Wednesday, December 31, 2008

happy new year, indeed

I've had a tendency to corpulence my entire life. I was a ten and a half pound baby, I learned early the soul-shattering heartbreak of shopping in the unstylish "husky boys" clothing department, and my bookishness meant that I didn't get as much exercise as I should have so the problem just got worse. In my late teens, I dropped a hundred pounds through serious food intake monitoring and managed to keep it off for about fifteen years, but when I hit my thirties and started actually working real jobs, I inflated again. After my divorce in the middle Nineties, I experienced the "divorce bump" that a lot of people do and lost most of the weight that I had put back on. However, as it usually is, that bump was temporary, and after a couple of years, my weight had almost returned to its peak.

At that time, between my advancing age, deteriorating health, and my horrible self-image, I decided to become a regular exerciser. In 1998, I started running again, something that I did for a few years in the late Seventies, and while my health and well-being improved dramatically, my overall body shape and weight really didn't change very much. So, I started doing huge amounts of situps, and by the time 2000 rolled around, I was running a few miles and doing a thousand situps virtually every day. However, I still weighed and looked pretty much the same. Then I added work with free weights and doing pushups to my routine. I was spending a lot of time exercising, and while I felt really good, it still wasn't helping my body shape and my self-image issues. I had huge "love handles" and a jiggly, pear-shaped body, I couldn't find clothes that fit properly, and I was getting more and more depressed about how I looked and at how frustrating it was to be putting so much time and energy into my appearance and fitness with no real visible results.

Finally, a few years ago, I had to have surgery to repair an umbilical hernia and was forced to cut back my exercise for the better part of a year. When I was cleared to full activity, I started running again, but found that my toes had incurred so much damage ("hammertoe") from running at my weight that I had no choice but to stop. I continued my free weights and pushups, but soon, I was about as heavy as I had ever been, and became even more of a shut-in, uncomfortable even to be seen on stage and out in social situations. I've commented a lot on my "hermit" status here, and while I'm not the most social of people, the primary reason for it was that I was ashamed of the way I looked and often found myself getting ready to go out for an evening only to change my mind once I realized that my clothes looked and felt horrible on me and that I just didn't have the appearance that I wanted to have. After a couple of years of being caught between wanting to get more fit and more presentable yet not being able to find anything that helped, I finally decided to do the simplest thing of all, and only for the sake of my health rather than for appearance.

I started walking.

Around the end of March, 2008, I started going for daily walks around my neighborhood. There's a nice two-mile loop in my development, and I walked it once a day. After a couple of months, it was up to two trips around. Today, it's up to three or four laps, six to eight miles, every day that the weather permits.


Solid, purposeful walking.

Today, it has been about eight months since I started doing this low-impact, non-physically-stressful exercise. In that period of time, I have walked about eight hundred and fifty miles.

While I can't be sure (because I had to change scales about four months ago) it seems that I have lost about forty pounds.

Yes, forty pounds in eight months.

By walking. No weights, no pushups, and although I've started doing situps again a few weeks ago, the bulk of this dramatic change has come about as the result of the simplest and most painless form of exercise.

I have not only lost weight, I have lost my saddlebags/love handles, my man-boobs, an extra chin, flappy jowls, and a bloated belly. My waistline is five or six inches smaller than it was in March. I have a jawline, I can see my genitals, and I have started tucking my shirts in again because there's no more muffintop to try to cover up and my pants fit right. I have visible abs for the first time in my life that are even obvious while wearing a t-shirt, and my abdomen is solid instead of mushy and flabby. My belly is flat, my hips are slender, my thighs don't rub together when I walk, and my butt is high and round. I probably have the best muscle/fat ratio of my life. I feel better than I have in well over twenty years. I sleep well, my digestive system runs smoothly, my lungs are clearer than I can recall, and I have a better sense of self-worth than I have in many years.

Best of all, I've even started going out nearly every weekend. I'm been noticing beautiful women are suddenly starting to make eye contact with me. I see myself in mirrors and I'm astonished at how good that strange guy looks. My hermit status is in serious danger of being revoked.

After coming all this way and working this hard for over ten years, at this late stage of the journey I have finally found the secret to being fit and trim and healthy and as attractive to the opposite sex as I can be. So, I've decided to share it with you.

If you want to look good, feel good about yourself, enjoy a smoothly-functioning body that is strong, flexible, and makes the effort worthwhile...


Happy new year to you all. Mine certainly will be.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

fat cat

Monday, December 29, 2008

there's no place like home,

Thursday, December 25, 2008

'twas the night...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

the plot thickens - really

News came out today that wealthy money manager, R. Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet, was found dead in his Madison Avenue office. Mr. de la Villehuchet's company, Access International Advisors, suffered billions in losses as a result of the Bernard Madoff ponzi scheme that came to light last week. Police officials termed the death a suicide.

Security officers discovered de la Villehuchet's body in a chair with one of his legs laying across his desk. A police department representative reported that his wrists and his left bicep were slashed and that a wastebasket had been placed under his left arm to catch the blood.

Read that description again. Picture that scene in your mind. Does that sound even remotely like the manner of death that a despondent billionaire would inflict upon himself? That slashed bicep alone would have required a superhuman ability to tolerate self-inflicted pain, not exactly the mark of a pampered international financier. Somebody is cleaning evidence and eliminating witnesses. This entire story stinks like a fish market on a hot afternoon and this is only the tip of this particular iceberg.

Monday, December 22, 2008

I haz found a flavor

In a couple of weeks, the Freeloader will have owned me for two years. He is such a wonderful kitty that I've spent a lot of time trying to find some way to treat him. He enjoys a little catnip blast now and then, taking after his daddy, but though I've tried traditional kitty yummies like turkey, chicken, steak, hamburger, cheese, ham, tuna, Fancy Feast, and numerous other things that would disappear before they hit the floor with the other kids, all have been to no avail. I have let him sniff at food I was eating if he wanted, to see if there was something I hadn't suspected that might get him excited but he just sniffed and walked away.

Last night I was doing a little shopping and I picked something up that is a very occasional, once-or-twice-a-year kind of craving for me, made a sandwich with it, and had a little bit left over, so just to be polite I cut it into small kitty bite-size pieces, put it on a plate, and set it on the floor. There were probably twenty-five or thirty little pieces, and it was gone almost by the time I straightened back up.

The big dork loves baloney.

guess I owe someone an apology

It seems that the MBA president, George W. Bush, has actually helped at least one business become an overnight success:

"A Turkish shoe firm says it has had to take on 100 extra staff to cope with a surge in orders after an Iraqi threw shoes at US President Bush."

I suppose it's progress

It's another c-c-c-cold night in K-K-Kansas, and I just went out to put some food and liquid water out for the Squirt. Normally, when I open the inside door she shoots out of her little kitty nest and waits out of reach for me to replenish the provender, and then once I close the door she comes back and eats and drinks and then probably goes back to the shelter to snooze. Tonight was different. I opened the door, looked all around, and no Squirt in sight. I even peeked around the corner to see if she might be sitting on the downstairs atrium window cover where Catland meets the outdoors. No Squirt. I walked back up on the porch and lifted up the blankies covering the entrance to the nest, and there was a Squirt! I said "well, hello" and she pinned back her ears and hissed at me but stayed where she was. Then I said goodnight and went back inside.

So, I guess we've finally conversed for the first time.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

you know you're a sucker when...'re outside at 3:00 AM in a chill factor of -10F adding blankies to the Squirt shelter.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

the sixty-four trillion dollar question

The United States of America is ruled by four flavors of wealthy elites working in carefully orchestrated concert with each other. The political right constantly pushes beyond the boundaries of the Constitution and the rule of law and marginalizes liberal views further every day. The political left plays puny Colmes to the right's Hannity, and puts up a milquetoast "oh, please stop" sort of mild public protest even as it votes to enact and immunize the excesses of the right. The press does its best to convince us that we need to not fingerpoint or "play the blame game," because the important thing is not punishment for the lawbreakers, but simply to make sure these sorts of "mistakes" never happen again, a kind of sanctimonious forgiveness that is reserved only for the wealthy and influential. The three of them are financed by the plutocrats who seek to aggrandize the wealth and power of the world for themselves and are willing to eke out comparative crumbs to the other three classes to reward them for their betrayal of the American experiment and for selling out their countrymen to an ever-decreasing standard of living and less and less of the much-vaunted "liberty" upon which this nation was supposedly founded.

Can anyone tell me how it is possible to beat this system?

trivia correction

While inattentively watching "The Bucket List" just now, I noticed a conversation between Morgan Freeman's and Jack Nicholson's characters that took place at the top of the Great Pyramid in Gizeh, Egypt. Freeman's character, portrayed as a widely-read trivia expert, mentioned to Nicholson's that Egypt was the only place in the world where a dog was known to have been killed by lightning.

Nice try. Here's the real facts.

Dogs, like humans, are struck by lightning and killed with regularity. Dogs especially, as they are often connected to trees or metal poles by metal chains.

What Freeman's character was probably referring to was the fall of a meteorite in Alexandria, Egypt, on June 28th, 1911, a meteorite known as the Nakhla Meteorite. The Nakhla Meteorite is one of the few dozen meteorites on Earth known to be of Martian origin, and because of its provenance it is a very significant and scientifically valuable meteorite. A piece of the meteorite, which like many broke apart as it fell through Earth's atmosphere, was reported at the time to have struck and killed a dog, a freak circumstance made even more exceptional by the extreme rarity of Martian meteorites. As time has passed, that claim seems ever more likely to be made up and apart from contemporaneous anecdotal stories that include details that simply don't ring true, there is no empirical evidence for it having happened and most experts today have consigned the story to the astronomy urban legend bin. However, that doesn't mean it can't happen, as just in my own lifetime I am aware of at least a half-dozen or so events in which humans have been struck by meteorites, in one case badly enough to leave some serious and painful bruises.

Hey Hollywood, if you're going to make a character a trivia expert, please make sure you get the trivia right.

Friday, December 19, 2008

childhood's end

Majel Barrett has passed away from leukemia at the age of seventy-six. You may not recognize her name immediately, but you know who she is. Majel Barrett was her maiden and stage name, but her full name was Majel Barrett Roddenberry. She was the wife of the late Gene Roddenberry, the man who created Star Trek, and she played more roles on the television series and in the motion pictures than any other alumnus of Star Trek.

Majel's primary roles were in the original series, where she is best-known for being the torch-carrying Nurse Chapel, whose unrequited love for Mr. Spock was one of the most wistful running story lines in the series. She also provided the voice of the Enterprise computer system. She played Deanna Troi's mother in the Star Trek: The Next Generation series, and showed up in several other minor roles as well.

William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, and Grace Lee Whitney are the last remaining members of the original series.

I'm feeling really old right now. And sad.

Farewell, Mrs. Roddenberry. And of course, live long and prosper.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

let's be REALLY inclusive, okay?

So our new president is going to kick off his administration of change by having the odious Rick Warren preside over a superstitious ritual at the inauguration ceremony. It's an example of how Obama is "reaching out" to social conservatives. Of course, Rick Warren vehemently campaigned for the retraction of already-granted civil rights for gay Americans, the vast majority of whom supported Obama and helped put him in the historic position he is in now, via California's recent Proposition 8 battle, all the while defending his bigotry from the unassailable bastion of his "beliefs."

I'm cool with all that... long as Obama also sees fit to also invite a white supremacist to speak honestly and openly about his fervent "beliefs." Perhaps he might then understand the disappointment and anger that is being directed at him, not by his detractors, but by his supporters. The right isn't going to like Obama no matter what he does, and alienating and insulting people who worked hard to get him elected is not going to change that.

I question the sanity of this country even more every day.

land of the wealthy

What an amazing parody of America this country is becoming.

Be a poor person, steal a television, go to jail. Be a rich person, steal fifty billion dollars by financial fraud, go to your seven million-dollar penthouse.

Be a private in the Army and torture Iraqi prisoners, go to jail. Be president of the United States of America and order torture of Iraqi prisoners, go to a wealthy retirement.

RIP Paul Weyrich

That's "Roast In Pain," bitch.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

at least we aren't starving...

Monday, December 15, 2008


...with all the money.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

smelly shoes

The more I watch and the more I think about it, this entire shoe thing stinks. The first time I saw the clip, my initial thought was "where was the Secret Service?" Now, upon further consideration, the entire sequence of events is terribly unlikely. The Iraqi reporter started by yelling angrily for a few sentences, after which he had to bend over, pick up one shoe, stand up and throw it, then bend over again, pick up the second shoe, and stand back up and throw it. The Secret Service should have had several bullets planted in his center of mass before he had time to bend over, especially for the second shoe. No agents surrounded Bush, and despite the fact that the reporter really winged that first shoe, Bush was able to react quickly enough to duck successfully, and then do it again. The same Bush that blanched and looked like he peed his pants on September 11th, 2001, chuckled as this incident finished unwinding. In a country where people blow themselves up for politics on a near-daily basis, the most hated American on the planet was a participant in a highly unlikely set of circumstances acted out on a very public stage.

Thanks, I'm not buying it.

shoe fly

Hundreds of tons of missing munitions in Iraq and you choose a pair of Florsheim's wingtips?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

what a long, strange trip it's been

Boy, it's dusty in here. Let me brush the cobwebs out of the way and start getting caught up.

It is my anniversary. By my calculations, as of today I have now been drawing breath on this magnificent planet we have the privilege of inhabiting for twenty thousand days. Please don't pull out the calculators, just accept that it's a long time.

I used to be sure that I would eventually end up being rich and famous and powerful, in other words, successful. I think probably everyone does, it's only natural to want to be as secure as possible against the travails of the world and to be recognized and esteemed by your fellow humans. As both of my readers already know, I am none of those things. Despite not achieving those goals, I'm predominantly a very happy person aside from the inevitable moments of disappointment and grief life throws everyone's way from time to time. But that isn't the sort of success our society holds dear.

Thanks to logic and the scientific method, one thing that I have learned is that if you aren't satisfied and are unhappy with your existence even though you are doing everything you have been told you should do to achieve happiness, it's time to examine your fundamental premises.

Even though I haven't achieved the things I thought would make me happy, I find that I am happy even to the extent of probably being the happiest person that I know. How can that possibly be? Well, when I examine my premises and then look at my life, I find that my happiness comes from lots of small things, tiny victories, personal accomplishments, from the thousands of things that I have been able to check off my private wish list.

For most of my life, I have had two overwhelming passions, music and astronomy. Against all odds, I have managed to become extremely proficient at both of them simultaneously. I have a deep understanding of music that few people on the planet will ever experience or even realize is possible. I have developed impressive skill at playing the instrument of my choice and I have written some, but not enough, music that brings me tears of joy when I hear it. I have played Franz Liszt's pianoforte. I have an exceptional collection of most of the instruments that I have ever loved and lusted after that few other people can match. I have played all over the eastern half of the United States and count many famous musicians among my friends. I have performed a concert of my own music from atop the wing of a space shuttle. I have been a high-ranking staff member in a world-famous museum. I have met and conversed with half of the humans who have walked on the Moon. I have touched, held, and even sat inside of spacecraft and top-secret aircraft. I have been given a VIP tour of NASA headquarters and dined with astronauts. I have held a piece of the Moon and a piece of Mars. I have been invited to become a college professor despite having no experience at it and enjoyed fourteen years of being a respected and popular educator as a result. I know a great deal about the history of the world, of human society, of biology, paleontology, and archaeology. I understand the nature of the atom, of how atoms and molecules interact and why, of what gravity is, and how relativity works. I have read a significant percentage of the great literature of the English language. I have visited four continents, dozens of countries, most of the states, and seen historic monuments and museums all over the world. I have been touched by a Pope. I have crossed the ocean on one of the last of the ocean liners back when that was the way to travel. I have seen a total eclipse and a couple of bright comets. I have seen civilians travel in space, planets of other stars discovered, learned that dinosaurs still live, that bacteria millions of years old can be revived, and I know how the universe was born and what happened to it as it grew.

I have also seen a president felled by an assassin's bullet, another deposed, and a third virtually destroy my country. I have seen an American city grievously injured in an act of violence, I have lived under the threat of nuclear immolation, and I have seen two American spacecraft snuffed out with many brave explorers in fiery moments of tragedy. I have known bleak sadness, numbing heartbreak, and the pain of the loss of loved ones of many species, and I have known ecstatic love and towering passion. Life sucks and life is wonderful. That is the secret.

It has been an extraordinary twenty thousand days. Strangely enough, at a time of life when many people are fading away, looking towards their end, and beginning the inevitable decay all living things eventually suffer, I find that I am healthy and strong and more enthusiastic about my tomorrows than I have ever been.

I think I've been, despite my previous understandings of what it consisted of, successful. Successful beyond my wildest dreams. I still learn things every week that I've wondered about all my life, I still have new frontiers and exciting challenges and opportunities ahead of me. I have wonderful and treasured friends that accept me and who I trust and care deeply about. If that isn't true success, I don't know what is.

I can't wait to see what my next twenty thousand days brings.