A Year Later…

A path leading to a covered bridgeWe haven’t been updating this blog very much, although I still very much believe in the principles that we are about – healthy living, exercising, saving and making money, and keeping a simple and balanced home life.

In 2008, I started to look for “life in my years” but honestly, I wasn’t quite there. In 2012, I am farther along that path. I wake up most days excited about the possibilities. I have “decision latitude” and enjoy my job, family, and have numerous side projects that keep me excited about life, and also making a little money on the side.

Once such project is called The Popular Man. Over the last few years I have literally made a study out of learning what it means to be successful. These days, I mostly read books about Psychology, nutrition, etc, and how this applies to success at work, at home, etc. Honestly, the books I have read, the seminars I have taken, and the time I have spent networking have been much much cheaper than my graduate school and much more rewarding. Such are the lessons we learn in our thirties I guess!

The Conforming Power of Education

Me: If I can help it I’ll never work for someone else again
My teenage step-daughter: Then how will you ever get a job?

Such a reaction would be absolutely hilarious if it wasn’t actually so tragic. The notion that we must do the bidding of others is so engrained in the minds of many, that the thought of actually starting one’s own business or forging a new path is completely overlooked. It reminds me of an insight I had a few months ago: create your own reality or someone else will happily create it for you.

I don’t want to make this a post bashing compulsory public education, but I wouldn’t expect a movement dedicated to de-Catholicizing Catholics to give independent thought a, well, second thought. Instead of promoting American Civic Religion, it seems much of high school education today turns people into intellectual conformists.

While the blame can’t be laid at the feet of teachers, I think the system bears quite a bit of fault. But, then again, education hasn’t changed much since the telegraph took social networking to new heights. Forward thinking tech geek entrepreneurs have altered the way society thinks and acts with their ideas and hard work, but our educational experts have merely replaced the chalkboard and overheard projector with a smart board and chalk and overheads with Power Point.

Although most teachers would be horrified to know they’re creating zombies ready to do the bidding of corporate masters, they’re in a system designed for just that. Everyone sits in rows quietly. Everyone does the exact same assignments in class and basically learns the same material. The questioning or the rowdy (who are really asking questions with their behavior, like why the hell am I wasting my time?) are marginalized. It’s nice preparation for a life where a person is expected to work a job he or she hates, retire, then die. Oh, and let’s not forget the layoffs, stagnant wages, and so on.

I know this post is a tad on the cranky side (maybe fully there) and part of it is my own anger that I am thirty-two years old and even after completing high school, undergrad, and getting my Masters, was still as clueless as my daughter only six months ago. She is more than welcome to work for someone else her entire life. But, at least I know, no thanks to the schools, she has the knowledge to choose otherwise.

Wow….A New Post!

It  has been awhile since I have updated this blog, which is ironic, given the continued importance health, finance, and the other topics of this blog have become to me. 2010 was a great year for me, and 2011 looks to be even better. Here is a little update for those that are following this blog (maybe I am just talking to myself!):

– I am finally up to running 10 miles, 3 times a week. It has been a long haul, and I remember a few years ago when 4 miles, 3x/week, was a big deal, but chipping away at getting in shape for 3 years has really paid off.

– I decided to stop using free weights. I was making progress with them, but when you add a 10 mile run to time lifting, it was taking up a large chunk of my evening. Instead, I bought a Gold’s Gym set with a chin-up bar and perfect push up units. I can now use these tools (along with an ab wheel) any time I like. This is much more convenient than lifting at the Y, and the look I am getting is more “thin-toned” than bulky.

– I am much more aware of the power of the mind. Most of my reading lately has centered around the brain , the mind, and that sort of thing. I have particularly enjoyed reading about the possibility of the “quantum brain.” Evan Walker, Jeffrey Schwartz, and others, believe that our “will” (dare I say “soul?”) might be a component of quantum reality.

– Related to the above post, I have looked into viewing eating differently. I have tried to identify the reasons I like to eat so much. I think food is really a comfort thing for me. I don’t have many addictions, but food comes close. I find it kind of humorous how many people I know have outright disdain for alcohol or tobacco, and will express this while scarfing down unhealthy types and amounts of food without seeing the irony of the situation. I am perfectly willing to admit I have a problem with food. Now that I admit this, I can deal with it (and I have!).

– I view life a lot differently than I did since I last posted. I try to live life in the present, not worrying so much about the past or future. This is called mindfulness in Eastern traditions, but Jesus taught the same thing (the birds of the air don’t worry, yet they do just fine). I have missed so many present moments in the past that I am pretty much done with living like that. Life is good, and I enjoy waking up every day and seeing the possibilities. I know this sounds hokey, but it is better than the alternative, just getting by on autopilot, waiting for somebody else to come to your rescue with a good job, better house, or whatever.

– I reconnected with an old friend whose life was also on autopilot. Fortunately, he broke free before he worked himself into an early grave. I wish more people would question the “work 60 hours a week so you can earn money you will never get to enjoy” model. Fortunately he realized this before he reached his (early) grave. It has been awesome to rekindle our friendship.

– The winter is almost over, and spring is coming! I can’t wait. As usual, this means running outside, more golfing, etc. I am at peace with the winter (although the truce is sometimes uneasy), but I am welcoming the coming thaw. The above image is from last spring. I took it on a very warm April day.

Thank You Nikon (My Experience with Nikon Repair, Melville, NY)

The internet is full of negative opinions of businesses, and complaints about them, which I certainly understand often needs to be shared. However, I have a very positive experience with Nikon USA that I would like to share.

I bought a Nikon D5000 camera (with 2 lenses) in late September. I have been very pleased with the camera, and the image quality. However, when I looked over my initial images, I found a “stuck pixel” and a “hot pixel,” both showing up at normal shutter speeds. This was an annoyance, because the stuck pixel showed up on every image. Mind you, it was tiny (one pixel out of 12.3 million), but it showed up as a glowing green cross on some photos, and showed up as a blank cross on others. When it glowed, it was clearly visible at normal viewing. Apparently, the D5000 sensor, shared with the Nikon D90, is prone to such pixel problems. Actually, I ordered the camera primarily because of the sensor, which has been rated with other much more expensive cameras in terms of its ability to capture images, so it was disappointing to encounter a stuck pixel so soon. The images at the bottom of this post show the pixels in question, giving you an idea of what they are.

At any rate, let me talk about my experience with the Nikon repair center at Melville, New York. I sent the camera in for repair on Monday, October 5th, using UPS 3-day shipping. They got the camera on Wednesday, October 7th. Even with the Columbus Day holiday, the camera was in my hands again on Wednesday, October 14th. This is a 10 calendar-day turnaround time from ship-date to being in my hands again. From the time Nikon received the camera in Mellville, NY, to when I got it back, the turnaround time was only 5 business days. That is pretty impressive. They even shipped it back to me next-day air. All of this was covered on warranty (minus my original shipping charges). Also, Nikon sent a work-order number to my email, so I could track the status of the repair, including a UPS tracking number once it shipped.

Yes, you could say the camera shouldn’t have had a stuck pixel when I bought it, but I think Nikon did a great job taking care of my problem, and I send my Kudos out to Nikon!

Below: Stuck Pixel on a Normal Image

stuck pixel

Below: The glowing stuck pixel, and a hot pixel

stuck pixel and hot pixel

Workout Tip #5: Get Motivated!

Motivation…whether it’s to clean our room or mow our lawn, it’s not easy and to be honest, it’s probably not the same for everyone. But, motivation has to be at the root of successful workouts. As I mentioned in a previous post, you can’t even start to exercise if you don’t get to the gym, get off the couch, etc. I know it sounds very mental and working out is supposed to be physical, but inspiration is just as important as perspiration when it comes to losing weight (my apologies to Thomas Edison).

Admittedly, I am to the point now where I am simply motivated as a matter of fact. I don’t say this to brag, but I don’t really think about it; I simply do it. But, it wasn’t always that way. Unless working out has become a life habit, motivation remains an important component. So, here are a few of my suggested motivational tips (note: I’ve not actually used all of these, but figure they’d be good). Today I’m going to discuss more short term tips and next week, I’ll write part two which will detail more long term motivational tips.

Short Term:

Visualize it– Visualize what you want to accomplish at that very moment. If your goal is to go to the gym, then don’t let yourself even consider going home to sit on the couch. Keep focused and see yourself at the gym, on the bike, etc.

Filter out the noise– Life is really busy and it’s easy to think that all the little things pulling at us are more important than working out. Remove the deadlines, the home stress, and everything else from your mind. Exercise (which helps focus anyway) should be a big priority, which means that the little things vying for our daily attentions should not lead us to avoid exercise.

Remind yourself of the immediate benefits– I overheard a guy at the YMCA say how he’s never (except when sick) left the YMCA feeling worse than when he came in. He meant that although it may have been a pain to drag himself in, he always felt better after exercising. I can completely affirm his statement. Remind yourself of the immediate, great feeling that you get when you workout.

More coming next week, so check back!

Branching Out and Seeing Some Great Golf

Sometimes you just have to branch out and do things you would never otherwise consider. An obvious but important lesson.

Over the weekend, thanks to the generosity of people I know, I scored some tickets to the PGA Senior tournament here in the Cleveland area (thanks to those who got me the tickets; they probably don’t read this, though). I had never watched professional golf before and thought it would be a little boring (I love playing golf, but don’t follow it on TV). Yet, it was a total blast! I saw some of the pros I knew from my childhood like Tom Kite and Greg Norman and got within several feet  of them to boot. Since it was the tournament, I couldn’t take photos, but the memories will last a lifetime. David and I even got about 2 feet from eventual winner Michael Allen who, with his caddy, left the green early and had to walk through the crowd (which at that point was pretty much us since he was not a favorite to win at that point).

All in all, it was an awesome day and I’m glad I tried something new.

Reflections on Being an Old Man

Tomorrow I turn 31. It’s not as eventful as turning 30 when I felt kind of depressed that I’d left behind the 20’s for good. Each birthday is often a mixture of depression and happiness. Happiness because I’m alive and healthy another year, depressing because I’m a year older. Nothing wrong with being older, except that I work in a field of youth (teaching) and our society values youthfulness more than anything. I remember when a student of mine said that caring about voting was something only an old person did, you know, like someone who’s 30. She is Korean, so maybe it was a language barrier. Nah. I do care about voting, I have and love my family, I enjoy the McLaughlin Group, and I think contemporary pop music sucks. But, I’m hardly Grandpa Simpson. I also workout almost daily, can outrun, outlift, and outlast guys and girls half my age. And, most importantly I can usually out-think them, which I’ve discovered helps achieve a whole lot in athletics and fitness. Another student told me I looked 18, which was a nice, but real lie. I think I’m somewhere in the middle: not as old as I fear, but not 18 either. And, my friends, that’s a good thing.

In fact, I think I’m doing pretty damn well. I’m at my fittest, healthiest, and in spite of everyday challenges, my happiest. The 20s were a struggle where some things worked, but a lot did not, sometimes disastrously. In the 30s, I feel in the zone, at least most of the time. So, while I take a lot of anti-aging supplements (resveratrol, anyone?), eat healthily, workout a lot, and have begun applying wrinkle reducing face creams, I’m pretty comfortable with 31. Maybe it’s because I’m fighting the 30’s with everything alternative medicine can offer; or maybe I’m in denial. Either way, I think 31 and beyond will be good years.

Obesity Could Cost You A Decade

A huge study of studies involving over 900,000 people has concluded that being obese can take up to ten years off of a person’s life. General obesity can take off two to four years while extreme obesity, eight to ten. Of course, what the article doesn’t deal with either is quality of life issues. I wonder how many “years” of truly living obesity has taken off people’s lives as well. Either way, the study confirms that obesity leaves many widows and orphans.

Busy Being Busy

I’ve been pretty busy lately, which is not bad, because it has been a pretty good “busy.” Nonetheless blogging has taken a back seat to other things, like work, classes, etc. Here is a quick update about what I have been doing (just in case you may be interested!):

– Our boys basketball team went to the districts, and I got to chaperon the fan bus. It was a fun trip, even though we lost.

– I have been brushing up on some public speaking tips and tricks, since I will be speaking to a Catholic group in Dayton at the end of April. I am trying to make public speaking a greater portion of my side income.

– Jennifer was out of town most of the week, and it just happened that those same days my buddy from work’s street was flooded. He lives about 45 miles from work. After he waded out and borrowed a car from his dad, he stayed with me for a few days so he could get to work. His family stayed with his mother-in-law, so they had a place to go too. It was fun to have a few “guys nights out.” I ate too much, but it was worth it.

Some March 1st Randomness

pink flower painted

Here is a random post…nothing too focused below, except a few of my thoughts on this sunny, but cold, Sunday afternoon.

– It is cold, January-like cold. The good news is that after Tuesdays, the temperature is supposed to get up in the mid-to-high 40s. If we get a sunny day or two in there, I may be able to run outside! Spring is on the way!!

– I met with some friends this weekend, which was fun. We went to the Knights of Columbus fish fry on Friday night (it is Lent after all), then went out to Denny’s for a diet Coke. A lot of this was spent with Fr. Wagner, and he is setting me up to attend the National Speaker’s Association conference next Sunday! That is really awesome, and I am very grateful.

– Our boys basketball team won their tournament game, which was great. I also met with a friend after that, since we were in his neck of the woods for the game.

– I’ve been continuing my workout plan. I haven’t really lost much weight in the last few weeks (months?), but I have been gaining muscle, so I figure I am seeing some gradual fat loss in there.

– I am putting off getting some school work done, and should really be finishing that…I am taking some post-Master’s classes, and after 3 years, I am less than 4 weeks away from finishing!

All in all, I can’t complain