Sep 052012

It’s been an incredibly long time since my last post – not for lack of interesting things to share, but for a number of reasons.  One of those was returning from Toronto with 700 photos – after aggressively deleting while in Toronto – to process.  Another was being a little busier with work.  But perhaps the most significant contributor was having realized, shortly after Valerie and the kids left for Toronto a week before I did, that I weighed way too much, and really needed to do something about it.  So I decided, to start, that I should try and lose 8 pounds of actual weight (not just retained water) in the 8 days before heading to Toronto, attending family dinners and a wedding, and eating myself silly again.

Now, you occasionally hear that the maximum safe rate for losing weight is 1 or 2 pounds a week, but clearly that wasn’t going to cut it here. So, what to do other than turning to the Internet for a magic low-effort solution, right? OK, not so much; I’m not too prone to believing things that seem to be against the laws of physics or chemistry, so I did some planning with simple math; 8 pounds = 28,000 excess calories, so I’d have to burn on average 3,500 a day more than I was eating.  Eating less than 1,500 calories a day would likely have triggered starvation responses from my body given the higher level of physical activity; at that level of intake and my current weight, I could count on losing 1,000 a day via food, which meant losing 2,500 more a day via exercise.  Anything high intensity was out, as there’s no way I could sustain than for 8 days without my muscles quitting on me, so it’d just take 4-5 hours a day of medium intensity exercise. Realistically, even with moderate breaks, it’d probably take 6 hours a day. Ouch!

Fortunately, this realization happened just after the 4th of July, so I was able to use some of the generous time off work that Google provided to get a head start, knowing that once the work week resumed, it’d be nearly impossible to find the requisite time. While I did get a good portion of the necessary exercise from walking, the sun does set, and that meant needing to use exercise machines. Fortunately, we have a really nice setup in our basement that leaves no excuse for not exercising:

Unfortunately, I hate exercise machines. Spending an extended period on them feels like torture, that’s bearable in this setup only because of the entertainment system directly in front of the exercise equipment. I managed to go through almost the entire Fullmetal Alchemist anime series, not to mention some movies and a bunch of Starcraft 2 games on this 8-day quest. And this is where the “internet scam” part of the post comes in.

About a year and a half prior, the lamp on my projector had started getting dim after roughly 2,000 hours of service – so I replaced it. I just needed a model number LMP-H200 bulb, so I did what I always do – searched for one online, and ordered a replacement. This turned out to be much more complex than usual; places like Amazon didn’t carry them directly, but there were lots of 3rd-party sellers. I chose one with a decent online rating, got my lamp, installed it, and was good to go. Or so I thought.

As it turns out, the majority of projector lamps available online are essentially 3rd-party replacements. Yet for some reason I don’t understand, they all get away with calling themselves a “Sony LMP-H200”, even though they’re not made by Sony. In many cases, even when on sites with very high reseller ratings (4.5+ stars out of 5), it’s difficult to tell whether you’re buying an original or not. The only reliable indicator seems to be the price – the original Sony products are basically $300; the knock-offs start as low as $80, but get up into the $200’s.  And unfortunately, there are so many knock-offs and so many knock-off vendors, that it’s hard to tell which might be a viable solution, and which replacements are total garbage. Some claim to use exactly the same Phillips bulb in a refurbished enclosure, others try and define seemingly arbitrary terms like OEM, OEM Compatible, Genuine Compatible, etc. But fragmentation is so high, and meaningful trustworthy user feedback so low, that it’s hit and miss.

Just search Amazon for “LMP-H200”, and sort by popularity – of the 10 most popular items, 4 have no rating, 4 have a single star, one has 1.5 stars, and one has 4 stars (with a single rating).  I’ve never seen a product category with such universal dissatisfaction from customers, and I’m surprised Amazon even tolerates this.  These ratings aren’t reflective of people discovering “hey, this isn’t genuine” – read the comments, and it’s reflective of the products not working – or in most cases, surviving a very short period of time.

So, as I’m several days away from my 8-day goal, on target in terms of actual weight loss, the replacement bulb I bought in ignorance burns out – after just ~420 hours out of a rated 2,000-3,000 hours (my original Sony bulb was over the 2,000 hour mark when I felt like it was getting dim). It was already painful to force myself to spend all that time suffering on the machines – what would I do now? Give up? Chromebook to the rescue!

I have one of the newer Samsung Series 5 550 Chromebooks from work, and it seemed just made to fit atop the elliptical machine in my time of need. It has great Netflix performance that somehow seemed to provide all the battery life I needed without even being plugged in! My usual disclaimer, I work on the Chrome team and I’m biased, but it really was a lifesaver in not giving up on my rather arbitrary and excessive goal.

With that temporary solution in place, I was able to finish the 8 days as planned, and lose the 8 pounds the math said I would (plus a little more that I attribute to temporary reductions in water levels), allowing me to go from an outright obese weight to something merely at the high end of being overweight. Yay! Then I got to Toronto, and faced this:

It’s amazing how much easier it is to eat 28,000 calories than it is to burn them!

Most of the information on projector bulbs I shared above was from my purchase the 2nd time around. Ironically, despite the risks involved, I still wound up buying the best non-original bulb I could find, in addition to an original bulb, simply because the original bulb was on indefinite back-order (it took more than a month to arrive). If you’re interested, I bought the original replacement from Adorama; it cost almost $300 and looks like this:

Given the performance of the first original bulb I had (that came with the projector), I strongly recommend sticking with originals and avoiding the knock-offs.  But I’ll post again when my temporary knock-off dies; who knows, maybe I’ll get lucky this time.  But probably not!

On the health front, I’m unlikely to do something as crazy again soon – unless I manage to balloon back up in size again – but even trying to make much slower progress towards a healthy weight requires a surprising amount of time. Especially when the kids triumph in their perpetual quest to avail themselves of junk food. So I’m hoping to work through a backlog of things that I had wanted to share – we’ll see how I do!

 Posted by at 9:48 am

  One Response to “Internet Weight Loss Scams”

  1. […] in September, I posted about a crazy effort to undo eight pounds of weight gain in eight days, the efforts of an evil imitation projector bulb to foil this plan by burning out before I’d […]

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