Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Difference Between Men and Women


Having spent most of my adult life married, I have had the good fortune of spending time with not only my guy friends but my wife's friends as well. And after years of observing, there were glaring differences I began to notice in the dynamics of our relationships with each other. I am not here to say which is better or which is worse, but that these differences, when thrown together, can be like throwing football fans in a room of polo fans. It's not that they won't necessarily get along but there will be that odd feeling in the room that one group just doesn't get the other. And I believe these differences between men and women has nothing to do with who handles relationships better, but it can be traced back to our early ancestors.

There was a comedian I heard years ago that did an interesting bit about the differences of men and women and how it can be. The languages of the sexes do not cross over.

Suppose you are at a party with six women, he suggests, and the chip bowl is getting low. All six women rise together, most likely hand in hand, and make their way to the kitchen. Once there, they refill the bowl together. One woman offers to make some dip while another washes the dishes from earlier. Two of the women fill the wine glasses and they all join each other out and the sun drenched patio as birds chirp hello from the blossoming Crape Myrtles.

There are no birds at the men's party. The same situation elicits another response.

"Hey man, the chip bowl's getting low."

No one moves.

"I bought the chips."

"It's my bowl."

"I ate the chips."

"What did you do?"

"I … I watched TV."

And that man refills the chips. The process is a negotiation. TV man lost the negotiation; he understands that it is his role to refill the bowl. "No one cares that an hour just went by and no one had chips."

The problem comes when the party is mixed company. Someone points out that the chip bowl is getting low. One man says, "I bought the chips." Women stare in disgust. Expletives abound.

"No one wants to negotiate?" asks the man. "I must have missed the meeting."

It isn't so much that the humor is particularly original. The accepted stereotype is that women like to shop and men will gladly wear the dirty T-shirt straight from the hamper. The originality, rather, is in the explanation of how this gender gap arose. The behavioral differences between men and women, the comedian claims, is the result of evolutionary processes stemming from the days of the caveman. Today, men and women are simply the modern-day versions of hunters and gatherers.

Women, as they shop, gather clothes with no end goal in mind. They take their time, taking in all of the sights and sounds around them. Reminiscent of the days when they had to store for the winter months ahead, women "fill their basket" and never stop at just one shirt. They are gatherers.

Men, on the other hand, just need a T-shirt. They hunt one down, and the first one they find that meets their needs, they kill. Then, "me go watch TV."

While I know this will not gain scholarly acclaim among anthropologists, you have to agree there is some truth. In fact, as soon as my wife gets back home from shopping and as soon as the Mavericks game is over, I will get her opinion and I am sure she'll agree.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Guys I Won't Hang Out With


Have you ever noticed that back in the day, and I mean way back in the black and white days, we looked the same. I'm not talking about our facial features or how fat or thin we are. I'm talking about a time when men walked around in suits and hats regardless of where they were. Ever see an old baseball game? Even in the stadium, men wore hats and suits. And women were dressed more like June Cleaver. But what happened since then? We have become individuals who want to define who we are by how we dress, or what car we drive or...you get my point. And since this evolution of odd behavior, I have run across too many individuals I have had to mark off my list of friends. For reasons listed below, I can no longer hang out with them.

Indi Music Guy
This is the guy that only likes the music you've never heard of. He proudly recites lyrics to unknown songs and any time you mention a popular group or singer you like he beats you down with phrases such as, "that's so gay", or "Are you kidding? Those guys suck!" And once his favorite group makes into mainstream, he dumps them like the high school girlfriend he caught cheating on him.

Green Guy
Believe me, I am just as concerned about the planet as the next guy but the guys who throw it in my face have got to go. If I have to hear about the size of your carbon footprint one more time I'm gonna stick my carbon foot up your ass. And the little electric car you drive is annoying. If you tell me one more time how many gallons a fuel my SUV is gobbling up compared to your Matchbox toy, I'm going to go Monster Truck on you and flatten the thing in about 5.3 seconds.

Rescue Guy
This is the guy who, bless his heart, rescued a puppy from the pound. While I applaud your valiant deed, please don't flaunt it. That is something you do out of the goodness of your heart, not to get laid. If I hear you say, "She's a rescue" one more time, I'm taking your dog and giving it to the little girl who won't use it like a new Rolex watch she just purchased. And did you really "rescue" the dog? I mean, they were giving it away and you took it. Back when I was in college, I rescued an old couch from my neighbors curb. But whenever friends came over and plopped down to watch a game, I never told them, "It's a rescue."

Monday Morning Political Guy
This is the guy that watched every political show on the TV the previous night and cannot wait to vomit every bit of it out the next day to whoever will listen. Their evenings are spent taking down talking points and memorizing facts that can be used the next day. Generally these guys don't form their own opinions, rather they hear something they think they should believe (after all, if that person represents my political party, I better agree with him!)and try to get information that may back their belief. If I want that, I'll watch Glenn Beck, Bill Maher or any other late night talking head. At least that way I can turn them off when I get tired of listening.

My Wife's My Best Friend Guy
No she's not. She's your wife and nothing more. In fact, she shouldn't even be in your top five. We all love our wives but have you ever had sex with your best friend? No! So while I understand that the two of you love each other and enjoy each others company, best friends are reserved for guys, not your wife, so stop telling us that. Especially when our wives are around because you make us look like idiots and we don't want to hear about how our relationships need to be more like yours.

Monday, April 18, 2011

What I've Learned in Eight Weeks and Finding Peace


Wow. Eight weeks and I've kept my workout commitment which has got to be a first for me. I know they say habits are formed in about twenty one days but in my case, it took a little longer. I'm not sure if that's a reflection of my previous eating habits but it took over a month to comfortably say I can go through the day eating "clean". Having traveled the past week I didn't weigh in or get measurements but I did this week and I'm happy to say I have lost thirteen pounds and over two inches in the belly. Now, of course I've added some muscle but I didn't measure body fat when I started this and have no idea of how much. Another thing I learned, and this was a big lesson, is that the dramatic results you see in the pictures generally don't start appearing until near the end of the twelve weeks (at least that's what the forums are telling me). And love handles are the last to go which keeps me pushing on. There have been some discouraging days when I've looked at myself and thought I can't see a bit of difference from the last two weeks but I kept at it with faith that twelve weeks will produce a new man.

Another thing I learned is that the testimony's on almost every one of the workout miracles that are out there are designed to suck you in and that results may DEFINITELY vary. I was hoping everything I read about having unlimited amounts of energy and six pack abs in the first three weeks would be true. They are not, at least for me. True, I do have a little more energy at times but it has taken a while. And that's OK. It just hasn't happened overnight. But, results are starting to show more now that I am embarking on week nine and it has pushed me harder to finish these last four weeks. At that time I am going to post the before and after. I had started doing it each week but decided to wait until the end.

Now, about the writing. I have really fallen behind but plan to get back on the horse this week. For whatever excuse I can come up with, I just haven't been as committed but I happen to come across a book this weekend by Russell Simmons (The Def Row Record, Def Jam, etc guru) and it has inspired me to get back at it and not to stop. And off topic a little, it has me thinking about yoga. I have been hearing so many people talk about the miracles of yoga I'm beginning to believe it so I am heading to my gym this evening for my first class. Mr. Simmons book talks a lot about finding inner peace and focus and that seems to be something I've been wanting more of in my life. And so I turn to the great yogi (or the aerobics instructor at my gym who teaches yoga) and I search for whatever it is I may be looking for.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Craigs List Awesomeness

Not sure which is funnier. The unbelievable ingenuity of someone with too much time on his hand...or the butchering of the language.

Click to enlarge

Saturday, April 2, 2011

What I've Learned In Six Weeks - Writing is Difficult and Mini Vans Are OK


Week six is officially behind me and I must say, it was a tough. But it is another week in the books and after a good morning run I am down twelve pounds and over 32,000 words into the novel.

Two things about this week. First, and I don't know how many other writers experience this, as I was writing I started to question where the whole story was going and wondering if I'd wasted so much time on a story that would turn out to be crap. But I stuck with it because of the commitment I made to myself and ended up changing a couple story lines and backgrounds and things are now turning around. The funny thing is, that has happened in the past and I just tossed the writing away, starting something new. And taking that route has led to absolutely nothing being completed. But not this time! I am going to see this project through to the end and if it turns out to be somewhat of a disappointment, at the very least I will have learned a ton and that's exactly what I want this year to be. A year of trying, a year of learning and a year of accomplishment. And the only way I'm going to accomplish is to try and know there are things I will fail at. Knowing this has allowed me to keep going and make it a point to try new things along the way.

The second thing I learned this week was that we spend way too much money on our cars. Our status symbols. I especially see this as some men my age approach mid life and treat a new car as though it were a way to show off the size of their manhood if you know what I mean. Cars have become our social business cards. They announce where we believe we stand in the world and allows some to look up to us. And I say this having driven very nice cars! That's right, guilty. I loved pulling up in a car that had payments more appropriate for a nice apartment. I liked it because people looked at it and at me. I mean, there's a reason Toyota developed the Lexus and that's because people wouldn't spend $65,000 on a Toyota. But give it another name and a high price tag and you have a $65,000 Toyota.

Now, I know there are some that will say it has to do with comfort and the ride they offer. I'm not buying it. Why are high school kids, especially in this area, asking for BMW's and Mercedes. Because of the nice quiet ride they'll experience as they treat their car stereos like a live Hannah Montana concert? No, it's because they'll look cool and people will look up to them. And unfortunately that mentality has never left us, despite our age. We want to be the cool kids.

I realized this as I drove my wife's ten year old mini van down to Houston this past weekend. The ride was nice, I had enough room to bring a small college basketball team if I so desired and I got great gas mileage. So then why the hell am I driving something twice that expensive? Because I feel cool in it and there's no way in hell I'm driving a mini van around town. And that's sad because in those ten hours of just me and the mini van, I grew to respect it. But what hit me the most is that this is not a commentary on the perception of mini vans but an obvious reality of an insecurity I have. But one I can also work on!

Monday, March 28, 2011

What I've Learned in Five Weeks


Ah, that point in time when habits are forming and results are actually starting to show. My word count has now reached the 30,000 mark on my novel although I must admit there have been a couple days I missed due to any reasonable excuse I can come up with. But one thing I have found is that I am able to sit down a write when I may be tired or just not feeling it. And that's only because I have learned that by the time I'm fifteen or twenty minutes into it, I'm enjoying it! So I sit and I write. I also know that there are times when what I'm writing is junk and probably wont up up being part of the finished product. But that's OK! That's what the writing process is about and most of all, what the editing process is about.

And the exercise program is going great! Those first four weeks are tough mentally. Probably the hardest part is putting in so much work and effort and expecting to see dramatic results that just aren't there. It's the paper towel theory! And I've said it before, I believe we are programmed to get things instantly and easily and that's just not always the case. Why else would people be making money off things like Thirty Second Abs or Fat Burner pills? Or how about Ninety Days to the Perfect Body? Think that would sell if it was Perfect Body In One Quarter of a Year, which is exactly what it is? But I digress. This past week I was able to look in the mirror and see changes and that is a huge motivator. But I have learned that in any long term program you're in, you have to have faith in the process and listen to people who have been there and know what the end result is. And based on what I've read, I'm not expecting to see the huge results until about the eight week mark. I also try to set up motivators to keep me going. In my writing that may be reading about someone from a critique site that actually has a novel completed or perhaps someone who was just published. And when it comes to exercise, believe it or not, those silly Saturday morning commercials with every gimmicky exercise device or program out there is motivational. Seeing people transform themselves helps keep me going and allows me a glimpse at what the end result of discipline and hard work will get you.

Finally, this week I learned to set small benchmarks and enjoy the ride. You never know where the little things will take you. I had no idea when I started this blog, what the goal was or what my focus would be. In fact, I still really don't! But I know it has kept me going and pushed me to write my six hundred words a day. And it really is rewarding seeing people begin to follow you and actually take time to write comments. And when I decided to really put an effort into studying nutrition and exercise, I had no clue about the world record spin class attempt I was part of this weekend. It was only because of what I started over a month ago and it led to such an amazing experience and I'm sure will lead to more. In fact, I met some people down there who are talking about participating in a sprint triathlon and it looks like I'll be trying it myself! There's a quote by Joseph Campbell that sums this up nicer than I ever could. “When you follow your bliss... doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors; and where there wouldn't be a door for anyone else.”

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Guinness, Will You Count Again?

The day started with a four hour drive and a chance to make history. With an opportunity to mark something off my bucket list, I was heading to Houston City Center to participate in the worlds largest spin cycling class put on by Lifetime Fitness. The drive was a little too early for me but pleasant once I found decent radio stations. And on a side note, I never realized how many fishing talk shows are on Texas radio at five in the morning.

With the Houston skyline in my view I finally arrived and, after a couple wrong turns, found the event thanks to the nearly one thousand people walking around in the same blue and white cycling shirts and a sea of spin bikes parked on the outdoor plaza as well as the upstairs plaza of one of the hotels. I signed in and received my shirt and quickly headed inside to slip into it, eager to lay claim to my bike as I watched the plaza filling up. When I found a bike I started a few conversation with some of the people around me who were just as excited as I was to be part of this event. The weather was perfect and the people watching was fun. Costumes, such as the guys wearing seventies afro wigs or the man clad as a viking, were seen here and there and some parents brought there younger kids and made it a family event.

Finally, with bikes filled and a buzz filling the air, the DJ brought the place to life with, Lets Get it Started by The Black Eyed Peas and the place erupted. And for the next two hours we pedaled and sweat like we had jumped into a pool. Fortunately there were staffers passing out bottles of water and bananas for anyone in need. On prompts from the ten instructors spread around the event, we were up, then down, then tightening our wheels to make it harder to pedal, then back up again before sitting back down. This routine went on the entire time but the music and instructors were nothing but great and made the time go by quickly.

And so, after two painstaking hours, the news was out. News I wasn't anticipating and that was difficult to imagine looking out at the swarm of participants. We fell short of the record by a little over a hundred people. But what's interesting is that it really didn't make much of a difference to those who participated. We were all part of something special that brought so many people together. Shoppers at the outdoor mall stopped and watched with smiles, walking back and forth taking pictures or dancing to the music. People who had never met before were hugging and shaking hands, taking pictures together as news cameras and photographers captured the moments. And as much as I wanted to get that record, the experience was once in a lifetime and I was thrilled to be a part of it. And so, while I still have that item on my bucket list, I will search for another opportunity but treasure the experiences that I find as I search.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Writers on Writing - Getting Past Writer Block


Great video from various authors on writing. Biggest takeaway in my opinion is one I always try to adhere to. Just write, regardless if you're not feeling it or you feel like what you're writing is no good. You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

How Hard Would You Work For Greatness

I came across this video clip and thought it was truly inspiring. A must see that we can all apply to any area of our lives and truly a testament that greatness comes from hard work, determination and passion. What's funny is that I have heard similar messages from other people at the top of their game. Coincidence?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Guinness Book of Worlds Records, Here I Come


Ever wanted to get into the Guinness Book of World Records? Well, so have I. Only problem was, I didn't have the talent (or some freakish abnormality) to make it in. As a youngster, my friends and I tried hundreds of acts of daring or skill we thought we just might be able to master. We caught coins off our elbow (world record is 338 coins), pogo sticked as long as we possibly could (world record is over 23 miles), and tried to catch a raw egg as far as we could possibly throw one (world record is 332 feet). Needless to say, we never came close but I thank you Mike, Jeff, Danny and Steve for all giving the effort.

Fast forward a few years and it looks like I will finally get the opportunity to fulfill this lifelong dream. It's rare that something like this comes along but when it did, I had no choice. And so, this weekend I will hopefully make that dream come true. There are factors that play into succeeding but the attempt will be made and hopefully, come Saturday afternoon, history will be made.

I will post the outcome this on Sunday along with a few pictures to document this momentous time of my life and in the mean time, wish me luck.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

But I So Wanted to Believe It



In this day and age, with every technological advancement we make comes some a group of super nerds who can manipulate that technology for the good of evil. I now have to be careful of taking pictures with my phone because there's something called a metatag that allows people to see exactly where I was when I took the picture. And don't even try to log on to an un-secured wireless network or you risk having some evil hacker take over your computer, download all your passwords, empty your bank account, steal your identity, steal your wife, get you fired from your job and get your dog to turn on you.

But every now and then something comes along that you watch and say to yourself, how cool is that! Which is what happened to me this weekend as I came across an e-mail a good friend had sent me. The video showed a man hacking into the video billboards in Time Square and putting himself on the screens, using only his cell phone, a "transmitter," and a red balloon. I was amazed and applauded the genius of this man and immediately sent the video to other friends of mine to enjoy.

Well, turns out the whole thing was a hoax. You see, there's this thing called viral advertising that has taken off in the past few years. Ad agencies create something so unbelievable and stick it on the internet in hopes of it going viral and making news. Which is exactly what happened here. The video was all set up for the movie Limitless with Bradley Cooper. There is no hacking into Times Squares video boards but rather the company behind all this paid to show the videos at specific times giving the impression they were being hacked. Twice in the clip, the mans broadcast interrupts an ad for the movie, something I caught the first time I saw it but didn't put two and two together.

And so, while I am somewhat dissapointed that there was know super technology allowing people with cell phones to hack into giant computer screens, I must applaud the genius of the advertising agency. And so to them I say, well played my friends.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dear Blank, Please Blank


I've often wondered how my kids can spend so much time on the internet, surfing page to page like a longboard rider off the coast of Hawaii. The number of times my daughter has stopped me in my tracks to show me the latest youtube sensation or a new game is too much to remember. And while I do admit I did sign on to play Words with Friends (isn't that really just Scrabble?) after being told about it by my son, for the most part I try and stay away from the mind numbing nothingness that is so prevalent on the internet.

But then yesterday I stumbled upon a site they had left up on my Ipad. It was a site called dear blank please blank and instantly I was hooked. I couldn't stop reading and trying to come up with my own clever messages. Basically it's nothing more than a site that allows users to write a simple note to a selected celebrity, politician, etc., followed by a brief, funny quip and then signed by the appropriate sender. An example I came across:

Dear Nickleback,

That's enough.

Signed, The World


And so for the next two hours I read note after note, running into the bedroom to make my wife listen to every funny message I came across. And each time she gave me the same look I give my children when they do the same...but that's different. And then I came up with a couple myself to submit with a little help from my children. If I make it on, I'll definatley post them. In the mean time, maybe I'll pay a little more attention to what my kids want to show me on the internet.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

What I've Learned in Four Weeks - And the Paper Towel Theory


One month into my ninety day challenge (not P90X or any other pay through the nose programs but a simple somewhat self taught program I use for myself after doing a little research so I wouldn't have to spend the money and be mad at myself if I didn't complete it) I am starting to notice changes! Not only in my body but in how I apply the learning's to my everyday life and my writing. First off, one of the biggest challenges, as I've mentioned in earlier posts, is expecting to see dramatic results after putting in so much effort. But then I finally came to the realization that there's a reason this is supposed to be done over ninety days. If everyone were to see dramatic results in just four weeks, we'd have infomercials full of thirty day workout programs and that's just not the case. After going through a little self doubt, especially after gaining a pound one week, I consulted some blogs and forums and found that you really should start seeing the big changes after about half way through. And then I came across an interesting article by a dietitian that I thought summed it up and was so easily transferred into other things I do...like my writing. He called it The Paper Towel Theory and it began with imagining you have two equally full rolls of paper towels side by side. Now, each day you worked out, you were to remove one sheet of paper from one of the rolls and continue doing this every day you work out. I related this to writing. Every day you write a certain number of words (in my case, I have a goal of 600 words each day I write) you tear off a sheet. After a week, do you really notice a difference? No. In fact, the rolls look pretty much the same. The same can be said for the second week. In fact, after a few weeks you maybe notice a slight difference in the circumference but you probably feel like there should be a lot more of a change! But then you get past that half way point and there you see the biggest difference. Finally, you are starting to see the hard work paying off. The sheets seem to be making a big difference with each one you remove and you come to the realization there is actually a finish line in sight and you can reach it.

And so, after this past week, I know I am getting closer. And despite the fact my hypothetical rolls of towels aren't looking that much different, I look forward to the day I tear that last sheet off, pick up that paper towel roll and blow into it like crazed soccer fan with a vuvuzela. I am approaching 25,000 words on my novel and I've lost over an inch around my waist and almost nine pounds. And so I keep on plugging away, pushing back thoughts of wanting immediate results and realizing with anything you expect out of life, sometimes it takes work. Hard work. But it can be done and I plan on seeing it through. Now...wish me luck!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Did You Notice the Lady on the Bench

One of the my biggest challenges in writing is doing just that. Writing! There have been so many days when I just want to turn on the TV and escape. The motivation is just not there and even though I know it will often take no more than an hour of my time to just sit alone with my laptop and write, it's hard. There are times I just don't know where my story is going and I'm not sure what to write.

I came across a great website filled with stories from writers on writing. One in particular (too many to read all at once) captured my attention so I thought I'd share. The author mentioned keeping a journal to capture those moments in time that make an impact. Now I'll admit I don't walk around with a large, leather bound notebook, jotting down copious notes as I capture my world around me. But I do use my phone (the notebook application) and as thoughts come to me, perhaps an appropriate metaphor or a description of a man I saw on a bus stop, I type them in and come back to them later. There is no better time than that moment in time to capture exactly what you're seeing, hearing, feeling or smelling. A great example of this was an exercise I once had in a creative writing class. We were told to think of a location near our home. A park, your front porch, your bedroom or maybe a tourist location. We were then challenged to write a descriptive piece and capture that location on paper using our memory. I chose a park I've been taking my dog to for years and included in my writing; kids playing, the trees that lined the walkway, the smell of eucalyptus trees and the other people walking their dogs. I felt I did a wonderful job of taking the reader to my park.

Now that we had completed our assignments in class, we were told to go to that same location the following week and sit for half an hour and do the same thing. And to my surprise, I had failed miserably at really capturing the feel of the park in my original piece. And so I wrote again, this time including the ping from the aluminum baseball bat a young boy made as his father pitched baseballs to him, the free standing restrooms in need of a new coat of paint, the sign posted on the recreation building offering yoga classes for people over fifty and a mother sitting by herself as her kids ran wild on the playground. She sat alone and deep in thought and I wondered what was going on in her head, making up stories in my mind of a fight with her husband, money problems or a sick family member.

The point was obvious. There is so much going on around us and too often we don't take the time to really look at what is happening. To take in the sights and sounds and capture that on paper to give the reader the feeling of actually being right there in that park with you. So since then, I always take notes and if I'm not able to I'll take a mental picture of exactly what is going on and when I can, put it in writing.

Give it a try one day! It really is a great exercise and I've found it helps get the writing juices flowing. Sometimes it's good just to write. Take a break from your manuscript but keep writing. I think you'll be surprised at how much you'll benefit from it and it may even improve your story!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tales of Success



Sometimes it's those stories of an underdog that help motivate and keep people focused on a goal. How one persons persistence and motivation helped them overcome the odds and make it. These stories allow us to take a peek inside the trials and tribulations they went through and let us know we're not the only ones facing adversity and that there can be a positive outcome. And one common thread that seems to prevail in all these stories is that it takes work. Hard work.

I came across one of these stories while skimming through posts on Critique Circle. A woman who loved writing and reading finally decided it was time to follow her dream and write a novel. And like any aspiring writer, she quickly learned it wasn't easy. After submitting some of her writing and receiving loads of feedback, she realized she needed to work at getting better. And she did. Chapter after chapter she wrote and submitted for critique, plugging along and making suggested changes. Until one day when it was finally finished.

Flash forward and this author self published her novel, selling over 70,000 e books on Amazon! And now an agent has queried her about representing her! There are talks in the thread about film rights, international publishing, etc.

And so I huddle behind my laptop, punching out plot lines and tightening up characters. Reading critiques and admitting there are areas I need to improve upon and keeping a goal in sight. Where it ends up I have no idea. But I know that my goal of putting together a readable novel is in no ones hands but mine and that it won't be easy. But it will be rewardable in more ways than one.

To read the thread I'm referring to, click on the link below:

http://critiquecircle.com/forums.asp?action=viewforum&thread=843723&offset=0

Saturday, March 12, 2011

What I've Learned in Three Weeks

Well, three weeks down (or should I say 21 days since it is a ninety day program and not a twelve week program!). So this is the point when things start to become habit and therefore should be a little bit easier, right? And actually, they are getting there. I'm finding the workouts I set for myself are not quite as difficult and I attribute this to knowing what my body can do. In other words, the first few workouts I would push myself to the burn and it was hard! But now I know what that burn is and that I am perfectly capable of doing it so it really has become easier. And the eating has definitely become more manageable. I find myself forgetting I need to eat. Now, on the other hand, there is that expectation of drastic changes taking place and that is not quite happening yet. You see infomercials and these little hard bodies running around talking about how they have the energy of a small nuclear plant and you want that energy too! Well, I may have gained a little but nothing really noticeable. And I really feel that after three weeks I want to see a six pack and Mens Health muscles. But, as you can see in the photos the difference isn't great but it is coming along. And besides, there's still sixty seven days to go. I can say I have lost just about an inch off the waist but unfortunately I am in a hotel as I write this and according to the scale in the gym downstairs, I now weigh 128 pounds. So I'll be waiting until Monday to get my actual weight.

But probably the biggest lesson is exactly what it is we are changing when we tackle something like this. Most people begin a weight loss program with the goal of changing their body shape. But really, we all can change our body shape but the only way to do that is by changing our mind set. Changing your lifestyle is not an easy task. You must look at developing a long-term plan that incorporates not just changing what you eat or how you exercise, but also how you respond to daily challenges. Because you may be dealing with lifestyle habits that are deeply ingrained, it may take some discipline, focus, determination, and above all, time to alter these habits. The good news is that you can change. Behavioral modification plays a critical role in any weight loss program and, if continuously practiced and applied, will arm you with the tools needed to achieve long-term success. And with these changes I've definitely noticed a difference in my work habits as well. Being in sales, there are many days (or weeks) when things just aren't going the way you planned. But taking what I've been learning in the few short weeks, I find myself pushing harder and keeping the negative thoughts out. So far so good but the real challenge is keeping this up for a heck of a lot longer than ninety days!


Friday, March 11, 2011

The Truth Hurts


Well, chapter one was finally put up for critique on Critique Circle. And while I waited patiently to receive rave reviews, my curiosity grew as my story showed the number of critiques at zero after almost a full day. Surely someone must have skimmed the brilliant piece of literature by now and wanted to tell me I was the next big thing. Right? But the clocked continued to tick away with nothing. But then, as the day nearly drew to a close, I had a message. Someone had critiqued my story. So with nervous hands I opened the message and began reading. It started out well as penned by Uforia9:

I love this opening. It hooks me immediately— it shows that the narrator is not a believer in 'destiny,' if you will, and it makes me want to know about this Karen character. What has she done that has prompted the narrator to tell his or her story to us? I read on.

Ah ha! I was right! It's brilliant. Right? But then Uforia9 continued with small things like:

This reads awkwardly

You mentioned in the paragraph above that Brandon Tramble doesn't pay attention to fashion. Why is the narrator reminded of his own lack of fashion when he's around his roommate?

I'd suggest proofreading your next draft a little more carefully to reduce the amount of spelling and grammatical errors. Something that helps me with that (as well as discovering the flow of a story, and where things do and do not work) is by reading it out loud to myself.


Don't get me wrong, there was a lot of good that was found but my nature is to focus on the bad.

By the next morning another critique had come in. And Avengir thought:

Honestly, I'm a little bored here. I just want to get into the story, not get bogged down with a big block of text about coincidence and fate.

Again, some positive things but... And so I typed away with a painted on smile my thanks to both Uforia9 and Avengir for taking not only the time to read my story but to actually sit down and give some honest and helpful feedback. And the thing I finally had to admit was, they're right! Everything they said was pretty much spot on and I've learned that if you're going to be a writer, this goes with the territory. Regardless of who you are. After all, how many of our greatest modern day writers have been critiqued or turned away by publishers? This would be a great place to insert a number or a list of names but I won't. Mainly because I'm on a tight schedule today and have a five hour drive to make. But trust me, it's a lot!

And so I keep on, six hundred words today and then back to chapter one to work on some small editing thanks to my new friends Uforia9 and Avengir. I know there will be more critiques by the time the weekend is over but my skin has toughened and I have grown. And so I say to them...bring it.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wordless Wednesday


Ever since reading Hemmingways, The Sun Also Rises, I wanted so badly to go and experience Pamplona and everything he wrote about. And so, after years of saying, someday, I convinced my brother in law to take a trip to Spain with me and run with the bulls. All I can say is that is was one of the most memorable moments of my life and I could not stop talking about it for a month. And I touched a bull with my newspaper! The picture was taken once I made it into the arena. Thank you Ernest.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Perhaps a New Business

So this weekend while my wife was out of town, the kids and I decided to do a little project. My daughter suggested we do something in the kitchen to which my son reluctantly agreed. While my culinary skills would rival Betty White on the gridiron, I decided to put a little thought and research into it and came up with something the three of us would enjoy, frozen bananas. The directions looks relatively simple and a few dollars spent at the grocery store was all it took. That evening we sliced bananas into halves, stuck popsicle sticks in them and put them into the freezer for the next day.

Problem number one arose when I tried to melt the chocolate on the oven using a glass bowl snuggled into the top of a pan with water. The directions said to bring the water to a mild boil (is there such a thing?) and then stir the chocolate as it melts. Now, perhaps I didn't understand the term "mild" which resulted in a glob of goo that resembled a mud ball. So back to the store for more chocolate, a little more research on the internet and the decision to use the microwave. Ahhh, success.

The three of each took turns dipping the frozen fruit into the liquid chocolate and then had our choice of candy sprinkles, chocolate sprinkles, nuts, or coconut to sprinkle on our creations. And when it was all said and done I was amazed at how professional our little project turned out!

Which got me to thinking (always the entrepreneur) this would make a great business! There are a number of these little shacks around town that offer snow cones, why not frozen bananas? Customers could choose their toppings to go along with regular chocolate, white chocolate or dark chocolate. And they are somewhat healthy! So why not get our own banana shack and get it going (I know this is somewhat a rip off of Arrested Development but who cares. It's a great idea.)

I know this will probably never come to fruition but there will probably be a day when I start seeing banana shacks pop up around town and I can say to the kids, "You know, we kinda started that."

Saturday, March 5, 2011

What I've Learned in Two Weeks

Week two is now in the books on my body shaping quest. While I continue to abide by most of the rules, I have been guilty of having a couple cocktails on occasion. But I have greatly modified the amount of wine I was consuming during the week. I found that it wasn't so much that I was drinking for the effect, rather it was more like just the habit of pouring a glass every night around dinner time, usually followed by another one...sometimes two. And although there still is that temptation to pour a nice chardonnay, I find that a glass of soda water with a lime offers me something to sip on without feeling like I'm missing out.

The food part hasn't been too bad. The plan calls for eating six times a day, six days a week using mostly a combination of protein, carbs and veggies and having anything you want on the seventh day. And I mean anything. This is one of the things that makes this so appealing to me because I didn't go into this with the mindset that I cannot have pizza, ice cream or fried foods for the next ninety days. There is always a reward after six days.

Now, about that ninety days. That sure sounds a lot shorter than three months, doesn't it? I mean, I'm only two weeks in and I feel like I've been doing this for a month! But now is the time to fight through. Habits are formed after a minimum of twenty one days and I'm on day fourteen so I realize this is the hard part. But I have seen progress and that is motivating.

In most things I do I try to take something away that I can apply to other areas of my life and this is a big one. We are programmed to want something now. I get that. Having adhered to this plan I really want to start seeing the six pack and bulging arms. And I think that's where people get discouraged. They put the effort in for a short while and not seeing the results they wish, they abort. And I have come to learn that the only people who succeed are those that follow through. Simple as that. Any diet or workout plan out there will work...if you follow it. I look at writing the same way. To complete a novel is time consuming. In fact, probably one of the most time consuming things you can do! But if you set a simple plan and follow it, taking small steps the entire way through, it can be done. And realize there are going to be days you stray a little from your writing schedule, just like I did with the wine. That's OK! Get back at it the next day! Just know the end result. And speaking of results, I have lost six pounds and three quarters of an inch off the waist! I may not see it so much yet, but I know what lies ahead!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Chapter One - Finally

I'm not sure why I took so long to post this other than procrastination and the fact I need to re-do something a dozen times before I'll even contemplate showing anyone. But in this case I briefly looked it over, checked for spelling errors and posted. I have been hard at work to keep up six hundred words per day, admittedly failing on a couple days but never the less, sticking with it. I plan on putting this up on Critique Circle for some good honest feedback but feel free to crit. I have thick skin and welcome any improvement. At this point I'm not sure if I'll keep posting chapters, maybe just a couple for feedback or an occasional random chapter.

As of now I am over a month into this adventure and the one thing I am noticing is slight habits beginning to form. I'll be the first to admit there is that wall to break through but they say it takes about twenty one days to form a habit. I've noticed my writing has increased tremendously and my eating and exercise has become more of a routine. And speaking of, I will post week two pics tomorrow. To quote a modern day poet, Charlie Sheen...Duh! Winning!!

Anyway, to view the chapter you can just click on "Fullscreen" and it should pull it up. I'm also keeping a sidebar link to it as well.


Dank Chapter One

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Lose Weight...Now?

So during this wonderful little journey, there were some things I looked back on in my younger days and thought...am I too old now? Of course the list is endless on what I cannot do for obvious reasons. I can no longer skate board up the side of a vertical swimming pool, experience my first kiss or catch a pass over the middle, get drilled by a linebacker and keep going for another twenty yards. But what about others? As I laid in my couch like a blow up doll that had just had the air let out of it, I flipped through the channels, landing on a show called The Biggest Loser. I'm sure everyone knows by now the show follows a group of dangerously overweight contestants as they battle to lose as much weight as possible and more importantly, get healthy. And I as I watched, I was inspired by young and old alike, all competing on a level playing field in their quest to become the Biggest Loser.

Now, I am in no way obese and will never know if I have anywhere near what it takes to accomplish what these people do but as I looked at my somewhat doughy body I thought, 'I want to do that. I want to feel a little of the accomplishment they are feeling.' Over the years, I have tried to exercise occasionally, especially after seeing what twenty years had done to some of my high school buddies. But never the less I had become soft. My dinners were starting to resemble death row inmates last meals and my clothes were shrinking. And I can't tell you how many resolutions contained the phrase: Get in the best shape of my life.

So the next day I went down to the gym and weighed myself. Result? Two hundred three pounds on my 5'11" frame. That's an increase of almost forty pounds since high school. And while I know that's an unreasonable weight for me to get back to, I decided right there that this will be the year. If I am serious about this Forty Nine and Counting, than what better time to start. And so I have begun. After skimming through every known program out there, P90X, Weight Watchers, Weight Busters, LMNOP, and any other of the hundreds of thousands of programs, I settled on one. The reason was simple. It wasn't a magic plan but teaches how to eat right and exercise. AND every week you have a day you can eat whatever the hell you want! I'm in! Even better was the fact I didn't have to spend a dime and checked the book out at the library.

And so...week one I find myself down three pounds and the tape around my waist actually showed improvement! But, as I thought what would help motivate me I decided, why not post the result? And so we begin. Week one is behind me and up goes the first picture. I have decided to post one a week to keep me going. Why no face? To borrow a quote from Whitney Houston, "Hell to the no!" I have children and I'd like to keep it that way.

Friday, February 25, 2011

It's Never Too Late to Write

For all of you who think it might be too late to make a life as a writer (or as anything else you have your heart set on), let me direct your attention to this great article by Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker.

In particular, you’re going to want to read the opening story about a writer named Ben Fountain.

Seriously, you guys. Becoming a professional writer is more possible than you know. You just have to get over your fears and excuses and START RIGHT NOW.

How Not to Act Old

Dan Kadlec is co-author of The Power Years, a guide for boomers. E-mail him at boom_years@moneymail.com.
How to save your job

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(Money Magazine) -- So you've discovered how to network on Facebook and LinkedIn and you've even been known to forward the occasional YouTube video to colleagues. Well, don't go congratulating yourself on how au courant you are just yet.

Professional networking sites and online videos are, like, so last year, compared with blogging, twittering and other new techniques that are rapidly emerging as useful, even necessary, workplace skills.

If you don't know how to integrate these latest communication technologies into your workday - or worse, you resist them altogether - you run the risk of appearing old and hopelessly out of touch.

That isn't good anytime, but it's especially perilous in a weak economy when, as a mature worker with a relatively big salary, you're most vulnerable to cutbacks.

Want to be seen as vital and youthful (in spirit if not in years) in today's workplace?Here are four tech skills that folks under 35 know almost intuitively and that I'm trying to master now to avoid being seen as old ahead of my time.

Texting
Odds are, you already send the occasional text message from your cell phone to your child or spouse or to vote for your favorite contestant on "American Idol."

Yet texting in a business setting is different, a way of imparting vital information without the distraction of conversation. It's particularly useful in situations where staff members work in disparate locations, are on the road a lot or keep irregular hours.

In those circumstances, boomers tend to favor phone calls and e-mail - technologies that are practically Jurassic to younger coworkers, who will check their phone log but hardly ever listen to voice mail. Meanwhile, e-mail lacks immediacy; by the time it's read, it's old news and, if written by a boomer, likely rambles on too long.

Just make sure you adhere to the unspoken rules of business texting. First, reserve your texts for communications that are brief, factual and important.

"Texting is great for information someone needs right away," says John Challenger, CEO of the outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas. "It's about giving someone a number fast, not the analysis of that number." Learn and use common shorthand like "YT?" (You there?).

And forgo proper punctuation, which can make you look stiff (caps are entirely optional). But don't get cute with any shorthand you know from your kids - OMG! - which will make you look like you're trying too hard.

Wikis
A wiki is a Web page where team members can post information that relates to a certain project. Other team members can see the information instantly and comment on it, add to it or correct it.

It works a lot like Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, only with office wikis, access is restricted to people with info you trust, not open to the general public. Boomers have always relied on the big meeting or conference call. But wikis render them practically obsolete, with updates that are instant and transparent.

Want to set up your own wiki? Get the ball rolling at wetpaint.com or socialtext.com. It's easy. Honest. But at commoncraft there's an explanation.

Twittering
This is the newest of the new. "Six months ago I thought it was useless, a waste of time," says Josh Levy, 28, a Web entrepreneur. "Today I can see how much more productive it makes me."

How so? At twitter.com more than a million people around the world write short, frequent diary entries about what they are doing or thinking right now (similar to status updates on Facebook).

Much of it is garbage. But the site lets you choose which twitterers you want to follow, and some are serious people grappling with serious issues. Through twitter you can essentially hear them think out loud.

For example, when Levy and his partner Ross Cohen, 27, were raising money for their Web site BeenVerified.com, an online background-checking service, they learned about the process by following the twittering of a prominent venture capitalist.

Says Cohen: "We had access to his reasoning and could really learn from it." Through Twitter.com they found and hired one of their first employees and discovered Crowdspring.com, where they were able to outsource their logo design work and get 153 proposals for a sliver of the price they would have paid a designer offline.

Knowing how to mine the Web for cost-efficient hiring and resources is an increasingly important skill, and twitterers share this stuff all the time.

Blogging
A smart, entertaining blog that pulls in Web links, photos and video clips can help build your professional profile and shape you as a thought leader. It can also create previously unforeseen business opportunities.

Pamela Redmond Satran is a writer who noticed that her boomer friends spent a lot of time talking about what their children were doing - not what they were doing. "They sounded so old," she said.

So just for fun, last June she launched a blog at hownottoactold.com. It got some notice, and within months she had landed a book deal (due out in August 2009).

It's easy to start a blog at wordpress.com. Whether you want to make the effort is another question. Blogs are worth your time only if you have a noteworthy topic to explore and are willing to work at putting forth interesting views and to stick with it.

Not your thing? Be a regular reader of blogs instead. Surfing the blogosphere, like reading twitterers, can expand your views and lead you to online resources you'd never find on your own.

Search for interesting blogs at technorati.com; then open a free Google Reader account and have new postings from your top blogs automatically sent to your inbox.

"People may take the attitude, 'Who needs this stuff?'" says Satran. "Well, there was a time when people asked, 'Who needs indoor plumbing?'"

Will mastering these technologies guarantee that you'll keep your job? Of course not. But it may help. And you might as well get used to them because this stuff isn't going away - that is, until something even more baffling comes along.

How layoff-proof are you? We want to know what moves you're making now or have made in past downturns to keep your job. Did you step up and take on additional responsibilities? Or agree to a pay cut? Solve a critical problem for your boss? Or make yourself indispensable in some way? Send us your photos and videos and share your strategies that are keeping you off the unemployment line.  

The biggest raise you'll ever get

Monday, February 21, 2011

What Makes the Man in Your Story


So I came across a study performed by a group of university psychology professors. In the study they "proved what car-dealers have boasted for generations. The car one drives is key when it comes to turning a woman's head." But is it that simple? Could my protagonist land the leading lady because he drives a two hundred thousand dollar car?

The university team showed women pictures of the same man sitting in two cars - a silver Bentley Continental and a battered Ford Fiesta.

The women, who were aged between 21 to 40, picked the man sitting in the Bentley ahead of the same man in the Ford. The researchers say the men tested in the same way are not impressed by whatever car a woman drives because they judge purely on her face and figure.

The article got me to thinking about how readers, if not given all of the information, can jump to conclusion and why it is the responsibility of us, the writers, to really know and understand our characters. Take the above study for example. What is it about the men that made them attractive to the women of the study? Was it really just the car they were in? Or is there more to the story that we, the reader, should understand?

I raised this topic at a recent dinner party (it sounds much more elegant and high brow when I call it a dinner party when in reality it was a few of the neighbors over for burgers)and was fascinated by what I learned. I was able to get deeper inside the female mind and learn more about this phenomenon. To finally get real answers to how the short, doughy bald guy was able to land the leggy, beautiful blond.

You see, when women see a man in an expensive car there is something that comes along with it that is what attracts women to them. Yes, the car will get the women to look but why? In a woman's mind they see drive and ambition. A man driving the expensive car more than likely worked hard for it and that is what's attractive to women. And also, there is security. Women more often than not associate money with security and not always shopping. Women are not as visually stimulated as men are and therefor do not need the eye candy men so desire. They want a man with drive and confidence. That's what's sexy to them. Believe me. You introduce a woman to an attractive man who drives a Porsche but has the personality of a car wreck and the ambition of sidewalk slug and see how long it lasts. Don't get me wrong. The car will get the womans attention but not keep it.

And so I thought about how to bring this to my writing and challenged myself. Can I make a character desirable to women without making him six two with perfect hair and a movie star smile? Can I put together someone who has the traits that truly make him the affection of all women?

This is a challenge all writers face. Understanding the psychology of people and developing characters that draw people in and make them more real. Focus on the short doughy mans ambition, his drive, his passion for success and you'll have a character that women are attracted to and men envy. Show us and don't tell us what makes him attractive to women. It's easy to come up with a handsome leading man who has the world at his finger tips but challenge yourself to paint a picture using human traits. And give him a few flaws! People empathize more readily with a strong protagonist with realistic flaws.

However, as much as I hate to admit it, the women in my story for the most part drive nice cars. But they have pretty faces and big boobs.

Creative and Amazing Artwork

Canon Pixma: Bringing colour to life from Dentsu London on Vimeo.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

I write...and say goodbye to friend


As I head into the weekend and reflect, it's those six hundred words a day I type out into my laptop that give me a feeling of accomplishment. I have seen characters develop attitudes I didn't see coming and out of no where, a nice little subplot appeared. And I'm beginning to understand the "just write" mantra. In the past, I would wait until something came to me and then write it out. The only problem was, if I wasn't sitting at my computer, the ideas just weren't there and that led to frustration. I was thinking there just wasn't any hope of coming up with an entire story that would be worth reading.

I have no idea why we sometimes don't listen to people who have been there and done that and instead choose to keep doing things the way we've always done them and getting the same results. Is it laziness? Or possibly arrogance? One author whose work I enjoy, Harlan Coben, happened to be on the cover of Writers Digest and in the article he talked about finding time to write, making yourself write and eventually quantity leads to quality. Coincidentally, this past summer I picked up his first book he ever wrote, Play Dead. He wrote in the jacket that he didn't want to re-write and publish it but instead wanted to put it out the way it was written over twenty years ago. And as a fan of his it was honestly refreshing to see something that in no way resembled his books of today. Plots were weak, characters didn't jump off the page and the dialogue was lacking. But what this allowed me to do was see how much he has grown as a writer by nothing more than keeping at it with a passion to do what he does now. And in the article he, like any writer I ever see interviewed, said you have to find time to write and if you don't you're just making excuses. And with that I continue to plug along, six hundred words a day, and watch my little novel grow.

On a sad note, Borders declared bankruptcy this past week. And living in a city where less than two years ago a Borders sprung up within walking distance from my house, I waited anxiously as they announced which stores would be closing. And as I perused the list, hoping to not see our little city on that death list...it was. And for over a day now, a sadness has followed me and this morning it hit even harder as I opened my e-mail, only to find an announcement to come on down and buy everything from 40%-60% off. I hung my head, feeling I just couldn't do it. It would be like a vulture picking the meat of a dead carcass until only the skeleton remains.

And so I say goodbye Borders. I will miss you. You have been there when I needed to get away and just read while enjoying a cup of coffee. You have provided me countless books which now line my shelves as well as books for my children. And while I know there are decisions in business that have to be made, this is one I wish never happened.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Living in a Young Persons World


And so as I approach fifty I found myself applying for a sales position with a company my brother in law had referred me to. 'It's a great company. An internet company,' he told me with a convincing voice. 'Living Social. Tons of potential and I believe Amazon just invested $175 million with them!' Trusting his years of experience working with on-line companies I took his advice and sent in a resume. I mean, if Amazon believed in them...

I soon received a phone call informing they were interested and would like to set up a phone interview. After two other phone interviews I was asked to fly to Washington D.C. for face to face interviews. Now, not having had to interview much in recent years, I prepared as I would for any position, practicing and getting my pitch down. And upon hearing I would be flying out, my brother in law adamantly said, 'No tie. Don't wear a tie.' This is the equivalent of telling me not to hold my breath under water. No tie? I have been told all my life that regardless of the position you're applying for, always wear a tie? 'You know,' he said, 'at Google if an applicant wears a tie, they don't even get in for the interview. Because they think the person just doesn't get the culture.' The culture? Had my years sped by me at internet like speed that I missed this new revolution? Or did I just come from a different generation. My nerves were starting to settle in like a baby does a comfortable blanket.

And then, three days prior to my flying out my wife approached me. 'I'm just telling you this because I told her I would.' Her? Who is her? 'My mom said you may want to think about dyeing your hair.' Now, I'll admit the grays are starting to show. Gods graffiti. But I have been told it looks good on me. Clooney like, in fact. It was at this point in my life that my age hit me in the face like a well thrown Tony Romo pass. Am I actually too old for a job? I'm forty nine for Gods sake! I agreed to no tie but the hair was staying. The last thing I wanted was to screw up a die job and go in looking like Jackson Pollok had experimented on my head.

At the airport, the driver informed me he was picking up two others as well. I met them, she a pretty Southern girl just out of college and he a thirty year old, good looking kid from Cleveland. Turns out there were about two hundred others flying in to interview for positions around the country.

I settled into my hotel room, unable to shake the fact that I may be one of the oldest people interviewing the next day. Dreams of me walking with a cane and driving a Rascal filled my nights, never more aware of my age.

The next day was filled with me trying to convince kids who looked like they may have just received drivers licenses, that I was the man for the job. I avoided any reference to my age, choosing not to tell the obvious jokes and instead treated it like any other job interview, sans tie. When it was all said and done, I was thanked, sent home and told I would be contacted within ten days. I said my goodbyes as my peers set down their sippy cups and shook my hand, all of us wishing each other luck.

The following day, I received a call. I had been hired! My worry was for naught and I actually received an offer. It has now been a month and I have to say it was been great. The company does have a great culture that I find refreshing. It's a culture that looks at doing things new ways. Of not doing something because it's the traditional business practice. And I like that. Too often we do things because that's the way they've always been done. Because we're comfortable and don't want to change. And I am going to take that and try to apply it to my life. To do things differently and not let what has been programmed into me force me to make decisions. With the exception of coloring my hair. The wife likes the gray.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Never Too Late


So after a week of record low temperatures in the DFW metroplex, we are starting to thaw out. While the kids enjoyed five days off in two weeks, I was resigned to my home office, working until five and spending time every day writing at least six hundred words for my novel. And you know what? I did it. I know you're thinking, 'one week, not that impressive'. But having done a little research on the subject I have learned that good habits are formed in about three weeks. In other words, if you can commit to three weeks of making yourself do something consistently, you are on your way to changing your life. Of course we are going to break some. But make enough good habits a goal and there will be some you keep. It's never too late to start something new for yourself. And I don't care how old you are. Brett Favre is only seven years younger than me and he is/was/may be playing in the NFL! And I'm almost fifty. Although I have heard that fifty is the new black.

A friend of mine had dropped out of college and never returned. On the day of his fiftieth birthday he announced to a stunned room that had already been numbed by gallons of Jameson and red wine, that he was returning to college. His reasoning? In three years he was going to be fifty three, no matter what. That was a given. And he could either be a fifty three year old without a diploma, or a fifty three year old college graduate. Three years ago he graduated, taking advantage of a University that offered a program for working adults and he is now in a Graduate program for Human Resource Management. Which sure beats the hell out of his last job as manager at a warehouse. He'll be fifty six and starting an entirely new career. Or he could have been fifty six working at the warehouse. And I'm not knocking his last job. It paid him well enough to support a family of four. But he always had an emptiness inside him that needed to be filled. And he did it. And what's fascinating is to see the change in him and listen to the stories of other students older than him, doing the same thing.

My point to this story is, go after that dream you have. Don't make excuses, especially about being too old. Take a class, join a club, start a blog, write a short story or start walking a couple miles a day. You know that if you commit to just a mile a day you will have walked three hundred sixty five miles in one year? Think about that! Remember what I said at the beginning of all this? By the time I'm fifty, I will be able to call myself an author. I can tell people I wrote a book. Truth be told, I have no idea how good or bad it will be, but I'm going to do it. And by the way, I will be posting the first chapter on this site by the end of this month! It's not that I haven't finished the first chapter, it's just that I want to edit it and make it presentable. And who knows what after that? I have been going to the gym and working out, which is something I've been doing for years, but I was approached by a friend about participating in a sprint triathlon! Stay tuned for details.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Facebook Depression


So I logged onto Facebook last week and read, as I usually do, about one friends amazing night out on the town, sipping fine wine at an upscale restaurant, gnawing on a very expensive steak and then finishing the night off with a movie. And this is on a Wednesday night! Of course, his post came with pictures of him and his beautiful trophy wife (his third) and was complimented with a number of "likes" from all of his and her friends. And as I scrolled down through the page, it was right there in front of me. All of these people living their lives out loud in a world they are able to shape and manipulate in which the final product becomes a portrait of some form of distorted reality they want people to buy into.

Are that many peoples lives really that fantastic? Should I be climbing Mount Everest and Running with the Bulls as well? I think the most exciting thing I did this year was won a free lap at the Putt Putt go kart track. But is that Facebook worthy? How do I keep up with the likes of others who have somehow managed to travel to 45 foreign countries this past summer?

And what about the pressure that comes along with being on Facebook. What is my obligation? I really don't want to be that persons "friend" but what happens if I don't and then I run into them? Will I be persecuted in front of others ? Will some sort of Facebook mob start to form and throw rocks at me? And so what if I didn't "like" my buddies Wednesday night out like my other thirty two friends did. I don't need them saying, "What...are you too cool to think Toms pictures were nice?"

And how often am I supposed to post something? I will say, don't wait longer than a month. Than you get comments like, "About time! Haven't heard much from you. Thought you were dead! Call me." Only to log on a week later and have three friends instant message me. "There you are! I knew you were on here. What are you, just not social?"

And don't get me started on the profile pictures. I've seen you. You're fatter than that. And older. Just because you are able to gently photoshop a few wrinkles and crop out the hips, doesn't turn you into that person. Unless of course you're on Facebook where anything goes. Where happily married men and women see the well plotted life of an ex...and fall for it. Where a man fibs to his significant other about staying home one Saturday night, only to find he's been "tagged" in someones Facebook page enjoying a night Charlie Sheen would be proud of.

But as I scroll down to the middle of the page, I come across an old friend who put a small note for his post. Please pray for my father. Nothing more. And so I called my friend, wanting to know if everything was OK and if there was any way I could help, as did other friends. And then I was able to block out the bad. I realized all my friends really don't know all those movie stars and athletes. And that sometimes we paint this life we want others to visit because we're not that happy with our real lives. And you know what? I get that. I really do.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Learn Something New-Starting Now

You know, as I approach fifty I often find myself looking back at so many things I wanted to do. Things I wanted to learn. And then, with thanks to my children, I learned the wonders of youtube. Now I know most people view youtube as a web site that shows funny clips of people getting hit between the legs or maybe a place you can find a clip from an old TV show or music videos. But one day I ran into an old friend of mine and through conversation, he asked me if I wanted his old guitar. He was purchasing a new one next week, an upgrade, and didn't need the old one. Well, I know as much about playing guitar as I do Mandarin Chinese but I took it from him with hopes of one day being able to sit by the campfire and effortlessly belt out a few country love songs or perhaps an acoustic version of songs my kids might recognize.

One rainy Saturday morning I picked up the old, scratched and dented guitar and started strumming. A screech of nothing that sounded like music came from the wooden instrument I cradled as my daughter walked in, shaking her head like she'd just discovered the dog pooped on the carpet. "Only one lesson!" I replied, trying my best to recall the line from Ferris Beuhler.

"You should go to youtube." she replied. "I bet they have lessons."

And so I did just that, typing in Beginning Guitar Lessons and finding not one but hundreds of on line, free tutorials. And so for the next two hours, I studied three chords, D, C and G. And the next day I did the same for about a half an hour. Until by weeks end I had it. I could make the transition from each chord. And much to my surprise there are hundreds of three chord songs out there! And by the following week I had one. I memorized Cat Stevens Father and Son using the same three chords and proudly sang it to my wife and kids who didn't need to say a word. I saw in their faces that they enjoyed it. In fact my wife asks me to play it when company comes over!

Skip forward six months and thanks to youtube I have added the beginning of Bon Jovis Wanted Dead or Alive, another five chords and a few more songs. All of this in less than an hour a day. And you know what? There are a hundred other things waiting for you to discover. To take an hour or less and learn something new. Even turn it into a hobby. Want to learn to scrapbook? To make candles? To draw portraits or write screenplays? Or even to Salsa Dance? You don't even have to leave your home. And I guarantee you, you'll be happy you did.

Don't put things off when in this day and age we literally have the tools at our fingertips to make ourselves better. To maybe discover something or learn something about ourselves we never knew existed. I challenge you to start today. And please, if you take me up, post what it is you started and how you are doing. I'd love to hear!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

How to Write a Novel in a Year


And so I begin. Actually I shouldn't say begin. I've had the beginning of a novel resting by itself in a Google Docs folder for nearly a year. Call it procrastination or call it lack of confidence but either way the novel sat. Until now. I will not strive to keep up with the pseudo intellect of other authors sounding more like they raped a thesaurus, splashing never before seen words across the pages as if to validate their superiority over others. I will write in my voice, knowing my limitations but also being very aware of my abilities. As I flipped through various articles of Writer magazine, the one common thread I found was that in order to be a writer you have to. . .are you ready? Write!! No matter what, get something on paper. And don't worry about grammar, dialogue, sentence structure. That's called editing.

I've always thought to myself, it's just going to take too long. I could never finish an entire novel. But I did two years ago. I think it was done more to just prove to myself I could do it. It contained weak characters, lousy dialogue, and as much plot as a porno movie. And I never did go back and edit. I was happy just finishing. And then I read a quote by a relatively unknown author who said he just tries to write six hundred words a day and in doing so could have a completed piece of work in about six months. Six hundred words a day? I can do that, I thought to myself. And that's where I find myself today.

As I write my six hundred words, I go back to the beginning and edit small pieces. And I as read the words back, I start to see my little piece of clay starting to take shape and that encourages me. Is it any good? Who knows. And I will post that first chapter when I am sure I am ready for her to be introduced to the world. The good people at critiquecircle offer comforting and sometime brutally honest feedback which I take and do with it what I must.

I will have this completed before I turn fifty in January. More than likely I will self publish, but I will have a novel. . .with my name. . .sitting proudly amongst the other various authors housed on my book shelf.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Time to Say Goodbye to the HOV


I sat in my car, pretty much parked on 114. Not unusual for a weekday afternoon at the peak of rush our in Dallas. I flipped through the dials trying to decide on a piece of crap Jonas Brother Red Jump Suit Fall Out song or talk radio. I decided on a talk radio station, hoping maybe I'd get a little info on the traffic. I was guessing it wasn't a wreck but if there was one further ahead, now was the time to strategize.

It was then I saw them. Not that this day was different than any other day but for some reason they stood out to me. The HOV lane people. One by one they flew by me, smiles on their faces as if laughing at the rest of us. I looked to my right at a fellow traffic jammer who, like me, seemed to have accepted this everyday nuisance.

Back to my right a red Toyota of some type sped by at about sixty. The blur of a possibly teenage kid in the passenger seat, ignoring his adult driver, got me to thinking. What the hell are these lanes for and why do we have them! Oh, I know why they were started and I appreciate the effort. I was first introduced to this concept as a teenager in Los Angeles after receiving my drivers license. These "extra" lanes were used to lure, perhaps even bribe people to share rides. The idea being to entice fellow workers to share rides to to the office, cutting down on fuel consumption, reducing the number of cars on the road and as a side benefit, getting to know Tom from accounting a little better.

On paper, not a bad idea but after one ride with Tom from accounting I decided the extra time on the freeway was just fine with me. What has happened is these lanes reward people who just so happen to have more than one person in the car. They aren't trying to save gas and they're not looking to save our planet. They just so happen to have someone in the car with them. And as I sat in my car, burning fuel and swallowing mouthfuls of exhaust I watched the HOV people speed by and realized nine out of ten were nothing more than a mom with her kids, what looked like husbands with their wives, a cable company work truck with two guys in it, and other various forms of "shared" rides.

I wondered how many, if any of these now annoying cars flying by me at what seemed to be mach one speeds, actually got together and decided it would benefit them to share a ride to work, thereby helping our planet and contributing to this new "green" movement.

I got home and decided to do a little research after pouring myself a scotch. What I found surprised me. In Dallas you are allowed to drive your Hummer, Expiditor, or any other gas guzzling monster in these special lanes as long as you have a passenger. The age of the passenger makes no difference, thus allowing a mom to drive her children in the HOV lane. What's not allowed are hybrid cars. Of course, they are if you have a passenger, but not by yourself. Regardless if your vehicle gets twice the fuel mileage and has a much lower emission, you're screwed. In Los Angeles it is OK for those driving hybrids to use the "diamond" lane.

The more I sat and the more I drank the more pissed off I became. These lanes are paid for by me, Mr. Taxpayer, and I should be entitled to use them. Why am I stuck in four lanes of traffic when there are five good lanes to use? I also learned the National Motorist Association agrees with me! This needs to end and I decided I would make a stand.

The next day, after being yelled at by my boss and a pissed off customer, I found myself again sitting on 114 doing eight miles an hour. I glanced to my left at the open lane. The only thing separating me from seventy miles an hour were two white lines that for some reason did a better job than barbed wire at keeping people out of somewhere they didn't belong. I knew there were fines if you were caught but the more I stewed the bigger my balls got. I thought back to great people like Rosa Parks who took a stand and changed our nation and felt invigorated. If I was ever going to make a statement, here was my opportunity.

I squinted into my side mirror and saw only one car, an HUV, barreling down the lane and decided I'd make my move as soon as it passed. The oversized Subarban sped by, shaking my tiny Kia, and I punched it. Zero to sixty in a little under fourteen seconds but the feelings of freedom enveloped me. I had the same feelings when I first moved out of my parents house into my own apartment.I sped down the highway, hoping others would be encouraged to do the same but knowing they had no clue as to my new movement I just launched. I had forgotten to put together any type of marketing campaign but that could come later.

I found myself fifteen minutes ahead of schedule when the blue and red police lights lit up behind me.

"You do know you're driving in a high occupancy vehicle lane?" the officer asked me.

"Yes, sir."

"Is there a medical emergency or any other reason you're needing to speed?"

"No sir."

He looked at me slightly puzzled as he asked for my license and registration. I did my best to explain my actions but was for the most part, ignored. But I signed my ticket, agreeing to pay the four hundred dollars but considering it a badge. An expensive badge, but a badge. Movements start with a sacrifice. Whether it be the death of a patriot, the incarceration of a protester or a four hundred dollar ticket, someone needs to shoulder the responsibility and that someone is me!

It has now been two weeks since my ticket and and haven't seen an increase in HOV drivers. For no other reason than I can't afford another four hundred dollars, I sit on 114, stuck in traffic with my fellow commuters. But as I sit and glance in my side view mirror, I see it! Holy shit, I see it!

A red Corola, three cars behind me, broke across the two white lines and was free! As he sped by me I shoved my arm out the window and shake my balled up fist in allegiance, a smile on my face. I only caught a glimpse of the man when he first passed. Balding dark hair, light colored suit and a smile. I got a better look at him when officer "stay out of the HOV lane" had him pulled over about a quarter mile up.

As I slowly approached, the man looked me in the eye and nodded. Was he just acknowledging me or did he know? Either way I knew it was time. Time to open the HOV lanes that continue to keep our afternoon traffic congested and piss of the masses so to you, Texas Legislators, I say this.

"Tear down the double white lines!"

Coolest Super Bowl Party Set Up Ever

Thursday, February 3, 2011

So here we are. Year number forty nine of my much enjoyed life. But as approach fifty there is a gnawing inside me that tells me I am old. I don't feel old but the numbers don't lie. And so as I look back on my life and contemplate things I've done or even things I haven't done, it is the number fifty that has caused me to take notice. Rather than look at as the end of my youth, I have vowed to look at as a beginning of my adulthood. After all, Fifty is the new...35? And so I have decided to attack this milestone like Charlie Sheen would a house filled with hookers and cocaine. There are certain things I have vowed in the past, call them resolutions if you will, that I ended about twenty four hours after the new years champagne and scotch wore off. But who was I doing them for? Was there really a reason I need to cut back on sweets and run more? I don't like to run. And I love sweets! And so these resolutions slid into the abyss of all resolutions, waiting to be dragged back out the following year, along with a few new ones, and be paraded around for hours on end only to leave me feeling like I had failed again.

But alas, I approach this not as resolutions being made but as a stepping point for me. There are things I have wanted to do for myself that I have managed for the past thirty some odd years to push into next year. Although one of those things, running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain I was able to cross off that list last year. Well, next year is here. And so for the next eleven months I will be chronicling my journey as I attempt to write a novel (I have completed one that took almost three years and made as much sense as a Lindsay Lohan confessional), begin a brand new job run by a CEO and executive team barely out of their twenties, and take on challenges such as volunteering once a month at various places . And I will share the trials and tribulations I face as I go down this road being a father of two teenagers and a husband to a tolerant woman who sometimes should receive sainthood. As we take this journey, I am sure you will experience some of those moments and would agree with me. I will be as open and honest as possible, regardless if one or a thousand people read this. I have no idea where this road will take me or how I will navigate it. However, I do know that once a week I will blog, regardless of my mood, my failures or accomplishments. And I know at the end of this year I will have something to look back on or perhaps share with my wife and kids. For I will not be letting them know I am doing this. I look forward to this journey and have fastened my seatbelt.