Surly Curmudgeon

   The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.
-- Robert A. Heinlein
  • Somewhere in the crusty outer layer of small towns surrounding the warm creamy center that is Oklahoma City.
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    Monday, June 29, 2009

    P90X Week Four

    Last week was a recovery week, and introduced two new routines: X Stretch and Core Synergistics. The first is an easy, almost leisurely stretching routine when compared to Yoga X (which we did twice -- at the beginning and end of the week). Core Synergistics is an all-over workout that hits every major muscle group, but especially (as you might gather from the name) the core -- abs, back, etc.

    This week launches into a new arrangement of chest/tricep/shoulders on Monday and back/biceps on Tuesday. I still feel like I'm learning my way around the routines, so it's hard to say I'm improving any, though various folks claim to be seeing results in me. 9 weeks to go for the first round.

    Posted by Tom, 6/29/2009 5:35:04 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Long time no blog

    Parents were in town, took them to Toby Keith's restaurant. They seemed to like it.

    On Saturday, Dad helped me take down a tree that was leaning and looking dangerous. I was pretty paranoid about how to get it down, but he showed me how to get it down safely and it was all good. Then we dropped another tree that had died and would eventually fall on my workshop. I was happy with that, and willing to let it go once those two were down, but he said we might as well finish the job, so we dropped some other dead wood and then cut it all up into firewood. Buddy Eric was along for the ride, and with the help of the wives, we got all the firewood stacked and the brush cleaned up -- far more than I had anticipated doing.

    This next weekend is a 3-day weekend for the 4th of July, and I'm planning to get the dog's shed fixed up for the Hot, which by most accounts has already arrived, a month ahead of schedule. The air conditioner we have in the shed isn't doing a whole lot without the benefit of insulation, and there's some other work needing to be done to make the insulation go in smoother. It'll be quite a job, and I plan to post a second Casa de Perros blog when it's done.

    Posted by Tom, 6/29/2009 5:27:46 PM (Permalink). 3 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Sunday, June 21, 2009

    Quote of the Day

    Two-for-one special:

    There must always be a struggle between a father and son, while one aims at power and the other at independence.
    -- Samuel Johnson

    When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.
    -- Mark Twain

    Happy Father's Day, Dad.

    Posted by Tom, 6/21/2009 9:57:24 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    P90X Week Three

    This week I learned about bonking. Same routine as weeks one and two, but on two days I seriously crashed. The first day, which I think was Tuesday, I didn't eat even half my daily diet allowance. No food, no energy, no performance. About 15 minutes into the plyometrics workout I knew I was in trouble. 30 minutes later I was barely able to stand.

    Yesterday, I came home from my usual breakfast run and headed into the attic to run network cable for the new office space upstairs. It was already 90 degrees outside, and the attic felt like a good 110, minimum. I wore my mechanic's coverall to keep the insulation off me, and after just a single trip from the access ladder to the other end of the house, it was completely drenched in sweat. Problem was, I had 3 more trips, plus another hour or so of screwing around, trying to get the drops done on the near side. One of those is hung up somewhere in the wall, not sure when I'll finish it.

    After that, I moved my office from the basement to the upstairs. Then I moved the stuff in the old storage room to the old office/new storage room. Then I moved the guest room to the old storage room. Then I went outside and changed the oil in the car. Then, at 10:00 pm, having sweated all day, I did my hour-long cardio workout.

    The interesting thing here is that I weighed myself when I got up that morning, and then after my workout. I sweated off 3 pounds, despite drinking a ton of fluid throughout the day. And of course, I crashed pretty hard about halfway through the workout.

    All that work pays off though, because today I ain't doin' NUTTIN.

    Next week is a "recovery week", with "light" workouts (light for P90X anyway) throughout, endcapped by the 90-minute yoga routine on Monday and Saturday. Looking forward to it.

    Posted by Tom, 6/21/2009 9:34:30 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, June 18, 2009


    Apparently the Department of Defense hasn't read the Constitution (big surprise) that it's sworn to protect and defend:

    The written exam, given as part of Department of Defense employees’ routine training, includes a multiple-choice question that asks:

    “Which of the following is an example of low-level terrorism?”

    — Attacking the Pentagon

    — IEDs

    — Hate crimes against racial groups

    — Protests

    The correct answer, according to the exam, is "Protests."

    Hello? Right to assemble? Freedom of speech? Right to petition the government for redress of grievances?

    As one might imagine, the ACLU is on this like white on rice. But it really is disturbing, the speed with which our rights and freedoms are eroded in the name of fighting the latest bogeyman terrorism.

    Posted by Tom, 6/18/2009 3:49:12 AM (Permalink). 3 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, June 17, 2009

    No, but I loved her

    I still find myself grieving over my Aunt Deb. It's a whole whirl of conflicting emotions. Life has continued marching on, and there are new tasks to be worked on, new crises to address, new problems to solve. It hardly seems fair. I feel like the world should stop -- or at least, I should be able to -- and just give me time to process everything.

    Somewhere inside, there's also this "other" voice. It's a voice I haven't actually heard from other people, but it's one I keep expecting to hear. It asks, "were you especially close? Did you spend a lot of time talking on the phone? Were you best buddies on the internet? Had you been spending a lot of time together?" And the answer to every question is "no, but I loved her". Shouldn't that be enough?

    I also worry that I'm not "dealing with it" or "getting over it" fast enough. As I say, it's not like we were especially close for the last 20 years or so. But I loved her, and I know that she loved me. My brother went to visit her right near the end, and she sent him back with just one message for me: Aunt Deb loves you. He said it was very important to her that I know that.

    My dad told me that she used to claim us as her own. She'd tell him and Mom that "those aren't your boys, they're mine." I don't ever remember ever hearing her say anything like that, but I can clearly hear her saying it in my head, and have no doubt whatsoever that she said it.

    I wrote that I think of joy when I think of her. And now that I'm finally accepting that she's gone, I feel also like I'm accepting that there can't be any more joy in my world. I know that's irrational, not to mention simply untrue, but it's what I'm feeling.

    I recently realized that I've started processing everything "funny" by evaluating whether she would have found it amusing, and laughing with her if she would, refraining from laughing if she wouldn't. It's easy to laugh, because she found almost everything funny, but the fact that I'm relying on her sense of humor (or more accurately, my perception of it) is a little disconcerting.

    Fortunately, a friend of mine is also going through a loss (her father), and she's taking a grieving class to help. We've talked a few times, and she's dropping tidbits from the class for me, so I can work through this as well as I can (the class is just not scheduled right for me to attend). It turns out that this "adopting" of the departed person's personality or parts thereof is pretty normal. So at least I'm not going insane.

    Of course, as I came to terms with that, I also realized that a person can't simply be summed up by their sense of humor. There was more to Aunt Deb than just big smile and a hearty laugh, but it seems to be all I can hold on to. I just can't seem to carry any more of her with me, and that makes me feel like I'm letting her down. It's as though I'm abandoning everything else that made her who she was, and picking only the piece I want or care about, thus diminishing her personhood to just that one little bit.

    I suppose I could take comfort in the fact that there are others who have other pieces of her to take with them, and that collectively we probably have a near-complete picture of who she was. It just seems inadequate. The fact is, I want her here, so I can give her one of my bear hugs and listen to her groan in my ear that I'm squeezing too hard and don't know my own strength and then hear her laugh about it when I let her go. But all I can do is remember that laugh and that smile and that sense of humor and hope that it's the best part of her for me to carry into the future.

    And again that mocking voice asks "can't you do more?"

    No, but I loved her. I feel sure that she would think that was enough.

    Posted by Tom, 6/17/2009 5:08:12 PM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, June 16, 2009

    P90X Week Two

    The second week was the same format as the first week (and so is the third week). Exercises were marginally easier. I still can't hang with the folks on screen, but I did get a little more than last time. A couple of people have said that I'm starting to look thinner, but the scale says otherwise. It's probably just that they know I'm doing this and are influenced by the power of suggestion.

    As a followup to my health food review, I did order some of the "official" P90X protein bars and recovery drink formula. The bars are very good, probably a 5 or 6 on my 0 to 7 scale, but the inconvenience of mail-ordering them, plus the fact that they arrive all squishy in the Oklahoma heat, really doesn't motivate me to continue buying them. I'll probably go back to my Clif Builder's bars once these run out.

    I've been substituting SlimFast and EAS Myoplex shakes for recovery drinks, again attempting to match the nutritional profile where possible, though that's a bit tricky. Based on their almost too-sweet taste, I figured I was in for a real letdown with the P90X recovery drink formula, but boy was I wrong. This stuff is absolutely delicious. It's a sort of orange-banana taste, mostly orange, not too sweet, not too bland, simply fantastic. I would drink it casually, though that would be bad because it has the calories of a bottle of Dr. Pepper. I understand now why Tony (the trainer) jokes that the whole reason he does the workout is so he can have a recovery drink. It's that good.

    Posted by Tom, 6/16/2009 5:35:58 PM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    Monday, June 15, 2009

    Quote of the Day

    There are only three ways to pay for [President Obama's proposed] expansion of health insurance coverage: increased taxes, reduced benefits, or shiny gold ingots falling out of the sky.
    -- Steve Chapman, Indulging Our Health Care Fantasies, Reason Magazine

    Posted by Tom, 6/15/2009 7:42:36 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Sunday, June 14, 2009

    And on the seventh day...

    I really didn't get a break last weekend, so this weekend I'm forcing myself to take the day off. Here's Todd Rundgren with an idea for something I could be doing:

    Posted by Tom, 6/14/2009 5:12:24 AM (Permalink). 4 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, June 10, 2009

    WTS: 1979 Ford Pinto, asking $4500

    One of the catch-22's of fuel regulations for environmentalism's sake is that they tend to jack up the price of cars, which in turn leads to people driving their old cars for longer. Older cars are less fuel-efficient, so the regulations actually tend to worsen air quality compared to what it would be without the regulations in place.

    Well, Obamessiah has a solution for that: take taxpayer money, and offer $4500 vouchers for everyone's old junkers, vouchers which will be used toward the purchase of a new car. Oh, and did I mention that the legislation is apparently crafted so that the new car has to be a GM or Chrysler product?

    The House on Tuesday approved a "cash for clunkers" bill that aims to boost new auto sales by allowing consumers to turn in their gas-guzzling cars and trucks for vouchers worth up to $4,500 toward more fuel-efficient vehicles.

    President Barack Obama has encouraged Congress to approve consumer incentives for new car purchases as part of the government's work to restructure General Motors and Chrysler.

    So let's get this straight: a company is so abysmally mismanaged that it can't make money despite selling comparable numbers of units to the public as its foreign-owned competitors. Their products are almost universally regarded as second-rate when compared to the competition, they're way behind in innovation, and they've been in the crapper for decades. Not only do we taxpayers get screwed for billions of dollars to prop them up in a failing bid to avoid bankruptcy (which was apparently the worst possible situation under a Bush presidency, but merely a "sad fact of life" under Obama), but we taxpayers also get to pay other people for their used clunkers so that they can have a new car, and "stimulate" auto sales.

    I haven't seen any official figures, but I'm willing to bet that auto sales of non-bailout automakers are probably doing just fine, economic conditions considered. I keep wondering, if GM and Chrysler need to be propped up by the federal government's sticking it to the federal taxpayer, how anyone expects them to ever be a worthwhile business. I mean, if the cars suck so bad that you have to pay people to buy them, are they really worth owning?

    I think that ultimately, like the $8k tax credit for first-time home buyers, this move will provide a small but very temporary uptick in a particular sector of the economy. Once the gravy train dries up, the market will go right back to rearranging resources to fit new realities. In other words, give it a year or so, and we'll be right back where we started.

    Posted by Tom, 6/10/2009 5:12:05 PM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    Monday, June 8, 2009

    iPhone on AT&T

    From the Apple World Wide Developer's Conference, news of tethering (the ability to use your phone's data connection from your laptop computer):

    I've said it before and I'll say it again: owning an iPhone but being forced to use AT&T is like finally scoring a date with the hottest cheerleader in your class, only to have her retarded little brother come along for the ride.

    Posted by Tom, 6/8/2009 5:09:35 PM (Permalink). 5 Comments. Leave a comment...

    P90X Week One

    Two years ago, I started lifting weights to try and fight the effects of 17 years or so of bodily neglect -- eating crap and playing video games. I did pretty well on that count, but eventually realized that I wasn't really getting the results I wanted. I was getting stronger, but kept topping out/plateauing. I'd redesign my program, but it started to feel like all I was doing was variations on a theme. I needed to try something radically different.

    Last week, I started the P90X diet & exercise program. It's not for beginners, and it includes a fitness test to make sure that you're going to be able to keep up. This is a program for people "already in shape" who want to get into better shape.

    I've always maintained that I want performance over looks. I'd like to look good, as would everyone, but what bothers me most is when I can't do something that I think I should be able to do. P90X helps in this regard by focusing on strength, balance, and flexibility, rather than just strength.

    After 2 years of weights, I figured my strength (as measured against my potential) is probably at about a 7 out of 10. Flexibility is maybe a 3 or 4. Balance is a 2.

    I've never had good balance, and I've always sort of figured that there was nothing I could do about it. After one week of P90X, I'm starting to think differently -- I'm starting to realize that balance is part detection, where your brain realizes that you're beginning to fall over, and part adjustment, where your muscles are instructed to adjust and keep your body upright. I'm not sure anything can be done about the first part, and I'm fairly certain my inner ears are a wreck. But surely the muscles can be trained to work faster and more efficiently.

    Anyway, here's the layout for the first 3 weeks:

    Monday: Chest & Back, aka pushups and pullups. Do a set of pushups. Now a set of pullups. Now a different kind of pushup. Now a different kind of pullup. Now a third kind of pushup, followed by a third kind of pullup. Now some other exercise for the chest, followed by a different one for the back. Some more pushups. Some rows for the back. Wow, that only took half an hour. Guess we'd better do the whole sequence again. Oh yeah, and then we do the Ab Ripper workout... so named because 30 seconds into it, you'll feel like your abs are being ripped out with a reciprocating saw.

    Tuesday: Plyometrics. Jump this way. Jump that way. Jump the other way. Get that butt down, get those feet high off the ground. Sweat like crazy. Try to breathe. I was strong enough for this one, having done heavy squats every workout for two years, but I had no endurance whatsoever. I could get as deep as the instructor, and as high, but crapped out on every exercise 15 seconds into it.

    Wednesday: Shoulders & Arms. This one had a lot of dumbbell work, and I found it fairly easy because I was only using the minimum weight while I got used to it. This week will no doubt be harder. Ab Ripper again.

    Thursday: Yoga, 90 minutes of it. I hereby apologize to everyone who's ever told me they do yoga for exercise. I was all "yoga is for old people, like Tai Chi". Yoga is the hardest routine of the bunch. I thought I'd be fearing the pullups. Instead, I'm dreading Thursdays.

    Friday: Legs & Back. More pullups, plus some squat variations. Again, endurance was a major limiting factor. I hope that improves quickly... I hate feeling like I'm doggin' it. Another Ab Ripper wraps this one up.

    Saturday: Kenpo. Lots of kicking and punching. He's not so much teaching us martial arts as he is using martial arts to create a cardio workout. It's a lot of fun, but the combinations are ridiculously complicated for those of us who've never done anything of the sort. I'm having trouble figuring out the difference between a cross and a hook, because to my untrained eye they look the same. Might have to get one of my kickypunchy friends to come over and work me through the basics so I can do this right.

    Sunday: Rest. Then we get to do it all over again.

    Posted by Tom, 6/8/2009 7:58:45 AM (Permalink). 4 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Sunday, June 7, 2009

    Rough Week

    It started with a previously postponed doctor visit that turned into a "let's do a colonoscopy". I also started my new diet and workout program. Then on Wednesday, my Aunt Deb died. I had been maintaining a stiff upper lip as she rested in hospice care, but that went out the window when the end came.

    So Thursday was a real mess... no food allowed, colonoscopy prep, doing the hardest workouts I've ever done, and grieving over the loss of my Aunt Deb. Friday, the test itself was pretty easy, given that they knocked me out for it. The grief was still there, but I got to eat again.

    Then I started getting reports back from family on the whole funeral procedure. That made things rough for a while, and although folks told me I wasn't really expected to make the trek from Oklahoma to Ohio for the proceedings, I can't shake the feeling that I've let the family down. Intellectually I can accept the reasonableness of my absence, but emotions tend not to be reasonable.

    Somehow I got a little closure after talking to my Gramps. I don't know if I'm done yet, but I finally feel a sense of peace settling over me. It's fascinating to me, how that works.

    Posted by Tom, 6/7/2009 6:28:09 PM (Permalink). 2 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, June 4, 2009

    Remembering Aunt Deb


    If I had to pick a single word that sums up my memories of Aunt Deb, it would be joy. I know she had some rough times, so she wasn't always happy, but that just seemed to be her default state.

    She always seemed to find the funny thing, the reason to smile, the sunny side. If she thought things were getting dull, she made her own fun:

    She never let anyone take themselves too seriously. She wasn't above pointing out the trouble-makers, even if she was only deflecting attention from her own involvement:

    But she was never mean-spirited about it, she always had the attitude that it was all in good fun. If she loved you, she made fun of you, teased you, kept you laughing and smiling, and (usually) in on the joke.

    It seems to me that the best way to honor her is to make someone laugh or smile. Make it a good one. I guarantee she'll be laughing with you.

    Other memories here.

    Posted by Tom, 6/4/2009 2:48:04 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, June 3, 2009

    The bricklayer's daughter

    I look at this picture and I can't help wondering...

    How many bricks does a man have to lay to pay for a dollhouse?

    A prom dress?

    A wedding?

    And even in his own weakened condition, how many more would he be willing to lay, if laying bricks could have saved her from cancer?

    Rest in peace, Aunt Deb.

    Posted by Tom, 6/3/2009 4:57:49 AM (Permalink). 4 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Monday, June 1, 2009

    Game on

    Today I start the new fitness routine. I've been preparing myself for the diet for a couple of weeks now. It's been 16 days since I last had a Dr. Pepper. The caffeine crash was hard and lasted 3 or 4 days, but I was on a cruise at the time, so all the napping didn't raise any eyebrows.

    I've given my various injured muscles time to heal by not working out regularly for a few weeks now. Everything feels pretty well straightened out; I hope it stays that way.

    By all reports, the next couple of weeks are going to be the roughest; after that my body should adapt to the level of activity. Until then, I expect to feel like I'm dying. No pain, no gain!

    Posted by Tom, 6/1/2009 5:44:16 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...