The Seven Days of Thanksgiving: Day One

Next Thursday is Thanksgiving and I thought since it’s seven days until Turkey Day, why not try to blog once a day about something I’m thankful for? While I’m not actually certain that I can think of seven things off the top of my head, I’m fairly confident I can pull this off. I have a lot to be thankful for. I’m surrounded by great people, my life is practically perfect in every way, I’m amazingly healthy, and I’m the happiest I think I’ve been in my whole life. So I don’t think I’ll want for subject matter.

So day one, I think I’ll give a shout out to work. I’m thankful for not only having a job in this economy, but having the job I’ve got. I work with great people. Every day I get to come to a place that’s creative, that likes to think, that enjoys helping partners and clients solve problems that help their businesses, and that’s a pretty great thing. I really love my job and what I do, and for that, I’m thankful.

So here’s to work. Work is good.

The day I went, “holy shit, this is a real job”.

USS Arizona Memorial

Trust me, this would've changed your point of view as well.

I joined the Navy in 1985 at barely 18. I actually joined at 17, with my parents’ (reluctant) permission. When I was 17 I couldn’t WAIT to leave Richmond, Virginia. I chose the service (Navy), the job (Aviation Ordnanceman), and the duty station (Whidbey Island, Washington) precisely because it afforded me the opportunity to get as fuck-all far away from Richmond as I could get.

And get away I did. I went everywhere. You name it. Asia, South Pacific, Africa, Europe, the Mediterranean, Pacific, Atlantic, Middle East. You name the continent, I visited it. Did I have fun along the way? You bet your ass I did. With some of the greatest friends a guy could ever hope to make.

So when we pulled into Pearl Harbor for a couple of weeks of fun in the sun in Hawaii, for me, it was business as usual. Of course we’ll make a show of things. We’ll all get into our dress whites, and “man the rails” standing on the flight deck to make the Aircraft Carrier look even more majestic than it already does. We slowly make our way into the harbor to where we’ll ultimately dock. I knew that “manning the rails” was a time-honored tradition for all US Navy ships entering the harbor, and I really didn’t give it a second thought.

Then I see it.

It’s the USS Arizona. I’m sure you’ve heard of it, and I had too. I knew what happened at Pearl Harbor. I was, after all, in the Navy, right?

I just didn’t realize what it meant. Until that moment.

As the ship slowly passed the final resting place of 1,102 sailors killed on December 7, 1941, I saluted and it hit me.

“They were just like me.”

They were. They were kids. Boys. Sons, Fathers, Brothers. They all had someone back home they loved and who loved them. They all had a job to do, and when called upon, they did it, and ultimately sacrificed their lives for their country.

From that moment on, I wasn’t just some 19 year old asshole who got as far away from his shit-hole home as he could hope to get. I was a sailor, in the United States Navy.

So today, I think about all of them. I think about the kids right now who are getting planes ready to launch on some flight deck someplace in the middle of the Indian Ocean, sitting on Gonzo Station waiting for their next port. Writing letters to family members who miss them. This day is theirs.

“The Best Laid Plans…” and what my gut told me.

I had actually planned to write a lot this weekend. I felt like I had a lot of pent up blogging inside me. Like I had things to say and there was some underlying emotion bubbling through me that would somehow be cathartically released if I wrote about it. I mean, I can’t explain it. Ever have one of those feelings like, things are just over the horizon, and you can’t quite see them yet? They’re just not in focus, or not completely visible? That’s how I’ve felt for about the last couple of weeks. I think a lot of it has to do with Adobe Max this year. I’m struggling with the “all over the map” feeling that this year’s Max Conference has left me with. Oh, not in a bad way. In fact, it’s just the opposite. I feel as if there are dozens of opportunities out there for me to apply a little talent, a little skill, a little elbow grease, and wind up on the other side of a hugely rewarding experience. So I thought maybe meditating on it, spending a little time writing about it, and talking to some friends this weekend would help me sort things out in my brain-container.

Then Fallout: New Vegas arrived. Then I got a new iPhone.

I mean, seriously, could I have had two bigger distractions fall into my lap? First off, don’t even get me started on Fallout. I wrote about it a while back on my other blog. The previous version was my number one game of 2010 and the damn thing was released in 2009. I’m almost embarrassed to tell you how many hours I spent playing Fallout 3, but I will cop to it being in the hundreds. And don’t think I’m the only one. My wife not only loved Fallout 3, but she’s got a book she checked out from the library that’s a 14-day checkout (that’s already overdue), and on about three separate occasions this weekend she stopped what she was doing and sat next to me watching me fight dehydration (of course I’m playing it on hardcore mode, silly), fend of radscorpions, and work with “Fantastic” to squeeze more efficiency out of a solar panel array in the nuclear wasteland formerly known as “The Nevada Desert”. Quite simply, the game is magnificent. Oh sure, it’s basically an add-on pack to Fallout 3… but I don’t care. It’s more wasteland, more post-apocalyptic carnage & mayhem, and more piled on top of more. So here I sit, Monday morning, with barely any sleep on a weekend where I actually got an extra hour built into the weekend, having accomplished nothing more than learning how to tan golden gecko hides in the desert with some roots and turpentine. Oh, and I shot some ghouls into space. That was pretty cool.

The iPhone? I dunno. Jury’s still out on that one. I played with it a little. Wasn’t “blown away” but wasn’t disappointed either. Apple is Apple, and everything they touch they think through to such extreme that it’s almost annoying how perfectly everything works together. UI isn’t so alarming after owning an iPad for six months, but I have to tell you, if I didn’t own the iPad, jumping from 2 years on an Android phone to the iPhone would’ve been a lot more jarring experience. Having a Droid 2 and an iPhone simultaneously should be an interesting experience that I hope to spend a little more time exploring. Initial thoughts however, are a resounding, “meh”. It was, however, nice to have a new iPod. I will admit to spending an inordinate amount of time this weekend loading the shit out of it with Video/Movies/TV shows and music. Somehow Band of Horses just sounds better on a new iPod/iPhone. I can’t explain that… something about how shiny it is, I think.

But you know what? I don’t regret a minute of it. I think my gut was telling me to relax. I spent a week in Los Angeles on sensory overload and it actually felt nice to curl up on the sofa all weekend, enjoy time with the family and decompress a little. I cooked dinner for my mom, went grocery shopping, and helped my daughter go on a “wildlife safari”. Taking occasional time outs to shoot the arms off of legionnaires who don’t like me because of my tremendously good karma (the idolize me in Novac!) was just the icing on the cake as far as I’m concerned.

My Top Ten Snack Foods

You know, I eat about 6 times a day. If you subtract breakfast, lunch, and dinner, that means 50% of my day is what you’d be forced to classify as “snacks”. The simple math says if you’re eating every 2 1/2 to 3 hours, and you’re consuming around 300 calories each time, you’re consuming about 1800 calories a day, on the low-end. My breakfast typically runs from 220 calories (Oatmeal and a cup of blue/black/straw/raspberries) to 270ish (6 egg whites, green peppers, onions, mushrooms and a whole wheat bagel). My HUGE lunch (Double fiber whole wheat bread, low sodium roast beef, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, a cucumber, half a dozen stalks of celery) stuffs me and weighs in at about 270 calories, so that leaves me some wiggle room at dinner to consume about 400-500 calories,  and three opportunities during the day to consume about 300 calories and I’m still significantly under 2000 calories a day. Now factor in AT LEAST half an hour of hard cycling a day (which burns anywhere from 500-700 calories JUST for a half an hour… imagine what I burn in three hours of riding on weekends?) and AT LEAST two to three days of swimming or weight training each week… and you can see how I end up in a serious calorie deficit and a lot of times have to eat significantly more just to avoid losing too much weight.

So my snacks have become somewhat of an obsession with me and I’ve got so many creative ways to eat 300 or so nutrient dense, healthy calories. I’ve noticed however, that over time, I’ve settled on a handful of what I would consider my “go to” snacks of choice. What follows is kind of my own personal “top ten” (but purposely in no particular order… it’d be like trying to pick my favorite child) list of snacks that I really love to eat.

Popcorn – (Serving Size: 3 Tbsp, Calories: 130) – A $20 Air Popper from Target changed my life. No oil, half a cup of kernels, and you’ve got all the makings of a delicious, 300 calorie snack that basically fills a bucket. Every night (and I mean every night) I end the evening sitting down with a nice hot bowl of freshly popped popcorn with no mess to clean up. It’s high in that dietary fiber that our hearts and arteries love so much, it’s actually got a little protein to it, and dammit if it doesn’t fill you right up.

Chobani Greek Yogurt – (Serving Size: 1 Cup, Calories: Approximately 140) – I discovered this through “Eat This Not That: The Supermarket Guide”. Actually, to be more accurate, I discovered Greek Yogurt through the book. Chobani just happens to be my favorite brand. I love the Peach, Strawberry, and Blueberry, and was fortunate enough to run across it at Costco, which sells a dozen containers for just under a dollar each, which is a pretty good price. Each one of these little gems packs about 10 grams of protein into 140 calorie servings with zero fat. It’s almost like your own little delicious cup of protein bar. Think about that. You’re looking for about 300 calories to snack on, and if you added a boatload of fruit to this, you’d be hard pressed to get it up to 200 calories. Go ahead, treat yourself to some Triscuits while you’re at it.

Kirkland Signature Dried Mango and Berries – (Serving Size 1/3 Cup, Calories: 100) – My wife found these at Costco as well. As if I don’t get enough fruit already, here’s a great way to carry it on car rides, on trips to the beach, family outings, picnics, bike rides in the park. You name it. 1/3 a cup is only 100 calories, so you could cram a whole damn cup of these things into a ziplock baggie and snack on them all afternoon. As an added bonus, I’ll point out that the dried strawberries are so delicious you’ll be fighting over them, so pick and eat strategically. I treat them like I used to treat the marshmallows in Lucky Charms. I’d eat all the cereal first, so I’d have a whole bowl of marshmallows to end my breakfast. I like to try and end with a bag full of dried strawberries. Then I treat myself to a grand finish.

Chex Mix – (Serving Size 2/3 Cup, Calories: 120) – I love Chex Mix. Some of the flavored versions are good, some of them are bad, some of them are somewhat nutritionally bad, but when it comes to guilt-free snacking, nothing beats the good ol’ original flavored Chex Mix. I love those little brown melba toast bits and my daughter and I regularly spar over them. 2/3 a cup is actually a nice bowl-full and if you wanna double it, you’re only looking at about 240 calories, so this is one snack that I don’t feel very bad about over-indulging beyond the single serving recommendation. Like all snacks of this nature, watch the sodium, but if you’re generally eating healthy and this is your only sodium rich indulgence, then I think it might be okay.

Oatmeal – (Serving Size: 1/2 Cup Dry, Calories: 150) – Breakfast? Has to be oatmeal. I don’t know exactly when it happened, but sometime over the last year or so I became a 100% official crack-addicted oatmeal addict. I have to eat the shit at least once a day, and if I don’t eat it for breakfast because I chose egg whites that day, then I make it a point to eat it as a snack later in the afternoon. It fills you up like no other food, and when you add fruit to piping hot oatmeal, and the oatmeal cooks the blueberries, blackberries or strawberries a little, it’s heaven. Pure heaven. I don’t sweeten my oatmeal in any way, because, like I said, at some point I just started to realize that I loved the flavor of oatmeal. I don’t like brown sugar in it, but if I have no other fruit around and have to resort to a serving of raisins, I’ll lightly sweeten it with just a teaspoon of brown sugar, and when you don’t normally sweeten your oatmeal, a teaspoon is more than enough. One of the best things I’ve discovered is using frozen berries with the oatmeal. Frozen berries, like most frozen fruits and vegetables are actually as good, and in some cases better nutritionally than fresh picked fruits and berries. Frozen fruits and vegetables are picked at the peak of ripeness and quickly frozen, trapping important nutrients that a lot of times get lost in the time it takes fresh fruits and vegetables to make it to your dinner table. You can find mixed berry medleys at every supermarket I’ve been to, and the price is reasonable. Put them in the fridge and they don’t even need to thaw all the way before use, the piping hot oatmeal will thaw anything you add to it. Quaker Instant Oats, a cup of Frozen Mixed Berries, and in about 2 minutes, you’ve got the most delicious way to start the day since coffee was invented.

In-Season Fruit – (Serving Size: One Fruit, Calories: Depends) – There’s nothing I can say about Fruit except, “I’ve never met an in-season fruit I didn’t like”. Strawberries, Blackberries, Blueberries, Peaches, Watermelon, Grapes, Pineapple, Apples, Kiwis, Oranges, Tangerines, Grapefruit. I eat so much fruit on a daily basis that I never worry about heart-healthy dietary fiber because I’m sure I get it in fruit alone. I love adding fruit to my yogurt. I add fruit to my oatmeal. I eat bananas on Triscuits. You name it, I’ll put fruit on it, in it, near it…

Cucumbers – (Serving Size: 1 Medium Cucumber, Calories: 45) – Man, I can’t get enough of cucumbers. I actually went to Target one day during a lunch break to go get my own paring knife because I was hogging the one here at the office because I ate them so much. Look, they’re forty-five calories, man! What do you expect? They fill you up like mad, they’re astonishingly delicious chilled, and if you wanna REALLY knock ’em out of the park, thinly slice them, mix them with some red onion, add a dash of olive oil and vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, and go ahead and treat yourself to a little mouth orgasm.

Food Lion Seltzer Water – (Serving Size: Unlimited, Calories: 0) – I don’t drink sodas. At all. Ever. I don’t even like them when I go out to dinner as some kind of “treat”. I honestly can’t stand them. Syrupy Sweetness of Corn Syrups or over-sugared drinks that, at this point, just nauseate me. It wasn’t always like that though, and I can’t remember the exact moment that I realized how much I disliked sodas, but it happened as a result of discovering this at my local Food Lion. For about 88 cents (yes, you read that right) I can get a two liter bottle of Seltzer Water. Not “Club Soda”. Not “Tonic Water”. Seltzer Water. Look at the ingredients. See what it says? It says, “Water”. That’s it. Nothing else. You buy two or three of these, and with the money you saved over Coke, Pepsi, or whatever shit you’re buying, walk over to the produce section and spend it on a couple lemons and limes. Now guess what? You’re drinking water with lime and lemon… and it’s carbonated. It’s refreshing, light, effervescent, and most of all, delicious. You’ll never drink a shitty over-sweet soda again.

Triscuits – (Serving Size: 7 crackers, Calories: 120) – Again, scoring points because of the ingredients list, which (for the reduced fat version) is all of three ingredients. Whole (notice that key word? “Whole”?) Grain Soft White Winter Wheat, Soybean Oil, Salt. Seven of these babies packs 3 grams of dietary fiber too. Great for the heart. They pair up easily with other items as well. A couple of ounces of cheese slices, some fresh, homemade guacamole, cottage cheese, peanut butter. The possibilities are endless, and each one is as delicious as the last. Definitely my “go-to” snack food. The dietary equivalent to the “Multi-Tool”.

Nut Butters – (Serving Size: 2 Tbsp, Calories: About 190) – This, I believe is my number one snack (I know, I said “not in order”… but this is my one exception). Notice I didn’t write “Peanut Butter”. There’s a reason for that. Peanut Butter is a close second, but it’s just behind Almond Butter. If you haven’t tried Almond Butter, then I highly suggest you close this browser window right now, get up, get in your car and drive to the nearest location that sells almond butter. It’s easily the greatest snack on earth. High in monounsaturated fats, Vitamin E, and lower in saturated fats than Peanut Butter, Almond Butter is the gift that keeps on giving. My favorite brand is Maranatha. They sell no-stir varieties, but I believe the no-stir contains palm oil. In the case of both peanut butter AND Almond Butter, I will absolutely insist on the ingredients being simply the nut, and perhaps salt as part of the roasting process. Palm oil is a cheap oil that’s added to nut butter to prevent the oils from separating. Unfortunately, it’s really high in saturated fats, which actually makes the whole exercise of eating nut butters pointless. Why on earth would you add sugar, palm oil, or any other additive to something as delicious as a peanut and an almond? You wouldn’t, unless you were a moron. Smucker’s makes the MOST delicious all natural peanut butters. The Crunchy version has a delicious, deeply roasted, peanut flavor, and if you simply must have a sweetened peanut butter, they make an all natural smooth peanut butter sweetened with honey. The ingredients read like some down-home recipe, “Peanuts, Salt, Honey”. They’re wonderful, delicious additions to your diet, just make sure you maintain strict portion control. I recommend partnering the peanut butter with the single serving of Triscuits. There’s a great snack that will fill you up for a couple hours, and only weighs in at about exactly 300 or so calories.

“Hi, I’m Troy McClure. You may remember me from…”

I don’t think anyone could disagree that one of the greatest supporting characters from The Simpsons is the legendary B-movie actor Troy McClure. Voiced by Phil Hartman, he first appeared in the season 2 episode, “Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment”. He was a recurring supporting character, finally getting an entire episode to himself in the seventh season titled, “A Fish Called Selma” where he marries Selma Bouvier, we learn a little more about his life, and discover his strange sexual proclivity (hint, fish). He was based on real life actors Troy Donahue and Doug McClure, who, according to writer Mike Reiss (who at one point met McClure’s daughter) found the homage funny. Apparently his kids would often call him, “Troy McLure” behind his back.

Recently, while riding my bike in the garage, I switched up my DVD selections and got out my Simpsons season two DVD box set. When going through the list of episodes I jumped all over the chance to watch Troy’s first appearance, and since then he’s been all I can think about lately. Phil Hartman was such a gifted actor and had such amazing talent that I found myself actively searching for every appearance of his I could find, including Lionel Hutz, Attorney at Law. But it will always be Troy McClure that so perfectly captures the heart of why the Simpsons is/was a great show. That a small, recurring supporting character could create such a following is really a testament to the show’s appeal.

So without further ado, here’s the complete list of movies, television shows, musical, specials, and of course, celebrity funerals that Troy McClure “starred in”. I would love to tell you that I have a favorite in this list, but I don’t. I love them all. I find myself laughing out loud at practically all of them. Of course I shamelessly stole this list from a couple of places, so credit where credit is due.

Enjoy. I know I do. I’m glad I have this on my blog so I can occasionally look it up, read it, and chuckle. I hope you do the same.

Regular Movies

  • Alice’s Adventure through the Windshield Glass (ref. Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There)
  • The Boatjacking of Supership ’79 (ref. The Concorde: Airport ’79)
  • Calling All Quakers (with Dolores Montenegro)
  • Christmas Ape
  • Christmas Ape Goes To Summer Camp
  • The Contrabulous Fabtraption of Professor Horatio Hufnagel
  • Cry Yuma (ref. Cry Havoc, Cry Freedom)
  • David versus Super Goliath
  • Dial M for Murderousness (ref. Dial M for Murder)
  • The Electric Gigolo (ref. The Electric Horseman and American Gigolo)
  • The Erotic Adventures of Hercules (ref. The Erotic Adventures of Zorro/The Erotic Adventures of Robinson Crusoe)
  • Give My Remains to Broadway (ref. Give My Regards to Broadway)
  • Gladys the Groovy Mule (ref. Francis the Talking Mule)
  • Good-Time Slim, Uncle Doobie, and the Great ‘Frisco Freak-Out’
  • The Greatest Story Ever Hulaed (ref. The Greatest Story Ever Told)
  • Here Comes the Coast Guard (ref. Here Comes the Navy)
  • Hitler Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (ref. Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore)
  • Hydro, the Man With the Hydraulic Arms (ref. X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes)
  • Leper in the Backfield (ref. Angels in the Outfield)
  • Make-Out King of Montana (ref. Cattle Queen of Montana)
  • Meet Joe Blow (ref. Meet Joe Black, Meet John Doe)
  • The Muppets Go Medieval (ref. Muppet movie series)
  • “P” is for Psycho (ref. Psycho and novels by Sue Grafton)
  • Preacher With a Shovel (with Dolores Montenegro) KNOBBB
  • The President’s Neck is Missing (ref. The President’s Plane is Missing)
  • The Revenge of Abe Lincoln
  • The Seven-Year Old Bitch (ref. The Seven Year Itch)
  • Sorry, Wrong Closet (ref. Sorry, Wrong Number)
  • Suddenly Last Supper (ref. Suddenly Last Summer)
  • They Came to Burgle Carnegie Hall
  • Today We Kill, Tomorrow We Die (ref. US title of Dario Argento’s Western Oggi a me… domani a te!)
  • The Verdict Was Mail Fraud
  • The Wackiest Covered Wagon in the West (ref. The Wackiest Ship in the Army, The Wackiest Wagon Train in the West)
  • Jagged Attraction (ref. Jagged Edge , Fatal Attraction)
  • Look Who’s Still Oinking (ref. Look Who’s Talking series)Educational films and self help videos

Educational films and self help videos

  • 60 Minutes of Car Crash Victims
  • Adjusting Your Self-O-Stat (with Brad Goodman)
  • Alice’s Adventure through the Windshield Glass (ref. Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There)
  • Alice Doesn’t Live Any More (ref. Alice Doesn’t Live Here Any More)
  • Birds: Our Fine Feathered Colleagues
  • The Decapitation of Larry Leadfoot
  • Designated Drivers: The Lifesaving Nerds
  • Dig Your Own Grave and Save
  • Earwigs, Ew!
  • Firecrackers: The Silent Killer
  • Fuzzy Bunny’s Guide to You-Know-What (sex education film for children, shown in Springfield Elementary, the film shown was loosely based on Fritz the Cat)
  • Get Confident, Stupid!
  • The Half-Assed Approach to Foundation Repair
  • Here Comes the Metric System
  • Lead Paint: Delicious But Deadly
  • Locker Room Towel Fights: The Blinding of Larry Driscoll
  • Man Versus Nature: The Road To Victory
  • Meat and You – Partners in Freedom (a Meat Council film, part of the “Resistance is Useless” series)
  • Mommy, What’s Wrong With That Man’s Face? (ref. The Man Without a Face)
  • Mothballing Your Battleship
  • Phony Tornado Alerts Reduce Readiness
  • Shoplifters BEWARE
  • Smoke Yourself Thin
  • Someone’s in the Kitchen with DNA! (ref. children’s song “Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah”)
  • Toxic Paint- Tasty But Deadly!
  • Two Minus Three Equals Negative Fun
  • Young Jebediah Springfield (A Watch-and-Learn Production)
  • Welcome to Springfield Airport (an information kiosk film)
  • Where’s Nordstrom? (an information kiosk film)

TV specials

  • Alien Nose Job (ref. Alien autopsy)
  • Carnival of the Stars (ref. Circus of the Stars)
  • Five Fabulous Weeks of The Chevy Chase Show
  • Let’s Save Tony Orlando’s House
  • Out With Gout ’88
  • The Miss American Girl Pageant
  • The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular
  • The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase

TV series

  • AfterMannix (ref. AfterMASH and Mannix)
  • America’s Funniest Tornadoes (ref. America’s Funniest Home Videos)
  • Buck Henderson, Union Buster
  • Handel with Kare (ref. The Odd Couple and Switch).
  • I Can’t Believe They Invented It! (an infomercial)
  • Shortland Street (unlikely to be any relation to the real-life New Zealand hospital Soap Opera Shortland Street, however)
  • Son of Sanford and Son (ref. Sanford and Son)
  • Troy and Company’s Summertime Smile Factory (ref. all those short-lived, B-celebrity hosted comedy/variety programs of the 1960s and 1970s, especially The Late Summer-Early Fall Bert Convy Show).


  • Christmas Ape (ref. Grape Ape and Ernest)
  • Christmas Ape Goes to Summer Camp (ref. Ernest Goes to Camp, Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July)

Celebrity funerals

  • Herschel Shmoikel Krustofsky, aka Krusty the Clown
  • André the Giant, We Hardly Knew Ye (ref. Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye)
  • Shemp Howard: Today We Mourn A Stooge


  • Stop the Planet of the Apes I Want to Get Off (references Stop the World – I Want to Get Off, a broadway musical from the 60s and Planet of the Apes)

My toolbox (for Doug… who asked).

I got an email last week from a friend of mine who wanted to advice on weight loss. He’s looking to lose some extra weight and wanted to know if I could help him out.

I struggled with this for a while, wrote a couple of drafts that went nowhere, mainly because I fixated on weight loss, nutrition, etc. It became a rambling, incoherent soapbox of a post with no direction or purpose.

Then I just sat back and thought about what he was asking. He was just asking, like, “what did you do?” and I was busy getting all philosophical and shit on him.

So I decided to just kinda chill, kick back, and write a nice, easygoing post about the shit that I do, and how it contributes to my discipline. Because don’t get me wrong, the name of this game is discipline with a capital fucking “D”. If you don’t make a lifestyle commitment to this, and you view it as a “diet” or a “way to lose weight”, then I’m afraid you’ve already lost the battle my friend. This shit here is for life. Unfortunately, I’ve sadly reached several conclusions over the last couple of years. The first is that I’m a man in my 40’s, and with that comes a higher level of dietary maintenance and discipline if I wanna live past 50. The second, and most recent lesson, is that you can’t slack. Lifestyle change means lifestyle change. It doesn’t mean, “lifestyle change for the next couple of months, then back to what I was doing before”.

I’m not here to tell you what you can and can’t eat, that’s all for you, but for me, I’ve got a finite number that represents my daily caloric intake, and I’m not about to fuck it away on shit food that does nothing for me. I’m all about the nutrient density. If I put it in my body, I want it to be as close to unprocessed and good for me as possible. My whole idea of “taste” has changed dramatically over the last couple of years as a result. I don’t like salty, oversweetened, fried, greasy, fatty, overprocessed food. I love the taste of fresh vegetables, fruit, etc. I don’t sweeten my oatmeal in the morning because, dammit, I actually like the taste of oats. I eat whole wheat english muffins without anything on them because I eat breads and rolls so infrequently that when I do treat myself to some kind of bread, I like to taste… you know… the bread.

So without further ado, I’m going to list some of the things that I’ve discovered have been invaluable to me, or put another way, “I wouldn’t have been able to live so well without them”.

But first, a quick word or two about, “why”? I want to just state, for the record, that all of this has nothing to do with losing weight. I’ve detailed this in previous posts, but the short of it is, I’m a grown, adult, white male in his early 40s. Right now my main concern is cardiovascular health. If I have a strong, healthy heart, then everything else is gravy. If I’m doing everything I can to strengthen my heart, and increase my cardiovascular fitness, then weight isn’t an issue. I’m eating right, exercising, and living a stress free, relaxing, healthy lifestyle only to create an environment that’s best for my heart-health. As a result, weight melts off me, diabetes isn’t even in my vocabulary, my cholesterol manages itself, and my blood pressure is so low you’d think I was a corpse (I have a resting heart rate of between 45 and 50 beats per minute… and I’m 43). So for me, weight loss is secondary. In fact, I don’t even think much about my weight except in the summertime when I bike so much that I have to increase my caloric intake or else my weight drops below 160 and I start to look a little sickly (my wife hated my summer weight, she thought I looked “malnourished”).

So what are the tools in my “heart healthy toolbox”?

1. A bicycle
It goes without saying that I love riding bikes. I think a more accurate way to say that would be, “Jeff is addicted to riding a bicycle”. But do you know why? I’ll let the American Heart Association Website explain:

For health benefits to the heart, lungs and circulation, perform any moderate-to-vigorous-intensity aerobic activity for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week at 50–85 percent of your maximum heart rate. You can accumulate 30 minutes in 10 or 15 minute sessions. What’s important is to include physical activity as part of a regular routine. The training effects of such activities are most apparent at exercise intensities that exceed 50 percent of a person’s exercise capacity (maximum heart rate). If you’re physically active regularly for longer periods or at greater intensity, you’re likely to benefit more.

So there you go. I ride a bike because it’s a vigorously intense aerobic activity. I currently ride anywhere from 100 to 120 miles a week. My weekend rides are generally in the range of 35-40 miles and last about two hours, and during the week I ride about 11-12 miles a day at a faster, more intense pace. This leads me to my second most important tool, but one that was probably the most important purchase I ever made.

2. Rollers
I can’t say enough about rollers. Not a stationary trainer. Rollers. As in, you just put your bike on them and ride. Why rollers? Lots of reasons, not the least of which is vanity. I remember years ago, when I was in the Navy, I was friends with a guy who was probably the most serious cyclist I ever knew. This guy turned me on LeMond, Eddy Merckx, and the peloton. He schooled me in the art of riding, and gave me an appreciation for Road Riding at a time when my whole life had been about BMX and bunny hops. He drilled into my head the importance of form and cadence, and was the first (and up to now, only) person I met who rode rollers. So when I decided last year that I wanted to start riding in the winter to prepare for Spring, I knew there was only one way to go if I wanted to get into proper cycling shape. Nothing else will force you to maintain an even pedal stroke. Rollers have repercussions. Fuck off on rollers at your own peril, and likewise, become skilled on rollers and watch your efficiency on the bike go through the roof. I rode some last year with some local riders who easily have more time in the peloton than I could ever dream of having, and I had enough confidence to jump in precisely because I knew I was able to ride a bike and not stomp up and down for two hours. Rollers will turn you into a cyclist. They’ll smooth your rough edges. Trust me, if you can maintain a 110+ rpm cadence for a couple of minutes at 32+ miles per hour on rollers, the rest will be cake.

3. Eat This Not That
(Full disclosure time. I’ve actually been picked to be featured in the 2011 version of this book, so I might come off a little biased.) Last year, when I started riding to get healthier, it only took me a couple of weeks before I realized I needed to overhaul my diet. I’m fortunate to have a little more formal training in metabolic pathways and probably a better grasp on nutrition fundamentals including the chemistry of food simply because of my biology/chemistry background. So I knew what needed to be done, what needed to be eaten, and in what proportions and ratios. I also knew what needed to be avoided and why. What I didn’t know, or have access to, was some way to accurately compare the foods I was buying at the supermarket without spending hours and hours reading labels. Enter this book. They’ve done all that research for you! The greatest thing about this book, by the way, is that this isn’t a diet book! You’ll lose weight if you use it as a buying guide, that goes without saying, but not because of any particular dietary magic. This book is all about one thing: healthy choices. It bases its conclusions (“you should eat this… not that) on strictly health (heart/sugar) criteria. Why is one food a better choice than another? Because of sodium content, or because it contains more dietary fiber than its counterpart, or because it has the fewer calories derived from added sugar. It’s simply putting the act of shopping for groceries (if you use the supermarket guide… I don’t eat fast food, so I skipped the restaurant guide) into the simplest framework possible. That it’s just a matter of making the right decisions when you’re reaching for something that you’re going to spend your money on and put inside your body. If you’re going to spend money (you are) and you’re going to put it in your body (you are) then why wouldn’t you choose to pick the best item on the shelf? I’ll tell you why most people don’t. Because they simply don’t have the time, or tools to look at every label and make that comparison. That’s where this book is a lifesaver (literally). I changed everything about how I eat just by using the supermarket guide for a couple of months. I went shopping every week, and every time I left the house, this book went with me. I’ve never seen a book that even came close to being as valuable as this book became.

4. FatSecret
Now, again, keeping in mind that I didn’t start down this road to lose weight, this last tool might seem a little counter to that, but it’s really not. When I first started trying to get a handle on my diet, I was mainly concerned with the breakdown of calories. I wondered, for instance, just how many calories a day I was eating. How much sodium was I taking in? How much fat? Protein? So I started off writing everything down in a notebook. Then I thought, “Hey, I wonder if there’s an app for my phone?” and (at the time) there was only one app for Android (remember, this was about two years ago… before app craziness and before Android and iOS made “app” a household word). It was called, appropriately enough, “Calorie Counter”. When I initially installed it, I was dismayed to discover that it required a membership on a website, I wasn’t really sure I wanted to join a website, so it sat on my phone, unused, for a week or so until one evening I decided to give the website a try. I fell in love immediately. Studies show that people who keep a food diary, on average, double their weight loss. This isn’t a fluke. The discipline of keeping track of what you eat every day is probably the most important piece of this whole puzzle. If you wanna know where you’re going off track, or what the makeup of your diet is, there’s no more valuable resource. The site’s easy, it builds a library of frequently eaten food, facilitating the biggest barrier to keeping a diary which is data entry, and quickly becomes your go-to resource. Not only does this site track your food, but by entering your height, weight, age, and weight loss goals, it will track physical activity and compare calories in vs. calories out, giving you an immediate snapshot of your lifestyle. It’s all a simple matter of doing the math. If you’re taking in more calories and you’re burning, then what do you think is going to happen? Likewise, if you’re burning more calories than you take in on a consistent, day to day basis, how do you think you’ll look in a month or two? Well, if you kept a diary, you’d know the answer to those questions.

I keep a daily diary of everything I eat. Everything. I track my physical activity every day as well, and I make sure I’m doing regular cardiovascular exercise. I swim regularly, I ride almost every day, and I make sure that every decision I make about the foods I eat are all well-informed. I do everything in moderation, and I treat myself regularly to indulgences that, because I take care of myself, are actually, real, honest indulgences. I’ve maintained a fantastic weight now for about two years without anything close to what I’d call “effort” or “sacrifice”. I have a lifestyle, and that lifestyle is active, healthy, fun, outgoing and energetic.

So Doug, there you go. I told you it was more than I could put together in an email, and I’m sorry it took so long, but as you can tell, it’s a topic that’s near and dear to my heart. Literally. I hope it helps you with what you were asking, and if you wanna ask me any questions about any of it, feel free to drop me a line in the comments. I think it’s a topic that people may find interesting and helpful, and anything either of us can do to help anyone else out there get healthier, lose weight, or (hopefully) pick up a bike and start riding, then it was worth every minute I spent putting it down on “paper”.

Update 1: I’m calling this “Update 1” because I have a feeling I’ll update and add to this more than once. This afternoon, while I was out riding, I realized that I have an additional tool in my toolbox. When I started riding, I realized I needed a heart rate monitor. After shopping around and reading some reviews, I settled on the Mio Motiva Heart Rate Watch. This has been invaluable in helping me track my heart health. The Motiva measures heart rate with a dynamic display that quickly shows you what percentage of your Maximum Heart Rate you’re currently at. The contacts on the front of the unit never, and I mean never fail me. I can quickly and easily get my heart rate in a matter of seconds no matter where I’m at and it’s dead-on accurate. I’ve taken it to doctor appointments and it’s never been off by more than a single beat. It has a “calorie management system” that uses your age, weight, etc and uses your heart rate and exercise intensity to calculate calories burned and counts that against your recommended daily caloric intake. I can’t recommend enough the Mio Heart Rate Watch. As an aside, I had some simple issues with my first watch when it arrived, and I contacted Mio and they quickly and effectively handled my issue. I was blown away by their customer service, so I’m what you call a “raving fan”.

Stones. Milestones, that is.

Yesterday I did two things that I was proud of. First, I kept my cadence above 90 (94, actually) for my whole ride (1:30:00). I’ve been regularly riding intervals at the house for the last couple of weeks, and I can tell my legs are definitely improving. I’ve tried to focus on really maintaining a regular cadence above 105 during the interval, and when I first started, I was struggling with recovery afterward. It was hard to drop down after a tough interval and keep pedaling. The temptation is to rest, coast, stop pedaling and “give it a minute”, but the more I concentrated on continuing with my stroke after the interval, the more progress I seemed to make. Now, over the last couple of days of riding on the rollers, I’ve pretty much blasted through them and this week I think I’m going to extend the faster, harder interval time. I’ve started off riding  – 10 min. (warmup)/1 min. (105+)/ 3 min. (recovery)/ repeat. I’ll jump to 2 minutes at 105+ then recover for 3 minutes.

The second accomplishment, and the one I’m most proud of is one that might not sound like a whole lot. For the whole ride yesterday I stayed in the drops. I know, I know, what’s the big deal, right? Well, for me, it’s actually pretty hard to maintain that discipline. If you haven’t noticed, I’m kinda older, and on my previous bike, the Trek Alpha, spending any amount of time in those drops was a recipe for lower back pain. The geometry of that bike was just way too aggressive to facilitate that riding posture. The head tube on that older bike was about 4 and a half inches, and lowering your riding position on that bike meant you were basically folded in half. Not to mention even remotely standing up and sprinting in that position was the textbook definition of “squirrelly”. The other downside to that aggressive, older, aluminum frame was the need to constantly move your hands around. It’s basically like riding a tuning fork for 2 hours and the “buzz” alone is enough to make your hands go numb pretty damn quickly.

The Cervelo, with its more upright geometry, significantly longer headtube, and… ahem… carbon fiber frame, just makes that whole proposition much more palatable. I was able to stay lowered, with my head down, pushing a 94+ cadence for an hour and a half. My hands felt great. No numbness, no tingling, and my back felt terrific.

Trust me when I tell you, THIS is why you get a bicycle. I’m pretty sure that’s the closest you’ll come to flying without having wings sewn onto your back.

I think maybe this week I’ll try and videotape a session on the rollers, too. Might be fun to upload a video of a ride. Stay tuned.

My favorite “Last Paragraph” ever.

On The Road
"That's not writing, that's typing." -- Truman Capote

Every so often, I like to get out my worn copy of “On The Road”. I have an old Viking copy, I believe it’s a third printing. The dust jacket’s all worn and tattered. It wasn’t mine originally and I always liked to imagine who might’ve owned it before me. I bought it around 1987. I was traveling all over the world at the time, visiting strange, exotic places, and the one thing I was laser-beam obsessed with was the idea that I would live every single moment as if I was Jack, or perhaps (and always better) Neal (albeit, without the Benzedrine…). I would suck the marrow out of each experience I had, etch them into my brain, and be oh, so zen, daddy-o. I would stop in the middle of the road in Pakistan, smell deeply, open my eyes as wide as I could, look around and take in everything. Every sense, every sight, every sound. I’d try to freeze time in the middle of the Wan Chai District in Hong Kong and make sure I never forgot the look on my friends face, flush with alcohol, perma-grin in full effect, as some sweaty Chinese teenager tattooed a dragon on his shoulder. I’d turn around while the jeep careened along dirt roads in the Tsavo National Park in Kenya, just to make sure Stover was seeing what I saw and that it had the same impact; that feeling of the proverbial wind being knocked out of you by the overwhelming beauty of an African plain packed as far as the eye could see with Elephants.

So the last paragraph has always held a certain bit of magic for me. Place this paragraph in the context of the previous 43 chapters. All that adventure, all that road. All that Dean and Carlo. All that life. It’s just one of those paragraphs that’s so pure Kerouac. If you’ve read the book and tried your best to live life in “the most beat way possible”, all you need to do is pick up a copy, flip to the last page and read those last few lines:

“So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, and all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the children must be crying in the land where they let the children cry, and tonight the stars’ll be out, and don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear? the evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie, which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all the rivers, cups the peaks and folds the final shore in, and nobody, nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old, I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty.”

How could you not love that whole paragraph? It’s one of those things that can instantly center you. That can immediately place the value in the here, in the now. It reminds you once again that life is for the living, that every moment that flashes across your retinas is for you, and you alone. You can share these moments. You can share these times. You can wallow in the now, but only for an instant, because “the now” quickly (too quickly) becomes “the was” and if you miss it, it’s gone, daddy, gone.

Frank Miller’s Speech to the 1994 Diamond Retailers’ Summit

1994 Diamond Gem Awards Keynote Speech by Frank Miller
1994 Diamond Gem Awards Keynote Speech by Frank Miller

[Full Audio Below]

In college, I was hopelessly addicted to comics. As is the case with most addictions, it doesn’t take long before you realize that the easiest and best way to fuel your addiction is by becoming a dealer. So around my junior/senior year of college, I decided to form a “Comic Book Co-Op”. I had some friends in college who shared my passion for comics and had the requisite monthly appetite. I got myself a Tax ID, a Diamond account, and began ordering books for myself and friends, and passing along the 40-50% discount. It was pretty cool while it lasted, and I made a little money on the side selling exclusives, variants, and whatnot at a time when those things commanded a decent price in a hot collector’s market.

It also got me into retailer-only events, one of which was the annual Diamond Retailers Summit. In 1994, this was a huge affair. This was the year that Dark Horse Comics debuted its “Legends” imprint, which at the time, was a SuperGroup of comic imprints. Jim Shooter was also in attendance to promote his new “Defiant Comics” brand, after having just been ousted at one of the hottest publishers of the day, Valiant Comics. It was a crazy time to be in comics, underscored by the fact that the first great talent of my youth, Jack “King” Kirby had passed away and it truly felt like an era had passed, and here, in this convention center, was the future of comics unfolding before us. So there was excitement tinged with melancholy.

So it was with tremendous anticipation that I looked forward to that year’s annual banquet, hosted by Steve Geppi, with none other than Frank Miller… yes, the Frank Miller giving the keynote speech.

It was classic Frank. To set the stage, at the table in front of him sat most of Marvel Comics’ senior editorial staff, and to the right of them sat DC comics. Keep that in mind while you listen to one of the best, “angry men” in comics at the time. It was the first time I ever saw a crowd of people give a comic book creator a standing ovation.

Frank Miller’s Keynote Speech to the 1994 Diamond Retailers’ Summit
[Click Below to Listen]: