Where the Hell is Everyone?

Seven of these on a quarter-mile long stretch of street and not one person out playing basketball on a beautiful 75-degree day.
Seven of these on a quarter-mile long stretch of street and not one person out playing basketball on a beautiful 75-degree day.

Before I get into the topic of today’s blog, let me update you on the back surgery rehab and whatnot. After walking 18 miles in three days over Memorial Day weekend, I took Tuesday off and went for a walk Wednesday evening after work. I must have pulled a muscle or something. I have had a knot of pain in my butt on the left side since about 20 feet into that walk. The severity comes and goes at this point. I took Thursday and Friday off from any distance walking and went 4 ¼ yesterday. After the walk, my incision area swelled up. I went online and did some research I am finding out that I am not the only person to whom this has happened. I will be calling the surgeon’s office in the morning to allay my fears.

Did I walk too far? Did I walk too fast? What’s causing the swelling? Is it a cause for concern? Who knows? More questions than answers right now. I have some tightness from the swelling and a bit of pain when I bend over (which I have to keep at a minimum). For the most part, my hips feel great, the pre-op injury pain is long gone. I am fairly certain this is all part of the process and I am a bit paranoid. Okay, I’m a lot paranoid.

Now, on to the point of today’s entry. Where the hell is everybody? I went for a nice slow walk today, maybe a mile and a half. Granted, it was pretty hot yesterday. I do live in a fairly quiet neighborhood. But I can practically count the number of people I have seen outside on both hands. And I am not talking about exercisers.

Since today’s walk was a bit more leisurely, I made it a point to pay attention. On one street, maybe a quarter mile long, I counted seven street facing adjustable portable basketball hoops. They were all set at varying heights. I mention that because the lower the hoop, the more an indication of the presence of children. Seven hoops. Not one child playing basketball. It was partly sunny and 75 degrees when I left the house. I saw one girl on a long-distance run, one guy selling produce on the street corner, another guy (who I see quite often) on a distance run, and two women leaving a house in flip-flops for what I assume was a casual walk.

I saw more folks out and about yesterday when it was 90 degrees and sunny. A few folks were in the their garages chatting it up, a young man was out jogging with his dog (a bit hot for that but they took frequent breaks), a girl almost ran me over with her bicycle, a pair of women were out for an exercise walk. But what I didn’t see were many people congregating in front of their homes.

I run or walk at all times of the day. This is not a morning thing or afternoon thing. I go out in the evening and I see, or don’t see, the same things.

Living in Northern California, especially where I do, the weather is tolerable at a minimum almost the entire year. Since we’re in the middle of the longest drought in state history, we don’t even have rain to dampen outdoor activities.

Maybe it’s the architecture of the homes here. We don’t have porches. Most folks don’t have front yard seating like we did in the northeast when I was a kid. We had lawn chairs though. Just about every evening, the neighbors would gather on a porch, front steps, a stoop, something, for some conversation and an adult beverage or two. Nobody overstayed their welcome, everyone was free to go back to their homes and do whatever they did the rest of the evening. It wasn’t a party, there was no occasion. My parents and their contemporaries would just congregate and chat. They’d discuss work, gossip about other neighbors, talk about us kids, or just sit and enjoy each other’s company.

And as far as us kids were concerned, we ran the streets without parental supervision. GASP! I’ve actually been reading about parents getting arrested for letting their children go to the park unsupervised. Glad they didn’t do this when I was a kid. Every parent in the neighborhood would have spent time in the clink.

LL Cool J couldn't live without his radio.
LL Cool J couldn’t live without his radio.

We were the boombox generation. One of us would carry the giant ass radio and about eight to 10 of us would just walk the streets. Other times we’d be in the empty lot at the end of my street playing football or baseball, we’d be in my backyard playing basketball, we’d be at the park on the swings and slide. We would go door-to-door to sell things to raise funds for little league baseball and football uniforms, school trips, etc. We used to walk to our little league practices. Parents didn’t attend practice, only the games. I guess we live in a world of child molesters, kidnappers and other such ne’er-do-wells and miscreants.

I can go months without seeing my next-door neighbor. Months. Shared a fence with other neighbors for two years before meeting them. There’s one neighbor who helps out and takes an interest. He’ll toss the newspaper over the fence if it sits in your driveway too long so it doesn’t look like you’re away. He’ll pop over if he sees you outside. Turns out that he’s friends with the father of one of my coworkers – small world we live in.

Everyone knows I am not a “happy-go-lucky” kind of a guy. But I either smile and/or nod to every passerby. What really bugs me is when that nod or smile is not returned. Too bad I can’t go all Pai Mei vs. the Shaolin Monk on them. I must admit, it has been a quiet weekend for the exercisers of the community. There usually are quite a few joggers, dog walkers, bicyclists and whatnot.

The city I live in is described as a “bedroom community.”

This would be one of the only times I would cite the Urban Dictionary and consider the entry close to accurate (with the exception of the kids comment).

Bedroom Community

A suburban community/town with little to no major employment center(s) to call its own. People only seem to sleep there when they’re not working 80 Hrs./wk closer in to the city where the jobs are. The only commercial space is retail & services for the residents (banks, groceries, malls, etc.) Residents often choose bedroom communities because of affordablility relative to living closer to the city, lower perceived crime, and schools with students that look just like their kids.

We do have a couple of major employers here, we have tons of restaurants and commerce, the city government has done a lot to bring jobs here, but it’s still considered a bedroom community. The housing market is rebounding after the crash of 2008.

A still image from a Twilight Zone episode depicting an empty town.
A still image from a Twilight Zone episode depicting an empty town.

Have we become a society of shut-ins? Are we distrustful of the people next door? Has the proliferation of news stories about the Jeffrey Dahmers of the world made us that afraid of our fellow man? Are we suburbanites backyard dwellers? I have a pool in which I like to spend most of the summer. Some measure of entertaining goes on.

I don’t know if I have a point. Maybe it’s the same as it is with my back, more questions than answers. I spent 10 years in the military. Maybe while I was away things like this changed. I do know the folks we used to hang out with on the porch in my hometown all moved away.

We all have our interests. We all have things we like to do. Time and conversation with friendly neighbors used to be one of them. Maybe people do go outside and it’s just the backyard instead of the front. Maybe my blog about the death of journalism where I discuss too many entertainment options is true.

I enjoy living in a quiet neighborhood but the silence on the weekends is eerie. I don’t get it. Maybe I’m just paranoid.

Starting All Over Again

Yay! I'm blue!
You know what they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in France? Royale with Cheese. You know why? The metric system. Lookee, I’m blue!

When I was told I needed back surgery I made the conscious decision to actually listen to the medical professionals who would be caring for me. There’s a switch. I normally don’t listen to anyone when it comes to my body. Why bother? I survived childhood in the 1970s – I’m invincible. I was in the Navy – I’m invincible.

I have followed the post-op instructions as best as I can. I want to go swimming desperately but the nurse said I should wait two weeks after getting the staples out. They don’t want the incision immersed in water. I so miss my bubble baths. I may fudge this one a little bit and get in the pool a day or two early.

When I saw the post-op instructions on exercise I was mortified. No lifting of anything more than 10 pounds. No running. Nothing but walking. The good news on that is that I am encouraged to walk as much as possible.  The bad news is that I feel like I am starting all over again.

Just over two years ago I decided to lose weight and get in shape. The easiest way to get started was to walk. A surgical procedure at that time forced me to consider that my only exercise for awhile. It took me pretty much an hour to walk three miles in January 2013. I cut back on the walking and developed a passion for weightlifting. Eventually I took up running and managed to run 3.12 miles (5K) in my neighborhood in under 27 minutes (once). My average run/walk mile pace is down to about 13 minutes. I had been increasing my distance and I even got a run in of over 6 miles just before the 115-pound deadlift that caused the herniated discs.

The bad news is that I feel like I am starting all over again.

I survived something like this as a child. Why would I ever need to listen to a doctor?
I survived something like this as a child. Why would I ever need to listen to a doctor?

Not that long ago I ratcheted up the research on the benefits of protein, how much should I be eating, what gives the most protein bang for the buck. I started taking creatine occasionally to power through workouts. Faithful readers of this blog know that I have an ideal body type and a goal in mind. They also know I have a long way to go. I really thought I was starting to see the progress I wanted to make and then I hurt myself.

I wrote recently that you don’t know if your metabolism is straightened out until you put it to a test. I have figured out that 6-8 weeks is about all my body can take of unnecessary carbs, not enough protein and no exercise before the scale starts to tick back up in the wrong direction. I gravitate to comfort food when I don’t feel well and my comfort food is carb laden. Yes, I have been drinking more than usual. Not to excess, but more than usual. Now, I have only gained a few pounds – best I recognize this now and keep the trend from continuing. The good thing here is that my portion sizes are reasonable and I don’t overeat or overindulge. Those practices have kept this weight gain minimal. What has been happening is an altering of my body shape that I do not like and the re-emergence of the skinny fat look. You can’t burn out the fat marbling in your muscles or visceral fat around your organs with cardio alone. Strength training and a high protein diet are required in addition to a good dose of cardio.

I wondered with this back injury and subsequent surgery if I would lose my motivation. I have marveled at my self-discipline and dedication the past 2 1/2 years. Yeah, I have my bad days. Yeah, I have my bad weeks. But they are few and far between. However, I have not had a challenge like this. Yes, I had a calf strain and hamstring pull that kept me from running for a month. Yes, I have minor aches and pains. Yes, I have had the recurring back spasms that knock me down a little bit. But I have yet to have an injury that required surgery and this much down time. After the last couple of days, I can tell you this, I am more motivated than ever.

I finally got busy. Walking is the only form of activity I am allowed until June 17.
I finally got busy. Walking is the only form of activity I am allowed until June 17.

How do I know this? For one, I don’t like that I have put on a couple of pounds. Two, I don’t like losing muscle and I don’t like losing what little definition I had managed to develop. Three, after a slow start after surgery – 1/2 mile here, 1/2 mile there, going back to work and not walking much at all for the last three days of this past week, I decided I would really get out there this three-day holiday weekend.

I asked the surgeon’s nurse how much I should be walking and she said whatever I was comfortable with but as much as possible. So, I have walked 15 miles the past three days. Two-a-days as it were, 3 miles in the morning, 3 in the evening. I got my 3 in this morning, and I’ll go again tonight at halftime of the basketball game. My body is telling me I need a bit of a break, but i think 18 miles in 3 days will pretty darn impressive for someone 2 1/2 weeks out from back surgery. I had read that 20 miles a week was the magic number for running or walking when it comes to burning visceral fat.

I’ll walk in the afternoons at work this week, or in the early evenings after work and back off the two-a-days. I’ll figure out a rest day. I really miss running and weightlifting. I see the surgeon June 17 and he’ll tell me what I can and cannot do. His nurse said I should have no restrictions after that.

I was hoping to have this Speedo body ready to go for Pool Season 2015 but that has been delayed. I’ll be 46 in a month or so. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do once I hit my goal weight of 180 pounds except maintain 180 pounds and then I decided to go for the body I want. My ideal is 47. So, I am a little delayed. The great thing about living here in California I don’t have to worry about not being able to run in the winter. I have a house gym so I don’t have to worry about trying to get out in the snow and go to a gym. But the debut of Cabana Boy is going to have to wait. The premiere of Knaak, Jerry Knaak, is going to be pushed back a bit.  I wrote that line as I sit here and watch Thunderball. Funny, a I have a Thunderball poster hanging in my office/gym.

But I can assure you that v3.0 is going to be the best version ever. The other thing I can promise is that there will be no training montage set to Eye of the Tiger.

“‘Cause you can’t stop, you won’t and you don’t stop…”

I can just hear it now…”J-Rock, come and rock the sure shot.”

A Few Words About Words

This is a TOAST. Not "cheersing" for crying out loud.
This is a TOAST. Not “cheersing” for crying out loud.

I love the English language. I shouldn’t. It’s a mess. It is arguably the hardest language in the world to learn. Yet, I love it. I enjoy twisting it and bending it to my will. I love using devices that few people get just to see if anyone gets them.

Now, I understand that much of our language is a hodgepodge of words cobbled together from different languages and time periods. Old English, French, Italian, Spanish and countless others. Our language is evolving. It has to. Hell, there is a major difference between Queen’s English and American English. That’s what it always makes me laugh when American people say, “talk American,” or “speak English.” Um…

I like Ambrose Bierce’s definition of “language” in the Devil’s Dictionary

LANGUAGE, n.The music with which we charm the serpents guarding another’s treasure.

Say cheersing one more time - I DARE YOU!
Say cheersing one more time – I DARE YOU!

Of course there are dialects and colloquialisms. I get that. There’s nothing wrong with that. The Northeast and deep South have theirs, I am stuck with “hella” and “hecka” out here in California. Don’t get me started about that tripe.

Perhaps this is an indictment of the education system. Maybe I was just different as a kid. When I was young I was made fun of because of my large vocabulary. In high school, I made it a point to learn how to spell and define the longest word in the English language. At the time it was antidisestablishmentarianism. And of course, WordPress says it’s misspelled.

However, I am sick and tired of people kludging words when perfectly good words already exist.

This book is full of fantastic words. Try using them instead of making up your own.
This book is full of fantastic words. Try using them instead of making up your own. We hide knowledge in books.

My point is that we have a book filled with wonderful words. It’s called a dictionary. I suggest folks should pick up a copy instead of Googling everything. The fact that Googling is an acceptable verb is disturbing. Many of these words have become overused. “Wow” has be the most overused word. It permeates social media. What’s left when something remarkable truly happens? What will we say then? It won’t be “awesome.” That’s probably the second-most overused word.

What has spawned this little rant about language today? “Cheersing.” I have so many words I’d like to use but I realize the parents of my younger readers wouldn’t appreciate a profanity-laden tirade. We have a perfectly good word for this activity. It’s called a “toast.” We “toast” major events with the raising of a glass, the clinking of a glass or glasses, and a few words. If no words are necessary, such as our round of drinks have arrived and we’re happy to see each other, we say “cheers,” or the more sophisticated of us would say “salut.” It’s a toast for crying out loud. There is no such freaking thing as “cheersing.”

I blame the Urban Dictionary for some of this. Craft some baloney definitions of words on a web site to justify your misuse, or common distortions, kludge colloquialisms and post it online and folks use it as a justification for language butchery.

One I saw on Facebook not that long ago – a friend was in a situation where a fight almost broke out and he wrote, and I’m paraphrasing, “there was almost ‘fist to cuffs.'” WTF? No brouhaha? No donnybrook?  I posted a comment and said, “don’t you mean ‘fisticuffs?” And I was promptly directed to the Urban Dictionary. All I could do was shake my head in disbelief.

From Merriam-Webster

Full Definition of FISTICUFFS

:  a fight with the fists
From the Urban Dictionary
1. Getting in a rumble with somebody and fighting like a johnny hardcore!

What’s the damn difference? There’s more to the urban dictionary definition I won’t post here.

The Urban Dictionary even has a definition for fisticuffs.

Fisticuffs are a favourite pastime for the Victorian Gentleman, as well as a way to sort out minor scuffles and souffles. Unlike modern boxers, the Victorian Gentlemen were not layabouts nor lollygaggers; they required neither padding nor special equipment. Bare knuckle fighting was the order of the day, and some experts believe it was the special of the day. This mano-a-mano competition could continue for anything up to 45 days, both combatants circling each other slowly, weighing up the strengths and weakenesses of their opponent and smoking fine cigars. During fisticuffs, the jacket is always taken off, braces are unhooked from the shoulder and sleeves are rolled up.
Victorian Gentleman 1: Right-O Charles, did you see Johnathan over there challenge the Duke of York to throw down in fisticuffs?

Victorian Gentleman 2: Dear Lord, I daresay this could turn out to be a proper flogging! That pompus French bastard needs a good lashing

Victorian Gentleman 1: Right-O Charles! Right-O!

Why make up a word or expression? A perfectly good word already exists.

It’s kind of like the folks who don’t hear things quite right and make up their own colloquialism. Chest of drawers becomes “chester drawers.” My Korean mother used to say I was all “soap and wet” when I’d come in from a rainstorm. Then there are the folks who don’t like to take the Lord’s name in vain and say or write “Got Damn” instead of the true, accurate expression. In sports, die-hard fans refer to themselves as “die-heart” fans. True, you may die a little each time your team loses, or you may think you’re going into cardiac arrest during a close game, but “die-heart” is rubbish. Maybe that’s the way they say it, or hear it. It’s done for emphasis. Who the hell knows?!

What I do know is that social media has made a butcher shop of the English language and it drives me insane. It’s actually a pretty short walk but you get my point. I’ve posted my issues with this language butchery on Facebook and I have been labeled a spelling and grammar Nazi. I have been told “it’s just Facebook,” or “it’s Twitter, spelling and grammar don’t matter.”

We often wonder why we learn certain things when we attend school. Why learn geometry? Duh, so we can shoot pool while drinking beer in smoke filled bars. Beyond that, so many things have no practical use. I posit this. School teaches us to think and solve problems. The other thing? The one thing you’ll use every day for the rest of your life, unless you move to Bangladesh, is the English language. You’ll speak it, you’ll read it and you’ll write it.

If you continue to think that it doesn’t matter…

…have fun filling out that Burger King or McDonald’s job application. You can scratch in “doesn’t matter” where you are supposed to list your education.

Journalism is Dead

Edward R. Murrow.
Edward R. Murrow.

I knew this was going to happen. I could see it coming 1,000 column inches away. It’s ironic that I felt that things like blogs would help kill journalism and here I am, writing a blog. I’m not talking about the death of newspapers. The Internet killed them and newspapers failed to read the writing on the wall. Their insipid, intrusive ads that they sell and with which they inundate consumers are a different topic for a different paragraph. Keep reading.

Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and mainstream television are all to blame for the death of journalism. It’s ironic that the one medium that I think still gets storytelling right is the one that’s dying because of a lack of foresight and unwillingness to adapt to technology and the information revolution.

Maybe I’m jaded. Maybe I’ve lived more than most, or at least some. Maybe I’m not impressed easy. Maybe my memory is longer and my capacity for trivia is greater.

The fact that a yo-yo with a Twitter account can incite panic or a riot because they don’t know how to tell a story is unreal to me. And the populace believes it rather than getting their news and information from a reputable source.

Here’s what I think I think.

I like to think that there are people in the world who are nowhere near smart enough to concoct such things. As I wrote previously, I am not a conspiracy theorist. Taken individually much of what has happened in the last 34 years or so can be interpreted as progress. I pick 1981 because that’s the year my family got cable. I’ll get to my conspiracy theory in a minute.

Walter Cronkite.
Walter Cronkite.

When I was a child we had four TV channels – the three major networks, CBS, NBC and ABC and the local PBS station. Eventually we got a UHF channel. My father would get home by 5:30 p.m. and my stay-at-home mom would have dinner on the table. We ate dinner as a family. By 6:00 p.m. we were watching the local news on TV. I usually did homework, but my father watched the local news, followed by the national news. There was no debate. It didn’t matter what else was on. The UHF channel was great for irreverent syndicated programs that appealed more to children than the news. It didn’t matter. From 6 to 7 p.m., the news was on our 19-inch Zenith tube TV.

My father read the newspaper. You couldn’t get his attention until he was done with it. He read it cover-to-cover, front to back, back to front. He kept his politics close to the vest and never divulged for whom or what he voted or endorsed. All I knew was he was a staunch independent.

We watched what the networks decided we should watch. The TV programming executives created the dramas and the situation comedies and the actors of the day carried out these teleplays the same Bat Time on the same Bat Channel every week. We lived our lives around the TV guide.

Early on, pioneers like Edward R. Murrow informed radio listeners from coast-to-coast. Murrow helped take down Joseph McCarthy. Murrow knew in 1958 that television news would suffer for entertainment’s sake. How prophetic.

Gabe Dalmath, the face of local news that I grew up on.
Gabe Dalmath, the face of local news that I grew up on.

I grew up on Walter Cronkite – the most trusted man in America. If Walter said it, you knew it was true. Our local newscasters in Rochester, N.Y., were longtime residents and longtime journalists. Unfortunately, the sports guy is now an elected official. Actually, I am quite alarmed at how many Rochester area TV news people have gone into politics.

As I have become fluent in social media, I find the criticism of FOX News laughable. Not because the criticism isn’t warranted, but because “FOX News” is such a misnomer. There is no “news” offered. Sock puppets hosting shows that parade endless pundits and experts weighing in on world events with biased opinions (this goes for MSNBC or NBC News or whatever they’re calling it this week too) is not NEWS.

I was taught the definition of news included “right to know” and “need to know.” Instead of providing the information we need to know and have a right now to know, we are presented partisan information by competing networks.

Don’t get me started about local news. A morning news program in Sacramento recently featured a report on the dangers of tanning beds and the anchor proceeded to deliver the rest of the newscast, in studio, while wearing a floppy straw hat and sunglasses. Her credibility went out the window and I turned the channel.

Network morning new programs have been a joke for sometime. When journalists get paid seven figures, insert themselves into the their stories and care more about what the Kardashians are doing, they aren’t journalists anymore. They are entertainers.

CBS Sunday Morning has to be the best and only news magazine on TV that’s worth watching that still does it “right.”

I still get a Sunday paper. Well, sometimes. Paper guy/woman/boy/girl didn’t see fit to deliver one today. This seems to be the only place I can get any real news. Newspaper websites seem to have become a Petri dish for online advertising technology. It’s not my fault newspaper publishers missed the boat on the Internet and information revolution. To that end, newspaper web sites have become impossible to navigate and are organized in such a fashion, reading them and finding anything worthwhile is next to impossible.

I have a theory about common knowledge. Folks under a certain age, let’s say 30, don’t have the same common knowledge. Maybe I have one foot in two different worlds or eras. My capacity for remembering or knowing things that happened or existed in the early 1970s and being immersed in technology could be unique. It just seems like millenials don’t get pop culture history or references I think they should get nor do I think they each possess the same common knowledge we did as kids and young adults.

I believe this is because we had three freaking TV channels. We watched the same things. Our choices were limited. Movie going was also a common experience and seemed like certain movies became cultural phenomena. When was the last time you stood in line for a movie? When was the last time your went to a sold out movie? I’m sure it’s happened recently. I’m pretty sure it did with that Twilight tripe. I actually went to the midnight opening of Prometheus.

This lack of common knowledge, or at least my perceived lack of common knowledge comes from two things – the death of journalism and too many entertainment options. TV used to be appointment viewing. Now with On Demand and DVRs you plan your TV viewing around your schedule not your schedule around the TV schedule.

I remember when Michael Jackson’s Thriller came out. We’d find out when the full-length version of the video was going to air on MTV and we ran to our houses at the appointed time just to see a short-film, music video. If you missed a movie in theaters you had to wait forever for the edited version to be shown on network TV. This is how I was introduced to James Bond films. Now, DVDs practically come out while the movie is still in theaters. You can buy some movies On Demand before they hit the big screen or while they are in theaters. On Demand, DVRs and online streaming services like Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime have transformed the viewing experience. I’m all for streaming programming over the Internet. I’m a big fan of it.

From Merriam-Webster…

Full Definition of NEWS

a :  a report of recent events

b :  previously unknown information <I’ve got news for you>

c :  something having a specified influence or effect <the rain was good news for lawns and gardens — Garrison Keillor> <the virus was bad news>

a :  material reported in a newspaper or news periodical or on a newscast

b :  matter that is newsworthy

Jeff Daniels as Will McAvoy in The Newsroom.
Jeff Daniels as Will McAvoy in The Newsroom.

But as much as TV news tries to evolve and deliver what the people want, what I am discovering is people want crap. “What’s trending” is a phrase in the lexicon now. My new cable box tells me what’s trending on Twitter. Kind of neat. But I don’t think this is how to program a newscast. HBO’s The Newsroom demonstrated what it should be like, what it used to be. Damn the ratings, do the news well. Obviously that was a TV show and not reality. And the reality is folks are easily misdirected from the real topics they should care about with royal babies and reality TV attention whores.

It seems like the fake news or news satire gets it right. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report with Stephen Colbert, and now Last Week Tonight with John Oliver all seem to seek to inform while entertain. In their skewering of the news you can actually learn what the mainstream news refuses to deliver. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when Stewart leaves and Colbert takes over The Late Show vacated by David Letterman.

Isis and Captain Marvel. SHAZAM!
Isis and Captain Marvel. SHAZAM!

For those of us of a certain age, Isis was the second half of a kids TV show that included Captain Marvel. Shazam! What do we know about this group ISIS halfway around the world? Not a whole helluva lot. Guess what? We should.

Vice President Joe Biden and Walter.
Vice President Joe Biden and Walter. Er, Walter and Vice President Joe Biden.

There is an American presidential election coming up in just over a year. The GOP and its constituents have been bitching about President Barack Obama for the better part of seven years. Have they produced a viable candidate who can wrestle control of the White House away from the Democrats? I wouldn’t know. Facebook and the news sources who post there spend most of their time demonizing the Republican candidates. As for the Democrats, the only person I know is running is Hillary Clinton. The other possibility I’ve recently heard about is Vice President Joe Biden who many publications are comparing to a comedian Jeff Dunham ventriloquist dummy. Bush, Clinton – it’s not a leap to think that the same small group of people has been and will be running the country for years on end.

If I would like to make an informed decision in the next election, I’ll have to do the research and hunt down the information myself. Either that or listen to the 42 messages Mitt Romney left on my answering machine the last time.

The one national cable news network that seemed to want to get it right, at least in the beginning, CNN, has become just as bad as the rest of them. And I cannot subject myself to the epileptic fit inducing crap with which they try to fill every inch of my TV screen. ESPN’s SportCenter has gotten just as bad. My eyes have no idea where to look.

And I have no idea where to find actual news I can use.

I promised a conspiracy theory. Maybe there is a Cabal somewhere, thanks to The Blacklist for the thought, that has spent half a century turning us into overweight, uninformed, easily entertained entertainment consumers in an effort to distract us from what’s really going on and actually caring about it. Some people have posited over the years that the Freemasons run the world, or at least America. Maybe there is a worldwide organization misdirecting everyone while they run things. Plenty of people think or even know George W. Bush and Dick Cheney manipulated congress and U.S. allies into going to war over weapons of mass destruction (which didn’t actually, you know, exist) when in fact some evil company called Halliburton and its private army needed to protect oil interests in the Middle East. Maybe it’s common knowledge that that indeed happen and I am naive.

If there was a reputable news source out there, maybe we’d all know and care about these things instead of what the Kardashians are doing.

Thanks Dave

I must admit I have not watched any late night TV talk shows on a regular basis in a long time. However, there was a time that I did watch Late Night with David Letterman semi-regularly.

One of the things I always liked about Dave was his willingness to have musical guests that I liked. Meaning, new wave, alternative, progressive, whatever you want to call it. Now maybe the Go Go’s don’t quite fit that category but I did always like it when they performed on Dave’s show.

I watched Dave’s farewell episode and as the show closed with the Foo Fighters and a performance of Everlong, I thought of those times I really enjoyed Letterman’s musical guests.

So, with this I say, thank you David Letterman.

Can You Unzip Me?

Finally my staples have been removed. Two weeks after microdiscectomy to repair two herniated discs at L4L5 I am healing quite nicely and I’ll be going back to work tomorrow.

Before, during and after.
Before, during and after.

A few aches and pains but nothing that’s not expected. I learned that the bunching or pinching you see is not fat, but muscle thatnks to the internal sutures and will flatten out eventually.

I have been able to walk three miles at a clip at a pretty good pace. I am dying to run but that’s not wise. I’ll wait another month like I have been told. I just can’t get in the pool for another couple of weeks. They don’t want the incision immersed yet. Booooooo. I want to go swimming.

I am dying to exercise. I am aching to lift weights. The good news is I won’t have any restrictions in a month’s time. I’ll just keep worrying about my diet, getting my walks in and generally trying not to hurt myself again.

Taking the staples out was just the next step in this process. I can’t wait for the next.

It’s Not a Craze It’s a Lifestyle

The difference between me at 236 and 181 pounds
Which is more attractive? The left is the “dad bod” in the mid-40s. The right is well on its way to ripped.

I am tired about writing about my back. My last four blogs have been all about my back problems. I have had more good days than bad days since back surgery. The last 18 hours haven’t been so good. Pain makes me angry. You know what else makes me angry? Excuses.

I think one of the greatest days of my life was the day I stopped making excuses about my weight and lack of desire to exercise. From 2009-10 I tried to exercise some. I lost 20 pounds. But I have to be honest here. I made every excuse I could come up with to NOT exercise. ‘Oh, I have too much work, I have to skip today.’ ‘Oh, I pulled a muscle, I’m not up to it.’ ‘I’m kind of sore, I think I’ll skip today.’

In December 2012 I finally stopped making excuses and made a plan. My plan got derailed almost immediately but I got back on track quickly and got moving in the right direction.

When I started this blog I made the conscious decision to have it be about me. No unsolicited advice. No judgment. I had a hard time with the latter in the beginning. I have gone through the entire cycle. As I started to lose weight I condemned the morbidly obese I saw in my daily life. I thought, “if I can lose weight, why can’t they?” I lost my mind when I started to read that medical science is actually considering classifying obesity as a disease.

My condemnation morphed into a kind of understanding and commiseration. I started watching programs on TV like Heavy, Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition, to shows now like My 600-pound Life. I began to make my peace with the fact that everyone is different and everyone is on a journey of their own. Who was I to judge, who was I to criticize?

I was the skinny kid. This is me at 11.
I was the skinny kid. This is me at 11.

I have written many times that I was skinny well into my 30s. I was the one everyone hated. I could eat whatever I wanted and not gain a pound. Eventually my metabolism slowed down, I quit smoking and my bad diet caught up with me. There were no fat kids in my neighborhood. If there was, we teased that kid mercilessly. Hell, I was tormented for being skinny. If our friends’ parents were overweight, it wasn’t by all that much, not by today’s standards anyway. I didn’t touch soda until I was approximately 12, rarely ate fast food and played and played and played.

You would think this progression is labeled the wrong way, but it is correct. These were taken at the same NFL stadium roughly a year apart.
You would think this progression is labeled the wrong way, but it is correct. These were taken at the same NFL stadium roughly a year apart. Which is more attractive to you?

Now I know that many sedentary jobs, fast-faced lifestyles, physiology, lack of time to exercise and stress all contribute to many adults carrying extra pounds. Alcohol consumption contributes. Processed food contributes. Having children contributes. I get it. But what we don’t do, and what I didn’t do, is plan for all of this. We also have no self-discipline or commitment to healthy lifestyles. Sure, we commit to our jobs and families, but we don’t commit to ourselves. I wrote in a recent blog that I spent the better part of 16 years neglecting my body. Oh, if I could have a do over. This 5’10” frame would’ve never carried 236 pounds. Hell, I probably wouldn’t have ever gotten to the 180 pounds I am now.

For some reason the obesity problem in the United States is glossed over, ignored or is what I suspect is really the case, ACCEPTED. When did it become acceptable to be fat? When did this happen?

I am no conspiracy theorist. But I do believe there is something wrong with our food. I am no politico but I do believe a fat, lazy, over-entertained electorate is easier to govern.

The fitness "craze" of the 1970s and 1980s - aerobics.
The fitness “craze” of the 1970s and 1980s – aerobics.

I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s. We ate white bread, white rice, home baked chocolate chip cookies and brownies, baloney sandwiches, ice cream from “Skippy,” Little Debbie snack cakes, Twinkies and Ho Hos. We had meat, potatoes and bread. We ate spaghetti and meatballs. We had bacon and eggs and toast for breakfast. We ate all manner of cereals. We ate Pop Tarts. We ate real butter. WE DIDN’T GET FAT.

Now, you may be asking why I am violating one of the basic tenets of this blog. I have seen and read some things lately that have absolutely pissed me off.

  1. The “dad bod” phenomenon.

According to Vox Culture (www.vox.com), a “19-year-old Clemson sophomore named Mackenzie Pearson penned a story in the Clemson Odyssey titled Why Girls Love the Dad Bod.” Pearson wrote: “The dad bod is a nice balance between a beer gut and working out. The dad bod says, ‘I go to the gym occasionally, but I also drink heavily on the weekends and enjoy eating eight slices of pizza at a time.’ It’s not an overweight guy, but it isn’t one with washboard abs, either.”

Pearson goes on to add: “We know what we are getting into when he’s got the same exact body type at the age of 22 that he’s going to have at 45.” Are you kidding me? If that’s what you have at 22, you do not want to know what it’ll look like at 45.

Peter Holley of the Washington Post defended the “dad bod” in a piece that included scientific research about what attracts women. Anna Pulley of Alternet penned The 7 Weirdest Things That Turn Women On, According to Science . Unfortunately, Pulley’s article seems to back up the “dad bod” argument.

I’m just not buying it. I would much rather be ripped and defined – and strong – than pudgy and squishy.

The United Kingdom’s Daily Mail hit back hard calling the “Dad Bod” an insult to the mothers of the world. Charlie Lankston writes, “Men cannot glorify beer bellies and demand trophy wives.”

I guess after all of the work I have put in over the last two years (which is well-documented in this blog below) that’s what I have achieved – the “dad bod.” I’m a dad. I’ll be damned if I am going to be saddled with the bod.

I will not defend the “dad bod.” Nor will I criticize the “mom bod.” Having children, creating life – greatest power in the history of ever. But there are resources for busy moms who want to find time.

What I do know is healthy eating and regular, vigorous, challenging exercise is the only way to live.

What I take umbrage with is laziness. Complacency. EXCUSES. If Pearson thinks that a 22-year-old with a “dad bod” today will have that same body at 45 she’s sadly mistaken. And her article is doing a disservice to the expectations of any young woman who reads it and takes it to heart. That 22-year-old with the “dad bod” will be overweight, dare I say obese, and a candidate for heart disease, diabetes and a host of other health problems, the least of which will be a rotten libido, at 45.

I’m a heterosexual male who is becoming more and more secure in my masculinity and sexuality the older I get. (Needed a qualifier for my next point). I can tell you this. An in-shape man with muscular definition is infinitely more attractive than a man with a gut and moobs. A guy does not have to look like Arnold in his heyday. Muscle looks better than flab. Flab doesn’t scream “success.” It shouts “IDGAF.” What did Seinfeld’s George Costanza say about wearing sweatpants in public? Maybe you like that in your man. Maybe you like a man who just doesn’t care anymore. I always had a fast enough metabolism that I didn’t have to care.

  1. Criticizing the Fit

I have written about fat and fit shaming before. I don’t believe in either one. But I’ll be damned that I’ll be criticized for being in any kind of good shape. I’m not done. I’m not where I want to be. I’m injured. As much as I’ve indulged in comfort food as I recover from back surgery, I know enough to not overeat. I know enough to balance my indulgences with healthy, protein rich entrees.

Buzzfeed recently did an experiment. Four people did P90X3 and they measured their results. Each person experienced positive results. One’s numbers went the wrong way but there were positive visual results for that guy. The experiment confirmed that a program such as P90X3 can produce results. Yes, 90 days in a row is a helluva commitment. I have done Shortcut to Shred (6 days a week for 6 weeks) all the way through just once even though I have attempted it three times. The most recent resulted in my back injury. What was disturbing about this involved the comments on Buzzfeed’s Facebook post about the experiment. Everything from expecting better results, calling this OCD and a fitness obsession to complaining about how the body fat was measured. According to the comments, the participants didn’t follow the meal plan. Bad on them.

My point is this. Instead of looking in a mirror and deciding they could adopt a healthier lifestyle, the majority of commenters did nothing but bitch, moan and complain and make excuses.

All you have to do to confirm that there is an obesity problem in this country is to spend a day at Disneyland. Take a minute and people watch. Count how many people who walk by and just look obese. I don’t mean a few pounds overweight, I mean obese. You’d be alarmed.

The founder of Crossfit, Greg Glassman, just did a 60 Minutes interview. I just watched it, and from what I have seen of the guy, he’s certifiable. But, you know what? He did something and he believes in it. I don’t agree with the Paleo diet. I think it’s a fad.

It was called jogging in the 1970s, we call it "running" now.
It was called jogging in the 1970s, we call it “running” now.

Ever since I can remember, even as a kid, fitness has always been described as a “craze.” Jogging. Aerobics. Now Crossfit. Why isn’t it ever described as a lifestyle or the correct way to live?

Again, I reiterate, I know everyone has a story. If you are morbidly obese, I am sure there is a backstory about how you got there. Childhood trauma, abuse, depression, food addiction. I hope you get the help you need so you don’t blink out early, I really do. But for the folks who are overweight because of excuses and laziness, just stop. Find the time. Find the program. Eat clean and healthy. I found a way. I turned my office into a gym. I don’t have time to go to 24 Hour Fitness so I created my own. I took up running.

I spent years making excuses. I’m tired. I work too much. My commute is too long. I like food. I don’t have time. There’s a commercial for a new piece of workout gear for the home made by Bowflex, NordicTrac, or somesuch and it promises results with 14-minute workouts. They ask, “who doesn’t have 14 minutes?”

I ask when did it become acceptable to be fat? Hell, I’m sure I’m going to be vilified just for using the word. Call someone fat and watch what happens. All hell will break loose. I was fat. I admit it. Look at the picture. I posted it for a reason. Any time I feel like losing I’m losing my motivation, I look at my “before” picture. I’m mortified. That’s all I need to jumpstart my dedication.

I have found “want-to,” self-discipline, and dedication I didn’t know I had. I bet you have it too.

For those of you who are fighting the good fight, I salute you. I know it’s hard. I know how easy it is to get off track. I applaud those of you who have been knocked down and get right back up again.

For those of you who are overweight, stop making excuses, quit eating junk and start exercising. Can’t? Don’t want to? Refuse to? Fine. Quit trying to find reasons to describe those of us who have found a way as abnormal or crazy or obsessed.

We are the normal.

Colin Clive

And Now the Healing

On the left, the incision 72 hours after surgery, on the right, the incision a week after surgery.
On the left, the incision 72 hours after surgery, on the right, the incision a week after surgery.

I realize that my last entry was a bit, well, all over the place. My thoughts and emotions were jumbled and I had a very difficult time telling a cohesive story. I will endeavor to do a better job this time ‘round.

I retired at 12:30 a.m. May 6 after posting my last blog entry. My mind was swirling with endless nightmarish possibilities of the results of back surgery. Call it a “minor procedure,” call it “minimally invasive,” call it whatever you like. But my mind makes the leap to paraplegic very quickly. It’s a short walk to wheelchair confinement.

Old Forester

I woke up at 4:30 a.m., ended up late to my call time of 6:00 a.m., and of course forgot my MRI disc. Wouldn’t you know it, the MRI facility didn’t open until 8:00 a.m. As I was being prepped, the surgeon popped in and asked if I brought my films. My answer was, “of course not.” You would’ve thought I kicked his dog. Thankfully, his office was nearby, he made a quick dash and returned with a copy. I don’t remember falling asleep, but I do remember waking up.

Antique Surgical Instruments
It could’ve been worse I guess.

It’s been a week and I am no worse for wear. Hydrocodone is my friend. I have my moments of severe pain. Hell, I have my hours of severe pain. I make sure I get up and move around every hour to two hours. Walking up stairs seems to be the most difficult. Bending over is not an option. Getting up from a sitting or prone position is not fun.

Two days ago I walked a half a mile. Yesterday I walked half a mile. Today I walked a mile. I am only allowed to walk for six weeks.

So. The $64 million question is…did it work? I don’t know. Prior to surgery I was in constant pain. A deep ache in my butt and my hip, sciatica, and my IT band was electric. I couldn’t stand for more than 10 minutes without my leg and foot going numb. That deep ache in my right lumbar area, butt and hip would force me to sit.

Marty Feldman in Young Frankenstein
Hump? What hump?

Prior to the weightlifting accident that caused the two herniated discs, I was suffering from mild sciatica and I was working though some issues with my glutes and piriformis muscle.

Although the MRI clearly showed the herniated discs, additional X-rays didn’t show any spinal instability that may have been causing my debilitating lumbar spasms for the better part of 10 years. Apparently, the surgeon found some instability during the operation. Hopefully, the herniated discs have been repaired, the stabilizing clamp that has been put in place will prevent the wiggle that causes the lumbar spasms and I will live the rest of my days back pain-free.

I am able to stand for long periods of time without the lumbar, butt and/or hip ache. My foot, mainly my right big toe, does tingle some after standing for a bit. But it’s less than it was the day of and the day after surgery. One of the surgery center nurses said during her day after follow up call that my nerves were inflamed. I’m sure there is some swelling as well. The surgery site is sore. I do get aches in the lumbar muscles. The surgery site is starting to itch.

Frankenstein's monster
Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster in Universal’s 1931 classic. Stitched together, kind of like me.

I see the surgeon’s nurse for my first post-op a week from today and we’ll find out if I get to go back to work. I’m trying to look at this whole thing as an opportunity to rest and recharge. No commute. Sleeping in. A chance for all of the other muscles and joints to heal after weeks and months of hard exercise.

The shocking thing for me so far has been my ability to maintain my weight. According to the operating room scale, I weighed 182 pounds the day of my surgery. That would make the bathroom scale about 1.5 pounds off on the heavy side. I have been floating between 178-182. As I may have mentioned, you never know if you have straightened out your metabolism until you put it to a test. I haven’t exactly been eating healthy like I was when I was “training.” When I am not well, I gravitate toward comfort food. My saving grace is that I have learned portion control and do eat healthier foods in general.

Daniel Craig
Yes, I know, I have a bit of a man crush on Daniel Craig. I will achieve this look. I will do whatever it takes (naturally, of course), but this will be my physique. Tell me I can’t, I dare you.

Each day I regain a little bit more flexibility. I still feel like a mule has kicked me. I was told this recovery would take six weeks. I am not going to count any chickens (that I’m not planning to eat) so I am not going to offer any prognosis. I try to live my life with no regrets. I don’t think I am going to regret having this surgery. I shall remain cautiously optimistic.

I am very much looking forward to getting back to my diet and exercise regimen. I am going to be more determined than ever to achieve my fitness goals and my ideal body. I have been told by too many people lately that I am too old to do certain things or that I am trying to achieve the impossible.

Lee Majors
Lee Majors as Steve Austin, The Six Million Dollar Man.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite TV shows was The Six Million Dollar Man starring Lee Majors. I often pretended to be the bionic man when playing with friends. I am starting to feel like Steve Austin. “We can rebuild him, we have the technology…” Oh hell, I am dating myself.

For those of you who read this and do not know me personally, the one thing you do not do is tell me I can’t do something.

I am Not Enough

Twilight ZoneSubmitted for your approval…

Sorry, I just had a to borrow a line from Rod Serling because I certainly feel like I am stepping into the Twilight Zone.

For those of you who pay attention to such things, you may have noticed that I have not posted any work out updates in several weeks. That’s because there haven’t been any workouts to post about.

I hurt my back…again. I did it good this time. Two herniated discs, L4 and L5, thanks to bad form on a 115-pound deadlift. Yeah, oooh, I am such a He-Man. I was on Day 2 of Week 3 of Shortcut to Shred. I got too far forward and I knew I hurt myself bad when I did it. Finally got an MRI and lo and behold, jelly donut disc material pressing on nerve roots. My right hip aches, I feel like I have a knife in my back and my foot goes numb if I stand for longer than 10 minutes. In short, it hurts like hell ALL THE DAMN TIME.

So, tomorrow morning, I get to have a microdiscectomy. I have no idea if this will help the chronic problem I have had for the last 10 years. I hope it does. I do know this much – it’s the only thing that’ll fix the injury. No work for two weeks and a total of six weeks of recovery. I won’t be able to do anything but walk for exercise for six weeks. I haven’t been able to work out since the injury, which happened about a month ago.

For the faithful readers of this blog, you know that I have lost approximately 60 pounds. My heaviest weight was 236 and my lowest has been 176. I am thankful that I have not gained a pound in the last month. You never know if your metabolism is right until you put it to the test. I never wanted to have to put it to a test.

I have worked so hard to get to 180 pounds. I have run and walked over 600 miles (which is a drop in the bucket compared to many), lifted I don’t know how many pounds for I don’t know how many reps, restricted and changed my diet as much as possible and sweat blood to achieve this.

At 45, almost 46, I still think my metabolism is screwed. I could be wrong. What I do know is I can’t eat spaghetti and meatballs at 8 o’clock at night and expect to remain at this weight. Since I got to 180 I definitely indulge more than I did when I was dieting down. I’ll have a piece of candy, a cookie or a brownie or pizza. Always in moderation. That was a tough word to learn.

My diet is restrictive as it is. Egg/egg whites, a couple of turkey sausage links, a slice of wheat toast and coffee for breakfast. Greek yogurt and maybe some crackers (Special K, Triscuits…something with carbs I shouldn’t have) as a late morning snack, salad for lunch, another Greek yogurt late in the day. Mix in protein shakes when I am lifting and where does that leave me? 1,500 calories? Yeah, I am addicted to Pringles, that’s my big weakness. But I don’t eat the whole can in one sitting like I used to. Throw in some fruit, or chips and salsa for evening snacks. I don’t drink much alcohol anymore. Unless you want to count the bourbon I have been getting into lately to help deal with the pain. I don’t drink soda.

It is my whole-hearted belief that if I eat three squares a day, plus have between meal snacks like is recommended for a healthy metabolism (that whole 5-6 small meal thing), and DON’T exercise, I will blow up. I’ll be back to 240 in the blink of an eye. I have worked too hard for that to happen. I am also afraid that if I do gain any significant weight and can’t exercise the way I WANT TO, I’ll give up. I’ll quit.

Because of my schedule and my commute, joining a gym is not an option to me. I racked my brain for damn near a year trying to figure out how to fit an exercise regimen into my daily life. Working out between 8-10 p.m. was the only answer. I’m not going to take a spin class. I hate cardio machines. Cardio for the sake of cardio – bleah. Ain’t happening.

I know what I want to look like. I don’t accept genetics or age as barriers or obstacles. I only know to alter my diet and find a new workout. I have hated my body my entire life. Skinny, fat…doesn’t matter. This is my one shot at fixing 45 years of self hate, self doubt, self esteem…all that. I cannot go backwards. I refuse to yo-yo. I’ve worked too hard. I don’t want to go through that again.

Físico_3When I started this, I was told to find an ideal, someone I wanted to model myself after. I thought long and hard. When I found out Daniel Craig was my height, my age, (actually a year older) and the weight I wanted to be, I was SOLD. Then I got lucky enough to find his workout. I have done so much research. I have taken so much advice, and ignored so much.  I have made a boatload of mistakes and I have had my share of successes. I still don’t feel like I have accomplished anything. I am not done. People say I am too hard on myself. People say I should be proud of what I have done. I am not finished. I am still overweight. I still have belly fat I can’t stand to touch or look at.

I think I have a mild form of OCD, I have an obsessive, addictive personality. I am addicted to exercise, I refuse to believe that my goal or my ideal is impossible. My mind thinks I am 20, my body obviously has other ideas. I just keep thinking if I work harder it’ll happen.

Setbacks are a part of life, I get that. The one thing I have managed to prevent during this process is going backwards. I feel like I am going to undo everything I have done. I feel like what I have done isn’t good enough.

ghostbusters-stay-puft-marshmallow-man-bank-xlWith the most recent diet adjustments and the increase in protein intake – coupled with the Shortcut to Shred workout – I was really starting to finally see the results I wanted. Now, I am soft and squishy again. I feel like the Stay Puft Marshmallow man.

I have white coat syndrome. I don’t like doctors. This isn’t a knee scope. This is my back. This is my spine. I watched a video of the procedure I am about to have on YouTube tonight. Why did I do that? I could have gone my entire life and not known what is going to happen to me in the morning and been perfectly happy.

Part of me is upset about this because I have done it to myself. I have no time timeframe for my ideal body goal. I had no timeframe for my initial weight loss goal and I know damn well it took longer than it should have. And I know this has thrown a monkeywrench into my plans.

This injury, surgery and projected recovery time are seriously going to eat into my summer and has the whole Speedo body thing on hold indefinitely.

This whole thing seems like one big ramble. I am all over the place emotionally. The pain and pain medication has me on one of those old-fashioned 1970s mood swings. You know the kind that doesn’t have the one leg firmly cemented in the ground. The kind your neighbor would sue you over if you had one today.

The World is not Enough 1999I’m losing my motivation. I’m scared to get cut. I am not looking forward to recovery and rehab. I am looking forward to feeling better but I wonder if what I am having done is going to fix me.

Sometimes I feel like I’ll never look like I want. I feel like I am undoing everything I have done. My inferiority complex and my belief that nothing I do is good enough are adding up to more self-doubt. I want to run and I want to lift weights. But I don’t know if I ever will again. The past month has been ridiculously difficult with the pain and inability to exercise. The stress eating isn’t helping either.

As you know, I am a fan of James Bond films. Pierce Brosnan starred in The World is Not Enough. I star in I am Not Enough.