Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Fitness Ramble

So, it's been a while since I've given any sort of update on my fitness progress.  You may have noticed.  Maybe not.  Well, that could be due to the word "progress" being involved.  I might have posted a fitness "digress" maybe.  Or, perhaps, a fitness "regress."  However, my ego would not allow that sort of thing....thus, no reports at all.

If you've been following my blog for a while, you know that I started out 2011 with a bang.  I set a lofty goal, and I set about trying to attain it.  I was walking...outside...in the freezing cold...with icicles in my nose in January and February.  It was successful.  I was cranking out some mileage and I lost about 15 or so pounds.  I kept it up as the temperature began to moderate, but then it was time to switch to the bike and just when I should have really been laying down the miles...the proverbial wheels fell off.

First, I got sick in May...I mean really, stinkin' sick.  I was out of commission for a good two weeks.  Then, lots of work travel in June.  The final straw that broke the back of my goal for the year was a tweaked left calf/achilles in July in a failed attempt to play softball.  That pretty much shut me down for the month of July and now into August.  There is just no realistic way for me to hit my goal (2011 miles in the year 2011).

I have a decision to make.  Do I get discouraged and give up altogether?  Maybe eat what I want and see just how big I can get before Thanksgiving?  (That is my default setting.)  Or, do I hit the reset button and refocus on the real point of why I set the goal in the first place? 

I didn't set that goal just because I thought it would be a cool thing to be able to tell people that I did it.  Most people think I was nuts for attempting it anyway.  Nope.  I set the goal to force myself to get serious about fitness issues and to get my body in a better place.  To be healthier.  To lose weight.  To lower my cholesterol.  To keep my blood pressure at a good level.  To wear the clothes I have and to not have to keep buying bigger ones.  (I have smaller ones already.)  To encourage my daughters...who worry about me.  To be a better husband to my wife...who probably also worries about me.  Etc.

So, the bottom line is that even though my year's goal is shot in the head, I still need to be healthy, lose weight, and be fit.  I won't be posting weekly progress updates, and I'm not going to push myself to walk in the freezing cold this winter (the indoor treadmill will be just fine).  (Stu, you can say "I told you so" anytime now.)  However, I am going to refocus my eating habits.  I am going to get back on the bike if my left calf/achilles will permit.  And, I'm going to still attempt to "walk my butt off!"  I don't think I've gained much weight in my recent inactivity.  I haven't weighed in, but I can tell by how my clothes are fitting and how I feel that I'm within a couple of pounds of 260 which is close to where I was when I stopped tracking it.  Still, I would feel much better at 240 and I'd feel stellar at 220.  (If I could only remember that when I'm trying to order lunch!) 

Enough said.

On a side note, I've come across a couple of websites that you might find interesting:

http://www.mapmyride.com/  This is a great tool for mapping out your bike rides.  It keeps track of your routes, tracks the mileage, tracks the time, give you a report on the elevation changes, ets.  Check it out.

http://www.mapmywalk.com/  This does the same thing for walks.

I've also noticed that they have some other versions like "mapmyrun" and "mapmyhike."  Check them out.

See you on the road....come on out and join me.  Let get fit together!

Mike

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Couple of Off-the-Wall Ideas to Help America

Have you ever had one of those discussions with someone that you thought would take maybe five minutes and an hour and half later, you finally bring it to a close? It happens to me once in a while. Once in a while, time just gets away from me.


Tick, tick, tick, tick.

It happened to me again last week. See, I had broken one of my personal rules. The rule is regarding Facebook, and if it were written it would look something like this: I will avoid all things political or controversial when using Facebook so as to keep the format fun for all, and so that I can enjoy my interactions will ALL of my friends of various backgrounds, religions, and political leanings without risk of offending them in any way.

Crack! I broke it right in half.

I got caught up in all that news media coverage of the great political drama that was unfolding in Washington, DC regarding the raising of the debt ceiling. I happened to click on a video clip of Marco Rubio giving a speech on the Senate floor, and I liked it so much that I reposted it to my own wall. In doing so, I spurred some friends to post comments, and a couple of those were more or less offering differing views to various extents from my own. Against my better judgment, I rebutted the rebuttals. Then, I rebutted the rebuttals of my rebuttal. You get the picture.

So, then, I ran into one of the “rebutted” guys at church, and I wanted to make sure we were “okay.” An hour and a half later, we brought the talk to a close.

All in all, it was a really good conversation. We do come at the problems from different angles, and he does see things a bit differently than I do. However, he was very articulate in framing his positions, and in the end, we really weren’t that far apart in the basic assessment of the problems that face us. We just differ a bit on the steps we need to take to deal with them.

One of the comments he made got me to thinking about a couple of ideas that I want to try to put into some sort of cohesive language and share with you, my readers, and see what you all think of their potential. What he said was something along the line of: “In the days of WWII, the richest Americans were asked to sacrifice in order to help our country weather the storm and bring us through to the other side. Shouldn’t they be willing to do that again today?” Those aren’t his exact words, but I think I’ve captured the essence. This sentiment was in support of allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for the richest among us as a boost to the tax revenues of the federal government.

Before I go into my ideas, I want to say that I think we are in a boatload of trouble as a country. We have an enormous debt, and it is getting bigger by the minute. Our credit rating as a country was recently downgraded by Standard and Poors from AAA to AA. Why would they do that unless they are beginning to doubt our ability to ever repay the debts? Our leaders can’t decide what to do for multiple reasons; among them are political positioning, differing fiscal views, and personal ambition. I’m beginning to think that they are hopelessly polarized.

I want to also say that I am generally opposed to increased taxes. I think we have practically been taxed to death when you consider all the layers of various taxes from the federal level down to the local level. It really is crazy.

However, I’m almost to the point of believing that we cannot drag our rears out of this hole we’ve dug without everyone kicking in more…at least temporarily.

That said, I have two caveats:

1. I don’t want to kick in any more UNTIL there are some sort of significant controls put on new spending. I don’t want to throw good money after bad.

2. I much prefer to give money voluntarily rather than be taxed against my will.

So, now for my ideas…

First, I want to suggest that EVERYONE who can reasonably do so, voluntarily pass up some tax break that would honestly be theirs when they do their taxes next spring. Let Uncle Sam keep some extra money to ease the stress on the budget. If you are wealthy…if you are comfortable…if you can do so without placing undue stress on your family…don’t take every single deduction you are allowed.

Wealthy Americans, rather than giving involuntarily through tax increases, give it voluntarily by not taking advantage of every loophole and deduction you are allowed.

But, before we AGREE to do that, let’s push congress to pass legislation that will control future spending, and if they do so, we GIVE to ease the pressure. Can we be patriotic enough to do something like that?

Secondly, how about we ask AMERICAN corporations to rebuild in America? We need infrastructure improvements. We need the hungry to be fed. We need health care for the poorest Americans. Our elderly need to be held in honor and able to live out the balance of their lives in dignity.

Frankly, I don’t trust our government to do any of these things efficiently or effectively.

So, how about Microsoft? Exxon? Apple? Chase?  Ford? There are so many others. Fellas, you need to step up to the plate. You often speak of being good citizens on your websites and in your annual reports, so now, put some real money behind your words. Step up and get done what our government cannot.

Here are some things I think you can do:

1. Instead of becoming the most efficient, sacrifice just a bit of efficiency and keep some folks employed.

2. Instead of saving a few dollars by shipping work overseas, sacrifice a bit of profit and keep some of those jobs HERE.

3. Instead of bowing to the unending greed of the impersonal shareholder, give significant sums to build your communities, support local schools, and care for the sick, elderly, and the hungry.  Perhaps, in return, we the people could direct our 401k investments toward those companies that really are investing in America.

On Tuesday of this week, I visited the Hershey Chocolate World in Hershey, PA. When you visit the Chocolate World, it is easy to think that Hershey is all about the money. You walk around the various attractions and see the tours, trinkets, gifts, and toys, and you can assume the worst in America. So many people are hungry in the world, and so many people right here in the U.S. can barely take care of their own basic needs, yet still people are just throwing money at chocolate.

Looks can be deceiving.

Later that same day, I visited the Milton Hershey School. I learned some interesting things. First, the school which was founded by Milton Hershey himself specifically to care for at risk children, holds the controlling interest in the Hershey Chocolate Company, and the profits from that company fund the school so that all tuition, housing, and healthcare is COVERED for the students attending the school. It even pays for college scholarships for the kids as long as they maintain certain standards of performance. The school is truly free of charge for the students….paid for by the sale of chocolate.

After I learned that, I didn’t feel so bad about spending my hard-earned money at the Chocolate World.

Secondly, I learned that Milton Hershey actually GAVE his fortune to the school…millions of dollars…and that was a very long time ago when millions were likely more like billions are today. He gave it away. He gave because he had a passion to care for needy children.

Can we call our wealthy to have a passion and sacrifice greatly toward the best interest of our country?

We have a government that is trying to do things that it is not best equipped to do…healthcare…food stamps…welfare…medicare…etc. The government is trying to do it because it has been left to them to do. It was being left undone. We have brilliant minds that are building incredible money-making organizations and making billions and billions of dollars of revenue. Incredible corporate leaders of incredible American companies. Instead of envying them and resenting them, let’s recruit them!

Let’s connect those brilliant minds with the incredible needs and see what American ingenuity can get done!

Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet, Larry Ellison, the Walton family, Charles Koch, David Koch, Michael Bloomburg, and many others…time to step up for the good of your country.

And, how about those wealthy athletes? Those guys who negotiate for the mega-million dollar salaries and philander it all away. Time for you guys to step up too.

But, how about you all step up voluntarily…maybe then some of the folks in congress wouldn’t be in such a hurry to try to tax it out of your pockets for you.

Just a thought.

If you are reading this, and you think it has some reasonably good ideas, feel free to post a link to it on your Facebook page. Maybe word will actually reach some of these folks and they really will step up. Maybe. Just maybe.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Poem by Henry Van Dyke

I shared the following poem at the graveside of my Aunt Margie this afternoon.  I love the sentiment.  It doesn't seem to carry a title, but I think the message is profound.

“I am standing upon the seashore.

A ship at my side spreads her white
sails to the morning breeze and starts
for the blue ocean.


She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until at length
she hangs like a speck of white cloud
just where the sea and sky come
to mingle with each other.


Then, someone at my side says;
"There, she is gone!"


"Gone where?"


Gone from my sight. That is all.


She is just as large in mast and hull
and spar as she was when she left my side
and she is just as able to bear her
load of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her.


And just at the moment when someone
at my side says, "There, she is gone!"
There are other eyes watching her coming,
and other voices ready to take up the glad
shout;


"Here she comes!"

And that is dying.”