Monday, November 26, 2012

Texas Secession

Just a quick thought: Although I think it's pure foolishness and childish sour-grapes whining, there is a movement among some conservatives disgruntled by Obama's re-election to call for states to secede from the Union.  I'd even say that this idea is being treated as a semi-serious thing, at least in terms of its symbolic significance, in some fairly mainstream corners.  In no state has this secession craziness received the biggest reception than in Texas.  Here's my zany contribution to the secession silliness:  Let Texas secede.  This would remove Texas's reliably "red" electoral college votes from the national presidential race and give Democrats an almost insurmountable ability to control the White House.  It will also even the score a bit more in the US House.  Then, when the state's demographic character changes such that a new Democratic and Hispanic majority emerges along with a reliably Democratic electoral college advantage in the state, a "blue" Texas can be welcomed back into the Union, cementing the Democratic party's lock on the Electoral College (and thus the Presidency) long into the future.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Resolution Update: Success!!!

It is done!  I met my New Year's resolution, made on January 1, 2012, to get my weight down to 170 lbs by the end of the year.  Today, at approximately 12:30pm, I had a formal weigh-in at my parents' house, using the very same scale that I used on January 1, 2012.

Both my mother and my father were present to witness and confirm my scale reading.

Not only did I meet my goal, but I actually exceeded it by 1 lb, weighing in at a svelt 169 lbs!!!!!

Although I did weigh in after a rigorous workout, it wasn't immediately after; and I spent about 3 hours following the workout during which I rehydrated.  Also, when I weighed in, I had on a long sleeve shirt, shorts, and socks.  So, I can honestly say that my 169 lb weigh-in was a pretty good, accurate measure of my functional, equilibrated weight.

Thus, I declare my triumph.  My goal is reached and I am free from the bonds of my resolution to make a $120 contribution to either SarahPac, David Vitter's re-election campaign, or the RNC.  However, what I have decided to do to commemorate my success is to pledge that $120 to another charity of my choice, one whose vision and mission I enthusiastically support. I haven't quite decided on which charitable cause yet, but I will do so over the next month or so.

So, to give you a sense of my real progress over the year, and to show actually how the transformation manifested itself across my entire body (and even though it's a bit embarrassing), I will deliver, as promised, a series of full body photos from January 1, 2012, along with the regular head shot from that date that I have been posting over the months, and also a series of full body shots from today, November 21, 2012, along with a head shot from today as well.  Fair warning: the full body shots are taken with me in a pair of red biking shorts (stretch shorts and tight-fitting), with nothing else on -- no shirt, no socks, no watches or other body adornments.

Here are the full body shots from today, the date of my triumph, followed by today's head shot.  The full body shots are (1) full front, (2) full left side profile, (3) full back, (4) full right side profile:






Now compare this visual evidence with my full body shots followed by my head shot from January 1, 2012.  The full body shots, taken with the same red & white bike shorts, in just about in exactly the same way, follow the same pattern: (1) full front, (2) full left side profile, (3) full back, (4) full right side profile:






I am actually embarrassed by these latter photos.  It's partly because I was pretty disgusted with myself at the time and was physically feeling gross, bloated, heavy, tired, and generally unhealthy, that I made the resolution in the first place.  But the transformation over the year is quite transparent, and I hope this visual evidence clearly demonstrates that, when I declare my weight to be below 170 lbs, there is no question about the veracity of the claim.

It has been a long, hard struggle.  Why it has been so much of a challenge is that I am really, at core, a true hedonist -- a "live-to-eat" person whose motto when it comes to physical exertion has been "no pain ... no pain."  But knowing that my habits were unhealthy and unsustainable, I had to make this resolution with such a bitter consequence if I were to fail, just in order to motivate me to succeed.

And succeed I did.  But I have to say that I do actually enjoy feeling healthy and nimble.  I have to say that I am pleased that I tend to no longer have a gluttonous disposition in my eating tendencies (my stomach just can't handle as much as it used to).  And I have to say that I like the way my body feels after a good exercise routine (even if I don't really enjoy the exercise itself so much).  And I have to say that I like the fact that I am much more conscious of the kinds of foods, and the amounts of it, that I put into my body over the course of a day.

After I had my weigh-in today, I celebrated by taking my parents out for lunch!  I had a club sandwich and a bowl of fruit.  It was delectable!  And now I can enjoy the Thanksgiving feast tomorrow, and especially that Turkey I'm planning to deep fry, along with some yummy oyster dressing!

Then, come Friday, it's back to the gym to keep with my exercise routine and get back to healthy living, but in such a way that I can enjoy those infrequent occasions when I can eat a slice of pepperoni pizza without regret and without the impending sense that doing so may cost me to suffer unsavory consequences.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

MBH Pottery at the Palmer Park Arts Market

Well, it's once again that time of the month when my lovely bride will again be out at the Palmer Park Arts Market setting up her booth to sell her pottery. The market will be running this post-Thanksgiving weekend for both Saturday and Sunday, from 10am-4pm. My B-2/3 has been hard at work all month and has added significantly to her inventory of pieces. The weather for both days looks to be beautiful, so if you want to support a great cause and pick up some wonderful pieces of handmade, high quality pottery as wedding gifts, birthday presents, Christmas or Hannukah gifts, or any other kind of gift, please do come out to the Arts Market this Saturday and/or Sunday at Palmer Park on the corner of Claiborne and Carrollton Avenues and look her up. Of course, as usual, Michele will also be doing live demonstrations at her pottery wheel, so please come out, enjoy the market, and stop by to visit Michele to see how pots are thrown (and hopefully not at you!)

Monday, November 19, 2012

What I've Been Reading

Since I last wrote an entry on the books I read (which was back in February of 2012), I've since racked up pretty solid list of reading accomplishments.  Here's the list, which I'll just mention now and perhaps I'll write up some reviews of the books down the road.  But if you've read any of these books, please feel free to leave a comment on what you thought on any of them and I'd be happy to engage in a comment exchange with you:

William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury (a re-read for me): Grade A+. [All I need to say is that Faulkner is a genius.]

James Agee's A Death in the Family: Grade A [One of the best depictions of dealing with grief in reaction to an unexpected and sudden death that I've ever read.  Also a Pulitzer winner.]

Elaine Dundy's The Dud Avocado: Grade B.  [I picked this to read because the title intrigued me.  And it's a fun read, with some clever writing moments, but nothing that truly stands out as exceptional.]

Dan Baum's Nine Lives: Death and Life in New Orleans: Grade B-. [Most folks find this work interesting and well-written; but I weary of the essentializing of New Orleans in ways this book does.  It's not alone in this practice, but I just get more and more turned off by depictions of my city through the kinds of lenses that books like this one provide.]

Sybille Bedford's A Favourite of the Gods: Grade B. [The writing is good and the storyline is interesting, but it's a kind of genre piece of European aristocratic casualness that doesn't resonate with me.]

Teju Cole's Open City: Grade B. [It tries much too hard to be contemporary literary hip.  It also has a bit of hip pretentiousness about it that doesn't appeal to me; but the idea of writing reflections that come from the meanderings of a Manhattanite through the streets of the city is an intriguing one.]

Paul Harding's Tinkers: Grade C-.  [Another Pulitzer winner, but one that I just never did get.  I couldn't ever find meaning in the story and at times the plot seemed to be very labored and forced.  There were a few redeeming moments, but none that could save the book.  Not sure why it won the Pulitzer.]

L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: Grade C+.  [Since it's a timeless children's classic, I thought I'd give it a go.  It's an easy read, but a bit too simplistic.  The story is not as engaging or clever, and lacks the kind of human touch, as is the Judy Garland movie.]

William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!: Grade A+.  [Again, all I can say is that Faulkner is a bona-fide genius.]

Michael Chabon's A Model World and Other Stories: Grade B.  [I love Chabon, but this is not his best work.  It starts out very slowly, but the stories pick up and gather momentum in the second half when it really turns into a bit of a novella.  I think Chabon is a much better novel writer than a short story writer.  But, I do admit, as usual with Chabon, the writing itself is superb in style.]

Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray: Grade B.  [Another classic I just had to pick up.  I can see why it would enter the realm of the classics for its kind of radicalness in its day; but the story itself, though quite unique in its premise, does fall into a bit of that late 19th, early 20th century tediousness.]

John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces (another re-read for me): Grade C-.  [Another Pulitzer winner that I don't think deserves the award.  I remember thinking it to be funny and clever when I first read it years ago in college; but having read it again as a more seasoned middle-aged guy, I found it to be just crude and vulgar.  I rarely got a chuckle at all at the gross and absurd shenanigans of Ignatius Reilly and his awful cast of supporting characters.]

Herman Melville's Moby Dick: Grade B+. [I finally got to this American classic and can now click it off my literature bucket list.  I read it in its complete, unabridged form.  It's remarkable for its depiction of whaling and of the anatomy of the sperm whale in such fine detail.  The plot of the Pequod's voyage and Ahab's drama is only about 15% of the novel, and it's o.k., though not as good as one is always led to believe it is.  Nevertheless, I do think Melville is a great American writer and this work is worthy of being read.]

Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl:  Grade B+.  [I'm usually not one for crime/mystery novels; but this one is well-written, clever, and fun to read.  But I do have to say that the character personalities are quite disturbing.]

Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge: Grade A-.  [Another Pulitzer winner and a collection of short stories.  Well-written and very well-developed characters.  I think it deserved the Pulitzer.  The themes of the stories can be depressing, but the way the stories are told comes across as gentle and warming, even if they are not necessarily fun stories.]

Heinrich Boll's The Clown: Grade B.  [A Nobel winning author.  This is perhaps his most famous work.  It's heavy going and can be tedious at times, but you can definitely appreciate the talent of the author.  The main character and the plot can be wearying to contend with, but the theme of the oppression of conventional religion is interesting in its portrayal.]

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Resolution Update

OK.  The moment of truth has arrived.  It's been ten months and 18 days since I made my New Year's Resolution.  It feels like forever.  What a rollercoaster so far.  And it's not over yet!

But, I am pleased to say that after my workout today, when I stood on the scale at the Gym, I weighed in at 169.6 lbs.  So, it would appear that I've hit my target and fulfilled my New Year's Resolution (and thus won my bet), except ...

1.  I haven't had independent confirmation of this, which I will need to do.
2.  It was immediately following a fairly rigorous workout, so I imagine that it involved maybe a couple of pounds of water weight loss, which I may have (and probably did) gain back a bit as I rehydrated throughout the day.
3.  It was a weigh-in with just my shorts on.  Add on a shirt and some socks and I would have probably tipped the scales at slightly over 170 lbs.
4.  And perhaps the scale at the gym is slightly off, though it's been my measure the whole year and so I feel that I can fairly count on its accuracy (or at least its consistency) in charting my weight loss progress.

Nevertheless, I know that I'm basically there, and it's perhaps just a matter of days before I can weigh in solidly under 170 lbs in a random weigh-in at any hour with basic clothing on.

But these are just minor quibbles.  I will remain disciplined and continue with my diet and exercise regimen until I get to that point, even if it takes a couple more weeks.  I'm not worried.

But I do think it merits (and you're probably waiting for) some visual accountability.  Well, here's a picture from today:


And compare it to my picture from last January 1, 2012:


I think it's pretty clear that it's quite a transformation.  Once I get independent confirmation of reaching the goal, I'll post that information here on the Upchuck along with some full body shots from January 1 compared to some full body shots on the day of my triumph!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Resolution Update

Last January 1, I made just one single New Year's resolution.  It was to get my weight down to 170 lbs by the end of 2012.  If I fail in that resolution, I have to do something that would, to me, be extremely psychologically and emotionally painful.  (Click the link to read what that is.)

For a while, I was keeping regular weekly updates as to my progress on this resolution, even posting weekly pictures of myself as visual evidence.

Along the way, I kinda gave up on the blog and so my Resolution Updates went by the wayside along with it.

However, I have not forgotten this resolution, and I am still intent on meeting it, though I haven't reached it yet.

Here's kinda how it's been since the last I posted on this subject...

If you check the archives of my Resolution Updates, you'll see that at one point I got as far down as 170.6 lbs (on March 7), but never crossed that 170 lbs threshhold completely.  I certainly didn't get independent verification at the time.  Since then, my weight has fluctuated more or less between 175 lbs and 185 lbs, and my diet/exercise regimen was inconsistent and spotty.

I really think that my ideal weight is probably in the 175-180lb range; but that's no matter, because I agreed to get down to 170 lbs, and I will honor that pledge or pay the piper.

As late as a month ago, I was hovering in the 183-185 lbs range.  But knowing that my time to reach my goal of 170 lbs was drawing to a close, and knowing also that the holiday feasting season would soon be upon me, I resolved again to tighten things up and have been pretty disciplined in getting back on a careful and healthy diet, as well as a regular exercise program.

I will be posting visual evidence tomorrow of where I am, but I can report now that my last weigh-in was 171.4 lbs.  And I've resolved to stay disciplined until I hit my goal and have it independently verified, even if it means that I have to forego diving into that succulent turkey I'll be deep frying this coming Thanksgiving Thursday.  We'll see what tomorrow's weigh-in brings.

Sometimes, I think that I have subconsciously kept myself from reaching my goal too early, even though it was well within reach as early as last March, so as to make sure that I made at least some modicum of effort to stay on top of my weight all year long.  And I'm glad, in the end, that it has worked out this way, because even as my weight started inching up again at various points throughout the year, I always had the spectre of this resolution hanging over my head like a Damocles sword to force me to make an effort to keep my weight under some kind of control and not to let myself get too far beyond redemption.  It has been good to feel and look healthier over the course of the year so far.

So drop by the Upchuck tomorrow to see some pictures of where I am; and wish me luck as I make my final push to get to my goal.

Back to Upchucking

Well, it's been a long, long stretch of emptiness on the Upchuck. I think I'm missing it a bit. In a way, I've kinda substituted Facebook for blogging. Doing so has its merits, for sure. I have a ready audience of some 800+ readers through my FB friends. And my blog type status updates on FB are guaranteed to elicit response from at least a core group of folks. However ...

I'm not so sure I like using Facebook in this way. I also like Facebook just as a way to keep up with friendships and family; and my blogging style can be kind of alienating to some folks on Facebook that does some damage to my friendships on FB. For instance, since I really heated up my polemics on FB during the Presidential election campaign, I've noticed that my FB friends numbers have dropped a bit. Just a handful or so, but it's something I noticed. And I don't really like it.

I think why I'm bothered by this is that a lot of my FB friends are on the opposite end of the ideological spectrum, and these are people whose company and camaraderie I have enjoyed for over 30+ years. Many of my High School buddies are conservative. Many of my childhood friends from elementary school and the old Kenner/Metairie suburbs are conservative. And I like them all. They are really good people at their core. And I don't like to think that they maybe find my politics a bit distasteful, off-putting, and perhaps even offensive. Now let me say that I am by no means apologetic or sorry for my politics, and for expressing them publicly and forcefully; but I am bothered by the idea that I may be pushing myself in the faces of those good people who might prefer not to be subject to my rants. So, I think I'm just going to do my best to try to keep my politics here on the Upchuck, and to try to minimize that stuff on Facebook.

All this to say that I'm putting the Upchuck back into business. I make no promises as to how often and frequently I will be putting up blog postings, but I'm going to try to keep my rants here for the most part. I may link to my blog from FB; but I think that provides enough distance and remove such that my FB friends won't feel so directly besieged by my rants, such as they are.

And I welcome any who want to engage me to do so here.