Saturday, December 24, 2011

Last Minute Gift Idea

People who use the expression, "I work best under pressure" are lying. This was an expression invented by dads who waited until December 24th to do their Christmas shopping.

Maybe you've seen them before. Darting around the stores looking like panicked meth addicts, grabbing every remaining tattered box on the shelves and either tossing it in their carts or back on the shelf and rushing to the next tattered box.

Because who DOESN'T need to step out for just a minute on Christmas Eve and get a shiatsu back massager, Golden Girl's Edition Monopoly and 25 pound bucket of spackle?

There's no more "Black Friday" rudeness between shoppers at this point, just a mutual desperation. If these dads ever do bump carts or meet eyes, there is just that moment of shared sympathy and shame.

I, on the other hand, just work best under pressure.

I also had this entire week off before Christmas to get this shopping done, so of course my body thought it would be best to start day one off for this whole week with being sick as a dog. (I've never seen a dog with a cold, so I don't know why we say that.)

So, that is my excuse for spending the last precious shopping days on a forty seven episode 30 Rock marathon on Netflix. (You think I'm joking.)

I suppose this is the point where I turn it all around and say something poignant about the true meaning of blah blah blah, like Linus. Fine.

We aren't necessarily the brightest creatures on the planet at times. I will double check with Wikipedia, but I believe we're allowed to be thankful for things on other holidays than just Thanksgiving.

Most of us so easily take for granted the most valuable things we have that could never be bought in a store. No, I probably won't try to use that as my "the reason I didn't get you presents" speech again this year.

I cannot help but think about quite a few people I care about who just this last year lost friends and family and won't be spending another Christmas with them.

Regardless of what awesome sales you hit or missed this year, make sure to give a couple things that will never break or go out of style and are gifts that are supposed to be returned.

Give a call, email or visit. Give a hug, kiss and an "I love you" to the most valuable things in your life, gifts that God gave to you.

We don't have to set aside one day a year to give those things, either. Or wait until the last minute.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Not The Right Kind Of "Crunches"

Getting old sucks. As each year passes, I rapidly am becoming one of the oldest people I know and am none to happy about it.

I have tried to compensate for the ravages of time and gravity with diet and exercise. I have found that with the diet side of things, I at least have a little less chance of hurting myself in the process.

(Except maybe in the case of Sriracha, which some friends got me to try recently and is mislabeled in stores across America as a "hot sauce", while in fact is a dangerously addictive drug. That burns your face off.)

Culinary Crack.

The day after I finished my 2nd round of P90X (11/11/11), I walked into a gym nearby my house and signed up for a 3 month trial. Then the day after that, my obviously being serious about fitness as I have become, I went in and immediately got straight to work on the task of severely injuring myself.

It is much easier than it used to be in the old days, as they now have entire walls of very expensive, state of the art machines devoted entirely to seriously hurting yourself.

I am not sure how I did it, since I am pretty careful about form, not pushing too hard, etc. I still don't know for sure, but I think it was the bench press machine and my already having bad shoulders (one from surgery and the other from dislocating).

In P90X, all chest exercises are pushups which are typically only pushing about 75% of your body weight... so maybe 125 pounds of my 170 pounds.

Typically, I would do 12 sets of pushups, anywhere from 20 to 30 reps. Since bench press is really the only exercise I wasn't able do at home in P90X with just the dumbbells, I turned up the weight just a little on the gym machine and did 3 sets of 165 pounds, 10 times each.

I could have done more, but my shoulders were already hurting, so luckily I didn't. I think if I shot for a max weight (1 rep), I probably would not be able to type this right now. As it was, I could barely lift the right arm the next day.

I also did a bunch of sets on 7 other machines, working shoulders, biceps, triceps and legs.

Now the right shoulder crunches loud enough for others to hear it, but to be fair, it only does that if I move it.

So, I still have to see the Podiatrist about the arthritis in the right foot. Now I guess I also have to see someone about the shoulder, maybe both of them. But luckily only one hip is bad!

Today I did Day 1 of P90X, but will not do it all the way through, as in every day for 3 months again. I am just trying to do enough to keep moving through December and maybe even speed the healing of the shoulder by getting more blood flow to it (and not pushing too hard).

My shoulder hurt like crazy tonight, so I held back a little, but I still was able to do 195 pushups and 165 pullups.

So, I will hopefully just do enough to not get out of shape for when it comes time to do P90X2 in January.

Assuming of course that any of my limbs will still be connected and functional come 2012.

Maybe I should just get a juicer, like Jack LaLanne. He did live to a ripe old 96, after all.

But who knows if along the way he ever got hooked on the Sriracha.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I am the 1 %

Recently, I have made some jokes at the expense of those protesting in the Occupy Wall Street movement and for that I want to apologize. I am not too big or proud to admit when I have been in the wrong, and I was.

After thinking about what some friends have said to me, I understand that there is a time for kidding around and there is a time to take things seriously, because they really are serious matters.

Regardless of where you even stand on the OWS issue politically, you cannot fairly attack someone whose basic premise is wanting to simply see a little more equity and balance across the widely different groups in America.

I know what this is like, having been born with a lot more than most others in America, let alone the world. I am incredibly fortunate. Blessed.

I am talking of course about being born with a much, much greater amount of good looks.

I am the 1 %.

Some are born cute and grow up to be only average. Others are born hideous, but then blossom into a beautiful swan after puberty rearranges their faces a little, thank god.

And some start out ugly and skate through life a good 70 or 80 years without any improvement at all. You have seen them.

Me? Nope. Born adorable, shot straight into cute, then ruggedly handsome, etc. There were no in between stages or downtime.

Is that fair? Of course not. I also don't pretend it is not a bit of a burden, because more should be expected from me.

"To him that is given much good looks, much is required." This is just a fact and I understand this. I accept it.

If I could take even a small portion of my handsomeness and divide it equally between a bunch of ugly people, don't you think I would? I wouldn't even hesitate. I have to look at their faces more than even they do.

The next time you're tempted to laugh and mock those standing up for what they believe in, stop to think about what you have and for some of us, what many others only dream of experiencing.

When you're born with so much more... handsomer, smarter, funnier, can run faster, etc., it is our responsibility to stop along the way and encourage and help those with so much less than we were given.

For the 9 out of 10 who range from "ok" looking, to average, to cripplingly unattractive, we are not better than them. They are people too. Just uglier.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Local Old Guy Somehow Keeps Moving

I am old. Everyone already knows I am old (nigh a half century), but I paid a medical specialist this month to confirm it with specialized testing, such as x-rays and carbon dating.

My right foot has hurt for almost ten years and I always attributed it to a past martial arts sparring injury, when I accidentally kicked a little kid in the head. The second time.

While examining it last week, it occurred to the doctor to have me also remove the other shoe from the non-hurting, yet equally old left foot.

She asked if I ever noticed the foot's ball (latin for "big toe knuckle") of the right, hurting one was much bigger than the one on the left.

I honestly hadn't and thanked her for finally giving me something new to be self conscious of my body about. Awesome!

The x-rays came back on Friday and her suspicions were accurate, that the right foot has arthritis (latin for "old person knuckles").

Arthritis can afflict people of any age, but is usually associated with the demographic of decrepit fogies in rocking chairs, holding a big metal horn up to their ear and yelling "EH?" a lot. My people.

The good news is it only hurts really bad if I step down on the right foot and the bad news is I only do that about 20 or 30 thousand times a day. When I first started working out 6 months ago, its regular and constant pain of almost 10 years started to increase a bit, but has gotten a lot worse in the last month.

Serendipitously (or some other big word), this is the very last day of my finishing P90X for the second time this year and with the foot pain, I have been forced to modify some of the exercises.

One of them is called "balance lunges" and is a deep lunge with the back foot up in the air on a chair behind you. This allows you to really target specific areas, maximizing everything from falling over, to pulling a groin muscle.

(This was me, just 6 months ago!)

Other than that, the only exercises I have had to modify a little are the few that require either standing or stepping down on the right foot. So, only the ones that are not sit-ups.

I also started running 6 months ago and in that relatively short time, I went all the way from a 12 minute mile, down to an 9 minute mile, then down to a 7 and a half minute mile and finally down to a fairly impressive "oh my god, what's wrong with my foot".

From the doctor's referral, my next step is to go and see a Podiatrist, which is good, because I can finally ask an actual foot specialist how in the heck they got stuck with a name as stupid as "Podiatrist". I mean seriously... say it out loud.

I'll probably also ask what I can do to keep working out, running and maybe even continuing this whole "walking thing" I've grown fond of over the last forty-mumble years.

We'll see. I am supposed to start P90X2 in January and I'm already looking forward to the crazy pull-ups and any of the other non-foot-contact-to-floor exercises.

I'll definitely find a way to keep going without injuring myself worse. I have to. I can't imagine reeling back my working out, as I've gotten addicted to it.

I actually rely on exercising now, for regulating energy and mood levels as well as helping with other chronic pain conditions and being able to give lots of money to GNC every month.

I have had to compensate for other physical limitations. I have a bad left hip and two bad shoulders, one that I dislocated and the other that I had surgery on.

But I am being extra careful and modifying whenever needed, so I can keep active and continue exercising. I think it's important.

This will probably be the first time I have ever, ever suggested that others make a personal decision to improve their diet and exercise, but I really do recommend it.

Try it. You'll feel better, look better, live longer and have one more thing to really annoy people about.

In all seriousness, after I finished P90X the first time 3 months ago, I did a two part blog post about the health problems I have had over the years, wanting to focus on diet and exercise but being unable to.

(Part 1 and Part 2 of Bad Seasons, Good Seasons)

Diet and exercise are two of the few things at my disposal for helping with my chronic pain of many years.

Here are my before and after photos, going back to May, then to August and then from today.

I honestly have really worked a lot on my leg muscles too, but for now am only posting pictures from the waist up, to crop out the freakishly over-sized big toe knuckle.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

25 New Secrets To Weight Loss!

Usually I keep fitness posts light and goofy because, let's face it:
a) diet and exercise are not inherently very exciting, and...
b) nobody likes being preached at

Sorry... I will be a little preachier this time than usual, but don't take it personally. I have been driven to it by aggravation with Madison Avenue (where the name "Mad Men" comes from, by the way) and their advertising of late.

I have a Burger King billboard by my house that shows they are just openly mocking us at this point.

There are 3 pictures on it:

One is an ice cream cone with the word "side" underneath.
Next is a hot fudge sundae with "entree".
And finally, there's a whipped cream topped ice mocha with the word "drink".

Because nothing says expendable income and the god given freedom to make bad choices like having dessert for dinner, followed by dessert and washing it down with a 3rd dessert.

Why? Because we're America, THAT'S WHY!

Here's the same billboard in Seattle that somebody spray-painted graffiti over the top of the BK logo:

Northwest Hippy Makes Good For Once

I'd like to think that not too many years ago, this ad would never have seen the light of day.

Not even because of public outcry against unhealthy diet, childhood obesity, etc., but because enough test groups would think it so nonsensical and humorless that Burger King would not risk tons of advertising cash on it and maybe even fire the guy stupid enough to suggest it.

Based on the progression of their respect for us, both for our stomachs and our heads, here's my predictions for Burger King's ad slogans in the upcoming years:

By year 2015:

"You're fat. We'd like to keep it that way."

By year 2018:

"Sugar's a helluva drug and BK is your dealer. Where's my money?"

By year 2022:

"Shut up and eat. Now. MORE."

But when it comes to the Mad Men mocking our intelligence, this pales in comparison to the endless parade of magazine covers promising the newest "25 Secrets To Weight Loss!" Sometimes it is only 5, but other times as many as 50 or more.

I hate these "articles" for multiple reasons. One is that it implies there are secrets to fitness, many of them.

Let me tune you in on a little secret... there are NO secrets to weight loss.

And the only TWO things... totally NON-SECRET things... you need to know were discovered by scientists only very, very recently. Just around 20, 000 years ago:

1) Eat better
2) Move more

Write those down. They are hard to remember. They are also secret, so do not tell anyone.

Eating better is not complicated.

Sure, there's a few nuances and subtleties if you really want to get into it. But for starters, even a child can know healthy food from unhealthy food - just remember one simple thing... eat things naturally occurring in nature... things you see other animals besides humans eating.

Here's some examples...

Naturally occurring in nature:


NOT Naturally occurring in nature:

Boxes of macaroni and cheese
Apple strudels
Slim Jims
Deep fried twinkies, soaked in butter, dipped in sugar, wrapped in bacon and covered with chili

The other thing I hate about those articles is they imply that fitness is complicated and difficult. First you have to buy the magazine, then you have have to read the loooooong article. Reading's hard!

And 50 things takes a long time to read. Even if Jersey Shore succeeded in its main goal, which is to dumb down America to such illiteracy that all magazine articles were just a series of pictures, even those 50 pictures would take a while to look at. If you've ever read a picture book to a pre-schooler, you know this.

And 50 things is a lot to remember, not to mention a lot of things to have to do or not do.

Let me let you in on another secret. Fitness is neither complicated nor hard. In fact, it is one of the few things almost every single one of us have complete and total control over.

You want to know what's hard?

Try saving your first million dollars before you're 50. Give that a whirl. Or try climbing up and back down Mt. Everest. In fact, just try saving up enough money for it and getting the time off of work to do it.

(The saving money part is easy, just don't eat at Burger King for 6 months.)

You want to know what's NOT hard?

Sticking an apple in your mouth, instead of a donut. Walking around the block, instead of to the fridge and back to the couch.

Those are things literally every single one of us can do.

In a world where you cannot control who you're related to, who you have to work with, who you have to drive in rush hour next to or even how good looking you are... you CAN control eating better and moving around more.

And the best part is that you will feel better, look better and live longer.

And when you start noticing you feel and look better after choosing day after day, week after week and month after month to eat better and move more... you will feel empowered.

You will remember you can do almost anything you simply choose to do.

Who knows, you may even be motivated to do other things you have put off or convinced yourself you can't do, like save up money or go mountain climbing.

At the very least, you may be excited to try out night climbing... up billboard towers with your neighborhood hippy.

Real Worlds

By Patrick Shene

I took off my glasses and set the book on the nightstand. Something was off. Something wasn’t right with the world.

It’s one thing to be perpetually aggravated with others and uncontrollable surroundings and circumstances, but nothing is ever as frustrating as that gnawing sense that you yourself are somehow out of place in reality itself. I hate the feeling. I closed my eyes.



The familiar voice slipped in quietly, from somewhere faraway in the dark.

“My lord?”

He woke up slowly, already uncomfortable and at odds with the world.

“It is time, my lord... time to awaken... this is the grand day that we have so long....”

“Shhh! Do be silent.”

He suddenly remembered that he spoke truly, that this was in fact the grand day. It was the day to face the monster.

He went to sleep with such a single-mindedness and focus, having prepared through the long, cold seasons for this day, that he was wroth with himself for the coming battle not being his very first thought upon awakening.

Something felt wrong. Waking up today was more jarring than usual, like he was ripped from something, some place, more real than this one.

He wondered how is it that you can awaken from a dream, where everything within that other world seemed so real that it takes more than a small while to fully return to this one?

He wondered, is it necessary for us in our sleep to believe briefly in that other dreamworld? Is it important for it to truly be real to us, at least in our minds? Even if only for a short time, so as to refresh and renew our minds and bodies for this present world?

Maybe that need to believe is so strong, it is hard for us to let go and once again accept what we see. But from whence came these strange concepts?

And what were “glasses” anyway? What were those magical things he saw that one puts on their eyes to see things more clearly, for what they really are? Were they a prophecy, a vision of something real or just another of his fantastical imaginings?

He shook his head and tried to focus.

He slowly, deliberately stood up and was immediately swarmed by his pair of servants, carefully covering him with his armor. The metal, trusted and scarred from so many battles it had been proven through slipped perfectly into place. The clang of iron and crunching of the leather straps were gradually but forcefully pulling him more into the real world with the stark truth of deadly dragons.

Now the strange world he just left was gradually and forever fading, like a wisp of smoke that can never be gathered and reformed. His eyes were opening to the only reality.


“There’s no such thing as dragons!”, shot the voice to his right.

He sat up straighter in his plastic chair, rigid and with a hint of defensiveness. The smell of antiseptic turned his stomach. Maybe it was the morning medicine. He didn’t feel like himself. He hated this place. He closed his eyes for a moment and tried imagining being somewhere else.

“Casey, please... wait your turn and let him speak.”

He opened his eyes and his slight scowl gave way to a controlled, emotionless expression.

“Well... then aliens aren’t real, either.”

He knew exactly how to get back at Casey.

“Yes they are!”, Casey almost cried.

“I don’t know, I’ve never seen one. And you can’t prove you’ve seen one, either.”

“No! Shut up!”

“You shut up. It’s my turn to talk.”, he replied calmly.

The doctor stepped in with her quiet but commanding voice, “please... Casey... just let him finish sharing his story...”

His faced darkened again and he closed up, crossing his arms tightly. “It’s not a story.”

Casey smiled cruelly his way.

The young doctor immediately knew she had done more damage than Casey’s taunts.

“You know what I mean... I mean... look, when.... when I shared the story about when I just visited my parents for Thanksgiving, it was real... right? The word story just means the telling of events, whether something is real or not...”

“It is real!”

“Ok... ok... it’s not for me to judge. But think about it, just like only Casey can truly know for sure whether he has spoken with aliens or if they are real...”

“Aliens are real!”, Casey yelled.

“*Sigh*… Casey... please... just... just stop and wait your turn. Ok?”

The doctor hated when she lost control of the meetings like this.

“Ok... just... please... continue with your sto... with... with your sharing. We want to hear what you have to say. We need to hear it.”


The muted clicking once more came to an end. He stopped typing and looked up from the computer screen to the bay window. The fall colors were amazing. So crisp, so bright, so beautiful. So conflicted, so haunting, so disturbing. He hated the fall.

Such dynamic beauty that was merely posing, just a mask for decay, coldness and change, he thought to himself.

Cycle of life? Sure, for the trees. They usually saw another spring. Tell that to the leaves that withered and died and were gone forever. Replaced by leaves that knew nothing of the countless ones before them and wouldn’t care if they did.

He shook his head and tried to focus.

Something wasn’t right. He was pretty sure it was the doctor’s character that was off.

Maybe... maybe She should really be a He? He clicked on the note icon, typed the question “make doctor a man instead?” and dragged the small image of the post-it note over that page of the story.

But unlike the idiot Casey, the doctor might still be convinced of the truth. Might still be persuaded that this is not all there is to reality. Maybe life is more malleable than we give it credit for. Maybe the dream is as real as the awakening. Maybe sometimes, the story is as real as the reader.

He thought to himself that this doctor... this one of his own making could still be convinced that what he had seen was not just a “story”. Unlike the real doctor at Smith Haven Medical.

She refused to look at any reality not approved in her own type of books. But she was wrong. There were dragons. There will always be monsters more real, more terrible than the ones you read about in any sci-fi or medical books.

But this character, his own improved creation, could still be persuaded. That settled it. His doctor would change, but she also wouldn’t change. By story’s end, she would wake up to accepting the possibility of other worlds, but she would also remain a She, not a He.

Small decision, but satisfying, he thought to himself. As satisfying as petty exertions of power and control over our creations go, at least.

He looked up again at the cold, falling colors swirling outside, resigning himself to the impending, inevitable changes. He sighed and looked back at the glowing screen, put on his glasses and closed his eyes for just a moment.


I opened my eyes and slipped the small scrap of paper between the pages, slowly closing the book and setting it on the nightstand next to me.

I felt good for the first time in a long time. Call me crazy, but everything felt right with the world.

I smiled and thought casually about what strange, purely new and unique realities I would see tonight in my dreams. Would I be I creating them or just witnessing what has been there all along?

I turned off the light and looked forward to the place where nothing is imagined and everything is real. It was time once again to leave this other place. I could feel it was time for a change of season.

It was time to dream, to believe, to truly open my eyes.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Diary of a Seasoned Traveler - Part Two

Now that I've been in the U.K. for almost 24 hours, a lot of people (roughly nobody) have asked me the question, "what are some fun and exciting things to do over there in jolly old England, mate?"

Thank you for asking and you definitely came to the right person. With a little poor planning ahead, a vacation or business trip here can easily be modestly unterrifying and mostly injury free. Here's a couple important things to keep in mind:

- Plan well ahead of time for the jet lag, preferably until the last minute and you are Googling "jet lag" in the airport. The 2 most helpful suggestions are to sleep on the flight over and the other is that whatever you do, don't sleep on the flight over. I put them together and tried to sleep on the plane and could not.

Jet lag is so bad an issue because the flight is 8 hours from the east coast of 'Murica and yet here in the U.K., they are already 5 hours ahead of New York. And that means they are 8 hours ahead of the west coast, where my body and internal clock are from.

So, with some basic math and a handy conversion chart they do not provide (British Pounds to Celsius), you quickly can calculate that you will get here exactly some time after leaving America.

And you want to be plenty groggy and seeing things that aren't there by the time you land, because:

- No matter how far away your hotel is from the London airport (mine is in Bristol, which is 2 hours and over 100 miles away) you do not want to miss out on renting a car and driving yourself across the beautiful countryside.

In retrospect, I would not have traded it for anything, except possibly a cab ride or hitching a ride with a drunk serial killer who at least had a cockney accent.

And you do not need to worry at all about renting a model and make car that you prefer, because they do not have it. Every single car is a make and model you have never heard of. I believe mine is a 2011 Defibrillator by the manufacturer Dragonfart. I think it is Norwegian.

I was dreading the steering wheel being where the glovebox is supposed to go, but that was not that big a deal, actually.

That's because my not having driven a stick-shift in 20 years and trying to do it with my left hand was by far more scary. Between here and London, I terrified and angered roughly 15% of the population and set back our countries diplomatic relations at least 10 years.

(Note: in England, most of them do not "flip the bird" with the middle finger like we good, Christian Americans do. Most use both the middle finger and index finger together, like a backwards peace sign. But a good number actually do it both ways. Roughly 16 people between London and Bristol.)

Now, unless I completely lost my depth perception somewhere over the Atlantic, they build their curbs much closer to the left side of the car here. If you've driven 25 years using the steering wheel as a gauge of how close to hug the left side of the lane, you will take out several mailboxes.

If somebody used a time machine to grab a 12 year old from the year 5 B.C. that had an eyepatch and forced him to drive the Dragonfart, he certainly could not have scraped the left tires any more than I already did.

In my defense, the roads in Bristol are the original ones. They are exactly wide enough for two people to easily pass each other with plenty of room to spare, on their respective horses.

Luckily, the car came equipped with a GPS, which here they call a "SatNav". They're actually very accurate and since they know full well you might have to drive 2 hours, they will already have it charged up and ready to last for an hour before dying. And speaking of things that go beep, boop and run down:

- As Americans, a select few of us have actually purchased and own an electronic device and may even take them abroad. In the rarest cases, some of us even own two or more electronic devices.

Fortunately, none of them will work here, because their cell towers recognize you and I are filthy Americans. But this shouldn't get you down, as the batteries will quickly drain and you will not be able to plug them into anything except your suitcase.

- People all over the world will travel here to England from hundreds and even thousands of miles away, just for a chance to make fun of their food. I think this is a little unfounded, as I had one of the best steaks ever last night. Also, at the small hotel bar last night, in their small selection they had 1/4 of the bottles - an entire shelf - devoted to very good scotches.

This is because Scotland (which is French for Scotchland) is only a few miles north and actually part of England's Kingdom (which they call "United", blatantly trying to copy us). I think Ireland is tossed into the mix, too. And a place called "Whales", where they produce Corgis.

If it means good scotch selection in every English bar, I am perfectly OK with Scotland's continued serfdom. But I have to admit that even though I'm no history major, it does seem that all the careful and hard work done by Mel Gibson and William Wallace in Braveheart was apparently for naught.

That's it for now, as I have to get ready to head into the office. I don't have to be there until 9:00 this morning, so I slept in until 2:30 a.m. My body's internal clock is just making fun of me at this point.

I may write more later, as I still have have 4 more days here on my business trip and 85% of the motorists left to frighten.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Diary of a Seasoned Traveler

I only blog profusely during two things, exercising and traveling, probably because they are the two things which most make me uncomfortable and look silly.

In the past, people who'd journey across the globe for the better part of their lives would mark those experiences by writing about them.

I just took a 45 minute connecting flight to Seattle, so I feel pretty qualified! And I obviously like to hear myself talk.

I am sure my longer flights on this trip will elicit much deeper, meaningful insights, especially when I go to England in a few days. But so far, some noticeable things have already jumped out at me. Probably from lack of sleep.

Here's a few of the less insane sounding ones:

1) A lot of you fellow Americans are not having fun. I know it's 5:30 A.M., but come on, folks. Lighten up.

2) When carrying a bag, do not hold it in front or behind of you. It is considered customary to sling it on your shoulder and to the side, so you can bonk the heads of everyone already seated, no matter how much they lean away from the aisle.

3) I do not know when we first started to build these 4 row jets and put them into use commercially, but based on the size of the seats, I am guessing this one was built only 4 or 5 years after the Wright Brothers first invented flight, when most Americans were still less than a foot and a half wide and under 150 pounds.

4) On 4 row planes (2 child-sized seats, an aisle and 2 more child-sized seats), it is so small (and possibly made of plastic), that the ambient noise outside is literally roaring, much louder than normal speaking volume. This is still OK if you need to talk to the person next to you, because their ear is already several inches away from your mouth.

5) I wish I had brought gum.

6) On a plane this size, you will gain intimate knowledge of exactly how uncomfortable it feels to have your body mashed up against a complete stranger for almost an hour... the key word here being "intimate".

7) If there is a fast spinning propeller right outside your window, turning to the already nervous, anxious looking person mashed against you and saying (yelling), "I bet if that snapped off, it would fly right at us and cut this wall in half"... is considered "rude".

8) If the person next to you starts crying, asking for another seat is also considered "rude".

9) Why are we still using planes with propellers?

10) If the propeller and wing parts are only two feet from your window, you not only can see every single screw, bolt and rivet, you will take the time to check each and every one for any that are loose.

11) On a plane this small, even passing close to a bird fart will make the plane jump 3 feet in the air.

12) I watched as the Alaska Airlines stewardesses poured drinks in turbulence worse than an elevator jarring to a stop between floors, their hands and the cups flying up and down with the bumps. At 5:30 A.M. Without spilling a drop and on a short 45 minute flight. They were awesome.

13) I don't think we're supposed to call them "stewardesses".

14) Apparently Alaska now has electricity, running water AND an airline. But they still have propellers.

Free gropes from the TSA, no dinner or movie beforehand

In the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love and in the fall, an old man's fancy heavily turns to complaining, especially when showing up at the airport two hours early like they said on their website and nobody shows up to the front desk for another 45 minutes.

They say Disneyland is the happiest place on earth, but did you know it actually is Portland airport at 3:00 A.M.? It's true. Everyone was so excited to go on the ride, they were cutting in front of each other, like they couldn't even see each other, young and old alike. They were so cute!

I figured having to show up this early, the very least I expect is a really, really decent enhanced pat-down. Like, full on frisky. So good, that even if it is done to me by a 400 pound guy named Borlaff, afterward I am going to want to ask if he's seeing anybody.

No such luck. It is totally the luck of the draw and there is no apparent rhyme or reason, before God or man, who gets picked for it.

But there is a God.

The guy who got picked for the grope-a-dope happens to also be the one that, on the complete other side of the building, completely unbeknownst to Borlaff (what a cutie), is the one who cut in front of everybody else in the front lobby.

I bet he's complaining way worse than me on his blog.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


It is inspiring and satisfying to go through the long transition of doing something you do not want to do, to doing it because you know you should, to doing it because it is the right thing and finally to doing it because you want to do so.

The more I talk to people, the more surprised I am to learn of how there are so many others who seem happy and average, but have gone through some incredible hardship or still deal daily with challenging and debilitation health issues.

I remember when my health and medication problems were at their worst, going through almost a year of barely wanting to be alive, let alone get out of bed and go to work. But I did. Even when I thought it would never get better. But it did.

And on this weekend, the 10th anniversary of 9/11, it is easy to be reminded how many have suffered personal tragedy and loss that most of us cannot even imagine. But they persevere.

But there is a difference between barely dragging yourself through life, day after day, and striving to be the best person you can be.

I have gotten a lot of mixed responses to trying to get fit this year, with plenty of encouragement and plenty of discouragement and criticism. Which makes no difference to me.

Today is Day 1 of the 2nd month of my 2nd time through P90X, which means I have only done it for a total of 4 months worth of days. But over those 4 months, I lost 15 pounds and 4 pants sizes.

But it was 4 months of hard work. How many commercials convince people they can get in shape with some contraption they simply sit in or kneel on and rock back and forth?

"Lose pounds! Get rock hard abs! While sitting on your ass!"

And I am pretty sure every single house in America has a guitar. And 90% sit in a closet or corner with an inch of dust on them.

Because people learned that getting good at it required working hard at it. And that wasn't fun.

You can't get in shape or become good at the guitar in "minutes a day". Nothing good is ever accomplished that way.

No great painting, no great song, no great building, took less than years and years of hard work. Which is good. Otherwise it would not be very valuable.

It is not amazing what we as human beings can accomplish when we have to.

What is truly amazing is what we can create, what we can do and who we can be when we do the hard things we don't have to.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Moden science is giving us bigger cans

I have been meaning to rename the blog from "Our Daily Blab" to "Our Bi-Monthly Rambling About Diet And Exercise". Soon.

But I guess we tend to talk or write about whatever in life is currently holding our interest. Some people collect thousands of stamps or comics. Or maybe just dozens of cats or failed relationships. I just happen to presently be having fun trying to get healthier and I'm feeling a lot better doing it.

This Day 1 of Week 3 of my 2nd time through P90X. I am making a lot more progress than the first time, partly because I am in better shape this time. I make it through the hour and 20 minute workout with energy to spare now, versus being half unconscious by minute 57.

I had to buy a new set of dumbbells today, which was a mixed blessing. The good news is I could do 45s with each arm on 4 of my sets instead of 35s (since these new ones go from 5 to 65 lbs) and the bad news in I had to tell Amy how much they cost.

You know that thing where people close their eyes and rub their forehead with both hands, then pinch the bridge of their nose next to their eyes and let out a really long sigh and you know it is just so they'll barely keep in a scream? Yeah.

But the workouts have only been the smaller part of my progress as the change in diet has had a much bigger impact.

In the last 3 weeks I have lost another 4 pounds and another 2 percent body fat. Measuring inches and body fat loss is a much better gauge than just pounds, because poor diet and overexercising can actually make you lose lean muscle, which is counterproductive.

Decades ago, back when I was young and indestructible (stupid), I used to treat my body more like a garbage can than a temple and I could easily empty an entire can of squeeze cheeze in a night.

Let me let you in on a little secret. We eradicated polio and were able to put a man on the moon, but our greatest scientists have not yet invented a way to put real cheese in a spray can.

But they got the FDA to let them legally call it "cheeze" with a "Z", since they weren't selling many of them labeled, "cheese flavored margarine-N-caulking".

I have been eating a lot of things for either the first time or for the first time in a long time. Lots of fat free cottage cheese, fresh vegetables, sweet potatoes, greek yogurt, plain oatmeal with no sugar, turkey, chicken breast, etc.

The above might sound bland to some, but since I'm not blasting my taste buds with chemical flavored cheeze squeezins, I have gotten a lot more ability to appreciate subtlety in flavors again.

Sure, after a while the protein shakes are starting to remind me of the unshakeable odor of spit up baby formula, which I thought I was free of 18 years ago.

But this week I also thought cauliflower dipped in hummus was one of the best things I ever tasted.

Now if we could just take that flavor and cram it into an aerosol can.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I think I ripped my pants

Since I started to get old and decrepit a few years back, I began judging everything in century to partial-century increments.

For example, in just 7 years, I will be a half century old.

That is old. That is so old, that they will not even sell you color balloons at the store anymore to celebrate it. They only have black ones that say "Over The Hill", taunting and chastising you for being so stupid and careless as to let yourself age.

Another benchmark just came up as I went out with Brittany to buy direly needed new pants tonight.

I now fit into a waist size I haven't worn since I was 18.

To give you a sobering perspective, that was a QUARTER CENTURY ago.

My firstborn, who carefully and wisely guided me away from the acid washed jeans that were still in style way back then, was not even born when I fit into them last.

I admit that P90X has done absolutely nothing to change back the white in my beard or put that sorely missed hair back atop my head, but I will take what I can get.

Today is Day 4 of the second run through P90X.

My three main reasons for starting and restarting it were 1) get more energy to get more done at work and home, 2) combat my pain condition and 3) stave off the guaranteed increased health problems awaiting me when I do turn a half century and then three quarters of a century, if I did not start doing so.

I will probably make an easier, custom workout at the end of this set of 90 days that is only 3 to 5 days a week, which will seem like a vacation from this 6 days a week.

In the meantime, I am hoping to draw out this sized waist just a little longer.

Maybe long enough for acid washed to come back in style. And maybe feathered hair on girls. I really loved that.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Bad Seasons, Good Seasons (Part Two)

(Part One is here)

Since I started working out about 3 or 4 months ago, I have gotten a lot of enthusiastic feedback from friends and family, with everything from, "good job!" to "please just shut up" and "oh god, why won't he shut up?".

Luckily for me, I am a little deranged and both types of responses just encourage me even more.

But I do get a little discouraged that some other people have reacted to their own friends and family who are trying to get fit with snide comments about their being proud and arrogant about it (which someone said to a friend of mine who was excited about gains and improvements they were making).

I myself have desperately wanted to focus on changing my diet and exercise for many years now, but I simply could not do it with my health problems being so incredibly out of control.

I saw fitness as just one part of an overall plan to improve my health and alleviate a severe nerve pain condition, which I talked about in detail in Part One of this writeup, which is essentially a 2-part finale about my first time finishing P90X (the 90 day fitness program).

Every time I would read over the years about someone else who was focusing more on improving diet and exercise, I would mentally file that away as encouragement to set the same goals for myself. I never considered it a competition.

I deliberately chose to never sabotage myself by begrudging or resenting them for their working on getting healthier.

So, for the last 90 days, I kept a semi-regular "diary" online of my chronicle through this first time of doing P90X. I tried to make it silly, sarcastic and amusing, so it would be more than just one paragraph of me repeatedly saying "I worked out this month too - still chubby".

I wanted a journal to look back on and track my progress, make one or two people laugh with me (or laugh AT me, either way is fine) and maybe even spur someone else into focusing on improving their diet and exercise as well.

Barely over 4 months ago, I ran 2 times around the track at the college near my house (1/2 mile) before I felt like I was going to die. It took between 5 and 10 minutes.

A few minutes ago, I ran my first 5K (5.2K or 3.22 miles) which was 13 times around the track. I did it in exactly 28:00 and I actually feel great.

As you can see, I am still conscious and can even write mostly coherent sentences.

That does not mean I was smiling the whole way around the track just now. Or smiling during those hour a day, 6 days a week workouts for the last 90 days. It is work. Hard work.

But it is SO worth it.

Most of my waking hours, I feel much better than I did 4 months ago, with more energy, better moods and even greater mental focus for work.

But the best part of it all was something I secretly had hoped for, yet was still unexpected enough that it sneaked up and surprised me.

About 3 or 4 weeks ago, my doctor ran down a huge list of questions about my pain condition, number of weekly headaches, migraines, etc. I did not realize that for a full month, they had improved dramatically. I forgot they had not bothered me enough for me to pay as close attention to them for several weeks straight. I also had gone a whole month without having to renew my migraine Rx for the first time in years.

I am still in pain. All day. Every day. But it is less.

That fact alone is worth swearing off of doughnuts.

I just have to do the math. I am awake and thus in some level of pain for 16 hours a day. Sometimes more, as it wakes me up during the night.

But the pleasure of the sugar of a doughnut only lasts for a few seconds to a minute and then drags you down for hours and then over the years adds pounds, increased health problems etc.

It's simply a poor investment with miserable returns.

And over time of cutting them out, you begin to remember that fruits and vegetables actually taste AMAZING.

And they also make you feel better for the whole 15 hours, 59 minutes of the day that you are not eating the doughnut. And you'll probably live longer.

I am going to go through the P90X one more time, starting in a few days. I actually ate incredibly better than I ever had this first time, cutting out all junk food, etc. but only followed the specifics of their diet plan about 50 to 75% of the time.

I will follow the diet more closely this time. It's a great investment.

Right before I ordered the DVDs, I made a vow to myself to not miss one single day, unless it was absolutely impossible or injurious to not miss it. I worked for a whole week with a minor injury three separate times. I worked with a burning fever and sickness for a whole week and a half.

The very first day, I finished the hour workout by running to the bathroom and throwing up (good lord, they will NEVER pay me to promote their product...).

But I kept pressing play. Every. Single. Day. Unless it was literally impossible.

Now that I can make it through all of of the P90X videos and even have energy to spare afterwards (which only started happening in the 3rd month), I believe I will benefit from the program even much more by going a second time through.

With cancer, strokes and heart disease having struck both my parents (and their parents) and knowing that I have those genetic predispositions, let alone my own pain condition of over 10 years, I hope to keep this fitness ball rolling and stave off the ill effects of aging, even if it means having an apple instead of a doughnut from now on.

And if I encourage even one person to try out improving their diet and exercise and then they get even a little healthier, feel better and they get to live a slightly longer, better quality life with their loved ones... then I think all my daily blabbing has been worth it.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Bad Seasons, Good Seasons (Part One)

90 days is not a long time. It may seem like it, if you're in a hurry and anxiously waiting for something, but overall it is a relatively small measure of time, compared to say, a decade or two.

It is three months, a fourth of a year, a season.

You can either get a whole lot or remarkably little done in that amount of time, if you set your mind to it. Then again, many squander whole years, not realizing they have an actual finite number, while some seize the day.

Ironically, trying to improve my time management and getting more done at work and in my personal life was a big impetus for looking for a diet and exercise program, which led me to P90X.

I had wanted to start some fitness program for a long time, but I simply could not, because of health problems.

I lost years. Enough to really make me angry. Some of you know that I have a fairly severe chronic nerve pain condition and have had it for over 10 years. And the serious health problems that led into that... migraines, a heart arrhythmia, hearing loss, severe tinnitus, TMJ, etc. started 15 years ago, right after a back surgery in 1996.

My quality of life plummeted sharply and quickly and I was pretty unhappy to come to grips in my late 20s that I was not invincible and there was even a chance that I might not in fact live forever, as I had previously planned.

I was a carpet installer for 10 years and owned my own business for the last 5 of them. I was used to throwing 100 pound rolls on my back and walking them up 3 flights of stairs for 14 hour days.

As the last few years of working in floor-covering became much worse, at the end of each day, I had to crawl to a doorjamb or counter and pull myself up with my arms, because I couldn't stand up by myself. I knew I had to change careers and started working on computers, right after my last big contract.

But even then, finally working at a desk, my chronic pain and other health problems became even much worse between 2000 and 2008.

And yet the doctors finally came to the rescue and only with the combined knowledge of all of mankind and countless years of advancement in science and technology, they offered me enough pain medicine to stun a rhino.

For literally thousands of years, long before doctors even discovered anesthesia or washed their hands before surgery, we simply called it "opium" and you didn't have to go to college to learn how to dispense it for $300K a year.

To be fair, they actually never gave me more than enough to just manage the pain and I never once craved it or abused it. I always took as little as possible to manage the pain and be able to gain improved functionality, just as they taught us in a 2 month pain clinic I went up to Washington to attend.

The problem is that I have a naturally high tolerance and over time that increased even more. I never became "addicted" which is psychological, as I hated the stuff, but built a physical dependance. (Most non-pain sufferers do not remotely know the difference between dependence and addiction.)

And add to that another problem, where your liver constantly "learns" to better process pain medicine over time and they have to switch you from one narcotic to the next every year or so. It is called opiate rotation.

Unfortunately, the perfect storm came to a head. My HMO was more than happy to not check up on my condition for years at a time and I gradually learned to suffer in silence. My condition and their narcotic treatment of it had to worsen so bad I literally had to reach bottom and become tired of living before it occurred to me that maybe something was really wrong.

I was getting violently sick every 72 hours as the timed-release medicine would be processed faster and faster by my liver, and it was fully flushed out of my system a whole day before it was time for the next dose. I had several trips to the ER from withdrawal sickness.

This went on for almost a year and as I got more and more depressed, it slowly hit me that it was the super high dosage (but now completely ineffective) of medicine they were giving me that was causing it.

I may be slow, but I eventually get stuff.

By then I was super angry at everything. Angry at the doctors, angry at missing almost all the extra-curricular activities of my kids high school years, angry at barely having the strength to work 50 hour weeks just to get 40 hours of work done and coming home and collapsing without an ounce of strength left for myself or my family, and even angry at God for putting me through this for more years than I could remember, with absolutely no end in sight.

The prospect of living in that much pain, that depressed, that violently sick every few days, for the rest of my life, was enough to make me not want to live anymore.

Fortunately I had and have a wonderful wife and kids and would never, ever hurt them by purposely hurting myself, because if I did not have them, I'd hate to think what I would have done.

Instead of realizing the medicine they were giving me was making me sick, the doctors actually gave me more. Then they gave me another one on top of that, which made me much more sick and depressed.

After being sick from the pain medicine for over a year and my finally realizing that was actually the real cause (before the doctors figured it out), I went back in to see the pain specialists.

For the first time, I was so desperate, I realized I had no choice but to take a completely hopeless, uncontrollable situation and still try to actually take charge of it.

Did you know YOU can take charge of your health and treatment and not naively leave it to the doctors and "specialists"? Ultimately, you are supposed to be the one in charge of your health and how it is managed, not them.

I went in again to see the doctors and told them there was a new plan (i.e. an actual friggen plan).

I told them that they were going to temporarily rotate me onto another Rx to get the pain and sickness under control and that then a year after that, they were taking me off of all pain medicine altogether.

The new pain specialist I saw was great. He took me off of the two medicines making me sick and rotated me to a different pain Rx, even though it still had to be at a super high dose.

But he also told me that I developed so high a tolerance to pain Rx, that most people who tried to go all the way off of that much, after that many years, were unable to do so. I told him I would see him in a year and he was taking me off, period.

The result of coming off of the medicine was brutal. I started to get violently sick again, on several occasions was awake for more than two days at a time, even with taking literally TWENTY times the regular amount of OTC sleeping pills for weeks at a time, and went through raging mood swings.

I remember locking myself in the bedroom one day and texting Amy: "I have locked myself in the bedroom for a few hours to protect all of you from the Abominable Asshole."

I'm not joking. And I wasn't joking. My body was really pissed at what I was doing and making me feel perpetually pissed as a result. I wouldn't get "upset". I would be hit with unexpected bursts of euphoria and then blind rage as my chemical balances were trying to readjust after so many years.

That hell lasted probably 4 months, because the doctor said I could actually die if they tried tapering off any faster.

But once I was completely off of it... HOORAY! I was in horrible pain again! Yay!

But that's OK.

I also told the doctor before we ever started that I knew full well that would happen.

And yet I also said before we started that severe pain would still be a better quality of life than with the medicine.

And he agreed, that with my natural high tolerance and the nature of my nerve pain, that narcotic Rx would only help for short periods and then gradually become a much worse problem than the pain. I wish I had talked to HIM those 10 years earlier.

After being off of the medicine for a little over a year, I was able to start making plans for something I had wanted to do for years, but simply had no strength for, which was improving my diet and exercise.

Today is day 90, the last day of my P90X program. I still suffer with nerve pain, all day, every day. But I am also happier and healthier than I have been in almost two decades.

Next time: Finishing The P90X Program.

(Part Two is here)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How To Brew Beer In Only 4 or 5 Hundred Easy Steps

My long and decorated history of brewing beer has always been of public record. I have nothing to hide. I have already brewed two whole batches and definitely know exactly how to almost do it now.

The first batch I brewed (crafted, really) was skillfully enacted by having my friend Joseph brew it while I very, very carefully didn't pay attention. The results ranged from yummy to delicious. And magically gluten free.

The second batch was a little trickier and I knew this time I wanted to get my hands dirty. So, I jumped in both feet first and several other body part metaphors and insisted that THIS time, the entire thing be done by Joseph again while I took hasty notes, scribbled on the grocery list pad I stole from their fridge.

In other words, I was done messing around.

What not messing around looks like

I know now what is "wort" (pronounced "wort" for some odd reason), mash, yeast nutrient, Whirlfloc (also pronounced "wort") and a bunch of other weird words that makes me even a little MORE cooler than you than I already was.

Am I a master brewer yet? No, I don't think so. Maybe. If you want to slap that label on me, fine. But I think it is a little too soon.

Will I quickly excel beyond that of my mentor, Brau Meister Cooley? Obviously. I master all I set my hands to, but also will never, ever forget my humble beginnings. Just how I roll.

But in only two months of brewing and only gradually increasing applying myself and even paying a little bit of attention, I am the first to freely admit my gains are meager, so far.

I know this, because I also have clear and incontrovertible evidence of what applying oneself wholeheartedly and strenuously to something for several months will in fact yield:

Oh, yeah.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Live At Roots by Brandin Reed

It's been a while since I've done a blog post about a CD review. I need to remember to do it more often, because everybody needs to listen to what I'm listening to.

Brandin Reed just put out his new EP called Live At Roots, which is 5 of his original, acoustic songs performed at the Roots Coffeehouse, not far from where he lives in Dallas / Fort Worth, Texas.

I had a chance to listen to it a couple times and love it. It's great, mellow songs, perfect for summertime and driving in the car.

I definitely recommend it. Give the songs a preview, either in iTunes or at Amazon and you'll quickly agree it is well worth buying, especially at the EP cost.

I think my favorites are tracks one and three, Breeze and No More Doubt. Very catchy guitar riffs and his signature smooth high tenor / falsetto throughout.

I should point out that I hate it when people drop names and I will never, ever do that.

Brandin and I go waaaaay back. It was well over mumble mumble years ago that we both worked together leading praise and worship for the youth / young adults at New Beginnings Christian Center in Portland.

(I won't say how long ago it was, but my now adult kids were still knee high. Let's leave it at that.)

I played electric guitar as well as a little keyboard and bass and Brandin led the singing and played acoustic guitar. He also wrote many of the original songs we did and was a really good rapper, too.

Even now, he leads the music ministry for New Beginnings DFW in Texas, while I fix computers for a living. Soooo, that should tell you something.

But make no mistake, I taught him literally everything he knows about guitar and singing.*

*(This is not even remotely accurate, so I will probably repeat it many times, especially as he gets more and more famous.)

Seriously, it is cool to hear what he is doing now, compared to the already good songs he was writing and singing way back mumble mumble years ago.

Several of the tracks have a unique mix of jazz and gospel influence and yet are very reminiscent of worship songs and charismatic church services, being extended out in length and very spontaneous, from the heart. Definitely a nice side to this being recorded in front of a live crowd.

Which is actually the first thing I forgot! Honestly.

As I listened to the first song and was admiring how good the guitar and harmonies sounded and the overall production quality, I was pleasantly surprised to be reminded that it was performed live by the clapping at the end.

Brandin is a great guy with a lot of talent and a really good voice and it really shines through on Live At Roots. Give it a listen.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Heaven, Hell and P90X

My results with P90X have been weird and confusing. I have actually gained 5 pounds, but every time I sneeze, my wedding ring slips off my finger and my pants fall down.

I am and have been happily married for over 22 years, so there is nothing symbolic about this. My pounds are apparently just redistributing themselves in other locales and not bothering to ask my input about it.

I ordered P90X about 3 months ago for two very good reasons - because I really wanted to take more control of my health and because I had no clue how bad it was going to kick my butt.

Literally. You wake up the mornings after the "Back & Leg" workouts and you are tempted to hobble to the front door and see if anyone broke in during the night and kicked your butt cheeks for 20 straight minutes and sneaked back out.

Since I have posted about this workout program quite a few times over the last 3 months (the 90 stands for 90 days), some have said I sound like I am just advertising for them. Great! If you are with the company, please send me a royalty check or at least a couple coupons.

But if not, I assure you that the only thing I want to advertise is the advice that eating better and exercising are two of the best things you could ever do for yourself in this life.

Whether it is P90X or something else altogether, do whatever you can to improve those two things a tiny bit every month. You only get one body, so don't throw it away.

I bought the DVDs almost 90 days ago because I saw it as making an investment. By spending the money on it, I was making the commitment to do the entire thing, no matter what. They even say in their ads, "Decide. Commit. Succeed." Deciding first to do it it all the way through, no matter what, is utterly essential.

Even breaking something on my body that I needed to use later in life was more of an option than quitting. Mailing them back was never on the table, or I honestly would not have ordered them in the first place.

Which is good. Because if quitting was acceptable in my mind, then it would have happened about day 4.

But it also helped that at least 3 people told me I couldn't or wouldn't finish it. Since I was a little kid, nothing made me want to do something more than being told I could not. I was a little... "strong willed".

In fact, "Keep Off The Grass" signs were invented for people like me.

Specifically, they are there to tell me exactly where to get off the sidewalk and stomp on the grass.

They advertise that P90X will "get you in the best shape of your life", which is to say some of the best shape you can get yourself in just 90 days.

What they DON'T tell you is that you should not order it if you are really OUT of shape and just want to use it to get IN shape. If you are not already fit to some degree, it will possibly destroy you, kill you or worse.

Luckily, I actually slowly started exercising again for a number of months before even I started P90X. I started walking every day, biking, running and lifting weights a couple times a week.

This is why week number 1 of P90X was only "HELL week" and not "HOSPITAL week" followed by "Amy sending the DVDs back in the mail against my wishes" week.

But then week 2 and 3 were more like "PURGATORY weeks" and about week 4, I even started to upgrade out of that place.

I still have not reached "HEAVEN week" at all, which is fine.

I just am finally increasing the chances that whichever of those places I really do go to after this life, I might be getting there a couple years later than I would have otherwise.

This is day one of week 11 (with 13 total) and I am sick. I have a low grade fever, coughed myself awake most of the night and may or may not have gargled with nails at some point.

So, I feel like I got run over by a Porta-Potty truck, but I am still going to trudge through an hour and 20 minutes of lifting weights and crunches.

Normally, I might be happy with the progress of the last 10 weeks and just take a break for the next week or two, until I feel better... but no.

I already know it will feel even worse than HELL week, but luckily for me, someone told me I wouldn't do it all the way through to the end.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

And the propane's red glare... tanks bursting in air...

The second degree burns are healing up nicely. In my defense, they were inflicted on July 3rd and did not involve fireworks in any way.

We spent some time in Pacific City with friends this weekend and camped with them there on Saturday night. The day was as beautiful and sunny as you could ask for.

But since this is Oregon, it was obligatory that by nightfall a steady mist of rain came down for a couple hours and threatened to quash our S'mores plans. (Maybe. I don't actually know for sure what "quash" means.)

Our firewood had been soaking up the mist for a couple hours and was not willing to light, but I had both modern inventions and a lack of healthy fear on my side.

Years ago, a friend I went hunting with had given me a torch attachment for those ubiquitous (another big word), green Coleman propane tanks. It has been a real lifesaver many o' time, since I am not yet camping buddies with Cody Lundin.

If I use the torch again in the future, I will probably not use a year old tank with dents and rust on it. The torch attachment sounded funny the whole time and the flame was weak, but it was still slowly starting to light the firewood.

After about 45 seconds, the entire tank and my hands became engulfed in flames, but I quickly remembered the childhood safety tip of, "Stop, Drop and Swear".

The tank was still on fire on the ground and since I was worried about it blowing up, I yelled for everyone to get back and threw my body on top of it, like in the movies.

OK, I actually just grabbed it again, still on fire, and turned off the torch attachment. But it was still selfless and valiant and stuff.

I won't "catch a grenade for ya" like Bruno claims he would, but I will, "grab a propane tank engulfed in flames with my already burned hands and turn off the nozzle for ya". (OK, his is catchier.)

Then I continued to light the fire, but I was back to doing it like they did centuries ago whenever their firewood got soaked, with wadded up paper bags from Safeway and a lighter.

I also used the expression "wow, that got me good" about two or three hundred times and plunged my hands into a bag of ice every couple minutes for about an hour.

And then I spent the night sleeping like a baby. Which is to say, I woke up crying every 15 or 20 minutes.

I did not take pictures of the blistered second degree burns on the tops of all my fingers, but you can thank me for that.

Later the next day, enjoying a scotch night with some buddies downtown Portland, they assured me that they were disgusting looking and I was a jerk for showing it to them right before the food showed up.

I definitely learned an important lesson through all this, which is that to be safe on the 4th, I need to stick to only lighting the illegal fireworks I bought out of that guy's trunk.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

My Mid-life Crisis

I recently overheard someone suggest that men of a certain age who change from a lifetime of sloth and gluttony to suddenly trying to get in shape are probably only doing it because they are going through a mid-life crisis.

I hated to admit it and it took me a lot of soul searching to realize this is exactly what is happening to me.

About 6 months ago, I looked in the mirror and saw my whitening and simultaneously disappearing hair (actually it's just relocating to my ears and back), my sprawling topography of wrinkles, round belly and jiggly man boobs and all of a sudden it hit me:

"Meh, I look OK, I guess."

And yet I still went into my mid-life crisis, nonetheless.

But it was specifically a crisis of my no longer being able to ignore the truth that now that I am over 40, every single year that goes by will be met with a sharp and dramatic spike in my chances of having cancer, diabetes, a heart attack or a stroke, if I continue to eat poorly and do not exercise.

Yeah. Chew on THOSE Cheetos, buckaroo.

That's why I won't dye my hair, buy a sports car that I can't afford or wear gold chains, but I will maybe eat a couple more things every day that are made only out of plants. I will also cross the road just to cross the road and not only to get to the other doughnut.

I am not terribly concerned with how great I look in a bathing suit or if girls half my age still think I am cute (they do), but this "dying while I'm still young" business is a bunch of crap!

Could I still die young? Yes. Statistically, I still have a good chance of dying before I am 50 from chasing down that jackass who cut me off on I-205 on Monday morning, but I suppose it could also still be from a stroke or heart attack before then (especially since stress and anger also apparently help contribute to them).

And if that happens, I more than welcome any and all fat people to say "I told you so!" and dance on my grave (or waddle slowly until they get winded, their choice).

I am 3 days away from starting the 3rd and last month of my P90X workout and I can only hope and pray that it helps me to reach my primary and sensible goal:

To take this wrinkly old fart and make me look sexy!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mileposts Along The Way - 2011

It is good when you can look back at markers along the way to remind you of your experiences each year.

Today is the first day of summer and the first day of my having a real beer in one whole year.

My doctor suggested I try a gluten free diet in late June of 2010 and because it had a positive affect on my chronic pain condition of over 10 years, I stuck with it. And the barley in beer has gluten in it.

(I wasn't upset when they came to take away away my donuts, because I didn't have any. I didn't protest when they came to take away my cupcakes, because I wasn't eating them. But when they came to take my beer...)

But then I found store bought, gluten free beer. It is made with Sore gums or sorhghumh (sp?), instead of barley.

It is just like regular beer without all that extra good taste bogging it down!

In fact, store bought, G.F. beer tastes so much like real malted barley beer that I immediately became a huge fan. OF SCOTCH. (Scotch is also made with malted barley, but the distillation process removes all gluten.)

Then my friend Joseph, who has been brewing beer for years, found a miracle enzyme that has long been used to make beer clearer (called Clarex) that they recently discovered in the laboratory also removes all traces of gluten.

And he offered to help me brew a batch! (Although most of my help consisted of handing a guy with a huge beard my credit card!)

It has not been approved for G.F. Certification yet in the U.S., because we Americans always want fads to die down in Europe for a while, before we take them up and pretend we discovered them.

(And in case you're wondering, you cannot just add it to store bought beer, it must be added during the brewing process.)

Here is how the noble experiment took place:

Step One: Unscrew the cap

Step One: Um, unscrew the cap

Step One: Pop off unscrewable cap, tell dog to shut up

Step Two: First real beer in one whole year

Step Three: OMG

Step Four: Thank you, Science! And Joseph!

June of 2011 will certainly be remembered as a bittersweet month for me. My aunt died a few days ago and as she has been frail for some time, it was a minor blessing that she went in her sleep, with little suffering. Many of my family and relatives are gathering for her graveside ceremony in New York a few days and I so wish I could be there with them and my cousins, her daughters. If I could, I know I would share a few hugs and laughs, a few tears and a few beers.

Plato said, "He was a wise man who invented beer". Benjamin Franklin also said, "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." And I consider myself very much like those two men, in that I am also balding.

I know my aunt enjoyed a beer many times over the years with those she loved. She is with my uncle and grandparents now and is loved and will be missed terribly.

Here's to you, Aunt Tootie.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Aging Gracefully

Nope. This aint it.

I may very well be too immature to proclaim what it means to "age gracefully", but I think I am self aware enough to at least spot ways worse than my own.

Also, one of the greatest purposes of the Internet is to dole out unsolicited advice, so brace yourself.

(A friend of mine refers to this online preaching / soapboxing as aggravatingly "declarative statements". These type of comments and blog posts boast "I am a veritable goldmine of truths and wisdom and if you're standing close enough to get spattered by them, it is your own fault.")

So, here goes.

If as a man, you are around 50 and have finally saved up enough money to afford the crushing monthly payments on your convertible sports car, then good for you.

I have a theory that middle aged men buy super nice sports cars because they secretly wish to know what it is like for pretty girls who walk down the street and are turning heads. Weird, but acceptable.

But if you buy a vanity plate that says something like "AHEDVU" or "GRT2BME" (actual plates I saw in the last month), then it is all I can do to not chase you down and kick you in your old man berries for making us graying, balding types look stupider than we already do. Cut it out.

I also think getting surgery if you're a woman or dying your hair or getting a toupee if you're a man are examples of not facing Father Time like a man (or woman or whatever).

Instead of liposuction or collagen in your lips/glutes, here is a little known secret formula used by the ancient Egyptians and a few other cultures to stave off the ravages of time:

Eat more vegetables and move your ass more.

This will never catch on, as it is so outdated and silly, but is still worth mentioning as a quaint Snapple Fact.

I am in the middle of month 2 of my 90 day P90X campaign and I feel great. As long as "great" is loosely defined as having more energy and being beat up every other day.

I am also no longer eating cake, donuts, cake filled donuts or donut filled cakes with syrup and bacon lard sprinkles. As a result, my daughter is taking me to the mall today to buy some non-stupid pants with a smaller waist, which is nice.

But since these are mostly outward things, I suppose I should touch upon character or personality or something like that. I am admittedly pretty immature. I mostly pretend to be a grownup so people will give me a job. It's one of my many persona. Fortunately, they are all really good looking.

I honestly am not sure what is a happy balance for aging gracefully in that respect. I think gradually becoming more respectful of others, however different than you, is a good sign of maturing. So is not taking yourself so seriously.

And so is sincerely respecting others opinions and feelings, and yet not being so self conscious as to measure your every word and breath with how others might negatively react to it.

But I also eschew the notion that a natural progression of aging is to become more and more serious, if not outright grumpy and miserable. I used to think that was a natural law of the world: "Life keeps kicking you in the ass and after 60 or so years, you're too fed up with that to smile anymore."

I prefer Dave Barry's philosophy, "What I look forward to is continued immaturity followed by death." And I am think I might just be blissfully stupid enough to pull it off.

In the meantime, I am still saving up for that sports car sans dork plates.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Why, when I was yer age...

Austin's graduation party is less than an hour away and it is only fitting, with him embarking on this first post-high school summer, that it be marked with words of wisdom.

But since I am writing this, we will have to settle for words of smart aleckyness.

Now that both kids are graduated from high school, mom and I are pretty excited for the future, in particular for the prospect of once again gaining a dedicated room for my guitars and amps (OK, that's mostly me who's excited for that).

But since he is possibly doing college work online, that may be moot. We'll see. My dad encouraged me to look for my own place when I was Austin's age, with the encouraging words, "get your $%^& and get out!"... but Austin is far less high strung than I was, so I do not see that happening.

He is dragging his heels on getting his driver's license (which I admit doing at his age, and look how good I turned out), but I think I figured a solution. I think we should buy him a really sweet car outright and tell him he can drive it just as soon as he gets his license. And a girlfriend.

I am certain I would have that dedicated music room almost immediately, but then his mom would be mad at me.

Oh well, I suppose I can wait a little while longer. A LITTLE.

We love you Austin and couldn't be more proud of you.

Monday, June 6, 2011


This is one of the exercises in P90X's Plyometrics.

I am on day 2 of month 2 - also known as Phase 2 - of P90X, so I thought I would give an update on my progress. Since I am exhausted right now, I will see how far I can go and just keep it serious this time.

Tonight was Plyometrics night and it is probably the most difficult DVD in the entire set. Whether it is the cardio or weight workouts, each one is very carefully picked to target a specific area as well as optimize the rest of the workouts.

And the Plyometrics one was specifically chosen and structured as punishment for every Twinkie you've ever eaten.

Two. Two paragraphs.

Also known as "jump training", Plyometrics is derived from the Greek phrase "Pry Your Ass Up". It is an hour workout and you spend about 20 minutes of it without any contact with the floor.

The first time I did it, it was the first and only DVD that I could not finish to the end. But I have finished the whole hour every time since then, and now after a month of doing it, I have so much energy at the end, I can sometimes make it all the way to the shower before collapsing and falling alseep.

Seriously though, P90X is ridiculously grueling, but I have felt a little better and have had more energy every single week. Not immediately after the workouts, but definitely each next day and week.

They say muscle weighs more than fat. I don't know who the heck "they" are, but I think they're right. I am losing inches in the waist and gaining some in the chest, shoulders and arms, but I have not really been losing much weight, if any. This is particularly frustrating on Plyo night, because I have to spend the hour hurling 190 pounds in the air over and over.

The only consolation is that it gets just a little bit easier each time.

And that I'll probably never eat a Twinkie ever again.


Other P90X posts: