Monday, September 23, 2013

September's Book: Heat Wave

Heat Wave by Richard Castle
Mystery (2009 - 274 pp.)

Heat Wave is the first tie-in book to the hit ABC series Castle, which premiered a few months before this book's release. I was a latecomer to the show, only starting to watch it at the behest of a friend a few months ago, so this whole mystery-writer-joins-the-cops thing is still relatively new to me. I'm hooked, though.

The book is basically a textual Castle episode. Journalist Jameson Rook rides along with Detective Nikki Heat, bearing absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to writer Richard Castle riding along with Detective Kate Beckett. The characters, setting and plot are almost carbon copies of the show - set in New York City, a high-profile homicide with lots of twists and turns, and lots of bullets flying. Rook is cheeky, Heat is tough, the other main characters Raley and Ochoa ("Roach") have the same great characters their TV equivalents have, and the bad guys don't have many redeemable qualities. The character of Casper is an interesting one of a type not often seen in Castle episodes, which is a highlight. However much you like Castle, that is exactly how much you will like this book. The writing is very stock mystery but it works perfectly as a portrayal of how the pulp author Castle writes rather than attempting to tie some kind of literary masterpiece to a show that simply isn't about them. I got over the imperfections as soon as the plot started advancing.

As a bonus, there's a fake interview with Richard Castle at the end. It's hilarious. I was in stitches the whole time. Whoever wrote this book, a mystery ABC is keeping from us all until an undisclosed future date, has Richard Castle's personality down pat.

Completely unrelated to the book, I just had to listen to the Martha Reeves & the Vandellas classic "Heat Wave" while writing this entry. Having known the song since childhood, it played in my head a little every time I saw the book's cover.

Ease of Reading: 10
Educational Content: 1

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Soup Diet Week: It's All Over Now

I successfully completed Soup Diet Week! After a check-in, I've done everything I need to do. As of 12:00AM this morning, I've been able to eat whatever I want. I've responded by eating healthy food like chicken and pasta, and not so healthy food like a bit of candy and chips. Of all things, I've also eaten a couple cups of applesauce, which were such a staple on my fruit days I thought I'd be sick of them by now.

Day 4 ended up just as well as I could have hoped. Day 5 was a boon, the steak being just the thing I needed, although it was frustrated not being allowed to eat vegetables that day. The six fresh tomatoes I ate made for a nice snack cut into sixth like apple slices and seasoned with black pepper. On Day 6 I bought fast food - ginger beef and chow mein vegetables from a Chinese-Canadian place in my local food court. It was painful not being able to get chow mein noodles with them but such are the rules. Day 7's brown rice, which I cooked with the remainder of Day 2/3's zucchini and onion, was just as welcome as the steak.

I finished the week by killing off the rest of the soup. There was a surprisingly high amount left. I ate about two and a half bowls with less than two hours to go in the diet and even had enough to let a friend eat one. (She enjoyed it - it's not just me who likes the soup.)

Something any Soup Diet Week participant learns rather quickly is it's not about healthy eating habits, although those are encouraged. It's an Iron Man-style challenge. As tempting as it is to say, "you're already eating healthy, so why go to this extreme?" it's probably equally tempting to walk up to someone five hours into the Iron Man and say "you're already getting your exercise, so why go to this extreme?" It's a mental challenge and a personal achievement. I can now say I've done it, as little credibility as that I'm sure that buys me with anyone.

That said, I had fun cooking some of the dishes, I was still able to go to a bar and eat fast food, and I genuinely enjoy the soup. I may even start making roasted potatoes and salads a little more often now.

Here's my weight, by day, since I started. I'm 5'10" and am reasonably athletic. My scale measures in 1/5 pound increments.

Soup Diet Week: Weight Record (September 4-11, 2013)
Day 1 (Wednesday, September 4): 170.0
Day 2 (Thursday, September 5): 167.4
Day 3 (Friday, September 6): 165.2
Day 4 (Saturday, September 7): 164.2
Day 5 (Sunday, September 8): 164.0
Day 6 (Monday, September 9): 163.2
Day 7 (Tuesday, September 10): 163.8
Final (Wednesday, September 11): 163.2

I lost 4.8 pounds the first two days, which amazed me. The 2.0 pounds in the next three days is still quite impressive but is overshadowed by the first two days. After that, I leveled off considerably, which is to be expected once all the initial water weight is gone. I lost 6.8 pounds for the week, less than Ralph Pohlman's estimate of 8-10, but I think it was still a success. Perhaps people with greater weight loss goals than mine are more inclined to lose an extra couple pounds. The final measurement also factors in the food I ate after midnight, candy and diet cola included. I still haven't picked up a slice of bread since I finished, though.

Day 7's measurement was annoying. Gaining any weight on any day while on a crash diet is depressing. For a rebound effect, it was nothing. Now let's see if the weight stays off.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Soup Diet Week: The Halfway Update

As I'm now most of the way through Day 4 of Soup Diet Week, this seems like a good time to share some observations from the first three days and most of today. My weight loss will be documented in the finale post because there's more of a pop to it when it hits all at once. Suffice to say it's going well.

Day 1 was surprisingly livable, largely thanks to my decision to fill up on potatoes and eggs at about 11:50PM the night before. It was also the time when I ate the most soup, seeing as the soup/fruit diet is probably the most restrictive of any day. A couple things I've realized while doing this diet are (1) to really lean on each day's prescribed foods, limiting the soup to about one meal per day in order to not get sick of it; and (2) to view it as a cooking challenge, and actually have fun with different foods on their allotted days. I've also upped my coffee consumption, as there's nothing prohibiting that, and I can barely drink anything else besides water for the first six days.

That leads us to Day 2, i.e. baked potato day. Seeing as Ralph Pohlman allows butter on the baked potato on this day, and I normally substitute out butter for olive oil when I cook, I figured I'd use some olive oil instead. That gave me enough to oil a pan. I ended up making this medley of a russet baker, an onion and a green pepper in the oven. I'm aware peppers contain seeds and are therefore fruit but it was easier to hold off on them on fruit day to use them on vegetable day for culinary purposes. I added plenty of basil, garlic, pepper and paprika, the last of which blackened a bit. For those interested in trying it, cut everything up and bake it at 400 for 70 minutes. I also ordered a mixed green salad with minimal balsamic vinaigrette dressing at a bar, proving that Soup Diet Week isn't a complete social life killer.

Day 3 was vegetable overload. I dealt with that by making this stirfry from zucchini, orange and yellow pepper, thai green chili, onion and bok choy, and then this salad (at 11:43PM!) from artichokes, the rest of the peppers, onions and chili garlic paste. I used a minimal amount of canola oil for the stirfry seeing as Ralph Pohlman doesn't specifically allow oil for this day. Planning certain foods for right before or right after midnight is smart if you're someone like me who's typically awake then.

Day 4 hasn't been nearly as bad as I thought it'd be. I never eat bananas as a snack, nor do I drink much milk. Maybe as a result of this diet, bananas and milk have never tasted so good. I'm down three of each and have three of each to go. Tomorrow, I finally get to eat meat again. That will be a boon.

As an aside, this is my 100th post! ...and it has nothing to do with books. So be it.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Soup Diet Week

In 2000, psychiatrist and columnist Ralph Pohlman wrote a week-long diet guide for the Toronto Sun. Thirteen years later, I'm doing it! A friend and I will spend a week, starting tomorrow at 12:00AM and finishing on Tuesday, September 10 at 11:59PM, on this diet. She wants to lose weight and I like to think I'm a supportive friend.

The diet is based on a tomato and cabbage-based soup my mom has made a few times. It's delicious... the first three or four times. Subsisting on this soup and only prescribed foods should be special, to say the least.

Here's a textual version of the diet:

As much soup as possible may be eaten in addition to the following.

Day 1 (Wednesday, September 4): fruit other than bananas
Day 2 (Thursday, September 5): vegetables other than beans, peas or corn + baked potato
Day 3 (Friday, September 6): fruit and vegetables
Day 4 (Saturday, September 7): six bananas + six glasses of skim milk
Day 5 (Sunday, September 8): steak + can of tomatoes or six fresh tomatoes
Day 6 (Monday, September 9): beef (may be substituted for chicken or fish) + vegetables
Day 7 (Tuesday, September 10): brown rice + unsweetened fruit juice + vegetables

Here's the soup, freshly made.

I'll be giving sporadic updates during the week to let everyone know how it goes.