Skip to content

The Electric Chair

If a man is considered guilty for what goes on in his mind then give me The Electric Chair for all my future crimes

I’ve all but abandoned this blog. A little over two years ago I wrote about my attempt to get healthy after being diagnosed with Hypothyroid disease. I re-started my TaeKwonDo training in order to complete a long time goal of getting my Black Belt. I’m happy to report that a few months ago I achieved that goal.

During that time I continued to struggle with some other health issues, however. My knee, which has bothered me for half my life, started to get worse and worse. I decided to finally get it checked out, and discovered I had a meniscal tear. Treatment, in my case, was either to stop activity, or surgery. I chose the surgery route so that I could hopefully continue dancing and TaeKwonDo without pain, but I also decided to put it off long enough to get my black belt.

So a little after my test, I scheduled surgery. 4 days before that surgery I found myself in the emergency room with abdominal pain like I had never experienced before. While I had experienced a level of this sort of pain before about 4 separate times, the pain always went away within a few hours. This time the pain started at midnight, and by 9:00am, after writhing in pain all night, I made my wife take me to the ER.

By this time I took a guess as to my problem. A few years back my mother was sent to the ER with a burst gallbladder, and seeing how I have been experiencing many of the health issues that my mother had, I figured I had a gallbladder issue myself. I told the doctor this, and while he didn’t think that’s what I was experiencing, he ordered an ultrasound anyway. He came back, apologized, and confirmed the problem: gallstones.

I visited a surgeon shortly after and confirmed that considering my family history (Mother, Sister both having had their gallbladder removed), removal was in order.

In the meantime, I decided to go ahead with the knee surgery since it was going to take a while to get the surgery scheduled. However, the night before I was scheduled, Avery jumped from his swing set and broke his arm, requiring us to stay with him all the next day at the hospital. So I rescheduled for a few weeks later.

I decided that while I waited for the gallbladder surgery, I didn’t ever want to experience that pain again, so i made an abrupt change in diet. I’ve learned a *lot* about how the digestive system works, what the gallbladder does, and how to avoid an attack when you have gall stones. I wont’ bore you with all the details, but the gist of it is that the gallbladder stores bile, which is produced by the liver. It is used in order to digest fat (that you very much need). It was my taste for high-fat foods (specifically the chocolate milkshake from Fuddruckers I had the night before my ER visit) that caused my pain. Avoiding fat prevented me from having another attack while waiting for the gallbladder surgery.

So a few weeks went by, and I got my knee surgery. For a week or so, the knee pain was dull and achey, but now after three weeks, I’m happy to report that almost all pain is gone. The pain that caused me to get the surgery is completely gone, and the only thing left is residual scar tissue and stiffness from the surgery. I’ve been told I need 6-8 weeks for a full recovery, so I’m hopeful. Early today I played volleyball at work, and experienced no pain.

Last week I had the gallbladder surgery. They generally do it laparoscopically which means you leave the same day. For the first 4 days I was generally uncomfortable, and a week later I’m still a bit sore, but otherwise feeling a lot better. There is an unfortunate side-effect which I will spare you the details of except to say that my digestive system is very out of balance. I’ve since read a lot more about that, and hope that my body will make adjustments in about 6 weeks time. Until then… just “ugh!”.

One positive side-effect of the new diet (which I call the fear of food diet) is that since my intial ER visit just over a month ago, I have lost 18 pounds. The weight loss is ongoing, and I am very happy about it. I’ve lost the majority of the “Gearhart belly” i’ve grown over the past year. Since probably the start of my gallbladder symptoms (which on retrospect started about a year ago — funny how I attributed a lot of it to other things) I had gained about 15 pounds. So all of that weight is off, and somemore.

Other than some weird intestinal things that will resolve (I hope), I feel a lot better lately, and only see things improving. I’m about ready to start dancing and TaeKwonDo again. I turned 40 last week, and while my “Warranty” seems to have expired, I’m looking forward to feeling better than I have in a very long time. Let’s hope this is the end of major medical issues for me, and the beginning a healthy trend.

First a couple of things…

I had my first Chick-fil-a sandwich about 3 weeks ago (before the kerfuffle). My daughter got a free sandwich coupon, which she’d never use, being a vegetarian. I took, enjoyed the sandwich enough (it was alright), and went on my way. So I’m no super fan of the restaurant.

I also really don’t have strong opinions about Gay Marriage one way or the other, but I have always subscribed to a more libertarian view that says the government really should get out of the Marriage business altogether. Marriage should be between you and your church. However, the government *does* regulate contracts, and therefore should grant whatever name you want to call it –civil unions seems appropriate– to couples who want to share their life together, and enjoy the benefits that gives “married” couples today. In a strict sense, I suppose I support “gay marriage” *ONLY* because I think it’s unconstitutional to discriminate against people who want to enter into a government sponsored contract based on their gender. I am more of a fan of traditional marriage, probably because I’m a traditional guy, and don’t really dig other guys — if you do, and want to be with another dude, that’s your right — but I’m not anti-anything.

So recently a number of people have come out and said they’ll never got to Chick-Fil-A because of something the President/Owner said. Of course that’s their right, it is a free market so more power to you for putting you money where you want. But I do feel I need to point out a few things.

1) An individual said this. While he is a big-wig, and may even profess to speak for the “company”, he really doesn’t. He does not speak for the individuals that work there. Hating on an entire group of people for one man’s opinion is just as bigoted as they think the individual is.

2) The man stated an opinion. In no way did he say he would discriminate, and there is no record of discrimination from him or his company. Get that: it was just an opinion.

3) While I may or may not support what the man said, I wholeheartedly support his right to say it. Rah Rah free speech!!

4) Government officials who are denying permits for Chick-Fil-A stores are discriminating illegally I believe. This is truly a horrible day in America. Let America decide with their money… I don’t want my politicians deciding for me what is correct thought or correct speech.

Based on that, I support Chick-Fil-A as a company. I support individuals and groups rights to say what they want, and support the people’s ability to decide for themselves where they want to put their food money. I’m ashamed of the people in this country who which to punish those who don’t “think right” (like they do), and don’t tow the Politically Correct Line. It’s OK to have an opinion, and to express it, even if I, or you, think it’s a bad one. No one should be afraid to speak their mind…

Now, whether I decide to go get another sandwich from Chick-Fil-A will likely depend on whether I get a craving for one, or it’s a convenient meal some time in the future… but if people keep acting like bigots, against a “bigot” for speaking his mind, I might just be apt to artificially get a craving.

This post is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

I’m appalled.  Nothing new there I suppose, but this time I’m appalled at myself and practically everybody else in this country.  I’m talking about the Trayvon Martin controversy.

When I first heard the story, I, like everyone else, was horrified that a kid was killed by a ruthless racist vigilante.  Then I started seeing the ugliness around me.  The race bating politicos scurried from under the woodwork and started using the tragedy as a means to their end.  And why not?  The reported facts show that a young boy was just minding his own business, while a horrible vigilante chased him down and killed him merely for being in his presence.  The pictures the media gave us showed a nice young man in Trayvon, and a rather unseemly looking Hispanic man, Zimmerman, as the characters in this story.  The narrative was set, and everyone was saddened and angry.

But then I turned my skepticism on, as I try to do with all things.  One should not just accept things automatically, but consider all the possibilities. I started wondering about the media portrayal, what I’ve grown to think of as a biased media, and saw some very one sided reporting. As an example, just look at the way the names are generally reported.  Trayvon and Zimmerman… using a first name is more personal, while using the last name is less so… if you don’t think the media is manipulating you, even accidentally, I don’t think you’re paying attention.  During this time I started to see all the blind calls for “justice”, and saw the likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton put themselves as the center of attention.  That’s not right, and when I see things like that happen, it makes me angry and very sad.  Surely this young man should not have died, and if it is found that the shooter should be tired and convicted, I have faith that will happen

I started hearing reports of leaked facts that conflicted with the initial narrative:  Trayvon was suspended from school… that Zimmerman had injuries from an obvious fight.  These facts started to indicate a different set of events than the assumptions everyone first made.  I of course tried to view these facts in the skeptics light as well.  I just saw a headline saying “Zimmerman is a registered Democrat”.  So what?   That shows you just how political everyone is making things.  I saw new pictures, more recent ones as it turns out, that shows Zimmerman looking like a nice respectable person, and Trayvon as a teen with very little respectability.   OK, fine, both sides want to control the way you see these people, but there is no context to these pictures.  Was Trayvon, with his shirt off, pants half way down his legs with his skivvies showing, and flipping off the photographer with both hands, just having fun, or is he a sinister teen?  It’s frightening how easy it is to manipulate a story with just a few pictures.

What really irritates me was how the media and those with a single political view  jumped on this and definitely tried to set the narrative by manipulating us with pictures and partial stories, on both sides! What’s worse:  a media jumping on a story because it’s good press, or because it has political purpose?  I’m not sure, but both happened here.  Get this straight: regardless of the facts, the use of this event to profit, or further a cause is slimy.

Friends and acquaintances are now talking about rallies for Trayvon… also fine, in fact, great, celebrate the life of Trayvon that was tragically cut short.  But the last thing we need to do is fuel hatred and racism with accusations that are not clear.  I get it, many of us don’t trust our law enforcement to do the right thing, but there we go with assumptions.  What evidence is there that the police and prosecutors involved are doing anything but their due diligence?  Should they automatically charge a man with what *you* think they should without gathering all of the evidence to make a solid case?  Good lord no… that would be irresponsible.  If the man is truly guilty, then you submit an air-tight case, not some half-assed indictment based on what the “public” wants.

So there it is, a skeptic/conservative viewpoint of a situation.  I don’t know what happened, but I do care.  I hope that the truth is presented, and everyone accepts it, regardless of the outcome… but I know better.  Everyone digs in and gets political.  I suspect those who don’t like my skeptic point of view may dismiss me as a racist.  Surely if I can’t be incensed by the obvious racism of Zimmerman, I must be one myself.  But no, I prefer to look at everything without the blinders of skin color, class, or even politics, and look at everything logically with reason.  Seriously, all I can do is read about it, and hope that everyone is giving me the straight facts… what fools we are if we think by merely reading a story or two we have the right to judge and convict.  The culture in this country is ruined if that happens.

As most people who know me know, I’m a big fan of swing and early R&B music. I quite enjoy having discussions of such music. The other day a song came on the TV while playing poker: “Snatch and Grab it” by Julia Lee. Someone commented on the song and I asked if they knew who it was. I have a whole collection of her music, and I’ve always been fascinated by all of the double entrendre in the music of that era (The Spinach song by Julia Lee immediately sprang to mind) … so much so I once did a radio show on it. At any rate, that discussion prompted me to post this.

One of my favorite examples of early R&B bawdiness is actually “Shake Rattle and Roll”, which became a very popular song for Bill Haley and His Comets… but as with most of those songs that were covered by more accessible white bands, the original artists had far more colorful lyrics, and the remakes were santitized. Interestingly enough, one of the most colorful lyrics of “Shake Rattle and Roll” managed to get by the “censors”, perhaps because they didn’t have dirty enough minds to think that it was anything but a cute lyric. Below I’ve posted the entire lyrics to both songs, with the common lyric color coded for your amusement. Enjoy, and if you don’t get all of the dirty lyrics… good for you, you’re a better person than I.

Bill Haley’s Shake Rattle and Roll

Get out in that kitchen and rattle those pots and pans
Get out in that kitchen and rattle those pots and pans
Well roll my breakfast ’cause I’m a hungry man

I said shake rattle and roll
I said shake rattle and roll
I said shake rattle and roll
I said shake rattle and roll
Well you’ll never do nothin’
To save your doggone soul

Wearin’ those dresses your hair done up so nice
Wearin’ those dresses your hair done up so nice
You look so warm but your heart is cold as ice

repeat chorus

I’m like a one eyed cat peeping in a sea food store
I’m like a one eyed cat peeping in a sea food store

I can look at you tell you don’t love me no more

I believe you are doing me wrong and now I know
I believe you are doing me wrong and now I know
The more I work the faster my money go

Big Joe Turner’s Shake Rattle and Roll

Get outta that bed, wash your face and hands
Get outta that bed, wash your face and hands
Well, you get in that kitchen, make some noise with the pots ‘n pans

Way you wear those dresses, the sun comes shinin’ through
Way you wear those dresses, the sun comes shinin’ through
I can’t believe my eyes, all that mess belongs to you

I believe to the soul you’re the devil and now I know
I believe to the soul you’re the devil and now I know
Well, the more I work, the faster my money goes

I said shake, rattle and roll, shake, rattle and roll
Shake, rattle and roll, shake, rattle and roll
Well, you won’t do right to save your doggone soul

Yeah, blow Joe!

I’m like a one-eyed cat peepin’ in a seafood store
I’m like a one-eyed cat peepin’ in a seafood store

Well I can look at you till you ain’t no child no more

Ah, shake, rattle and roll, shake, rattle and roll
Shake, rattle and roll, shake, rattle and roll
Well, you won’t do right to save your doggone soul

I get over the hill and way down underneath
I get over the hill and way down underneath
You make me roll my eyes, even make me grit my teeth

I said shake, rattle and roll, shake, rattle and roll
Shake, rattle and roll, shake, rattle and roll
Well, you won’t do nothin’ to save your doggone soul

Shake, rattle and roll!

The President proposed a plan to reduce the deficit by $1.5, which includes raising taxes on the “wealthy”.  Now, a few articles mention that it’s over a 10 year period, but many leave it out, and it’s important.  Doing the math, the current yearly deficit is projected to be around $1.2T.  Assuming a 10 year plan with no change in income or spending (ha!), that’s a $12T deficit, and $1.5T is a 15% drop, or a $10.5T addition to the already $14T+ debt.

Further, cuts are included as part of this plan, which included a $650B cut in Medicare/Medicaid.  The left balked and he’s backed down from that to  $320B number and taking Social Security Reform off the table as well (http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/09/19/obama-yields-to-liberal-outcry-on-entitlement-reform/), so that’s $1.18T in deficit cutting now…. not even a years worth of Deficit spending, over a 10 year period (simple math says less than 10%). Either way, the maximum revenue, assuming the only cuts were those $320B, would be $850B.  That’s a large number… but that’s over 10 years!  That’s $85B a year in taxes (averaged of course).

These are not serious answers to the problem.  Raising the rate on Americans who employ the rest of us does the opposite of stimulating the economy.  For a paltry $85B/year we are going to stagnate job creation, competition, and punish the “wealthy”, who, if I haven’t pointed it out enough already: HIRE THE REST OF US!

Lest you think $85B is a huge number (it should be!), consider these facts:

 

2011 est Total Revenue: $2.17T ($85B is 4% of that)

2011 est Total Spending: 3.82T ($85B is 2.2% of that)

2011 est Deficit: 1.65T ($85B is 5.1%)

(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_United_States_federal_budget)

So, it is true that the amount of money asking to be paid by the “rich” is a small number in comparison to overall revenue and spending, and one might ask “so what’s the big deal then”?  I’m of the mind that any less money that anyone has in their hands is less money that gets circulated.  Each dollar that is spent is not taxed just once, it’s taxed as it’s spent again and again.  But once money is taxed, it’s generally out of the loop.  Yes, it might be spent by the government, and taxed again, but by that time it’s already added a level of inefficiency that makes the same process done privately much more beneficial to the economy.

If you tell me I’m going to have 5% less money this year than last, I’m going to make changes that involve me spending less (an anti-stimulative effect when multiplied).  What makes you think that the wealthy are going to act any different? Further, what makes you think they won’t just move *more* money into tax-exempt holdings in order to keep their own money over the long haul.  Every time taxes have been raised, that’s been the effect (http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/277249/you-can-t-tax-rich-thomas-sowell).  That’s what the famed Warren Buffet does. I argue, that if you really want to tax the wealthy at a higher rate than the rest of us, then you want to eliminate some of those loopholes (which has been proposed by both sides, but never without the addition of several other measues).

I, for one, have never understood the attack on the job creators of this country.  We cannot be a truly free society while we force those who employ the rest of us to pay more than their fair share (and apparently “fair” is a higher percentage of their money than of mine… a ridiculous notion to begin with).  If Warren Buffet thinks he needs to pay more, then he should lobby for the removal of the tax breaks that allow him to skirt the IRS.  The fact is, however, that he’s an exception to the rule, and that most of the wealthy *do* pay more than the rest of us both in real value and as a percentage (http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iP3lhS4ZQ-UhyUvFfUgdPCiu-jJA?docId=47a565563a294b2bad96544a7f0ddc1b).

The deficit and debt are surely huge problems that must be addressed, and everyone should agree that both raising revenue and cutting spending are both parts of the equation.  Where we surely disagree is how to raise that revenue.  I argue that we stop this class envy and get logical about it.  Reducing our military presence where it makes sense to worldwide, cutting all programs across the board, closing loopholes that allow some to skirt the existing tax rates, and allowing the economy to grow *privately* are the methods I see as best.  By allowing the private sector to grow, the economy grows (and thus tax revenue grows).

Look, the economy will naturally grow, our problem simply is that we grow spending faster than we grow the economy and revenue.  If we simply stop adding to spending, eventually it catches up.  That’s not sufficient to solve our problem in a timely manner, but it’s a start.  All I see from the current administration (and most politicians for that matter), is an insistence on stifling growth.  Almost every government policy has a net effect of slowing the economy.

The best thing that could be done right now is to have a true pro-business and growth policy and stop attacking the wealth makers and job creators.  Simply giving our businesses some stability by promising a no tax policy increase policy would generate good-will and reduce fear, thus freeing many companies and individuals to start spending and entrepreneurship.

This post is particularly addressed to the DJs who DJ with me at HotJam, but I post it publicly anyway.

—————-

DJing a swing event can be fun, but it should be treated responsibly. When stated that way, it can sound like we’re taking ourselves too seriously as dancers and DJs.  I don’t mean to, as we all love dancing, and the music that we choose to dance to, and overly discussing and analyzing a thing can take a way a lot of that fun.  We do, however, need to treat it as a responsibility as well as a privilege.  We get to provide the foundation for a lot of people to have a good time

I say all this to start a dicussion about good and bad practices that swing DJs fall into, some guidelines as they pertain to DJing at HotJam, and to hopefully share some ideas how we may all improve our DJing, and thus the good times that we provide and get to enjoy ourselves.

First the guidelines:

* Music Selection – HotJam provides a specific niche (or more likely related niches) that other venues may or may not provide.  From experience I’ve found that the quickest way to kill a venues to to try to be too inclusive.  What that means for our DJs is that we would like folks to stick to a foundation of Vintage and Vintage inspired music.   That’s a pretty vague definition, purposefully, as everyone should feel free to play good dance music… but the foundation should stick to what people expect:  Good solid Swing music.  Other styles are not “banned”, so it’s OK to hear some blues, soul, and even pop at Hot Jam, but if you are doing so, you should be mindful of how you got there, and how you are getting back (more on this the “transitions” and “observation” sections).  Theme nights, when they occur, are generally exempt from this of course.

* Requests – Request are great to take and attempt to handle, but if they do not fit your set, your comfort zone, or just do not work with HotJam guidelines (and you feel there is no way to make it work), then you should feel comfortable in saying “I’m sorry, I can’t”.  You cannot make everyone happy.  Someone not too long ago asked me for some specific Frank Sinatra, and I honestly did not have what they wanted.  They were not pleased with me, thinking “what kind of swing DJ doesn’t have a lot of Frank”.  I hate to disappoint, but so be it.

* Tempos and transitions – It’s always a real trick to play music that everyone can and wants to dance to.  In my experience there’s a good comfort zone anywhere from the low 100 BPMs to around 180BPM for the average dancer.  I myself try to keep my “baseline tempo” around 155BPM.  That just means if I averaged my set, i’d probably end up in that area “overall”. That doesn’t mean play all songs in that tiny range, and never play songs outside of the average comfort zone.  You should be mindful not to string too many songs together that alienate a lot of people.  Transition your tempos in a comfortable and fun way.  If you just played a 200BPM song, it’s probably not wise to follow it with two more faster songs, yet I think it’s jarring to suddenly go from 200BPM to 110BPM every time you play a fast song.  Transitions don’t just apply to tempo, however.  We do have a lot of different styles to play in our sets, and it’s equally jarring to play “Jumpin’ at the woodside” and then follow it up with “Wade in the water”.  The two styles are danceable, but there isn’t an obvious connection. I like to challenge myself by thinking of ways to get from point A to point B.  “Jumpin’ at the Woodside”, followed by “St. Louis Blues”, followed by “Christopher Columbus (Maxine Sullivan Version), then finally to “Wade in the Water” for example, might be one way I “get there”.  Of course, I’ll need to get back too (especially since “Wade in the Water” is outside my own comfort zone).   Sometimes you can make dramatic changes, and they can make sense and are even fun, but you really need to know your crowd and the mood… which brings us to the next guideline.

* Pay attention – It’s easy to become self-involved in what we are playing, and to think “This is a great song, they’ll love it”.  But that’s not always the best way to DJ.  Watch the crowd, see what they are enjoying, and work to keep them happy.   A good DJ can challenge themselves by directing the group to enjoy music that they might not normally enjoy, if they are observant and employ good transitions.  I myself like to dance a song here and there while I DJ.  This allows me to get a better feel of whether the crowd is enjoying it or not.  Be careful though, as it’s quite easy to ignore your surroundings, especially if you are playing one of your favorite songs, or even worse, one of your “new discoveries”.  Use the “dance and dj” combination carefully, and probably sparingly.

Beyond the guidelines, I have never been afraid to share my opinion (much to the dismay of many I’m sure), and won’t hesitate to do so here.  I have a lot of things that work for me, or maybe they don’t, you can let me know.  I’m not saying you have to do it my way, but if any of us have some holes in our DJing skills, perhaps we can learn from each other.

* Try not to have pre-established sets.  Almost all new DJs go through a period of time where they generate their music set lists prior to DJing.  I totally understand this, as it can be very stressful to attempt to put together a list of music that people will like, and having plenty of time to think about this allows us to concentrate on the technical aspects of DJing (going to the next song, not accidentally cutting off a song, playing the wrong song, screwing up the volume, or any number of other things).  I would encourage you to *NOT* make set lists as soon as you can get out of doing so.  I can put together a list of 20 – 30 songs that I love to dance to and think are great, but there’s no telling how those songs are going to go over once you start.  You *must* be flexible in your song selection.  This is especially true if you get a request.  If you get an odd request that doesn’t fit your current set-list, then there is no transition.  If I have to play a song I didn’t account for, I immediately surround it with “transition” songs, and almost never immediately play the request.

I tend to throw a bunch of songs I want to play into my queue and then start moving them around and adding songs between them. Ultimately some of those songs get removed because I’m noticing that they won’t play well, or might not even transition well.

* Don’t go out of your way to make one person happy.   Often times DJs have specialized skills or collections, and they are selected to DJ because of that.  If your are one of those types and you try to fulfill a request that is outside your comfort zone, it’s going to be very obvious.    Further, if someone is requesting something outside the comfort zone of the crowd, you’re just going to make a larger group unhappy, rather than that one person who isn’t going to get what they want.

* Improve your DJ setup.  I am *NOT* a fan of iTunes as a DJ platform.  I’m unfortunately in a growing minority here.  If you must use it, then you need to learn how to preview songs while others are playing.  You might remember that one song you are about to play as being great, but if you had a chance to listen to it you might find that it doesn’t transition well, or isn’t even the version you were thinking about.  Get yourself a USB external sound device so that you can both listen and play at the same time, and learn how to use both.  I’m not sure how you do that using iTunes, since I refuse to use it for anything other than manipulating my iPhone.  I use BPM Studio, a full fledged DJ application.  Regardless, the important part is being able to listen and play two different songs at the same time.

* Tempos.  I’ve found that, as a dancer, the first song I hear and dance to tends to be my baseline for the rest of the night.  Therefor if the first song I hear is 130BPM, then everything, for the rest of the night, is either faster or slower than that.   It’s for that reason that I started playing a slightly faster song, to build a more realistic baseline, if I was the first DJ of the evening.  I personally like to dance to songs in the 180 range as an average, and got annoyed whenever everyone asked me to “play something slower”.   Also, realize that the style of your music can actually make the song seem faster or slower than it is.  The last time I was at HotJam I asked someone to dance when I played a song in the “Boogie” style.  They said “yes, but not this song, it’s too fast”.  I refused to let them get away with it since the song was probably around 160bpm, but sounded faster due to the boogie rhythm.  I think in the end they understood.   I’ve had people ask for something “fast” but what they really meant was “neo-swing”.  Again: Know your crowd.

Well, that’s it… Let me know where I’m full of crap, or where you think you can help me (and others) improve.

A Decline in Health

A little over a year ago I posted about trying to get in shape.  I considered my options, and began a program of P90X, as I had seen so many of my friends be successful with it.

Things started off well, and I got through the first month.  Summer approached, and we started our summer vacation with a trip to California to visit my family and friends.  While there I attempted to keep up with the workouts, but struggled to find the time.

Upon returning, I found that I could not get through the workouts anymore.  I started feeling *really* bad, and it was as if I had never started the program, or even worse, it was like I had degraded.  Obviously this was more than frustrating, it was demoralizing.  I attempted to restart P90X several times, all with resounding failures.

I wasn’t sure what was wrong, and went along this path for several months.  During this time I noticed my energy level dropping severely so that even a walk up the stairs would drain me.  I rapidly gained weight (10-15lbs in the course of 3 months), and generally felt like crap.

Then it was time for my annual physical and checkup.  I went in, and didn’t really tell the doctor that I was out of energy or anything, as I just felt like I was getting older, and my lack of drive was my own fault.  I felt like if I tried hard enough, I could overcome it all, but I was having a hard time getting the motivation.

Discovery

The next week my doctor calls me and says everything checks out ok, except that I might have “Hypothyroid” disease.  This actually rang a bell since my mother and sister (and it turns out many people on my mothers side), have the same problem.  All I really knew about the disorder was that it affects mostly women, and that it can cause rapid fluctuations in weight.  Notably I’ve seen this in both my mom and sister.  I never expected I’d end up with the problem, however, and never learned much about it.

After doing my research, I discovered that almost all my ailments, including a developing high anxiety, could be attributed to the problem.  My body attacked my own thyroid gland and was no longer able to produce a much needed hormone, and the imbalance was causing all sorts of awful side-effects.

After another blood test to confirm, I started hormone replacement.  At the same time the anxiety peaked.  This was something I had *never* experienced before.  It was so bad that I ended up having a full heart workup because I felt like my heart was going to burst out my chest.  After everything checked out ok, and spending about 6 weeks on the medication, I started to feel a *lot* better.

My weight gain stopped, the anxiety disappeared completely, and some of my energy returned.  The fact that I hadn’t done much and weighed a good 15lbs more still affected my overall energy level, and I knew the only way I could get back to something close to normal was to start exercising again.  I knew I needed to start slow.

A Failed Goal revisited

I started borrowing my sons bike and taking regular bike rides.  This was good, as I could push myself a little, and enjoy things around me.  I’d start taking rides to the store, or just around, evening visiting a few roads I hadn’t been on before.  Unfortunately the weather didn’t always agree, the amount of road that was safe to travel on was small, and my son wasn’t always willing to give up his bike.  I began to wonder if I wanted to buy my own bike suitable for exercise (I do own a wonderful bike, but it’s a vintage style “cruiser” that Candy bought me).  In the end I decided against it.

Then a Tae Kwon Do studio opened up a few miles away.

A little background:  When I was a pre-teen living in Utah, I joined a Tae Kwon Do Club.  For a couple of years I practiced and progressed quite well.  I found something I really enjoyed, and was good at.  By the time I left I was often teaching part of the class for my teacher while he taught some other students.  But then we had to move to California.  Leaving Tae Kwon Do was probably the worst part of the move for me.  When we arrived in California, we temporarily lived in Atascadero, and I found a studio in Morro Bay that I attended for a short time.  But then we moved to a ranch in the hills of Santa Barbara, a minimum of 25miles from any studio.  I tried a few, but I was still too young to drive, my mother doesn’t drive, and my father was usually too tired from working to want to drive, wait for me to do the class, and drive back.

Long story short, my Tae Kwon Do path was over.

When I got into college, I joined a TKD club there in my last year when one was created, but that didn’t last either.

I don’t have many regrets in life, as I always figure the paths we chose, right or wrong, got me to where I am today, and I’m happy with most things.  I have always felt a deep disappointment that I never achieved any real goals in my TKD life.  I never got my black belt.  I failed myself.

Back to present day…

I checked out the TKD studio, and found that I enjoyed it.  I started going to the basic class as I was determined to start completely over and see if I could hack it.  Fortunately a lot of it came back quickly.  The workouts were very hard at first (the first one I thought I was going to vomit), but my restored health was serving me well.  After a few months it was time for my first belt test, and I was promoted back to a Green Belt, which is close to where I left off.  I’m still doing quite well, and have joined the “Black Belt Club” which puts me on the path to actually getting my Black Belt.  I know it will not be an easy task, but this is one goal I’ve regretted not completing in my life.

Tae Kwon Do also teaches a balance in life that I’ve struggled with for years.  The tenets of Tae Kwon Do (Courtesy, Integrity, Self-Control, Perseverance, Indomitable Spirit) are things I very much need to work on.

During this time, I’ve lost 10lbs of what I call the “thyroid weight”, and generally feel a lot better.  The years have caught up to me a bit, and my knee does cause me some trouble, but otherwise I’m doing well.

Unfortunately this training isn’t without cost.  This studio is not cheap, and I do feel guilty about spending so much money… I’m afraid my family doesn’t understand my need to try to fulfill this long-time goal, but I’m hoping they’ll grow to understand.  Two other times in my life I’ve said “I have to do that” (the first was when I heard a Jazz band play, and I decided I had to play in a Jazz ensemble.  The second was when I saw swing dancers dance for the first time and said “I Have to do that”. ) This third time is a bit different, in that I saw the goal: Getting in shape and getting my black belt.  I have to do this, not only for myself, but to get myself in shape so that I can be happy and healthy for my family.

So that’s where I stand.  At the beginning of something that will take 2-3 years to complete and will be a lot of hard work. Wish me luck, or better yet, wish me strength and perseverance…

*  Is it OK that the government is seizing private domain names on the internet?
(Stipulation: the domains *are* being used to advertise and sell pirated material)

*  Is it OK that the government has injected itself into the airline industry in the form of the TSA, and that people are required to give up their 4th amendment right to ride on a plane in a private industry?  And where the heck is the ACLU on this?

*  Does it concern you that when they do something so outrageous, as the physical pat-downs, it seems like full-body scans aren’t that big of a deal anymore?  Do you think that might have been the plan all-along?

*  Does it worry you that the government promised not to monetize our debt, but has done so anyway in order to prevent deflation (not inflation)?

*  Does it concern you that when figuring the rate of inflation the government does not use food and energy costs in that calculation?

*  Have you noticed that the price of food and energy have gone up at a higher rate than our so-called inflation rate?

*  Do you worry that recent classified document leaks embarrass the standing of our country as well as endanger the lives of those in our military?

*  Do you think a “two-year pay freeze” for federal employees will do anything to reduce the deficit?  And mustn’t it be nice to know, as a federal employee, that you’re job is secure for those two years, despite not getting a salary bump?

*  Do you remember when the debate was about “reducing the rising cost of health-care”?  What’s you’re insurance bill looking like these days?

*  Does it concern you that ousted congressmen, who are no longer accountable to their constituency, can still pass whatever laws they feel like.

*  Is “Censure” punishment enough for a congressman who’s been found guilty of ethic violations?

*  Should “Free speech” be regulated via the likes of the FCC and “Net-Neutrality” by our government?

Over the past few years I’ve been growing more and more disgusted with myself as I’ve grown lethargic and just plain grown. I used to have dancing and youth to keep me in check. Youth has turned into middle age and there just isn’t as much time and inspiration for dance. Not to mention that a song or two leaves me incredibly winded.

I’ve watched as a number of friends and dancers have got themselves into shape again, and met people older than me who look (and I’m sure feel) younger than me. Longtime friends of mine are even fitness gurus (experts on cross-fit).

A need to get back into shape, gain some muscle tone and improve my energy level has overcome me. Any sort of exercise would be an improvement, but I’ve seen a lot of my friends do P90X with great success. Despite my cross-fit friends recommendation that I follow a cross-fit plan, I decided to try a session of P90X for my initial transformation into fitness.

I chose the path for a few reasons, with the biggest of which is that I have multiple friends going through the program at the same time, so I have a support system that I can use. Getting through a few weeks and making exercise a habit is my highest priority besides getting into shape. After I finish the program I will move on to a regular workout, and hope to get some good advice from my cross-fit guru friends, as I see how it’s worked for and become a lifestyle for them.

So I began the program a week ago. Going from zero exercise to an intense program like P90X is not necessarily the smartest thing to do. Day one was difficult to get through. When I finished the first part (chest and back), I felt like I was going to puke. The ab ripper portion went painfully as I have absolutely no stomach muscles it would seem.

Day two started off with me being pretty sore, but I made it through the plyometrics workout without getting sick. By the time day three rolled around I was so sore that I was unsure I could do another workout, but once I began warming up I knew I was able to get through it. I continued on through the week doing pretty well until I had a slight pull up bar accident and fell on my tailbone. Since then a few exercises have been out of the question, most specifically the ab workouts and anything involving jumping.

I’m now into my ninth day, and I’m feeling the results. Despite a few minor setbacks in the diet (i.e. a memorial day BBQ), I’ve lost a pound or two and generally feel better. I can’t expect to *see* any results in the mirror yet, but I’m looking forward to the day I can. Each workout is getting a bit easier to make it through, even though I still don’t feel like I’m keeping up. I’m realistic enough to know that 90 days isn’t going to bring me a miracle transformation, but it will put me into the best shape I’ve been in years.

The diet is the hardest part. I’m not following the P90X nutrition plan (though I should), instead I’m making general smart choices like lowering my portions, eating snack between meals to keep my metabolism level, and skipping high fat and high calorie foods. No more fast food, no more sweetened drinks, and a lot less bread, red meat, and sugar for me.  Oh, and I’ve all but eliminated beer from my poker nights… talk about rough!

All I have to do is make this a new lifestyle for me, where everyday consists of better food and portion choices, and every day includes some form of exercise. This public declaration of my plan is my attempt to commit to it so that should I feel like giving up, there will be a bit of shame and guilt keeping me going. My hope is that after establishing all of this as a new lifestyle it will stick and I can continue to make improvements in my nutrition and health.

Stay tuned because if I do stick with it, and there are noticeable results I will certainly share the embarrassing before pictures, and proudly share the after. For now, however, the before/current shots stay safely tucked away. :)