Now where is my Escargot recipe?

As our northern friends are moving into fall, we are moving into spring here on the bottom part of the world. A welcome transition too. We have had some days up into the 70s the last couple of weeks, but it is still down in the 40s most every night. Today got up into the mid 60s, but already tonight it is 45 with that penetrating cold humid breeze coming off our river. By the way, I haven’t mentioned the river much, but it is 140 miles wide at its mouth. We live 5 miles from the river.

Slimy snail pictureToday was the day to start preparing the yard for spring!

We started by using a pair of garden sheers to clip the small patch of grass outside our fenced area around a tree. The rest of our roadside space is barren since the two trees cast such dense shade that nothing grows under them.

Then it was time for the main yard. I got our son hooked up with the weedeater and he got lost in the monotony of his work so that he couldn’t argue with his sister much. Can’t say it took all the tension out of their relationship, but it gave him something to focus on and gave us a small break from the bickering.

I busied myself with trim work and doing a bit more pruning on some trees and plants. It is too late in the year to do too much more of that, but I don’t think I damaged anything. Mostly I tidied up our Laural trees and our gigantic Bird of Paradise plant. I need to get a nice picture of that sometime. Our fruit trees (plum, peach, lemon, kumquat and orange) are all ready for the growing season and are putting out flowers and new leaf growth.

Our daughter followed me around picking up branches, twigs and weeds to carry out to the bio-waste pile in front of the house.

Steph took advantage of us being outside and swept and mopped the floor. She also washed windows, pruned bushes and beat rugs.

Bucket of snailsThe fun came when we got onto the porch to uncover and clean the table. We knew what we would find. The snails seem to love either the wooden table, or the black tarp that covers it. Have you ever tried to get a snail to let go of a table or tarp he considers home? We gathered up about 30 snails into a bucket and deposited them with the branches and weeds out front. I don’t envy the guys who will pick all that up by hand in the next few days.

While we still have a ways to go to get everything ready for spring, we accomplished a lot today.

Monday we have a group of friends coming over for a Sign Language Class fellowship. We expect about 30 people here. Our front yard will easily accommodate that many. God has blessed us with a very nice house to use while we are serving here. This is our first opportunity to host a large group of people, but I hope it won’t be our last.

“Don’t use so much tape!”

Bench GrinderThis afternoon I took a gift over to my friend Victor. He turned 86 today. He has become a good friend, even though he doesn’t let me talk much. I initially hooked up with him to form a symbiotic relationship. He is an old bicycle builder. I figured I could help him out in his shop (yes, he still works every day he physically can) and he would teach me all the finer points of bike building and repair. However, most of the time we just stand in his shop and he tells me stories…for hours at a time.

I met him about 4 months ago. From that time until now he has been saying that he needed to get a new wire brush for his bench grinder. He often tries to clean things with the little bit of wire he has left on the wheel. However there is not enough left to accomplish anything. I knew a month ago that I wanted to get him a new brush for his birthday.

When I delivered the present to him I sat and watched as he and his dear wife fought with the tape and paper trying to get the box open. I try to be patient with them and let them do as much as they can on their own; I don’t want to rob them of their last bit of independence. However my embarrassment got the best of me and I had to help them open the box. I should have known not to use 5 pieces of tape when 3 would have worked.

Next time I will put his gift in a bag.

Interview Recording on Zoom H4

Looking for a way to record Skype calls into a hardware recorder I came across this post by Dave Jackson. In his video he talks about the ability to record a call to his Zoom H4 recorder. He uses a mixer; therefore, I had to adapt his instructions to work without a mixer since I opted to leave mine at home for this trip. While his setup gives more flexibility on sound volumes, mine seems to work perfectly fine. If my setup doesn’t quite give you perfect volumes you can adjust each track separately in your sound editing program (as long as you aren’t over driving the inputs). This will record each side of the phone call into separate audio tracks so you can make easy adjustments later.

I have been recording my Skype calls in Linux using a python script called Skype Call Recorder (there are other recorders for Windows and Mac). Skype Call Recorder has worked mostly well, but occasionally it does not record my half of the conversation. Because of that I have (almost) always recorded my side into a separate recorder as a precaution. Except that one time…and therefore I have half of an interview with a missionary. That is, his half, but none of mine. I can probably go back and recreate my half of the recording, but I have never had the energy to do so.

How to do it with the H4
Diagram of where to plug in the different inputsI can record my half of the conversation by plugging my studio mic into the H4, then use my USB headset to talk into Skype. However, to get both sides of the conversation I had to do a little thinking. It is the same as Dave describes in his post except I do not have a mixer to adjust my audio going to Skype. This also means I will have a cable or two going into different places. To adjust my sounds without a mixer I can use my volume settings on the computer or within Skype.

To get both sides of the conversation into the Zoom H4 you need to set the recorder to Stereo Mode and use the INPUT 1/INPUT 2 on the H4 (not the input called MIC in the menus). If you use 4-Track mode it will pick up all your room noise with the built in mics along with the phone call. I need to use 2 mics to make the call. The first mic is my studio mic and it goes to the recorder into INPUT 1. The mic I use to send sound through Skype is a USB mic which goes to the computer. My USB mic is part of a USB headset. You could do this with a stand alone USB mic since you won’t be using the headphones from the USB headset, only the mic.

At this point you have a mic recording into the H4 and a mic going to a USB port on the computer. You now need to run the sound from the computer to the H4. I used a stereo 1/8″ to mono 1/4″ cable. I plugged the 1/8″ end of the cable into the headphone jack of the computer. The 1/4″ end goes into the INPUT 2 on the H4. This now gives you sound out of the computer and into the H4. You have both sides of the conversation going into the H4.

The only thing left is to get sound out of the H4 so that you can hear what the person you are talking to is saying. Simply plug headphones into the PHONES jack of the H4. I used earbuds so that I could have those in my ears and still allow me to wear my USB headset like normal. All the sound will be coming from the H4. You are now hearing exactly what the H4 is recording, that is, both sides of the conversation. If you don’t hear both sides, then you are not recording both sides.

Skype optionsThere are a couple of changes in the Skype settings you need to make. If you are using a USB mic to speak into Skype, you will need to set that properly in your Options | Sound Devices section of Skype. These are Linux instructions, but I am sure you have similar settings in Windows). Microphone will be the USB mic. Speakers must be the computer’s headphone jack.

Simple as that!
I hope the explanation and pictures help you get better interview recordings. You may be able to adjust these settings for other recorders. However I am not aware of any others that give you 2 mic inputs so that you can do this same setup.

Special thanks to my friend Jeff for letting me use his Zoom H4 when needed. He is just trying to make it that much harder to leave Argentina when our work here is done.

Equipment needed:

  • Computer running Skype. I have a notebook computer with only mic in and headphone out jacks. If you have other jacks on your machine you would have other possible options.
  • Zoom H4. I am using the original H4, but these instructions should work fine for the H4n.
  • USB headset. Use the mic to talk to Skype. Headphones are not used. Therefore you could use a stand alone USB mic.
  • Studio mic. To talk to the H4.
  • Headphones from PHONES plug on the H4 to ears.

Cables needed:

  • From studio mic to Zoom INPUT 1. I used a standard XLR cable, but you can go from XLR (on the mic) to 1/4″ at the recorder.
  • From headphone out on the computer to Zoom INPUT 2. I used an 1/8″ stereo to 1/4″ mono cable.

Note: I know many podcast coaches try to steer people away from USB mics. We are using the USB mic to talk with Skype, it is not what is actually being recorded. The studio mic is what is being recorded by the H4.

Are my problems behind me?

I mentioned a couple of months ago that I have had a pain in my backside. I think it is Piriformis Syndrome, however a visit to the doctor last week had him thinking it was Sacroiliitis. The main reason I think he is wrong on that is because Sacroiliitis is typically worsened by prolonged standing or stair climbing, neither of which bother me at all. In fact, because I experience so much pain in either sitting, or standing from a seated position, I have either been on my feet or in an upright kneeling position to work at my desk or eat for months. Standing has not bothered me at all. Until last night I have not even sat down in church for almost 2 months.

However, my visit to the doctor did a couple of things for me. First, it confirmed that I had no major problems that was going to be worsened by exercise and stretching. He gave me the green light to do both. About a month ago I talked with a kinesthesiologist who suggested a couple of stretches that would help loosen the muscles in my derrière. The stretching seemed to help some, but not significantly.

The second thing that talking with the doctor last week did was to get me a prescription to more focused pain medication. I had just been taking Advil which helped with inflammation, but was not doing a tremendous job on the pain. The doctor got me on a pain medication that is often prescribed for arthritis patients (Arcoxia). It has helped considerably with the pain and is an anti-inflammatory. The huge advantage of this is that I am able to keep the pain at bay enough to do more stretching. He also put me on a vitamin B complex of B1, B6 and B12.

I think the single biggest help in my problem is being able to stretch the muscle enough to get it to finally not be constantly tight. I still have pain, but it is nothing like it had been. I actually sat in a chair the last two evenings and did not seem to hurt any worse when I got up.

The stretching routine I use is one I heard about on the Marathon Training Academy podcast. Angie from the podcast put together the video below. For the last 8 days (since I went to the doctor) I have done some kind of warm up exercise of either running or aerobic routine for 30 minutes to an hour and then followed up with the stretches Angie shows in the video. It has been almost unbelievable the progress I have made in a week. Through the years my flexibility has been pretty amazing even as a fat guy. But when I started doing this stretching routine I discovered I am not near as flexible as I was just a year ago. This could be what caused my problems to begin with. But in the last week being faithful to get my muscles well warmed up and stretching with this video, I have gained most of my flexibility back and can see hope for the end of my problems.

Thank you Dr. Unpronounceable-Name and Angie for giving me the medicine and tools I needed to get back on the road to recovery.

Change of thinking to get back on track (Part 5)

I have gathered little nuggets of good thinking that has helped me along my way of getting in shape and losing weight. I have tried to remember many of them to write here, but some of them have become so ingrained in me that I don’t even remember what my thought process was before I learned them.

Get a Cheerleader
Since getting in shape was more a spiritual matter to me than a physical one, I did not want to make a big deal out of it to everyone around me. However, there were key people who were a tremendous help to me. I think everyone needs to find a cheerleader–someone to pat you on the back and tell you how well your doing then gently remind you of your new lifestyle and how eating a box of jelly doughnuts does not fit any more.

For me, that cheerleader was my sister-in-law. She too had gone through a body transformation and knew the work it took to get there. She constantly told me how proud she was of what I was doing. She also pushed me to do a little bit more than I thought I could. I have to admit making her proud didn’t matter to me one bit, but the fact that she said that made me feel good about myself.

If you can get someone, especially someone you respect, to become that cheerleader it will be a big help. If you want to spiritualize it a bit more don’t use the word ‘cheerleader,’ instead talk about that person providing ‘accountability.’ To me accountability focuses on the negative while a cheerleader focuses on the positive. I like the positive.

Do more good than bad
I think it was Scott Smith over at Motivation to Move who I heard say that if we do more good than bad then we will be headed the right direction (or something like that). Some people feel like if they miss a goal, or eat one too many cookies, or miss a day of exercise, then they are doomed. However, if you only occasionally mess up, then you are not completely undone, you just made a mistake. Get over it and move on.

It is true that if I always do the exercises I plan to do and eat good, healthy food then I can accomplish my goals. However, if I make a mistake I might set myself back by a day or two. But I do not need to throw in the towel and quit. I used to be like that. I would let one bad day ruin me. The truth is, yesterday was a bad day for me as far as food goes. I did my exercises that I had planned, but I ate every cookie I could find and could not stop snacking. That doesn’t mean I can’t get to where I want to go, it just means I have delayed my arrival a bit. I hate that. But I am not ruined, only delayed.

I think it was also Scott Smith who I heard say that if you have not eaten in 3 hours, then you are back on your diet. If you do poorly for a meal or a snack then don’t wait until the next day or the next week to get back on track. You can be back on track the very next meal. A box of doughnuts doesn’t have to ruin everything. Just wipe the Krispy Kreame glaze off your face and move forward.

Protect yourself against your weaknesses
Book coverI read The Ultimate Weight Solution by Dr. Phil a few years ago. It was a good book. Not sure I agree with everything, but there were two things I learned in the book that really helped me know how to protect myself against poor thinking.

First I learned that I am a “social eater.” I think he talked about different types of eating habits. I don’t remember any of them other than my struggle is that I like to eat when I am around others. Some people can go to a party or church fellowship and eat just like they would eat at home, but not me. I want to enjoy everything that everyone else is eating. If there is food left, then I feel obligated to help clean up. Do you know how devastating that type of thinking is to someone who travels to churches that put on elaborate pot-luck dinners just because he is there? Tough! This is the reason I mentioned in a previous post that my worst day of the week to measure and record my weight was Thursday. Every Wednesday after church we would have cookies and cokes. The pull to eat until everything was gone did me in every week. Therefore I chose to ignore what my weight was the next 2 or 3 days. I would not let that negative period of the week pull me down.

Knowing this is my weakness has helped me curb my eating a bit. But I still really struggle with it. Since I am a social eater, I also have a different problem. When I am alone, I don’t eat much. That’s not healthy either.

Find out what situations cause you to eat in an unhealthy manner and try to avoid them if you can, or at least be aware that you are entering a potentially tough situation and be on guard in your eating.

The second thing I learned from that book is that often people around us don’t want us to change. While no one would say that they want you to stay fat and unhealthy, they often do things to keep you that way. No grandmother wants her children to go away from the table hungry. Most of the time you make your family feel uncomfortable when you start changing for the better. First it makes them feel guilty and then it makes them jealous. You will probably hear negative remarks from your family members. They may be saying things in jest, but those negative comments can be biting to you. Be aware that this may happen. Protect yourself mentally from it by arming yourself with the knowledge that this may happen and it isn’t unusual. You can stay positive through the negativity.

Food journaling
It is highly recommended that you write down what you stick in your mouth. You will be surprised as to how much you actually put down your neck if you also put it down on paper. Don’t just guess at what you are eating, write it down and be amazed.

I have never actually journaled my food. I am afraid to. But I have read it can be very motivating. It is certainly worth a try if you are stalled when you think you should be progressing. Maybe you are eating much more than you realize.

Beware the plateau
Everyone loves to see the numbers on the scale or the tape measure go down. But sometimes it seems like everything stalls out. Realize that the plateaus will come. Just keep doing what is right and you will accomplish your goals.

For me I saw a strange trend in my numbers. I think it was coincidence, but it may have been something that I was subconsciously doing. After I had lost about 30 lbs. I noticed that I lost down to 242 easily. But breaking below 240 was tough. Same thing with 232 and 230. I went back in my logs and saw the same thing happened at 250 and 260. I seemed to stall out for a couple of weeks and not break under that magic 10 digit. Then, just as magically, I would lose from 232 to 224 in a little over a week. Losing 8 lbs. in a week is not something you should ever try to do, but it happened to me twice. Normally it was 3 to 5 lbs. in a magic week. Those are plateaus. You struggle to get under them but seemingly get nowhere. Then BOOM! all of a sudden you drop several pounds. That is motivating.

Make it a matter of prayer
I realize that not all my readers are Christians. My reasons for getting in shape probably don’t apply to you. However, those who do believe in God let me ask you a question. If God made you and has a purpose for your life, don’t you think He would want you to be healthy? God does not make everyone healthy. There are people who are afflicted with horrible situations for His glory (the blind man in John 9). But if you are neglecting to do what is good and healthy to the body God gave you then your physical problems may not be because He wants glory from them. Your problems are a result of you neglecting the body that He provided (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20).

On a recent trip I had a roommate who said to me, “I can do something that God can’t.” That was shocking. Then he followed it up by saying, “God can’t exercise my body. I have to do it.” God made us free-will beings allowing us to make good and bad choices. I want to make good choices. Does this mean I do everything right with my eating and exercise now? No. But I am working on it. I want to encourage you to do the same.

Ask God to help you take care of your body. To give up and say that you can’t lose weight or get in shape is equivalent to you saying you don’t believe God can help you do it. It will still be work, but with God helping you then I am certain it won’t seem so difficult.

Thanks for taking the time to read these posts. I hope they have been an encouragement to you. I have been meaning to write about some of these things for a while. I am glad I have finally been able to get them written. This has also been a help to me to process where I have come from and how to get back to where I want to be. While I have gone through all of this once, it is a lifestyle change. I need to get back to that good healthy lifestyle.

Have you read the first post?