Anniversaries and a Local Connection to Libya

Hi All,

I’m really sorry I missed the Anniversary.  I wanted to bring balloons and a banner and have a real party but thankfully Scott wrote a nice post and the rest of you joined in with congratulations to ATiM and each other.  Next year we’ll have a big bash with music, speeches and lots of toasts.   I should be able to drink something stronger than apple juice by then.  I’ll just reiterate everyone’s appreciation of Brent and his morning reports and a heartfelt thanks to the rest of you who have taken the time to publish posts and participate in the comments and have also helped with the technical end of things.

Like many of you I’ve learned considerably more about subjects I wasn’t previously that familiar with, discovered interesting tidbits of information about each of you (an unfolding mystery), and personally confronted a few more short-comings in myself than I originally bargained for.  It’s been an interesting endeavor, so thanks everyone.  It’s true; I did tell Scott I hated him once (thanks for telling everyone….lol), about three years ago.  What he forgot to mention, or may have simply forgotten, is that I also apologized right away.  I realized even then, that although we were strangers (much more so then than now) and I didn’t appreciate or like what he was saying, he certainly didn’t deserve my hate.  I was embarrassed I’d even said it as I had gotten caught up in the moment of a heated exchange on health care reform, something I am very passionate about.  No excuses though, even as a few come to mind…………………….hahahahaha.

It’s been a rough year for me health wise, and I’ve been away from ATiM almost as much as I’ve been around.  I’m hopeful all that’s behind me now once I get caught up on my sleep and finish this last round of antibiotics, which I’m having a little trouble keeping down………yuck.   What I learned in the past six or seven months is that my efforts at being healthy my entire adult life didn’t protect me from a health threat I hadn’t anticipated or an unexpected depletion of our funds set aside for emergencies.  What I thought was, and probably should have been, a fairly routine bout of food poisoning in March got very complicated and damn near killed me.   It should be a lesson to all of us that we shouldn’t take our good fortune or good health for granted.   I do feel grateful though that I had some excellent doctors and nurses treating me, even though there were times they seemed more than a little stymied (slightly terrifying), and that I will recover and be as good as new again.  Well, as new as any 62 year old can be, that is.  I’m very cognizant of the fact there are a lot of people who can’t say that with certainty so I feel particularly blessed and more than a little bit lucky right now.

I was in the hospital last week with no access to the internet but I did follow the news a little and read the local newspaper.  I became fascinated with the story behind the so-called film that started, or was blamed for starting, all the trouble in the Middle East.  I’m a big proponent of free speech, as we all are, but it’s a shame so much of this tragedy swirls around what was essentially an alleged con-artist’s effort to stir up trouble and probably rip a few investors off.  I’m speculating here a little but I did have time yesterday to do some research, in between naps……lol.  I don’t know if anyone here has already covered this ground or not, as I haven’t had the chance to read through all the comments yet, but here are a few stories that I found particularly compelling.

Some of you may remember I commented here a couple of times that I quit participating in our local city council meetings and citizen commissions a couple of years ago when our conservative city aligned itself with Arizona’s volatile immigration bill.  One of the reasons I became so disillusioned was because there were outsiders (out of state even) around town agitating community members and our council members were swayed by their arguments.  One day last week I saw this guy’s photo in the paper and recognized him as one of those outsiders.  At the same time all of this was going on in 2010 some anti-Obama/anti-Muslim protesters set up a table just outside of the Post Office handing out fliers and propaganda and generally trying to stir up trouble.  Here’s the local story on this Klein character with the photo I saw.  And apparently the film maker is a CA man as well.

Steven Klein, owner of Wise Home Insurance Services, said he believes Muslim extremists control most of the mosques across the United States and that his intention is only to tell the truth.

A Cal State San Bernardino center that monitors extremist groups describes Klein as part of a national anti-Muslim hate movement.

Klein said he founded a group called Courageous Christians United after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks spurred him to get involved in what he called educating people about Islam. He said he later handed the group over to another person.

He then founded Concerned Citizens for the First Amendment, which also educates people about Islam, he said.

Although he has distributed literature about Islam, Klein said he did not attend protests against the building of a new mosque in Temecula in 2010.

But he said he and other members of Concerned Citizens for the First Amendment distributed leaflets on Islam in high schools across Southern California, including in Temecula, Corona, Murrieta, Norco and Menifee.

Klein said he has written on issues other than Islam, targeting illegal immigration, gays and lesbians serving in the military and Mormonism. But he said he has not attended or organized demonstrations on those issues.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate activity, on Wednesday put out a dossier on Klein. The center quotes him from his Facebook page in 2011 as saying Muslims “are a cancer that WILL attack us and KILL as many as they can to further the Islamic doctrine of Sharia law … Beware, there IS a holy war coming.”

I’m tempted to email all of these stories to the council members and my friend who is the Mayor Pro Tem right now, but I promised my husband I would stay out of it.  Small town politics can get pretty ugly as I’ve discovered anew in the last four years.

Here’s another piece I read that details more on the film-maker and highlights rather obviously that the initial media reports weren’t exactly accurate.  Apparently he’s a convicted meth cooker and scam artist still on probation and not of Israeli origin.  No wonder he went into hiding.

As an example of the early reporting, here is the opening of a top story in the Los Angeles Times, based on AP reporting: “An Israeli filmmaker based in California who made a movie belittling Islam’s prophet Muhammad that has ignited Middle East riots and led to the death of the U.S. ambassador in Libya says he is in hiding. Sam Bacile, 56, who described himself as an ‘Israeli Jew’ who develops real estate in California, told the Associated Press by phone that he went into hiding Tuesday after assaults by conservative Muslims on U.S. missions in Egypt and Libya.”

The AP, in an early report, flatly called Bacile “an Israeli fillmmaker.” Even Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper, published this under the headline, “Israeli Filmmaker in Hiding.”

The media accounts on “Bacile” slowly fell apart as the day wore on yesterday, as I documented here in update, thanks mainly to reporting by blog sites, including Gawker, Buzzfeed and Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic’s site. Then last night, the AP weighed in with an excellent report that seemed to track down the real Bacile, using some fine investigative techniques, and outed him as one Nakoula Basseley Nakoula (Basseley=Bacile, for one thing) in Cerritos, California.

And lastly, the LA Times with a little more background on the film’s producers.  A convict and an agitator deny their culpability now that the shit has hit the fan.

One ran a low-profile Christian charity from a sleepy suburb east of Los Angeles. The other was a financially strapped gas station operator just out of federal prison.

In the last year, these men, both Egyptian immigrants, became unlikely collaborators in an endeavor that has shaken the stability of the Middle East.

Joseph Nassralla Abdelmasih, the president of the Duarte-based charity Media for Christ, and Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a convicted felon from Cerritos, emerged Thursday as forces behind “Innocence of Muslims.”

Both men appeared to have gone into hiding Thursday. As the furor over the film grew, they and their associates have distanced themselves from the production. Nakoula told the Associated Press he was a logistics manager on the movie, not the director. He told a Coptic bishop Thursday that he had no role in it, the clergyman told The Times.

“He denied completely any involvement,” said Bishop Serapion of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Los Angeles.

He [Nakoula] was convicted on state drug charges in 1997. In 2010, he was convicted in an identity theft scheme. According to the court file, Nakoula, who ran gas stations in Hawaiian Gardens, operated under a dizzying array of aliases, including Kritbag Difrat. He was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison and was released last summer.

Somewhere in the links above is mentioned the lack of public interest in the film itself.  Apparently, there was a viewing of the entire film in a theater recently and no one showed up, literally, not a single person.  This kind of story is right up my alley but the really sad aspect to all of it is, of course, the loss of life.  The thing with free speech is that there are consequences and they generally rest on those who abuse the privilege.  Even if it is ultimately discovered, as the speculation now suggests, that the assault on the consulate was planned and carried out separately from the protests surrounding the youtube trailer of the film, the so-called film will always be associated with the deaths of at least four Americans.

Update 1……….I got a kick out of reading the diet and exercise talk among the guys yesterday but serious congrats to Kevin, McWing and FB’s wife for losing the weight.  Yellow won with the best comment though………OMG.  I’ve always been thin and not a big eater but I’ve gotten too thin this year and am trying to gain back some of the weight I lost.  I was doing pretty well and heading back up to 125 until a little over a week ago, now I get to start all over again as I weighed in at 115 this morning.  I’m still just under 5’9” and big boned so need to get back to about 135 if possible as that’s my healthy weight.  My husband got up to about 235 at 6’2” about 5 or 6 years ago but when he was diagnosed with gout he went on a really strict diet I designed for him and he really lost the extra pounds fast and eliminated the gout as well.  He’s around 200 now which seems to be maintainable and no complaints from the doctors, he’s a swimmer like me and we both ride the stationary bike and I walk our dog most days.  He missed a lot of his workouts earlier this year because of a broken leg but just cut his calories down to make up for it and it seemed to work.  I do most of the cooking and I can tell when he’s gaining a little weight so I just cook a bit differently and he doesn’t even seem to notice……….hahahaha.  I also know when he sneaks out to get a hamburger on the way to the bank or post office and cut back accordingly.

Update 2………….Just read this interview.  I think maybe someone should just wire Romney’s jaw shut at this point.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: How about the film that seems to have sparked all this, the Innocence of Muslims film? Secretary Clinton today said she thought it was disgusting. How would you describe it?

MITT ROMNEY: Well, I haven’t seen the film. I don’t intend to see it. I you know, I think it’s dispiriting sometimes to see some of the awful things people say. And the idea of using something that some people consider sacred and then parading that out a negative way is simply inappropriate and wrong. And I wish people wouldn’t do it. Of course, we have a First Amendment. And under the First Amendment, people are allowed to do what they feel they want to do. They have the right to do that, but it’s not right to do things that are of the nature of what was done by, apparently this film.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We’ve seen General Martin Dempsey call Pastor Jones to say, “Please don’t promote this film.” You think that’s a good idea?

MITT ROMNEY: I think the whole film is a terrible idea. I think him making it, promoting it showing it is disrespectful to people of other faiths. I don’t think that should happen. I think people should have the common courtesy and judgment– the good judgment– not to be– not to offend other peoples’ faiths. It’s a very bad thing, I think, this guy’s doing.

Happy Saturday everyone!!!!!!!!!

Diet and Exercise

On the anniversary post, I was asked for “diet tips” and exercise tips in the comments. So . . . here they are. YMMV.

Situps are a lot easier when you’ve lost 70 lbs. If you can do them at home, in the bed in the morning or whenever when you can grab a minute, you’ll find you can increase the weight you can pull on the crunch machine at the gym. That’s been my experience at least. And having less time to go to the gym, finding times where I can do plain body weight exercises has been a life saver.

Toe lifts can be done almost anywhere, at almost any time. Maybe you can’t run on the treadmill or go for a walk, but toe lifts can help with a lot of those muscles, and you can reach your maximum exertion quickly. There’s always time for toe lifts.

Pushups work a lot of major muscle groups at the same time (proceed with caution if you’ve got back issues). You can do them in all sorts of places. The goal I’ve got is 100 pushups a day. Eventually, 100 in an hour, in sets of 25. I cannot yet complete a full set of 25, but it’s amazing how many muscle groups are improved by developing strength with plank pushups. Haven’t got to a 100 a day, but I’m halfway there (I’ve topped 50, though I still don’t do that every day). But when I started, I was doing sets of 5 and not getting to more than 20 on a good day. It’s just very slow going.

Diet: don’t eat much. Some people go vegan, do Paleo, do Atkins. Everybody has a reason why there way works and radical calorie restriction does not . . . but radical calorie restriction actually does work. At least, it has for me. All I’m doing. Just not eating very much, but trying to get sufficient nutrition to remain healthy. I focus on calories and quantity, and don’t worry much about nutritional value, or whether there is protein or wheat or saturated fats in what I’m eating. I just don’t eat much. And I eat more of fruits and vegetables, if they are part of the meal.

The motivation game is the issue. That’s trickier. I just always keep in mind that the food will be there next week, next month, next year. I don’t have to eat it now. I also keep in mind that the way the brain works (and the reason I was fat in the first place) is that overeating trains the brain to always ask for more. Dopamine receptors go down and dopamine releases go up. So I always think about that, when I’m downstairs, and it’s late, and I’m thinking of snacking. It took three months of very light eating (most of the time) to retrain my brain to stop acting like I was starving because I wasn’t eating second breakfast. Do I want to lose that? I do not. So I skip the late night snack.

Best time of my life, I weighed around 180. I think about that, too. Not that it’s a causal relationship, but it certainly can’t hurt to recreate what components of that time that I can. I think about how I had felt trapped and miserable in high school (when I was fat, out of shape), and how that had seemed to stretch out for decades rather than a few short years. Then how much and how dramatically so much in my life improved during my college years, and just how awesome they were. There were lots of reasons for that, of course, but being slim and fit certainly helped.

And as the quality of my life deteriorated after college in many important ways, I was putting on weight. Hmmmm. Does make a man ponder.

But the improvements in my life, back in the distant past, didn’t happen right away when the needle on the scale first dipped below 180. So I need to maintain, and then judge how things are in my life generally a year from now and two and three years from now. So I keep that in mind as well.

The other bit as regards motivation is spending time (now that I am much skinnier, and generally more fit) enjoying it. Dressing well, admiring myself in the mirror, jumping down the last five or six stairs and landing lightly on my feet. Running a mile on the treadmill, and reflecting on how that would have probably killed me 9 months ago. Thinking about the difference in squeezing through tight spaces or running out to my car or riding rides at the fair. The quality of all these experiences are dramatically better. Do I need to eat dessert that badly?

The answer is no.

Plus, it’s fun, at 43, to be physically fit and attractive. I get looks from, and flirted with by, women half my age. I got the flustered oh-my-gosh-this-an-attractive-man reaction from my daughter’s dance teacher last night, a reaction that I got very familiar with in college. It’s a reaction you only get from women (if you are a man) when they knew you before, and you show up suddenly transformed, for them. They’ve watched you move (abruptly, in their experience, because they have not see you for awhile) from asexual blob of generic humanity to a fit and attractive man radiating strength. It’s not flirting, but it’s an unmistakeable “Wow!” reaction. And one you never get when you’re overweight and out of shape, and not one you get when you move in the other direction. “Wow, you’ve gotten fat!” is a completely different experience.

We’re going on a cruise in November. I weigh now what I weighed when I went to London in college (best trip of my life, for many reasons). I haven’t been this skinny or fit on a nice vacation in 20 years. That’s exciting. I’m going to buy a new suit for the trip, the kind of dress suit that looks great on thin, fit people. And I’m going to look awesome in it. Would I want to spoil that with a cheeseburger (and then another, and then another) or snacks and sugared soft drinks all day long? No, no, I would not. Would it be nice to lose another 5 or 10 lbs before the trip begins? Yes, yes it would. Can I see myself running half-a-mile on a treadmill on the cruise ship each morning? Yes, yes I can. And I couldn’t do that without having done the ground work, or maintaining it. So . . . that’s what I focus on. Because that’s what’s working for me, right now.

A great deal of it is where I keep my mind. Hopefully, I won’t be back here a year from now reporting I’ve gained 50 lbs! I’ve lost weight (I topped out at 300 lbs in high school, bottomed out at 150 lbs 2.5 years later). I got down to 225 before a trip to Mexico in 2008, then shot back up to 270 in 6 months. But I weighed in at 185 lbs this morning. I haven’t weighed that since early 1990.

Now, if I could only will away the perma-flab that comes from having weighed 300 lbs in high school and 270 lbs a year ago. But perma-flab was a problem even at 150 lbs in college, it’s not the kind of thing you fix without surgery. And, at 43, I think I’ll pass on cosmetic surgery. Because I still look drop-dead gorgeous in a suit. 😉

I’m not sure any of this will be beneficial to anybody else. But it’s working for me, for now. And that’s my story.

Or, my story, so far.

On Being Fat

When I was a little boy, I was a normal kid, at a normal weight. I was a rambunctious male child from a divorced household, and, today, I’m sure, I would have been put on Ritalin. My mother, while not maternal, was very health conscious, and kept the food in the house normal, but healthy. There were not a lot of sugary snacks or sugared drinks.

However, I liked to eat, and would find ways to do so. I have the sort of metabolism that packs on the pounds, so after 2nd and 3rd grade, I became kind of chubby. And while I put on some weight through 6th grade, I wasn’t morbidly obese. But I felt fat. When I was skinny—and, after a 4 month stint in boarding school environment where my food consumption was tightly controlled, I was skinny—I still felt fat.

My mother spent a year in France when I was in 7th grade, so I began to live with my father full time. The food there wasn’t as healthy, and I put on more weight. By the time I was in high school, I weighed 300 pounds. After a few years of that, I got tired of it. I started eating less, without a specific goal, with just the idea of eating a little bit less and being a little more healthier, and maybe losing a little weight. I’d still be fat, of course, but I wouldn’t be quite as fat.

At about the same time, my best friend dropped out of school and was rail-roaded into the Coast Guard. Although he was skinny as a rail, a lot of my most egregious over-consumption I did with him. Since he was gone, I just stopped consuming bags of chips and entire tubes of cookie dough in a single sitting.

I smoked like a smoke-stack then–now, I had done that for years, but now it provided me a handy alternative to eating so much. Also, they were menthols, so they were flavorful, as well. But I think the most important thing was that I had resigned myself to being fat, and was only trying to ease up a little bit. I wasn’t going to be skinny–I wasn’t ever going to be skinny. It was an absurd thought. But I could lose a little weight, come down a few sizes. In any case, I could certainly get by on a little less food and eat a little healthier.

By the time I had lost 80 lbs, it occurred to me that I could, in fact, be skinny. And I became so. My freshmen year at college, I went from 215 or so at the beginning of the year to 185 at the end. I had continued to wear baggy clothes, my hair had remained unkempt, and despite having lost 100 pounds over about 16 months, nobody at that point had really noticed*. However, a few changes to my wardrobe, grooming, and a little more exercise over the summer made a big difference. At the beginning my sophomore year, I was now thin and fit, to the point where I got a few audible gasps. I relished getting together with old friends from high school who had not seen me for a year, and seeing their shock (this does eventually get old, when people you don’t even remember come up to tell you how fat you used to be, but at first, I loved it). And even good friends see you in a different way when you’ve lost 100 pounds.

I finally felt skinny. I believe it was over the summer, or at the beginning of my sophomore year. I would have weighed around 175, and was preparing to go out to Rocky Horror. Looking in the mirror, I noticed that I did not have a double chin. No doubt, this had been true for months, but this was the first time I really noticed it. I nodded my head. Still no double chin. I practically had to break my neck to produce anything that resembled a second-chin**. God bless! I was thin!

And I stayed thin for quite a while. I had assumed it would be the case for the rest of my life, and that I had that puppy licked (ah, hubris). But I stayed thin, actually getting down to 150 at one point (of course, I could not actually consume any calories to maintain this weight, so that did not last long). But I hovered between 175 and 185 for years. After working for a year, a crawled up to 195. As my wife-to-be an I moved in together, I put on another 10 lbs, and hovered between 220 and 210 for several years. Then, my wife got pregnant, and I gained 40 lbs. While I managed to get down a little from 250, she got pregnant (again!) and I surpassed it. I been as high as 275 . . . never quite 300 pounds, again, but more than 100 pounds over my idea college weight.

There’s a lot I could note about my first years of svelteness (and I suspect, though cannot confirm, that going from being very fat and fit and trim is a great deal more enjoyable than simply having been thin and fit from the outset), but I’ll just note one. The issue of weight, and how I had managed to end up as overweight as much as I did in high school, continued to occupy my mind. A lot of my writing at the time dealt with both direct and indirect psychological introspection. Specifically, songs like Big Fat Geek (I weighed 170 lbs when I wrote it), Fat, Fat (probably around 180, when I wrote it), My Big Fat Friend, with lots of other stuff that touched on similar themes without being quite so direct.I thought I had a great handle on my inner psychology that drove me to over eating and sedentary behavior . . . but, as time would demonstrate, I was a little cocky. Because, while I’m around 260 now (and, slowly, descending, but there’s no rush), I’ve spent a lot of time in the past 5 years around 270 and sometimes has high as 275. If you have told me my junior year of college that, at 40, I’d weigh over 270 and be routinely hoarding snacks in my desk like a chipmunk putting away nuts for winter, I would have told you to go fuck yourself and punched you in the face. Yet, you would have been right, and I would have been a tad hubristic and over optimistic in my projections.

There’s been a lot of dieting since leaving college that I haven’t chronicled. And a lot of eating. Sufficed to say, I have always gained that weight back. And usually in short order, and usually a little more besides. On more than one occasion, I’ve attempted to recapture the state of mind I was in when I lost so much weight from Christmas of 1986 to mid-1988. And it’s been very difficult. But, I’m trying again.

In this case, I’ve gone this way before, but I’m having a little better luck (so far), in that I’m not dieting. I’m just trying to change my eating habits. While I want to lose weight, the goal is to change my eating habits, and do so in increments. So far, this has worked all right. I remind myself that it’s a process of conditioning.

I greatly enjoyed Joel Spitzer’s Never Take Another Puff method of quitting smoking. An important point he makes is that it’s important not to confuse your withdrawal a day, a week, or a month into the process of quitting with how things will be in a year. It’s different for everybody; I’ve quit smoking enough to know it takes me about six weeks to get past the general addiction and, even then, I sometimes still really want a cigarette (if this weren’t true, I wouldn’t have had to quit smoking more than once).† When I remember I’m not trying to diet, specifically (if I don’t lose weight this week, that’s fine) but attempting to recondition myself in regards to how I eat, I have to remember: a lot of what I’m feeling is because my body is used to being fed a lot of calories, and that my body will eventually adjust. I felt fine for a long time eating a very modest diet; I know I can get by with much less.

I am trying not to confuse how I feel when trying to manage day to day life while feeling out-of-sorts, punchy, or light-headed with a state of permanence, and trying to focus on the things I enjoy about eating less (my sense of smell improves, bizarrely, and scents become much more sensual–that is, if they’re pleasant).

So, we’ll see how this approach works. I’ve fallen off the wagon, in regards to overeating, more times than I can count. Because I have an appetite, and I enjoy eating, and tend to over do it. But I’m focusing more than usual on changing eating habits first. No more second breakfast for me!

So, anybody else here overweight? Struggled with dieting? Fit and svelte, but formerly fat? I often debate politics and movies and economics and whatnot but, the fact is, nothing has much more impact on the day-to-day quality of my life than both what I eat, and how much I weigh (despite my undying love of cheese burgers, I miss the lightness and mobility of weighing 185, and try to keep that foremost in my mind when the leftovers in the refrigerator start calling my name).

There is more to be said: I suspect some, though not all, the migraines that I get would be gone with the wind, if I maintained a low calorie, low-consumption diet. I can tell you from experience, people who struggle with their weight really do struggle with it, even if to some they only seem fat and lazy (but I can understand why some people might think that). I wonder how much of the perceived negatives (for me) of low food consumption, and low blood sugar, are psychological. Am I oversharing? But . . . I’ll dip into that in the comments, if anybody is interested in discussing eating habits and weight history on an ostensibly political blog.

But, then again, it is called all things in moderation.

* In fact, we usually make a huge deal about our weight, when wardrobe and grooming actually make as much, if not more, and impact on how we are perceived by others. If I found myself waking up in my 300 pound high school body back in 1984, the first thing I’d do is upgrade my wardrobe and grooming habits).

** Ah, the wonders of youthful skin elasticity. While there was nothing to be done about my flabby stomach–300 lbs is too much stretching, and you’re never going to have six-pack abs after that without cosmetic surgery–I was able to rebound from being 300 lbs in high school to having a nice, tight firm skinny little neck by the beginning of my sophomore year in college. This would not be the case now, alas.

† At some point, I may do a post on smoking. I don’t know how many former smokers we have here, but I’ve got a few things to say about smoking, about enjoying smoking, about quitting smoking, and not being great about “never taking another puff” even though, of course, once you’ve gone through the trouble to quit, you know you’ll just have to go through it all over again the minute you pick up a cigarette.

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