall Subreddit where people take random selfies looking uncomfortable because the world was not engineered for someone over 6 feet tall, I came to the conclusion that Mom was Right.

My posture had become awful and my coveted chair was contributing to it all.  Back pain, stiff neck, and general achy self were some of the things I had noticed.

Yeah I know, Hey, Bill, Take Control.  Grab the Reins.

Ok, Smart Alec that lives inside my head, what do I do?

The house I live in has my desk.  The desk is in the Florida Room.  That room needs insulation and since the exposed beams warm the place to another five degrees F warmer than the rest of the house as soon as the sun starts to bake it, I had abandoned my desk almost immediately after I settled into it.

Don’t ask, it’s too warm to use.

The Ikea Poang in the middle of the living room is under a vent and a ceiling fan redirects the air conditioning so it’s comfortable.  I used to say that it was the coolest seat in the house, but I’m not so certain.

What I did was to relocate to the dining room.

I have an old 1950s or earlier solid maple table in there with matching solid wood chairs.  When Mom got this set, I took a liking to it.  I saw an opportunity when she started complaining that it didn’t do well in her kitchen in Barclay Farms, Cherry Hill, good ol’ New Jersey.  So I “helped her out” of it and it’s been with me ever since I moved into my first Philly apartment.

After waking up with a proper stiff neck that never went away and some other disturbing creaks and cracks that were getting more insistent, I tried some minor changes.  It convinced me that while this isn’t perfect, I’m onto something.

Ergonomically speaking, your eyes will track to the center of the device that you are using.  In my case it is a 16 inch wide laptop.  If I put that on my lap, it will create some problems.

The worst problem is that since I slightly recline in the Poang, the view to the laptop means that I am looking down.  In the more than 10 hours a day I am sitting there using the laptop, my head ends up with chin literally glued to my chest.  That is not a good position.  Not at all.

The laptop had to be raised off my lap and placed onto Mom’s Maple table.

Good first step.  Now, slide back… great!  But those chairs are stiff.  Nobody wants to sit on an un-padded wood Captain’s Chair for hours no matter how nice it looks.   Plus the angle is still “down”.

I slid the chair aside, moved the Poang in.

It’s much better.  My eyes are dead center on the monitor.  The picture I took from my right shoulder, while it is out of focus, is perfect for showing the view I get from the bouncy chair.

One problem.  I am an excellent touch typist.  Mrs Momarella and my good friend Donna W. from High School taught me well.

The laptop is just below shoulder height.  That doesn’t make for comfort.  In fact, I tried typing that way for all of five minutes.  My hands nearly came off at the wrist.

Seeing that I can type with my eyes closed almost as well as I can with them open, I needed something else to happen.

I pulled the captain’s chair out again and used it for a platform to set the track ball.   It’s a big clunky thing that uses up my USB port and won’t sit on the arm of the chair.  Since this is “work hour use only” no worries there, I’ll just “own” using my dining room as my office.

One more thing.  Keyboard.

My old school IBM Model M Keyboard with the clicky keys!  Lets try that first. 

Nope.  It drains too much power to use on the USB converter thing.

Digging through the Parts Cabinet, I found an old Microsoft wireless keyboard.  That is on my knees right now just inside the picture.  It works “well enough” but I still want my PS/2 Keyboard.   Once I find my powered USB hub, I know that it will drive the keyboard I really want to use. 

Too bad you can’t get those clicky keyboards with bluetooth though.   It’s 1980s technology that will work because it’s just that good.  Too well designed to toss with real mechanical switches on each key.  They weigh almost as much as the laptop does.  I have about 4 of them in the house buried under the bed because when people tossed their old PCs, the keyboards would end up at the computer shows being sold for a mint.

If 5 dollars could be considered a mint.  Now they go for between 80 and 200 US Dollars more on auction and reseller sites.

No, I won’t share.  Get your own.  Besides, I may figure something else out with my coveted clicky IBM Keyboard Model M.

Yes, I have Ideas.

For now, I have my Tall Guy Adaptation.  It really isn’t about being tall though, it’s more about looking at how you are working and making sure you are sitting at the right place to put your head when you work.  When I touch type… I can set my head back and close my eyes, like this paragraph was typed.  If your are smaller and have a shorter torso, like about 95% of humankind, you can vary the height of everything so that you can work with it at ease.  That is why most “office chairs” have those adjustments to make things more comfortable.

But Laptops?  I’m beginning to realize that they just aren’t meant to live on your lap for 10 hours at a stretch.

Besides, if you do, these days, you will end up toasting your legs.  I’ll leave Mom’s Table to handle that for me.  I’m nice and cool listening to music on headphones, typing on my lap, and resting my head back with my eyes closed.

Yes, I can do this with my eyes closed.


Writing can be an effortless experience.   If I could only have told my 12 year old self who was bored hearing about all that in English Class in Mr Custer’s Sixth Grade Class in Stafford School on Berlin Road in Cherry Hill.

Boring as hell but useful.  Not everything can be an adventure novel after all.   Some come with a beige cover and will bore you to tears but you will use it every day of your life.

Just like that table and laptop combo.

Now oddly enough, before I wrote this up and headed on my little obsessive journey for desk nirvana, the Washington Post had written an infographic on this same subject.  I’ll make it a point to get out of my desk and chair more often, or I’ll at least try.

Since the poster is at this PDF link, it won’t fully display here.   On the other hand, I see that picture below and think… Is THIS what I put my body through?  YUCK!!!!

Is Yogurt Dog Approved? Of Course! How About Some Other Ffoods?

My old dog, Lettie, was never fussy with food until she got quite old.  I used Yogurt to wake up her taste buds for a while.  She’d tear into it with a puppy like energy and really seem to enjoy the stuff.

Rack, my year and a half old Mc Nab Dog, has always been fussy with food.   So I tried the yogurt trick with his food.  Big surprise, he prefers his food with a bit of yogurt on top.

I got the old Doubletalk recently.  The question was: Since Cheese is not a good idea and milk is just a bad idea for a dog, why yogurt?

It turns out that Yogurt brings its benefits to aid digestion.

Pretty much the same reason why you should be eating the stuff is the reason why your dog could use yogurt in their diet. 

Assuming that you’re not giving the dog massive doses of yogurt, only a tablespoon or two are recommended for your dog, it may help with some of your dog’s more annoying dietary byproducts.

The rule is simple.  Plain yogurt, no sugars, definitely no artificial sweeteners like splenda, and you’ll be fine.

What it does give your dog, and you, are a healthy payload of “probiotic benefits”.  Good bacteria as well as some extra calcium and protein.  So make sure that the yogurt you feed your dog has Active Cultures or Live Cultures. 

If you don’t have live cultures, give that brand a miss.  You’re basically eating pudding.  Pudding may be nice, but it doesn’t bring many benefits to the table for you or your dog.

If you make your own, you are guaranteed to have the right stuff at a fraction of the price.  I make about a quart of yogurt a week. The recipe is simple.  Warm your milk to just below boiling, allow to cool to lukewarm (105F/40C or less) and add a tablespoon or so of active culture yogurt to the now cooled milk.  Stir vigorously and allow the mix to “brew” on the counter in a warm area for a day or two until it sets.  Cool and serve.  No weird machines, no trips to the store, and you can use your old yogurt to make new yogurt. 

My own yogurt recipe is linked here, and there’s a jar of the stuff I just put into the refrigerator the morning I wrote this piece.

If you’re making your own, you can use any kind of milk you prefer.  Skim or 1% is best, since everyone benefits from less fat in their diet, and that includes your furry best friend.

While you are considering tweaking your dog’s diet, you can also introduce some specific dog safe fruits and vegetables instead of those pre-packaged treats.  Dogs can eat blueberries, bananas, apple slices, and melons.  Some raw vegetables that I have found are safe are carrots which are great raw to keep their teeth clean, zucchini slices, green beans, and frozen peas.   All of those vegetables are low in calories and help with keeping a pudgy dog more fit and definitely more regular with all that dietary fiber.

You can even slip in some oatmeal to the dog’s diet.  Oatmeal is great for humans for the same reason.  Soluble dietary fiber will cleanse your arteries and lower cholesterol.  It will aid in digestion, and your dog will love it too.  Just be careful not to give yourself a payload of extra sugar that you both don’t need.  Try serving it with fruit and fruit juice instead of milk.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Ladies, check yourself.   Save the Ta-Tas!  Time to get those puppies checked!

This pic has been all over facebook, and seems to have gone viral.  I saw it linked via one of the dog sites, and managed to trace it back to it’s origin, Kristen Alexander’s Photography at, and the photo blog site of her dogs at

Ok, the dog site is beyond cute.  I mean first off, how do you get your dogs to stay put long enough to get a shot like that one?   My Lettie used to hide when she saw me start to take pictures of her since she hated the flash.  Rack would get distracted too easily.  His best pics were spur of the moment and usually I had to take four or five of the “same” one just to get something passable!

Mind you, that Border Collie in the middle has to have back problems with balloons like that on her!

So ladies, check yourself and everyone can enjoy the pics.  How can you not enjoy dogs with goofy balloons?

Feeling Fit? Skip the BMI and go with the Waist Height Ratio

BMI never worked for me.

When I was weightlifting, I had a BMI well into the Overweight Zone.   ” But it was all Muscle ” as I told the doctor, he agreed, we were happy.

I had a resting heart rate of 42 then where normal is nearer to 72-80, skated up to 100 miles a week, spent a minimum of 5 hours in the gym per week.

I laughed at “Overweight”.

Since then, my weight has dropped by about 20 pounds.   I don’t feel that I am fitter than I was when I was training for skating, but my weight is down.  There goes all that time on the “Pec Deck”!

Recently I calculated my BMI and it had me right inside the Healthy band.

I laughed at BMI and realized it’s pointless.

It doesn’t take into account, at least accurately, one’s muscle mass, or their bone mass, or physical “structure, and your general fitness level.

Recently there has been a trend in fitness to recalculate that BMI, or at least push the “healthy” range higher as a result.

There seems to be a realization that the BMI is rubbish and there’s yet another measurement called the Waist to Height Ratio.

You don’t have to worry about this one, it’s simpler.

You know your height, generally.
You know your waist size, or at least you should.

If not, get the tape measure out.

For someone who is 6 feet tall, or 72 inches, they should have less than a 36 inch waist.

The golden number is a ratio of 1/2.   Your waist should be no more than 1/2 of your height.

*whew*, I made it.

Especially after this weekend of Rum Raisin Ice Cream, and a trip to the Chinese Buffet!

This calculation works if you’re metric as well.  180 CM tall means no more than a 90 CM waist.

Don’t mix your Metric and your Imperial measurements, and you’ll be fine.

Remember, walk an extra block and you’ll have a better time of it.   Get off the subway a stop earlier and walk to the office.  Park a little further out on the Mall parking lot under the shady tree.  Go with the “medium” instead of “large” at the food court.  “One To Grow On” is all it takes to get that ratio over the magic .50

If your ratio is over that 1/2 or .50, don’t fret, you can get yourself in shape.  Take the long view since it won’t happen today but you can start.  After all, it took you this many years to get where you are, it will take time to get yourself in a more healthy place.

Stroke Indicator

I guess with all the dog drama I’ve had lately, I am finding health tips more appealing.

Velma had sent me this “helpful hint” about how to detect a stroke a while back and today is the day.  It reads quickly, and you may just save a life with the information here.

Stroke Indicator

FYI…again, but helpful…


Stroke has a new indicator.  It has been said if you email this to 10 people, you stand a chance of saving one life.  Will you send this along?  Blood Clots/Strokes They Now Have a Fourth indicator, The Tongue

STROKE: Remember the 1st Three Letters….S.T.R.

        Stroke Identification:

During A BBQ, a woman stumbled and took a little fall – she assured everyone she was fine (they offered to call paramedics)…she said she had just tripped over a brick because of her new shoes.  They got her cleaned up and got her a new plate of food.   While she appeared a little shaken up, Jane went on went about enjoying herself the rest of the evening. 

Jane’s husband called later telling everyone that his wife was taken to the hospital. – (at 6pm Jane passed away.)  She had suffered a stroke at the BBQ.  Had they known how to identify the signs of a stroke, perhaps Jane would be with us today.  Some don’t die; they end up in a helpless, hopeless condition instead.  It only takes a minute to read this.

A neurologist says that if he can get to a stroke victim within 3 hours he can totally reverse the effects of a stroke…totally.  He said the trick was getting a stroke recognized, diagnosed, and then getting the patient medically cared for within 3 hours, which is tough. 

        Recognizing a Stroke

Thank God for the sense to remember the ‘3’ steps, STR.  Read and learn!
S* Ask the individual to Smile
T* Ask the person to TALK and Speak a Simple Sentence (Coherently)   i.e. Chicken Soup
R* Ask him or here to RAISE BOTH ARMS, if she or he has trouble with ANY ONE of these tasks, call emergency number immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher.

New Sign of Stroke —–Stick Out Your Tongue

NOTE: Another ‘sign’ of a stroke is this:  Ask this person to ‘stick’ out his tongue.  If the tongue is ‘crooked’, if it goes to one side or the other, that is also an indication of a stroke.