Monthly Archives: May 2015

The Emerald Specter 2: Nothing is Special

Leave it to America to claim to be the best at everything and then remove anything special about anything. Win a contest? Tough, everyone gets a ribbon. Finally graduate high school? Big deal, you get a graduation at every single grade these days. Nothing is special anymore, and this mentality is ruining the place for anyone to do any sort of actual accomplishment.

When I was younger, graduation happened twice: once from high school and once from college. Now, the college one only even happened at the four year or higher level, which means you really had to put in some time to get there. High school? You had to go through Kindergarten on up through 11th grade to even get to the point where you saw “the finish line.” You were in a race you couldn’t even fathom being at the end of UNTIL YOU WERE THERE. Kids today? Hey, you get a ceremony for accomplishing almost nothing… yeah, so you passed Kindergarten, you know how to color and say your alphabet. Big fucking whoop.

Muhammad Ali was once the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World… now? There are a number of organizations, all having their own champion, claiming each one is the “one true champion.” WBC, WBA, WBO, IBF, IBO, IBA, WBF, yada, yada, yada… that’s just what I rattled off from the top of my head. Not that boxing matters anymore, either, but at least there was some integrity to the sport.

Most of sports is like this these days. Kids get their participation ribbon and the winner of an event isn’t given the accolades they deserve because that would hurt feelings. Fuck feelings, I just won a motherfucking race and I expect some fucking accolades.

What’s the point of accomplishing anything anymore? Well, that’s not entirely true, the work force still rewards people for doing something great. Come up with a million dollar idea and you get promoted. Bill in accounting doesn’t also get promoted, his feelings have to be buried as he needs to understand that simply making 1+1 equal 2 will not get him a promotion.

What happened to being anything unique?

I should just stop right here, actually. This can all be boiled down to Tyler Durden: you are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. Kids are treated like every one of them is special. They aren’t. Most of them are average, run of the mill, and completely uninteresting in any fashion. When we treat them special, they don’t seek to become anything better.

Ah, see? You all thought this was a bash, bash, bash… it isn’t.

If little Johnny Average is treated like he’s special, he’ll get his 13 graduation ceremonies, given all his participatory ribbons, and get an average paying job while barely doing anything to further society along. If little Johnny Average is treated like this, nothing he does will become extraordinary because he’ll think he’s just fine like he is.

Little Johnny Average, treated like someone needs to be treated (not special, starts wondering how to get a graduation ceremony. The ONE ceremony. He graduates and starts figuring out how to compete in the world, where there are average jobs and then there are great jobs. Johnny Average figures out how to accomplish something and gets a great job, then discovers (through hard fucking work) that he’s got a sporting talent and competes at the highest level… he then becomes a champion.

What’s the difference? Little Johnny Average was coddled and pampered into believing he was special in the first example. In the second example, he wasn’t coddled or pampered and he came to realize he needed to actually DO something in order to be anything more than an average joe.

What would you like your kids to do? Be average assholes milking society or become something special.

Don’t give them a fucking graduation from Kindergarten. Make them EARN their ONE graduation. Make them realize they need to work to be special.

America: deluding kids from their first words.

The Emerald Specter 1: A Perspective

I believe that the time has come for me to just go ahead and have a “catch all” column that fills in what doesn’t really fit in any other category. Welcome to the first edition of “The Emerald Specter.” Other columns that I write have rules, like the column has to center around whatever general topic I’ve chosen. This column will have only one rule: it will be all about what I believe in and think. Sometimes it’ll be an aside, sometimes it’ll be an all out rant. Thus is born the column that is destined to be the highest numbered column on this site.

Today, I want to talk about the United States of America. Yep.

When people talk about the US, they often cite this place as the “greatest nation on Earth.” When those people state that catchphrase, I often ask what they are using as criteria to judge such a thing. Education? We aren’t even in the top 10. Healthcare? Again, we aren’t even in the top 10. Those people often just stutter and stammer until they think I’ll leave them alone. Let me tell you a few things about the United States… and let me start off by telling you I’m a veteran of the US Navy, so before you go thinking I’m talking out of disrespect, I’ve served the country.

We have a lot of corruption in the United States. Maybe that is what those people are judging the US by, but the corruption is all over the place. The core of that corruption is the people who serve in the government. Since we do not live in a democracy (no, we do not… it is a Representative Republic. A Democracy would allow the vote of the people to directly affect ALL of the outcomes of anything we vote in, primarily referenced here being the President of the United States.) and that means we only have a voice to “nudge” those who actually do make the decisions.

Did you know that the citizens of the United States could overwhelmingly vote for a President and that President could be sidestepped for the candidate whom the representatives choose would be better? I know some of you are thinking about the Bush-Gore election in this analogy, but I’m not. Let’s go more extreme: Reagan-Mondale.

When Ronald Reagan won the Presidency, he won all but one state (Minnesota). “Winning” a state means that the population of that state votes and the popular vote is used by the electoral college individuals (the “representatives” of the voting public) to make their decision on whom to cast their votes for. The electoral college doesn’t HAVE to go with the will of the people, they can choose to cast their votes for whomever they feel… and that, my friends, is the scary part.

Using Reagan-Mondale as the background, let’s pretend that the “powers that be” wanted Mondale in office THAT bad. The public has a landslide vote for Mondale but the electoral college, under the control/influence of the “powers that be,” are told to cast their votes for Mondale. Reagan needs 270 electoral votes to win the Presidency but let’s say that the electoral college provides enough support for Mondale that HE gets the 270 electoral votes. The population of the United States has voted for Reagan, but the electoral college went ahead and elected Mondale. THAT, my friends, is not Democracy.

Now, there are 24 states that have laws against “faithless voting.” A Faithless Voter is an electoral representative that does not abide by the will of their voters. The “powers that be” would have to work in and around this to ensure their candidate would win… and thus, we have a system that is super complicated and completely unnecessary.

Why the extra step? What’s wrong with the popular vote?

This brings me to my next point: the two party system.

Corruption abounds in the two party system. People are under the impression that ONLY two parties are worthy of their votes, and thus, those two parties manipulate the population in order to achieve exactly what they want. The poor are poor. The rich are rich. Everyone who is not rich has no say in how the government actually runs. We can kick out corrupt politicians but the population at large only really understands that they can replace them with “the other party” instead of the person most capable of doing the job.

Get rid of the electoral college and parties NOT of the “Big Two” will make astoundingly powerful statements in future elections. The Libertarians will have more pull than either of the other two because they fit the ideologies of both sides but eliminate the muck that normally weighs the party down. The Green Party is a better version of the Democratic NPL because they focus on the important points of the DNPL instead of having a “message for a base.” The Modern Whig Party is a better choice than either of these because they’re not pandering to anyone… they do what needs to be done, and correctly.

The last thing is that I think this country is too big. I’ve now lived in three completely different regions in the US alone and I can tell you that there is very little that connects these regions. The south needs to deal with racial issues, poverty issues, and immigration issues because that is what is foremost on their minds. Most of what happens in the south can be related to those few things and if you pander to that series of items you’ll likely get the attention you’re seeking. The midwest is worried about people taking their guns and religion, though no one (and I stressĀ no one) has officially said anything about taking anything away from anyone. The midwestern gun lovers make it sound like Obama flat out said, in a quote, that he was coming for their guns. No one has said this and no one is trying to take your precious death machines. Finally, the Pacific northwest is concerned about the environment and making sure everyone is taken care of, which is something neither of the other two regions gives a rat’s ass about. These three regions should not belong in the same country because there is no one politician that will satisfy the needs of all three groups… and thus we have conflict where conflict is unnecessary.

This is not the greatest nation in the world. This is barely the greatest nation in the upper western hemisphere. Americans, citizens of the United States I’m speaking of, need to understand that boisterous and bold statements without the backup just make us look stupid… which is what the largest part of the world things we are: stupid.

Think on it.

Fitness Specter 26: Stop Being So Macho

Don’t be a dumb ass. Don’t try to impress your wife with your weightlifting prowess by going heavier than you should be lifting. I did that and ended up needing three days off to recover… three days she worked out making me feel bad. She wins. I am a wiener.

So, the first night with my wife and I lifting went well. The second night went well. The third night went well. The plan was for us to repeat everything again and take Sunday off… well, I couldn’t freaking move after night three because I went and lifted what I thought I needed to in order to be the fitness expert. Well, I look like a tool, don’t I?

Neither I nor my wife want her to be a bulky weightlifter. I’d like the toned fitness look but I don’t need anyone sporting muscles the size of mine… or the ones that I want. Tonight, before writing this, I lifted less than what I thought I needed to at every exercise and while I feel tired, I don’t feel sore at the level I did last week. I should be able to go all week at this rate instead of needing to take off the next four or five days to recover. That is a good thing because I really would like to be working out 6 times a week.

Something I haven’t mentioned to my wife yet, though I’ll be doing that right after this column, is that we could be doing lots of exercises three times a week instead. I think she genuinely enjoys the nightly workouts but I think she’ll also like the lack of needing to clear her nights to work out six times a week in favor of a more general workout. At least I can suggest the lightened load on weeks we don’t have the time to do a full round of weightlifting.

Right now, she is lifting SelecTech dumbbells that are dialed in at 7.5 pounds a piece. Tonight, I dialed them in at 15 pounds a piece. Basically, if I’m not doing at least double what she’s doing, I feel like a wuss, but oddly, that seems to be exactly where I needed to back off to… and instead of needing to lift 50 pounds in one lift, I can lift 450 in 15. I also don’t get so tired that I want to sleep for a week.

We will both be ramping up over time, a click of weight here, a full dial there. In about six months, I expect to be lifting 25 pounds per dumbbell, and in a year I expect to be lifting almost 40. Why so much? Because I want to be slimming down and bulking up in a good way… I want to have some muscles and I know that I’ll eventually need a gym, I’d like to get into the habits here at home and get consistent.

Doesn’t that sound like a nifty plan? I think so and I’m getting healthier by doing that.

I’ve gained some of the weight back, taking my time off, but I’m hoping that the workout I just finished helps with taking that back off.

Lift it.

Coming soon… very soon…

Coming soon to a website near you is a new experiment that I am going to be testing out. I like writing columns. I like writing stories. I have very little time to dedicate to one or the other, which tends to mean when I do have time that I fuss over which to do and end up doing neither… so instead, I’ll do both.

Starting with an upcoming column relaunch that I’m going to be bringing you, I am going to write a column FOLLOWED by a story in the very same post. You’ll get twice the content in a single post. I intend to release these things weekly but we won’t tie me down to that just yet.

The idea is that those who want the column content get their content, while those who want more than just a column will be getting a (possibly near, if not exactly) weekly narrative that will progress as time goes on. The idea is that the narrative won’t be some epic sized thing but will progress things along as quickly as necessary to have an interesting story… and I might be doing this in the “HBO style” of storytelling: 13 installments per “season.” I may also just release as many as I feel necessary and then move on to the next series.

If the column is about chess, then the story will be “of a chess nature.” I’d like to talk about all kinds of subjects (superheroes, comics, space, chess, writing, etc) and that opens the door for me to include my story ideas that have been building up a place to be released for public consumption.

Hopefully you enjoy the combination and (if things don’t go perfectly) I may end up breaking them up in the future… especially if I’ve run out of things to write in a column about a subject that would no longer be part of the story releases.

Until the first one, though, I’ll let you chew on that for a little while. I haven’t start writing anything yet but I’ve been working out plot directions for things and I’m hoping that will get me moving in the right direction.

Think on it.

Fitness Specter 25 – The World Conspires Against Me

Jumping back in with both feet sometimes is a terrible idea. As my wife, who now has worked out with weights one day that I haven’t, points out: she’s still able to move without pain and is enjoying the process of weightlifting. I took a night off because I can barely bend over without screaming out in pain. Too heavy, too soon.

Yesterday, I set about walking 11,000 steps as my cardio to aid in my low calorie count to lose weight. I succeeded in hitting my step count, although that was a chore, and ended up losing 2.4 pounds from the day before. Since this worked, I’ll be attempting the feat again. I am still so sore I can barely bend over but I want to lift weights and there is something else I desperately need: sleep.

The title of this column is “The World Conspires Against Me” because I think that there is a conspiracy to try to keep me fat here in Portland. Is it overt? Is it actually there? Do things seem to conveniently fall into place that hinder my progress? The answers are no, no, and yes.

Today, as I write this at almost 5 in the morning, I am supposed to have today off. A coworker is sick and thus I am required to go in for about 5 hours to work. Do I expect to lose tomorrow off, too? At this point, I’m guessing that is a likely scenario because I really need to sleep in and since I can’t get that to happen, I don’t think the world will just let me go ahead and sleep.

I don’t mind working, I really don’t. What bothers me is that everyone else seems to be getting their full time off and I keep getting shafted. I have some training coming up that will keep me from working weird hours for a month but how long will that actually last? For the first two weeks I’m physically in a training class but the two weeks after that I’m supposed to be unbothered and studying on my own AT WORK. I don’t see anyone leaving me alone to do that, do you?

Despite the “fresh, hot doughnuts” sign illuminated at the Krispy Kreme yesterday, the caramel and cinnamon scone the wife got yesterday, and the allure of chicken and waffles from Cartlandia, I managed to keep my caloric intake to just 2,100 calories. I’ve been consuming more than that and after holding myself to JUST that, I realize that I’ve been eating most of the day, everyday since I got here. Today, I’m not even taking in a lunch to reinforce to my boss and stomach that I’m not staying long enough to need to eat there.

Every morning I eat a bowl of cereal. Most mornings it’s a granola cereal that has clustered nuts in them and they are delicious. This morning I had the Trader Joe’s version of Honey Nut Cheerios. The granola cereal is also from Trader Joe’s and the nutrition is very healthy. As I ramp back my overeating I’m looking forward to trimming down the other meals into a stable and consistent order. For example, I used to eat chicken and rice for every lunch and I stopped doing that because the options needed to be mixed up a little… and I’m already looking at going back to that because at least my weight was lower.

No, the world isn’t conspiring against me. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. I’m being slowly killed, though, because I need sleep and I need some days off.

I’m also going to be walking another 11,000 steps today because I really need to, again.

Lift it.

Fitness Specter 24 – Old Habits Die Hard

Hello… I’m fat and I have an eating problem.

Portion control has always been the bane of my existence. I tend to look at an amount of food and judge that amount as insufficient, whether or not the amount IS actually sufficient. I love the largest meals at restaurants, I can’t help but to finish the food on my plate because that is how I was taught to do it. As of this morning, I’m reigning all my problems in.

My wife and I started lifting weights together three days ago. She’s having a grand old time because there is more activity than just a walk, which was what we did to lose all our weight, and though she isn’t seeing results on the scale, she’s feeling better. I, on the other hand, am failing and I’m gaining weight… I don’t like that.

I’m going to eat somewhere in the neighborhood of 1500 calories today. That’s not very much, and I may even extend that to 2000, but that is my absolute ceiling. Today, I have to do a butt ton of cardio and because of my size, walking is going to have to be that cardio. I’m at the “uncomfortably large” stage again, where doing most things isn’t the easiest thing to do. I’m still eating healthy but I’m apparently eating too much healthy. I need to eat less.

I’ll be pushing as much water as I can today, too. I’m aiming for about 100 ounces and maybe that will help kickstart this body of mine again, too. I’ve been drinking more water lately, but I haven’t been drinking enough. I’m going to double, maybe triple, my current intake… so that should indicate to you how little I’ve been drinking.

I’m one of the few people in the world who loves to eat to the point where about a third of my day is thinking about food. When I wake up, I’m hungry and start thinking about breakfast. About 2 hours later, I’m pondering lunch and that lasts anywhere from 2 to 3 hours… or until I eat it, really. Supper pondering comes after that for about the same amount of time and then I have the issue of dessert contemplation. I need to think about other things and I am not entirely sure how I’m going to train myself to accomplish that particular goal.

All in all, I’m having a hard time doing what I did to get me to where I’m at and I’m also losing the battle at keeping things off because I’m sliding into my old habits… the OLD habits. I’m eating a big meal and finishing my wife’s, just like I used to and that makes me unhappy. I need to start trimming my own intake and stop eating hers. Dessert needs to be a once a month thing instead of more often and that dessert should start being things that others don’t consider dessert: like yogurt.

I am climbing back on the horse today, metaphorically, and trying to ride this bitch into lighter weight. I have no ability to eat more than I bring with me at work today as long as I don’t take the car somewhere. That part is easy: not leaving. When I get home, I’m going to take the wife shopping because she wanted to check somethings out at a particular store. Walking around is how that gets done and I need to walk.

My goal today is 11,000 steps, 1,000 over my normal daily requirement. I’ve failed to meet my daily steps for the past 7 days and I need to start stepping my game up again. I’m tired of being fat and I want to make changes… now.

Sorry about this rant, I needed to get it off my chest… you also needed to read it, knowing that I’m not some fitness guru… just someone trying to make a change.

Lift it.

Fitness Specter 23 – Dawn of the Day

I’m using the old logo for this one because I haven’t made the new one in the appropriate size yet. Live with it.

oday marks the start of a new era for me. As of writing this, I have returned to being just over 300 pounds again and I’m tired of being fat. My move is no longer an excuse and the fact that there are plenty of healthy options in Portland for me to NOT eat terribly is really making my current situation look even worse.

Today… yes, TODAY, my wife will be joining me for the first day of working out at home. Today is chest and triceps day and I’m going to work until failure, all failure. There will be talk about cardio tonight but that is probably just going to be the walk I take at lunch, or maybe even a walk with my wife tonight. She won’t be working out to failure, I will. I want to sweat in a way that hasn’t been seen by my body since early last year. I don’t have a gym anymore and there isn’t one I trust close enough to make me want to go workout there but I do have a means to do this at home and we are going for it.

Nothing we make for food at home is unhealthy. We eat whole grain bread, lots of veggies, and nothing we buy has high fructose corn syrup in it. That being said, I still need to monitor my portions. By the end of the month of May, I plan on being under 290 pounds. I actually plan on being LESS than that but I won’t set the bar too high to succeed. I am telling you right now that IĀ WILL succeed.

Weight is just a number. Unfortunately, in my specific case at this specific time, that number is a high one and the consequences of that number mean I can’t fit into the clothes that I bought when I achieved 91 pounds lost. Having regained all but 30 of those pounds, I need to start losing weight again or I’m going to be buying fat clothes and no one wants that again. So, I won’t set a number but I will be under 250.

Like Ingress, which I play, I’m turning this into a game. I’m “gamifying” working out, self improvement, or whatever you want to call it. There will be badges, which I would have posted earlier but I’m still finalizing them. I’m hoping that keeps the wife interested enough in wanting to continue working out, too… I really do need a partner in this.

Tonight, after work (I write this at 4:30 AM), I shall make the new Fitness Specter graphic. I shall finalize the badges (and level badges) and post something that shows we’ve done what we set out to do. I’ll make a Fitness Specter column as often as I see fit and hopefully I’ll continue making them on the Fridays like I had before… Fitness Friday was a nice little thing to keep up with.

The Olympia is coming in the next few months and I’d like to not look like the average couch sitter when that happens. I want to be smaller, I want to be more fit, and I’d like to have some muscle to display that I can be proud of… and I’d like to be fitting into the awesome shirts that only fit me when I’m smaller.

It’s time to get fit. It’s time to start TODAY. Stop waiting… don’t say it will happen tomorrow… tomorrow never comes.

Lift it.