Fifteen Minutes

A couple months ago, I typed up a little thing and posted it on Facebook. It was just a funny little play on recent headlines, meant to point out some of the more obvious hypocrisies in the social-political issues of the day. I put about five minutes into it, and didn’t think much of it.

Imagine my surprise when my Facebook status received over 30,000 likes and shares in a matter of hours. (As a point of reference, I doubt anything I’d posted previously had gotten more than 100 likes. I’m just this guy, you know?) Shortly thereafter, Facebook removed my status update for not meeting community standards.

My assumption is that it was the result of a formula: X Likes + Y Shares / Z Complaints = Post Removed. Sure, I can see why some people might not like it, but it was a long way from offensive. But, whatever.

Wait. Not whatever. I was pretty happy to see my message, no matter how flawed, reach so many people so quickly. I decided that I wanted to get it back out there. I found a cool website (www.cmx.io) that generated comics in the style of XKCD (www.xkcd.com). With just a few minor edits, I turned my status into a comic, uploaded it to imgur (www.imgur.com), and put it back out there.

Meanwhile, in America…

That’s when things got really crazy. Over the next couple days, that comic racked up a quarter million shares and likes. It bled over to Twitter and Pinterest. It was picked up by Lizz Winstead, who has over 100,000 followers herself. It was viewed 750,000 times on imgur. Daily Kos shared it with MILLIONS of viewers. It was (very badly) ripped off to make a new meme featuring some guy from Duck Dimwits. I had to remove Facebook and Twitter from my phone, as I couldn’t use it due to the constant notifications. In short, it went viral.

Well, that was something, wasn’t it? The response was overwhelmingly positive, but that’s to be expected as I was mostly preaching to the choir. The negative responses were far more interesting.

One of the first messages I received after posting was some weird, rambling screed comparing me to the Nazis. It really made no sense at all, but certainly helped prove Godwin’s Law.

Next came a handful of generic whiners: stupid liberal, that’s not true, you don’t like it when conservatives make generalizations, blah, blah, blah.

Most surprising, though, was the number of people who went to great lengths to disagree with me. I received messages from dozens of people who wanted to explain to me, in great detail, why I was being silly. The practical upshot was that no reasonable person would think this way. Conservatives aren’t terrified of Muslims, they’re terrified of radicals of any creed. I was being unfair by making these sweeping generalizations, because no thinking person would use this logic.

To those people I say, “DUH.”

That was the whole freakin’ point. No reasonable person would think that way; I was making fun of unreasonable people. If you are not the type of person who uses this sort of logic, I wasn’t making fun of you.

Everything I referenced in this little wordplay came from real, actual statements by public figures. UNREASONABLE public figures. UNTHINKING public figures. These are the people that drive us liberals crazy. These are the people that should drive reasonable conservatives crazy, too, because they make you look bad, much like Nancy Pelosi makes us liberals look bad. We’re not so different, you and I.

The whole experience was fascinating to me. For one thing, (I’m not gonna lie here) it was pretty good for my ego. It was interesting to see it spread, and it reinforced the speed and power of the internet. It demonstrated that viral can’t be forced. If I had known what would happen, I probably would have tried to monetize it somehow. (Actually, if I had know what would happen, I probably would have edited it a million times and screwed up the whole thing.) I wished I had something to promote or share while I had the internet’s attention.

In the end, it was just a thing that happened. I’m proud of it. It’s unlikely I changed a single person’s mind, but maybe, just maybe, I did.

Really? More Than a Year Since I Wrote Anything?

Here we are, at the beginning of another year. My birthday is right around the corner, and I’m celebrating another year of feeling like crap every single day. Another year of weighing and measuring nearly every bit of food that enters my body. Another year of watching my weight bounce up and down, even though I’ve been dieting for five years straight. (By the numbers, I should have lost so much weight that I ceased to exist. Instead, I’m almost back to the same weight I was at this time last year, despite being 25 pounds lighter at one point.) Another year of specialists, procedures, and therapies that haven’t helped.

It’s also just about time for another annual physical. So, here’s my dilemma:

Do I go see the same doctor again? Do I look for a new physician? My current doctor is a big fan of “eat less, exercise more, all your problems will go away.” But, he does have a few years of history with me, so maybe he’ll finally consider another explanation. A new doctor might be hesitant to do much of anything based on a lack of history. Neither is likely to believe a word I say, as the truth doesn’t make any sense. Most doctors I’ve seen treat me like I’m A) lying, B) exaggerating, C) confused, D) drug-seeking, and/or E) stupid.

I’ve scoured the internet in an effort to diagnose myself. All signs point to a thyroid issue (or a related pituitary issue, or an autoimmune disorder that presents like, and can lead to, a thyroid issue.) Unfortunately, everything I’ve read says that most doctors fail to order the tests that would actually help define any of these conditions. Instead, they rely on a single test (TSH). If that test comes back in the “normal” range (which mine did), it’s the end of the story. Never mind that there is very little agreement on what normal is. Never mind that there are a wide array of thyroid, pituitary, and autoimmune issues that don’t show up on that test. Never mind that I’ve identified more than thirty symptoms commonly associated with thyroid issues. Never mind that even if my thyroid IS fine, I am still experiencing all these symptoms, and maybe “eat less, exercise more” isn’t quite enough.

Yes, I’m aware that self-diagnosis is an imperfect approach. Yes, I’m aware that the internet is not always a reliable source of information. I’m also aware that I walked around for more than a decade with a hernia, and couldn’t get a doctor to diagnose it until after I had diagnosed myself. I’m also aware that when I got a second hernia and told the doctor I had a second hernia, I still had to see two more doctors before being diagnosed with a second hernia. I’m also aware that I spent years with crippling back pain before I could get a doctor to order an X-ray and an MRI to discover two bad disks. I’m also aware that basically, I have spent my entire adult life in pain, and not once has a doctor acted BEFORE I diagnosed myself.

So, what, am I writing this just to complain? Maybe. But it’s also to help me clarify my own thinking. It’s also because I want to get back to writing more. It’s also because maybe, if I throw this out there on the internet, someone will read it and relate to it and have some helpful advice. All I know for sure is that I can’t do this much longer.

Surly Destination Brewery

Well, lucky me, I had the chance to take part in Surly’s soft opening today for lunch. So, my two little munchkins and I braved the 50° weather and journeyed all the way over the river.

I should say right off the bat that I am fully aware that this was a soft opening, and that problems are to be expected. In fact, one of the main purposes of a soft opening is to help unearth these problems before opening to the public.

The building and location definitely fit the Surly image and style. It’s tucked back into a small industrial area, just like the original brewery. Although it’s a brand-new multi-jillion dollar facility, it’s not flashy, and it sits well with the surrounding warehouses and loading docks.

The parking lot was pretty decent, but I think it will be full most of the time. There is a HUGE line of bike racks out front, and it’s just a block or two from the light rail, so hopefully that’ll cut down on car traffic. The parking lot is not yet painted, so cars were a little jumbled. I’m guessing that may not change until spring.

There’s a nice, big patio out front with a huge fire pit. I don’t know if they’ll be able to serve beer out there, but it will be great if they can. (I could totally see a small cigar bar out there, too.)

Inside, the space is nice and understated. Everything is black, grey, and metal with wooden tables. Lighting levels are nice; not too bright, not too dim. One wall is all glass and faces the brewery.

The hostesses were very friendly. Clearly, they were still working out a system for seating and tracking open seats, but they made it their problem, not ours. Each kid got a nice lunch box full of games and crayons to take to the table.

The main dining room is set up beer hall style: lots of long tables and benches. There were a couple of round tables for larger groups, and plenty of spots to split (or join) the long tables as needed. Squeezing a high chair in was tricky, as the benches prevented putting one on the side of the table, and it was really tight to put it in between tables.

OK, the important part: beer. Surly is promising more than a dozen beers for the official opening on Friday, but today there were only 8 (if I recall correctly: Furious, Bender, Coffee Bender, Cacao Bender, Hell, Cynic, Overrated, and Doomtree.) Glassware was nice and clean, and the beer was good. I would hope they get a little more experimental with the offerings, and have at least one beer engine going most of the time. Again, this was a soft opening, so I wasn’t expecting them to pull out the big guns or anything.

The menu is ambitious. Charcuterie, apps, a couple salads, a few meals, a few sandwiches, some sausages, and some sides. Pretty much everything was rich and heavy. If you like your food smoked, stuffed with fat, and swimming in a sauce or three, you’ll probably dig the menu. If you are vegetarian or have any dietary restrictions, your options will be limited. If you are vegan, you can probably stay home. The menus were disposable, so I assume they will change periodically.

The kids menu was less than ideal. The basic concept was great: pick one drink, one main course, one side, and one dessert. The main courses were good: cheeseburger, pizza, mac & cheese, and I forget what else. Since my kids are vegetarians, it came down to cheese pizza or mac & cheese. The sides were not so great: roasted potatoes, roasted cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and a few others. Fries, applesauce, fruit cup, carrot sticks, something like that would be a welcome addition. [Side note, fries came with a couple of the sandwiches, but weren’t available on their own on the regular menu or the kids’ menu.]

So, I got the Surly burger and a side of Brussels sprouts, my daughter got mac & cheese with roasted potatoes, and my son got a cheese pizza with cauliflower. (Surly is apparently another word for cheese, because a Surly burger is a burger with cheese on it.)

While we waited for food, we checked out the restroom facilities. In addition to a men’s and women’s room, there were two family/wheelchair rooms, which is awesome. The one we went in was spacious with a changing table, which is awesome. I assume the other was the same. The sink was a little high for children, but not bad. I didn’t get the chance to check out the men’s room.

Our food was being delivered right as we left for the restroom, so we had our food waiting when we returned.

Our table filled up fast. We had two lunch boxes full of toys, three waters, a beer, two juices, and our sippy cups from home before the food came. The pizza came on a large tray with a basket for cauliflower. The mac & cheese was in a small casserole served on a big plate to hold the potatoes.  My burger and fries also came on a tray, and the Brussels sprouts were in a mini cast-iron skillet on a hot pad. And a big wheel o’ condiments. Even with the toys packed up for eating, there was NO extra space on the table. A few adults ordering a decent variety of foods would have trouble getting everything on the table.

Oh, here’s something awesome: cloth napkins. I know, there are plenty of restaurants that use cloth napkins; it’s not like Surly invented them. I’m just saying I REALLY like that at a restaurant.

The food was pretty good. My kids both ate more than they have in a long time. My daughter wasn’t thrilled with the roasted potatoes, so I traded her for my fries. (I pretty much knew that was coming.) The potatoes were way underdone; hard and starchy. The cauliflower was good, but not terribly kid-friendly, being topped, sauced, and drizzled, but they each ate a little. The mac & cheese was gone, and a good chunk of the pizza went, too. My burger was fairly basic, but good, with a nice meat-to-bun ratio. The Brussels sprouts were really good: sweet, salty, and nicely browned.

The condiment wheel was nothing to get excited about: ketchup, mustard, two BBQ sauces (one sugary midwestern, one sugary midwestern with smoke), and a hot sauce. I would have expected something a little more special: house-made relish, brown mustard, some super-flaming-death Surly hot sauce, etc.

Then dessert. The kids each got a little ice cream sundae with their meals: Izzy’s vanilla ice cream with some fruity sauce and a dollop of whipped cream on top. I got an 8-layer cake that was pretty amazing.

The service was awful. I’m chalking this up to it being a soft opening, but they’re going to need to do a lot better with the volume I’m assuming they’ll have to handle. If there hadn’t been a platoon of bussers on hand to help our server, I don’t know that we would have even gotten our food. We were there for two hours, and I barely saw him. I would have liked a Coffee Bender with my cake, but I didn’t get the chance to order one. I don’t think he was even aware they had a kids’ menu before we ordered.

About halfway through our lunch, the background music came on. Of the $30 million spent on the brewery, I don’t think much was put into the acoustics. This is a personal pet peeve of mine, and it seems especially bad in all the taprooms and breweries going for an industrial look. A big open room with lots of hard surfaces is going to be noisy. Add a bunch of people drinking, and it’s going to get loud. Background music just makes everything louder. No one can hear the music, no one is enjoying the music, all it does is make everyone talk louder. There are professionals who can help you treat your space for acoustics. Anyone opening a new restaurant or bar should include that in their budget. Fortunately, these professionals can still help after the fact.

Prices were OK, but it can add up on you. A burger, a side, a dessert, two kids’ meals, and 1 1/2 beers came to $60. Dinner and drinks for adults could easily top $50/head, which is outside my comfort zone for casual dining. The kids’ meals were definitely the best deal on the menu. I would totally order one for myself next time if they let me.

So, overall, it was about what I expected. Personally, I’d like to see a couple of lighter options on the menu. I’m not talking Weight Watchers, but maybe a little less duck fat and pork. I had assumed the menu would be meat-heavy and painfully hip, and it was. (It’s not sauce, it’s jus. Or coulis. Or emulsion. Never sauce.) Prices were a touch higher than I’d hoped  for food, but not bad for beer ($5 pints/ $3 half-pints). The service was disappointing, considering  they probably had no shortage of applicants to choose from, but that’s fixable. Also, I’ll be curious to see how they’re staffed under normal circumstances. (They were staffed out the wazoo today, and I assume they will be for the first couple of weeks while they figure out how to handle volume.) This whole write-up may sound pretty critical, but none of the problems I saw today were outside the realm of “normal” for a soft opening, and all are fixable.

I’m glad we went today, because quite frankly, the place will probably be way too busy for me to bother with for a while.

Gilded Lilies, Volume II

A couple years ago, I posted my pumpkin pie recipes. Every year I tweak them ever so slightly in the quest for the perfect recipe. Plus, I like to play around with variations. Unlike George Lucas, my revisions tend to involve removing or reducing ingredients.

I’m now prepared to declare my “standard” pumpkin pie recipe finished. I’ll always continue to fine-tune it depending on the pumpkin itself, but that’s half the fun of using fresh pumpkin. Anyway, here’s my finished recipe:

Pumpkin Pie

800 grams fresh roasted pumpkin
1 12-oz. can evaporated milk
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
20 grams peeled fresh ginger

Combine all ingredients except ginger in a large bowl and mix well. Run the ginger through a garlic press, into the pie batter. (Whatever makes it through the press goes in, but the stringy bits left inside the press should be discarded. Squeeze hard, you want all that juice.) Stir a little more to distribute the ginger. Pour into uncooked pie crust and bake at 425° for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 325° and bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, approximately 40 minutes. Cool for at least 30 minutes before serving. Serve with whipped cream. Makes 1 10″ pie (or a fairly deep 9″).

Here’s one of my favorite variations:

Espresso Pumpkin Pie

800 grams fresh roasted pumpkin
1 12-oz. can evaporated milk
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 Tbsp finely ground espresso beans
1/2 tsp black pepper (freshly ground if possible)

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Pour into uncooked pie crust and bake at 425° for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 325° and bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, approximately 40 minutes. Cool for at least 30 minutes before serving. Serve with whipped cream and a drizzle of chocolate syrup (the darker, the better). Makes 1 10″ pie (or a fairly deep 9″).

Here’s my latest variation. It definitely needs some work, but it’s very promising. Part of the problem is that most chocolate chips are too sweet for this flavor. The other part is that the gritty, raw mouth feel of Mexican chocolate is sadly absent. I’m also thinking that a Kahlua whipped cream would be a nice addition.

Mexican Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Pie

800 grams fresh roasted pumpkin
1 12-oz. can evaporated milk
2 eggs
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp cayenne
100 grams chocolate chips

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl except chocolate chips and mix well. Fold chocolate chips into the batter. Pour into uncooked pie crust and bake at 425° for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 325° and bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, approximately 40 minutes. Cool for at least 30 minutes before serving. Serve with whipped cream. Makes 1 10″ pie (or a fairly deep 9″).

General Pumpkin pie tips:

  • The easiest way to make the pie batter is in a blender. It’s easy to mix and easy to pour. It’s also easy to overdo it, and make a really light, fluffy pie batter, which tends to crack more while baking. One way to avoid this is to add the eggs last and blend it just enough to combine them with the batter.
  • Slide the oven rack out and place the empty pie crust on the rack before you fill it. That way, you can avoid trying to lower a really full pie into the oven.
  • A vegetable peeler works great on fresh ginger.
  • It’s really hard to overbake a pumpkin pie, so if you’re not sure, go a few minutes longer. Or, when you’re pretty sure the pie is done, just turn the oven off but leave the pie inside. It’ll continue to bake a little, and it will cool more slowly, which will help minimize cracking.
  • If you want to make multiple pies at the same time, I’d suggest making the ginger first, then the espresso, then the Mexican chocolate. You can skip washing the bowl in between.

I Am a Racist

Recently, I posted some quick math on my Facebook page:

1.6 billion Muslims in the world. 184,000 terrorists in the world (an extremely inflated estimate, just to be safe). If ALL the terrorists in the world are Muslims (which they aren’t), that would mean that roughly 0.011% of Muslims are terrorists.

To put it another way:

If you encountered 1,000 Muslims today, you still probably wouldn’t have met a terrorist.

Now, the percentage of Muslims IN THE NEWS who are terrorists, well, that’s a different story.

Granted, this all involves some rounding and some interpretation, but it wasn’t my intention to show exact figures. I just wanted to make a general statement that most Muslims are not terrorists.

Well, that sparked a debate. Some of my more conservative friends felt I was being too PC, or ignoring the fact that every Muslim in the world wants to KILL ME ON SIGHT. The double standards and the missings of the points flew like fur.

I could ramble on for hours about this topic and the related left/right issues that came with it, but I’m actually going to drift off on a tangent now.

Out of all the commentary on the topic, one line really stuck with me:

…the leftist’s incessant need to NOT be thought of as racist or Islamophobic brings cover to the most dangerous religious fanatics on the planet today.

Now, we’ll forget the context of this sentence, as it’s irrelevant to my writing today. What really stuck with me is the idea that not wanting to be thought of as a racist is somehow a bad thing. I disagree.

I don’t want to be thought of as a racist, because being a racist is bad. It’s just that simple.

Unfortunately, I am a racist. (I’m also a sexist and an ageist an probably just about every kind of -ist you can name.) I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood in a suburb of Cincinnati, a city that rarely makes the news for its tolerance and equality. I heard racist jokes and racist assumptions as a kid, and I hear them as an adult. Whether or not I agree with them, believe them, or take them to heart, they still reside somewhere in my brain.

If I’m out walking at night, and a group of young black guys starts following me, I get nervous. If I see an attractive woman in a position of power, I wonder how she got the job. And yes, if I’m boarding a plane with a couple of Muslims, the word “bomb” will flash through my head somewhere.

I’m not proud of this. I know these thoughts are wrong and completely unfair. I am a victim of years of conditioning to make me think that way. If I take a second or two to process my thoughts, I come to a more reasonable conclusion.

If I’m out walking at night, and a group of young black guys starts following me, I get nervous. But wait… are they following me, or simply going the same direction I happen to be going? Are they carrying guns and smoking crack, or are they carrying groceries and looking at their phones? Are they even aware I’m walking in front of them, or are they minding their own business?

Lucky for me, I’m a middle-aged white guy. I have the luxury of making these assumptions and revising them at my leisure. No one ever looks at me and crosses the street to avoid me. If I get a good job, no one’s ever going to assume I slept with someone to get it. I’m never going to be profiled while getting on a plane. And most of all, no one is trying to legislate me away. That is my privilege.

Still, I don’t want to be thought of as a racist. Or an Islamophobe. Or a sexist. I don’t want to look at people and assume bad things about them. I don’t want people to look at me and assume bad things about me. I think most people don’t want that.

I will apologize if my words or actions come across as racist, and I will do my best to revise the thought process that led me there.  But, I will not apologize for not wanting to be seen as a racist. I will not apologize for trying to learn to respect my fellow human beings.

I will not apologize for believing that fear of 0.011% of a group is not enough to fear the whole group.

Minimum Wage

OK, this whole minimum wage thing has been bugging me for a while. Then I saw the news about Blue Plate restaurant company essentially making their employees pay for part of the wage increase, and then I got mad. (Also included in that article is the tidbit about some dump in Stillwater adding a “minimum wage fee” to every check. Classy.)

I support the idea of an increased minimum wage in theory, but it only works if everything else stays the same. If you give your lowest-paid employees a raise, but then restructure the system to make sure your highest-paid employees don’t take on any of that burden, NO ONE BENEFITS.

Think about it. You pay them more, but then everything else starts to cost more. They’re no better off than they were. There’s a word for that, it’s called inflation.

(Actually, there is one group who would benefit: politicians. Those in favor of the increased wages can claim they’re trying to help the little guy, those who opposed it can claim they were right all along.)

Instead, what we really need is to structure the system to start closing the wealth gap. I’m not talking about redistribution of wealth, I’m talking about basic, common sense limitations placed upon the selfish rich.

What I would like to see is a percentage-based system: the highest-paid employee of a company can’t make more then ten times what the lowest-paid employee makes. If the CEO wants to make $100 million a year, then the mail clerk needs to make $10 million. More realistically, if you only want to pay the mail clerk $10k/year, then the top CEO only gets $100k. In essence, instead of a minimum wage, we’d establish a maximum wage. We’d probably need a couple of lawyers to word it to close loopholes for bonuses, stock options, part-time employees, etc.

“But that’s not fair! The CEO deserves to make eighty bajillion dollars for doing a crappy job before accepting a golden parachute! The janitor doesn’t deserve to make a living wage!”

Yes it is, no they don’t, and yes they do.

A solid company needs solid leadership. A good CEO needs more education and more experience than the janitor, so sure, they deserve to make more money. But the janitor is important, too. So is the mail clerk and the receptionist. Trust me, no one wants to work for a company (or do business with a company) that doesn’t have a cleaning crew. And, I guarantee that most companies would last a lot longer without their top people than their bottom people.

“But wouldn’t that mean that price of everything would go up?”

No. Somehow, these companies have managed to absorb the cost of ever-increasing executive salaries. They can make it work. Imagine a company at which the top exec makes $250k/year. (No, shut up, that’s SPECTACULAR money; that’s live-like-royalty money for most of the world.) That means the entry-level folks would make at least $25k. That’s not great money, but it’s not bad.

Suddenly, the wealth gap begins to close. Not just the numbers, but the mentality and the lifestyle. People can start to recognize each other as fellow human beings. They can start to find common ground. People can support their families on one or two salaries again. They can spend more time with their kids, volunteering at their church, or just weeding their gardens.

Contrary to what the “job creators” would have you believe, I think this would be incredibly motivational. I could get a lot more excited about washing dishes for a living if it paid $50k/year. I also believe it would be a lot easier to motivate someone to move away from an assistance program (or a life of crime).

Sure, some prices might go up, others might come down. Employers would redistribute their workforces. Real estate would likely fluctuate. It would take a while for the economy to settle down. But, I firmly believe that the vast majority of Americans would benefit, not just with more money, but better health and greater happiness. And I expect that all those poor, starving millionaires would find a way to scrape buy on their new salaries.

Yes, I’m probably over-simplifying this. Yes, I’m probably being optimistic about it. But, in a very real, practical, mathematical way, lowering the maximum wage would be much more beneficial than raising the minimum.

Oh, and don’t worry, these limits would apply to federal employees, too. A senator couldn’t make more than ten times what the guy who gets his coffee earns. If you can’t see the value in THAT, then I can’t help you.

Deodorant

OK, I’ve had trouble with deodorant for years. Most “mainstream” commercial brands irritate my skin to the point of cracking, and most “natural” brands aren’t very effective. I finally found one that is completely non-irritating and nearly as effective as the chemical stuff. I found it on passionatehomemaking.com, so they get the credit. I just wanted to share it, ’cause I like it so much.

45g Coconut Oil
60g Baking Soda
60g Arrowroot Powder
6–8 drops Tea Tree Oil

Mix it together. Wipe some on your armpits. You can play around with a little more or a little less coconut oil to find a consistency you like.

UPDATE: I adjusted the recipe for measuring by weight, which should make it a lot easier to get a good consistency on the first try.

Ugh.

[This was a post I started writing back in June. For some reason, I didn’t finish it, and now I have lost my train of thought. So, I just published it as-is.]

Look, I get it. Obesity is a big deal, no pun intended. I have been overweight or obese pretty much my entire adult life, and a fair bit of my childhood, too. I’ve spent the last several years making a very conscious effort to lose weight, and since my daughter was born, I’ve really gotten serious about it.

Really. Serious.

I’ve been exercising. I’ve been dieting. I’ve been on Weight Watchers. I’ve been seeing my doctor(s) regularly.  I’m tired all the time. I’m hungry all the time. I feel like crap all the time.

All. The. Time.

Oh, Andy, you’re exaggerating. You don’t really feel that way ALL the time. Seriously, how do you usually feel?

OK, fine, you’re right. I suppose that for the handful of hours that I sleep at night, I feel pretty decent. Occasionally, in the middle of a meal, I don’t actually feel hungry. Now that I’ve had two surgeries on my crotch, there’s very little pain there, and my back is generally much better than it was a few years ago.

Every once in a while, the back pain, the nausea, the hunger, the exhaustion, the headaches, the plantar fasciitis, the depression, and everything else all hit their low point at the same time. During those precious moments, I could probably say I don’t feel terrible. Of course, I couldn’t say when the last time that happened was.

Anyway, I’m rambling off topic. What I really came here to document was the current state of my struggle with weight loss. I’m really not looking for sympathy, but I do want to track my state of mind at various points in this journey.

Over the last four years, since I began regularly tracking my weight, I have lost 62 pounds. Yes, that’s wonderful. But, that’s averaging less than five ounces a week, and I am absolutely torturing myself for that. If I actually allow myself to eat enough to feel decent for a day or two, it takes me weeks to recover.

But Andy, something’s not right. You should see a doctor! There’s no way anyone could gain weight eating the way you do!

Yeah, you’re telling me. Unfortunately, I can’t find a doctor who believes anyone who is overweight can have anything else wrong with them. ALL my problems are a result of being fat and lazy. All they tell me is that if I lose the weight, I will feel better, so I just need to try harder. I write this today at 214 pounds, a new low for me since I began tracking my weight. I can say with certainty that this is the least I’ve weighed since my daughter was born (and probably for quite a while before that.) And you know what? I still feel terrible. Technically, I am no longer obese, but simply overweight. Goody. When does the feeling better part start? I have another 20 pounds to go before I have a BMI under 25. Will I magically feel like a million bucks on that day, or at some point, will I start gradually feeling better? I would expect the latter, but from talking to medical professionals, it will be more like the former. (Side note: Don’t even get me started on every doctor’s adherence to the magical BMI. It’s a vague reference point at best, and takes absolutely no variables into consideration.)I know, I should focus less on my weight and more on being healthy. But, the fact is, I believe that I am not well. I’d like to talk to a doctor about that, but until I have a BMI of 24.9, there is no point.

Tomato Basil Soup

3 Large Carrots, cut into quarters
2 Onions, diced
4 Cloves Garlic
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 Tablespoon salt
3 28-ounce Cans Tomatoes
2 Tablespoons Instant Veggie Broth Powder
2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Handful Basil (20–30 leaves)
4 Tablespoons Butter (if you’re feeling decadent)

Throw everything in the crock pot for 2–4 hours on high, 3–5 hours on low. Blend until smooth. Serve with freshly grated parmesan, if desired.

Lentil/Quinoa Taco Filling

1 Cup Lentils (any variety)
1 Cup Quinoa
4 1/2 Cups Water
4 Cloves Garlic
1/4 Cup Chili Powder
2 Tablespoons Cumin
1 Tablespoon Oregano
1 Tablespoon Paprika
1 teaspoon Salt

Throw everything but the salt in the crock pot for 2–4 hours. Add the salt, and a little extra water if needed and cook for another 2–4 hours.

[EDIT] If you don’t do a lot of cooking with lentils and/or quinoa, you may want to keep a close eye on this one. If you use smaller, thinner lentils and/or a finer quinoa, this can cook pretty darn fast, just an hour or two in the crock pot. Personally, I think it turns out better with the bigger, heartier lentils, but that’s just me.