Welcome to 2017

Last year was good for me and family. I maintained high utilization rates throughout (to point of fatigue). Kids graduated from ES and MS, and continued to MS and HS respectively. Spousal unit started a new venture that has engaged her enthusiastically.

Our investments performed well. This year we aim for more of the same, and staying the course.

And, of course, Happy New Year!


Skeptic’s Guide to Weight Loss

In the last two years have reduced my weight from 103kg to 93kg, most of that in the last 6 months. My goal is 83kg (183 lbs).

Unfortunately, there is lots of bad information about how to lose weight. My formula, which I have also used successfully in the past, is based on simple principles.

Principle 1: All that matters is number of calories consumed. IMG_1613There is no consistent evidence that any of the following factors matter:

  • Amount of carbohydrates (i.e. low carb fads)
  • Time of day
  • Fruit combined with other foods

These factors can affect overall health and satisfaction, but not weight loss. The only thing that matters is how many calories you eat.

Principle 2: Exercise is about health, not weight loss. I do walk and run everyday. Exercise is important for health, happiness, and longevity, but it is not a factor in weight loss (due to muscle gain and skeletal strengthening, the opposite may occur). 15 minutes of running burns about 150-200 calories–less than a Snicker’s bar. Walking for 1 hour burns about twice that–less than a Double Caramel Mochachino at Starbucks. You cannot substitute extra calories for exercise, as a treat for good behavior, and expect to lose weight.

In general, I do not allow myself to offset calories burned through exercise for additional food intake. To guard against this, I track my exercise at the end of the day, after I am done eating.

IMG_1614Principle 3: Mindfulness of food intake is important for weight loss. There is significant evidence that tracking your consumption reduces intake. Methods may include taking a photo of everything you eat, writing down all food in a log before eating, or tracking calories in a log or spreadsheet. Tracking your weight daily also improves mindfulness.

I use a free application for the iPhone called Lose It. It tracks food with each meal, shows me daily and weekly summaries, remembers what I entered previously, contains a database of common foods, and lets me enter custom foods. Lose It also sets goals and tracks your weight (the premium version, which I don’t own, does a better job of this.)

Principle 4: Balanced nutrition is important for health. For me a healthy diet includes fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs, plant protein (supplement), carbohydrates, and plenty of water. The allure of vegetables for weight loss is obvious: they are nutritious and tasteful while low in calories. The same can be said of chicken and some foods high in proteins (I won’t debate right now the health effects and social effects of animal consumption).

The allure of grains (rice, wheat, corn, soy) for social planners is equally obvious: they are cheap and high in calories. Although I differ with low carb diet plans, the rationale is obvious: carbs contain a lot of calories. The extent of this becomes obvious when you start tracking your calories.

My weight loss plan includes a daily calorie goal set by Lose It. In the last several weeks I have used it consistently and successfully. However, there is a downside: hunger. You have to push through the hunger, but over time it has gone down as my stomach size has adjusted. Many diets pretend to cheat hunger using psychological techniques. Substituting protein for carbohydrates probably helps, but too much may be dangerous for health. Other techniques may work, but most probably won’t, and they are generally not worth the price you pay.

Three times in the last three months I have created “cheat days” when I stop tracking my calories. This was due to burn out, fatigue, hunger, or simple inconvenience (i.e. a party). The occasional cheat day does not seem to have affected my weight loss schedule. Because of my smaller stomach or reduced appetite, my idea of binging is much smaller than it used to be.

Family Japan

Cherry Blossom Viewing on Tamagawa

Sunday was a nice day for a stroll.

Hanami on Tamagawa

Family Japan

物見山/日和田山 – Saitama, Japan

A recent hiking trip to Saitama with the kids.

物見山/日和田山 at EveryTrail


Family Japan

Veranda View

Gorgeous weather. Wonderful view. Time to enjoy a glass of wine.

Family Japan

Water on Mount Fuji

I realized in my previous post I neglected one topic: water.

Prior to the trip I believed it was better to bring up (and down) too much water than not enough.

I have changed my mind for two reasons. Water is heavy. And water or other liquids can easily be purchased along the route.

The two of us carried 2 x 2L bottled water, 2 x 1L bottles filtered tap-water, and 2 x 500mL bottles of amino water (tastes like a sports drink). This was a total of 3.5L per person.

We drank about 2.5L per person and returned with one of the 2L bottled water unopened. Cleaning up today I realized how much extra weight I carried around, and my shoulders felt it.

We found the amino water more refreshing and drinkable than the pure water. However, I would feel uncomfortable without some pure water. Most hikers can safely get away 2L per person. If you find you are consuming more, you can easily purchase more anywhere along the trail, including the summit.

However, be careful on the descent, because there are fewer shops along the descending trail.

Below is a non-Flash version of our experience.

Fuji-san Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station at EveryTrail

EveryTrail – Find hiking trails in California and beyond


Family Japan

Lessons Learned: Mt. Fuji August 3-4

My son and I successfully completed our hike up Mt. Fuji this weekend. After a day of recovery I am now ready to share a few pearls of wisdom.

Hiking in this location is more difficult than other hikes around Japan, due to a combination of a) steep incline, b) thin atmosphere, and c) slippery footing. The thin atmosphere can cause altitude sickness (高山病), which may include headaches and chest pains in heart and lungs. The cans of compressed oxygen are reported to help here, though i didn’t use one on either trip up Fuji-san. A bottle of ibuprofen or paracetamol should be carried for headaches.

The slippery footing does slow your walking speed and increases effort to climb. On the way down it can cause treacherous footwork and falls. I stumbled several times and fell once. I found it best to keep the knees bent and shift weight load to the hiking poles. The quads were very store a day later, however.

Fuji-san Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station

The hike mostly went according our revised plan. We needed about 6 hours to get from 5th Station (5合目) to 8th Station (8合目) Fujisan Hotel. We needed another 3 hours to the summit (頂上). Going up took longer than expected, but the descent took about 4.5 hours, as expected. You will be delayed by frequent rest breaks and traffic choke points at several points along the trails, particularly at the hotels and near the (non-free) restrooms. There are fewer choke points during the descent.

I originally planned for a one-day trip (日帰り). In retrospect this was unrealistic for an 11 year old. A hotel stay around stations 8 or 9 was very refreshing. I was impressed with the efficiency that Fujisan Hotel getting you in and out. The staff were helpful and friendly. I would avoid the meals, if possible.

Unless you really need to see the sunrise from the top of Mt. Fuji, I would avoid. This is the most heavily trafficked period on the mountain. We woke up at 1am to catch the sunrise, but I would have preferred to sleep in a few more hours and avoid the crowds. Similarly I would avoid the Subaru Line / Yoshida Route for the same reason. However, the Subashiri Route converges at 8.

The entire Fuji-san experience is much more crowded and commercialized now than I recall 15 years ago. There are frequent hotels and shops along the trail, including at the summit. These detract from the experience, because they are eyesores and because they create traffic choke points.

My son said insists he never wants to do that again. Unless my daughter demands company up her own Fuji-san hiking experience, I do not plan to do it again either. Twice is exactly once too many.



The Journey, Not the Destination

In her fascinating mini-book from Amazon Kindle Store, Nine Things Successful People Do Differently, Heidi Grant Halvorson argues “People whose goals are about getting better, rather than being good, take difficulty in stride and appreciate the journey as much as the destination.”

It reminds me of my first major dive trip overseas to a live-aboard in the Sulu Sea in territorial waters of the Philippines. The diving was amazing and the experience was unforgettable. But the experience I remember most was not the diving, but rather a remotest of places called bird island. We moored off bird island for 2 days and between dives we snorkeled.

One of those days I snorkeled to bird island and walked through the field of nesting birds. Before realizing what had happened I was in the middle of dozens of birds who weren’t happy. The squawking gave it away. They remained silent as long as I didn’t move. I don’t remember it when I entered, but I felt I couldn’t leave without endangering myself. In the end they never made aggressive moves.

More recently this summer the family took a 3 week trip to the United States. The places I remember most weren’t the places we intended to visit. They were the rest stops, the shopping trip to some city in the middle of California, and the small town outside the Grand Canyon.

Of course I remember the Grand Canyon. And yes, mom and dad, I remember you too. And I promise to get better about calling. Remember it’s about the journey.

Family Japan

New Videos Posted

I have posted a couple new family videos. The first is of a trip we made to the JAXA i branch at Tokyo Station, for a self-study project Reon was doing for school over the summer break.

The second comes from last weekend’s bottle rocket competition. It took place along the riverfront about 10 minutes (by foot) from my mother in law’s home. Please enjoy both.

The first one was made on the Flip which I bought in the US but gave to my son. The second made using ReelDirector on the iPhone. Whereas Flip is an application that runs on the PC/Mac, ReelDirector runs directly on the iPhone–no PC/Mac required. ReelDirector is now preferred, but I do intend to create a weekend project for Reon wherein he must design and upload a video using the Flip.

Family Japan

Okayama Trip of August 2010

We had a nice trip to Okayama last week. The kids enjoyed themselves and many activities, but I think Yoshie-Obachan was exhausted by the time we left. (We also picked up some paperwork so we could apply for my visa.) Photos are up.