Pre-Vacation Thoughts

In slightly over 12 hours I will be leaving for a week: Going on vacation. Gods, I am ready for the prep work to be over, and the vacation to actually start. Most of my time the last few days has been spent in preparing for the next week, but I have had a chance to do a little thinking about this journey I am currently on.

My ultimate goal is to reach a goal weight of 225 pounds by December 19, 2012. That is two years, and I think that is a realistic goal. Realistic and healthy; and the whole point of this journey is to reach a state of health.
OK, in a spirit of all honesty, the main goal is to get healthy, but being able to by clothes from a normal store is also a bit of a goal  as well. Oh, and to be able to fit into seats at theaters and concert halls. Those are goals, but the MAIN goal is to get healthy.

So, other than losing a great deal of weight, but are the other things I need to do to get healthy? That is  the question I have been thinking about a lot the last couple of days.

Hold on, there is a mini rant coming: You know, when I finally stand in judgment before my Creator, one of the many questions that Creator, whoever or whatever it is, has to answer for is why the food that is good for you does not taste as good as the food that is bad for you. Another one is why are all the activities that make for good health not as pleasant as the ones that do not lead to health?

OK, rant over; back to the question at hand: what else do I have to do to get healthy?
Obviously I need to start exercising; really exercising, not the penny ante exercising I have been doing. Both with cardio type exercising and conditioning or toning type exercises.
I also need to quit smoking. I think the great FBG smoke out is going to occur on April 16. That is the day after the contest at work ends. Time to pick up another challenge.

And that is all for the night.  I will post again when I get back from vacation.

 

 

 

Advertisements

On my mind tonight

Since I started this current weight loss plan I have significantly changed  my food intake considerably, and one of the biggest changes is the fact that I have practically eliminated the amount of food I eat from restaurants. Before starting this project I used to eat the majority of my meals from restaurants. While I did not , usually, go to fast food places, it would not have been unusual for me to eat at some kind of buffet place three or four times a week. Not healthy, because EVERYONE tends to overeat at buffet style restaurants, and bloody expensive as well. I particularly like Chinese Food buffets; the staff at Panda Buffet in Bartlett knew me by name, and new what table I prefered.

Now, in the last 76 days (yeah, I am counting) I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I have eaten at restaurants. I have become quite proficient at preparing clean meals at home. My skill at packing lunches to take to work with me has grown significantly as well. In developing these skills I have learned quite a bit about myself, and I will discuss that in a different post. What I am concerned about tonight is my vacation.

You seen, one week from today I am leaving Memphvegas to spend a week with about 3000 of my closest friends at a week  long SCA event; yeah, it is time for Gulf Wars again.  In years past I would just march down to the food merchants for meals each day. Of course there will also be food at the Gleann Abhann social. Hell, a person would actually have to work hard to starve at Gulf Wars.

Unfortunately, the food at the vendors, and most of the food that would be available from the other people attending the war, will not be the type of food I have been eating as part of my project. So, I am trying to figure out what I can make ahead of time and pack in a cooler for the week.

I know I can make meals ahead of time and freeze them. That’s what I do for the majority of my meals now: make it, package in single serving containers, freeze , and when needed reheat in the microwave. No, the question is going to be how to keep the pre-prepared meals frozen for the week, and how to reheat them when necessary. I do not really have any answers at this point, but I am thinking about the subject.

Current Reading Devices and List

This past Christmas my blessed Mother gave me what is quite possibly the greatest Christmas gift I have ever received: A Kindle E-Book Reader. I cannot adequately begin to describe how cool this thing is; I have been carrying it everywhere since the day I opened it. So far I have purchased ten books for it, and that means that I am carrying with me 10 books everywhere I go. When you combine that with the audio books on my Ipod, I am a veritable walking library.

I mostly listen to the audio books on the Ipod while I’m driving to and from work, running errands, or working on some kind of other project here in the house. The Kindle gets read whenever I have time to just sit and devote myself to reading.

Among the collection of books I have on the IPod is the entire collection of the Aubrey/Maturin series by Patrick O’Brien. These novels feature the adventures of Captain Jack Aubrey and his best friend/ship’s surgeon Steven Maturin of the British Royal Navy during and just after the Napoleonic Wars. I’ve read them all before, and loved them, but when listening to them read by a narrator I often find myself noticing things about the characters, or the plot that I missed upon the first reading.

The series starts with Master and Commander. Jack Aubrey has just been promoted to the rank  of Master and Commander of the Sophie in the Mediterranean. He is based out of Port Minorca. He strikes a friendship with Dr. Maturin, who has temporarily been left ashore without employment and invites him to become the ships surgeon for the Sophie.

The story then goes on to describe several cruises the Sophie undertakes. Because of his luck in taking prizes, Aubrey quickly earns the nickname of “Lucky Jack”. His skill as a sailor, and as an officer, enable him to form the crew of the Sophie into a effective naval fighting force.

When we first meet Steven Maturin, he is mostly ignorant of the Navy, and of naval customs. It is through him that O’Brian describes the customs of the navy, and of naval terms. These novels are considered by many to be some of the most historically accurate descriptions of the British navy of the period. I find them fascinating.

Meanwhile, I’m reading Moby Dick on the Kindle. I know , I know. Moby Dick is widely considered to be one of the “Great American Novels”. I also know I should have read it years ago when I was in high school or college, but I never did. I have to tell you, I’m not seeing the quality of the novel. Melville is overly verbose, and the story could have benefited from the work of a rather ruthless editor. It is it at times preachey, moralizing, and, to me, utterly annoying. However, I have pledged to finish it, so I will. If nothing else, I know I have better, more interesting books waiting to be read.

October 8, 2010: Cormac’s SCA Origin

According to my new blogging schedule, Friday is the day I blog about the SCA. Last Friday I talked about Coronation. This week I think I’m going to describe how I came to join the SCA. It’s a strange story, but some people might find it entertaining. So, here goes…

I am not exactly sure when I first heard of the SCA. In my mind I knew of the organization some time before I started college. I vaguely remember reading about the Society many many years ago; but it was a story about a group far away from where I was. I thought it was kind of an interesting idea, I mean I love studying history, but like I said, it was far, far away.

I do know that while I was in college I saw some folks in “funny” clothes, and even funnier armor beating each other with what I thought were baseball bats on MSU’s Drill Field. I was intrigued, but no one I knew was involved, and at the time most of my time was spent finding ways to avoid my classes and get as drunk as possible. Amazing how many ways you can find to do that if you are properly motivated, and I was.

Now, let’s skip forward from 1990 to 2002. I had recently moved to Memphis, and my only hobby, my only social interaction other than work, was playing an 0n-line game called Everquest. In the game I had met, and started spending far, far to much time socializing with a lady from Madison Wisconsin. I’ll skip the gory details, nobody wants to hear them, and I certainly don’t want to remember them, but eventually that Lady decided to move to Memphis, and we were going to be together always. Yeah, right.

Now, I mention She Who Must Not Be Named, because over the course of our many months of conversation, and face to face time (Believe me, there was not nearly enough of that. Not nearly enough.), she had mentioned that she had been member of the SCA for years up in Wisconsin. We thought that might be a cool thing to do when she moved. It would be a way for us to spend time together, and to meet some other people to socialize with.

Now, as our plans evolved that Spring, it was eventually decided she would move the last week of April. She would, in fact, arrive in Memphis the last Thursday in April. I had done some research, and found out that the local SCA group, The Barony of Grey Niche, was holding their spring event, Beltaine, that very weekend. We decided to attend. She made me a very basic tunic, and brought it with her when she headed south.

Eight years later, I still remember that day perfectly. Perfectly. We arrived at the Piersol group camp some time between 9:30 and 10:00 AM that morning. It was  a gorgeous spring day, not to cool, and not to warm. A pleasant breeze was blowing. We trolled in, and although I didn’t know it at the time, the ladies that trolled us in, THL Caitriona Campbell, and THL Luca, would, in time, become two of my closest friends. After we trolled in, we left the Museum Shelter, and headed down toward the main field.

I saw pavilions set up around the fighting field. I saw beautiful, multicolored flags, and pennons,with people’s heraldry. I saw a lot of gorgeous women (hey, I’m a guy,I notice these things),  and I saw guys that positively made me look small, in armor, and being perfectly accepted.

I guess I should point out that prior to becoming a member of the SCA I was used to being the largest person in any group of people I was likely to be a part of. I’ve been overweight all of my life, and in the past I’ve had … self esteem issues because of that. Those issues are mostly gone now, and what few remain are so …trivial, because of my involvement in the SCA. Hell, that day I was far from the largest person there. I may have been in the top five, but only barely. What is important, though, was that these large guys were not ostracized, or sidelined. They were accepted, welcomed. No one paid any attention to their size at all. This was the first time I had ever been in a group like that. It made an impression, let me tell you.

SWMNBN wanted to attend a coif making class, so after looking around the field for a while, and looking around the hall for a while, we headed down to Cabin Builiding B, where the class was being held. I don’t sew, and have no interest in learning to sew, so while she was in the class, which was taught by Vickie and Doc, I just kind of hung out on the porch, and talked to people. Again, I had never, ever been to any kind of event where I was among so many friendly, open people. I met Raven , and a few others.

After her class we went back up to the field to watch the fighting. The Silver Torc Tournament was over by that time, but easily a dozen people, both men and women, were taking part in pickup fights. I had no real desire to fight myself but I was thrilled to be watching those that were fighting. I was amazed that it was up to the honor of each combatant to determine what was a good blow. No judges. No referees. What a concept.

The day passed all to quickly. Eventually it was time to go to take a seat for Court. As we sat in the hall, I asked SWMNBN what the significance of the of the various banners were. That is when Lady Blue, and Lord Brendan, turned around, introduced themselves, and started explaining which banner was associated with what household, or peer. I began asking a ton of questions, which they answered. They made an effort to explain what each of the awards were for as they were presented in court. Oh, and let me tell you, I just thought I was impressed with the organization prior to court, but during and after court, I knew I was impressed. Something about seeing the joy on people’s faces when they received an award, but more importantly seeing the joy on the member of the audience when people received awards just really, really impressed me.

After Court, Blue and …his SCA name is Brendan, but he introduced himself as Neal, and that is still how I think of him, invited us to sit feast with them. During feast they told stories about their involvement, the local group, local notables, and just generally did their very best to make us feel welcome. The feast itself, was…well it full of what I am convinced was very good food, but just not the kind of food I really liked. Apparently the dishes were not to Blue’s taste either cause as the last remove  was cleared away, she and Neal invited us to the Shadow Legion Camp for what she called “Legion Feast at it’s Finest”. That is how I was introduced to Kane, Illissa, and the Shadow Legion.  Damn glad I was.

We stayed at the Legion camp until very late that evening, but eventually it was time to leave. As we drove home that night, SWMNBN asked me, “what did you think of it all?” My answer was simple; I loved it. I wanted to know more. I wanted to be part of it all. I remember telling her, “I want to be part of running something like what we saw today. I want to be part of making it possible for people to have as much fun as I had today”.

By November of that year, SWMNBN was gone. Our relationship was over, and a lot of really bad stuff had happened. But of all the things she did, all the hurtful things she did, she did introduce me to the SCA. A lot has changed; I know a lot more about the organization, and I’ve seen some of the bad things as well as all of the good things. I’ve met, literally, hundreds of people; most of them good, some very bad, but even the bad ones are (usually) better than the people I meet in the regular world. Yeah, a lot of things have changed, but I”m still here. I still want to be part of the SCA, I still want to be part of running something that enables people to have as much fun as I had that day.  I pray to all gods, great and small, that I always feel that.

Friday October 1, 2010: Thoughts on Coronation

My plan for this weekend was to attend Coronation. We all know how that plan worked out, but I did spend a lot of time today thinking about the event. Specifically, I was thinking about what makes Coronation such a pleasant event to attend. It is one of the kingdom level events, and that always draws a larger than normal turnout. This means, of course, that when you are at Coronation you get a chance to visit with, talk to, and generally hangout with a larger number of people than you would get to do at a local group event.
All events, once they actually start, follow a set pattern, or rhythm, and Kingdom Events are no different. Tonight people will be arriving on site until quite late, the last will probably come through troll sometime between 1:00 and 2:30 AM. Tomorrow will start with the kitchen crew making breakfast for the attendees, and at some point there will be, probably, a Royal Breakfast. The real activities will start some time around 10:00 with the first of the morning Courts.
Coronation is all about the old, or current, King and Queen stepping down, and the  Prince and Princess stepping up as King and Queen. The ending of  a reign is not a sad thing, but it is an ending. The current Royals will have a final chance to present awards, and quite a lot of those will be given to the royals entourage, or to people that have helped them significantly during their reign. Then, in Gleann Abhann anyway, the King “dies”. Sometimes the Queen as well. Sometimes from poison, sometimes fro foreign assassins, and in the case of Havord’s second or third reign, by members of their own entourage. It’s a great bit of schtick, but it does have a very real symbolic meaning. The Kingdom is without a king. The former Queen, leaves her crown on her throne, and departs along with her entourage, taking with them the former king’s body (usually). At this point the knights of the kingdom come forth to guard the thrones, and the crowns, until the new king is crowned. The knights are the guardians of the kingdom in the absence of a king. The first of the morning Courts is now over.
After a short break, usually just long enough for the Prince and Princess to get changed into their finery and assemble their entourage,  the second morning court will begin. The Prince will approach, occasionally being challenged to their right to the crown by members of the Peerages, or the Kingdom Seneschal.  After asserting his right to the crown, he will crown himself. Next his consort will approach, and she will be crowned as Queen, by the King. Next their entourage will approach, and take their places, and the real work of the second court will begin. That work can best be described as “oath taking”.
The Oath of Fealty is another very important and symbolic part of the SCA, and I’ll go into more detail about it in another post, For now it is enough to say that the oath will be repeated several times tomorrow morning. First the Peerages. Some Kings call each Order separately, some choose to call all three Orders at the same time. Next to take the oath will be the Kingdom Officers, followed by the Landed Barons. Finally, the rest of the people will come forth, take a knee, and take the Oath. Over the years I have taken the Oath of Fealty as a member of an entourage, as a kingdom officer, and as a member of the general population, and in the near future I’ll take it again. Each and every time the experience has been a moving one.
Once the Oath Taking is done, the court will proceed with a few awards, but not a lot of business. Most of the business of the new King and Queen will take place at the afternoon or evening Court.
Once the second Court has concluded, the rest of the day will be taken up with a couple of different tournaments; usually for to chose the King’s Champion, and Queen’s Champion. Of course there is often a number of meetings of various Orders, Peerage Circles, and other groups. But those will be the subject of a different post.

Week 1

So,  the end of the first work week of June is at hand. Let’s review:
* One of the departments at my company got a very bad audit from one of their main clients. It looks like they might lose a significant part of their business.
* The husband of one of my co-workers sent her a bouquet of roses.  She called him to let him know when she would be home from work, and when she got home, she found that he had shot himself in the head.
* The oil well in the Gulf is still leaking, and the oil itself is expected to reach the Florida beaches in the coming week. However, British Petroleum says they are sorry, so that’s ok.
* Two very good friends of mine are going through some rather serious marital problems. I truly hope they are able to work them out. If they are not, I hope they can both recover from it and move on with their lives.
* I have had a surprisingly productive week at work.
* The NRA sent me a membership offer because they are concerned that my right to own a Uzi loaded with cop killer bullets is under attack by a bunch of liberal anti gun nuts. I might join if they ever decide to champion my right to own a flame thrower. Until then I’ll use their mailers as a coaster for my coffee cup.

I shall be interested to see what the next week brings.

Do more than curse the darkness.

It’s already Friday? Good lord, where did the week go?  It seems like just yesterday that I posted the quote for this week’s challenge. I distinctly remember thinking that  I would have plenty of time to write my post about it before the weekend. Seems I might have been a bit optimistic about that. Well, there is no time like the present, so it is time to get to writing.

For those of you that need a reminder, this week’s quote was this, “Sometimes it is better to light a flamethrower than curse the darkness”, from the inspired pen of Mr. Terry Pratchet (Just an aside, if you have not read his Discworld series you have missed some of the most entertaining and thought provoking fiction you could ever hope to find).

Before I get to my thoughts on this, and why I like it so much, I need to admit a couple of things.
1. I get angry a lot. When I get angry, I tend to do, and say, some really stupid things.  I don’t really like this about myself,  but it is true.

2. Over the years I’ve worked diligently to learn how to…if not let go of the anger, to at least channel it into productive activity. And, finally,

3. Sometimes, even when I’m not angry, people that don’t know me well think that I am angry because of my demeanor and, admittedly, odd sense of humor

With those admissions made public, let’s move on to the subject at hand.

The simple fact is that all of us have things in our lives, or in our hobby, business setting, or in the world in general that we think should be changed. Things that we wish were different, or more fair, more just, whatever. Depending on what the situation is, we sometimes feel that as badly as we want the situation to be different there is nothing we can do about it. When we ( or at least when I) feel that the only thing we can do is talk (rant) about the problem, that is what we do. We talk. We wish. We rant. In other words, we want the light, but all we do is curse the darkness.

Let me tell you something, cursing the darkness never, ever, get’s the light turned on. The light comes on when people (including myself, I need to be very, very clear that I’m just as guilty of this kind of behavior as anyone else) stop cursing  the darkness and doing what is necessary to get the damn light on.

Now, the first step to getting  the lights  on, the first step in making a change in whatever situation you want to change, is as simple as realizing that all of us can do more than just talk. We can act. True,  in a lot of cases, we can only act in very small ways, but WE CAN ACT. We, all us, can act.  And, if enough of us act,  if enough of us do something as simple as light a candle, we can light up the world.

At this point, I want to tell you another secret: once we realize we can do something as small as lighting a candle, it gets a whole lot easier to light another candle. A whole lot easier to do something more, maybe something a little more difficult. The more you do, the more candles you light, the more you can do. Trust me, I can speak to the truth of this from my own personal experience.

Now, occasionally, you will find that simply lighting candles isn’t enough. Yes, it does change things, but the darkness, or the situation you want to change, is going to require more action. More direct action. The light of a small candle is a start, but sometimes in order to bring great change, you need more than light. You need fire. Fire not only provides night, but it also burns things (situations, buildings, etc) down,  so that rebuilding can take place. That, my friends, is when you put down the candles, and apply the match to the flamethrower.

When and if you decide to reach for the flamethrower,  you need to keep a few things in mind. To begin with you need to remember to be very careful where you aim the fire. Yes, you can make great changes, but if you are not careful, you can also cause a lot of harm. So, pick your target carefully, focus the fire narrowly, and do not lose control. When you lose control a controlled burn becomes a wildfire and that does no one any good.

The next thing to keep in mind when you ignite the flamethrower of your actions to change the world is that a lot of people have worked very hard to get the world nice and dark, and they will try to put out the fires of change. Yeah, I know, as hard as it is to believe some creatures; slugs, cockroaches, professional whiners, etc, like to live in the dark.

Finally, remember that no matter how careful you are, no matter how tightly you focus the fire of your flame thrower, there will be consequences you were not expecting. Yes, you will make great changes, and you will create a great light, but it is possible that some people you didn’t intend to will get scorched along the way. It is probable that you, yourself will be singed a bit. When that happens don’t try to hide from it. Apologize, profusely, to the innocent bystanders and do whatever you have to in order to make things right with them, and apply aloe to your own burns. Once that is done, take a look around, and decide if you need another candle, or another tank of fuel for your flamethrower. Just don’t fall back into the dark.