Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Remembering my 4th birthday

When I turned 4 years old in February of 1974, I received the following gifts:

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  • a truck and cars from my aunt Kay, actually she’s my cousin
  • a gun, holster, and mask from my aunt Jackie, actually she’s also my cousin
  • a truck, pony trailer, and cake from my parents

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  • four pennies and a card from Annabelle
  • candy and a dime and some gum from Mrs Kelley
  • the game Cootie (R) from the Harris family

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  • and a card from Linda (possibly Miss Kreps?)

Why do I know all this?  Because my mom wrote it all down, of course!

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This trip down memory lane was brought to you by my mom … with a little help from First Security Bank of Mackinaw Illinois!  Whose slogan was apparently “The sign of a good bank, with time for you”, which makes absolutely no sense!   🙂

Thanks for your interest!

Kurt

The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978). What has been seen cannot be unseen.

Wow.  I don’t recall actually watching this 2 hour television spectacle when I was 8 years old.  But maybe my subconscious blocked it from my memory.  It had good reason.  This was probably the worst television variety show that was ever made.

Ever.

And that’s saying a lot because there were a lot of really bad variety shows made in the 70’s.

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It’s like watching a train wreck.  It’s so horrible.  And yet you cannot look away.

Try it yourself.  This YouTube version is just over an hour and a half long because all the commercials have been removed.  There is some copyrighted content in this version so if it gets taken down, just search the Internet for another version.


George Lucas isn’t really to blame for this travesty.  He did not produce it.  He did not direct it.  He did not write it.  He didn’t even consult on it.  He was starting to work on his follow-on to Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back.  He did greenlight the Holiday Special, though.  And that started this big ugly snowball rolling downhill.

The special was broadcast only once on Friday November 17, 1978 which was the week before Thanksgiving. It aired on the CBS television network from 8pm to 10pm, which pre-empted both Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk.

And then everyone promptly tried to forget it ever happened.

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In case you don’t have the stomach to watch a recording of the entire special, I’ll summarize.  The main characters from the Star Wars film were in the television special.  Reluctantly.  In several scenes it appears their hearts were not really in it, though.

“Starring Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Harrison Ford as Han Solo, Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia.  With Anthony Daniels as C-3PO.  Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca.  R2-D2 as [pause] R2-D2.  And James Earl Jones as the voice of Darth Vader.”

The variety skits in the show had several high profile guest stars.  “With special guest stars, Beatrice Arthur, Art Carney, Diahann Carroll, The Jefferson Starship, and Harvey Korman.”

Most variety shows had been filmed in front of a live studio audience or at least had a post-production laugh track added.  This special had neither.  So every time an actor tried to say or do something funny, the viewer got an uncomfortable feeling like something odd just happened.  It’s like when you tell a joke to a room full of people and all you hear are crickets chirping.

Awkward.

The plot, if you can call it that, is very very boring and pointless and only serves to tie together several musical numbers and some attempts at humorous skits.  I’m not even going to try to summarize the plot here because it is so long and boring.  It centers around Chewbacca’s family on his home planet, though.  The main characters in the show are Chewie’s wife, son, and father.

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The best part of the show is an animated cartoon that features the debut of a new character named Boba Fett.  You may have heard of him.

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If you suffer through all the way to the end, you will get a special treat.  The final musical number sung by Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia.  She’s not a terrible singer.  But the whole scene is just as uncomfortable as the rest of the show.  And the finale isn’t at all inspiring, as it intends to be.

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Thanks to Josh and Chuck of the Stuff You Should Know podcast for bringing this production back up from the annals of my subconscious and forgotten memories.

And thank you for reading this!

Kurt
(a Star Wars fan since 1977)

The kids are paying attention, Disney. And they disapprove of cursing in Star Wars.

Today is the last day of Christmas break for my 11 and 13 year old boys, so I just now offered to take them to see their second showing of the blockbuster film Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  I was surprised by their lack of excitement.

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When I pressed them, they surprised me with their reasoning.  They both said that they were turned off by the cursing in the film.  They said the cursing didn’t fit in with Star Wars and they said it didn’t fit in with Disney, either.

Wow, I don’t even remember any cursing in the film.  I looked it up on the Internet and apparently there were exactly three swear words … one use of  “d-mn” and two uses of “h-ll.”

So Disney, if you’re listening … there’s no reason for the Star Wars characters to curse.  It just doesn’t fit in with that universe.  It feels out of place. Well, at least for kids it does.

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It’s been several years since we saw Episodes 4, 5, 6, so we may have forgotten if there was any swearing in those movies.

Thanks for listening.

Kurt Leucht
(a Star Wars fan since 1977)

Down 14 pounds: There might actually be something to this whole “don’t eat wheat” fad

So I lost 14 pounds in 8 weeks recently.

That’s very close to 2 pounds each week, which is a good healthy amount of weight to lose, if that’s what you’re going for.

Here is my entire year’s worth of Monday morning weigh-ins.  Click to see the full resolution image.  You can see that I went down and then up and then down again this year.  I hope to be more stable than that in 2016.  And I think I might know how.

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The yellow highlighted section is the 8 week time period where I lost those 14 pounds.  You can see that it was very nearly a straight diagonal line for the entire 8 weeks, as opposed to a whole bunch of water weight loss at the beginning with less loss at the end.

So what was my secret for this weight loss?

Well, at least part of it was due to me not eating anything with wheat in it.  And I also tried my hardest to avoid added or processed sugar.

Here is the whole story with some excruciating details if you have some time to kill.

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Not a diet

Back in September, a person that I look up to told me about his “strange” eating habits and he also told me exactly why he took up those habits.  He said that if I tried these habits the fat would just melt off me.

He was not proposing a diet.  He was proposing a different manner of eating.  No calorie counting.  No exercising.  Just five simple rules.  Five things to avoid … avoid like the plague.

At the time I was skeptical.  But not anymore.  There really is something to this.

The rules

The rules are actually pretty simple to remember … but aren’t always super simple to practice in this day and age:

  • don’t eat wheat
  • don’t eat flour
  • don’t eat rice
  • don’t eat corn
  • don’t eat sugar unless it’s naturally occurring, like in fruits

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Wheat and other grains

So you may have noticed the huge popularity of the gluten free movement recently.  Most of the gluten free camp believes that genetically modified wheat is basically slowly poisoning us all.  They claim that our digestive system doesn’t fully process this wheat.  They claim that it is a pro-inflammatory agent to our body’s cells.  And they attribute all manner of diseases and sicknesses to the wheat and gluten in our supposedly natural and supposedly healthy diets.  Most wheat haters also dislike barley, oats, and rye for all the same reasons.

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Flour

Most flours are made from wheat, but they contain very little nutritional value … even after being enriched with vitamins and minerals.  So the people who are against wheat are even more aggressive in their hatred of flour.

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Rice

Although rice is not claimed to be as bad for us as wheat and the other grains, it is suggested by all manner of nutritionists to try and minimize it in your diet.  Rice … especially white rice … has very little nutritional value so filling up on it is not really going to be very good for your overall nutritional well being.

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Corn

Most people think corn is a vegetable, but it’s actually a grain.  And yes, grains are bad for us as I explained earlier.  The corn we eat today is highly genetically modified, just like the wheat.  And our bodies aren’t super great at processing corn either.  And everybody already knows about the high starch and sugar issue with corn.

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Sugar

Well, sugar has always been the enemy, so that’s a no brainer.  Naturally occurring sugar is probably not going to hurt us too much.  But the problem is that we eat the non-naturally-occurring kind of sugar.  The processed crystals that we add to almost everything.  We eat a lot of processed sugar.

And we drink a lot of it too.  If you are addicted to sugary drinks, please please please try to wean yourself off of them.  It won’t be easy.  It won’t be quick.  It’s a full blown addiction.  You will get headaches.  You will crave them.  You will go into withdrawals.  But if you drink one 12 ounce soda each day, you are increasing your risk of diabetes by about 25%.  If you drink only one soda per week, I will not nag you about it.  But if you drink several or more per week, then you are very likely causing your body harm.

Many sugar haters go as far as to say that processed sugar either causes cancer or feeds it.  Whether that turns out to be the case or not, you have to agree that naturally occurring sugar is probably better for your body than artificially created and processed versions.  Right?

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No, no, no?  So what CAN I actually eat?

Basically grain is the enemy.  Well, grain and sugar.  If you strictly cut off grains and added or processed sugar items from your menu, you will lose weight.  Even without exercise.

Fat is NOT the enemy, so don’t worry about fat free or low fat foods.  Calories are not even the enemy.  There is absolutely no need to count calories.  Just eat a reasonable portion and then eat again when you get hungry again.  Don’t eat just because it’s time to eat.  Eat because you are hungry.  That’s good advise for anyone.  Not just people who are trying to lose weight.

Eat all kinds of oils and fats without worry.  Eat all manner of meats (red, poultry, pork, fish, shellfish), eggs, vegetables (fresh or frozen), leafy greens, fruits, nuts, seeds, berries, beans, legumes, oils (olive, coconut, avocado), butter, almond butter, honey, mushrooms, dairy, toppings, condiments, etc.

This plan is in the same vein as the “hunter/gatherer” diets that are popular, like the Paleo Diet, but not nearly as strict.  For example, there is no restriction on dairy like in the strict Paleo Diet.

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Suggestions

I get it.  It’s hard to avoid breads and chips.  Those things are everywhere!

I ate a lot of meat and cheese and mushroom omelette and scrambled egg dishes for breakfast during the 8 weeks that I was being strict and trying to lose some weight.  But fruit smoothies are also a good idea or a nice change from the eggs.  Flour-free banana pancakes are difficult to make without burning them, but they are a super tasty treat.

Here are a handful of lunch and dinner ideas.  Taco salad without the chips.  Any type of salad with meat on top.  Avocados on top of just about anything … salad, meat and cheese, etc.  Baked or grilled fish fillet with spices or blackened.  Marinated chicken breast or pork chops or steak with toppings such as mushrooms, peppers, onions, avocados, cheese, sun dried tomato, etc.  Cook any meat in wine.  Add jerk or blackened spices to any meat.  Soups.  Dips without the chips.  Zucchini with lemon juice and spices.  Polish sausage or brats with sauerkraut.  Eat any manner of sandwich wraps and soft tacos, but eat them with a knife and fork and leave the tortilla shell behind.  If you want a juicy burger, load it up with toppings and condiments and eat it with a fork and knife and leave the bun behind.

Now what?

Since I lost the weight that I wanted to lose and I’m now at what I believe to be my ideal weight, I’m adding in occasional suger and occasional wheat and other grains.  But I will try to minimize my sugar intake and my wheat intake with the hope that I will maintain this weight over the long term.

I will provide an update to this post when the jury has reached a verdict on the long term viability of this plan.

Thanks for reading this article and thanks for your interest.

Kurt

Kurt’s review of “The Martian” by Andy Weir

Oh. My. Gosh.

I love, love, love this book!

Okay, so I’m a nerdy NASA engineer. Of course I loved it.  But I know all you non-nerdy folks will also love this book.  And here’s why:

It’s interesting & engaging

It’s a survival story set in one of the harshest locations imaginable.  So many things can go wrong … and so many of them do go wrong.  Every step of the way.  It’s nearly constant edge of your seat entertainment.  Add in some NASA politics and a few personality conflicts and you’ve got yourself a real pager turner.

It’s funny.  No, it’s hilarious

The narrator … the astronaut who gets stranded on Mars … has a terrific sense of humor throughout the entire book.  He’s quite a character and his personality stays upbeat despite his less than ideal circumstances.  Much of the narration is of him logging his daily activities into a computer system in which he has no idea whether anyone will ever read or not.  He’s basically talking to himself for much of the book and it’s quite humorous.

It’s technical, but not in a bad way

There’s a constant stream of problem solving throughout the book.  But I don’t think it will make your eyes roll back in your head.  Most of the time the details are given in a way that the layperson can understand.  Sometimes the narrator even “dumbs” down the technical details for the reader.

It’s real

Well, mostly real.  This is science fiction, but it is not your typical far-fetched or far-futuristic science fiction.  Much of this story could occur today using technology that we actually use today or technology that we are developing and testing today for use on future Mars missions.  Most of the engineering solutions are also real and possible today using current technology.  There is very little hand-waving here.  And it is very satisfying.

Note: This book is not for kids.  The narrator … the astronaut who gets stranded on Mars … curses like a sailor throughout the entire book.

I highly recommend this book.  It’s a very interesting and engaging read that is difficult to put down.  It’s entertaining for engineers and non-engineers alike.

Click below to order the book for yourself.  You can buy it in paper or digital formats from Amazon, the most popular online store in the world!

Thanks for your interest.

Kurt