One Lazy Sasquatch

SO, it’s been really quiet around here lately. I mean It’s been a year since my last review, silly post or anything. I could chalk it up to life being crazy, and any other excuse you think of, but the truth is I just haven’t been inspired to write anything lately.

In short, I’ve been lazy. So to you the few poor souls who follow this meager blog, I apologize. I try to get back on track and wore reviews, or recipes, or other basic shenanigans soon(ish)

 

Squatch

At My Core

Hey Look It’s Me

Since turning 40, I have taken some time and reflected on my interaction with the world around me. Some might say that this is my midlife crisis, some might say this is me coming to terms with the eventuality of my own mortality. Call it what you will.

NPR used to have a segment that was called “This I Believe” where people would write down what was at their core, belief wise. It was a cool segment and there were essays written by celebrities, as well as ordinary joes like you and me. It was one of my favorite segments, I haven’t listened to NPR in a while, and I’m not sure if they ever play those anymore, but if they do, you should take a little time and listen. The essays are insightful, well written and some were downright brilliant.

Mine will not be. What your are about to read will be raw, unpolished, unrefined and most likely offensive to the sensibilities of a lot of people I know.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, no matter how wrong or generally misguided it may be, myself included. While you may not agree with everything or anything that I am about say; I ask that you read it all, as it will give you some insight into who I am. If you are an old friend this will by no means shock you, however if you are a newly acquired friend or acquaintance you may find yourself a bit dismayed by some of what is to follow, so please be warned.

I grew up poor, welfare poor, with a mother who could be best described as a grifter. If you don’t know that word I suggest you get a good dictionary (think Oxford English). Growing up with a person like this at the helm of your childhood can lead you to think differently about the world around you. I learned at an early age that there was really no one who you could rely on other than yourself; as everyone out there was either predator or prey. People were things to used and discarded when no longer deemed useful. While this sounds horrible (and I assure you upon reflection, it truly was) it did foster a sound sense of self reliance, and believe it or not self assurance.

Growing up with a grifter as your main parental unit also means that you move around a lot. Take a second to absorb and take that in, because you probably don’t grasp what I mean unless you grew up the child of a military person. When I say we moved a lot, I mean a whole lot. By the time I was 12 I think I had lived in at least as many states and probably two to three times that in terms of actual places where I would lay my head at night. This meant that I never had really good friends, because I wouldn’t be anywhere for more than a few months at a time. Why bother getting to really know people if you were just a transient being in their lives. Living this way actually fed into the whole people as a commodity mentality. While I didn’t know it at the time the nomadic lifestyle we were living was actually doing me a service. It taught me to not be shy, I was that kid who would arrive somewhere and instantly find people to hang out with and be “friends” with. It also led me to be loud, gregarious, and brash. I was that loud kid whom everyone liked immediately. Unfortunately I was also that kid that every parent felt a deep sense of pity for when they learned about my mother. Needless to say I tried to not let people meet my mother for as long as possible.

Growing up the way I did didn’t foster a great sense of morality. When you have a parent whose main objective in life is to see how much they can get from people, you are starting life aiming low. As a child I never knew that this was not the way things were supposed to be. I thought everyone was just like good ole mom; only looking out for themselves. To this day, I honestly believe that my mother did not have my best interests at heart growing up. I, like everyone else she encountered, was just a tool, a commodity to be used. I was another instrument in her plans for the confidence game she called life. I happened to be a rather useful tool, as my dad paid a monthly amount of money that was supposed to be helping pay for the things I needed.

I can remember when I was about 8 meeting a kid whose parents were together and had always been, and thinking that his family was weird. They had lived in the same place for longer than he had been alive. Both of his parents worked actual jobs. That’s not to say my mother didn’t work, she just never really worked. She would have a part time job so as to look like a semi-respectable member of the community. I mean she didn’t want to be seen as the gold digger that she really was.

I think that given the circumstances of how I was raised I have turned out pretty OK. Sure I’ve had my moments where my moral compass has been off, and I still have a duck and cover kind of response to some things, but all in all, I think I have become a well rounded and decent person. I don’t generally shy away from a challenge and I tend to take most things in stride. I would like to believe that as a whole I turned out alright, and have had a positive impact on the world around me. I try to be fair, I try not to take more than my share, I try to help out people when I can.

I honestly feel that how I was raised has a lot to do with my views on religion. I lived in a lot of places where kids shouldn’t live, I had more “dads” than any kid should ever have. I saw a lot of the dark and seedy things that young, impressionable children should never be exposed to.

I saw people who gave 10% or more of their earnings to their church, when I was living right next door and could have benefitted from that money far more than the institution that they were giving it to. I can’t count the number of nights that I went to bed hungry, or cold, or lonely or scared. On more than one occasion I can remember thinking that if there was a god, why was he making me live like this. All those times I went to bed with a sense of fear or hopelessness seemed to strengthen my belief that there was no real purpose for life, there was no great and benevolent creator looking out for us; because if he was out there and he let me go to bed with too little food, or not enough money to have heat, or whatever, then he was a cruel and heartless creator ans I had no need of him. If this was the truth I would rather believe that there was no great power looking down on us, rather than one who, like a kid with a magnifying glass aimed at an ant hill, would sit back and watch us suffer. Don’t get me wrong, I looked into several “flavors of religion” as a young person, and always came to the same conclusion.

I became a militant atheist at the ripe old age of 18. I had seen enough, and heard more than enough of the religious rhetoric to form my opinion and I was damn sure going to let everyone know. I knew plenty of “bible thumpers” growing up and I became the antithesis; I was a “science thumper”. I would try to systematically teardown everything people believed about religion and force them to see my point of view. I can remember looking at a bible, no studying it really, to find all the paradoxes and hypocrisies. I would debate, or more aptly berate, any religious person who dared to spar with me. I remember on more than one occasion bringing other kids to tears because I would make the fight personal. This phase lasted well into my 20’s; I remember I had a neighbor once who walked up to me and asked with sincerity “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior” I bluntly said “No”. I asked him if he thought his religion was the one true and correct one. When he said yes, I then proceeded to lecture him on why his brand of religion wasn’t the correct one. I was a complete ass; I realize this now that I am older and have seen more in my life. Needless to say I have mellowed as I have gotten older. I am no longer a militant atheist, nor have I found religion. I’ve come to realize that I don’t care. I personally don’t think that there is a god out there, I’m more apt to believe that we are some weird science experiment for aliens or a completely random coincidence than to think that there is one all knowing, all seeing creator. That’s my opinion and you’re welcome to agree, disagree, and/or not care about it, as I have decided to not care what your belief may or may not be. I do not say that preceding statement with any intended malice, I truly do not care what your beliefs are. If you are a decent person than we can be friends, regardless of how misaligned our beliefs may be.

I will not push my beliefs and values on you, and I ask that you do the same. I have come to the realization that what you believe shouldn’t predicate whether or not we can be friends. I have a very close friend who is a devoted Christian (he and his family are what I consider the best example of how Christians should be.), I have another who is a non practicing Christian. We have decided to agree to disagree about that one aspect of our lives and move on. Life is too short to get hung up the small stuff and yes to me that is a small item.

Below is the cliff’s notes version of my beliefs. Many of which have equal bearing whether or not your are a religious person. Please take them for what they are. A means to gain a little bit of insight about me, nothing more nothing less. As I stated This was not meant to offend anyone, but if it has, I understand. I hope you can see past it. If not, again, I understand.

Things I believe:

An intelligent persons does not need the promise of a heaven to do what is right.

Character is doing the right thing even if you would benefit from doing the not so right thing.

Your beliefs don’t make you a better person, your actions do.

Ones beliefs are like ones genitalia, it’s great that you have it, but no-one needs to see it.

There are good Christians, there are good Muslims, there are good atheists just as there are bad Christians, bad Muslims, and bad atheists.

People are people, judge them on what they do, not what they believe, not what country they come form, not how they look, nor by the color of their skin.

Children are born scientists, uncoupled from belief. Their minds are wide open to all possibilities, we indoctrinate them into a closed minded belief set when we saddle them with our beliefs. We should let them explore, and decide on their own what they want to believe or disblieve, and love them in spite of any choice they make, not chastize them for it.

All people are created equal, it is our beliefs that determine their worth and ultimately burden them with inequality. If we cast away the baggage we were given by our predecessors and see people for what they are or could be, we see that we are all, at the core, the same. We all just want to be loved and accepted for who we are, not what we believe.

In the end I hope to be remembered for all I did to help others and to make this world a better place, not for what I believed or did not believe in.

We should all strive to know more about the world then we knew yesterday and to try to lessen the suffering of others. (this was paraphrased from a quote be Neil deGrasse Tyson, but it is part of what I believe he just said it better.)

________________________________________

I look forward to any comments that you may have.

Rob

On Losing Weight, Dieting, and My General Lunacy.

Hey Look It’s Me

Early in September 2010 I made a decision; I decided that I was getting too old to be fat. I could be fat, or I could be 40, not both. Since I haven’t figured out how to stop the march of time, I was left with only one path. I was about to turn 39 and weighed in at about 325 pounds. I had been half-heartedly been dieting whittling my weight down from an all-time high of 390 pounds. In 2008 I had dropped from 390 to 340 in a few months and kind of stalled out. I would lose a pound or two here and there but it took me another year to get to 325.  So that fateful September, I decided that I needed to stop dieting. Yes I said stop dieting. Dieting had done nothing but put me on a rollercoaster ride of losing and gaining weight, what I needed was a lifestyle change. Anyone who has dieted before knows how hard it is to stay on it, well it’s just as hard (if not harder) to alter the way you think about life and food.

I had already joined a gym and was going on a regular basis; doing all the same old routines I had done in high school and seeing little in the way of results (they didn’t work that well back then either). So I decided that I needed to find some tools to help supplement my quest for a healthier me. I wandered about the various exercise websites, and looked at all of the “weight loss by buying specialized food” sites and wasn’t getting much in the way of inspiration. I decided to see what was available in the Android Market on my phone. I typed in exercise and found a few apps that looked like they may hold promise. I searched on weight loss and found a few more apps that looked like they may be a decent resource. I installed a few different apps and saw nothing that I hadn’t seen in countless other places, that is until I loaded up MyFitnessPal. This application had a hook, it was tied to a website (http://www.myfitnesspal.com) that had a social aspect to it. You could find like-minded individuals who were willing to offer encouragement and were able to relate with your struggles.

(Me in December of 2010)

(A simple Comparison Picture)

I joined MyFitnessPal.com on September 13th 2010 weighing 325 pounds. I was determined to make a go of it and try for a big number. I wanted to lose 100 pounds by the time I turned 40. That gave me just over a year to get my butt whipped into shape and hit my target. Was it a foolish goal? Probably. Would it take determination, will power and a complete change of mindset to make it? Definitely. So I proceeded to use the website to set my goal weight. I chose 220 pounds and it asked me a few questions about my lifestyle. Based on my goal and my lifestyle (sedentary) it set my calorie intake and expenditure goals for me. OK now I had a plan and goal just like many other times before, but this time I had a weapon to help me.  By tracking the food I ate with the application on my phone, I soon learned I ate a lot more than I thought I did. A WHOLE LOT MORE. The first week of being on MFP,  I didn’t not make my calorie intake goal once. I did learn that I ate on average about 3500 calories a day and only expended about 2200 a day (not counting workouts). That meant 1300 calories in excess each day, well no wonder I didn’t succeed all those times before. This was a game changer. I knew what I needed to do straight away. The second week I made my goal every day, coming in below it by a few calories a few times. Progress at last; small steps to be sure, but progress none the less. For the first couple of months I relied on the machines I was using for cardio and the built in numbers on the MFP web site to tell me the calories I was burning (both of which, while helpful, are not accurate). I was losing weight, I averaged about 2 pounds a week; not too shabby. I was well on my way; If I could maintain 2 pounds per week I would make my goal with time to spare. I bought a Heart Rate Monitor (HRM) and started using that to chart my calorie burns. I would take what the machine said I burned add what the HRM said and average them out. Then I would subtract my Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) to get the approximate total burn for each workout. Yet another reason to use a smartphone, I needed to do math at the gym. In the old school days I would carry a little notebook and chart what workouts I did. These days my notebook is a phone and it charts the exercise, they calories burned, my calories exerted,  and keeps me in touch with a community of people all struggling with the same problem I am (a definite trade out from the old spiral).

I have a routine now too, just like the old days; only it’s a bit different. I work out 4 days a week. I start each day with the same breakfast (pretty much without fail). I find that the consistency helps me. What do I eat for breakfast you ask?
1 pure protein bar (usually Chocolate Deluxe)
1 Multivitamin
24 ounces of water

Yep that’s it; that is breakfast. I have snacks throughout the day the first one at about 9 am every day. Anyway back to the workout routine. As I said, 4 days a week. I workout onTuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. On Tuesday and Thursday I start out with chin-ups and Dips 30 of each then it’s cardio time I run. I used to walk, then I jogged, now I run. I average about 7.3 mph for 30 minutes. I use a machine called an Incline Trainer made by Freemotion. It allows me to run a course that varies from 3 degrees to 30 degrees of incline. That’s right I run on 30 degree incline for part of my workout. Typically the course keeps you at a level for 1 minute then changes. The constant change in incline keeps your body from being too adjusted and it has to constantly recalibrate itself. This leads to big burns for me ion the calorie department.  After the Incline trainer I move on to another machine (crazy I know) made by Precor it’s a 546i Crossramp. It’s like an elliptical but without moving arms, and the ramp goes between 1 degree and 20 degrees of inclination. Yep you guessed it. I run a course that varies on this one too. 30 minutes at about 6.5 mph. I don’t burn as many calories on it but it works all the muscles of your legs throughout the workout.

On Saturdays I add weights. 30 minutes of weight training, plus an additional 30 minutes on the Incline Trainer. So that’s about 10 miles of running on ever changing courses plus weights. Saturday is my big day I tend to burn about 2000 calories at the gym.

Sunday is strictly cardio. No chin-ups, No dips. Just running on the two machines.

I track everything I eat using MFP. I track all my exercise using MFP. MFP has kept me on my course (unlike this rambling story). MFP was the tool I used to make myself more accountable for the way I treated my body. It is that accountability that has made my dramatic weight loss possible. I know you’re wondering: “Did he lose the weight? Did he make his goal?”   Yes and Yes. I hit my goal on September 4th 2011, a full month before my target date. As of today I weigh 218 pounds. I am still working out like mad training for the Toughmudder 2012 (http://toughmudder.com ).   It’s a 10-12 mile obstacle course designed by former special forces members. I have inspired my cousin too. He is going to participate in the mudder with me.

I guess what I really wanted to convey here was that it is possible. I lost over 100 pounds in under a year. The tools to help you are out there, and many like MFP are free, the only cost is your own motivation.  For better or worse I have changed my life, and my lifestyle. I eat better (for the most part), I exercise routinely, and I am maintaining my weight loss.  My next challenge; besides the Toughmudder? Getting this loose skin tightened up so I feel less like a shar-pei. That may take a while though.

Rob

Update: 6/22/2012 Just figured I would add a new picture

Me as of today

As of today I weigh 215 pounds. I currently wear a 34″ waist and a large shirt. I work out 4 days a week and limit the total amount of calories I eat per day to around 2200.

My Breakfast is still 24 oz water, a protein bar and a vitamin, but I have added glucosamine as a supplement as well.

I still log into MFP everyday, but I don’t always log my meals.  If you get on there feel free to request me as a friend. my userid is robrowald.

A tech guy who is talking less and less about tech or How I’m trying to get back to things I did in college

Hey Look It’s Me

Yeah you read that right, As of late I have found myself thinking less and less about tech items. Now don’t get me wrong, I still like electronic toys. I have multiple DishNetwork receivers, 2 Logitech Revues, a Meraki cloud controlled wireless access point, a Xoom tablet, and Android phone and a bevy of other items that I use on a regular basis. I like my toys, and I like computers and networking but I  like not using them as much these days too. Unless I am playing a game or having to VPN into work to fix things, I rarely pick up my laptop anymore. If I need to surf the web I tend to use my tablet or my Google TV unit and that’s just peachy.  I have a smartphone because work pays for it, if they didn’t I would probably go back to a dumbphone.

Where the biggest fundamental shift has been is in the tech prognostication arena. I used to keep abreast of everything that was being discussed, thought about, tested, manufactured, and what have you. I used to be the go to guy for what the next big trend in IT was going to be for many people, but in the last few years I have noticed that I have, by and large, become less interested in the “what’s next”. I’m not sure if I’m burned out, jaded, tired, or just genuinely disinterested but the “tech future” area of my brain is getting smaller and smaller. It may be because I have made a few changes in my life, including more physical activity, and eating better.

I find that instead of  thinking about technology as much I am instead thinking about outdoor adventures; things like hiking, camping and as of late The Tough Mudder 2012 that I am going to attempt. I find that I think about places I could go for these activities instead of thinking about things that would keep me inside. Mind you my wife wouldn’t believe any of this, because of all the tech related items that float around our house, due to me being a beta tester for a few different companies, but I swear its true.

For years I would go to bed and have blissfully dreamless sleep. close my eyes and fade to black. I would awake refreshed but it would literally be as if I just closed my eyes. Time was instantly passed with no sense of time gone. In the last 6 months or so I have noticed that I remember dreaming. I rarely retain what I was dreaming about for more than few seconds but it’s a start. When I was a kid I would have very vivid and often times lucid dreaming sessions. I am hoping that those days return. I cannot say with certainty what is causing the shift in my neural activity but I honestly think it has more to do with my physical activity levels these days.

So it appears, from my perspective, that the increase in physical activity/fitness has made my brain stop thinking/caring as much about tech and in turn made me think more about more physical activity and creative things again. Sure the change has been slight in the grand scale of things but a change is a change none the less. I have recently began to think about writing poetry and short stories again. I have even toyed with the notion of trying to get back into doing art again. I could be completely off base here, it may have absolutely nothing to do with the lifestyle change. It may be caused by changes that come with getting older. Who knows, certainly not me, but I’m going to ride this out and see where it takes me.  So if you happen to follow me on Facebook, Google+, or Twitter you may notice less and less tech talk then again you may not. Only time will tell.

Rob

Illinois: Land of the myopically visioned.

Short post.

Today the Moron that is the governor of our once great state (Illinois) signed a bill into law. What’s wrong with that?  Well this bill (HB 3659) directly affects a lot of people I know, and would not hesitate to call my friends. It  will force a friend to move a business that has been nothing but beneficial to the area in which I live both in terms of jobs and community support. Fatwallet (www.fatwallet.com) is owned by a friend of mine, employs several of my friends, and former coworkers. This new law affects the way that fatwallet does business with some of it’s largest clients. HB 3659 forces out- of-state retailers to collect Illinois state sales tax for Internet sales, based on the premise that affiliate marketers create nexus in Illinois. Recently, Illinois has emerged as a hotbed for technology businesses and is now considered the single largest state for the Affiliate Marketing Industry. That is until today. Governor Quinn, proving that he is shortsighted signed HB2659 into law and effective slammed the door on the emerging market that was a bright spot in the otherwise dismal job market for our area. Bravo, dumb ass, bravo. Things like this make me wonder why I continue to live in this state.

 

My friend April, elaborates on the subject with more eloquence than i do, read her blog…  http://akunzelman.blogspot.com/2011/03/thanks-illinois-for-your.html?spref=tw

The Beginning

Another bright IdeaIn the beginning, the was nothing and nothing was good.
Then came something, it wasn’t much of anything but it was something, and suddenly nothing wasn’t good enough anymore because everyone knows that when you get something from nothing it only leads to more things.
Then like clock work something else came from the something that so abruptly appeared in the nothing.
So we had nothing, then something, then something else, what was next?
Well everything of course, if you have nothing and then something, and then something else again, the only logical step is everything
We had nothing and nothing was good
When we had something and suddenly nothing wasn’t good because something supplanted it and something was good
Then we had something else which in turn took over the spot that something (and nothing before it) had occupied
Then we got everything, and everything that was anything prior to everything’s arrival was rendered worth nothing (remember when nothing was all we had and nothing was good).
Suddenly Everything was good and Nothing was bad, and Something, well something just wasn’t good enough.
We should have been happy with nothing, but no we had to have something, then we had to have something else, which only led us astray with the temptation of having everything, and look where that got us.