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Weight Loss the Easy Way


Weight Loss the Easy WayThis blog started out as an imaginary discussion I had with a friend this morning while brushing my teeth.  My jovial friend, let’s call him Alfred, works out at the same gym as me.  He is about my age and, like me, is on a constant diet and exercise program.  I have noticed that neither of us has lost an ounce on this program, and I have known Alfred for more than a year.

Alfred has recently added a personal trainer to his regimen to help him lose the forty pounds of gut hanging from his waist.  I am not in such desperate shape, pun intended. I need to lose somewhere between ten and twenty pounds to look vaguely in shape again. To be REALLY in shape, as in when I met my wife more than twenty-five years ago, I’d have to lose forty pounds. Let’s not go there.

Like most diet and exercise enthusiasts, Alfred and I have managed to gain and lose the same three pounds every week. We are treading water, kidding ourselves, and persisting in our habits of eating more food than our bodies need to exist. On weekends we cheat with alcohol and sweets.

Yesterday, Alfred walks up to me while I’m peddling away on my stationary bike and says, “You need to pedal faster.  You aren’t working hard enough.”

I say: “I burn a hundred and sixty calories in a half hour.  That’s not too bad.”

Alfred says: “What if you burned three hundred calories in the same time.”

I say: “I don’t have to lose as much weight as you.”

Back to this morning.  I’m thinking about this real-life conversation and this revolutionary idea strikes me right in the kisser: “Weight Loss the Easy Way” based on personal experience.

The real-life conversation I had with Alfred changes to something like this:

Alfred, peddling twice as fast beside me on the stationary bike says:

“I’m tired of working this hard and getting nowhere.”

Before we go any further, it is important to note that Alfred always seems happy. He constantly makes jokes while pontificating about one thing or another.

“You know what your problem is,” I respond. “You’re way too happy.”

Alfred laughs, then turns serious. “You’re jealous of me. Admit it.”

“Let’s not make this personal,” I say. “I’m not thinking in small terms here. This is big. It hit me this morning. The easiest, maybe the most effective way to lose weight in a relatively short period.”

“I’ve tried those quick weight loss programs.” Alfred says. “Most of them turn out to be fake or use drugs that can kill you.”

“This is completely natural,” I say with a mysterious smile.

Alfred peddles furiously for a few minutes. I know he doesn’t want to give me the satisfaction of asking about my big idea. Finally, his curiosity overhauls his ego. “Okay, tell me about this easy weight loss idea of yours.”

“It’s really simple. Nothing works better than depression.* I lost twenty pounds in a few months. I had no appetite. It was easy.”

“You really should leave the jokes up to me,” Alfred says.

“It’s no joke. I never want to go back there, but I think depression in bite size doses can really work for people who’ve tried everything short of lap band surgery.”

“Depression is no joke, moron. Be sure not to advertise this idea of yours outside of this circle.” Alfred points to me and back to himself.

“I’m not talking about major depression, Alfie. I’m saying, like, maybe for a week every once in a while.”

“Some people eat when they get depressed.”

“Okay, so this is not for them. That can be one of the disclaimers.”

“What if you’re not good at getting depressed, like me ?”

“Think of all the things you don’t have and wish you did, like the opportunity to have sex with any woman you see as often as you’d like.  Think of every single character defect you have.  Think about having to go work for a living again.  Realize every breath you take brings you closer to death.  Stuff like that.”

Alfred’s perpetual smile turns down slightly at the corners.  “I see what you mean.”

So what do you think, man.  Is it worth trying for a week? Take a break from working so hard to be happy, or whatever it is you work at.”

“Losing weight,” Alfred reminds me.

“I think I’ll write a book titled ‘Lose Twenty Pounds the Easy Way and Have Fun Gaining It Back.’ What do you think?

“I think you’re an idiot,” Alfred says with a pat on my shoulder.  “But I still like you.”

*DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. Depression is a serious illness. If your depression persists, or you have thoughts of suicide, seek help from a licensed psychotherapist.

 

 

 

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Some Advice I Need to Follow


Enthusiasm I wrote this seven years ago.  I just updated it.

I have found one of the best ways to keep my life interesting is to make a regular practice of doing things I haven’t done before.

If I am bored, apathetic, uninspired, or generally in a rut, it is usually because I have allowed myself to become a creature of habit.   I have found the best ways to renew enthusiasm include exposure to new ideas, a new hobby, continued education, or even a new career.

We are all born with a natural curiosity to explore the world around us and the world within ourselves.  This innate curiosity is often most evident in children.  As we grow older, there is a tendency to lose touch with this curiosity as survival needs, responsibilities, and pressures to conform literally choke the life out of our thirst to know more.

Nature hates a vacuum.  If I am not moving forward, I am automatically moving backward, even though it may seem I am standing still.  Within us, there is an urge to expand.  I must make a conscious choice to move forward; to expand.  If I don’t, the default choice of moving backward and becoming smaller will automatically be engaged.

It takes an act of will to grow, to reach my highest potential.  It takes courage, determination, and perseverance to blaze my own path. I must constantly remind myself the rewards far outweigh the risks.

I must always remember Self-realization and the achievement of personal freedom require discretion, discernment, and self-examination.  I am endowed with the creativity to shape my life into the reality I carry in my heart.  The path stretches before me.  I only have to take one step at a time.

How do I begin?  I listen to my heart.  I summon the courage to follow my heart, even if it tells me things that may make no sense at first.  I live with my heart on fire as much as possible.

I am very clear about what I want now.  I am Love.  I am Peace.  I am Joyful.  I am creative in a way that benefits others.  I am Radiant.  I am having fun.

The most important thing to remember is that I am not alone.  I make an effort to connect with my Divine Self every day.  I seek the things my heart yearns for, and then prepare to receive them.

 

 

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The “N” Word


I cannot understand why African-Americans use the “N” word as a term of endearment. Let me re-phrase that—I understand but I don’t understand.

The convention says blacks can use the word with other blacks.  Black artists can use the word in their work—especially in the music industry. White people cannot use the word publicly or in the presence of blacks. I’m fine with the last part. I just don’t get the first part.

I am Jewish. According to the above logic, I’m permitted to use the word “Kike.” In case you were born yesterday, “Kike” is a hate word used against Jewish people in the same way the “N” word is used against black people. Now, here’s the interesting thing. Jewish people are not in the habit of affectionately calling each other a “Kike.” To Jews, the word conjures up bitter memories of centuries of persecution. Jews have been bloodied and beaten to death by angry mobs. Jews have been herded into ghettos. They have been burned in ovens. They have been treated as second class citizens.

Like African-Americans, Jews know too well the meaning of the word oppression. Jews, however, do not use a hate word to symbolize their freedom from oppression.

I do not mean to imply here that Jews are superior to blacks in any way. My point is, in my opinion, the common use of the “N” word by blacks, regardless of the context, causes collateral, involuntary, psychological damage on subtle, unconscious levels. The practice also keeps the burning embers of hatred and bigotry glowing simply by the mere repetition of the word. I strongly feel this holds true for any minority group that promotes a hate word into a term of endearment, or any other use.

I can’t imagine why a person would willingly associate himself or herself with a demeaning, destructive word. Is this an effective way to promote self-confidence and self-empowerment?

This is a free country. Anyone can do what they want within the law. I’m just saying, I feel African-Americans do themselves a disservice with their use of the “N” word.

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Why Is Hazing Tolerated?


Think about what it takes to become an NFL draft pick. A young man must be a standout player in high school to make the team at a college or university with a nationally recognized football program. The same young man must play at a high level at his college or university, establish a reputation as a man of character, and avoid a career-ending injury. Talent, discipline, perseverance, hard work and luck are just a few of the necessary ingredients for success.

After college, the young man goes through the rigors of training for the scouting combine and an extensive vetting process by NFL teams. The next excruciating step is the NFL draft, where the dreams and expectations of deserving, hardworking young men are regularly shredded like paper documents by the blades of NFL football reality.

Finally, consider that only first and second round draft picks receive guaranteed contracts and a spot on the fifty-three man NFL team roster. The other draftees, taken in the third through seventh rounds, must compete with established players possessing competitive instincts and talent honed to such a high level that they are nothing less than freaks of nature.

All of the foregoing begs the question that has nagged me since the Ritchie Incognito and Jonathan Martin story broke in the news: Why must men who have endured so much be subjected to rookie hazing? What do these men, who have overcome staggering odds and every kind of adversity, have left to prove in terms of their talent and manhood?

The answer is nothing.

Why does rookie hazing exist? It seems to me, in this enlightened age, there is no place for this practice. To call rookie hazing a rite of passage is an unfortunate misnomer. Rookie NFL players pass through a demanding gauntlet so severe that only a tiny percentage of their peers pass the test.

Rookie hazing exists for the purpose of entertaining veteran players, pure and simple. It is a perk for older players who have survived, for however short or long, in the NFL. The problem with this is that it comes at the expense of young men who have already paid a very high price to ascend to the perilous and exalted status of NFL team player. It is grossly unfair to demean these men with the immature and sometimes cruel practices that come under the heading of rookie hazing.

NFL players justify the practice as “good fun” and even “therapy” that helps to defuse tension in training camp. I’m sure the players doing the hazing are having fun, but what about the rookies? They might be smiling, but it’s only because they have to. And, there is the ever lurking danger that this good fun and therapy will cross the line into harmful and damaging behavior.

Does hazing help the rookies and older players bond? I doubt it. I can’t see how hazing can effectively build team chemistry. It can certainly build counter-productive resentment in the rookie players.

I am reminded of the Miami Heat basketball team, where veteran players regularly mentor and encourage younger players to build their skills, work habits, and character. This is a product of team culture. It is something we should see much more of in the NFL.

I say rookie hazing should be banned by the NFL, or anywhere it exists. In professional sports, the penalties should be fines and suspensions.

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Don’t Panic*


At 4:30 am last night, I began praying for the light of reason to switch on inside the heads of our congressional leaders. To be fair, my prayers applied specifically to a small, right wing segment of the Republican Party. I’m sure these individuals are acting out of what they consider their “social conscience.” I choose to call it something else: selfishness and irresponsibility.

EMERGENCY STOPJust in case you’ve been glued to re-runs of “Grey’s Anatomy” for the past month instead of the national news, the issue that has caused our congressional leaders to tear each other into little pieces and culminate in an unthinkable government shutdown is the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as “Obamacare.”

I do not “have it in” for Republicans because I happen to be one myself. In addition, I am not an advocate of “Obamacare.” In my situation, the only “benefits” I stand to reap from the law are higher insurance premiums and a longer wait to see my doctor. But there are a couple of things I realize and accept that the “Tea Party” Republicans choose to conveniently ignore. Obamacare is now the law of the land. It was passed by both houses of Congress and ratified by the Supreme Court. I’m not sure if the majority of citizens in this country favor the law, but certainly our elected leaders favor it. The last time I checked, the majority rules in a Democracy, and we are bound to follow the laws of the land.

In time, I hope amendments to the law will be passed that will allow everyone in this country to live with the Affordable Care Act in peace. Perhaps a future administration will dismantle the law if we find it does more harm than good. Whatever the case, we have no reason to panic. Life will go on. Affordable Care will live or die on its own merit or lack thereof.

Instead, we have a few people holding the government hostage and causing untold suffering to hundreds of thousands of people in addition to disrupting financial markets and an economy finally showing signs of life.

In 1995, a political party impasse caused a government shutdown. It cost taxpayers 1.4 billion dollars to stop and restart the engine. Here are a few examples of people affected by the shutdown, paraphrased from an article by Fred Grimm in the October 1, 2013 edition of the Miami Herald.

Somewhere between 800,000 and a million government employees cannot go to work. Nine million mothers-in-need will be denied supplemental food and nutritional education for their infants and children. The shutdown disrupts research by the National Institutes of Health and by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Environmental Protection Agency will go dark. 1.1 million Head Start kids are affected adversely—and on and on.

The Tea Party faction of the Republican Party will no doubt view the plight of people directly affected by the government shutdown as collateral damage in their holy war against the “Affordable Care Act.” For these compassionate souls, I pray the law of Karma will kick in to apply swift and sure payback.

* Although “Don’t Panic” is a public domain phrase, I’d like to give the brilliant writer Douglas Adams credit for his use of the phrase as advice for space travelers in his novel “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

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The Price of Printing or Planned Disappearance


Stairway to Printer Heaven

Stairway to Printer Heaven

My printer passed away last night. The print head had a massive heart attack. I performed several emergency medical procedures prescribed by my HP Solutions Center–all to no avail. Funeral services will be announced.

A helpful store clerk at Office Depot informed me that printheads often break within two to three years. “It costs nearly as much to repair them as it does to buy a new printer,” he added, smiling. I did not argue with the man. Some critcal part of every printer I have ever owned has broken down within this time-frame, and it never makes economic sense to replace the part.

Yet, I continue to buy HP printers, despite their limited life-span and the outrageous prices of the ink they voraciously consume. HP is a market leader, and I follow the herd because I shudder to think what catastrophes await the buyers of lesser brands.

Most printers displayed on major retail shelves are made in horrid factories by underpaid workers somewhere in China. I tell myself the HP factories are less horrid and produce better products than the others. At least I know what I’m getting when I buy an HP printer–a short but trouble free life span and high quality inks at unconscionable prices.

My new printer cost $149.00 (on sale) and the new ink cartridges cost $93.99.  At the risk of sounding unsympathetic and disrespectful to the dead, my old printer expired with about $50 worth of unused ink. My new printer is the updated version of the old printer. Naturally, the ink cartridges are not transferable. I had no choice except to buy new ink. This brings the total cost of my new printer to $292.99, not including sales tax.

As we all know, it’s not the cost of the printer that hurts. It’s the cost of the inks. I find that my color ink cartridges last about three months each, and the double size black cartridge lasts about six months. I am convinced the life span of HP ink is controlled by a secret technology kept ingeniously under wraps by the manufacturer.

My cartridges need frequent replacement regardless of the steps I take to economize on ink. If I avoid printing in color, my color cartridges still need to be replaced. The only explanation I have for this is that the secret HP technology enables the color cartridges to combine mysteriously to print in black.

My New Printer

My New Printer

If I cut down on using my printer, it makes no difference. In this case, the secret technology causes the ink in the cartridges to evaporate at a predetermined rate, thereby ensuring a three-month replacement cycle.

Adding to my consternation, it took me three hours to set up the new printer. This included a few breaks to watch my beloved New York Giants lose in the last two minutes to the Dallas Cowboys. This did not help to elevate my mood.

It used to be easy to set up a printer. There was basically one way to install the damned thing, and it was easy to follow the idiot-proof instructions. Now, there are several options at every step of the process requiring an advanced degree in engineering to decipher. On one of the setup screens, none of the options fit my setup criteria. I finally decided to go on to the next step without checking any of the boxes. I expected to see an error message pop up, but lo and behold, nothing happened. I had made the right choice, that is–no choice. I had guessed right, but I ask you, doesn’t that sound a bit counter-intuitive?

At some point, we will no longer need printers, paper, or ink.  Documents and images will fly through the air directly into our heads. Until that time comes, however, I could use a little advice on the subject.

“Stairway to Heaven” image by Sigurd Decroos / www.cobrasoft.be

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Giving Up to Get Ahead


Sunset Over MexicoEvery so often, it’s not such a bad idea to give up.

The word I really want to use is surrender, but I’m not really sure what that word means in the truest sense. I’m going to barge right ahead and use it anyway.

Once every ten years or so, I get to the point where I just want to surrender. I feel like I have done everything that can be done to accomplish my goals, and nothing seems to be happening. The feeling usually lasts for anywhere between three minutes and three days.

The funny thing is I find that I actually get somewhere when I reach this point. In one sense, it’s a scary place, a place of desperation, a feeling of being at the end of my rope. But I’ve found it can be an auspicious place. I wrote this yesterday on the subject (in less than three minutes).

I want to go higher, but don’t know how. It seems like I’ve tried everything, only to fall, crashing back to earth, unkindly.

I think, however, I’ve been this way before. When it seems like I have looked in every crevice and corner, turned over every stone, in search of the faintest glimmer of light—the light is usually not very far away.

There comes a time when Grace is met by human effort. I know that Grace will have to come sooner, rather than later, because I have been relentless in my pursuit of peace, joy, and love. Life becomes much easier when you know what you want.

One of the good things about advancing age is that it makes it easier to focus on priorities. I mean real priorities—the meaningful stuff, because the clock is ticking, louder and louder. There simply isn’t time to screw around with trivialities and false values. I’m tired of the tricks my mind plays on me. I’m tired of chasing my tail. I’m tired of being lost in the fun house of illusion.

I want the real thing—the beauty within my heart—and I know that it can’t be far away. I’ve been everywhere, done everything, made a fool of myself, and accomplished a few things. You can’t elude me much longer, dear Friend.

Photo Credits: “Sunset Over Mexico” by Bettina Schwehn / uniqraphy , Illusion Photo by Mateusz Stachowski

Lost in the Fun House of Illusion

Lost in the Fun House of Illusion

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