My Extra 25 lbs. & Me

I’ve struggled with weight for a long time. Not majorly. I don’t know how hard it is to be significantly overweight, but rather I’ve hovered around 25-35 pounds overweight most of my adult life. My belly comes and goes. It’s not the worst. I’m probably average or a little below average for my age. But this belly has stayed for a while. I’m fluctuating between 185 – 190, My heaviest is 205. I’d like to be 165. It’s realistic. Guys with my similar build and height weigh that. But I can’t seem to get there.

Is there a secret? Obviously there’s not a miracle cure. I’m not asking for a fat removal cream or a grapefruit diet. I’m realistic. I know what it takes. But I don’t know how to achieve that. I honestly believe the road to losing weight is hard work and determination. Eating better and exercising regularly, minimizing the alcohol, minimize the sugar, etc. I get that those decrees will get me lighter, but that doesn’t really help me much. I’ve known that for years. I was a personal fitness trainer for almost two years.I know the answers to the written portion of the test.

My struggle is that I don’t know how to make myself do those things I know to do. So, those things become goals themselves instead of tools. It’d be like if I had a problem and the only solution involves a jackhammer. Okay, cool. But I don’t know how to use a jackhammer. So, learning to use the jackhammer is now a goal I must accomplish along my way to accomplishing my other goal. Of course, I’d most likely use a work around and hire someone who both had a jackhammer and knew how to operate one. But I don’t have the money to do that. If I had the money to hire a dietician and a personal trainer, I would. That would be one of the first purchases I made if I somehow landed myself a boatload of cash. Most things are easier with money. I could be 165 if I made six figures.

So, my question is, how do I make myself do the things I know I need to do with a very small budget? Not miracle cures, but tricks and procedures.

If you wanna learn improv comedy, I can teach it to you. I’ve been teaching for eight years. I know how to break down that process into fun things to do that will teach people to be good improvisers. I know what exercises to make you do and how to make them fun to do and what to ask you about them afterwards. You will learn to be a good improviser if you let me show you.

Are there fun ways to lose and keep off excess weight? Other than hiring people to make sure you do everything correct, is there something we can learn ourselves? And if there is not, then what is self discipline? Can I get more of it? Can I strengthen it? Because right now it feels pretty impossible to get motivated to do anything, let alone eat better.

The overall point of this post is to illustrate the differences in providing tools vs. providing more tasks. If anyone out there has a tool you can give me to slim down, I’d really appreciate it.

Thanks, y’all!

Let’s Completely Change the News

I opened just to see what’s going on in the world and I read the following headlines:

“Man accused of breaking into house, following woman onto the roof is charged …”

“Suspect in pilfered poultry case nabbed”

“Four dead, dozen injured in college bus crash in Oklahoma”

There were several more, but these three caught my eye. I wasn’t interested in clicking on the articles, but rather I puzzled over the fact that these pieces of ‘news’ were considered news at all. Then I asked myself, “What is the point of sharing news?” Not just the news associated with the above headlines, but any news. Why is it important that we have news at all? It sounds silly like asking why we need music or why we need Big Mouth Billy Bass. But even though these questions sound silly, they’re still worth asking. What if one of these things does us more harm than good? And what if we could prove it? Isn’t that worth looking into? So, here are the answers to my silly question about the purpose of the news:

1. To share information that helps other people

2. To keep people up to date on the ongoings of they’re elected officials and laws.

3. To spread ideas that could better humanity.

4. To warn people of potential danger.

I can’t think of any other reason. If you can, please tell me. I wanna know. But since this is all I got, I’m gonna break down the list.

1. If the news shares information that helps people, then it’s a positive thing and we should keep it. The 405 is backed up for miles. That’s useful information. Weather warnings, school closings, new good restaurants, highlight parts of local entertainment like upcoming concerts, comedy club info, street performers, etc. Stuff like this is a great thing. My mom has found out about many useful things from the news like FitBit, some vacation spots she’s been too, etc. If the news does this, we keep it.

2. Elected officials are essentially our de facto employees. They don’t act like it sometimes, but as citizens, we’re their boss in an essential way. And depending on the election cycle for the position, we can fire you without cause every so many years. And in between those elections, we can fire you for cause such as breaking the law or completely going against your constituent’s wishes. We need to know what they’re up to. The news can tell us this. In addition the news can tell us about pieces of legislation that we need to know about such as tax reform, stamp price increases, and the law on healthcare for examples. It’s a good thing for the news to tell us this stuff.

3. Some ideas can really help humanity and should ‘go viral’ to get the exposure they deserve. Vietnam was a very controversial issue and we needed the news back then to tell people about what was happening and why. Right now the news is filled with people wanting the Washington Redskins to change their name. The fact that it’s news means it could cause the name to actually change. In this way news helps to spread an idea for the betterment of man and actually causes change. People’s lives have often been bettered by the news.

4. There are dangers out there and the news can warn you of them. “If you see a bald man in his thirties with a Bugs Bunny tattoo on his neck, call the authorities. He’s a murderer at large.” That’s a good thing to know about. A tornado is forming just east of the city. Trans fats are linked with heart disease. Tyson chicken breasts have been exposed to salmonella and you should throw away any Tyson chicken patties you may have in your freezer.

So, those are the reasons I can see to keep the news. But unless I’m missing something, there are a lot of news stories that don’t seem to better humanity at all. In other words, they don’t fall into one of these categories and I think could be made available to the public without calling it ‘news.’ And I’ll explain why I think it’s important.

If I live in California and there’s a bus crash in Missouri, I don’t see how it’s doing anyone any good to put that on the news. Maybe if it was a bus crash in my city it would help me know. But even then, I’m not sure it would. The only way I can see it as good to know is if the friends and family of the victims were in need of something and then it could be a news story as a call to action to help other people. But without that, what’s the point of telling the story?

Or if a peeping tom gets arrested and convicted, I don’t need to know about it unless the accused was doing this in my neighborhood. In that case, it would help me feel safe. But if it happened elsewhere, how is it helping my life to know that information? Why put it in the news?

I think the news does it’s job incorrectly. Instead of telling us stories that have no real benefit, just tell us information that will do us some good. Don’t tell us about all the murderers and fires and kidnappings unless it will absolutely benefit us to know that information? Will telling us the story help us to be safer or happier? Will it help someone else? Will it let us know how to help others? If all the answers are ‘no,’ then stop telling us. These stories depress people.

I don’t know this scientifically, but it is my assumption that watching news stories about awful things all the time lead us to believe that the world is a more dangerous place than it is. If we are reminded to be afraid, because the bad things that happened to others could happen to us then we likely fear more than we would otherwise. And fear is a useful tool to help us in decisions, but it’s not a good constant state. Just like sprinting at full force is not able to be sustained by even the fastest runners, we should all not be feeling heightened levels of fear on a regular basis.

How about we do this instead? Instead of filling the nightly news with murder, rape, kidnappings, and wild fires, why don’t we fill the news with calls to action (like highlighting a homeless shelter that is in desperate need of volunteers), thought-provoking discussion (like John Oliver does when he explains his stance and research on things like pay day loans), stories of hope (like a one legged man who successfully ran a marathon), weather, sports, traffic, updates on the voting records of city council people, senators, & governors, and upcoming parades, street closings, and new hot dog stands.

“But what about the people who died in the bus, Rich? Shouldn’t we know about that?”

I’m glad you brought this up. I think the murders, car wrecks, and the like should be made as public record. But not necessarily pushed to be seen. We make easily accessible online and paper archives of stories like these that we can seek out. That way if we wanna see if a potentially new neighborhood is safe, we can see the crime rate. Or if we are curios about the status of an accused child molester, we could find the story somewhere in the archives. But the archives are not on the news. They’re simply recorded and made available. That way, we have access to information, but we don’t have to be practically forced to be fed negative unhelpful story after another just to hear the part of the broadcast that will actually help us.

Your thoughts? Disagreements?

Thanks y’all!

“The ‘Later’ Shelf” or “Why Don’t We Just Tie Our Friggin’ Shoes?!?”

I’m usually on time. Often early. But I’m always paranoid about being late. It happens occasionally, and I never fail to feel awful about it. I hate wasting other people’s time. So, to prevent being late, sometimes I’ll leave the house in a rush and not button up my shirt or put on my belt or tie my shoes. My rationale is that after I catch the bus or find a parking space, I’ll tie my shoes and thread my belt around my pants and button up my shirt then. But doing those things before I leave the house would add time to my commute and push the likelihood of me being late just a bit higher.

I recently got a car for the first time in nine years. Prior to this I would take public transportation (which went significantly down in quality after I moved from Chicago to L.A.) or borrow my girlfriend’s car. And she was extraordinarily nice about letting me use it. I know she endured some (really a lot) of personal hardship because she would sometimes feel stuck at home and get cabin fever (the painful kind and not just the ‘aww shucks I’m stuck indoors’ Cat In the Hat kind) just to let me drive to auditions or rehearsals or several things during any given day. I digress, but do like bragging about how amazing she is so I don’t regret the last few sentences. My point is that even driving a car I still feel the same sense of panic at the idea of being late and I still leave the house sometimes unkempt if I fear that every second will count toward my punctuality.

But regardless whether I take a bus or drive a car, the point remains that I walk out of the house not fully ready for where I need to go. I can button my shirt while walking. Same with the belt. But the shoes are different. Not tying my shoes affects my ability to walk. I’ve never done accurate assessment or experimentation, but my guess is that the time it takes me to tie my shoes is equal or less than the time it takes me to compensate my walking ability with untied shoes. In other words, taking the time to tie my shoes before i leave likely doesn’t add time to my commute, but maybe even helps my commute.

Again, I don’t know for sure, but what I do know is that when I walk with untied shoes it bothers me. Usually just a nuisance at short distances (like to the car), but over time it could prove to be detrimental. Walking too long with untied shoes could cause me to trip, roll my ankle, rub a blister into my foot, or even other things probably that I can’t think of. And here is where the lesson comes in. It’s a metaphor for life. If we know we’re doing something that does not help us, but we do it anyway because of fear, then we’re just being our own worst enemies.

Here’s an example from my life: I have wanted to be a novelist since the early 2000s when I asked my sister-in-law to let me on a ride-a-long with her. She was a cop in a small town in Texas at the time and I wanted to write a novel about a small town female cop. I wrote 119 pages of that novel. It’s stayed with me through five computers in twelve years. Never finished it. Since then, I began three other different novels. I made significant progress on all, but never finished a full first draft of any. “Why not?” you may be asking. Who knows? Laziness. Fear of success. Fear of failure. A little voice in my head saying ‘you’re worthless.’ Maybe a combination of all of those, maybe none of those. I don’t really know. But I now believe that I don’t have a lot of time left on earth – relatively. I’m still young, but like everyone else, I too am getting older and will die someday. Hopefully, that day will be 100 years from now. Regardless of when it comes, I know it’s coming. And I need to start doing stuff now that I once put off til later. Because like the untied shoes those undone things bother me and probably hinder my life way more than they help.

Later is like a closet or a shelf. I gave myself a gift once. It was an idea for a novel. And much like a children’s toy, I spent a lot of time with it when I first got it. But at some point, I allowed myself to get busy with other things and put it on the shelf. I remember intentionally putting it on that shelf, because I needed a break from writing. The goal was to stop it just before my last sememster of college, do that semester and then start writing again. I didn’t start writing again for two more years. And that was a piddly attempt. So, what’d I do? I started a new novel. Maybe it wasn’t my lack of ability as a writer, but the project itself. It’s not that I couldn’t finish a rough draft, it’s that I couldn’t finish that particular rough draft…or so I hoped. The second novel made it to sixty-one pages before I put it in the shelf of later to join it’s older brother.

But the shelf of later was much larger when I was 25 than it is now. There’s still lots of room for stuff, but I can see it shrinking. And much like someone who has become aware of something new I am now necessarily forced to make a choice. 1. Allow it to sit on the shelf of later and know that the shelf is shrinking or 2. Take it off the shelf of later and put it on the work space of now. I shouldn’t judge myself for my choice, but I must be responsible for that choice. I can’t beat myself up for putting it back on the shelf if that’s my choice. I need to own my actions regardless of which one I do.

So, I have chosen to give the ‘later shelf’ some more room by finishing one of my four books. I’m working diligently to finish it. But my point is that this unfinished novel is much like my untied shoes when I leave the house. It’s bothered me ever since I did it. When I made the conscious decision to not tie my metaphorical shoes, I judged myself for it. I felt bad about it. It wasn’t too bad at first much like walking with an untied shoe doesn’t bother me for short distances, but now I look back and beat myself up for it. I rolled my metaphorical ankle.

Well, my goal is to live my life much more in the now. I still have a ‘later shelf.’ I have to. I can’t physically do everything I wanna do right now. But I’m changing my mind set to constantly be checking in with and pulling things off of that shelf. The goal isn’t to make the shelf empty. Far from it. Rather it’s to change the function of the shelf entirely. I’ve changed the name of the shelf from ‘later’ to ‘soon.’ Now it serves more like a weigh station for projects and ideas. I think of something I don’t have time to do at the moment and I put it on the shelf until a time soon where I can deal with it. I may ultimately decide to not do it. But in that case I don’t put it back on the shelf. I throw it away. And I don’t feel bad about it. Either way, I’m owning my actions rather than beating myself up for my inactions.

At least, that’s the goal. Here’s hoping I can keep the sentiment alive for the next 100 years.

Thanks, y’all!

The Aliens Are NOT Invading…Ever

I’m housesitting for a friend with cable and started watching H2 (one of the History Channels) about ancient geniuses like Archimedes. During a commercial break I saw a promo for a show called Target: Earth where different ‘experts’ will talk about why the planet earth would make an excellent target for aliens to attack. The promo alludes to the fact that we’re one of the rare habitable planets because of our moderate temperature, amount of water and other attributes. And therefore we would make for a good target for a group of wandering aliens to invade if they wanted a new home.

So, I remember a few years ago South Park made fun of The History channel implying that it used crap experts and/or edited real experts to sound like they believed something other than their true beliefs. I don’t know if any accuracy was in their comedy or not, but if in deed the History Channel is using dirty editing to make experts look bad, I’ll reserve judgement of the experts in the show until I know more about them. In fact, I won’t judge The History Channel themselves either. They need ratings and this is admittedly fascinating.

But I want them to do a follow up show to that one called, “But For Real, Aliens Probably Don’t Know About Or Want to Do Harm To Humans.” I’m sure they can come up with a shorter title, but the show needs to hit home the fact that there is absolutely no logical reason to believe that aliens would ever wanna do us harm. How can I say that? Mainly because of physics and biology.

First of all, I haven’t seen the show, but the trailer mentions temperature and water, so I’ll deal with those first. Based on our own tree of life which includes every living thing on the planet from bacteria to flowers to dolphins to people we believe that water is necessary for life. But any biologist will tell you that an alien biology could be as different from any creature on earth as any two creatures on earth are from each other. In other words if you took two random species that seemed to be different from one another like a rose and a blue whale for example and assigned the difference numerically (say 100 for this example) then any alien life would have a larger number to measure their difference from every living thing on earth.

Why is that the case? Because as different as a rose is from a blue whale, they still share DNA. They’re still made of the same basic starting ingredients. We’re (humans are included in this of course) all made of cells for example. We have no reason to believe that alien life would be made of cells. This may sound outlandish, but the truth is we only have one tree of life to study – our own. And when you only have one of something, you can’t possibly know what else is out there, because your sample size is too small. For example, if you somehow managed to only ever see one dog your whole life – a toy poodle. Would you honestly be able to guess that there are other dogs out there such as the Great Dane, the Pomeranian, or the Pit Bull? Probably not. And you couldn’t possibly guess to how a Great Dane would act based on your limited knowledge of your toy poodle.

This show alludes to the fact that aliens will want a moderate temperature to live in and the fact that aliens will have any use for water. Maybe of all the alien races out there in the cosmos (for which we have zero direct evidence there are any) less than 1% actually need water for any reason and less than 2% (not necessarily any of the same 1% from earlier) like to live in what we would call a moderate temperature. We simply don’t know.

But let’s just assume that all life in the universe is made of DNA and cells and in some ways resembles that of earth. And let’s go one further and say that any intelligent life out there actually resembles humanity (an even further stretch). Humans certainly have a history of war and conquer, so it’s no great leap to think that a human-esque alien may wish to conquer other planets, right? Maybe. But think about it like this, why have humans conquered others? The majority of our war history doesn’t come from world dominating tyrants like Hitler, but rather from the need for new resources (slaves, land, ports, gold, etc.). And some of it comes from religion, but that is arguably about resources as well. They wanted more converts to their religion, or less competition from another religion.

Well, if an alien race out there has achieved the ability to travel from one star to another (which is what would be physically necessary for them to invade us) then they would be capable of technology beyond our scope of making in the next hundred years minimum. It seems logical to assume that if any species has perfected a warp drive then they’ve likely perfected all the technology we currently have and most or all of the technology we assume we will build within the next hundred years. They would likely have learned how to fuse atoms and replicate chemical bonds artificially. These two technologies alone would give them limitless energy and limitless chemical compounds such as water.

If they have way more water than us and their own ability to control the weather on their planet (which they would have if they had limitless energy) why would they need earth? Well, maybe their sun is about to explode and they have to vacate their planet. Sure, but why travel to earth when you have the ability to terraform any planet of your choosing and save yourself from the need to exterminate a species? Okay, well maybe they’re just mean and want to kill a species. Okay. It’s an argument, but seems unlikely to me. Historically speaking those who’ve lead the world with amazing technology tend to also be anti-war and see no need to invade anyone. But let’s say they’re just a bunch of smart asshole aliens. They’d have to find us and plan an invasion instead of find one of the many uninhabited planets (of which there is likely a lot more) and do much less work to make it livable. Even mean people avoid fights when they can accomplish their goal without it.

The other reason I think this is because biologically speaking humans are by far the smartest species on earth. And we’ve found many ways to get what we need out of an environment without destroying it. We still kill a lot and we still lay waste to a lot, but not as much as we used to. We recycle more than we ever have. More and more we understand that taking care of the earth is important. My guess is that assuming humanity is still around 200 years from now, our ancestors will look at things like hunting chopping down trees as barbarically as we see human sacrifice. They’ll simply have the technology to get everything they need without causing harm. When causing harm becomes unnecessary I believe people will see it as vile.
As long as we’re assuming aliens are similar to humans we must assume they’re like we would be with the technology they would have to have to invade us. And that seems to me that they would be much more evolved socially than we are as well.

It may sound funny to think of ourselves as not socially evolved, but remember evolution is a process and not a result. Two-hundred years ago you would have been looked at oddly by most US citizens if you said that slavery was morally reprehensible. And I’m sure they thought of themselves as enlightened and correct in the same ways that many of us see humanity as right now.

Now, if you think that my argument is completely speculative and can’t be trusted, because I can’t possibly know anything about aliens other than assuming they’re intelligence is somehow similar to ours, then I would agree with you. I can’t possibly know what it’s like to be an alien. And that’s part of my point. The people who think it’s logical to assume aliens might want to invade us are necessarily assuming that aliens must want what we want. And they can’t possibly know what aliens want or what they need.
So, while it makes for slightly interesting television, I urge anyone to watch The History Channel with a grain of salt when they try to scare people into the real possibility of an alien invasion. There are a number of things in the universe to be scared of that we know about – volcanoes, asteroid impacts, solar flares, hurricanes, etc. So, please don’t add to that list something that list when we have no real argument or evidence of it’s existence like the threat of aggressive aliens.