The Idiots Guide to the Universe It's a big weird world, best to be snarky!


The Idiocy of Argue-tainment

Photo on 7-16-14 at 6.32 PMI have been distancing myself from social media a lot more often recently. I have also found myself happier because of it. Why? The largest form of entertainment available via social media, on sites like Facebook and on news article comments, is arguing. Look at many articles on the Internet, it could be about puppies and there is some idiot conservative muppet who starts complaining about Obama, on the other side you have some idiot liberal muppet who starts complaining about guns. People really like to be right, I am no exception. But I have really tried to control my desire to argue, or point out when others are wrong. It is far more difficult than I thought it would be. Frankly, I have some friends that believe some pretty bizarre stuff. I also have friends that post at least on anti-Obama something EVERY - SINGLE - DAY. Now that's not to say I don't have liberal friends that don't post their own slanted drivel that is just as ridiculous and foolish, that certainly happens as well.

In general we as a society are becoming so simple minded. We only think in catchphrases, talking points, and memes. Trying to explore an issue to it's depth with someone and you are met with their political party platitudes and presumptions before you can even get started. At this point I am fairly convinced that if Barrack Obama cured cancer, the conservatives on the Internet would say that it is so he can take profits away from the hard working healthcare industry. If Speaker of the House, John Boehner, were to cure cancer , the liberals would accuse him of trying to subvert the Affordable Healthcare Act and protect the corporate profits of the healthcare industry. Why? Because they are on the other side, and for some reason, that little D, or R next to their name demonizes them in the eyes of many to the point of savage disavowel that they have any redeeming qualities. Once someone is from THEM, then surely you can't agree with anything they say. The argument begins. The thing that is always lost, is love for your fellow man. People always seem to forget that it is people that ultimately are effected. Maybe, just maybe if we stopped arguing long enough we could look at an issue and say "What happens to the people? Whose lives will be effected, and how? "

It's not just politics, it's religion, sports, science, literature, film, and much more. Look at the arguments over whether Twilight or Harry Potter is better, Star Trek or Star Wars, Conan or Kimmel, even kittens or puppies will be argued about. What have we accomplished through all of this? It has made us more divisive as a society, more inclined to react quickly than to think something through, more likely to be wrong, and far less likely to have a civil conversation.

The odds of you and I agreeing on every point in this life is pretty slim, if not impossible. I still get irritated when I see things. In many cases I might even type out and delete a response I get so frustrated or angered by it. I don't like this reaction, it's not healthy. It can be little things about religion or politics, or even big things where people are just flat out wrong. One of the biggest things that get my goat is strongly held beliefs in conspiracies, and things that are not based on fact. I just need to let it go. We all should let it go, but I can only control one person and that is me.

There is no reason that we, as a society, should carry on with this argue-tainment any longer. If we all just start to ignore it, it will go away. I don't know what will replace it. I would love to say meaningful discussion on a deep and philosophic level. But I am a realist, I know that that would just devolve into arguing again. But it would at least be interesting to see what happened. So next time, don't post the sarcastic comment. Don't share the disparaging meme. Don't share something that is clearly partisan and meant to belittle others. How often does someone really change their mind because of a Facebook post, a Facebook comment, a meme, or a comment on an Internet article. Quite simply, 99.9% of the time, it is narcissistic mental masturbation. The only person that gets anything out of it is you. Sure someone might argue back, and you may post another quip, but in the end, neither of you changed your mind and neither of you has come to any clearer revelation.

So later this week, I am going to purge my friends list on Facebook. If I unfriend you, it's not because I don't value you as a human being. It is for the simple reason that I find many of the things that you post frustrate me to the point of wanting to argue. It is a personality flaw with me where I want to argue. It doesn't mean that I no longer value your personal friendship. It just means that I don't need the added stress and blood pressure that comes with me wanting to argue the points with you. The best part of Facebook is the meaningful connections I have managed to maintain with many people, and I would surely not want to lose that. I have already unsubscribed from several community groups because I find myself thinking less of my local community because of them.

The other side of this is that I am trying to be cognitive of what I post as well. I have been making an effort to not post things that are disparaging about specific beliefs, or ideologies. I am trying not to troll for arguments. I try to speak more in generalities. The World Cup certainly helped since it gave me something fairly benign to discuss. But I definitely have some strong opinions about things, some of these are things that people base their lives on. So it isn't always easy.

If this little experiment of purging my friends list doesn't work, and I still feel myself frustrated or wanting to argue, I will just simply walk away from Facebook and social media all together. What would I do with all of that time? What are your thoughts? Comment below.

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The Idiocy of Getting Older

back pain at workI am not old. Not yet. But I can certainly see old coming up on the horizon. A few of the people I went to school with  have been posting pleasantries about their grandchildren. I have had colleagues and friends lose spouses to horrible things like cancer. My own parents are enjoying their retirement. The oldest of my three kids, my daughter, is entering her sophomore year of high school. She will be an adult in a few days over 3 years. In the next year she will be itching to get her drivers permit. My oldest son is getting collection of peach fuzz on his upper lip, and a boost of testosterone to go along with it. I wake up many mornings with a sore back. I get a sore back when I sit at my desk for too long. I am now much more likely to just set the cruise control and get there when I get there instead of jockeying for position in traffic. All of these little things add up to a realization that, give or take ten or so years, I'm about half-way done with my existence. It's a deeply sobering thought.

So as I contemplate these things, I sit back and I think... what would I tell my 18 year old self. What would I do differently. Well here they are in no specific order:

1. Don't be afraid to fail, or be broke. Sometimes a little risk is worth it. On a handful separate occasions throughout my life I have had job or opportunity offers that, at the time, came with great risk. They also had a slim potential for reward. But fear of that reward not happening kept me from taking those risks. A few of which would have had multi-million dollar payouts. It's okay to be a bit uncomfortable and take risks.

2. Build a nest egg early, and keep feeding it. The older you get, the harder this is to start. If you have a nest egg, taking those risks becomes much easier, because it can cushion your landing. It also offers a much larger degree of freedom in many situations. The better your nest egg is, the more freedom you have to make a decision. The lack of a nest egg can hinder those decisions. If you can't afford to pay your bills by missing one or two months of salary, that certainly changes the way you view an opportunity or decision.

3. Travel, a lot. It is an awesome world. The differences in cultures while sometimes stark, and even shocking, doesn't take away one simple truth. It is a world full of human beings. For the most part, these human beings are awesome, endearing, loving folk. Smile at them. Talk with them. Learn from them. One of the most profound things I have learned in my life came from a bicycle rickshaw driver in Singapore when I said "It is hot today." He said, and I am paraphrasing here as my aging memory permits, "The pedals go up and down, every day. Sometimes it rains, sometimes it is beautiful, like today. Every day I get meet new people, this makes my heart beat. Every night I go home to my wife, and that makes me smile." There also some beautiful sites to behold. From Yosemite Valley, to Bryce Canyon, to lovers embracing along the Seine. Each one of them will make your heart skip a beat, and that is one more tick you get later in life. That's one more moment you can draw from to put a smile on your face.

4. Hold Your Tongue. Those who have spent time with me, know that I have a sarcastic wit. Those who've been with me after a few pints know that the sarcastic wit can have a bit of teeth to it. Many of the big regrets that I have in my life, don't come from the missed opportunities, or things I didn't do. They come from hurtful things I have said to people. Even if today I can tell the story of those situations in a mirthful manner, making the subject light-hearted. The fact remains that I can, and have, said things that can cut deeply. Don't do that, while you may win the moment, all you really take with you is the lifetime of regret that comes from hurting another person.

5. Music and nature are the two things that center you, commune with them often. I have been a musician since I was a young child. I was taught to play the trumpet. That has extrapolated itself into bad piano and keyboard playing, guitar, bass guitar and the ability to pick up any instrument and, in a few moments, play that instrument. It may not be the way a virtuoso would play, but it would pass as music. Today, after a long work day, I can pick up a guitar, or get out a trumpet and play for 30 minutes or so and get lost in it. This is something that, I am happy to say, I have passed onto my kids. My daughter more than anyone. She now plays trumpet, clarinet (a woodwind her only downfall), guitar, ukelele, and piano. She's not an expert in any of them. But they each bring her a joy.

Nature is a completely different thing. While driving down the road in a beautiful place, and getting out to take a picture is an awesome experience. It is getting out there, putting on a backpack and getting away from the cell phone signals, and the traffic and all of the trappings of modern life and just being a raw human being in the face of nature. With only your breath and the sounds around you. That is a time that forces me to think. There is no escape from my thoughts in those moments. There is no way to distract yourself by "checking email."

6. Don't let fear of death dictate your relationships with people you love. This one is tough, and it isn't something you can go back and apologize for. In several instances in my life I have had family member get old, and die. In each and every case I can see a defined pattern where I saw that person far less often. I still haven't gotten my head completely wrapped around this one. It wasn't a conscious decision, it is something that just happened. As my own parents age, this is something that won't happen. For two reasons, first I am much closer to my parents than any of the other people. Second, I don't think either of my parents would allow that to happen.

7. Kids will change you for the better. Of all the life events I have been through, having kids was the one that changed my life the most. It is something that defines everything. There is a new inherent process inserted into your life. Every decision revolves around the impact on the kids. I spent my entire life traipsing around town on foot, skateboard, bicycle or eventually by car. There is still a minor fear that I feel when my teenaged kids are out on their own, in the gated community I live in. But on the flip side, you instantly gain an unconditional love that is like no other. You know at the first moment you hold your child, that you would give everything to protect that child.

8. Mysticism isn't real. There are no psychics, ghosts, spirits, or any other intangible conscious beings. Sure it can be comforting to think these things, but you are much better off going with your gut. What you know and understand about this universe, what makes sense to you, what you can logically accept by the power of your brain, that's what's real. Don't waste your time, thought or money on anything that doesn't stand to logic.

9. It's okay to be right. There will be several times in your life where it will be uncomfortable to be right. Stand your ground. People may not like it, they may even be offended. That's okay. Better to be honest to them, and above all to yourself than to compromise your intellect and integrity.

10. Some people don't like success, avoid them. There are people that look at the success of others and rather than being happy for them, they will instantly try to tear those people down. They will use words like selfish and greedy. Some of them will be successful themselves, and will prey upon others to maintain their success. Some will have never tasted success. In either case, all they want is to take from you both physically and emotionally.

11. Your wife is going to be incredible. The person that I have spent the last 16 years with is at the center of everything I enjoy about my life. When I succeed she is there to celebrate with me. When I fail she is there to encourage me to take the next step. She is an awesome mother that is loved by her children. Most of all, she is the best partner that you could have at your side at any time.

12. Stay in shape. One of life's hardest lessons has been this one. It is easy to stay in shape. It is extremely easy to get out of shape. It can often seem an insurmountable task to get back in shape. Better to handle it early before the task becomes daunting.

13. Treat the people you work with like volunteers. This one is fairly new for me, and I can't claim it as my own. A great friend, Eric Lundbohm, blogged about this recently and it is something I have spent some time thinking about. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I worked for him, and I considered it one of the best times of personal career growth that I experienced. I was able to significantly grow (50% year over year) a product line that was under my control. I was given creative freedom, and I was excited to do my job. There have been times in my career that felt like a job. During this time I felt like I was doing what I wanted to do, and someone was paying me to do it.

14. Reassess and revise. It is very easy to get comfortable, don't. Take some time to reassess where you are in life. If there is something about your life that you do not like, or that you feel could be better. Make a plan. Don't let things stagnate. The times in your life, or your career, that you dislike most will come because you didn't take time to assess and revise things in your life.

So, now I put it in your hands. What would you tell your 18 year-old self?

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The Idiocy I Hear About Teachers

As I write this President Obama is spewing his platitudes about the horrific disaster in Oklahoma City. Meanwhile the under story goes completely unnoticed. The under story is teachers. In many cases we hear about our brave first responders, law enforcement and fire fighters rushing in to help. My intention is not to take anything away from these brave souls whose fortitude greatly outweighs that of most of us. But my thoughts go to the true first responders at those elementary schools, teachers. This image to the left; in looking at it you see two parents escorting their kids away from the horrors that happened just a short time ago at their elementary school. The father clutching a daughter to his chest, the injured mother holding on to her daughter's hand as if she'd never let go. But look again, that is two teachers, holding on to the children as if they were their own. Moments later, once these children were safe, they would rush back in to help others, because they have other children that need saving.

In another scene, a car that has been dropped by the tornado is lifted. Under that car is a teacher. Under the teacher, students. This teacher was putting her body between this destructive force of nature, and her students. In Connecticut a teacher was found shot to death with her body draped over her students. In Columbine a teacher was shot to death as put himself in harms way to close and lock a door to protect dozens of students inside. In countless other horrifying situations we hear of teachers making the ultimate sacrifice in an attempt to protect their kids. That's right their kids. Ask any teacher about their students, and you will hear the words 'my kids' come out of their mouth countless times.

So why is it that these teachers would feel such a protective bond for these students. It's simple, they have no other way of looking at those students. The students aren't a product that they are building, they aren't groceries or sundries being stocked on shelves, or scanned for check out. They are each individual human beings with hopes, dreams, hurts and potential. Every single one of these kids develops special place in the heart of that teacher.

In a situation like this, it is the teachers that provide comfort to the students until a family member comes to retrieve them. It is the teacher's that will see to their basic needs, warmth, clothing, water and food until that last student is with their family. During this entire time, the teacher will wonder about the fate of their own son, daughter, spouse and any other family. While other families rush to reunite, the teacher remains, tending to his or her students until the last one is with his or her family. If the family never comes because tragedy has occurred, it is the teacher that takes those first tears into his or her chest. All the while, wondering about the fate of his or her own family.

On top of all of that, disaster aside, it is the teacher that spends 5%-20% of their own income on supplies for their own classroom. In many states, these costs are not tax deductible, or are not deductible until certain thresholds are met, at which point the deduction is only available for expenditures above and beyond that of the threshold.

So of course many of the parents meet this level of dedication with comments like, "Oh he's (or she's) just a teacher. Guess he couldn't hack it in 'real world.' Yes, you muppet, the teachers chose to put the kids before their own self absorbed chase of consumerism. How dare they not make the same choices you did. How dare they become better educated than you, and choose to put the kids first.

How about this one "teacher's are over paid." Really? Teacher's spend the entire day educating your kids, then they go home, grade their papers and prepare materials for the following day. On the weekend they plan the following week to make sure that there are engaging activities planned that will keep the interest of the students, because here's a hint: your child can't sit still in class because you sent him to school with a Rock Star energy drink and two doughnuts. In all seriousness, kids don't want to come to school and be lectured all day. They want to learn by doing. So a science teacher will go out and spend a couple hundred dollars of their own money to buy flowers so the students can dissect these flowers and see the various parts of the flower like the pollen and the stigma. But hey, I hope you enjoyed that backyard BBQ.

But the most galling thing of all is the way the students and teachers are used as political pawns by our politicians. This usually ends up turning many conservatives against the teachers. Teacher's are turned into "educators" in political speeches since polling data suggests that when a politician says teacher, you will immediately think of your kids teachers, or teachers from your past. Politicians can't have you thinking about people, personalizing it makes it harder for them to do their political maneuvering. So instead they will say "Educators are taking up a large portion of the budget." But then they will flip the script on you. Politicians know that there are a few political hot buttons that work on the genreal public, kids, police, fire and roads. They will typically use the term teacher when they want to increase funding by saying things like "If we do not get this tax increase through, it is the teachers and children who will suffer."

What the politicians are doing is using teachers, and student education as a political pawn. The politicians know that you would never vote to fund a tax increase to subsidize business growth for the businesses that funded their campaign, so they lock that part of the budget in early, along with their own salaries. But then when the money is coming up short because they funded their own special interests, they turn to the public and say we need more, it's for the teachers, kids, fire, police, and the roads you drive to work. The teachers are then held as a political hostage, many of them getting the dreaded 'pink slip' telling them that they may be laid off for the following school year because the budget is coming up short. Imagine for a moment, going months, not knowing if you would have a job the next year. Now imagine doing it 5 years in a row. That is the life of a teacher.

So how about instead of saying degrading things about your kids teachers, you treat them with the respect they deserve. Tell your politicians to stop using our public servants as political pawns. Next time you get that big bonus, how about an email to the teacher asking what you can buy for the classroom. How about at the next back to school night, instead of cornering the teacher to discuss your child and how special you think he or she is, you just say 'Thank you.' You can schedule an after school meeting to discuss your little darling. How about as school winds down, you send in a thank you card. You don't have to send anything else (though I'm sure a gift certificate for school supplies would be welcome,) a thank you card would mean the world to most teachers.

So to all those teacher's that educated, and put up with my snark. To all those teacher's that have dealt with whatever idiosyncrasies I have passed on to my children, to the teachers in Oklahoma and to all the teachers counting down the days this Spring.... THANK YOU!

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The Idiocy We Are Creating In Our Future

I have a simple challenge for you. It really is simple and you can do it as part of your weekly life. Are you in? Good, here it is; go to a grocery store during any reasonably busy time and fail to observe a mom with a young child in the cart, talking on her mobile phone. I am going to save you some time, you will not be successful.

Just a few short years ago, parents interacted with their children extensively. Even if it was simply a banal diatribe on the shopping trip, it was ineraction. "Okay Timmy, should mommy get the wheat crackers or the buttered crackers. Oh your right, I'll get both. Now let's go get some milk and diapers." Timmy didn't have an answer. Timmy didn't even understand what was being said, yet. But he was learning how to communicate.He was learning the meaning of the words, and he was learning how sentences are put together. He was even learning how intonation can be used to make a point.

Today Timmy hears things differently. "No! and what did she say? Really, well that was stupid."

When it comes down to it, children learn more than two-thirds of their language in the first 10 years of their life. Kids today are being robbed of the opportunity to interact with their parents because of the technology we just can't seem to put down.

So next time you are in the grocery store, put the phone away and have a conversation with your child. You will be doing your child and the rest of us a favor.

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The Madness of Being Indoors

Me at Mastadon Peak - Joshua Tree National Park

I am developing a severe case of wanderlust. I usually have a slight case of wanderlust at any given time. Who doesn't want to get out and hit the road? But this spring it is much worse than ever for me. This probably has something to do with the fact that I took a rare Spring season vacation. During this vacation I headed to Colorado. On the way back to my home in Southern California I stopped in Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks. After spending a period of time hiking in both parks I had quickly surmised that they were each worth a longer visit which included some back country hiking. For those that are uninitiated, the front country is the part of a National Park that most tourists see, the short trail to a waterfall from a crowded parking lot is a good example. The back county consists of miles of trails where the only items available to you are those things you carry in with you (and carry out, all of it.)

I have also found myself becoming more and more interested in some of the longer "thru-hike" trails like the Pacific Crest Trail, The Appalachian Trail and the John Muir Trail. The idea of spending a month, or several months hiking one of these trails appeals to something in me. It's like a primal calling that is going unfulfilled. See there are responsibilities. I have a wife (whom I adore and am extremely lucky to have) and three kids, two pre-teens and a toddler, that are the joy of my existence. These people require more than my love, they require food and shelter, which my 6AM-6PM job provides. Don't get me wrong, I actually enjoy most of what I do for a living, but damn if I wouldn't enjoy hiking from Yosemite to Mt. Whitney over a period of a month.

Now the two older kids are getting into being outdoors. Both of them being excellent soccer players, they are in fantastic shape. So the last couple of multiple mile hikes I have taken them on didn't even phase them. My old body moaned and groaned about it. Taking the two year old on a day hike is pretty much the limit. I have one of the excellent Kelty carriers for him. But as with any two year old, after a few hours in the backpack, he is ready to do anything else. This usually means walking. Now I am thrilled that he wants to get down and walk the trail. But his pace is quite a bit slower than the rest of us. His idea of where we should be going is always diametrically opposed to mine. I think we should stay on the trail and follow it to the logical conclusion. He thinks we should walk over to that cool looking rock, try to pick up that big rock, then sit on the big rock, followed by standing on the big rock, standing on the big rock is a must. Once we can stand on the big rock, we absolutely most jump off of it, and we must jump off of it not once, but several times. Now I consider myself a good father, and I want my kids to learn to enjoy the outdoors and I think that allowing them to engage with the outdoors is the best way for my kids to develop a love for being in the outdoors. So the last thing I want to do is drag the two year old off the rock and force him to hike the trail 'my way.'

But see now you've forgotten, I have pre-teens, a boy and a girl. So things are a bit different for them. I do have one rule, cellphones/ipods etc. are not for the trail. You can bring them for emergency, but they remain unused unless there is an emergency. So now I have two very vocal people making a logical argument that we should move on, as the trail goes "that way' and all of this standing around is 'boring.'  I try suggesting that they enjoy jumping off of the rock, the two year old seems to be enjoying this activity. They both look at me as if I have suggested that they reach into my armpits and extract something unpleasant to put on a sandwich.

The wife of course has an excellent approach to all of this, 'can you all be quiet, you are making too much noise.'

So while a hike with the family is something that I would do every single day if I could, the distance traveled would be something akin to getting just as far as where everyone else is. When I hike I want to get way from everyone else. In order to do that, we have to split the family up. This past weekend, I took the pre-teens to Joshua Tree National Park. We did a nice day-long loop hike that included a 75ft. rock climb to a peak. The wife stayed home with the two-year old where I presume he spent the day climbing onto, and jumping off of, various items around the house. He of course did this quietly, for the wife's sake.

My Daughter at Mastadon Peak

During this Joshua Tree hike I got to do several things I never get to do with my kids. First, I saw what my daughter looks like without those white buds with wires attached to them sticking out of her ear, I was really happy to discover that those weren't permanently embedded in her body. I also discovered that her hands could do something other than not touch a soccer ball (the hands aren't supposed to touch the ball in soccer, remember) send an inordinate number of text messages over a cellular network, or sit firmly on her hips in a pose that demonstrates to me just how 'out of touch' and 'lame' I am. Her hands did things like dangle loosely at her side, occasionally coming up to make a gesture which was meant to illustrate an important point she was talking about. That was the big thing, she talked to me. We talked about boys (turns out we are pretty dumb as a gender) her friends (like her father she prefers a smaller number of tight knit friends to being the social butterfly) and the fact that (much to my disappointment) she will not be continuing her musical classes next year. I also saw a confidence in her that I had not seen before.

Now, the boy talked to me too. His hands could do a lot of things that didn't involve a video game controller manipulating some fantastic creature into doing some form of destruction on another creature. He also overcame a fear. That 75ft rock climb up to the top was not a technical climb, most of it consisting of a simple scramble. But when you are afraid of heights, it can seem debilitating. For him, this was the case. But a bit of logic was able to get through to him. I am really glad I didn't go with my first approach to try to encourage him up the rocks. I am not sure that telling him "If Lego Indiana Jones needs to climb up to the top, is he afraid?" would have cut it in this situation. Sure I would have been speaking his language, but the content was lacking any substance (much like that video game.) So I went with the approach of "You walked all those miles to get all the way up here, are you going to let a little bit of fear keep you from going the last 75 feet?" His fear was quickly squashed under a puff of logic and he scrambled to the top.

So a balance can be found. While I can't abandon everything and go on a multi-month hike, I have talked to my two older kids about taking our first multiple day hike together, and they are in. So now I am driving myself crazy thinking about it. I want to go now. While I know it would not offer the same life altering experience that a 6 month hike from the Mexican border to the Canadian border would provide, I know that it will deepen my relationship with my kids. That's the kind of life changing activity I can really get into. I haven't decided where we are going yet. We may do the San Bernardino Mountain section of the Pacific Crest Trail, or we may do a portion of the John Muir Trail. I just don't know yet. But to give you an idea to how much I have been thinking about this, here is what I am taking with me:

My Pack - Osprey Aether


I have decided on Osprey for all of our packs. We already have an Osprey Aura for Sarah's pack. Steven will be wearing an Osprey Sprint Jib. My pack will be the voluminous Osprey Aether. I chose Osprey because of their reputation of quality. I have also owned the Aura 50 that Sarah will be using for a while. It is an excellent pack.

As far as out lodging goes it will be the REI Half Dome 4 tent. This tent is lightweight, easy to setup, and will keep the rain out if necessary. Why a 4 man tent instead of a 3 man tent. Because it is a well know fact that if you need to sleep 3 people you really need a four person tent. If you want to sleep 2 people, a three person tent will be needed. Another reason for the REI Half-Dome is the reliability of the tent. Reading reviews online says that people have had great experiences.

Cooking will be handled by the Soto OD-1R. This stove has a micro-regulator that insures that the flame stays constant, even in wind. So as  pots and pans go, I haven't settled that yet. I also have yet to do my research on a water filtration system.

The plan is to cover 10-15 miles a day. That means that over 5 days we could easily cover 75 or more miles.

So what about this madness, well I am thinking about this hiking trip constantly. I need to get it scheduled for my own sanity.


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The Idiocy of Excercise

Excercise is Boring.

I am overweight. There is no way of avoiding it. As I have gotten older, the beer and burgers have caught up with me. There is a really good reason for this. I hate exercise, period.  I own, or have owned treadmills, ellipticals, weight machines, punching bags, excercise video games, store bought workout videos, and workout videos purchased online due to infomercials. I have enjoyed none of them. Cardio, no thanks. Weightlifting, meh. Muscle confusion, why bother? Running, I just can't shut my brain off for that long.

I can do the exercise, I just can't do it for a long period of time and find any enjoyment out of it. It is a form of torture for me.

I enjoy refereeing and playing soccer both activities that require a lot of running. But the key thing is, I enjoy these activities, immensely. According to GPS data I cover over 5 miles while center refereeing, and over 2 miles while being an assistant referee. Neither distance is anything to sneeze at. On a Saturday I will referee 2 to 4 matches. When possible I will play soccer anytime that I can find a pickup match to play in, usually with friends or co-workers, which usually ends up being 2 to 3 times per month. The point is, not enough to constitute a workout program.

I enjoy hiking a lot as well. Getting outside and getting away from people, cars, cellphones, and the rat race to enjoy nature. There is very little that is more enjoyable. A bike ride, another thing that is enjoyable, so long as it is on a bike trail away from traffic. Due to the amount of prep involved, the amount of time these activities take, and the amount of time spent commuting to and from work, work itself (a desk job), the amount of time spent on family activities (not complaining, but these activities take a lot of time), and  the less than 8 hours of sleep I get a night, finding time for a hike or a bike ride is not easy to do, much less a daily soccer game.

So why not go for a run? I enjoy soccer, and that is running, right? No! Running is putting one foot in front of the other until the pain sets in. Whether it is on the street, sidewalk or a treadmill, it just flat sucks. First it is boring as hell. Second my brain needs something to do, so it focuses on the pain, the discomfort and the absolute futility of the fact that I am just running for no other reason than to run. I will finish the time I set out for running, but I am miserably focused on the pain and discomfort the entire time. Conversely, when I am on the soccer field I can easily cover several miles without a second thought given to the pain that I am feeling. Later on that day after finishing several matches, I will feel the pain. But during the match I feel nothing because my mind is so steadfastly focused on the match. So running is torture, largely due to the fact that I just cannot run without being constantly focused on the futility of the pain I am putting myself through.

Yard work, small construction or household projects, or moving a friend is something that requires lifting, pulling, hoisting and other activities that are simulated by lifting weights. These are all things that I don't particularly enjoy, but that I can do for a day, or over an entire weekend if necessary. However, put me in a gym lifting weights and I am miserable. Once again I am fighting my brain. While lifting weights I focus, once again, on the idiocy of performing this act and the pain it causes. So I can do 200 reps of lifting a heavy item up the stairs, but getting through 3-5 sets of lifting a weight, is a herculean effort for me. It is literally a fight between what I know is good for me and the logical part of my brain that is pointing out the idiocy of what I am doing.

I hear about runners that have found a 'high' from running. I have never experienced this. I have felt the very mild euphoria after some activities, but it hardly outweighs the pain of the activity. Now with the activities I enjoy, the exercise is not the focus the focus is on the activity. Whether it is the game, or the scenery, that is what I am enjoying. The exercise level of activity is just means to an end, the end being the game or the scenery.

This has been the crux of my problem. If I had friends for a pick-up basketball game, I would enjoy the activity. Doing runs from baseline to baseline, not so much. Refereeing a soccer match, hell yes. A 5 mile run, hell no!

This is a fight that will wage within me for the rest of my life I presume. It's 9:30PM, I have to go torture myself on the treadmill.

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Acknowledge Your Limits

There is nothing more frustrating than encountering someone who holds a job/title/position that is outside of their capabilities, and then doesn't acknowledge their limitations.

Listen, I get it, good for you, you are making the big bucks, or at least bigger bucks than you would be. But when you have to work with other people that are relying on you to be able to do your job, just come clean and tell them that you are struggling or that you don't know how to handle the situation.

By shrouding the fact that you are limited, you are doing 3 things

  • You are making everyone's job harder
  • You are losing credibility with the people you are working with
  • You are missing out on an excellent opportunity to learn

That last one is really the key point isn't it. No one is going to bother to teach you the stuff you need to learn if you never acknowledge the fact that you need help. In most cases it is simply a case of saying "Hey I am a little confused on what I should be doing here, it's a litle outside my expertise. Can you help me with it?"


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