Friday, December 31, 2010

Best Vehicle for Sex?

Funny link on cars and sex for the comments at the bottom of the page. If I had to argue for a vehicle, I would say the Honda Element. A friend of mine had an Element. Sitting in the back, there is a lot of horizontal and vertical room. Seats can be manipulated. Lots of possibilities in the somewhat dorky looking vehicle. It always reminds me of a Lego creation.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Movie Review: True Grit

Caught a late show for True Grit. This is the latest Coen brothers film, which is a remake of an old John Wayne classic. While it is a remake, I'd consider it a reimagining since it feels far grittier and more realistic than the John Wayne version. The directors argue that they are trying to create a film more true to the book. Whatever their aim, it was steady and executed well. This is definitely a Coen brothers film, but it has plenty of mainstream appeal.

Coen brothers films have great characters, and True Grit delivers. The little quirky characters present in all Coen films are here too. I enjoyed the 'dentist', the Colonel and even nasty Ned Pepper. They reeked of the Coen touch. The characters that carry this film, which feels like a two person play at times, are Mattie Ross and Rooster Cogburn. The actors, Hailee Steinfeld and Jeff Bridges, have a good onscreen relationship. Mattie Ross is unrelenting in her desire for revenge and justice. Rooster, the experienced and questionable man of law, wants to slow her down a bit as things are wild in the old west. It is an odd pairing that with time becomes a father-daughter type of bond. Beneath the gruff and intelligent exteriors of them both lies a grieving girl who lost her father and an old man who has nothing, no family and lives behind a Chinese grocery. This brief quest for vengeance is a chance to create substitutes for what they do not have while not admitting they really need or want them.

That relationship is the core of this film. The cinematography is pretty, music is well chosen, and set design is superb. Damon & Brolin are billed stars but Damon has a very 'supporting' type part and Brolin has maybe 5 minutes of screen time. This is a good film that goes by quickly. The film is gritty, but not nearly as dark as Unforgiven. My wife and I both enjoyed this film. I strongly recommend watching it.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Game Community

For a while, I have been reading blogs that are part of the game community. This community is the pick up artist community trying to help regular joes and nerds navigate the dating scene and have more success with women. This is not a slam on the concept. I do believe that a lot of their moves work. There is also room for applying these concepts in small doses in long term relationships and marriages. A lot of their advice is natural to me (much to my wife's dismay, I can talk to anyone), so it makes me laugh when they advise people to stand a certain way, say things, or just approach girls. WHY GO TO A PARTY AND NEVER APPROACH A WOMAN???? There is no problem with these ideas, moves or concepts. The problem lies in the complete douchebags that seem to populate this universe.

The world is full of jerks of both genders. I'm not denying this. The men trying to learn are not bad guys, as often you read their comments about being the nice guy and being mistreated. They are just trying to unlock the key of hiding their status as a nice guy friend to a desirable personality for mating. That is a sad enough indictment on society. I had an aunt a decade older than me who told me at age 15 that girls would chase bad guys and jerks for the next decade, but I shouldn't be like them and should stay a nice guy for when the girls come to their senses. It took me 3 years to figure out my aunt was partially right that young women would chase after jerks, but she was partially wrong in that I should stay nice. This was the paradox of young adulthood for my guy friends: act nice and be a friend or be a jerk and get attention. As I grew older, I passed down knowledge to younger men like "do not tell a girl you like her ever" and "never be the first to say I love you". I got laughed at by them, but after their freshman year in college, they understood. One poker night, a friend wondered aloud if we'd have to marry 28 yr olds who had 2 kids from when they dated assholes? It never crossed his mind that at 28 he could date down in age. My friends who got caught in the friend zone with girls would not leave the situation and would continue to be a self esteem booster for the objects of their affection. They could have used some schooling in 'game'.

The men running the sites or frequent commenters are an interesting symptom of modern society. One I frequent for his social commentary and links, which while darker than mine, is pretty interesting. Another is a lifestyle and travel writer as well as pick up 'teacher'. He has a life plan and is committed to it. The rest are mostly lame, and I only go to them if they are linked by the first two. The weird vibe that they throw off is not anti-women as much as anti-anyone who is not doing what they are doing. It is as if the game lifestyle is the only play in town that is right. This is further devolution of society as men are cads, then women behave worse over time, then men decide to sink to newer, lower levels. I'm now afraid to hit the clubs even as an observer with my single friends again for fear of catching airborne Herpes VII.

I decided to call one guy out on his blog. He posted on his game action, with perfect description of his clothes, and how no one in the club was rocking it like him. He doesn't score that night. Honestly dude, you're a fucking blogger with a day job who goes to clubs. You are not George Clooney. In the comments I saw him post how he's tired of the game and looks forward to meeting the right woman to escape it.... at age 29. HAHAHAHAHAHA, how the heck do you call yourself a disciple of the game and teacher if you are tired of it at age 29? A true playah wouldn't settle down until maybe 40. Wait, he's black so he has to contradict himself in everything he does (ex: "I'm not fag but let's go shopping for clothes for a whole day. Blue looks great on you."). I called him out for this statement saying that betrays his carefully crafted internet image. He disagreed despite his mask slipping. I typed that you can't create an entire website devoted to being a playah and then lament the fact that you tire of it and want to enjoy a life exactly opposite of it. I checked back the next day for his response, and none was there. Also missing were the back and forth comments between him and I. I guess the carefully constructed playah persona won out. Funny thing is, if you go through his archives, you see the development from a guy who read pick up artist books & had to learn & grow as a playah later become this persona that constantly implies he never had to learn. Once again, this hits on my theme of what is real or more real when considering the lives we lead vs. our Internet self. When you type it on the internet, it stays out there forever. This is why my college era livejournal will remain anonymous and forgotten.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Happy Holidays

Saw this on the Internet and it made me laugh....

To my Democrat Friends;

Please accept with no obligation, implied or explicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year of 2011 but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society hav ehelped make America Great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemispher. Also, This wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.

To my Republican friends:

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

NY Times Vows: Celebrate Rich Family Destruction

The NY Times has a section called "Vows" which celebrates weddings. They recently spotlighted a wealthy NYC couple that set off a comment, letters to the editor, and response article firestorm. This couple started as friends, with their spouses as friends as well, and then fell for each other. They wrecked their families to be together.

My favorite line is from the woman, "Why am I being punished? Why did someone throw him in my path when I can't have him?"

That is life. Life tempts you all of the time. I'm not a big believer in the soulmate concept, and I'd bet big dollars on her feeling the exact same way when she first met her first husband. You took vows with that first husband and implied with those children. What happened to those vows? This new guy was an infatuation whom you had a friendship with, which is the most dangerous type of attraction. The tougher choice for your personal needs is to cut him out of your life and be honest with your spouse. The tougher choice for your family is to end everything to join up with him. I feel bad for the kids. That has to be awkward. Looking at the photos, they are in those delicate years for divorced kids. Let's do a follow up with them in 10 years... and of their kids.

Half of the time, I think the NY Times selects people for different articles and spotlights to get any reaction and generate buzz. If that is the real reason for showcasing these assholes, then excellent job NY Times. I hope that is the reason. I hope the NY Times is not that clueless that they do not see how people will not sympathize with the subjects of their article. The holiday season begs for articles about couples who met during the winter holidays whether in an upswing or downswing in their life. It might be cliche or too middle class suburban to have an article like that, but I'd read a story of the lonely or depressed duo who meet through a mutual friends Christmas party that they did not want to go to at all and smile. This is why Christmas stories have happy endings.

More British Snow


I had seen and posted elsewhere a photo of the British Isles half covered in snow. There is a new photo, and as you can see, everything but the very southwestern tip (I assume near Portsmouth) is covered in snow. Awesome.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Book Review: Leonardo The Artist and the Man

Leonardo da Vinci is a magnetic figure in the history of art and Europe. He is like a modern man sent back in time to live amidst the 15th century simpletons. Da Vinci is not just a genius artist in the middle of the Renaissance, but a figure in the intrigues of Medici/Borgia/city-state Italy. Serge Bramly's biography (buy here) is nice attempt to make sense of his life.

His contributions to art, study of the body, engineering and mechanics are peerless. Reading this book, you will discover something new he figured out or added to our collective library of intelligence. Da Vinci was not a prolific artist. He has very few finished works, and even fewer paintings and sculptures that survived. This built will get you acquainted with what he created and why his creations were so amazing.

That is not why I bought this book. I was looking for a biography that was not a psychbiography, but a biography that talked about what made Leonardo think and how he fit into his era. Bramly does not shirk from going after Da Vinci for his inability to follow through with works, his almost ADD nature in skipping across subjects, and the torment he put himself through because of his birth and childhood. Because Leonardo kept extensive notebooks, we can look into a small, limited opening into his mind. They are not diaries, but they can reveal his fears, concerns or joys in those moments. His focus on creators and inventing is wonderful to read about. His spirit of creation and natural inquisitiveness are well documented here. There is good discussion of his sexual persuasion and likes, and reading this, you get a feel for why his paintings depitcing humans look the way they do. You can read about the man behind the myth.

Bramly's book does a great job of celebrating Da Vinci's genius while tackling the myth of "Da Vinci". It is a touch over 400 pages, but the book has illustrations which probably takes up 20+ pages. It is a quick read, and I could run through 50 pages in a clip. I would have enjoyed a longer book with even more detail. I wonder if Bramly himself was actively trying to keep this a book for curious minds rather than a textbook type biography. Whatever his motivations, I would recommend this book if you do have a fascination for Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Cheer



My favorite original Christmas song of the last 20 years.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all. I hope you all get what you wished for, and that you have a safe holiday.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Remember When: Shaggy

Last weekend, I started laughing fits by pulling out my Shaggy Boombastic album and playing it for my cousin. I bought the album as my friends and I loved every song on it except for the hit "Boombastic" for the great beats and the unintelligble vocals of Shaggy. There are parts of songs one needs to rewind just to hear the gibberish again. Shaggy has duets with has beens and does terrible remakes like "Day O" and "In the Summertime". It is a great album to do classic late 80s-early 90s dance moves along with, and great for listening while driving.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Movie Review: Tron Legacy

The sci fi kid nerd in me forced me to see Tron Legacy. Tron was a moderately successful sci fi movie from the early 80s that became dated almost instantaneously due to its special effects. Disney needed some sci fi loving, and rolled the dice with a 28 year delayed sequel. A movie like this will be dependent on good special effects, good action and a solid story. Cast really did not matter. You are not going to see this to see an explanation on the human condition; you're there for sci fi awesomeness. Tron Legacy delivers. It is popcorn fun.


The movie starts with a scene set in the 80s with Jeff Bridges in CGI form telling a story to his little son about the Tron world. This helps people not familiar with the original to learn some basic skeleton work of the Tron universe. The CGI Bridges was OK. It looked like a young Jeff Bridges crossed with the older brother from The Wonder Years. We see some awesome rebel son action when he grows up and pranks his company. What a rebel! They could have cast a chimpanzee as the son and we wouldn't care. No one cared. He gets sucked into the Tron world and it is ON!

Shit gets real right off the bat. There is some awesome design detail to Tron World. It is dark. It is stormy. It is clean. I enjoyed just looking around. There is action and adventure which make the battle and light cycle scenes from the original movie look quaint. The electronic unfurling of cycles and planes are cool special effects. Character wise, I loved how Jeff Bridges turned his character into the "Dude" so that it felt like the "Tron Lebowski". "You're messing up my whole Zen thing, man" could have been a line from the Big Lebowski 12 years ago. It made his character a bit fun even if out of place, and this includes his interior decorating choices. Weird thing was how his son did not call him dad in regular dialogue until a couple scenes pass. Odd. I did enjoy "Zeus", working in the character Tron, and the latex/leather girls like Jem (truly outrageous) and Olivia Wilde's Cora. Tron seems to always be about world domination. Couldn't we just get some action in the Tron world without it having to involve dominating one world or the other?
This movie will not dig deep. It is popcorn, action flick fun times. I did see it 3D, which was cool. I recommend seeing it at matinee pricing. Just turn off your brain or lower it down to a 1 out of 10 and just have some fun. If you are a rich asshole who has a 3D HDTV already, then you might as well wait for this to come out on DVD.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Movie Review: Black Swan

Saw Black Swan yesterday afternoon with a true blue dance critic (my wife the dance major and teacher). The film is directed by Aronofsky and stars Natalie Portman. The film was to portray the gritty life of ballerinas that is the true substance beneath the pretty exterior of ballet. The film is a character study, and the film has small clues and effects to get you thinking about the Swan Queen.

This is not a love letter to Ms. Portman, as she was good but not Meryl Streep. Portman has to perform, and does deliver a great performance as the perfection obsessed ballerina. Portman is a stereotype of the white swan, perfect little ballerina, but she has horrible issues in her head. Her mom, played by Barbara Hershey, is the stage mom living through Portman. The subtle hints here and there is that Portman is the result of a director-ballerina romance. Portman is the distilled product of the ballet and shows all of its grace and flaws. What type of dance would destroy the very bodies it seeks to showcase?


Portman's view is highly unreliable. Aronofsky uses small effects and sequences to show that Portman's "Nina" is an unreliable narrator. What do we make of Mila Kunis' "Lily" when nearly every moment with Lily on the screen, it is through Portman's eyes? Kunis' Lily is the bad girl ballerina that straight men daydream about, and is she truly that free spirited and bad or is it just Portman's mind and view that shows her being the 'bad girl'. Aronofsky uses special effects to really twist the viewers conception of what is going on here. I give Aronofsky credit, I did not know what direction this movie would go in nor if it would be revealed to be real or a huge delusion.


In my dancer wife's eyes, the movie did show a lot of the dirty little bits. The morning wake up snap crackle pop routine was a scene I have witnessed countless times. The little, petty cattiness was classic. We both enjoyed Portman's Nina character shouting at her domineering mom "You never made it out of the corps, I'm the SWAN QUEEN!" Wonderful moment spotlighting that intergenerational competition in sport-art families. Her biggest beef was with the final black swan dance sequence where the black swan did 5 fuetes instead of the required 32 fuetes of the black swan solo in Swan Lake.

There are entertaining moments in this flick, and there is rarely a dull moment. I did not look down at my watch, and was not bored. Enjoy Aronofsky's good direction, nice pacing and Portman's work as Nina. You will have plenty to talk about after the film.

Which One is Real?

People could have all social interaction with their internet websites, social media platforms and blogs. They can create a fake persona or brand. If they spend significant time managing this, at what point does their online persona become the dominant one? At what point is that the real person?

I don't think it becomes real, but it can become dominant. The true, real life personality will become atrophied and underdeveloped. The Internet allows us to tell the greatest lies about ourself and mostly for personal enjoyment.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How is Al Franken a Senator?

Al Franken wrote a pathetic essay for the Huffington Post about how he is so bummed out he voted for extending all of the Bush tax cuts. As I typed before, Obama was in a tough position and did cave incredibly quick. Part of the problem is that he acted without considering his own frickin' party. Sen. Franken and his cohorts in the Senate should have approached Obama. They truly should have acted on this earlier, but they still could have approached Obama and said "no way we pass anything unless the top marginal rate goes back to 39.6%". As silly as it sounds, this small measure would resonate. I find it comical that Sen. Franken laments extending the millionaire tax cuts but within his rationale he reveals that extending the Bush tax cuts is HUGE for middle and lower class families. Go figure, for all of those years (2001-present) the tax cuts helped all Americans. Screw you Al Franken. You are only a Senator because Acorn worked their magic to get you a win. 225 votes.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Driving


I took the new to me car out for a spin last Friday. I plan on driving it around the neighborhood each weekend to make sure it sees the road and stays in shape. It is a 30 year old car with 120K miles on it, and needs the use or the fuel injection will get messed up and the battery will drain. This sounds so silly, but that short drive felt fun. The V8 felt good. I have never had a fun car. I love road trips, and have always enjoyed driving with good music on the radio. Few things match that joy of your first drive after you get your license. It's freedom. It's a self imposed and liberating isolation. I can't wait to put the top down and take it out for a real road test next spring.
I can't thankt he previous owner of the car enough for his generosity. Besides new tires and brakes prior to our transaction, in the month between our initial agreement and the close, he tuned it up, corrected the fuel injection issue and put in a new battery. He said it didn't drive right and wanted it tuned up. He's also 80+, and has some class. I love the Midwest.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Zen Reading

Read a book on practicing Zen Buddhism. It is always fun to read up on Buddhism as it is a nice way of thinking. Good stuff to practice and to think about in this book. Zen is life. Be mindful of your life.

Note: at page 150 or so he starts writing about the problems of the world and the future. It was 1974 when he wrote the book, so he had no clue that the agricultural green revolution would be able to feed billions more, that globalization would raise millions out of poverty, and some of his history was ahhhh, odd and probably colored by the revisionist historians reporting in that era.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Book Review: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

With Ayn Rand, Ludwig Von Mises and Fred Hayek books selling like hot cakes the last 2 years, I decided to try some Rand writing. While Atlas Shrugged was so unbearable that I returned it to the store, the novel The Fountainhead is an absolute winner. It was incredibly hard to put down, and I would read 40 pages at a clip. Rand really hit a home run with this, which is what probably allowed her to take some chances and go further into her philosophy in Atlas. If you buy this, there are many reasons to read it.

The Fountainhead is set in the 20s and 30s, so there is a nostalgia factor at play. There are references to speakeasies, the boom and bust, the style and architecture and the growing socialism and collectivism plague of that era. There is a charm to reading about that era. The novel happens to have people of all income levels, but there is an elegance to the way Rand describes their lives. Even when reading about the poor characters in novels set in those days, there is a touch of dignity or integrity to the characters.

The real success is in the characters. Rand creates characters you will HATE and characters you will support and rally around against his or her foes. Everyone knows a Peter Keating, and those who are aware of a Keating hate the Keatings of the world. When I read passages focused on Keating I could see many of my college peers and some people I have know through work. To see his story arc and his rejection of the one person who he truly felt at peace with will stir you. Gail Wynand and Dominique Francon appear as the realization of good ambition and purity of spirit who compromise themselves to fit into the current world. Gail is a fun character and much more enjoyable than Dominique. Gail is 3 dimensional and not just the rags to riches tycoon archetype. I enjoyed how he gets that 2nd wind in midlife due to his marriage to Dominique but reaches another level through his friendship with Roark. Roark reminds him of what he could be, and Wynand is reinvigorated by his presence. Dominique's story arc is more interesting prior to her relationship with Roark. It is as if her awesome independent mind collapses when she meets up with Roark and becomes part of a whole rather than herself. Maybe that is the point, but I enjoyed her earlier in the book.

The two main characters making up the protagonist/antagonist battle are Howard Roark (the hero) and Ellsworth Toohey (the jerk). Roark is Rand's version of the Nietzchean Superman. He is committed to his love, creating buildings. That is his purpose in life. He holds to it. His goal is to do it the best way he can and to do it free of restraints. Ellsworth Toohey is the snidely little douche you knew in school who grew up to be a manipulative bastard who uses people for his own gain. Toohey was Rand's over the top representation of the "I know better than you what is best for you" progressive socialists of the day (they are still amongst us). I think Toohey's final outcome is decent and shows how no matter what happens, no matter how small the stage, he will still be the same manipulative douche. One thing I did not like was how blind everyone was to his actions and motives. I might just be too much the skeptical person to believe almost everyone, including Keating who told Toohey's niece to not introduce him to Toohey as he would use him, could not see his obvious motives. Roark is the heroic opposite of Toohey. Rand makes the world around Roark extremely lame to further heighten how wonderful Roark is and endear him to you.

Rand is very obvious with her beliefs and with her portrayal of what she thinks is right and what she thinks is wrong. One has to keep in mind her spot in history. Rand's family left the Soviet Union, having seen the rise of the murderous Soviet machine of collectivism. While in the USA, she saw the transformation of a small and relatively passive federal government to a much stronger, centralized federal government over the course of the Depression and WW2. As The Fountainhead would push, and Atlas Shrugged would shove, let us remember that all great leaps and changes came about because one person was not satisifed, wanted something different, or dreamed the 'impossible'. This was an excellent read and I highly recommend it to anyone.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Women's Health Report Card

The National Women's Law Center released a health report card for the ladies of America (you can view individual state results). It did not go well. Obesity is up, binge drinking is up (10% of women), leaisure time physical activity is down, and more women have chlamydia. I did see my home state's smoking stats dropped, which is good. While I support efforts to fix these problems, these specific issues all relate to individual choice. Change and healthy living starts with the person in the mirror.

Obviously the patriarchy is doing its best work right now. I bet this study gets discussed in my next "Young Patriarchs of America" meeting, bwahahahaha.

The Frank Lloyd Wright House that Time Forgot

Frank Lloyd Wright has been called America's greatest architect. His designs are pretty interesting. To own or live in one of his homes had to have been a treat, unless you lived in Gary, Indiana. Mr. Wright designed a home in Gary, Indiana and it eventually fell victim to the decay in that city. The following is a video of the home and the designs to show its original form. The home completely burnt down in 2006 (arson is the suspected cause).


Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Potential GOP-Obama Tax Deal

This is a stunning lay down by the President. Yes, unemployment benefits were extended for select individuals, but what exactly did the GOP give up? Nothing. They got it all tax wise and even some extra goodies (2% payroll tax break). What I find shocking is that Obama could not even get the highest tax bracket marginal rate to go up 3% (back to the Clinton era rate) nor move the capital gains tax rate up to 20%. This is being hammered by the mainstream media as weakness, by the liberal netroots as a betrayal, and by lame duck Democratic congressmen as unacceptable. It is also the only thing Obama could do.

I would not defend him if I didn't see the position he is in (by his own making), but Obama is in a rough position. It is weak that he could not negotiate a better deal with a party that was in the minority by a considerable margin, but what is he going to do in a few months when the GOP has the House of representatives under control and many more senators. Does anyone seriously think the GOP won't get a better deal then? If the Democrats reject this deal in Congress it makes Obama look isolated and very very weak. I don't recall a time where a president brokered a deal to see it rejected by his own party. It would also make the GOP look good as they could say in 3-4 months that they tried to work with the President but the sour grapes, lame duck Democrats sabotaged the deal.

As a running theme in my writing, this falls into the poor priorities/bad decisions of 2009 realm of Obama. In early 2009 when Obama had the wind at his back and lots of good will, an effective 'stimulus' program could have been a temporary extension of Bush tax cuts (to alleviate uncertainty in America of their end result) except for the highest earners combined with a slight payroll tax break just as is inserted now into this deal. He also could have expanded that payroll tax break or had some of stimulus spending (build nuclear reactors) that was based on real things not just welfare extension programs. This is the fiscal difference between the GOP and Dems. Both are bad at runnign deficits, but the GOP reduces taxes and let's you decide how to spend that money while the Democrats create goodies to hand out to earn your favor and create a voting bloc. Maybe in addition to the original stimulus, as ill written as it was, figuring out a future for the Bush era tax cuts would have been a good idea instead of the suicidal health care reform. This period in time, pre-Scott Brown election GOP, was when the GOP was at its weakest. Making a tax policy change the focus would have removed health care reform out of the Massachusetts special election, helping Martha Coakley. Obama could have negotiated a much better deal in late 2009/early 2010. He and his policy advisors made a mistake and read the economy poorly. They are paying for it to this day.

Fighting Winter Weight

Candy season is in full swing. Candy season start at Halloween and ends with Easter. It is a horrible half year of sugar, sugar and more sugar. This sugar, when combined with holiday feasts, can end up all over your body. This is why I joke that the Jews created Passover in the spring as the first Atkins style body shock diet. It is cruel that summer and bathing suit season is right after this 6 month period of sweets, so we all must fight the good fight against the winter bulge. If you want to combat winter weight gain or allow for some sugar snacks, here's my regimen for keeping my midsection looking fit. You can also go here for even better ideas.

1. Get proper rest. Stress causes the body to retain body fat. You have to calm your mind down and get your rest for your body to act in tip top shape. If you get 5 mins of alone time in the evening, try dimming the lights and meditating. Laugh, but it works.
2. Drink water and take a multivitamin. Your body needs micronutrients and needs a way to deliver them. Plus, a stomach full with water eats fewer Santa shaped cookies.
3. Cardio. No sense in punishing yourself with sit ups, crunches and leg lifts if you have a lot of fat layered over those muscles. When women ask me about 'ab work', usually in April-May as bikini season creeps up, I always say "rock the cardio". I have a fast metabolism, for now, so I limit cardio to 10 mins after a weightlifting work out and 20-30 mins on 2 days other days. For me, that is 5 days total. If I did not lift weights, which boosts your metabolism more than a cardio session, I would do 5 sessions of 30 mins a piece.
4. Crunches-Sit ups. If done right, they can engage all 8 ab muscles. They will focus more on the top 4 muscles. I do sets of 20. Start just doing 1 set. Once easy, do 2, then 3. Once 3 sets are easy, hold a slight weight behidn your head when doing crunches. Look at the ceiling as you lift your body up.Breathe out as you crunch up, which keeps your diaphragm compressed and prevents your ab muscles form developing a bulge over the diaphragm.
5. Leg lifts. You do need to target your lower abs. No one wants a pot belly except for that annoying French girl in Pulp Fiction. If you can't get to a gym, just do leg lifts while lying on the ground. Extend your legs and lift them up, hold the lift and slowly lower them down. If you can get to a gym, use a roman chair or hang from a bar and lift your legs up and slowly lower them.
6. Planks. Sometimes I end a midsection workout by doing planks. I just hold the plank position as long as I can. I do this a few times. The Wii fit has a plank challenge. This works your lower back as well.

Just doing some of the things on this list can greatly help fight the battle of the belly bulge. At the very least, you can eat gingerbread cookies feeling a little less guilty.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

First Christmas Away From Home

I have already been guilt tripped for this, but this Christmas is my first Christmas away from my parents. Because of my wife's pregnancy, we will not be flying home for the holidays. I'm not really bothered by this as I always knew this would happen, and I looked forward to carving out my own traditions with my own family unit. I just know it is going to crush my mom. My birthday is before Christmas. She had a horrible delivery for me, and crossed her fingers we'd be released for Christmas. She brought me home Christmas Eve and to this day always sends me a card or email that says I am her "favorite Christmas gift". This is not saying much as my grandparents and my dad are not good gift givers. In all seriousness, Skype will help but will not substitute for being there. Next year will not be easier, and you might ask why won't they fly out for Christmas, but then you'd be forgetting that when YOU move away it is YOUR duty to keep contact and make the effort to see people.

At an early age, I was dead set on having a family of some sort. I also was dead set on having my own family come 'first'. I will not be trekking 1000 miles with a newborn or toddler on Christmas. Santa will come to his house and eat cookies that he leaves out for Santa. My dad had a pathological desire to place his family (parents/siblings) and their issues above our family (my mom/my sister/me). It was pretty obvious. I swore never to do that to my wife or kids. It needs to start small, but be a steady theme. Things like where Christmas is sound petty to some, but to me are important. I hope you all have a safe and joyous Christmas season wherever it takes you.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Remember Pearl Harbor

Today is the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. This sneak attack by the Japanese was the start of an amazing and breathtaking offensive by the Empire of Japan across the Pacific. It would take until the middle of 1942 for the US to use codebreakers and some great tactics to turn the tide of war. Thank you remaining Depression-WW2 Era folks who sacrificed, labored, fought and gave for a better tomorrow.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

First Snow of the Season

Growing up in Maine, I was blessed with years ended by a White Christmas. I hate winter and cold weather, but I did love snow for the holidays. Some nights during or after snowstorms, I would grab a beach chair and open the garage door. Sometimes I would sit in the garage and just watch the snow fall. Other times, usually after the snow had stopped, I would sit in the chair out in the snow. The stillness and purity of the air can not be matched in other seasons. There are no bugs alive, few if any birds around, and the chill in the air reduces water vapor, making the air feel thin and light. It is beautiful.

Friday, December 03, 2010

70s Pop n Rock Tonight: "Lonely Boy"



The lyrics to this are really lame, seriously pay attention to the verses, but god the chorus and melody just stick.



Wonderful range on display. The lead vocals sound as if they were sung in an empty, large shower. There is a hollow sound to them.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Grade Inflation for Teachers' Pets... Who Knew???

Hmmm, schools are finally catching on that grades might be affected by how the student behaves in class and not pure performance with the subject matter. This is so SHOCKING. People would NEVER allow personal feelings to influence how they punish or reward students. So people actually reward ass kissers? No way! People reward those who toe the line and make nice rather than pure ability? You're kidding me. This happens everywhere with everything we do, and I find it a bit odd that leaders in the field of education never considered this... especially with all subjects that involve essay answers or papers where grading is not true/false or specific answer. As if the education world is immune to the problems that plague the rest of human nature.

Money quote: "Over time, we began to realize that many teachers had been grading kids for compliance - not for mastering the course material".

Many people are hurt by this. Smart kids with bad behavior. Not as bright kids who are 'good kids' that follow orders that get artificially pumped up into thinking they are geniuses. Imagine being a parent with a 'smart kid' who isn't getting grades and might be a bit rebellious. Think a teachers description of unruly behavior combined with bad grades leads parents to drug their kids with ritalin? Think some kids get screwed in the college acceptance game by a teacher grading with a behavioral influence rather the pure ability? Think some young college freshmen get overwhelmed when a lifetime of A's overrode a lower SAT score to get them into a premier college or program and they just can't cut it when being Johnny Dogooder doesn't mean shit? We end up rewarding ass kissing and brown nosers up the ladder with no concrete aptitude from the moment they leave their house at age 5.

Ass kissing and brown nosing works. Human beings love flattery. Human beings in charge love it when everyone else does as they desire in their controlled environment. Someone easier to do business with or to teach makes life easier but is not always the best person for a task. A concrete life example of this was in my AP US History class in high school. Two kids: Nick the quiet daydreamer who sometimes fell asleep in class and Chris the ass kisser. Chris got Bs in our class; Nick got low Cs. Nick actually got a D one quarter, and we talked him into staying in the class to potentially get college credit. Nick was my friend and Chris was on the basketball team with me so I'd hear one way or the other how people did. Chris had been born an amazing ass kisser to every adult he came into contact with while Nick worked at Radley's Market weeknights at 15. Our entire class took the AP exam. Some for potential college credit, and some because the teacher said if you took the AP exam he'd not give you a final ($100 for no final is a deal when mom and dad pay). We got our scores back and B student Chris got a 1 and C/D Nick got a 4. We felt so happy for Nick because every US college would accept a 4 on that test for credit, and we experienced schadenfreude (without knowing that's what it was) at the teacher's pet getting a 1. Mixed in that happiness I remembered how he received Cs and Ds on papers from our teacher in that very class. A part of me knew then why the grade disparities happened between Nick and Chris, and even then I was a cynic, I thought that brown nosing was rewarded. I hated it then, and I hate it now.

Constantly teachers talk about how they shape the lives of children and how they do so much for our society. This is true. I'm all for paying teachers more earlier in their career if we could also fire them like every other worker and if their benefits were a bit closer to the rest of the nation's workers' benefit programs because of the important part school has with molding the young minds of our nation. They do shape children's lives through their engagement, their lack of engagement, their wonderful hard work and their unintentional, sometimes intentional, slights and negative actions. Grades do matter. Grades do have an impact on the trajectory of a human life. These things should not be taken lightly, nor should they be affected by Suzie or Jimmy being a good, compliant robot in class.

Gimme Shelter Sliced and Diced

Run, read this post and listen to the different parts of Gimme Shelter. The points about the female vocals are amazing. I never noticed her voice faltering during her wails 2-3 mins in. Nowadays, they'd redo the vocals and autotune them. Leaving in her faults actually adds more feeling and flavor to the song.

Gimme Shelter is the ultimate "shit got real" song for movie previews, war montages, '70s protest montages, and bank heist movie action scenes.