6.30.2008

Yay. Tennessee. Wow.

Truly majestic. I am nearly overcome and crap.

5 hours to home.

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Sent via SMS. Please forgive any typos or pointlessness.

JoeTip #31152

If you ever have cause to use Great Stuff brabd foam spray sealant/insulation, WEAR GLOVES. I've been trying to scrub this shit off for 2 days.

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Sent via SMS. Please forgive any typos or pointlessness.

6.29.2008

The new economy vs. our new GPS-based world

So, I'm sitting in front of someone's house in suburban Lexington, KY. I don't know the people inside. Never been to this person's house or even this neighborhood before. And just a moment before arriving here, I realized I have absolutely no business being here.

So, why am I here? Because, according to Garmin, this is the site of Totally Trained Fitness, and I need to get a morning workout in.

It is my assumption that this house is someone's home-based business, based somehow in the fitness arena. Garmin simply added the site to it's index based on the business profile it picked up from some directory.

And now, I'm sitting in front of it, blogging on my mobile phone about how annoying this is instead of trying to locate another gym... And THAT is because there is apparently a horribe fitness economy in Lexington, as the past 3 gyms I've driven to are shut down. Not just closed, but dilapidated and run down and for lease.

The GPS maufacturers can pick up tiny home-based fitness businesses the moment they show up, but can't bother to check up on listings for businesses that - from all appearances - have been closed for YEARS.

I can't wait to see how this plays out over the next few years.

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Sent via SMS. Please forgive any typos or pointlessness.

6.26.2008

Does anyone proofread anymore? Ever?

Jeremy sent me a link to this article in the Daily Mail about a heron swooping down and eating a baby duckling.

Sad, I know, but such is nature. Plus, have you ever had duckling? It's ambrosia. I don't even defeather them, I just toss them right in the blender with protein powder for morning smoothies. Anyway...

The part that got me was just how large the mama duck and her ducklings are. They're HUGE, when you stack them against that heron. Of course, there's nothing in the background to give you perspective, but the "journalist" who penned this story thankfully mentions that the bird has a wingspan of 70-80 feet. That makes this breed of heron larger than every plane in Piper's production line.

Here, a piper and a heron are seen indulging in a little competitive duckling hunting.
Why no, this is not a photoshop job. The Daily Mail says so.




Consequently, that makes those ducklings the size of a medium sized dog.

Either that, or someone at the Daily Mail fucked up... Again.

In the interest of posterity (which is funny, because I doubt the Daily Mail cares enough to correct it), here's the original text from the article (emphasis mine):

Herons, which are wading birds, usually eat mainly fish or frogs and only occasionally bolster their meals with small mammals or birds.

With a wingspan of between 70 to 80ft, they are terrifying to smaller animals and birds when in full flight.

Come on... Really? This is how you use my modules?


Sorry. I know it seems I'm picking on this site lately, but that's because I am.

Imagine you went and spent 6 months building a hand-crafted sofa for someone, delicately carving figures into the wooden armrests and etching platinum inlays, only to have them turn it into a bed for their incontinent dog.

It doesn't matter how much they paid you, it still stings.

6.25.2008

What a problem to have

I've scrapped and re-written today's MI story 4 times now. I cannot get it together to get this story out.

The problem - I've been working really hard on the comic book storyline / script thing lately, and it's ALL I can think about. It's just locked in my head... I can't get rid of it, no matter what I do. I just keep thinking up all these nuances for my characters, bits of plot and dialogue keep floating in the way of the story due today.

I think this might be the first time that I've actually had problems writing because I can't stop writing. It's interesting.

Of course, I'm tempted to just ride this wave and keep working on the other project, since the juices are flowing and I'm in that zone. But today is the dealine - I owe the community a story TODAY. That's not something I'm going to take lightly, not anymore. Not if I want to be a REAL writerboy and not just some jackleg dork who plays with words now and again.

6.24.2008

Chuck Liddel @ Lenox Mall

I came in to get my macbook pro looked at and was greeted by this throng of UFC fans. I remember a time when I would have been right there with them... Provided 'Chuck Liddel' was replaced with Rowdy Roddy Piper.


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Sent via SMS. Please forgive any typos or pointlessness.

6.23.2008

What the HELL am I supposed to do with this?

Akira - DiVX with original VHS dub!

Ok, if you've been curious about the whole Akira thing, I've found a little present for you:

The entire movie on Google Video, complete with the ORIGINAL dub from the VHS (which is vastly superior). The uploader ripped the DVD for DiVX video, then put the original soundtrack to it, creating a fantastic viewing experience... For free :)

I've you've never seen it before and are a fan of anime (or just animation in general)... Get ready to have your mind blown.

If you've only seen the DVD and never got to see the theatrical screenings or VHS dub, this soundtrack and voice crew are FAR superior to the ones Pioneer used for the DVD release. This guy has a great write-up on the debacle. The original dub has Kaneda's voice done by the guy who did Leonardo's voice on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (I forget the guy's name, and don't feel like Googling). The new one... Well, it's just flaccid.

So, there you go, enjoy :)


**Update**

Cam Clarke. That's the guy who did Leonardo in TMNT. I couldn't just let it go. So there, now you know.

6.19.2008

Whim --> Win (DowntownComics.com Ad Case Study)

Sometimes, I do graphic design crap. I mention it sparsely here, mostly because my contract work is curiously boring to 99.9% of the population of everywhere. But sometimes, something really makes me beam and I have to share it. This is one such time:

I was asked in great haste by a good friend of mine, Doug at DowntownComics.com, to do an ad for their shop. He was a fan of the city-targeted book ads I did for Drew Curtis's book last year (feel free to dig around and look at them all, they're silly).

Now, given the huge success of all these comic-related properties lately, I knew that the big win to translate box-office success and community interest in these heroes into store visits was to play with the current round-up of movies, and let people know there is a story behind the movies that is rich and detailed, and that the guys at Downtown Comics were experts at helping you discover the history of these legendary characters.

I had about an hour to get it together and send it off. On a whim, I chose Batman, mostly because I'm REALLY excited about the new direction it's taken, and I'm really into the Christian Bale version of Batman.

Now, the destination for the ad is Indy.com, the local "who's who and what's hot" site for Indiana. It's a nice site, and is done with a tremendous amount of gloss and polish. Very well crafted. Lots of fine tuning, decorations and "flair" on the edges and corners.

Most of the ads running on that site are done with the exact same "style" - gloss, polish, figurework and textures in the background, gradients everywhere... In short, professional and nice.

That was the problem. They were literally blending in. You couldn't tell where the site ended and the ad began at first, and then once you realized it was an ad, it just fizzled.

For a comic book shop to stand out in the middle of all this gloss, it needed something... Simple. Purposely simple, in fact. Direct, to the point, and undeniable in its message.

So after taking a second to consider the site, this is what I came up with in almost exactly one hour:



And this is what it looks like placed on the site:


(Click image for full-size)


When I saw it live, I knew I'd succeeded in my goal - the ad is so dark with that Batman logo, in contrast to the slick and polished red gradient everywhere, it literally sucks your eye right to it. You cannot miss it. Then, the animation plays, and before you know it, you've just watched an advertisement.

I was happy, Doug was happy, and all was well. I went about eating my lunch.

Then, we got this email:

* * *
From: [Ad Manager]@indystar.com
Date: Thu, Jun 19, 2008 at 12:27 PM
Subject: Re: Downtown comics screen shot
To: Doug Stephenson

Doug,

I think it helps that the ad was one of the best I've seen for online
advertising. Nice work on your end. It does look good on the page.

[trim]

Sincerely, [Ad Manager]
* * *


Well now. That just made my day. I had to share :)


Alphabetic soul explosion

6.18.2008

6.17.2008

The 15-year tattoo, part 4

Another 4 hours today, and you can see, the other side of the city really puts this piece into perspective.










Yesssss... Getting closerrrrrr....

This is the first appearance of Akira himself on this piece. You will notice that he's on the joint of my elbow, while Tetsuo is on my tricep (a pushing muscle) and Kaneda is on my bicep (a pulling muscle).

More on this when it's all finished :)

Ten Arguments Against Same-Sex Marriages (And How Stupid They Are)

So, California has joined Massachusetts in granting marriage licenses for same sex couples.

Surely, this is the end of the world as we straight folks know it. And thank God, because I’m really getting tired of the one we’ve been living in.

It makes NO SENSE to me - a heterosexual male married to a heterosexual female - why two people of any gender who decide they trust one another enough to share assets and benefits can’t form a legal union in order to do so. But wait, the bible says... And what about the kids... And, if we allow this, won’t men be marrying their dogs in five years...

Come on. This is nonsense.

Recently, I’ve been getting a TON of emails marked with the tell-tale “FW:” from right-wing acquaintances and family members that quote wholesale the Ten Arguments Against Gay Marriage website. I’ve been deluged by these zealots who, rather than discuss things intelligently, find it easier to just forward via email the concepts and ideas of people who think just like them... That is, not at all.

It is my intention to rip asunder these ridiculous arguments.

Note: this article doesn’t cover the arguments against homosexuality, because frankly, no one’s going to change someone’s mind regarding love and monogamy if they can’t already see that two people loving one another is two people loving one another, regardless of the number of penises involved. Zero, one, or two, it’s just love.

So here you go, my dissection of those ridiculous ten arguments:

* * *

Argument #1: The implications for children in a world of decaying families are profound.

Oh you are so right. Two men raising a child in a home where rules are obeyed and respect for all people is taught is SO MUCH WORSE for the structure of family-based society than a husband who cheats on his wife, or who beats the kids, or who simply doesn’t care about them. 

Saying that the “family” is a cohesive unit solely on the merit that the union of a man and a woman resulted in offspring is somewhat akin to saying that a baseball team is solid based on the fact that there’s nine guys on the field.

It’s not the structure that counts... It’s the contents of the framework. If there were a woman batting .400 against fast-pitching males, don’t even pretend that the Yankees wouldn’t pay her 22 million over five years to wear the pinstripes - regardless of the all-male history and composition of Major League Baseball.

If two men or two women can provide a stable, loving home for a child, WHO THE HELL ARE YOU to forbid them from being able to do so? You’d rather the child languish in the hellhole that most orphanages and shelters have become? You’d rather they work their way through the hit-or-miss foster system in this country, only to become unstable, distrustful adults who are far more likely to commit crimes involving violence against another person?

Just ask yourself one question - if you knew a child was being battered by a mother and father, and you knew a same-sex couple who would be willing to take that child in and raise it and give it a loving home, would you rather it stay with the “family” based on the fact that it’s a union between a man and a woman?

If the answer is anything other than “hell no,” you honestly need to reevaluate your faith and why you proclaim to have it.



Argument #2: The introduction of legalized gay marriages will lead inexorably to polygamy and other alternatives to one-man, one-woman unions.

Boy, this sounds familiar... What do they call this? You know, in Philosophy 101 in college, they have this list of logical fallacies... This one is, like, a greased incline or---

No wait - slippery slope. That’s it.

I cannot think of a more ridiculous argument against allowing two people to share the benefits and title of marriage than this. If we amend the current state of thinking to include the union between to people to be simply that - a union between TWO PEOPLE - then the next thing you know, we’re gong to amend it to be between THREE people, and then FOUR, and then a goat might enter the picture...

Come on. Wake up. Just because a concept evolves to the societal standards does not mean that suddenly the standards will change to force the concept to adhere to the new standard. It doesn’t work that way - in fact, it works the OTHER way. The second you open the door for a group of people to finally enjoy the benefits they’re rightfully entitled to, they tend to become quite guarded and protective of those benefits. They actually become defenders of that which they have earned.


Argument #3: An even greater objective of the homosexual movement is to end the state's compelling interest in marital relationships altogether.

Is that so... There’s an objective of the homosexual movement to earn a right to benefits and tax incentives by forming a union between consenting adults, and then they’re going to just about-face on the whole concept altogether and get rid of it?

Is that how that works?

I bet they don’t even love each other. All those videos and pictures of two women or two men standing hand-in-hand on the courtyard steps of the counties and states which now allow same-sex unions, crying their eyes out with joy that they now get to have a legally-recognized union... Those are actors. Gay actors. They’re just fucking with us.

Why would anyone do this? I mean, honestly... If you want to get right down to it, marriage as a legal (not religious, LEGAL) union is designed to incorporate tax breaks and asset protection to encourage procreation.

That’s right. God and the government want to save you money so you can have some babies.

From AmericanCatholic.org:

The very purpose of marriage is to develop union between husband and wife and to bear and raise children. In more technical language, we call those two purposes unitive and procreative.

God does not will that all married couples have children, as we know, and we don’t understand why. But our tradition of listening to God, revealed in Scripture, in the experience of the Church and all creation, tells us that married couples need to be open to bearing and raising children.

But somehow, childless couples are getting the same protection and rights as couples WITH children! THIS IS BLASPHEMY! HOLY FUCKING SHIT!


SO why the hell aren’t Christians everywhere going apeshit over childless man/woman marriages? Could it be... Like... Uh...

Seriously. I have no snarky comment for this one. No joke, no witticism. I just don’t get it.


Argument #4: With the legalization of homosexual marriage, every public school in the nation will be required to teach that this perversion is the moral equivalent of traditional marriage between a man and a woman.


It IS the moral equivalent of traditional marriage between a man and a woman, because morals enter into marriage about the same amount as they enter into making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

There is no moral reason for marriage in the eyes of the LAW. There is only a contractual business agreement between two consenting adults (who, currently, have to be male and female equally).

Same as speeding tickets, copyright law, and curfews. No morals. Just bounds and requirements. Like it or not, Christians, when a justice of the peace can perform a ceremony that results in the same contractual bounds as a priest, it’s no longer a religious ceremony. It’s just your preference that a man (or woman, for you more progressive types) of the cloth say the words.

And, rather than compel schools across the nation to teach morality, how about we just ask them to knock off the moral lessons altogether and stick to science, maths and humanities? Don’t morals start in the home?

If they don’t for you, you’re part of the reason most teachers hate their jobs.


Argument #5: From that point forward, courts will not be able to favor a traditional family involving one man and one woman over a homosexual couple in matters of adoption.

Good.

From my response to #1, repeated here for the lazy:

Just ask yourself one question - if you knew a child was being battered by a mother and father, and you knew a same-sex couple who would be willing to take that child in and raise it and give it a loving home, would you rather it stay with the “family” based on the fact that it’s a union between a man and a woman?

And again, If the answer is anything other than “hell no,” you honestly need to reevaluate your faith in this Jesus guy and why you proclaim to have it.


Argument #6: Foster-care parents will be required to undergo "sensitivity training" to rid themselves of bias in favor of traditional marriage, and will have to affirm homosexuality in children and teens.

Right, just like they have to undergo “sensitivity training” to rid themselves of racial or gender bias, and have to affirm equality on both counts in children they take in.

You’ve obviously not run into many foster-care parents. It just so happens, however, that my wife and I have done all the groundwork to become foster-care parents (because we never intend to procreate - which makes us blasphemers per argument #3). We feel that procreation in light of the fact that there’s a ton of children at the pound waiting for someone to just take a damn interest in them is pretty fucking selfish.

There, my hat’s been thrown into that little ring.

Anyway, at no point during the application process were we required to undergo any sort of sensitivity training whatsoever. At no point were we required to prove that we don’t harbor any sort of gender or racial bias. At no point were my college credentials (or lack thereof) called into question. All they really cared about was criminal record and salary. Did we seem stable? Yup.

That’s all it took.

So, supposing my little ruse works, all I need now is for the state to give me a little black kid so I can burn him with cigarettes. Or, a little girl, so I can constantly scream at her and remind her how inferior she is to the superior male gender. I can now totally fuck up any kids under my care and unleash them onto society, because my wife and I are a male/female couple and SEEM stable.

Guess what folks? That shit happens EVERY SINGLE DAY. And I know it does, first hand. I won’t go into how or why, but what you need to take from this is that the foster care system in America is fundamentally broken - the very last thing we should give a shit about is the concept of same-gender unions and how they impact the psyche of a foster kid.


Argument #7: How about the impact on Social Security if there are millions of new dependents that will be entitled to survivor benefits?

Ah, there it is... The first “G” in the three tenets of Christianity - Gold (the other two are God and Glory).

“What’s going to happen to MY MONEY when them faggots is allowed to marry?” Well, you yokel, how about you take a good look at what’s happening to it RIGHT NOW?

This is precisely the kind of argument that cripples America, and as a consequence, our progress toward getting off this planet and out into the solar system so we can fly cool starships. It’s not the interest-free loans that the past four administrations (including Clinton’s, so don’t go thinking I’m picking on Republicans) have given themselves based on the Social Security reserves. It’s not the complete mismanagement of the actual fund itself, with payouts going to undeserving early pullers who are drawing more than they put in.

No. It’s the gays.

Gay people are going to be the death of Social Security when they’re allowed the same rights as us straights! Just you watch!

Actually, Social Security is doomed, regardless of who we allow to get married.


Argument #8: Marriage among homosexuals will spread throughout the world, just as pornography did after the Nixon Commission declared obscene material "beneficial" to mankind.

“The point is that numerous leaders in other nations are watching to see how we will handle the issue of homosexuality and marriage.”

You’re right, there’ll be a worldwide epidemic of governments opening the concept of marriage to include same-sex marriages. Gee... How horrible.

So what would fix this one? If America allowed same-sex marriage, but no other country on earth did? Would that fix it? Of course not... All this argument is doing is saying “one will lead to another!” And it’s entirely right - if America can open its’ collective mind to allow for two consenting adults who intend to remain monogamous, regardless of gender, then why shouldn’t Britain, or France, or any other nation? Why would this be a bad thing in and of itself?

Simply the number of marriages on record worldwide? Is 2 million gay marriages worse than one million? It’s not like the fact that homosexuals can now form a legal union is going to go turning otherwise straight people gay... It’s just going to allow individuals of the same sex who want to enter into that agreement to be able to do so. Nothing more.

Don’t worry, it’s not a gay virus. It’s just a new idea entering a closed mind. I know it feels the same to you, but give it a chance.


Argument #9: "Perhaps most important, the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ will be severely curtailed. The family has been God's primary vehicle for evangelism since the beginning."

This is basically saying “My belief system doesn’t allow for homosexual marriage, and if homosexual marriage is allowed, then my belief system loses a foothold in societal control.” 

If your belief system doesn’t allow for the possibility that a) two people of the same gender can’t have an unyielding love for one another and b) that they want to form a union based on that love such that one can provide for the other, share health benefits, and have their property and assets protected under the same laws that protect male/female unions... Well, your belief system isn’t really based on love and logic, now is it? And if it lacks those two cornerstones of the human condition, it’s not much of a belief system.

Additionally, I challenge you to find one - JUST ONE - verse in the bible (or any religious text) where Jesus Christ speaks out against the union or bond between people of the same gender.

Just one.

I’ll save you the trouble: you won’t find it. What you will find are overly general sentiments advocating and supporting the existing laws of God, which - previous to the New Testament - included human-interpreted (or human-invented-with-God’s-name-attached) laws which spoke against homosexuals.

Borrowing from ReligiousTolerance.org (which is a fantastic site, by the way):

In Matthew 19:3-12 and Mark 10:2-12, Jesus supports the concept that God made a man and a woman so that they could marry. He is quoted as saying in both Gospels: "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." Also, in Matthew 5:17-18, after the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said: "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled."

That’s pretty much it - Jesus supported and advocated the laws of God. But in this, Jesus would then be advocating that no man partake of swine (read: no bacon! OH THE HORROR) or other dirty animals; that we humans only eat fish on Friday; and that a man who steals from another man should have his hand cut off (yep, the Old Testament put God’s seal of approval on Hammurabi’s Code).

But wait, didn’t Jesus cleanse the animals? And didn’t Jesus advocate a code of morality into the code of laws (love thy neighbor and all that yakkity-yak)? In fact, didn’t Jesus Christ FUNDAMENTALLY alter the core of theological law as professed by scribes recording the word of God?

As good a question as that might be, the real question is: if your lord and savior, Jesus Christ - the son of God - were here on this Earth today, would he speak out against homosexual unions? Would he even have an opinion on the sanctity of court-approved business relationships between consenting adults for tax and insurance benefit?

Probably not.


Argument #10: "The culture war will be over, and I fear, the world may soon become 'as it was in the days of Noah' (Matthew 24:37, NIV)."

I don’t get this argument. Not just this one line, but the whole damn thing. I think it was put here just to round the list out to ten and serve the author’s selfish need to proclaim just how into God he and his wife are. Honestly, this whole notion of a "culture war" between Christians and non-Christians bothers me. Why is it that the majority of non-religious culture are content to just be themselves and let others be themselves, while the Christian side insist on "winning" this "culture war" by inflicting themselves upon those who are not them?

And moreso, why do they think they - regardless of denomination - are going to win any points with a non-Christian when they can't even settle some of the most basic arguments of Christianity amongst themselves? Methodists arguing with Baptists, Lutherans yelling at Presbyterians, Catholics yelling at... Well, everyone... Why would I want to actively join an internal war amongst Christians? Can't I just let you guys bicker about it amongst yourselves while I sit at home and watch some football on Sunday?

At the very least, if you're going to insist on interrupting me with your religious marketing, do so respectfully. Here's a helpful guide on how to actually do this.

* * *

Let’s just be honest here - people are against same-sex marriage for the same reasons they were against the right for women to vote, or for black men to own land, or for colonists to exercise their rights to bear arms and free themselves from unjust taxation... It upsets the status quo. It doesn’t jive with the way they know the world. It forces logic into a head full of belief.

Basically, it forces them to look directly into the bright light of social progress... And when your eyes have been shut for so long, it’s uncomfortable.

I have my own personal predilections that some would call closed-minded - and they are. I’m not perfect. None of us are. And that’s precisely why we’re not qualified to go passing judgement on and imposing our will upon the lives of others.

What’s it to you that two dudes or two chicks want to make sure their partners are covered under the healthcare benefits they work hard to keep? You get to put your wife or husband on your policies... Can’t they?

Or is your love for one another somehow more valid than theirs?

All I know is that I know several homosexual couples who have told me they plan to make the trek to California this summer to get hitched, and I've read quite a few articles on the subject. Not once have I heard statements like "she rooked me into getting hitched" or "I guess I'll marry her because I knocked her up and, like, it's just right, you know?" These people I see on TV lining up - LINING UP!!!! - to get married after five, ten, twenty years of being together... They're crying with joy. They're so damn happy that, finally, all the years of knowing what they know about one another - that they love one another - are finally going to be legally sanctioned.

Meanwhile, you've got men going out for one last hot night filled with strippers and booze before they "latch on the ol' ball and chain." You've got women acting like complete whores the night before a wedding, throwing themselves all over men at bars at bachelorette parties because "This is their last night of freedom." You've got married governors hiring sex workers on the taxpayer's dime to fufill dirty fantasies, or tapping their foot in restroom stalls for a little man-on-man play. I personally know fourteen married men - FOURTEEN - who go to strip clubs on Saturdays and then to church on Sunday to repent.

And that's the much-charished sanctitiy of marriage that gets bandied about in the halls of state congress?

The day every single Christian on this planet begins honoring and cherishing their mate, I might listen to ill-founded belief-based arguments against legal unions for same-sex couples.

Mind you, I said "might." I can't promise anything... It's not like I can just turn off logic.

6.16.2008

Concern Debt

I have gone from being the most in-touch person I knew to the most out-of-touch person I know, all because of my decision to remove all the RSS and news feeds I used to subscribe to.

I don't watch much television - I got almost all my news from the net. And now, I am so blind to world events that I didn't even know that most of Iowa is underwater. I just happened to catch the news at my parents' place yesterday.

This filled me with some dread, as I have a few friends and some family who live there. So I spent this morning trying to get in touch with everyone I knew in the great corn state and making sure all was okay with them. And the worst part about all of this isn't that they could be flooded out of house and home, or worse - injured or dead. No. The worst part?

I am rude, because they all asked about us when the tornado ripped through Atlanta a while back.

So now, I'm in pretty severe concern-hock. I'm in debt up to my elbows when it comes to asking about the well-being of my Iowan friends and family. And that sucks, cause I totally had the upper hand on ALL of them (especially Rachel, who not only owes me for messing with her IM-stalker, but for beating her soundly in Facebook poke wars).

Damn. Stupid flood, and stupid New Years' resolutions.

6.12.2008

The Absolute Beginner's Guide to Working Out

I started this as a simple email to one of my readers, one Mr. Mike McCusker, who read my rules of the gym and asked me about working out and my suggestions on how to start. As you can see by the scrollbar on the right, this thing is, well... LONG.

It has to be.

Why? Because, even though this guide can be boiled down to five bullet points, there's a lot to talk about, like types of workouts, nutrition and supplementation, and so on. But, I don't believe in wasting peoples' time, so I'll go ahead and give away the ending. Here's the points I'll be making in this article:

  • You will not work out regularly and eat right until you care enough about yourself to take care of yourself. There are no shortcuts.
  • To lose fat, you must burn more calories than you consume every single day.
  • Although cardiovascular exercise (running, jogging, walking, skipping, the StairMaster, and others) are great ways to burn calories one day at a time, building muscle is the only way to raise your metabolism permanently. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn 24/7.
  • To build muscle, you must destroy and then rebuild muscle.
  • Working out is not just for muscleheads and jocks. It's a special, devoted block of time each day for you to focus solely on yourself. You are worth it.

That's it. That's actually all you need to know to start working out right now. But I know there's a LOT of stuff you, as a beginner (or even a casual athlete) might like to know about this entire process. And that's my goal - to answer as many questions as honestly and thoroughly as possible, so that you understand the process of working out and how to best achieve your goals.

So to start, I'm going to ask you to pick your goal. Right now, sitting here reading this, choose a goal you'd like to achieve physically. A popular one is "I'd like to lose weight." Another is "I'd like to get strong." Some people pick an event as a goal, such as a marathon, a triathlon, a Light The Night walk. In any event, the goal you choose is paramount. It indicates the direction you'd like to take.

So now, you've chosen your goal. Don't worry, I don't plan to write guides for every contingency that might arise from your goal-choosing, as I've never run a marathon and have no intentions of ever doing so (at least, in the foreseeable future). But that's not what the goal-choosing process was all about. The sole purpose of asking you to choose a goal is to ask one fundamental question:

Why haven't you done it yet?

My guess: Because you haven't made any time for yourself to do it.

You work 50 hours a week. You know you should probably work out for 30 minutes a day, or at the very least, take a nightly walk around the neighborhood... But you just can't find the time. Fast food and restaurants make eating a more efficient process, and with the kids' soccer practice and work piling up, it's just so hard to eat right and find time for the gym... Especially since you don't know much about how gyms work. And even if you did, you can't afford one...

And that's okay. That's not a bad thing, you're doing what you need to do to make it through your daily life. But you need to realize something. And it's very uncomfortable to admit this to yourself (TRUST ME, I know)... But it's true:

You don't want to lose weight. You don't want to get stronger. You don't want to change.

"But Joe!" You're mentally screaming. "Of COURSE I do! I'm overweight! No one wants to be overweight!"

I didn't say you want to be overweight. I said "You don't want to lose weight."

"Joe, I'm barely 120 lbs, and all my life I've been called scrawny! I don't want to be scrawny."

I didn't say you want to be scrawny. I said "You don't want to get stronger."

It's simple. We humans want. In fact, desire is really the only thing we actually do on this planet, if you think about it. We want love, we want money, we want a nice car, we want a nice house... And occasionally, we take it upon ourselves to actually go and acquire the things we want. Some of us are lazier than others, and take what come to us... But for the most part, I believe that every person on this planet has, at some point or another, REALLY wanted something - and then went out and got it. A promotion at work, or a nice watch, or perhaps a date from a really cute girl or boy.

At some point in your life, you've wanted something so badly, you went and got it. So, if you really, really wanted to lose weight or get stronger, you'd do it.

This is not an insult. It's just the truth. And I know, because I went through it myself. (To save you from having to skip over a huge block of text, I'll link you to the obligatory self-case-study so you can just skip over one link.) The truth is, saying you want something isn't the same as actually wanting it. When you actually DO want something, you make it happen. And in order to make it happen, you go through phases of acquisition, each phase leading to the next, until you finally have what it is you want.

It is my theory that you don't actually want to change your life because you don't know how to actually change it. You compare where you are now with where you want to be, decide the difference is too great, and give up before you even start. You can't see the forest for the trees, so to speak... You have probably seen incredibly fit people, and wonder how it is that they became so incredibly fit... And then you begin imagining horrible tortures visited upon your person by gigantic clanging machines over a period of months and years, causing you to sweat and feel pain and oh my god, isn't Xbox so much more fun? Besides, "Who Wants To Make A Deal Or No Deal - Extreme Makeover Edition" is on. And I just opened this carton of ice cream.

So, I hope to remove that barrier. I hope to give you all sorts of information that is beneficial to your quest to lose weight or get in shape or bulk up. I hope to share with you all of the intel that I've gathered for myself (and discussed with trainers and other former unhealthy folks). I hope to obliterate myths, shatter misconceptions, and guide you to a place where you can actually see each step in the process as it leads up to the next... Finally bringing you to the light at the end of the tunnel.

But, at the end of it all, you're the one who's going to have to get up out of your chair, put the laptop down (or turn off this computer), walk out the front door, and make it happen for yourself. Every day. From now on.

I can't want it for you. You have to want it for yourself.


So, you want it... What do you do now?

Well, the first step is understanding the different kinds of training there are. Now, this list is huge - there's a ton of different specific training types, such as endurance, flexibility, long-range cardio, short-range burst cardio, blah blah blah. But because you're starting out, you're really going to be focusing on two main types: strength training and cardiovascular training.

With strength training, the goal is exactly that - to gain strength. Now, the first thing that pops into your head when you think about this is the concept of "bulking up" - gaining huge amounts of muscle. And while this is definitely a form of strength training, it's not the only form. There's training for power (short bursts of incredible effort to lift increasing amounts of weight), endurance (lifting a lighter amount of weight repeatedly for longer duration to increase long-term muscle strength), bulking (pure muscle destruction / reconstruction), and other forms. The goal - to make each muscle in your body as strong as it can be.

With cardiovascular training, the focus shifts from all of the muscles in your arms, legs, back, neck, shoulders and other places, to the one in your chest - your heart. You want to make this muscle stronger, so your body will process oxygen more efficiently and you can exert more effort for longer periods of time. There are lots of ways to train the cardiovascular system - running, jogging, walking, climbing stairs, sprints... But these are just forms of two types of training - interval and endurance. Interval cardio means bringing the heart rate up for a period of time, then resting, allowing it to settle, only to bring it back up again. This form of cardio burns a tremendous amount of calories in a short period of time. Endurance cardio focuses on being able to go at a steady pace for longer periods of time, keeping the heartrate constantly elevated. This also burns calories, however, there are some important notes on how this works that I'll cover later.

(To go ahead and get it out of the way, the absolute best way to remove fat from your body is to combine strength training with cardiovascular training. It seems like common sense... But the truth is, it is EXTREMELY easy to convince yourself each day that you've done enough after a great strength training session, or a three mile run, because both are a lot of work. But they're two individual pieces of a puzzle that, when combined, form a full picture otherwise invisible to you.)

About strength training:
The point of strength training is to literally destroy your muscle so that it will rebuild itself. That's how you build more muscle. It sounds horrible, right? Well, it's not that bad. It's just something you should understand going into the process - at the very least, it explains why you're sore when you start working out. Each time you perform an exercise, you are tearing muscle fibers. It's at a near-molecular level, which is why you don't feel like your arm has just torn off when you do it... But it's happening. As the body repairs the torn fibers, it uses synthesized protein that you've ingested to perform the repairs. Just like scar tissue on your skin, the area is locked and patched up with available material, forming a stronger and somewhat larger patch of muscle fiber.

Wash, rinse, repeat. The result - bigger, stronger muscles.

Now, there are three types of muscle in your body: Cardiac (which we cover in Cardiovascular training), smooth (which we probably won't go into, as it pertains to organs and blood vessels), and Skeletal (the good stuff). Strength training, as it pertains to working out, focuses almost exclusively on skeletal muscle tissue - biceps, triceps, pectorals, glutius maximus... All of these are skeletal muscles.

Inside the group of skeletal muscles, there are two types that are commonly referred to as fast twitch and slow twitch. As you can infer from the names, slow-twitch muscles are more related to endurance, whereas Fast Twitch muscles pertain more to power and speed. As such, training for strength breaks down to primarily two types of training: endurance (building and conditioning the slow twitch fibers) and power (buidling and conditioning the fast twitch fibers).

Now, I'll go ahead and tell you that, regardless of which focus you choose, you'll be working out both sets of muscle. You pretty much have no choice - when you focus on slow twitch fibers, you'll be using fast-twitch to lift the bar off the ground, or push the weight off the holds. Conversely, when you focus on fast-twitch training, you'll use slow-twitch muscles for stability in your arms and shoulders while on the bench press, or for standing upright between repititions on a squat machine.

As such, the best overall decision is to dedicate time to both groups each week. We'll go over this in more detail later, for now, the important thing to know is that you'll have a choice when you work out as to which area you want to focus on, and how "big" and / or how "toned" you wish to be when you work out.

About cardiovascular training:
Cardio is all about getting the heart pumping. Any sort of moment done with sufficient effort over a period of time is going to increase your heart rate. Increased heart rate directly relates to calories burned. And, as mentioned earlier, if you burn more calories than you consume, you lose fat. Pretty easy, right? Well, there's no "gotcha" here - it is. It's so simple, humans have been doing it since the species crawled out of the muck and began chasing potential food with sharpened sticks.

As mentioned before, when you engage in interval training, you're getting your heart rate to "spike" repeatedly - bringing it to an elevated state for some time, then letting it rest. One of the easiest forms of exercise to do this are "sprints" - starting at a designated point, running a set distance, and stopping, only to do it again. This form of cardio training is one of the best for losing weight, as it really forces caloric burn and, provided you're doing something that creates resistance (such as sprints, or fast push-ups), also creates strength due to resistance training.

The other form, endurance cardio, is generally what you think of when you think of running a few miles, or swimming a bunch of laps, or riding a bike for a while. Your heart rate is elevated, and then maintained at that elevated rate for a while. This burns calories as well - however, the type of caloric burn is different, due to the fact that the body "flips a switch" between regular energy consumption and the type of energy consumption that takes place when it's in a state of prolonged movement. In short, you burn more calories than you would sitting down, but your body regulates how many and how quickly. It knows it's going to be doing this a while, so it tends to conserve energy (versus interval training,where it just squirts out whatever it has right away to get you through each "spike").

Actually working out


So, let me start with a little bit of mental coaching:
1) You're not in shape. That's vital to come to terms with, because your first, oh... Week or so of training? It's not going to be fun. It's going to be uncomfortable and exhausting. And that's because you are out of shape. But - and this is the good part - the more you train, the more in shape you get, and the more in shape you get, the more fun it becomes.

Now, I know exactly what you're thinking - how the hell is it ever going to be fun? Well... What would you say that, in a few months time, there'll come a point where, if you miss even a single workout, you'll feel crappy because of it? You'll hate not being in training; you'll actually crave getting into the gym every day that you go? That you'll feel sick less often, breathe easier, need to carve new notches into your belt as your waist line gets smaller...

Yeah. You'll probably say I'm a liar. In fact, you'll probably say that for the first month and a half... But I promise you, it's true. Again, you'll just have to trust that I know this one.

Also, you may feel self conscious if you are starting your workouts for the first time at a gym or in a public place... I cannot tell you how much you shouldn't care about the thoughts of others. But you will anyway, so here's my advice: Just know that most everyone in that gym or at that park is mentally applauding you for getting out and doing something great with your body. Seriously. Sure, you'll run across the occasional dickhead who's going to whisper and say something, but honestly, those guys and girls are going to point and laugh no matter WHAT you look like. If you're stacked with muscle, they're going to call you musclehead; if you're skinny and fit, they're going to make fun of your shoes. You cannot stop them. Don't worry about them... Just let them live their shallow, miserable lives while you strengthen and empower your own.

Remember - people too weak to achieve their own goals in life will always discourage others from achieving theirs. Or, more simply... Fuck. Them. By far, the majority of people who see you at the gym are going to be proud that you're there.
2) Expect resistance from the exercises. In fact, embrace it. Weights are heavy. You'll find yourself cursing this fact. You'll be tempted to move the pin up a few notches to make the weight lighter. You'll find yourself wanting to put the bar on the rack before you've reached your set number of repetitions. You'll curse the weight for being so damn heavy.

Well, think about it this way - if it weren't heavy, it wouldn't be making you as strong as it is. That weight is not your enemy, and it's not working against you... It is your friend. To paraphrase a sentiment from Henry Rollins in a piece he wrote called "The Iron" - the weight is working WITH you to make you stronger. That one thought fundamentally changed the way I looked at working out. Every single time I touched a weight from that point forward, I did so with that one thought in mind - every ounce in that bar is making me that much stronger.

So, on to the workouts:

Overall, the program I advocate is a combination of strength training and cardio training, at least five days a week.

Yes, five days a week. It sounds like a lot... But this is not about making an effort to change your life, then accidentally letting a 2 day break become a 3 day break, which becomes a 7 day break, which becomes "Ok, I'll start over next week..."

You need to change your life. Remeber, you WANT this. So... Five days a week. One day breaks AT MOST. Try to never, ever go more than two days without a workout. Even if that workout is a quick jog somewhere, or fifteen minutes of pushups and squats... Do something every single day.

Now, about that "something" - when you start out, my advice is to start with three "groups" of strength exercies, then 20 minutes of cardio (walking or stationary bike to start), for the first two weeks. Five days a week, remember.

The "groups" of exercises relates to the types of lifting and exercising you are going to do. In short, you want to divide your muscle groups into individual days of the week. And you want to group your exercises so that all of the lifts you do relate to the same muscle groups (if you'd like some ideas, here's a list of exercises with descriptions I did during my first football training excursion).

For example:

  • On Monday, you will do a "back and biceps" routine - why back and biceps? Because, as you do exercises that focus on your back, you will do a lot of pulling type exercises, which also includes your biceps (this is called a "complex exercise" - something that incorporates multiple muscles). So, you will also want to focus on your biceps that day, since you're already working on them, right? Finish that with a 20 minute walk.
  • So now, you've done your back and biceps - they need a rest. So Tuesday, you might do a "chest and triceps" routine. You group these together for the same reason you put back and biceps together - because as you work your chest (with a bench press, for instance), you will also work your triceps. So it makes sense to do a set of tricep-specific exercises on that day as well. Finish with a 20 minute pedal on the stationary bike.
  • Wednesday, you do legs and shoudlers - now, this seems like an odd grouping, and that's because it sort-of is. I do this because the legs and the shoulders have absolutely nothing to do with any of the other exercises I've done in my back-bicep or chest-tricep routines (well, the legs part does cross a bit with the back, but not much... And shoulders can sometimes use triceps, but again, not as much as chest). Finish with a 20 minute walk.
  • Thursday, you can rest.
  • Friday, you can change things up a bit - take an aerobics class, or do a full round of pushup-situp-pullup-squats, for thirty minutes straight, resting a minute between each exercise. Finish this with a 20 minute bike pedal.
  • Saturday, you can focus on a long cardio session - 40 minutes of walking or stationary bike or stairmaster. Set the pace to be a bit lower than you did in your 20 minute walks, put on your headphones, and enjoy the feeling of your heart beating in your chest.
  • Sunday, rest.
  • Monday, it starts all over.

Now, after about two weeks of this, you'll want to take a step foward in your intensity. You will want to increase the weight on all of your exercises by, say, five pounds. Or, increase the number of repetitions per set from 10 to 12. Increase your walks to 25 minutes, or change them to 15 minute runs.

Two weeks after that, you will want to increase the number of exercise "groups" you do to four, adding a new "complex exercise" (for instance, "incline bench press") and a new "simple exercise" (for instance, "dumbbell tricep extension") on each day. Increase the time of your cardio from 25 minutes to 30 minutes if you're walking, or step it up to a 20 minute run if you switched to running.

Now, as for "sets" and "reps" - you've probably heard at some point someone say something like "three sets of ten" in regards to lifting weights or working out. Basically, this means that you are going to do an exercise ten times, stop and rest, and then do it 10 more times, and then 10 more times after that. It is your choice if you want to increase or decrease the amount of weight you are lifting during this exercise. Also, you can do "pyramid" sets, where you start with, say, 15 repetitions, then on the next set, you do 12 with a little more weight, then 10 with a little bit more - just like the number of bricks in a pyramid. You can do five sets of 20 repetitions with a lower amount of weight... There are no hard and fast rules as to how you work out. It all depends on what you want to improve.

If you want to improve on "power" (which will increase muscle bulk) - focus on doing fewer repetitions of more weight across more sets. For example, five sets of 8 repetitions of 185lbs on bench press. If you want to increase "endurance" in your muscles (which will increase muscle tone), focus on doing a higher number of repetitions of lower weight across fewer sets. For example, three sets of 20 repetitions of 145lbs on bench press. (These weights are not suggestions, they're simply illustrations of the differences in weight you might want to lift to achieve goals).

As I stated before, regardless of the type of focus you choose, you're going to end up improving both types of strength - it's just the ratio of which one you dedicate more training to that's important.

As you go on, you will want to mix up your workouts - perhaps put chest and bicep day together, so you're working three sets of muscles (pectoral, triceps, biceps) instead of just two. Or, use dumbbells instead of a flat bench or machine to do your exercises. Variety is not only the spice of life, it also keeps your body from getting used to a type of workout - which maximizes the benefit.

A word about safety: There are some general rules you'll want to follow for each exercise, and I've outlined them in the exercise descriptions below. But the big, monster, huge rule that applies to every single exercise you will ever do:

Don't bite off more than you can chew.

It is far better to start with a weight that might be a little light, and at the end of your set, tack on a few extra repetitions to make up for the lack of weight. You don't want to hurt yourself. Don't let pride or ego get in the way of good old fashioned common sense - even if they're pretending to at the moment, NO ONE CARES how much you can or cannot lift. Seriously, when they go home, they don't think about your exercises. So do them for your own benefit, not anyone else's.


Diet and Nutrition

If cardio and strength training are two pieces of a fitness puzzle, diet is the table that you're putting them together on.

You may have heard this before, but one pound of fat equals roughly 3,500 calories (howstuffworks.com has an EXCELLENT tutorial on how all of this works, and rather than repeat it and bore you here, I recommend you check it out). Now, your body burns a certain number of calories each day during the course of simply keeping you alive - this is called your base metabolic rate (your metabolism, folks). To find out what yours is, check out this BMR calculator. The base metabolic rate is affected by a) how much activity you do during your day and b) how much muscle in your body needs to be fueled - hence the earlier point that more muscle = higher metabolism (NOTE: This is NOT your BMI (Body Mass Index). I'm no medical professional, but basically, every single educated person I've ever talked to or read says that the BMI is a load of horseshit).

To lose fat, basically you need to ingest fewer calories than you burn through both your BMR and your physical activity.

Simple, right? Right.

For example, my BMR is 2739. My level of activity each week is a 4, or "heavy sports 6-7 days a week". So, using the Harris Benedict Equation, I determine that my body needs 4724.775 calories each day to maintain a weight of 310 lbs.

Now, I ingest about 3000 calories a day, mostly from protein. My body uses that protein to build muscle, while it burns off fat - this is how I've been able to go from 308lbs in December of 2007 to 310lbs in June of 2008, while losing nearly 10% of my body fat.

A quick note - DO NOT go starving yourself to cut calories. YOU NEED CALORIES TO LIVE. A good guide is to basically establish a goal of weight loss each week - 2 - 3 lbs a week is an aggressive, but healthy, number - and cut that many calories BELOW YOUR BMR out of your weekly intake. 2 pounds = 7000 calories; 3 pounds = 12,500 calories. Alternatively, you can ramp up your exercising to burn that many calories per week... But to burn 1000 calories a day for 7 days straight is a lot of running. The best bet - combine the two.

And that brings me to sports nutrition:

It is imperative that you eat protein. And I mean IMPERATIVE. Carbohydrates are your fuel for energy, but protein is the stuff that rebuilds your muscles as you rip them apart with exercise. Imagine that your muscles are big concrete struts, and each day, they're chipped and they need to be replastered with new material. Protein is that material.

The guiding principle is that you need half an ounce of protein for each pound of body weight you have in order to gain muscle. Now, you vegetarians out there, this may not be very popular with you, but it's the hard and fast truth - you need whey and animal based proteins if you expect them to do any good. Soy-based proteins are estrogen simulators - they actually promote estrogen production, which is what causes breasts and other fat storage collection in both men and women. Animal and whey-based proteins promote testosterone production, which synthesizes protein into muscle.

So basically, you gotta eat meat and take your whey protein if you want muscle, and stay away from the soy milk if you don't want boobs.

For me, the only guiding principle for my food each day is that it a) contains at least 150 grams of protein and b) contains less than 3000 calories a day - but no less than 2999.

Guess what happens when you do that?

Goodbye Coke. Goodbye candy. Goodbye cake, ice cream, snacks, french fries, and just about everything in your life that makes you a gooey blob. It's not magic; it's not a special diet you read about in magazines or the big fad going around the office. It's just simple - keep your proteins high, and your calories below your expended calories for the day (BMR + exercise), and boom - you're going to gain muscle and lose fat.

The beauty is that it's actually very instinctive. If, at each meal, you ask yourself what's the highest amount of protein I can get with the lowest caloric intake, you're going to immediately eliminate all the high-fat, pure carbohydrate stuff. That leaves healthy stuff, like complex carbohydrates (fruits, veggies - anything with fiber) and protein.

It'll all sort itself out.

And here's a quick tip - do what I did, and cut out ANYTHING with corn syrup in it. Corn syrup is just plain disgusting. It's sugar, but it doesn't trip the "I've had something to eat, so now I'm happy" switch in your body. In fact, some studies suggest corn syrup actually BLOCKS this switch, so you eat more.

Ick. Just get rid of it.

As far as eating for your workout - I eat a Powerbar or some form of decent protein+carbohydrate nutrition bar about 30 minutes before my workout. I drink roughly a gallon (yep, a milk jug) of water from the point I eat my Powerbar until the point I finish my workout. I take my vitamins and supplements (discussed below) with my Powerbar before my workout (the particular supplement I use has a bit of an energy boost, so I make use of that for my workout).

I take in about 50 grams of protein RIGHT after my workout - it's called the "golden ten", the ten or so minutes after your workout are the perfect time to take protein shakes and other types of nutrition, as it metabolizes quickly and burns out the calories quickly, due to the still-elevated heartrate and bloodflow. I recommend RTD 51 OR GNC's 50-gram-slam for protein shakes, as they have an extremely low calorie and fat count compared to the protein count.


Supplementation

Oh, man, I could write an entire book on this. But I'm going to try to boil this WAY down: 99% of what you find in your local GNC is practically useless.

The stuff that works? Well, everyone has their own particular "stack" of supplements that they swear by. For me, it's one that I've seen work on seven seperate people at my gym now, including myself:

Creatin / Glutamine / Testosterone (Zinc + Magnesium) / Protein

A simple breakdown: Creatine is a cell volumizer. It causes the cells in your muscle tissue to hold more - more oxygen, more glycogen, more protein. A lot of guys use JUST creatine, and they will see their size grow due to the increase in size in their cells. The downfall - the second they come off of just creatine, the size decreases, and they get weaker and smaller as a result.

So, in order to keep that from happening, you want to fill those increased cells with good things like Glutamine (a long-burning sugar in your muscles, which allows you to go faster, longer) and protein.

Now, just taking glutamine along with your creatine will help fill the cell with that good, good stuff. But the protein... Well, that takes some work. If you look at your body like a construction site, with your muscles as the building, creatine is going to clear out more space for you to build. Protein is the concrete that you can build with. But without something to place that concrete, you're just going to pour it any old place it'll fit, and the clean-up crew is just going to get rid of it at night. So, you need a crane - testosterone - to make efficient use of that protein. And that's where the Zinc + Magnesium come into play - both are proven to increase healthy testosterone production (which is how you manage the increased protein intake).

I won't be recommending products here. I will tell you what I take, which is Myogenesis Muscle Stack (because it puts everything into one blister pack, making it easy to take in the morning), but you need to do your research and figure out what works best for you.

Keeping it up

Something that really helped me stay motivated to go to the gym: There's an anecdote about Jerry Seinfield that talks about his method of maintaining productivity, and it worked well for me. Essentially, buy yourself a calendar and a red Sharpie. Mark each day you work out with the red sharpie. See how many days you can go in a row keeping that chain going, and whatever you do, DO NOT BREAK THE CHAIN.

Seriously, it works.

If you find that you've been working out for a few weeks and nothing's really moving, you may be secretly sabotaging yourself. The best way to figure this one out - keep a food journal. Write down EVERY SINGLE THING you put in your mouth, including gum and water. EVERYTHING. Then, each night, use a free diet diary or nutrition calculator to figure out the calories you took in that day (I used FitDay for years, now I use a pay service called CalorieKing - both are terrific, and they both track exercise as well as diet - but CK is a bit more robust, hence the "paid" part).


So now what?

Well, that part's up to you. You know a tremendous amount more now than you did before, so any thoughts you have on the subject are, at the very least, more informed. Hopefully, they're also more empowered. I hope that you see some hope in this guide - I hope you have read everything I've had to say and see that YOU can do this. I hope it's caused you to realize that something is better than nothing, when it comes to exercise, at least. And that there is a very real chance that "something" could lead to something much more than just going to a gym for 30 minutes or running around your block.

It can lead to a longer, healthier life. It can lead to more self confidence. It can lead to a self awareness far more pure than any you're likely to achieve just sitting and pondering on your own thoughts. And more than anything, it can lead to a pretty powerful concept - that you are worth spending an hour on, with no interruptions from anyone else, each and every day.

It's your life. Take control of it. Give yourself some time just for yourself... Because no one else can do it for you, and you DO deserve it.

The obligatory self-case study

If you just stumbled upon this post, this is a self-case-study from my Absolute Beginner's Guide to Working Out. Even if you've read that, it's boring. So excuse me for that.

Here it goes.

I was athletic during high school and the one year I went to college. When I started putting my salary before my physical health, one went up as the other went down. Soon, I was topping 370 pounds (from 220 during high school / college). True, not all of that was fat... But certainly, enough of it was that I was visibly unhealthy.

I made attempts during the years to lose weight and work out. And those attempts went in fits and starts - a few weeks here, a couple months there. I made a pretty drastic change in my diet by cutting out any form of corn syrup, which resulted in a steady decline in weight over a period of years. Then, last year, I decided I wanted to play some football again. And, unlike the other iterations of wanting to be in shape, I decided this was GOING to happen.

That was the change. I decided being in shape enough to play football was worth the concessions I'd have to make in the rest of my life. I began getting up at 4:00AM to work out - every single day. I began reading up and talking to trainers about the best ways to build strength while losing fat, without sacrificing overall weight (being heavy [not fat heavy] in football is a big plus). I educated myself in ways I'd never done before. I dedicated myself to the pursuit of physical fitness.

And you know what? Nothing else in my life was sacrificed, except for the types of food I ate and the amount of television I watched. I had plenty of time to work my 50 hours a week. I was going to the gym with my wife, which turned out to be a far more fun use of our time than sitting and watching television.

When I started in July of last year, I was 29% body fat and weighed 315 lbs. Today, I am 21% body fat and weigh 310 lbs - and I am the strongest and most fit I've ever been in my life.

Ta daa.

Here's a little before-after action for you:

June 6, 2002 - 375 lbs, 38% body fat:





March 11, 2008: 307lbs, 19% body fat:



I'll have to get a June 2008 one at some point.

UPDATE:

In September 2009, I decided I'd do something retarded for someone my size: I decided to run a marathon. I used the Atlanta Thanksgiving Half Marathon as a "training goal" and set my sites on the Disney Full Marathon on January 10, 2010. I finished it in 5 hours, 45 minutes, and in the process dropped from an average weight of 290 lbs to about 250 lbs. I wear a size 38 pant now, and feel better than I ever have.

And the secret? It wasn't the marathon that did it. The VAST majority of my weight loss happened in the initial training stages, when I was running 2 miles one day, 3 miles the next. Within a month and a half, I was down nearly 30 lbs. The final 20 came between the Thanksgiving half and the Disney full.

6.11.2008

Why I don't keep a resume

There are a number of reasons I don't actually have a resume. For instance, I don't really need one. But if I did, this is the reason I wouldn't keep one anyway:

This is an unnamed site I worked on in 2006. I did the design. I led the UI development team and the CMS development team. We did a good job - a really good job, in fact. I gave them strategy for deployment. I gave them tips on building and maintaining a community.

We handed it over to the client, and it was slick and beautiful. Two and a half years later, and... Well, let's just say that, when we finished, absolutely did NOT look like this:

click image for full-sized bashing goodness


They have completely butchered a solid design. And anyone who judged ME and MY work based on the 2008 state of this site would scoff and move on to the next resume.

And that, my friends, is why I don't keep one. The ever-changing nature of sites after I deployed them results in material that does not represent what I do. In some cases, they vary slightly. In others, it's like they took my designs and comps and handed them to 4th graders to cut-and-paste magazine clippings all over.

God.

Just... God.


**Update**

For the record, yes, there are 28 affiliate (city) sites for [UNNAMED SITE], and I did them all. They run off the same engine.

Also, those who were at the Vegas book signing and heard the "performance"... this MIGHT be the subject of the story that caused the legal hangup a few weeks back... Maybe.

6.10.2008

Dreams (and a philosophical question)

I just woke up from a much-needed nap.

I had a dream this nap.

It spawned a question. And now I am blogging, instead of peeing. So bear with me on this one.

The dream:

I had to screen a movie that I had written and directed before an audience of over 400 people, at some major film festival... Only I didn’t remember writing any of it or directing any of it.

Now, I should clarify that, in the dream, it wasn’t “not remembering”, where I did it and I just forgot. It was more like I wasn’t even there while it was being done, but I had done it. This is how dreams work - the actual reality of how a thing may or may not have come about is irrelevant. Maybe I was on drugs when it happened; maybe someone kidnapped me, made me make a movie, and then pulled the memory out of my head. However it came to be, I was standing there in front of an audience about to screen a film I wrote and I directed, the content of which I had absolutely no clue about. So basically, I was also screening it for myself.

So, I screen it, and it turns out the movie is about my childhood. It was during when I was living in Decatur, GA before Decatur became “Decatur” (these days, Decatur is rather hip for the most part, with condos in the downtown area routinely selling for $500,000 and houses going for that or more. When I was a kid - and this isn’t part of a dream, by the way, this is how it was - Decatur, GA wasn’t exactly the hip cultural center it is now. I was one of two white children in all five of the elementary schools I attended (I got expelled quite a lot for causing trouble), except for the one school - Hooper Alexander - where I was one of THREE white kids... And all of us - white and black - were as poor as the day is long. There were no yuppies; there were no Starbucks or art stores or neighborhood parties on the weekends. You stayed inside, unless you were actively selling drugs, or arresting those who were. It was crime infested, burnt out, and overall, the entire city amounted to some bizzaro theme park where the rides were all types of crime you might have happen to you during the day - The Car Jack, the Smash-n-Grab, the Home Burglary, and so on).

Wow, that’s a long aside. I’m going to have to start over, because trying to continue after that end parenthesis is going to result in my losing you... If I haven’t already.

Anyway. The movie in my dream was about my childhood in Decatur, particularly my 4th grade year in school. I remember smiling the entire time I was watching the movie I was screening, thinking nothing about the memories and the sentimentality of an entire childhood whose purpose was simply to learn how NOT to live like a racist dipshit. No, I was just glad that no one who was watching the screening had gotten up and left yet. The movie wasn’t terrible.

The thing is, every scene I was watching in this movie - even though it was real and based on my life, and the kid playing me WAS me at age 9 - felt completely new... Like I was watching it in the theater for the very first time. It didn’t feel like watching a memory on a screen, like movies of your life can sometimes feel in dreams. This one, and all the scenes in it, felt completely, 100% original. Which scared me, given that I was supposedly the writer and director. But at least it wasn’t bombing.

There was a point in the movie, about 30 minutes in, where I got into a “jawning” contest during recess with one of the boys who thought, because I was white, I couldn’t hang (for those of you who have no idea what “jawning” is, it’s basically a fun word meaning “put down”). And, I said a particularly nasty one during the 3rd round of insults, and every kid around me started cheering, giving the appropriate “Oh, SNAP”-s, when I suddenly woke up.

The thing is, that one line never happened in my real life. Not that I can remember, anyway. The dream produced a new piece of dialogue in an old memory, neither of which I remembered while IN the dream as having lived or created.

As happens when anyone first awakens immediately from dreaming, you first have to digest what the hell just happened, and you draw the dotted line in consciousness that separates dream from reality. What anyone does after doing that, I don’t know, except to say that I believe everyone has their own process. My personal process is to immediately begin sifting through anything behind that dotted line (that I remember) to find either a) meaning or b) usable content for a story, novel or work.

The meaning - I was displaying a creative work of mine before strangers without being aware of any of the substance of the work. This one’s easy. As everyone who’s taken Psychology 101 in college knows, It’s about having sex, as all dreams are (except for those about cigars, according to Freud).

But then the winning put-down line hit my brain, and with it, the content of the movie regarding my childhood in Decatur, and I realized I would soon have to put out a story about that stuff, because really, there’s some great stuff to talk about from that era of my life. But something kinda dawned on me - a weird philosophical question, and the purpose for this entire post:

If I use the line from the movie I screened in my dream, that I didn’t know any of the content of in advance, and didn’t remember writing in the dream - and furthermore, that line actually didn’t happen in real life - which makes it an absolutely new, externally-produced idea and piece of content to my dream self... Did I actually create it? And if I use it, am I actually plagiarizing from myself?


(Just so you know, this is the kind of shit that my wife has to put up with weekly, if not daily. Kinda makes 6 years of marriage a miracle, huh?)

6.07.2008

A *NEW* for-real ransom virus - please read

I'm not a tech blogger (on purpose, because god knows we have enough of them out there), but I'd be remiss if I didn't do my part to call attention to this new virus that encrypts your precious data with a 1024-bit encryption key, and demands a ransom be paid to get the decryption key.

Now, this isn't the weaksauce 128-bit version from '06, or the mediumsauce 660-bit key from last year. This one is ALL NEW for 2008, and even though the older versions could be decrypted, this one ain't quite there yet... And might not be there for a while.

Why do I say that? Well... It took Distributed.net 1,757 days across 331,252 individual computers working together to crack a 64-bit RC5 key. This is 1024-bit key on the same algorithm... So yeah. You pony up the dough, or your data's fucked.

The virus apparently infects PCs through unpatched browser exploits. The bottom line... PLEASE update your browser if you're on a PC. My suggestion, of course, is to start using FIREFOX if you're not, and keep it up to date with every new release. Trust me, if you're not using it and see changing as a big pain... It is, but within a week, you'll NEVER go back.

Please, at the very least, move from IE6 to IE7 and set up Windows Update to automatically update your machine. No matter how "evil" you see WGA as being, it's nowhere near as evil as having your sensitive data locked down with some 1024-bit encryption key and having to either a) wait or b) pay a ransom to get at it.

Just checking the stuff on my machine, if I were hit with this thing, This Is Not Art! Productions would be in a WORLD of hurt. Thankfully, with Jeremy's help, I've created a fairly fail-proof backup schema that incorporates Apple Time Machine on a remote drive, rsynch backup between the laptop and desktop, and off-site storage of all data nightly at Mozy.com. Also, thankfully, I don't use PCs anymore. But that's a whole other topic.

Seriously, update your stuff. Don't get jacked.

Six great years

Six years ago today, I was conflicted. You see, I was looking forward to six years and one day from today, but I was DREADING six years and five days from today.

Tomorrow is my sixth wedding anniversary. Six years ago tomorrow, my wife made an error in judgment that resulted in my being the luckiest man on the planet. And for our honeymoon, we went to Yosemite for two weeks of camping, hiking, rafting, and generally ignoring the whole of society while we celebrated our union.

Part of that trip was a "day hike" around the multiple peaks of the multiple mountains at Yosemite - a 16 mile hike up and down and up and down and up and down and up and down the elevated areas of one of America's largest national parks.

That wouldn't have been terrible... If I didn't weigh 370 lbs.

I had completely let myself go at that point in my life. I was arguably the most unhealthy I'd ever been, barring the day I was born. That's not to say I was a walking tank of human fat - almost everyone who knows me says I didn't LOOK 370lbs. And I still made it to the gym about once a month to prove to myself I could still survive a one mile run and a bit of lifting weights. But yeah... carrying that sort of weight, while being as out of shape as I was... Well, it was hell, quite honestly.

About two miles in, I was nearly useless... I made it through the other 14 miles through sheer stubbornness and pride. I didn't want my new bride to think I was weak and couldn't hack the whole hike (which, I wasn't, and I ended up doing... But it was because of my foolish male side, not because I was actually fit enough to do it).

Afterward, I did start eating better and working out... In fits. I slowly dropped from 370lbs to about 300lbs over four years. Then, I started working on what can only be classified as a huge mistake of a project (and if you're wondering what that might be, just look at the 2006 archives. You'll figure it out). That project found me eating the worst I've ever eaten, sleeping less than I ever slept, and wasting a TON of money (the major reason I left the project in January '07 was because our debt rose to dot-com-crash levels, after working SO hard to get rid of it all). So here I was, the most unhealthy - physically and mentally and financially - I'd ever been.

And she stuck with me.

Not just stuck with me... She supported me through it all. She knew I was going through a rough time, and she just stayed positive and kept pushing me to improve. She encouraged me to quit dismissing the prospect of being published, which led to a Penguin Books deal. She encouraged me to take our debt head-on and destroy it - which led to This Is Not Art! Productions growing out of being just a label on my self-published book and turned it into a pretty busy little company. She encouraged me to start going to the gym with her regularly - which led me to want to play football again, which led to my being the strongest I've ever been in my entire life.

There is no discounting the power of someone who believes in you.

I love you, Andrea Peacock. Here's to six great years of being absolutely perfect for one another.

6.05.2008

The 15-year tattoo, part 3

Today, I sat for NINE HOURS. But the results are amazing:






















This new work sees the appearance of the destroyed city of Neo-Tokyo (after the 2nd "bomb" - for you pedantic types, I know that in the anime, TOKYO was destroyed, while Neo-Tokyo was never seen obliterated. In the comic, however, an entire 2/3 of the story takes place after Akira goes off and blows up Neo-Tokyo) in the background, as well as the character Tetsuo on my tricep. Capping the shoulder is the cryo chamber that held Akira dormant for 31 years.

We THOUGHT we were going to wrap it up today, but there's going to have to be one more sitting. The front of the shoulder extending down between the bicep and tricep still needs city work, and the elbow is getting one more character - Akira himself.

Why I Write, #28178

Just a quick addition to the whole "Why I Write" thingy from the other day, here's a comment from the fist fight article I did a few months back. It is PRECISELY why I wrote the thing in the first place:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joe I am very happy to have stumbled unto your site, my son has been bullied most of his years in school for being the petite little guy that he is he is 13 years and so far faculty at school including the principle have not helped us resolve the ongoing situation. Well, I let my son read some of your pointers and I am happy to report the bullying has stopped. Thank you so much. Keep up the advice.

6/03/2008 7:06 PM

6.04.2008

About the new MI story "Where's Your Sense of Adventure"

I used to do this a lot during the first book; posting a quick blog entry about the new stories as they went up. I kinda miss doing that - so I figured I'd start again with the latest one.

So this one happens about two weeks after the events in part 14 of Romance.net. I was asked if I'd be willing to spend some time at the San Francisco office, training some of the new web developers out there (which was hilarious, me being 21 and both of them being in their mid-30's... Turns out, middle aged dudes don't like taking instruction from people who have been legally allowed to drink alcohol for less than a year). I was in a really strange place in my life - I realized that I was completely in love with one of my best friends, while she was hiding the same fact about me - but was unwilling (or unable) to break up with her current boyfriend.

There were some other dramas occuring at that time as well, so, I decided I needed some time to think - and what better way to get that than to just get the fuck out of Dodge? Incidentally, when I came home from the gig is when the whole Garbage-autographed computer story that you read about in my first book happened.

Anyway, this story pretty much laid dormant in my head for a long, long time. I was reminded of it when I went to the tattoo parlor to start on the latest piece (which will finish tomorrow - I AM SO EXCITED). I mean, I never "forgot" about it, it just didn't really piece itself together in my mind as a story until that time.

So yeah, there you go. That's the reason I waited so damn long to finally get this piece going.

6.03.2008

BARACK OBAMA!!!!

OMG OBAMA WON!!!





WAY WAY WAY EVEN MORE EXCITING THAN KIMBO SLICE!!!!!!!

WATCH OUT CAUSE OMG HERE HE COMES RIGHT INTO A HOUSE THAT IS WHITE! AS A PRESIDENT!







PRESIDENT OBAMA!!!!!!!

Very cool Reddit goodies

Alexis (Kn0thing) and the gang from Reddit.com were SUPER cool and sent me a bobblehead and autographed postcard last week:



I also got 2 t-shirts out of the deal. All it costed me was a free book at ROFLcon and some t-shirts (which I hope they got...)

Anyway, it was VERY cool of them to send this cool stuff over.

6.02.2008

Reward for finally writing (or, "Why I Write, Part 28177")

Two private messages and one email from folks, with the important parts (well, important to me) bolded:

From: JJBattoe
To: Joe the Peacock
Posted: Mon Jun 02, 2008 3:18 pm
Subject: Re: Heya!
Haha, I was gonna say, this came a little later than expected. Not sure if this is some automated message or what, but if not, just like to let you know I really love your site. I love the idea of how the books are voted on, edited, etc. by the people actually planning on reading it. The stories are (for the most part) well written, and quite a few of them I could relate to easily. The comedic style is great, but the subject matter is what truly keeps me reading them. I have aspirations of becoming a writer myself someday, and reading these stories has really encouraged me to pursue that dream. I hope this site continues to run for years, and hopefully gets updated a little more frequently icon_wink.gif In any case, thanks for all the entertainment, and PLEASE KEEP WRITING!!! Also, I'm sure they are harder to write, literally and emotionally, but the stories like "Just Visiting" are my favorites, and I think by writing some more of these along with the stories currently dominating your site, you could attract a whole new audience (which is good for everyone). This message may sound a little corny and whatnot, but everything I said was truly sincere. This site even helped inspire a paper I did recently for English! So once again, thanks for doing this, and I hope you have as much fun writing for this site as I have reading about your life experiences!
* * *
From: TitsMcGee
To: Joe the Peacock
Posted: Mon Jun 02, 2008 11:30 am
Subject: Re: Heya!
Hi!

Love the site so far. Not sure about the forums, since I spend a majority of the time reading the stories. Just finished the first book (literally, just 5 minutes ago. And I'm at work....obviously not getting much accomplished), I'll definitely be buying a copy. I'm the type of person who, if I like it, will read a book 35 times. In a row. In one sitting. This is definitely one of "those" types of books, so I'll need to get a hard copy so that I don't have to boot up my computer every time I want to read it. icon_smile.gif
Now that I'm done the book, though, I have to go through and read all of the stories that didn't make it in.

I initially found your site through Zug. I read the WalMart story a loooong time ago and was re-reading it the other day (while at work, again, not working) when I noticed the link to your site at the very bottom of the story. I hadn't noticed it the last time I read the story, so I went ahead and clicked it. When the page loaded and I realized you had an obscene amount of stories on here, I was like "JACKPOT!!" I was also surprised while reading through the book - I'm positive I've read your "Turning Japanese" story somewhere before, but I can't remember where. I was like "YAY, I know this one!" and got excited for some ridiculous reason that I can't explain.
I'm complicated.

Anyway, so yeah, love the site and I'll definitely be sticking around to see what stories you put out next. icon_smile.gif

* * *

Subject: It's all your fault
Date: Mon, 2 Jun 2008 16:37:40 -0400
From: P., Jim <address>
To: <joe@joethepeacoch.com>

I want to thank you (and blame you) for the past hour entertainment. I was doing my job diligently searching for an Information Architect for a client in Atlanta, and ran by your Linked In thingy as you call it. Reading your profile got me interested in what you do, so I clicked on your web link. I know my peers figured out from the snickers, that turned to laughs, that I was not questioning a candidate on their Human Experience skills.

I now have to schedule time to read all the stuff you wrote after the Cow story. If I get fired due to lack of production, can I be your agent?


Seriously, very funny stuff.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Jim P.*

Technical Recruiter
*Workplace*
Celebrating 20 Years of Success (1988 - 2008)

* * *


Thank you. Not just to the folks who sent these kind messages (who probably had no idea that today was my first story in a month, following a rather intense bout of writer's block), but to everyone who has stood by me for all this time.

Okay, enough mushy mush. More pics of grilled food and computer equipment to follow.