How to Blow Your Diet for the Super Bowl

I’m quite the fair weather football fan. I am not planning to celebrate, to attend a party or to host one, to even watch the game or otherwise to be even cognizant of who plays or wins until Sports-center at the gym Monday morning. I’m a baseball fan, in case you missed it. Between the end of October and about another month from now, its “wait for baseball.” I’m waiting.

baseball withdrawal.JPG

So Super Bowl Sunday is no more dangerous for me than any other day at home, in the presence of Susan’s delectable cooking. However, if football is your thing and if in your home the Super Bowl is treated like a national and religious holiday all rolled into one (Christmas, raised to the 4th-of-July power or something), I’ve got a recipe for you. Like some say, go big or go home. Here we go:

go big

Ingredients:

one 2-ounce bag of original Fritos
Pot of chili, homemade or canned (I am told that Texans swear by Wolf Brand.)
Grated cheddar cheese
Diced white onion

frito
Optional ingredients: sour cream, avocado (as guacamole or otherwise), jalapenos, etc.)

Steps:

Take a knife or some scissors and split the bag down the front. Leave Fritos in the open bag.
Ladle in a large scoop of chili, making sure to capture as much meat in the ladle as possible.
Top with a mound of cheese (think ice cream scooper) and a heap of onion.
Festoon your creation to your heart’s content with the optional ingredients.

utensils

Eat it straight out of the bag, doing so with your fingers is more then permissible.

By the way, eating this mess on a plate (china or paper) is for sissies. Real football fans consume their Frito Pie with their fingers, with the food in their laps perched atop a pile of really cheap paper napkins.

frito pie

Enjoy the game! See you at the gym, Monday morning.

fat.JPG

 

Being Raised With, and By, Television

boy

When I was a baby, my parents very dutifully documented every occurrence in my life and the world around me, in a rag-tag scrapbook they called a “baby book.”  There are lots of black-and-white snapshots documenting those early days, weeks, months and years (in logarithmic fashion, as my Dad tired of being the family photographer). Some of these have stood the test of time well, but many of them less so as the stains from poorly manufactured, yellowed Scotch tape will attest.
tape
There are newspaper clippings about the Orioles (they had pennant aspirations in 1961 with a crew of young pitchers called the “Baby Birds), popular cars (the Ford Thunderbird seemed to catch my Dad’s fancy), fashions (have some plaid with your plaid) and technology’s impact on everyday life.  As Dad documented, “Well, it looks like both air conditioning and television are here to stay.”Television.

baby bird

As the years have gone by, what I have come to cherish the most about this homespun photo-journalistic effort is the narrative written in my Dad’s longhand.  He wrote about television a little bit, and the shows he said we watched together.  I vaguely recall watching Dragnet, The FBI, and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.  Yep, Dad and I were all about the ABC lineup on Sunday nights.

 

vbs

old tv

The earliest television set (they were called that then) I can recall was a piece of furniture on legs, finished in blondish wood with a round, greenish screen a little larger than a dinner plate.  Manufactured by a long-since-defunct Baltimore company, it had four-detente channel positions:  2, 11, 13 and off.  UHF channels (14 and above) did not yet exist and the TVs of that era did not have the capacity to pull in stations from far-away locales such as Washington DC. Three channels, beaming from the “Candelabra” tower I could see from our driveway, provided more than all the electronic entertainment I ever could want.  Or so I thought.
tower
The television set itself had peculiarities of interest to little boys, not the least of which was learning the magic behind just how they worked.  Mind you, I was the kid who dismantled his etch-a-sketch and got that silver powder all over the floor, in a quest for technical understanding.  The living room television set had an odd backing made of heavy cardboard with little round air holes for ventilation, but the holes were not big enough to see through clearly.  The TV had vacuum tubes and took awhile to warm up, and during that time something magical clearly was happening behind those little round air holes, but the time of being old enough to understand how to remove the screws holding the cardboard in place also meant that I was old enough to read and understand “Electrical shock hazard.  Death may occur…”  I did open the back for many an inspection, but never touched anything.
rear
I vaguely recall that television stations in the early and mid 60s would not necessarily broadcast all day. They would go dark overnight and sometimes even over the mid-day hours.  “Pete the Pirate” would begin the afternoon telecasts on WMAR for example, which did not broadcast between about 10AM and 3PM because, one supposed, that station managers judged that not enough people would be watching to justify the expense.  Yes, it’s true.  Imagine.
test pattern.JPG
By the mid 60s, the big three Baltimore VHF television stations were on the air from roughly 6AM to midnight, and I would be up at 5:30 or 5:45 watching the test pattern, waiting for the Star Spangled Banner and perhaps thereafter, agricultural reports or something called Sunrise Semester.  It did not matter what and little was aimed at a kid audience – I was hooked.
test pattern 11
Despite this childhood fascination, for most families of my peers the television occupied a position of even greater prominence than in my house.  My parents were decidedly not TV-addicted.  They eschewed mainstream televised entertainment for being insufficiently erudite and lacking in overall artistic value and sophistication.  They generally saw the value of news, public affairs programming and once it came along in the 1970s, public television.  My Dad did have a soft spot for cop procedural dramas; Hawaii Five-O was a weekly staple in our house for that reason.
hawaii five-0
As I got a little older it was cartoons, and then standard-fare network-offered sitcoms and dramas. For me the best part of childhood and teenage television watching was the late afternoon daily airing of a Star Trek rerun. Total escapism for teenage boys. Also, staying home from school for a sick day offered an interesting and rare window of TV reruns from about a decade before my personal awareness: sitcoms and dramas from the 1950s and very early 1960s. No matter what was on, the basic kid TV-watching experience was unchanged: few choices, commercials every 15 minutes or so, and one basically did not do anything else while watching TV. It’s how and my generation still remembers ad jingles of the era, unless the commercial afforded a bathroom break.
start
In the 60s and early 70s, regularly programmed television could be preempted for large news events.  How I came to be a “fan” of NASA and the space program was through preemption of whatever else I was watching for launches, splashdowns, historical achievements and other “special reports.”  Similarly, even through still a pre-teen, television helped make me aware of the Vietnam War, politics and other world events. I remember cartoons being preempted for the JFK funeral and I remember my Mom glued to the set for the Watergate hearings.  Though I now consider myself politically astute and knowledgeable, at the age of 12 nothing was more boring than senatorial hearings on Nixon’s wrongdoings. But nothing else was on.
post
I became the household expert at various technological skills lost on the present generation such as the vertical and horizontal hold knobs, aiming and tuning VHF and UHF antennae, and most of all, the deft surgical touch needed to tune in narrow-bandwidth UHF channels including the tight beam of the often-evasive but kid-friendly Channel 45. And, of course, if something went wrong, there was that daunting cardboard backing with the little round air holes.
warning.JPG
During my teen years my house had two televisions and still relied on over-the-air broadcasts.  The “big TV” was a 19-inch black-and-white in our living room, that had to be watched with the volume low because Dad ran his home-based real-estate business from the adjacent dining room and often would be on the phone with clients. In my parents’ bedroom upstairs was a 12-inch black-and-white set, on which I can recall watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon at an hour otherwise past my bedtime.
cronkite
Ultimately and sometime during college, I came home for spring break and found that my parents had lost all control of their anti-TV erudite sensibilities and tumbled hard into the late 20th century, television-wise.  There was a 25-inch color television where the 19-inch black-and-white had been, and there was a channel controller on a long black cord that emanated from a cable box on the floor under the TV.  There also was a new piece of furniture for the TV, for the one on its own legs was gone.  I gamely turned it on, spun the dial, found MTV and my television-watching life instantly had changed forever.
mtv
Martha Quinn. Rock music. Color TV. Television had grown up and I had too.
mfn.JPG

 

 

 

 

 

Lament of a Recurrent Gout Sufferer

With apologies to Simon and Garfunkel, to the tune of “The Sounds of Silence”

Hello gout flare, my old friend
You’ve come to torment me again
Because high purines softly creeping
Crystals formed while I was sleeping
And these crystals that are planted in my toe
Cause me woe
Now I’m limping, in silence

gout1

From restless sleep gout woke me up
Wondering on just what I did sup
‘Neath the halo of a nightlight lamp
My diet I would again revamp
When my toes were stabbed by the flash of a gouty ouch
Made me a grouch
I bit my tongue, in silence
gout2.JPG
And in the bathroom not that I saw
Ten thousand crystals, maybe more
Gout attacking without speaking
Non-sufferers hearing without listening
We’re writing blogs that people never read
No one indeed
Suffer the gouty, in silence
gout3
“Fools”, said I, “You do not know
Crystals in joints can grow and grow
Hear my words that I might teach you
Cry my toes that I might need you”
But my words, like silent crystals formed
And echoed
In my joints, in silence
gout4
And the sufferers bowed and prayed
For a cure for the dismayed
And the gout flashed out its warning
In the crystals that were forming
And the gout said, “The words of the genes are written in DNA
That is the way”
And they laughed, in the toes of silence
gout5
(Time to quit my day job? Or to hire a copyright infringement defense attorney?)

Sanitation & Comfort in the Big Apple

Famous in story and song, New York is the city that does not sleep.  Stevie Wonder marveled over the sights: “Wow, New York – Just like I pictured it – Skyscapers and everything!”
living for the city
Many an artist sang of famous landmarks on Broadway and elsewhere, including “…the rumble of a subway train and the rattle of the taxis.”

never sleepssubway

No one sang about, or even mentioned in this city built for urban tourism, the complete absence of an adequate number of public restrooms for tourists and others possessed of the biological need to eliminate liquid waste.
public toilets
For a place that prides itself on being a tourist mecca, the absence of adequate water closets is mighty inhospitable.  Whether purposeful or happenstance, this lack of modern creature comforts came to the fore during a recent day trip to meet my daughter.
save the planet
We both arrived via inter-city bus, conveniently equipped with on-board potties. I availed myself of this jittery and bouncy on-board aiming challenge twice during the ride from Baltimore, to make sure I hit the Port Authority empty, in a manner of speaking.  Of course, being on a weight-loss program that encourages the drinking copiously, I had 48 oz of  water plus two cups of coffee sloshing around inside of me as I disembarked.  Because my bus arrived in Manhattan an hour earlier than my daughters, I found the Dunkin Donuts across from the Port Authority and had another cup of coffee.
port authority
She arrived and we went to lunch.  I had a couple of glasses of diet soda, and by mid-afternoon we were in the shopping district of Greenwich Village and SoHo.  My kidneys had done what kidneys do, my bladder was doing what bladders do and I was feeling the call of mother nature.  However, none of the otherwise-ubiquitous coffee shops and chain restaurants were in view or nearby and the opportunity to relief did not manifest as the urge grew. A problem was developing and a mighty uncomfortable one at that.
starbucks
As it turned out, many street corners in this gentrified, funky yet upscale Manhattan shopping mecca have small neighborhood restaurants and bars.  Ostensibly, such places of business have public restrooms.  But much to my growing discomfort, I learned that they are not for the public at large so much as for paying patrons.  After being turned away at one or two, following a direct and honest request to use the facilities, a plan formed. Here is how it worked.
no restrooms
He who needs to make a wee wee, saunters into a nice restaurant or upscale bar.  You know, the one that says “restrooms are for customers only” on a plaque with beautiful gold foil inlay, in the window or by the door.

no pay

“Hi. We’re from out of town and  your establishment has come so very highly recommended that we would like to make reservations for this evening if it is not too late.  Party of eight; might you be able to accommodate us at 6:30?”
liar
I continue,”Say, I just thought of it.  One in our party has unusual food allergies.  I apologize but I should have mentioned it earlier.  Might it be possible if I could have a glance at your menu?  Restaurants such as yours usually work, but I just want to verify that there are items on the menus that this one person can accommodate, you know, from an allergen perspective. Many thanks.” I am handed the heavy menu, the one professionally printed on linen in cursive, with some wine offerings hitting three figures per bottle.
fraud
“Oh, good, I think that would work.  My family is a half-block away shopping, so before we book I’ll double-check and come right back in in a few minutes to firm up that reservation.  Meanwhile, while I’m here anyway, would it be a bother to duck into your men’s room?” Deception complete, I relieved and my bladder and kidneys were ever so appreciative for the return to normalcy.
enter exit
I was four-for-four with that one, one Saturday afternoon last Fall. In four differing establishments I used the potty, without once paying the intended price of a $22 plate of pasta. Point is, it should not have come to that.
paris
I understand why there are not public restrooms in (say) parks and such.  They can be sketchy places and prone to criminal activity.  Maybe the Paris solution would work in NYC?

 

Love Letter from My Life Insurance Company

Happy Holidays, everyone.  Yes, it’s trite, but also it’s safe.  I contend that no one reasonably can be offended by those two words.  Happy Holidays  is as safe as painting the office in a rich shade of white. Further, the desire for happiness is a near-universal human aspiration.  It’s written into the US Declaration of Independence after all, and thus, it must be true.
founding fathers
More than a few of us spent (or wasted, depending on one’s perspective) much time and energy during your youth in the relentless and frequently unrequited pursuit of happiness.
cookie monster

Inasmuch as it’s been months since I’ve posted about anything at all of any consequence (save for the occasional picture of a family member of inane internet meme),  it seemed appropriate for this blog to be about changes since then.   Change, for me, arrived via the US Mail.
mailbox
Several days ago came a seeming form letter of sorts from my life insurance carrier.  You know the kind:  you can convert your really cheap term insurance to some extremely pricey alternative that has the additional benefit of (insert insurance industry gobble-de-gook here) and it will only cost you the full purchase cost of a large new boat each month, in addition to the hundreds you already pay.  Yes, I too throw those form letters away.
upsell
This one was different. Here it is:

“…The 20-year term life insurance policy you purchased 20 years ago is about to expire.  You are still alive somehow, so we won and you lost.  We have your money and you are not getting it back.  We’ll be happy to sell you another term life insurance policy, maybe, depending on what our doctors think of the sorry state of your health….”

“… Of course, you are now 54 years old and not 34, so your policy will cost an arm, leg, and another arm – because we really doubt you’ll live long enough to see the plan mature and we are not in business to lose money.  And   by the way buddy, that medical screening starts with and focuses on (drum-roll please) – your weight….!”

“…Fat people die early all the damn time, and if you are not skinny enough to cast no shadow standing sideways, your premium will be exorbitant as we laugh all the way to the bank. Love, Your Life Insurance Carrier.” 
oy gevalt
Maybe not in those exact words, but may as well have been. Well and as some of you know, at least twice before in my life I have lost several dozen pounds and it seems that need – motivated my dollars and cents – is here again with not a moment to lose.  This blog, therefore, will recount my trials and tribulations with (yet another) endeavor to undo a lifetime of unrepentant gluttony.  Anyone who wants to embark with me is more than welcome.  As we prepare for a January 1, 2016 start (what are resolutions for, if not to resolve?), here are some considerations I have pondered over the years of fighting and losing the Battle of the Bulge:
bulge
Pounds are Lost Through Liquid Elimination – Doubt it?  Drink a bunch of water.  Wait until you badly have to go to the bathroom.  Hop on the scale.  Pee.  Hop on the scale again.  If you are like most people, you have lost a pound or more, right then, right down the drain.  Stepping up the water intake will help your body eliminate pounds more regularly, particularly if you also curtail sodium.  Don’t use the salt shaker, and if you can see or taste the salt, whatever you are eating is too salty.
cat pee
It’s Push-Aways More Than Push-Ups – A couple of weeks ago, I am at the gym and overhear the conversation between a couple of 20-somethings in the locker room.  “I can eat however much I want because I come here every day” is what I gleaned from their conversation.  My experience is more comparable to most middle-aged people:  easily 80% of weight loss is achieved through portion control.  Push-away from the table.  Push-ups (and more generally, exercise) certainly helps muscle tone, cardio-vascular health, energy and such.  However, without portion control (yes, you can call that calorie counting), the odds are that a gym program alone at best will achieve weight maintenance but not loss.  Calories out must exceed calories in.  Eating and drinking fewer calories is the easiest and most direct path.
popcorn
Trust The Experts – At age 54, I’m running out of time to be wrong if I try and lose weight on my own.  Weight Watchers (and its competitors) are tried and true programs that work for many.  Some derive benefit from the camaraderie at the meetings (particularly, it seems, if they are female, for whatever reason).  Several years ago I identified (or a friend identified for me) a “free” online system for guided weight loss through tracking nutrition and exercise.  It’s called “Sparkpeople.”  I have an account there – I’m boss61 if you want to find me and follow along – and I have found the web site easy to use, convenient and reasonably motivational.  It’s also free (though like many web sites, they’ll try and up-sell on the margins of your screens unless you use ad-filtering software.

So, two weeks to go.  Or better yet, start now.  Who’s with me?

buddy

Weird Noises Our House Makes: a Parable

The planet earth is our house. When it acts unpredictably (e.g., weird weather, sea level rise, certain plant and animal extinctions, tsunamis, etc.) maybe it’s just nature being random. Maybe it’s nothing we did, are doing, or can do anything about. Maybe, however, it’s caused at least in part by something we are doing or not doing, the least of which may be directly linked to our own myopic stupidity. Maybe the unpredictable behavior of our planet is akin to strange-if-not-bizarre, miscellaneous noises that a house might make. Usually such noises mean nothing, unless they are telling us something.

Maybe Al Gore was right.

Maybe Al Gore was right.

Houses make noises, particularly older ones. Most homeowners have grown accustomed to the noises their houses make, and have largely become desensitized. The root causes for the noises can be people walking around, plumbing, electrical appliances, the wind and the like. Early on a Saturday morning as I type this, I hear the fan inside my laptop, the quiet whoosh of central air-conditioning, the low hum of the refrigerator motor and the ticking of a couple of different clocks. If not blogging about it, I’d be consciously aware of only the absence of sounds from my still-sleeping family.

noise

Some years ago, late one evening when everyone was in bed, I became aware of a different house sound. For about 20 seconds at a time, repetitively every couple of minutes or so, there was a click-bzzzzzzzzt-click sound. The initial click coincided with a brief dimming of the light in our bedroom.

The easy answer was to turn off the light, roll over and go to sleep. That approach (i.e., going to sleep) cures a lot of ills. Only by chance, this approach was not the one I chose on this particular night even though had we discussed it, my wife may have advocated it. Again, for most late night perils and ills, that solve works well enough most of the time.

sleep
On about the third cycle, I became consciously aware of this sound, as the lights dimming caught my attention. On one more cycle, I thought to myself that it’s our well pump. By cycle number 5, my brain was more keenly focused on the question of WHY the well pump was cycling repeatedly even though everyone was in bed. The well pump, you see, is triggered by a pressure decline in our household plumbing, which in turn is triggered by the use of water. But on this night, everyone was in bed and no one was using water.

wonder

Click-bzzzzzzzzt-click. “What’s causing that”, I wondered out loud. “What’s causing what? Whatever you are talking about, go to sleep” murmured my sleepy wife. “I’ll be back. I need to go see…” was my response. Out of bed, through our main level I walked, only to find everything dark, off and quiet. There it was again, “Click-bzzzzzzzzt-click!” With increasing puzzlement and the beginning of growing concern, I headed down the steps into our just-finished basement. Stepping off the last step onto the carpeted playroom floor, my toes squished into the sodden and saturated carpeting and padding!

flood

CLICK-BZZZZZZZZT-CLICK! While bellowing “Houston, we have a problem! This is no drill!” at the top of my lungs, I splish-splashed my way to the laundry room, situated at the corner of the basement where the well water enters the house. Running through about an inch of water on the floor, I spotted the washing machine supply hose and its hole. Not feeling the back-pressure of the closed washing machine inlet valve (because of the hole), the well pump and pressure tank were performing precisely as designed: delivering fresh groundwater into the household plumbing system, and gradually filling our basement to the tune of roughly 5 gallons per minute.

guy

The rest of the story is less fun and an object lesson in how the Money Pit in which we live can roar in unpredictable ways. Overnight, literally as well as figuratively, we became experts at basement flood cleanup and restoration. Since then for a variety of reasons differing in detail but with the common link being the stupidity of man (me) and never really nature or an “Act of God”, we’ve had the unhappy opportunity to further refine our urban flood control expertise. We own the most gear for this purpose short of Serv-Pro, and are adept at drying out Humpty Dumpty and putting him back together again.

humpty

We have learned that carpet padding is the perfect aquifer, that drywall can wick water upward, and mostly, we’ve learned that when a flood occurs, much like when someone has a stroke, minutes matter. Timely action is the best means of limiting risk, cost and challenge, and maximizing the odds of successful restoration.

quick

The planet earth is our collective house and the air conditioner is broken. The basement is flooding. It’s getting warmer and wetter, whether we stay in bed and ignore the circumstance or not. A week does not go by without needs of record worldwide temperature increases, melting ice caps and other evidence of global warming.

dead

Maybe global warming is not our fault and maybe there is nothing we can do. But in case there is something we can do, turning off the light, rolling over and going to sleep, hoping it all will be normal in the morning, is the wrong move. By morning the damage might be done and by then, there is nothing left to do but call the insurance company, stop paying the mortgage and declare bankruptcy. We owe it to our kids and grand-kids to get out of bed, investigate, turn off the water, clean up the mess, wring out the carpet padding, throw the breaker on the air conditioner, etc.

opinions

Darmok – Or All The Calories He Had Had Had

Space, the final frontier of the campy and inane?  Not always.  Bear with me here.

enterprise

The most thought-provoking and conversation-elucidating Star Trek episode all time, by far, was a story from Season Five of “The Next Generation” called Darmok. Our intrepid Space-Farers, living in a future where there simply was no energy crisis, unresolved Middle Eastern conflict, global warming, national debt, or obesity, encounter a powerful alien species and endeavor to communicate.

communication

The aliens are chatty enough, but what they have to say is completely nonsensical. As the TV audience gradually learned at the same time as the Enterprise crew (which is a writing style that made Star Trek great, when pulled off), that they speak in metaphors. Metaphors, all the time. Nothing but metaphors. With the TV audience as bewildered as the crew, one astute Starship crew member remarks that the alien conversation is as though when meaning “romance”, the words used would be “Juliet on the balcony.” A grounding in the culture and history of the alien world would be necessary for comprehension, even if the words themselves could be translated (and in the Star Trek world, a universal translator exists).
translate
Even the metaphors, used frequently enough, were shortened to the first word. Much like the court case that established the rights of the accused being called Miranda. Out-of-context and without cultural references, Miranda means nothing. Try “tea party” – a political effort to reign in excessive government spending and its manifestation of taxation. Not obvious, from the words. We know because we are familiar with the words being metaphorical for a philosophy favoring smaller and less costly government.
darmok
Ultimately, through trial and error with the TV audience learning right along with the crew-members, some halting basis of communication was achieved and a potential war was diffused and the credits rolled. So let’s try this means of communication out in the world of dieting and weight loss. It might go like this:

1. Hindenburg – I ate so much I feel I could explode.

hindenburg

2. Richard Simmons wear – tight, fitting, shiny spandex gym clothes

simmons

3. Perrier Poisoning – Overdoing water consumption in an effort to be healthy and pee off the pounds

4. Bugs’ Plate – lots of raw veggies, like Bugs Bunny would have eaten

bugs

5. Jake and Elwood – Four whole fried chickens and dry white toast (not a good diet)

bluesmobile

Bonus entry – “All the calories she had had had had no effect on his effortless attainment of his weight loss goal.”

Now you try it. Do better than me. Be metaphorical, alliterative, or grammatically accurate if in a most incongruous way!

***

Copyrighted images from photobucket.com