Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The making of an action hero pt19

Entry #18 One of the things I love about action heroes is that they always have the right tool for the job. I don’t have Q working in my back room on gear customized to each day’s probable disasters. So I’ve been looking for a selection of every-day-carry items to aid in dealing with a variety of situations. I’ve been working on this project in one form or another for a couple years now. As an Eagle Scout and gadget-guy, I don’t like having to depend on others to provide basic tools and medical care. I’ve met some people that prefer to carry thirty pounds of gear with them everywhere they go including multiple weapons, tools, rations, trauma kits, gas masks…etc. Granted, I’d prefer to carry a phased plasma rifle in the 40 watt range, a space marine division, a class one trauma hospital, and the crew of the enterprise—but people start looking at you funny when you go that route. So there are going to be some compromises in this process. That’s actually the first thing I learned when I started looking at pre-assembled survival/medical/emergency bundles. Most of the designers of those bundles had entirely different requirements than I—especially for EDC. They were all either too bulky, contained items that I can’t legally carry, were planning for all of the wrong kinds of disasters, or were more interested in generating the feeling of preparedness without providing much honest utility. Basically, every one of the kits I looked at was a compromise in form, function, or scope. After going round and round with product reviews, I came up with the following requirements that needed to be filled: • The pack needs to provide unobtrusive carry and function in public. • The pack components need to be carryable under state law and my workplace’s guidelines. • The carry choice needs to leave both my hands free. • The pack needs to cover basic medical care as I can expect to encounter on hikes, public transportation, group outings, and road trips. • The pack needs to provide modular components that can be removed and upgraded as needed. • The pack needs to provide me with a functional set of tools for dealing with a variety of issues in both urban and rustic environments. • The pack contents should take into account friends and family. • The pack needs to do all that and carry my lunch as well. I started out looking for a lunch bag as a base for the project. I wanted something bigger than a fanny pack but smaller than a laptop bag. Not having a shape that supports belt-rigged packs, I wanted something that could be worn cross-body. I wanted something with a lot of pockets. Amazon, usually my friend in such searches, had issues finding an item that met all my conditions. After reading yet another review of a laptop bag rebranded as a messenger bag, I came across a wonderful company called Maxpedition. Maxpedition makes bombproof gear built for hard use by law enforcement, the military, and people who operate under harsh conditions. Their products are over-engineered for durability and functionality. More important to me, they make a line of cross-body hip packs called versa packs that range from the very small up to ones large enough to carry a full sized laptop computer. I ended up going with the fatboy GTG variant. The GTG has a pocket for a standard sized water bottle, a side zipper compartment, a zipper pocket on the flap, a third zippered compartment in front of the main storage area, and a quazi secret document/concealed carry envelope behind the main storage area. It hits that sweet spot between too small to really carry your stuff and so big that it becomes inconvenient. I’ve used the GTG as my lunch bag and general purpose travel accessory for the last year and a half. The bottle pocket holds a thermos 22 ounce water bottle securely. The main pocket holds one of my wraps, a container of Greek yogurt, an apple, and a small blue icepack. The top zippered pocket holds an assortment of pills, band aids, and a pocket corkscrew. The versapack is comfortable. My only complaint is that the design means it always finds its way back to my right hip, even if I pull it around behind me. Maxpedition makes the fatboy in several colors. I opted for the least commandoish of the lot, a cacky color that one of my coworkers says looks like an old man’s fishing rig. That’s fine. I’m shooting for harmless, and that description will suffice. I’m working on the rest of the pack’s load out. I’ve tried several multitools in the quest for something solid, compact, and functional. Currently the best candidate I’ve found is a Victorinox Swiss tool. This is basically a beefed up and polished version of the standard leatherman with better quality machining. I’ve had this one for over a decade and it has never let me down. It gets high marks for having both a locking function for all the tools and a plier mechanism that actually lets one apply pressure to the grips. The add on hex tool has been used from everything from assembling kids toys to tightening the head of a tomahawk. I’m going to try out some of the S.O.G. power pliers, but it’s going to take a great deal of work to outshine the Victorinox. For the rest of the pack I’m looking at an Adventure medical pocket survival kit, some sort of first aid kit, duct tape, a survival blanket, a small flashlight, a smith’s pocket sharpener, a pair of rubber gloves, and a fire starter. The only real sticking point is the first aid kit. I haven’t found one with a decent selection of components that will fit in the versapack’s front pocket easily. This may be one of those situations where I’ll have to build one myself. Today the long awaited wilderness instructor belt arrived. Woooo boy! This is a manly thing. I probably should have gone with the 1.5 inch version instead of the 1.75 inch version. The belt buckle is made of heavy steel. It’s a very robust chunk of metal. The belt is made of tri-stitched black webbing that fastens by reverse threading through the buckle. The loose end cinches down to a length of Velcro on the side. I ordered a 47 inch version and by the fit probably should have gone with a 48 or even 50 inch. That said, the belt is currently set at the largest alignment possible with 6-8 inches of room for taking it in as I lose more weight. I’ll have to ask friends if it’s acceptable to wear in public for anything other than under a shirt. I wore it this evening up to and back from the shopping center with no discomfort. The buckle digs into my gut a bit when I’m sitting down, but so did my old belt. I think I’ve found the perfect thing to remind me of my goals when I start getting hungry. Cheeseburger—poke poke, jelly beans—poke poke…etc. My intake for today: Breakfast=a bowl of oatmeal with blueberries, a banana, and a glass of water. Work meal=a turkey and Swiss wrap, an apple, and a yogurt. Dinner=a bowl and a half of leftover pasta with chicken and veggies and a glass of water. I managed today with no dessert. That’s good because tortellini is heavy stuff. Starting weight was 297.8 pounds.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The making of an action hero pt18

Entry #17 I like being successful. It’s nice to look back at the last month and a half and see consistent positive change. At a certain point I feel like I’m bragging more than reporting results though. I was talking to a friend Thursday about his accomplishments and it was nice to not have everything tie back into one “thing.” You know what I’m talking about…everything has to come back to one issue for some people, no matter how improbable the conversational transition. I don’t want to become that person—the one issue guy that can’t talk about anything but his diet or his weight or his exercise plan. I hate that guy. I used to get really angry when people would neglect everything that I’d accomplished and only see how much over weight I was to the exclusion of everything else. Sure now I’m doing something about it so it’s nice to recount my successes. But everything in life shouldn’t center around that effort. I am going to tone it down a bit going forward. If someone asks, or the conversation turns in that direction great, no problem. But if that doesn’t happen, I’m going to keep this a personal journey (save for the five people who read these wandering essays.) Part of what I’m trying to do is change who I am as well as how much of me there is. That’s why I’m going out and “doing” things on my days off. That’s why I’m making long term lifestyle changes—so weight loss isn’t an issue any more. So it’s time to start living it if I’m going to preach it. The brunette and I have been discussing goals. She wants me to continue writing one of the two stories I’ve been working on. I want that too, though it’s sort of down on the list. She hunts zombies regularly on her iPhone using an app called zombie’s run. The deal we’ve worked out is that if she loses 20 pounds hunting zombies on our elliptical, I’ll write several more chapters in one of the series—new chapters not just rewrites of what I’ve already done. I came in at 298.6 this morning. That’s a bit more than yesterday’s 296.4, but I also splurged a bit yesterday and had a second portion of Indian leftovers plus a few snacks with friends. It’s time to think of the next goal. As of today I’ve maintained 5 straight days under 300, so I’m going to assume that 4 more days are going to happen. The next goal is to average under 290 pounds for an entire week, preferably before the 8/31 wedding we will attend. That’s a double goal for me because on 8/30 I have a physical scheduled. I used to hate going to the doctor. He is a really nice guy—friendly, humorous, all the things you want in the person who takes care of you. I just dreaded getting on that scale and getting the results of blood work back. For me it felt like a personal failure every time I came in and didn’t show any improvement. For the first time in a while I’m curious what eating better and losing weight will amount to. For this benchmark, I’ll send my Colt 1903 out to Crusader weaponry for their slipstream treatment and complete my perfect pocket pistol project. When I began this project I said that just spending money wasn’t something I was looking for in the rewards structure. I’m amending that slightly. I’m not putting things in the reward structure that I’d be buying whether I hit the goal or not. That means that I can’t put in the belt I’m buying because I need something to hold my pants up regardless. Today’s intake: Breakfast=A bowl of oatmeal with blueberries, a banana, and a glass of water. Work meal=a turkey and Swiss wrap, an apple, and a yogurt. Dinner=a large bowl of left over pasta salad, a glass of water, and a handful of chocolate for dessert. I had 2 cookies, a cheese stick, and several glasses of water since I came home from work. The hunger thing is getting to me. It isn’t the desire for food exactly; it’s that I’m eating less than my appetite says I should be. It makes it difficult unless I have something to distract me. On the one hand I didn’t open the roll of Ritz crackers or either of the two packages of cheese I bought for when guests come over. On the other I should have resisted the cheese stick at the end. I think it’s time to return to that original mental concept of “it begins with a thought.” I will be more focused going forward. I will be successful. I won’t take my current success for granted. Ten pounds a month, that’s the goal.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The making of an action hero pt17

Entry #16 Saturday agent Squish, MX, and I hit the trail again in search of XM fields and portals to hack. Squish found a wide view function that let him map the portals in the local area the better to plot our route. We hiked near ponds, up to a golf course, and past an agricultural park. We began at the old graveyard portal. We’ve become possessive about it since it’s the first portal we ever found and the closest to my apartment. After that we cut across some paths up to an old alms house that has been maintained by the local historical society. Portals are maintained by one of two factions. Each day they lose a portion of their energy. Every time they are attacked they lose some of their energy. If you have a key to that portal you can recharge it from a distance and link it to other similarly aligned portals that are within range. The control line formed between two linked portals prevents links by an opposing faction from crossing that line. Thus hacking and linking are as much strategic as tactical. We patrol the area to hack portals and acquire items, refill our XM reserves, take down enlightened aligned portals, recharge our own portals, and search for potentially new portal sites. As we walked through the woods, we carved a stick for agent MX to pick up leaves and such. It was like one of my old boy scout hikes, wading in a pond, making sharpened sticks, talking about “stuff”, and wondering what was over the next hill. MX kicked his beach ball around for most of the hike (he still hasn’t figured out that no matter how nicely he asks I’m never going to catch the darned ball.) At the top of the alms house’s hill we rested in the shade, and snacked on almonds from my pack while kids played on the nearby park grounds. It was a great way to celebrate establishing our first control line. Today, for the first time in 4+ years, I weighed in at 299.4 pounds, finally under 300. Monday was 300.4, Tuesday was 301.4, and Wednesday was 301.6. I’m pretty sure the scale is still having issues calculating my exact weight, since there’s some variance if I get on and off it several times. Even so this is great news. It also explains why I’ve been walking around like a gunfighter lately with my left hand on my belt holding my pants up. The wilderness instructor belt is in transit to my door even now. Hopefully it will live up to its reputation. The challenge facing me right now is sleep, specifically getting enough of it. In order to exercise regularly I need to get up earlier. In order to do that and be functional during the day I need to go to bed earlier. I’ve been using the light box to regulate my sleeping patterns with some success. At some point I have to move past preparing to change my sleep patterns and on to actually doing so. That’s going to happen starting August third. I’ve been getting up at 5:30am five days a week for the last six years. It’s my default setting. I’ve thought about it a lot and while I don’t want to find reasons not to exercise, I do want to make changes in such a way that I can live with them long term. So starting August Third I’m going to: • Start going to bed at 10:00pm at the latest, provided we don’t have company, a game, or some such thing. • Order the instructional video for my steel clubs (currently delayed due to dire need for a slacks support device.) • Sit down with a friend and go through that video to learn the basic moves to start work with the clubs. • Practice the moves with the clubs every subsequent day, even if it isn’t a full workout. I won’t start getting up in the morning for a 30 minute workout until my sleep pattern is stabilized around going to bed at the right time. Yesterday I walked into the man-cave ™. I found a pile of old dumb bells and steel clubs in a corner where I left them after some recent redesigning. In-laws gave me the dumb bells years ago as a holiday gift when they heard I was trying to exercise more. Ever since I pulled them out of their wrappers they’ve lain unused under a chair collecting dust and rust. For me it was like walking into a home where someone obviously bought the treadmill for themselves and you find it covered in laundry. I will not be that person. The dumbbells reminded me that I was that person once…but not this time. Today’s intake: Breakfast=a bowl of oatmeal with blueberries, raspberries and honey, a glass of water, and a banana. Work food=an apple, a turkey and Swiss wrap, a yogurt, and some almonds. Dinner=a bowl of pasta salad (heavy on the veggies), a glass of water, and a few kit-cats for dessert.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The last handgun in the state

I bought my last handgun Saturday. With the upcoming October first implementation of the new firearm laws, this is the final pistol I will be buying while I live in this state. I don’t mind the background check. The 7 day waiting period is tolerable. But the requirement to get fingerprinted and obtain a special license to buy handguns after October first is too much. I’m not a criminal. It is deeply offensive to be forced to go to a police station, have my prints taken, pay a registration fee, and then still wait 7 days for the State to decide it’s OK for me to have a firearm. From my perspective it’s the difference between a few inconveniences that *might* protect public safety and starting off the process as a second class citizen. I recently sold my magic collection. That sale left us with enough working money to pay down some debt, get the brunette her first rifle and handgun, and finance my most recent acquisition. Deciding to sell the magic cards was a difficult choice. I collected MTG for over a decade. Unfortunately, my chances to play have gradually decreased. I put years of effort into building decks, selecting good cards, and learning the game. Magic cards don’t generally decrease in value; so unlike many of my extracurricular interests, the resale potential of my collection had steadily increased. In the end it came down to the fact that I had things to do with the money the sale would generate. There wasn’t much chance that I’d get to play more than once or twice a year in the foreseeable future. So off to the auction block the cardstock went. That left me with the problem of deciding what handgun to buy. My collection consisted of 3revolvers and two semiautomatics variously chambered in .22lr, .38 special, .32acp, and .45acp. I wanted something in wood and steel. I would have preferred something produced by Colt or designed by John Moses Browning. I unsuccessfully searched for a reasonably priced Colt python or Dan Wesson bobtail commander. I hunted for a Colt trooper, delta elite, or browning high-power to no avail. I spent way too much time researching pistol caliber carbine and reciprocal handgun combinations. After several responses of “no we don’t have that either” I finally came across a product called a mech-tec CCU. The mech-tec is a conversion unit that replaces the slide and barrel on a 1911, turning the handgun into a pistol caliber carbine. Prices range from $300 for the basic model to upwards of $600 for one of the loaded models. That was a eureka moment. I’ve been looking for a marlin camp45 for several years. The CCU was almost as good as the classic marlin brush gun, has the potential to share magazines with my colt, and let me tweak another handgun. It remained only to decide which one. I own a tricked out colt goldcup trophy match; so I wasn’t looking for a competition or range piece. Knowing that I would be using it as a conversion platform for the CCU, I started looking for 1911s that I wouldn’t have to modify much beyond a grip replacement. During this process I got fed up with my normal range’s consignment and resale practice. I’ll go into that some other time, but suffice it to say that I didn’t feel like throwing more business their way. One thing lead to another and a week ago I ended up at Duffy’s guns, picking through their 1911s. I wanted a commander length, preferably with a bobtail grip. They didn’t have one. I was interested in a 10mm or .38 super chambering, but they didn’t have one of those either. I narrowed the choices down to a S.T.I. sparton, a Remington R-1, and a Magnum Research 1911G. The S.T.I. has a great street rep, but felt sort of sloppy in my hand, so the Spartan got cut. The Remington R-1 is a classic, blued 1911 in the traditional style. It felt slim and balanced well. The trigger break was excellent and the action was very crisp. The contender and ultimate champ was the Magnum Research though. The desert eagle 1911g is a government frame, 5 inch barreled, feature packed 1911 that feels perfect to the hand. It features: • Skeletonized hammer and trigger. • Beavertail grip safety. • Extended thumb safety. • Adjustable dovetail sights. • Checkered mainspring housing. • Mat-black finish. • Checkered walnut grips. • Two eight round magazines with extended base plates. Picking a handgun for me is all about matching comfort to function. Guns are projects, works of art, tools, and investments. The desert eagle was the only 1911 that checked every box. • The controls are set up for a minimalist footprint, perfect for use with a holster or carbine conversion. • I found 0 bad reviews of this gun. • The manufacturer has a great reputation. • The price is reasonable given the features, intended use, and projected modifications. • The gun balances well with a variety of grips and stances. • The total package is something I can be proud of. That last is the most important component. I’ve bought and sold a lot of guns over the past four years. Some fell out of favor as my tastes changed. Others simply didn’t live up to their reputation. Some proved economically unviable on the fun-to-expense scale. Mostly though, the ones that were sold became ugly ducklings in my eyes. I can’t afford to have a gun just sitting around that never gets shot and has no purpose. After a few impulse purchases gone bad, I’ve learned to research extensively before buying. I want each of my guns to be uniquely mine. I spend as much time researching upgrades and accessories as I do reviewing the gun in the first place. The 1911g is slated for a full scoped CCU unit, custom grips from, refinished exterior in Robar’s roguard black satin finish with NP3+ internals, and a trip to crusader weaponry for their slipstream treatment. Sunday the brunette and I went to the range with friends to try out her new ATI 1911, my repaired colt 1903, and my Anschutz 1400. I just got the colt back from Robar after they did a complete NP3+ treatment, inside and out. The action had been mushy and a bit ruff before the makeover. Now you can’t even feel the slide moving. To put this in perspective, of my first 5 shots, 3 hit the bulls eye and the other 2 hit the 9 on a standard 208 target. The only reason it wasn’t all 5 on the X was because my spotter readjusted my aim after the third shot when she couldn’t figure out where the other two rounds had gone. That little project was definitely worth the wait. While I was doing that, the brunette got to try out her newly cleared ATI 1911. Breaking in a new gun can be challenging. If you read articles by professional gun reviewers, it often seems as if every gun they get comes to them with a flawless mechanism. For most of us it doesn’t work like that. Right off the bat, the gun refused to chamber a second .45acp round. After several cycles of dropping the mag, clearing the action, reloading the mag, and rechambering, we determined that the issue was the magazine and not the gun. I replaced the factory magazine with a colt 8 rounder from my range bag. After that we experienced 0 problems shooting through the rest of the box. I blame myself for that issue. The ATI is a solid entry level 1911. It ranks above the Charles Daily, Rock Island armory, and Torus for quality, but it’s still an entry level 1911. I should have loaded the magazines and let them sit for a week or two so as to break in the springs, followed by 200-500 rounds of break in on the gun itself. Firearms and handguns in particular have a lot of moving parts, springs, levers, and such. Good custom guns come pre-broken in by a master smith. For the average pistol though there’s a period in which all the components develop a rhythm and find a happy medium. You’re going to get some issues until that period is over. In any semiautomatic pistol the biggest weak point is the magazine. If the cartridge isn’t presented to the action at the correct angle with the right amount of upward spring pressure, the round will jam every time. Good 1911 magazines run $30ish a piece and are worth every penny. Under a certain price point it’s unfair to expect the manufacturer to provide a quality magazine, nice if they do, but still unfair to expect it. I’ve started breaking these ones in and in a few weeks we’ll know if they are just stiff or actually poor quality. The surprise for the session came when the brunette decided that she didn’t like the recoil of the ATI. Specifically, it didn’t have enough of a distinct recoil sensation for her. One has to understand here that the 1911 government pistol shooting .45acp pills is a substantial pistol with significant if manageable recoil. I’ve never, not once, heard anyone say that they wanted more recoil than JMB’s masterpiece can provide till then. We’re going to have to find something else for her. She’s taken to the ruger Blackhawk so maybe we’ll look at one in .45lc or maybe a super redhawk in .454casul. I’ve given up trying to figure her preferences out. We’ll try a .44 magnum the next time we hit the range and see where that goes.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The making of an action hero pt16

Entry #15. I need a new belt. I’m not sure whether that’s due to my recent fitness efforts or my current belt wearing out. I’m pretty sure my circumference has reduced by an inch or two but that could be wishful thinking on my part. Regardless, I get to go shopping! I used to be a clothes horse—one of those people that clothes seemed to be made for. When you’re shaped like that belts are useful but not essential. The natural taper of the legs and torso tend to hold up pants. When guys put on weight they end up with the gut conundrum—over or under. This is a serious question with major fashion implications. You can go for suspenders which neatly solve the problem but leave you looking out of touch with the modern age. You can wear the belt over the gut which, besides making you look a little dorky, works fine until the outward pressure of the stomach on the pants forces them to slide off. If none of those appeal, you can wear the belt under the gut and constantly fight to hold your pants up. My personal preference is to get a belt with some room for adjustment that you can wear under the gut by tightening it as much as possible. So I’ve been measuring and researching and come up with two purchases that meet my needs. The first is a mahogany double stitched leather belt with nickel buckle from UBG holsters. This is a real heavy leather belt, not like the thin easily stretched piece I’ve been wearing for the past few years. I’ve been considering getting one of these for a while as part of my perfect pocket pistol project (more on that in a future post.) It will look good, helps complete a project, and since the vender hand makes them based on the customer’s measurements it should fit well too. This will be my dress/public belt. The second is a heavy duty synthetic wilderness instructor belt. One of the problems I run into with leather belts is that they stretch over time. Eventually all that beautiful cowhide is an inch or longer than it used to be. The most commonly used notch begins to expand and warp. The solution, use a belt in informal settings that can’t stretch. Enter the wilderness instructor belt. This monster is rated at 5,900 pounds--minimum. One of the customer testimonials describes the successful use of a wilderness instructor belt as a toe hitch for a car. So yes, this thing shouldn’t stretch under my pidly 300+ pounds. Bonus, it will match my combat boots. I freely admit that part of the attraction to the “action hero program” is that I get to buy and use cool stuff. That was one of my promises to myself…as long as I keep the faith I get to reap the benefits. I like nice things, fine scotch, custom firearms, high-tech gear…you name it. At some level this comes down to me rationalizing a purchase I probably would have made anyway. On another level though, I need something to take my mind off all the stuff I’m not eating/drinking/buying every day. I’m not deprived by any stretch of the imagination. After years of poor eating, even when I’m not particularly hungry sometimes it feels like I’m cutting all the joy out of my life—bad food, good liquor, soda, caffeine…etc. An astute read of that sentence will show that I don’t really care about those things…I just feel their absence—much like when an amputee feels their lost limb itching. That’s part of why I keep searching for new recepies, new ways to spend time outside, and new ways to positively reinforce good choices. It’s one thing to stop eating unhealthy choices. But at some level I have to replace the joy I got from those behaviors with something better. On a related topic, I’ve decided to clarify my philosophy re-alcohol. I’ve had maybe six drinks in the last month—usually at eateries or at friends’ homes. I don’t need alcohol, but I do like to drink socially, especially in large groups. On the one hand I want to get a bottle of something to celebrate my success during our upcoming Friday night dinner gathering. On the other I feel guilty thinking about it due to the expense and the calories (both of which could be better spent elsewhere.) After talking to the brunette about it, I’ve decided to hold off purchasing any alcohol, save for major events, until September. The local liquor store has a deal then where everything in the store goes for a dollar over wholesale. This gives me something to look forward too, as I’m planning on 3-4 nice bottles. It also removes some of the conflicting feelings I have on the subject. Today started off well with a 303.2 pound weigh in. Provided I finish at less than 305 pounds tomorrow, that will put this week at a decrease from last week’s average of 305.5. I thought it was wishful thinking, but I really do seem to be losing weight at a modest rate. Today’s intake: Breakfast=a bowl of oatmeal with honey, a banana, and a glass of water. Work=an apple, a pepper turkey and Swiss wrap, a Greek yogurt, and a few unsalted almonds. Dinner=a bowl of chicken and rice with mixed veggies.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The making of an action hero pt15

Entry #14. This weekend marked several notable achievements for our work with the humanist movement. Saturday agent Squish and I drove out to the North Central Railroad trail for some hacking and patrolling. The trailhead hosted a poorly defended enlightened portal. Squish took down the 8 resonators and claimed it for our faction with little effort. After completing a few hacks, we set off down the trail. The NCR is a walking and biking trail built on a repurposed railroad line. The path roughly follows a deep still stream where one can fish in the shade of the overhanging trees. It is a popular spot for joggers, bikers, dog walkers, and hikers, all of whom we encountered in quantity during our adventure. It was nice to get out and just walk for a while in “nature.” Squish and I pretended to be normal people for 2.5 miles down and back, five miles total. I think we’ll be returning there soon as it was a pleasant distraction even with the 90 degree weather. The next day agent MX joined us for a trip up to a shopping center near where I work. The area is packed with portals tied to statues and memorials. We walked around the center twice while Squish repeatedly hacked six of them. The sun was shining; the breeze was blowing, and the people watching was diverting. On our way out we rediscovered a little Italian dessert shop that sells fresh gelato, baked goods, and Italian style beverages. I always forget it’s there since this particular shop is an offshoot of an iconic Baltimore eatery. Whenever I think of the name, I default to the original location. I allowed myself two cookies which sadly weren’t as good as I remember. Even so it was nice to sit in the air-conditioning with Squish and MX having a snack on a summer’s day. It reminded me of when my parents used to take us to Ben and Jerri’s when I was a kid. The diet has had some successes and some failures since my last post. I’ve managed to avoid ordering out as well as buying junk food. The brunette and I have eaten at home for most of this time. On the other hand, I discovered a half gallon of vanilla ice milk the same day my company decided to send me a tin of gourmet cookies as a morale gift. I don’t think it had the affect they intended. I’ve been having cravings lately—urges for sausage, candy, cheeseburgers…etc. I didn’t gorge on the assorted desserts, but I did dig in. My weight this morning was up to 306.8 instead of the near constant 305.8 I’ve stabilized around. I want the bad food…but I can resist buying and ordering it. It’s the food that’s already here that’s proving a problem. I’m also having trouble remembering to use the light box in the morning. This all points to a general downward spiral to my mood. I’m sure I’ll be on the upswing soon enough; but until then everything seems a little bit darker and a little bit more foreboding. The weird part of that is that the more I get the urge to give up and emotionally eat, the angrier I get. It pisses me off that I’ve been generally successful and a no-reason negativity stint is threatening that success. That is making it easier to resist the bad thing for now. I located a set of instructional DVDs for my steel clubs. I get paid this Friday so they’re tops on my list to acquire. I’m ever mindful that if I let myself put off picking up the components to exercise, I’ll likely never get back on that band wagon. I’m going to look at finding something new and positive to obsess over—something that I can spend time on but that doesn’t cost a bunch of money. I’m also going to try reading less news while I’m at work as doing so inevitably puts me in a fowl mood with predictable shading of my outlook. Today’s intake: Breakfast=a bowl of oatmeal with blueberries and honey, a banana, and a glass of water. Work meal=a pepper turkey wrap, an apple, and a container of Greek yogurt. Dinner=leftover pasta with asparagus, mango jalapeno chicken sausage, red pepper, cilantro, and onion.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The making of an action hero, pt14

Entry #13. There’s a war out there, a war for the future of human kind. Agents Squish, MX, and I are on the front lines patrolling, hacking, and claiming new ground for humanity. Saturday we loaded up Squish’s mobile command center and drove out to a secluded piece of managed property for some quality field work. I grew up running wild in birch and pine forests. This wasn’t anything like my youth. Our chosen area was crossed by streams and standing water. Thick clumps of saw grass stood belt-high. The ground seemed to give way with every other step as my boots sunk into the mud. Patches of sticker bush were everywhere. In spite of the ruff going it was nice to be outside. Dear sign was all over the place, so fresh that even MX could see the tracks. Frogs and cicadas harmonized with woodpeckers and whippoorwills. Squish and MX waded in a stretch of sandy-bottom stream while I kept watch in the shade of an old lightning struck tree. The only sign of civilization was the distant rumble of cars and the chirp of the tracker program searching for X.M. fields. After our brush with nature, we drove through Hunt Valley and hacked a series of enlightened portals while claiming new territory for the humanist movement. You can’t go a hundred feet up there without encountering a lay-line. Agent MX walked me through a gas station to grab iced tea while Squish refueled the command center. Iced drinkage tastes better after an hour of ruff hiking in 90 degree weather; it tastes of achievement. The last week has been a win for the most part. I averaged 305.4 pounds, a drop of 1.04 pounds. Food has been generally good, with particular avoidance of ordering out and junk food. I made BBQ chicken wraps on the fourth. They were done up with peppers, onions, cilantro, and chicken lightly sautéed in Andy Nelson’s BBQ sauce and topped with jack cheese. I had two and a couple glasses of wine with dinner. I also tried out a marinated salad that came out acceptably, though some tweaking is required. Saturday I had dinner at my parents’ dining room. They make heart healthy food, but have less healthy options where desired. I had tofu lasagna, squash with tomatoes, and a green goddess salad with light cheesecake for dessert. It was delicious and I was very full afterwards. The more I focus on eating healthy, the more I get pushed toward vegetarian choices. I like vegetarian, but I like meat too. It’s just sort of working out that way. Sunday the dam broke. We were reading a fantastic book called Promise of blood (book one in the powder mage trilogy.) It’s one of the best books I’ve read in the last year, bar none. One of the characters is a chef, a very accomplished chef. The description of all the food plus the late discovery that I was out of some of my basic ingredients lead us to order dinner for the first time in a month or more. I really really really wanted a burger. I made the call with every intention of ordering a chunk of charred meat with bacon and cheese and all the fixings. I ended up ordering a chef’s salad with added bacon and a piece of lemon cake for dessert. I don’t know what happened. It kind of bothers me because there wasn’t a conscious choice involved. The woman read off the description of the salad with all the veggies and it was ordered before I really thought about it. Before that she read off all the pizza specials and they all sounded terrible… I still like the idea of junk food. I like the remembered and media enhanced perception of the 1100 calorie meal. When it comes down to the thing, the act of ordering, my mind recalls the calorie counts for all the side orders of fries and 800+ calorie burgers…and it just doesn’t sound as good any more. I feel like a kid who just found out that Santa isn’t real. I don’t get it. It isn’t like any of this is new to me. The lair is coming along nicely. I still need a good workbench, a second shelving unit, and a real executive desk. That said, our cleaning lady helped me move some of the furniture around to a more efficient design. I’ve trashed a bunch of random junk, freeing up lots of space. My goal is to have a working room up and running by October. That’s going to take picking up a low table for the brunette’s display case, the afore mentioned components for me, and some major hanging of posters and pictures. The light box came today. I am making every effort not to drag my feet on the exercise. For this to work, as with so many other things, I have to build myself a foundation that I can live with. The box is part of that, providing me with the chance to set my sleep cycle in order and hopefully raise my spirits. I have lots of projects, but making exercise part of my life again will take priority. Now I have to use the box, put myself on a regular schedule that will get me up earlier, and find instructional materials for the steel clubs. I started today at 305.8 pounds That’s been my most common number lately three or four times over. I had a bowl of oatmeal and blueberries for breakfast with a banana and a glass of milk. Work meal was a turkey and Swiss wrap, an apple, and a snack pack of mixed nuts and crazens. For dinner I sautéed whole garlic cloves, sliced yellow onion, diced tomatoes, chicken sausage, sliced mushrooms, diced red pepper, and sliced zucchini in pesto sauce. I added one of our few remaining cans of cream of mushroom soup to thicken the sauce and spread the mixture over penne pasta. It was full of veggies and flavor and goodness. The brunette even approved of the zucchini which is a miracle. We split a gourmet bar of salted dark chocolate for dessert. The plan: My first reward to myself will be a pair of metal framed, mirrored aviator glasses when I average less than 300 pounds in one week. Squish has agreed to help me pick something that won’t make me look stupid. This is grate motivation since I’m getting tired of MX styling better than me while on our Saturday jaunts.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The making of an action hero pt13

Entry #12. Action heroes are supposed to have a generally positive outlook on life. They aren’t supposed to give up—ever. That’s one of the things that makes them heroes, they never quit. Ever since last week I’ve not been feeling very positive. Maybe it’s the overcast weather. Maybe it’s low-grade stress building up. As the brunette rightly pointed out yesterday I’ve made several small but telling changes to my diet; maybe that’s it. I hate feeling grumpy/angry/out of it for no reason. I’m used to being jaded, cynical…etc. That’s normal and healthy. The thing is that even when I’m skeptically viewing life through oakum’s raiser, I try to laugh about it. I try not to let the little things get too me. I’ll vent about the fiddly bits of life. But when the venting’s done I try to put it all behind me and move on. At some level I want to be part of the solution—not the problem. One good thing about recording my health-related experience is that it has made me more aware of the times when circumstance conspires to trip me up. I have lots of things, nice things too. Just because I don’t have an extra grand in the bank isn’t a good reason to inhale a large pizza. Worrying about money, which we have budgeted out and well under control, makes no sense. There doesn’t have to be a rational reason for feeling—off I suppose. I simply hate feeling my stores of mental fortitude depleted for no apparent reason. Today started off with a promising 303.4 pound weigh in. Breakfast was a bowl of oatmeal and blueberries, a banana, and a glass of orange juice. Work meal was a mixed nuts bag, a ham and Swiss wrap, and an apple. Dinner was chicken over brown rice, Asian veggies, and a glass of water. I picked up the makings for a salad for tomorrow while topping off our groceries. Strangely I feel better now than I did this morning. Maybe it’s hauling thirty pounds of groceries home over a half mile, maybe it’s not buying junk food, and maybe writing this is helping…

Monday, July 1, 2013

The making of an action hero pt 12

Entry #11. I went on patrol for the first time with agents Squish and MX on Saturday. Squish used his iPad in conjunction with a program called Ingress to scan the area for signs of local X.M. portals and energy deposits. The iPad’s GPS works to locate portals that other agents have set over high-energy areas and important landmarks. We found our first portal at a graveyard that had been restored by a local historical group. It was hidden away behind a power tower on an out-of-the-way hilltop. Getting there entailed hiking across a stream, skirting the edge of a huge drop, and winding our way behind several apartment complexes. Agent MX suffered a minor injury in the process which I treated with the med-kit. We sat on the top of a hill in the shade of an early Saturday morning and hacked the portal after the Ingress program completed its cool down period. Fighting evil is hard work, but it has its perks. It’s been a while since I’ve gone outside for it’s own sake. There is something refreshing about sitting on a stone wall under a tree with friends near to hand, the world laid out beneath you, and a hard link into your enemy’s mainframe. After initiating two successful hacks, we trekked toward another marked portal. This required passing through a soccer field and wending our way to the local library. I’ll have to go back to that field and bring a picnic lunch some time. The bleachers seem perfectly placed to sprawl out and enjoy a summer afternoon. The second portal sported significant defenses which we weren’t able to crack. Squish, our resident decker, will have to up his hacking skills. Regardless, we located two portals, covered approximately 2k cross country, and spent an enjoyable two hours in the great outdoors. Note: Ingress is a real game that acts just as described. It’s basically geocashing with a twist. The constant sensor beeps, periodic announcements by the calm female voice, and need for a hand held device adds a measure of realism to the process. It’s not a game I’d want to play every day, but as an excuse to go outside and walk around randomly it’s pretty cool. I’m looking forward to seeding a few portals myself. I just have to remember to bring suntan lotion and a water bottle. Last week I averaged 306.44 pounds. I’m counting the days I get up for work at the same time and go through the same process. I still weigh in every morning, but for the numbers to be comparable, they have to be taken under as similar circumstances as possible. This morning I weighed 306.8. If this turns into something where I’m using the fact that I know I won’t have to report my weekend days as an excuse to cheat, then I’ll go back to adding them in. I’ve made some advances. Saturday I turned down both Pizza and a chance to order fast food at the drive through. I’m hoping my refusal doesn’t make other people uncomfortable…I just have to say no if I have the chance to make better choices. Saturday wasn’t a complete win, I had leftover Indian food for lunch and breakfast, but even that wasn’t terrible. I could have gobbled both servings in one gluttonous rampage, but opted to split the fun up over two different meals. Saturday also saw the arrival of my steel clubs. They look like a baseball bat that has been cut a third of the way up the barrel. Most of the weight is out in front of the grip. The resulting torque makes them feel considerably heavier than a dumb bell of the same mass. I can use the five pounders without much difficulty; but the ten pounders are going to take a while for me to work up. I have to get a training manual, light box, and adjust my sleep schedule before I start training in earnest. Even with those small hurdles remaining, I can’t put off exercise any more. I have the tools. I started today with good intentions. Breakfast was a bowl of oatmeal with raspberries, a banana, and a glass of orange juice. Lunch was a ham and Swiss wrap, bag of mixed nuts, and an apple. Dinner was supposed to be chicken and mixed veggies over brown rice. Unfortunately I ended up burning my hand with melted plastic (another fire averted through paranoia.) After that there was no way I was using the stovetop for the rest of the day, So I had a small portion of left over mac-and-cheese and a second ham and Swiss wrap. I didn’t order anything. I didn’t order anything. I didn’t order anything. Must remember that.