Darrell Schweitzer on South Park?

Posted on: November 5th, 2010 by Nathan E. Lilly

Did Darrell Schweitzer, noted Fantasy author, Weird Tales editor, Lovecraft scholar, and Philadelphia native appear in the latest cthulhu/lovecraft themed episode of South Park?

Compare to this photo of Darrell by Kathryn Cramer:

Watch the episode “Mysterion Rises” and look for him at 16:27 and 18:52. I may be wrong, but they’re eerily similar.

I’m normal!

Posted on: October 8th, 2010 by Nathan E. Lilly

As of yesterday I’ve trimmed the final few pounds to hit a normal BMI (at 163 pounds)—I’m a size S again. It’s a royal pain to have to go out and buy an all new wardrobe, especially since I’m still trying to lose a bit more weight, but my XL clothes need to be retired. I’m handing many of them down to my 16-year-old nephew, and conversely he’s handing some of his old clothes down to me. The strangest part is that he just handed down to me a sweatshirt that I had handed down to him last year. Weird.

PhauxCon 2010

Posted on: September 29th, 2010 by Nathan E. Lilly

I’m going to PhauxCon 2010 this Saturday, and you should too. It’s a small, cozy, (almost secret) one-track con in Philadelphia that is entirely worth going to. It’s only $20 at the door and you can’t beat it for interaction time with the guests. I was there last year where I met Kelly Rowles, L.A. Banks, David Hill, and Filamena Young. I’m not sure who’s going to be there this year—but I don’t care—it was seriously just that much fun.

I’ve lost 30 pounds with 2 easy methods!

Posted on: September 17th, 2010 by Nathan E. Lilly

If anyone can change me, it’s me.

It’s true! As of yesterday I’ve lost 30 pounds in the past 20 weeks.

Before—height:5′8″; weight:196.0 lbs; waist:42″; neck:17.5″ BMI:29.9; body fat:~38%; waist-to-height ratio:60.3%;

After—height:5′8″; weight:165.4 lbs; waist:33″; neck:16″ BMI:25.2; body fat:~24%; waist-to-height ratio:48.5%;

My original goal was to lose 30 pounds in 10 weeks, which I missed, but I’m not disappointed in the end. I went from about 200 pounds to 165 pounds in 20 weeks. I’m very happy with that. This puts me within 2 pounds of a “normal” BMI, and I’m aiming to lose 20 more.

Why did I do it?

I was fat (see week 1 photo above).

There were three geek-related incidents that came together to push me into losing weight: my wife bought a Wii-Fit; I saw photos of myself at various conventions (and didn’t like how I looked—see week 1 photo above); I stumbled upon the “lose it or lose it” geek merit badge. I got serious and applied two miracle methods that helped me to drop the 30 pounds.

What were these miracle methods?

  1. Diet
  2. Exercise

Diet

The easy part: count your calories and eat fewer calories than you expend.

It’s a game of simple math: by eating 500 fewer calories a day than my current maintenance weight (the number of calories required to stay the same weight) I’d lose about 1 pound each week. If my current weight is 200 pounds and I require 2200 calories a day to maintain that weight, then by eating 500 calories less than that a day (1700) I’d lose 1 pound each week. As your weight drops, so does your maintenance weight. For my height, to maintain my target weight of 146 pounds, I would need to limit myself to eating 1934 calories per day. At 200 pounds, by only eating that many calories a day, I would eventually reach my target weight—in a little over three years.

I ate five small meals throughout the day: breakfast; elevenses; lunch; tea; and dinner. If I felt the need, I allowed myself to have a light desert (usually about 100 calories). Even though I ate as few as 600 calories on some days (usually between 800-1000), I rarely felt hungry. If I went to a party, or went on vacation, I didn’t necessarily deprive myself. When I went out to eat I’d only eat half my entree, and save the other half for another meal.

Overall I ended up eating more raw vegetables and fewer carbohydrates. The hardest things to give up were buffalo wings, general tso’s chicken, and duck pad thai. I was able to come up with a low-calorie alternative to satisfy my wing cravings (celery sticks with blue cheese dressing and Tabasco sauce). I’m still looking for a really good low-cal alternative to general tso’s chicken and duck pad thai. All the recipes that I’ve found aren’t quite right.

Exercise

The easy part: get out and exercise more.

I’d really rather not exercise; I was never what you would call athletic. I originally thought I could lose the weight through diet alone. The math just doesn’t make a compelling case for exercise. I could choose to run for an hour or I could just eat a salad instead of a burger. Besides, I’ve tried losing weight through exercise before and I’ve always ended up hurting myself and then giving up.

Through the insistence of a co-worker, I began 20-minute walks during lunch. I eventually added more vigorous exercise to my daily routine: I began running on a treadmill for 15 minutes immediately after work, since I already had a membership to the Y and it was on my way home. A daily 15 minute run was just what I needed. It wasn’t long enough to take me away from other activities, and I was never sore from it afterward.

It was when I began running that I really began to see bigger improvements. I don’t think that it was the fact that I burned more calories with exercise, but that my body toned up, and the weight appeared to melt away. As I lost weight it became easier to exercise.

Eventually I added a morning calisthenics routine (starting with about 10-15 minutes of push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, jumping-jacks, etc.). Soon I had tweaked this to match the 300 challenge (and then some). As of the end of this week my current workout routine consists of:

  • 4 pull-ups
  • 28 jumping-jacks
  • 28 push-ups
  • 28 squats
  • 4 more pull-ups
  • 28 twists (with 5 pounds each arm)
  • 28 leg-lifts
  • 28 squat-thrusts
  • 28 18″ box-jumps
  • 4 more pull-ups
  • 28 toe-touches
  • 28 crunches
  • 28 lunges
  • planks (for 60 seconds, 45 seconds, and 30 seconds)
  • 4 more pull-ups

The squat-thrusts are really the hardest part of that workout. Altogether, I’ve been getting between 20-45 minutes of exercise a day.

My progress

By keeping careful track of the calories that I ate and the calories burned through exercise I was able to anticipate how much I would lose each week. By keeping a log, I was able to see my progress. Weight tends to fluctuate, not because of any actual weight gain, but because of something that you eat or drink, or the weight of your clothes may be different than what you wore when you last weighed yourself. I tried to keep the variables consistent. I wore the same clothes for each week for my official weekly weigh in and I weighed myself at the same time on the same day each week—Thursday mornings before breakfast.

Diet myths

While researching dieting and excercising (what a geeky thing to do) I came across several myths.

Disclaimer: You should consult a physician before making radical changes in diet and exercise.

You must eat at least 1200 calories a day
I could find no reason for this. It seems to be more of a rule of thumb than anything else. Doctors are known to prescribe sub-1200 calorie diets to obese patients. The supposed reasons that I found for not going under 1200 calories were: you’d be more likely to rebound the weight, you’d be less likely to get the necessary nutrition, and you’d enter starvation mode. My thought was that as long as I knew about the potential for rebound going in, then I could plan around it. My nutrition I could supplement with vitamins. As for starvation mode…
Starvation mode
A 1950 Minnesota Semi-starvation Study: ~40 young, healthy, lean men were put on a diet of less than 50% of their basal metabolic rate (BMR) caloric needs per day for 6 months. Their BMR dropped to about 50% of what it had been. They did lose some muscle, but overall they lost mostly fat until their bodies reached 5% body fat. Starvation mode doesn’t seem to be something that the average dieter needs to worry about.
Muscle weighs more than fat
It’s true, but unless you’re a world-class athlete you should just pretend that this is a myth. Muscle gain will most likely only amount to about 0.4 pounds of muscle a week while you’re dieting to lose fat. To really gain muscle mass you should eat more than your daily caloric intake, and then you’d still only end up gaining about 0.8 pounds of muscle per week (I read it on the Internet, it must be true)

Workout Routine Breakdown

Beginning weight: 196 pounds

Week 1:

Began walking and watched my serving sizes (who knew that a serving of rice was just one cup?). result: 197.3 (+1.3)—GAH! I never should’ve attended that bacon party!

Week 2

Continued walking and watching my serving sizes. result: 194.4 (-2.9)

Week 3

Walked a lot at the Steampunk World’s Fair. result: 193.3 (-1.1)

Week 4

Aggressively began a restricted calorie diet and counting calories: eating smaller meals every 2.5 hours (7:30, 10:00, 12:30, 15:00, and 17:30). result: 190.9 (-2.4)

Week 5

I started my test run in the hotel gym at Balticon. Began running 15 minutes alternating 7.5mph and 4mph. result: 187.8 (-3.1)

Week 6

Increased pace to 8mph and 4mph + did a longer run alternating 8mph and 4mph on Wednesday + began a test set of morning calisthenics + made a conscious decision to exercise before I ate. result: 186.3 (-1.5)

Week 7

Morning calisthenics: 12 sets of double negatives (just the controlled downward motion of a pull-up, performed twice) with 1 exercise (10 rep) break; Extra long runs on Sat & Sun. result: 182.8 (-3.5)

Week 8

12 sets of 1 pull-up with 1 exercise (12 rep) break; Hickory Run Camping: 18-Jun to 20-Jun; Baseball 24-Jun; Began running 9mph for 8min and 4mph for 7min; result: 182.1 (-0.7)—Yay! did my first full pull-up ever; Monkey Bread is pure evil—Delicious, delicious, evil.

Week 9

6 sets of 2 pull-ups with 2 exercise (15 rep) break; Run 9mph for 8min and 4mph for 7min + began alternating exercise days: sprints/running/calisthenics; result: 179.0 (-3.1)—Graduation party! Woo! (note: Italian party food is not calorie conscious!).

Week 10

5 sets of 3 pull-ups with 2 exercise (20 rep) break; I binged on Tuesday. At this point I had lost 20 pounds of the planned upon 30. result: 175.7 (-3.3)

Week 11

Spent an extra week at this level to work on form: 5 sets of 3 pull-ups with 2 exercise (20 rep) break; reconfigured calisthenics to better reflect 300 challenge. result: 174.8 (-0.9)

Week 12

NO EXERCISE: I was sick and I relaxed my calorie restrictions to feed my cold. result: 175.5 (+0.7)

Week 13

Virginia Beach: 24-Jul to 1-Aug; Sushi, sashimi, oysters, crab, scallops, lobster, she-crab soup… Seafood is yummy! I also left the Wii balance board in Pennsylvania, so I missed my official weekly weigh-in.

Week 14

Return from Virginia Beach: 24-Jul to 1-Aug; Began Martial Arts training 1x/week on Thursday night with White Eagle Martial Arts. result: 176.40 (+0.9)—not bad considering that I gorged myself on seafood.

Week 15

Getting back to exercise after about 3 weeks off. Double calisthenics (morning and evening), worked on form: 5 sets of 3 pull-ups with 2 exercise (20 rep) break, switch lunges for single arm clean-and-press (10-lbs); still only running halfheartedly. result: 172.4 (-4.0)

Week 16

4 sets of 4 pull-ups with 3 exercise (28 rep) break. result: 170.90 (-1.5)

Week 17

Double calisthenics 4 sets of 4 pull-ups with 3 exercise (28 rep) break; increased dumbbell to 20-pounds. result: 169.60 (-1.3)

Week 18

4 sets of 4 pull-ups with 3 exercise (28 rep) break; increased dumbbell to 25-pounds; increased run to a minimum of 15 minutes at 8mph with no more than one 2 minute walk (with the goal of being able to run 15 minutes straight); between the treadmill and sprints I’m moving about 12 miles/week. result: 167.10 (-2.5)

Week 19

Very little exercise and I binged on wings at a zombie movie marathon; increased dumbbell to 30-pounds. result: 169.9 (-0.2)

Week 20

Decided to hit the gym extra hard this week: ran nearly every day, and did calisthenics (either single or doubles) nearly every day. Double calisthenics 4 sets of 4 pull-ups with 3 exercise (28 rep) break; Hit goal of 2 mile run. result: 165.4 (-1.5)—it’s frustrating to see that I may be plateauing. If I don’t lose 3 pounds next week then I’ll officially declare it a plateau. For now I’m chalking up my lack of progress this week to a celebratory 1 pound burger and a party that I attended with my local Browncoats.

Week 21-30

Anything worth doing is worth overdoing: Beginning in week 21: I’m adding another day of Martial Arts class (Sundays); adding a day for Yoga (for balance and flexibility); replacing my sprints with swimming (3-4 times/week); adding a 90-pound barbell to my calisthenics for proper dead-lifts and floor-wipers; and will continue to increase the calisthenic reps weekly until I hit 50 reps for each exercise.

The goal: to be 146 pounds (or at the very least, lose 20 pounds of fat) putting me dead center of a “normal” BMI by mid-October; to be able to complete a 5k run; and to be able to complete the 300 challenge by November 25th, Thanksgiving Day.

Week 31-40

Maintenance! I’ll use this 10 week span to eat my required calories (no more restricted calorie dieting) and exercise to stabilize my body. The goal is to get my body attuned to this weight. I’m hoping that by focusing on maintaining this weight (and lifestyle) I’ll be able to lock it in.

Week 41-50+

Weather will be getting warmer: Rock Climbing? Parkour? Tai Chi? After all this I’d like to see where my new body takes me next.

Everyday Weirdness returns from the dead

Posted on: September 15th, 2010 by Nathan E. Lilly

Everyday Weirdness has been on temporary unannounced hiatus, but it returns with “Zombus Zombi Zombimus” by John Medaille, “Zombie Boyfriends are Totally in for Spring” by Camille Alexa on Friday, “Re: The Peace Treaty” by Rich Matrunick on Saturday, and “Zombie V” by Melanie S Page on Sunday.

I’m not normally one for publishing zombie works, unless they’re really something special, but I’m currently inclined to look at any and all zombie flash fiction (poetry, images, comics, etc.) this week.

Here are some previously published zombie works on Everyday Weirdness:

For even more, check out Tor.com, which is currently in the midst of their zombie love-in.

Tom Purdom built his own website

Posted on: June 28th, 2010 by Nathan E. Lilly

This is Tom Purdom.

Tom Purdom

image ©2009 Kyle Cassidy, Where I Write: Tom Purdom, used with permission.

I met Tom in 2000, when I became a member of the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society. Tom is 74 years old and has been writing for close to 50 years. One of the first things that impressed me about Tom was the fact that he built his own website.

I thought it’d be a great idea to let everyone know more about Tom building his own website, and Tom agreed:

Why did you decide to create your own website?

I do arts journalism in addition to science fiction and my arts writing convinced me every writer or artist should have a website. After I first went online around 1995, I found that I looked people up on the web when I needed information for a review or a preview of an upcoming event. The websites influenced what I wrote and they could determine who I wrote about. If an arts writer has two possible subjects and one has a website and the other doesn’t, the writer will probably decide to write about the person with a website. You can get basic biographical information and other stuff the old fashioned way, by visiting the library and making phone calls, but in most cases you’ll just go with the subject who’s made it easy for you.

My website is primarily supposed to reach four audiences: reviewers and reporters who want more information about me; interested readers; editors and publishers who may have a job for me; and miscellaneous possibilities like kids who are writing reports for school. If one reporter or reviewer looks at it once a year, it’s worth the effort. But it has a lot of other uses. When I send an editor a query, for example, I can give them a brief summary of my career and refer them to the website for more information. It’s also put me in touch with readers and other people I might never have heard from.

Most artists and writers have bios and other kinds of handouts. A website is a press kit anyone can access twenty-four hours a day, from anywhere in the world.

How long did it take to initially build your site?

I think it only took two or three days. The site wasn’t very big in the beginning I already had some basic materials, like a bio, so I just had to do some rewriting and insert the HTML tags.

How long have you been maintaining your own site?

Since I started it. Around fifteen years.

What were the major hurdles you encountered in building your site?

I guess the biggest hurdle would be realizing I could do it. As I remember it, the SFWA Bulletin ran a couple of articles on the subject, including one by Joe Haldeman, who’d set up his site by himself. I went to a couple of sites that included pages with the basic HTML codes and decided I could handle it.

My experience proofreading my books helped. The first time I read proof, I used a list of proofreader’s marks in the back of a dictionary. When I wanted to make a change or include a comment, I looked at the list and found the correct mark. I realized I could do the same with HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language). It’s a markup language, just like it says.

Has building your own website influenced your fiction?

It’s put me in touch with readers I wouldn’t have heard from and that’s had some influence. My next story in Asimov’s is a sequel to The Tree Lord of Imeten, an Ace Double I wrote over forty years ago. I wrote it partly because of an email I received from a reader who had read my first Ace Double when he was fourteen. That got me thinking about the Ace Doubles.

I’ve been writing a literary memoir I’ve been publishing on my website. I probably wouldn’t have done that if I didn’t have the website, since I normally only write stuff somebody is going to pay me for. I thought it might attract a few extra people and it’s a fun thing to do. I would have been happy if it had attracted a couple of hundred readers. Instead, it’s attracted thousands. David Hartwell has been reprinting it in The New York Review of Science Fiction, where it’s reached readers who probably wouldn’t have visited my website.

Do you have any tips for anyone building their own website?

I think it’s worth learning rudimentary HTML. I use Front Page nowadays but there are times when it’s easier to switch to the HTML view and change the code yourself.

But mostly I think every artist, writer, and performer should have a basic website. Don’t feel it has to be fancy. Get your bio, credits, and other basic publicity material online. Your primary audience is busy people with a professional interest in you and your work. They aren’t looking for gimmicks and fancy design.

If you do fancy it up, keep it simple. Make sure visitors can reach the basic material quickly and easily.

When you do add to it, try to add some things that will draw people to the website. Pamela Sargent put stuff about cats on her website, for example, because she likes cats and she thought it would draw cat lovers. I’ve written essays on different subjects, so my website includes essays on flying model airplanes, military tactics, and parenting. The essay on model airplanes has attracted a lot of people who probably wouldn’t have visited a science fiction writer’s website.

You can meet Tom Purdom in person at his reading at the Chestnut Hill Book Festival (8pm on Friday, July 9th 2010).

Tom’s most recent work of fiction appeared in the July Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, and he should have copies of that issue for sale at the Fair. He also also has a new story that will be running in Asimov’s in the near future, and electronic reprints of many of his stories are available at fictioinwise.com.

For more information about Tom Purdom, his fiction and non-fiction work, you can visit Tom’s website at http://www.philart.net/tompurdom/

Coming to the Chestnut Hill Book Festival

Posted on: June 26th, 2010 by Nathan E. Lilly

The Chestnut Hill Book Festival (July 9th-11th) has a full track of science fiction panels this year. I will be giving an “Introduction to Space Westerns” on Friday night at 7PM. Afterwards, at 8PM, Tom Purdom will be reading. On subsequent days look for Lawrence M. Schoen, Gardner Dozois, Gregory Frost, and many others.

For the full schedule and details visit the Chestnut Hill Book Festival website.

I hope to see you there!

The making of a mummy

Posted on: June 24th, 2010 by Nathan E. Lilly

I hosted the mummy unwrapping event at Jeff Mach’s The Steampunk World’s Fair in Piscataway, New Jersey this past May. Hoping that it will start a trend at other Steampunk Conventions, I’m posting the step-by-step process for building the mummy, as well as my experience in running the show.

Inspiration

The Victorians went through a wave of Egypt-mania. That’s why in many Victorian-era designs we see shades of Egypt (hieroglyphs, the lotus, the winged-orb, etc.). This Egyptian influence found it’s way into literature, art, architecture, design, and the study of the occult. At the height of this mania Egyptian mummies were imported to England by rich Victorians to unwrap at parties.

You can find an actual Victorian-era account of unwrapping a mummy at “The Unwrapping of a Mummy” by Theophile Gautier.

Making the mummy

Since the importation of an Egytian corpse is illegal and immoral (and icky) I had to make my own. Here’s complete list of supplies that I used:

  1. 2 8-foot lengths of ¾-inch PVC
  2. 4 elbow connectors (for shoulders and hips)
  3. 1 small bolt and nut
  4. 3 T-connectors (for the hip and feet)
  5. 1 newspaper (Sunday edition)
  6. Masking-tape
  7. 1 200-foot roll Natural-colored or white paper-towels (I used about ⅓ of the roll)
  8. 1 8-inch styrofoam ball
  9. Papier-maché
  10. 200 feet of white crepe paper

Rather than use a ruler, I used my own body to get the basic dimensions of the mummy. I used a hacksaw to cut the PVC, and a standard cordless drill for the one hole that I needed. The hacksaw and the drill comprised the complete list of tools that I needed.

I held the PVC up to my own limbs to get a measurement, and cut two to the same length. The arms, legs, hip-width, shoulder-width, and overall height of the mummy matches my own. For the elbows, I marked the location of my own elbow on the PVC and cut a notch, so that the arms could bend.

I drilled a hole in the center of the shoulder piece and another hole in the spine piece and used the bolt (and some masking-tape) to attach them—roughly at the level where the shoulders meet the arms, rather than where the shoulders meet the neck (which is a mistake I’ve seen made too often, as it seems to give the figure a permanent shrug). I attached the remaining pieces using the elbow and T joints. I used T joints for the feet to be better able to simulate a heel. This made the basic frame.

I used my knowledge of anatomy picked-up while studying Art in college to place the major muscle groups and bones using newspaper (you’ll notice the properly placed calves, thighs, patellas, gluteus, pectorals, scapula, etc.). The skull was then shoved onto the top, and newspaper fashioned the jaw. Masking-tape held the newspaper to the frame, until I could apply the papier-maché.

Papier-maché paste

  1. 1-part flour
  2. 5-parts water
  3. 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  4. 1 Tbsp salt (optional)

Begin by boiling 4-parts water. While the water is boils take the remaining 1-part water and mix it with the 1-part flour. Whisk it to remove lumps. Add the cinnamon and salt (the cinnamon does nothing but make the mixture smell nice; the salt prevents mold in high humidity areas). When the 4-parts water is boiling, begin to add the water/flour mixture slowly. Heat the mixture until it thickens—about 2 to 3 minutes. It should have a gluey consistency; feel free to add more water if you think it’s too thick. Let it cool before you stick your hands in it (I cannot stress this enough: let it cool before you stick your hands in it). Plan on at least 24-48 hours of drying time for each layer.

I used: 2 cups flour; 10 cups water; and 2 Tbsp cinnamon (no salt); but it was way too much for my needs by about two-thirds. It lasted, covered, for three days without any noticeable unpleasant odors or mold (this was in May weather in Pennsylvania, your mileage may vary). This formula and the use of paper-towels rather than newspaper made the mummy more flexible that I thought it would have been, which was actually useful when the time came to wrap the prizes into the mummy.

At the Fair

Jeff Mach had already received some of the items for the event delivered to him, after receiving those—about 4 hours prior to the mummy unwrapping—I went to each dealer individually to ask if they had anything to donate. All but a few did. I was actually astonished at the generosity of some of the dealers (notably Big Bear Trading Company who donated a pocket-watch). About 1 hour prior to the event I began wrapping the prizes into the mummy with the crepe paper.

At the event

The event was well-attended, very well-received, and everyone had a good time. I’ll be posting the video of the event (after I’ve finished editing it down to 15 minutes).

Had I to start over again

I plan to do it again next year, and reuse the same mummy, but since you may be starting from scratch… I would have begun building the mummy sooner. I would have liked to put on another layer of papier-maché and add some fine details (nose, mouth, and eyes), but I didn’t have time. It took about 24 hours per layer to dry (in dreary, rainy conditions, using a fan).

Also, I think I should have either wrapped the prizes into the mummy an hour earlier, or I should have wrapped it before-hand using numbered tickets, rather than trying to wrap the prizes into the mummy (to prevent the last minute rush that I had).