Thursday, March 8, 2018

5 Weight loss tips, and why I have a hard time sticking with them

It’s that time of year again. The time when most who've made a fitness resolution have either already given up on it, or are still maintaining that can-do attitude. Right now, I am doing pretty good and keeping up with a fitness routine. We've joined a gym, and I think the newness, the excitement of this newfangled place, has helped. Fingers crossed I can stick with it after the novelty runs out.

A couple years back, I was required to put my nose to the grindstone. If I lost a couple inches around my gut, we could save ourselves eighty dollars a month. During this time I did very well. I'd gotten lighter than I had been in a long time. I got to where I needed to be. Then slowly but surely, I let some of those habits slip. By golly, I'm going to get back into them. So, here five tricks that helped me lose weight. And, I'll add why those habits slipped away. 

1. Drink a lot of water and green tea. I have noticed that when I made a concerted effort to drink more water and less other stuff (even if it didn't have a lot of calories), the pounds shed easier. In addition, I heard green tea was a metabolic enhancer. But, the articles I read said you had to drink a crazy amount of it to have an effect, like 8 cups worth a day. This tip was actually the easiest for me to stick to. So, why did I fail keeping up with this one? I like my other drinks. Coffee, pop, the occasional libation. Plus, it is hard to remember to consciously keep up water and tea consumption.

2. Cut the sweets and other simple carbs. I am no fan of protein only/mostly diets, but sugars and simple carbs carry way too many calories. I really noticed my weight start to drop when I went a spell where I focus on getting my carbs mostly from fruits. Why did I lax in this discipline? Isn't it obvious? Sweets are so good. And white pasta and hot buttery breads are heavenly. When I hit my weight goals, I didn’t want to lose my yummy carbs.

3. Eat more raw vegetables. Broccoli and cauliflower were particularly great. Something about eating raw veggies often made me feel better. For the most part I am still pretty good about eating my vegetables, but from time-to-time my taste buds just don't crave them. Their a chore to eat. Other times, it's just a pain to prepare them. And, the ready to eat packages cost so much.

4. Circuit training. Just being physically active helps as well, but I think when you simply do the same thing your body gets used to it and says, "eh, we got this. We don't need to burn any calories for this exercise.” For instance, when I trained for a marathon, I was surprised by how little weight I lost. Yes I lost weight at first, but then plateaued. Here I was running up to 30 mile a week and no longer losing weight. Exercise variety and intensity is key, and that's all circuit training is. When I stayed true to a circuit training regiment (1 hour 3 times a week), the weight melted off me like butter on a hot biscuit. (Uh, maybe I shouldn't have used that metaphor.) Seriously, circuit training is awesome for losing weight. If it is so great, then why did I stop? Because I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate circuit training. I hate the intensity. I hate the misery. I hate pain. I'm a naturally lazy individual, and circuit training takes so much effort. When I exercise, I like to escape into a mental zone, but the rapid change up in circuit training doesn't let me zone out as I am exercising.

5. Eat less. I was watching an episode of The Doctors once, and the main doctor said, if you're going to lose weight you have to eat right. It's true. If I could just exercise and lose weight, that would be great. Now some people do exercise like crazy, and eat whatever they want. But, really one can overdo an exercising routine. One time, when my job was doing a biggest loser competition, I was having a plantar fasciitis issues. And, I just couldn’t exercise like I wanted. So, instead, I ate less, and I ate better. It worked. I won the contest. I almost said to myself, "It shouldn’t be this easy." It was. So, if it was that easy why didn't I stick with it? Because I love food. I love food almost as much as I inversely hate circuit training. I love grilling a fat hunks of juicy meat on the grill, with all the fatty, carby fixin's. Everything is better deep fried. Plus, here in South Dakota, there are always so many opportunities to get free, delicious goodies. How does one find the willpower to turn down a free food. And, then at these events, they often make too much. Your stomach and people are saying you can't let that go to waste....

I need to stop talking about food... Maybe some circuit drills will help me get my mind off it.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

How to Create Open Discussions... or Not

Lately, I’ve heard gobs of people say something akin to, “Well, at least people are talking about it.” There have been a few events in the news, where people have proclaimed, “Hey it’s got everyone talking.” And then, we become desensitized. What was once radical has grown tame. Now, the next person has to up the provocative game.

Sure. Clearly everyone is talking about a gob of ‘How dare they’ events. But, what good does it do to get people talking about things, if they’re simply shouting at each other. Or, that such acts get them to dig their heels in deeper. Yes, there does come a point where discussions break down, and we can no longer find common ground… But what does that lead to then? When we reach such a point, often, the only viable option is that those who have a certain point of view just need to go away. Most often this means, beating them down enough, that they hide in the shadow, afraid to engage in constructive dialogue. Or for the more stubborn, perhaps, one must find more violent outlets to settle the matter.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

A Radical Theory about Archbishop Colloredo once read: in literature, a character (whether good or bad) should never be entirely one-sided. Antagonists written completely evil for the sake of being evil are shallow, boring and unrealistic. One such character in Mozart’s life is so often portrayed in such a manner. Archbishop Colloredo. Here’s my radical theory that alters that portrayal. I intend to paint Colloredo not as a child squeezing a struggling kitten tighter, but more as a conservationist chasing away a captive-born endangered animal.

First off, who was the man? Archbishop Colloredo took over after his predecessor, Archbishop Schrattenbach. Leopold hadn’t much respect for Schrattenbach, although the man had been quite generous to the Mozarts. Schrattenbach paid for their journeys, while Leopold scavenged for employment elsewhere. In addition, he used the possibility of new employment to extort for higher pay and position. From early on, Mozart was conditioned to have an adversarial role with the Archbishop. How much did Colloredo know about Leopold’s disrespect of the previous Archbishop?

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Zaide: Mozart's Lost Opera... COMING SOON!

Way back in 1779 (200 years before I was born), Mozart began work on his opera, Zaide. Drawn in by the music of history's most beautiful aria (Ruhe Sanft), I delved into this opera. A stunning work that captures the moods of Mozart at the time he wrote it. A work that screams of youthful struggles. I had share it.

Join me and my journey of research and writing, as I release my latest novel Zaide: Mozart's Lost Opera. In addition, we will celebrate the composer's birthday and honor his legacy. The novel will be available on Amazon at midnight on the 27th. If you plan on buying it, I'd love for you to purchase it on that date to help me earn a higher rank.
Let me know on the Blitz event page. Or, you can get the first copies available signed by me at the South Dakota Writes Winter Book Fair at the Western Mall. I'd love to have you come, let know on my book signing event page if you plan to come. I'd love to make sure I have a copy for you.

Monday, December 18, 2017

My Favorite Christmas Movie

Yes. It’s that time of year, when we get bombarded with gobs of “fresh” new takes on the meaning of Christmas. (Side note: I personally believe the meaning of Christmas is that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” in order that we might see his glory.) With that being said, I will share my favorite Christmas movie. 

First, I want to liken most Christmas movies to fruitcake (Confession, I’ve never actually eaten fruitcake. I just know it has a bad reputation). Ironically, fruitcake is so often associated with Christmas. It is colorful, complicated, and compact. And in spite of all that, people tend to not like it. But my favorite movie is more like banana bread: simple, light, and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like it.

This movie is....

A Christmas Story. Yes. I know it’s popular now, even mainstream. But, (in spite of what some have said) I’m no hipster wannabe who refuses to like something just because it’s popular. And, I’m glad it’s popular. If I had cable, I’d catch at least one viewing of the numerous marathons on various channels.

I know some have complained there is no (or little) plot, and while I do like a good plot, their are those few movies that pull off the slice of life segments brilliantly, A Christmas Story is one such movie. (Napoleon Dynamite was another. The Sandlot, another.) The movie is great because each tiny story weaves itself into a relatable narrative, and then lets the audience make of it what they will.

We all know what it is like to wait in eager expectation for something (especially during Christmas) only to be let down. We all understand that beneath the gruff exterior of a manly-man, there is a guy who does want to make his children happy, but just doesn’t know how to go about it. And, who of us has experienced fighting against the crowd for what you really want, refusing to listen to their warnings only to realize after you were victorious, that perhaps their warnings were warranted? Yet, full of pride, we find a cunning way to save face. How dare we admit our naysayer were right… We know things fall apart…Our lives never stay as tidy as we would like... People in our lives love things we find hideous… Our loved-one’s ‘accidentally’ wreck a treasured hideous possession… We know we screw up… A Christmas Story is life.

This is what is so brilliant about the movie. It often encapsulates the ‘reality’ of Christmas, not the wishful idealism that says... if we simply place our faith in the goodness of humanity… if we believe in our hearts good things will happen… if we behave and do good things... then peace on earth will grow to fruition. All will be well... And so, I wonder if that’s why after the holiday’s some fall into a depressed slump. We’re fed messages of “good will toward men” and we even try to live as such during the season, but then it all fades. We have to go back to work. The bills come in. A Christmas Story doesn’t offer false hopes. It simply shows us a series of events in life as they really are. And, after everything has fallen apart, it shows that joy must be found outside the hype (both moral and commercial) of the Christmas season. 

Concerning Christmas hope, many movies have human-centered morals. What can we do? How can we feel? Who can we be? And as with a New Year’s resolution, Christmas does help us with these purposes, for a spell. But, then like the messy humans from A Christmas Story, things fall apart. We fail. Thus, I believe the true meaning of is Christmas offers our only hope. It does not revolve around what we can do, who we can be, or how we can feel, but on what God has done. That will never fail.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Youtube Repairman

A few years ago, a late night show featured a bit that centered on a man stuck in various predicaments with only random odds and ends.  The man’s goal: escape the situation using YouTube instructions to fix and/or build the necessary equipment. I particularly remember his task of having to build some sort of radio. From then on, I gained access into a new tool for my tinkering pursuits.

I have never really liked paying someone to do something I believe I could figure out for myself. This could be due to my rural upbringing. (I also don’t like doing gobs of tasks until I absolutely have to either.) In addition, I have always been able to gather how something is done by watching someone else do it.  Or, simply by tinkering around with an object.

Then came the advent of YouTube. Apart from being primarily a time killer, one can find gobs of handy information and instruction.

Friday, November 3, 2017

My most influential authors

Whenever I hear an interview with famous celebrities, whether I'm a fan or not, one question they are often asked: "Who are your greatest influences." The other day I was at the first anniversary celebration of South Dakota Writes, and someone asked me, who were my influences. This is a tough question to answer. I don't really see myself as a raving fan-boy, who must read everything 'my' spirit-celebrity spews out. I usually like to say I have eclectic tastes, but that's just not true. While I didn't have an immediate answer to this woman's question, eventually I was able to throw out a few good answers. A lot of times, it takes reflection in order to coax out those who've influenced us in all sort of areas in our lives. Without further rambling, here is the list of my most influential writers. (This list could change upon further reflection.) RL Stine. As a teenager I couldn't get enough of the Fear Street books. R. L. Stine ingrained in me the need for a twist. Watching the Goosebumps movie, there is a part where Stine's character says that a story has three parts: the beginning, middle, and the twist. As I have grown older and pretend to have grown wiser, I've heard many fancy, stuffy literary types claim most twist endings are cheap gimmicks. I see where they're coming from. At my work, there are a bunch of old Fear Street books lying around. I've read a few out of nostalgia. They don't hold up. Most of the twists are there solely to have a twist. But, how could anyone expect those books to all be pure brilliance when R. L. Stine spewed out books so quickly.  Through this, a phenomenon has grown known as "The Twilight Zone" effect. When people come at a work expecting a twist, they may often guess it, and thus it loses its power.  Yet, to this day I love, love, love, a brilliant twist. I spend much of my time trying to come up with the greatest twist since... Arrival? 4.  Raymond Chandler. Sometimes life is harsh, rough. At times, it beats the optimism out of us.  Chandler's influence on me stems more from his writing style as opposed to any thematic elements. I've always found something uniquely poetic about the noir/hardboiled voice. Noir is a style of writing characterized by cynicism and moral ambiguity. Is this to say I'm a proponent of either? No (even though I may struggle with such). Yet, there is an honesty this style of writing carries. Concerning moral ambiguity, humans tend to ignore the moral flaws of those whose side they happen to be on, while the flaws of those they root against are repulsive reminders of their depravity. Noir illustrates such complexities so well. As two immoral giants clash, that lone detective, himself filled with flaws, tries his darnedest to stick to some sort of moral code, one he is trying to figure out.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Misery Loves Misery

I was in stationed in Ft. Stewart Georgia. It was November, around the time of my birthday. I was informed that I was volunteered for a training mission. I found out last minute I was going to spend a week or two at an airbase. Just before, I had learned that—due to a clerical error—I didn’t get my promotion to Sgt.

So, I was on the air base. The training centered around securing an enemy airbase. I was to drive the Hummer out of a C-5 and provide support for the paratroopers. The actual mission was going to use Bradley's (a type of tank), but they wanted to get a feel for the mission with Hummers first. To me that was like practicing basketball with a football. Plus, they thought it would save gas money. I mean they’re paying us regardless, so just as well save money on something.

Then we were there. Camping on the runway. The C-5 (the military’s largest plane) was yards from us. I was too bitter to appreciate the airplane and that I was going to drive a Hummer into it. And… I was going to get to watch paratroopers jump out of it.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Two Envies, Too Envious

Since I’ve mentioned I’m a Mozart fan, it shouldn’t surprise you that I loved the movie Amadeus. Sure, it’s probably not historically accurate, but I still like it. Doug Walker--The Nostalgia Critic-- made a great point concerning that. He stated it doesn’t necessarily need to be accurate because it is told through the eye of a man at the epoch of madness. I’d never thought of that, but his insight has given me the freedom to enjoy it more. You can watch his commentary here.

One particular element in the movie strikes me as spot on: Mozart’s Envy. ‘Huh?  Mozart’s Envy?,’ those who have seen it may be asking.  True, the envy of Salieri is obvious in the overall theme of the movie.  But, I’ve not researched enough to know if this kind of envy actually burned within the opposing composer.  Nor, do I believe Salieri’s jealousy is as detrimental as Mozart’s.  Yet, the movie does display two envies.  Salieri’s, which is obvious.  And, hints at Mozart’s, a subtle suggestion of a historical reality.