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Posts tagged ‘personal’

Finding a Battle Rhythm

There is probably no bigger issue I face as a blogger than finding a comfortable pace of writing – a “battle rhythm” for how often I post. It’s a challenge faced by anyone who writes on a schedule, of course, whether a mommy blogger or a daily newspaper columnist or a television commentator, and is key to building an audience.

If you’re new to the MarlinBlog, you may not realize that we’ve been in the blogging business for a long time – heck, we pre-date the term “blogging”. Back in ’98, we started a twice-weekly update on the offshore fishing conditions here in SoCal, combining the latest information with little snippets of gossip and snark and such to keep it interesting. But the Fishing News was seasonal, only publishing during the short offshore season, and that combined with a desire to check out true blogging software lead to the birth of the MarlinBlog in 2003. Ironically, the Fishing News – which was a blog long before there were blogs – is now a true blog, running on the same WordPress software as the MB.

In the beginning, I was cranking out MarlinBlog posts like a madman – sometimes several times a day. I guess I had a lot of angst and anger to work out, and nothing does the trick like a pithy blog entry. Over the time, the number of postings rose and fell like the tide, usually dictated by how busy and/or satisfied I was in my life. We’d cheat once in a while, using regular features like the Monday Sports Rant and Weekend Eye Candy as a filler, and focusing a lot of postings on the stupidity of life as captured in various online articles. Once in a while we’d find something meaty to rant about, but the truth is that there wasn’t a whole lot of meat on the bone.

Right about now, you’re probably wondering just what’s the point to this posting, and there actually is one. When people follow a blog, whether daily, weekly or monthly, they get used to the rhythm of the posts. Nothing will cause you to lose eyeballs faster than having someone visit your blog several times and find the same old content. I know this first hand, as it happened to us. Over the last year, as I became less disciplined in my posting schedule, we lost nearly half the regular readership of the MarlinBlog, and that’s kind of an issue – no one wants to rant in a vacuum.

So, here’s the point: I’m going to make a more conscious effort to stick to a regular battle rhythm with my postings. Expect to see at least three a week, more if I feel inspired. During the offshore season, they might get a little lightweight, as I’m still producing the Fishing News on Monday and Thursday (and which you are more than welcome to follow as well), and I do spend some time offshore tournament fishing and away from the keyboard. But the goal is clear – I’ll make sure that if you take the time to visit, I’ll take the time to make sure there’s a fresh tidbit for you to nibble on.

The Only Decision He Could Make

In my Facebook profile, I describe myself as “slightly right of center” politically. That means I can usually see both sides of an argument, and seldom agree completely with either. It also means that my opinion tends to irritate people from both sides of the political aisle, and I suspect this will be no different.

Among my circle of friends are individuals who are openly gay – and others a little less open – and if you were to ask them they’d confirm the following: I am not comfortable with the concept of homosexuality. I was raised in a conservative time and manner, where such things were expected to remain in the closet, and in a church where, as most churches still do today, homosexuality was seen as a moral failure. Even today, as enlightened as I like to consider myself to be, I find it difficult to understand how someone looks as someone of the same sex and finds love.

That said, I believe that yesterday’s decision by Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker to declare unconstitutional California’s voter-approved Proposition 8, which defined marriage as being between a man and a woman, is not only the right decision, but the only decision he could have made.

I”m no legal scholar, but in my mind this day became inevitable the moment the first government got involved with the marriage business. Originally, the church was the de-facto government, providing stability and social order to untamed societies. You got married by the church, everyone recognized you as married, and that was it. Eventually, though, as what we see today as a traditional government began to take on some of the role of the church in providing for the welfare of the people, government chose to provide a parallel process to the church wedding, both allowing governmental recognition of church marriages as well as providing a pathway to marriage for those who opt out of the traditional religious wedding. That’s why while you today you may get married in the local church, you apply to the government for a marriage license – and that license is what yesterday’s decision is all about.

Whether you’re married in front of the altar or in front of a clerk, the marriage license represents a contract with the state, not the church, and is therefore ruled by the Constitution, not the Bible. The church has every right to determine who can or cannot be married in their sanctuaries, or have their marriages recognized by their members. But our Founding Fathers understood the importance of separation of church and state, and built it right into the Constitution by which we are ruled today – and which drove Judge Walker’s decision yesterday. The State cannot force the People to accept homosexuality – tolerate yes, accept no. But at the same time, the People cannot force the State to deny benefits to some they would grant to others, simply based on that lack of acceptance.

It’s worth noting that while Proposition 8 did successfully pass and is the law of the State of California, it hardly came with a ringing mandate – only slightly over 52% of the votes were in favor of the new law. Frankly, I think a lot of people were just like me – unwilling to vote for it, but afraid to vote against it as well. Change is a scary thing for people, and gay marriage represents change. But sometimes, the right thing to do is to take a deep breath and face, rather than fight, the change.

Once upon a time, a boy and a girl grew up, fell in love, got married and raised their kids alongside the rest of the crops on the farm. That was traditional marriage, and proponents of Proposition 8 point to that tradition as part of what they are trying to defend. But look around – the traditional family was gone long before homosexuals began their push for marriage. Science helps couples have children even if both parents are sterile, same-sex couples use surrogates to have children, single people adopt children from around the world – the needs that the traditional marriage provide have long since been met in many different ways. You don’t have to like the direction that society might be moving, but you cannot deny it – and you certainly can’t try and use the law to stuff the cork back in the bottle.

I have a former girlfriend who is a lesbian. She was gay when I met her, although I was probably in denial about it, and she’s gay today, part of a stable, loving couple. That she tried so hard to be someone she was not just to be with me will always be a source of immense pride. But she is who she is, and while I may not be comfortable with it, I do not have the right to tell her who she should be. Similarly, if we the people offer through our government a service to couples – that service being the civil contract of marriage, and all the benefits that come with it – we do not have the right to pick and choose what couples we offer the service to. Believe me, there are plenty of heterosexual married couples that I’d deny the right of marriage to if I could, but you don’t see anyone suggesting we do that.

Back in the early ’90s, I was a supervisor in an assembly area. One of my employees was gay, and her partner worked in an adjoining area, so I saw the kind of interaction they had on a daily basis. It was a new experience for me, and I was surprised to see that they faced the exact same changes any other couple goes through – the ups and downs, the fun and the friction, the financial challenges and the shared celebrations. Perhaps it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise since, gender aside, they were simply two people in love, trying to build a life together.

I’m someone who’s relationship history can be described as hit-and-miss at best, so I can appreciate how hard it is to find that one right person. Imagine if on top of all of the challenges that life places on each of us, you felt so uncomfortable in the traditional gender role that society placed upon you that you are willing to face the scorn that we all know the community continues to place on anyone who is different – just to find true happiness. Do we as a society really want to tell them they are wrong for trying, when all they ask for is the chance to live their life the way we live ours? Whether you accept or reject the notion of homosexual relationships, there’s no denying that gay marriage will do nothing to damage the fabric of our society. Whatever changes it may be seen to represent were set in motion long ago, and the granting of rights to homosexuals is as inevitable and right as it was to blacks and women before.

In the end, what are gays and lesbians really asking for? All they want is the right to face the challenges of life, hand in hand and side by side with the one they love, sanctioned by their government the same as any other couple. How is that fundamentally any different from what I want for myself? I’ll probably never be comfortable with the concept of gay marriage, and will always feel a bit uneasy around a gay couple. But if two people in love want to try and face the challenges of married life together, I’ll be damned if I’ll be the one to tell them they can’t.

Back The Frak Up!

Hey there! It’s your old pal Stan, with your computer tip of the day …

I don’t always like to admit it, but I’m an Information Technology professional. I’ve got a degree in Information Systems, I own a web design company and manage several popular websites, and I develop software and processes for Boeing. I have two laptops, 5 Macs and a BlackBerry, with at least two of them within arm’s reach at any given moment. Much as I consider myself completely unrelated to the image of a coder banging keys in the dark by the light of a monitor (and I can hear several of my friends clearing their throats to dispute that statement), I’m an IT guy.

As Ron White said, “I told you that story so I could tell you this one.” I follow really good discipline when it comes to backing up my personal computers. I have a 4-terabyte JBOD array that automatically performs incremental backups of every server on the network, and it’s located remotely so if the worst ever happens and the computers burn down, there’s a good chance the backup array will survive. Fortunately, I’ve never had to use the data, but I sleep better knowing it exists.

The same can’t be said for my work computer. The company provides me with a laptop, and controls the software on it. They’ve always advocated frequent backups, but several years back they rolled out new software to each machine that reinforces the concept and performs automatic backups. Unfortunately, the application is so clunky that it adds an extra minute to the startup time, and it has a horrible habit of starting the automatic backups at the most inopportune moments, like when you’re hosting a presentation in front of a group of people. As a result, I’ve adjusted the backup time to the middle of the night, which makes my life easier but decreases the likelihood of a successful backup, since the machine needs to be on in order to be backed up (insert ominous music here).

We’re at a particularly busy point in my current software project, as we prepare to test new code and processes for members of our customer community. Knowing that, I opted to sacrifice the holiday weekend to stay home and write test scripts and documentation. I spent most of Friday, Saturday and Sunday working on the task, with a bit of software testing tossed in. As a result, by Sunday night I’d collected quite a large number of test script files and test result screen shots. Monday was my condenses holiday, until it dawned on me that the dry run I thought I had another day to prepare for was actually on Tuesday morning. Figuring I’d just take one more shot for the team, I fired up my laptop and prepared for a final couple of hours spent polishing the test script for the dry run in the morning.

Or at least that was the plan. Instead of a friendly home screen, I got a simple text message telling me that the system couldn’t start because of a missing or damaged system file. Hmm … this can’t be good. I try to restart one more time – same result. I’d been having issues with the unit in recent weeks, but didn’t think it’d actually do a hard crash – surprise!

My consternation on Monday night was nothing compared to what I learned yesterday morning once I delivered my dead computer to the Laptop Repair Center. Having dealt with a lot of misbehaving hard drives, I’m familiar with the process. Usually, hard drives don’t actually break, the code simply corrupts to the point they won’t boot any longer. The drive itself is usually fine, and can be made a slave drive to a functioning computer, allowing you to transfer out any data you might need – like, say, a full weekend’s worth of work. Unfortunately, as part of a tightening of the company’s computing security policies, full disk encryption was established for all company hard drives. That means the only way you can get the data off the hard drives is with the software that encrypted it – which resides on the drive itself. Corrupt the drive, and you’re screwed. Fortunately, we have our automatic backups – which I often miss. So when the technicians went to my most recent backup, it was nineteen days old. Any data from the last two weeks is lost in the ether, including everything I did over the weekend.

As the frustration subsided, the anger rose. Now, I didn’t realize the encryption would create this problem and, therefore, increase the importance of the backup, but that’s no excuse. I do this for a living; if anyone should be exercising proper procedure and discipline, it should be me. Because I didn’t, there’s currently a team of three cranking out test scripts as quickly as possible, and we took a one-week hit to our planned pilot. I’m still tallying up the missing data and reinstalling applications on the computer.

So the lesson of the day is: Back the frak up! Most computers come with backup software; all you need to do is tell it when to run the backup, or discipline yourself to manually perform the function daily. Trust me when I say you’ll be glad you did …

Little Slice Of Life

I was driving to work this morning, using a shortcut through a residential section of Manhattan Beach, when I came upon a couple standing by the side of the road.  The woman, concerned look on her face, kept looking back and forth between the man, who was slowly walking away from her, and an as-yet-unseen sight on a sidestreet ahead of me.  The obvious anxiety in her actions caught my attention, and I glanced down the street where she was looking as I passed.  There, half a block away, walked a young child, weighed down by a backpack, trudging towards some  unseen goal.  In a flash, the scene became clear – a child, walking to his first day of school, and parents, watching him leave, trying with mixed results to let go.

With all the challenges in the world, from the economy to wildfires to swine flu to war, it’s easy to forget that life is really made up of a series of small vignettes like this one.  Some are good, others bad, but together they weave the tapestry that is our society.  Take time today to recognize and remember those little moments in your life – you’ll be all the richer for it.

Stan 2.1 Update

I was struggling earlier today to find a suitable blogging topic, feeling that the idiots of the world had let me down by not doing something memorable to talk about. Then it dawned on me – I haven’t provided an update on my transformational journey in quite a while. We first talked about it in January, then discussed a key milestone along the way, and I shared a few of the mid-course corrections I’d decided to make in April.  Judging by the number of emails I get on the topic, it’s a source of curiosity, so here’s where we are now.

To review, at the end of last year I’d reached a point in my life where I felt the road I was on wasn’t taking me anywhere I wanted to go. I was fat, out of shape, unmotivated and unhappy. Now, this wasn’t a revelation that hit me suddenly, but perhaps I just reached a point where acceptance of the situation became more painful than solving it. Whatever the reason, I found the motivation necessary to change – I put myself on a 1500-calorie-a-day diet, started doing a half-hour of aerobic exercise 5 days a week, and made a list of tasks that had been long ignored and started completing them.  Originally calling the plan “Stan 2.0,” I upgraded to “Stan 2.1” after making some adjustments to both the plan and the objectives.

So far, the results have been pretty gratifying.  I’ve gone from around 270-lbs to 205, and from a 40-inch waist to 34.  I don’t get nearly as many migraine headaches as I used to, and that desire to nap every afternoon has decreased significantly.  The best part, though, is the sense that I’ve taken steps that not only will make for a better life, but a longer one as well.

I’ve had some fun with it along the way.  Back in March, I attended a series of banquets for the various fishing clubs I belong to.  At that point, I was probably 30-lbs into the program, but it was the thirty easiest – and most visible – pounds.  Most of the people at the banquets hadn’t seen me since the local marlin season had ended last fall, and there was a lot of jaw-drop looks.  I even had one guy tell me he’d been afraid to ask what was up, for fear that the dramatic weight loss was the result of illness rather than perserverence.  Those are the ones that make me smile the most.

Obviously, I can see the difference when I stand on the scale or look in the mirror, but I’m always amazed at some of the unexpected changes.  Having added weight training and an ab/back workout once I passed below 220, I always smile when I find muscles I didn’t have before – I was positively giddy the first time I could count the bands in my abs.  Yeah, I had to push the loose skin and last of the fat roll out of the way, but it was still thrilling …

wristbandThe really interesting part is seeing some of the places weight comes off.  All I had to do was look down to know where most of it was located, but when you’re carrying around that much extra weight, it tends to distribute itself like a fat suit – you have some pretty much everywhere.  Take my wrists, for example.  In the picture at left, the shot holding the fishing lure was taken last fall.  The “Livestrong” band is taut around the wrist like a rubber band around a roll of papers.  On the left is the same wrist now, with the same band – only now, it rattles around like a Hula-Hoop on a teenager’s hips.  Pretty cool, and typical of what’s happening all over.

Of course, while I’ve had what I consider to be significant success thusfar, there have been the occasional setbacks.  My diet is pretty rigid, not so much for content as much for quantity, and I still have those days where I crave a calorie bomb of one sort or another.  I’ve learned that if I can’t talk myself out of it to just let it happen and deal with the aftermath later.  More often than not, the influx of fat and calories makes me feel so bad that I don’t really need to scold myself – my body does it for me.  Trying to undo three decades of sedentary living has taken a toll on the body as well, and I’ve had a couple of injuries along the way.  Having hauled my fat ass around has been hard on my knees and ankles, and sometimes they are less than happy with the walking and cycling – although it’s amazing how much happier they are at today’s 205 than they were at last fall’s 270.

I’m currently nursing a new injury that I can’t decide whether is a result of age or weight loss or what.  Last week, I took a corner a little too quick and sent my BlackBerry skittering across the car seat, wedging it between the passenger seat and the door.  Naturally, that’s when it opted to ring, so I pulled over to try and retrieve it before voicemail picked up.  I reached across towards the BlackBerry, contorting myself in a way that would have been physically impossible six months ago, and cantelivered my upper body across the passenger seat with my ribcage resting on an unpadded center console.  As I made that last stretch towards the door, something popped in one of the lower ribs, and I felt my body drop about an inch.  “That’s probably not good,” I thought, abandoning the call to its fate.  The Old Stan would have never suffered such an injury, in part because he never could have achieved the position and in part because there’d have been a cushioning layer of fat to protect the ribs.  Such is progress.  The good news is that I don’t think anything’s broken, just separated; the bad news is that it pretty much precludes most of my workout plan beyond walking and the stationary bike.  Whatever – it’s not going to stop me.

When I started down this path, it seemed silly to even talk in terms of goals.  I would toss out 185-lbs as a target, since that’s what the experts say someone of my height should weight, but that seemed so ridiculously light six months ago as to be unobtainable.  I’m not laughing any more.  Admittedly, as I get smaller it gets a lot harder to shed the pounds, but when you get close enough to see the finish line, that’s a mighty powerful incentive.

There’s a lot more going on to the Stan 2.1 plan than just diet and exercise, but that’s for another day.  Stay tuned …

Any Wonder They Call The Dimwitted Among Us “Boobs”?

There are things in this world I understand … roses, marlin fishing, the internet … and there are things I don’t. Among those I don’t? Fake breasts. More on after yet another example of the misplaced priorities in society today.

Chantal Marshall is a British homemaker. The 50-yr-old mother of 9 seems normal enough, yet her family proudly holds an English record – the most breast augmentations within a single family. Between Marshall and 4 of her daughters, they’ve received 9 pairs of implants.

One short of a silicone six-pack

One short of a silicone six-pack

Ripley, 18, Tara, 22, Terri, 25, Emma, 28, and mum-of-nine Chantal, of Kirkby-in-Ashfield, Notts, now boast chest sizes ranging from 34DD to 32GG.

On one occasion, Emma and Ripley even ended up having breast enhancement surgery on the same day and at the same clinic as their mum.

Tara had booked her consultation aged 17 so she could have the op as soon as she reached the age of 18.

The sisters – all with matching blonde hair just like their mum – say that like most siblings they have always copied each other.

But they insist that when it comes their chest sizes, they aren’t at all competitive.

They reckon their desire for bigger boobs was inspired by Chantal – who is often mistaken by strangers for their sister.

They don’t mention the husband/father of this clan; I’m wondering if he’s present or if his departure led to the mother’s initial need to “improve” herself. Nor do they mention the other four five children; it would be interesting to learn the thoughts of those.

As a single guy, I have a vested interest in breasts; I’m among their biggest fans. I’ve dated women with implants, and I had one girlfriend get implants and another opt for a reduction, both while I was dating them. I’ve experienced a pretty good spectrum of what both natural and non-natural sources can provide.

Two comments I’ll make on this story, and the topic of breast augmentation in general, based on my experiences. First, while it’s true that some of the aftermarket boobies out there can look pretty damned nice in a sweater or bikini top, I’ve never seen a set that doesn’t disappoint once forced to stand on their own, as it were. The illusion ends the moment the bra drops, and anyone telling you otherwise is wrong. That’s particularly true as the cup size goes up – a cruel little fact; the better they look in clothes, the worse they’ll look later on. Now, if you don’t mind having that little reality check stare you in the face every time your girlfriend gets naked for you, go right ahead. But to me, it’s just another form of bait-and-switch.

My second comment goes beyond the breasts themselves to the motivation behind them.  There are certain circumstances when breast augmentation fills a legitimate medical need – post-mastectomy, for example, or cases where the breasts are mis-sized or effectively non-existent. An intelligently planned and executed augmentation can help achieve or regain a sense of “normalcy,” and that’s not a bad thing.

But that’s a far cry from what we see way too much of today. The article mentions the “Baywatch” influence, pneumatic breasts bouncing along like a pair of beach balls in the bleachers at Dodger Stadium. But what Pamela Anderson and Carmen Electra – not to mention the entire constituency of “Porn Valley” – have chosen to do is a business decision, one made based strictly on dollars and sense. Unless your goal is to be a porn star or a stripper, it’s the wrong path to go down.

There’s one common trait I see among the women I’ve known who opted to make changes. Whether for larger implants, smaller implants or decreased natural breasts, in each case they were looking for a surgeon to cure on their chests an issue that truly existed between their ears.  I understand better than most what it’s like to go through life without a lot of self-confidence, but to think that by stapling a pair of silicone balloons to your ribcage, effectively lowering the gaze of every man from your eyes to your chest, you will somehow become a better person is sad. Worse still, to hear an 18-yr-old girl talk of her need to increase from a 34C to DD is criminal.

The Ups and Downs of Sports Endorphins

We’ve talked before about the journey of rediscovery I’ve been on this year. For those of you joining late, I entered the year realizing I was nearly 50 and wasn’t happy with any element of life, so I challenged everything and changed much. I’ve lost 60 pounds, gotten into the best shape I’ve been in since college, gone back to school and even taken halting steps towards a normal social life. It’s been interesting to say the least, and along the way I keep learning new things.

Today’s lesson is about sports endorphins. Those of you who are serious athletes certainly know what I’m talking about – those morphine-like compounds your body produces under the stress of exercise. They’re why you find your second wind on a long run, or strangely feel better during the second half of the game than the first, or find yourself unsure why you crave the pain of a good workout – but quite certain that you do. They numb the pain and bring pleasure to the brain, and are closely related to the chemicals your brain releases during orgasm … perhaps explaining why post-workout sex always feels like the whole is greater than the sum of the parts … :-)

I’ve never been anything close to an athlete, so it was all pretty much a mystery to me until I started this process. I do an hour of aerobic exercise five days a week, and once I’d gotten past the “it hurts all the time” stage, I noticed that a strange thing would happen somewhere around the 40 minute mark. I thought it was just me finding my rhythm, but I know now it was those endorphins kicking in – instead of wishing the walk or ride or whatever was over, I found myself looking for a greater challenge. It had a strange effect on my brain, as well. I’m not the most self-confident guy, and that little voice in my head is usually telling me I can’t do whatever it is I’m considering. But after that 40 minute mark, the voice is medicated into submission and I can see things in a whole new way. I’ve even used it to my advantage, formulating plans in the temporarily-medicated confident state, and learning to trust the plan later after the exercise high worked off.

There’s a downside to that happy little buzz, though, and I’m learning that lesson today. Thursday nights, I walk the Strand in Hermosa Beach, covering about 4 miles in an hour. Last night, my left ankle was bugging me a bit before I set out, reminiscent of the ankle pain I would get when I was much heavier. I knew it wasn’t serious, though, and that if I just got through the first half-hour the endorphins would get me home.

As is happens, I was glad I decided to walk through the pain, because I ran into AVP volleyball players Kerri Walsh and Rachel Wacholder – both new mommies and not on tour this season – walking with their babies near the pier. And sure enough, just after that sighting the drugs kicked in, the pain decreased, and I completed the walk.

And then came the morning. Turns out there’s a good reason for pain, and for listening to it. This morning, my left ankle was nearly twice the size of its counterpart. It’s pissed because I made it walk four miles despite clear warnings that it wasn’t in any shape for it. A little ice and a lot of Advil and things are better, but it’s a lesson well learned.

OK, maybe not so well learned, ‘cuz I still have a 30-mile ride this afternoon … hey, at least the weight will be off of it … :-)