10 WAYS TO SPEND YOUR NEXT POLAR VORTEX

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Until this year nobody except Meteorological nerds knew what a polar vortex was or how they worked.  Now, everybody knows what a polar vortex is, and it will quickly make the top 10 most hated words/phrases of 2014 (quickly joining such favorite hated words/sayings like hashtaging your hashtag, fiscal cliff, Obamacare, and oldies but goodies like WMDs and Gen X.)  Frankly, I’ve gotten sort of use to it being below zero, and have resigned myself to a forever winter – we haven’t seen a temperature above 32 in the last two weeks, and have an average of about 7 degrees so far in February.  So, as we embark on the frigid waning weeks of February I have compiled a list of 10 fun activities for everyone to tackle during their next polar vortex, vortexes, vortacies? 

10.  Flip your mattress!  According to mattress.com, which is apparently a real thing for all things mattress related, “New mattresses should be rotated, on average, every 3 months. But use your best judgment and if you feel a bit of a sag or can see one with the naked eye, it might be best to rotate your mattress more often. And make sure you don’t forget your foundation! Your nightly slumber can weigh heavily on a box spring as well, so rotate your box spring every 6 months, but be sure to never, EVER flip it.”  There’s nothing like wrestling with a 50lb mattress so old that it bends in half like soft shell taco.  What’s even better is you can rope others into helping you with this fun an often over looked task.  

9.  Friend and stalk former girlfriend/boyfriend that really pissed you off in the past on Facebook.  Comment on everything they’ve ever posted, and use lol even (or especially) where inappropriate.   As an added bonus friend their current partner/spouse and hope they blindly accept the friend request – repeat annoying behavior.  Unfriend once polar vortex has concluded.

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8.  Download and play Flappy Bird.  The addiction that is Flappy Bird will have you tossing your smart phone across room rather quickly.  Flappy Bird is about the most basic game in the market place and requires you only be able to rhythmically tap the screen to make a little bird flap its wings and navigate obstacles.  Heather Kelly of CNN writes, “The game’s fluttering rise to the top has been a viral mystery. Its addictiveness and absurd level of difficulty have driven many to the brink of madness and spawned a number of online rants and hysterical reviews.”  Give it a go, and don’t forget to pen a suicide note before hand.  

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7.    Begin reading War and Peace, the proverbial greatest (and longest fucking) book ever written.  Many have tried, yours included, and failed – I’m certain I purposefully left it one apartment or another during some move while living in closets and coatrooms in Chicago.  I tried reading that book when I was in my 20’s living the Hemingwayian writer’s lifestyle, with very little writing and a whole bunch of drinking.  It was very seedy, often dirty, and totally unproductive – at least that’s what the 40 year old me tells myself.  Reading the 1400+ page book isn’t necessarily a literary accomplishment, but you certainly do earn some bragging rights in your book club. 

6.  Watch The Shining, because nothing says I love being trapped inside my house like Jack Nicholson.  All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy…

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5.  Figure out what Twitter is for.  This is primarily for those over 35 who have Twitter accounts, but are uncertain of just why the hell they only have 140 characters to say something.  These people are also addicted to Facebook, and frequently debase themselves for the amount of time they spend clicking like and not actually reading the article. #wtfistwitter

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4.  Watch reruns of Bay Watch, because who doesn’t love David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson running around on the beach saving lives.  I’m pretty sure the show got a little out of hand when they got abducted by aliens – but that was just Tommy Lee, and that’s a different video anyway.  This epic show certainly didn’t inspire me to run off to California and become a life guard, but knowing that Hasselhof dies an epic death on stage in Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical makes a body happy.

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3.  MINECRAFT – while not personally addicted to this video game, if my daughter is any indication it must possess an addictive drug that makes it nearly impossible to stop playing, watching YouTube videos about, and talking incessantly.  I can tell you there about 1000 different mods, and a entire dictionary to understand exactly what the hell a mod is and the rest of the language you have to speak in order to play this game.

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2.  Read Apple’s Eula – or better yet, let Richard Dreyfus read it for you!  Yes, Academy Award winner Mr. Holland lent his baritones to this epic reading.  Pay close attention to the “Effective Until” recording – priceless.

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1.  Make list of things to do during a polar vortex that you will never actually do, but believe are just witty enough to share with the rest of the world or the 17 people that casually follow your blog.

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Biggest Loser Loses Out

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Years ago when I smoked cigarettes and sat on the couch eating Skippy peanut butter out of a vat with chocolate chip chasers I’d watch the Biggest Loser and feel bad about myself then switch to ice cream or Oreos or perhaps both.  The Biggest Loser became sort of running joke for a couple years between my wife and I; we’d laugh at our culinary shortcomings and watch people of all ages transform their bodies from the morbidly obese to the fit and functional, and some even to the athletic and svelte.  

Eventually my wife and I ditched some bad habits.  Perhaps it was having Bob, Jillian, and Dolvette silently mock us season after season, but we finally joined the YMCA near our home.  It was rough and I can still remember my first workout, a 3-2-1 group workout (a glutton for punishment) that was 3 minutes of hell, 2 minutes of devil worship, and 1 minute of having my fingernails pulled out 1 by 1, repeated over and over again for what felt like eternity.  Let’s not be confused here, I only did 50% of what everyone else did, and the other 50% of the time I cried or gasped for my last breath of air or both – being the only male in class this only doubled the shame I felt as I watched any ego get stomped out by the 60 year old grandmother, Sophie, who was on her second class of the day.

Time passes and heals all muscles, although very slowly in the beginning.  My endurance picked up, I was able to run the mile.  I hadn’t run a mile in ever.  Even in high school I walked the mile, in protest, because I couldn’t run it mainly.  Pounds started falling off, and dietary practices began changing.  My wife worked hard to clean up our food choices; we’re now to the point where we eat mostly whole food – I still cheat too often.  I ran my first (and second) 5k’s and am shooting for a (sprint) triathlon this summer – all of this while undergoing two shoulder surgeries.  It’s been 2 years now, and I’m down 30-40lbs of fat weight and added who knows how much lean muscle, and I feel better than I have in ever.  I trashed my body with bad choices for most of my life so I’m grateful it stuck around and decided to still work.  I find myself today teaching two Spin classes a week at my Y, and seriously considering going after personal trainer certification.  I credit the show Biggest Loser for helping motivate me, for developing and showcasing individuals who change their body, mind and soul.  These individuals go from Death’s door to living rich full and active lives, many of whom use their experience to motivate others to create their own success stories. 

This past season of the Biggest Loser ended with what can only be described as a monumental fail, an epic fail – the very idea that the Biggest Loser champions against – ill health.  The winner, Rachel Frederickson, lost 60% of her total body weight, finishing at 105 pounds.  She looked emaciated and in very ill health.  Bob and Jillian, the show’s two most veteran trainers looked at her in horror, as well they should.

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I by no means consider Rachel to be a bad person for her results; I think she just simply wanted to win too badly.  By no standards does she even remotely resemble a healthy person.  In the previous episode she looked fit and athletic, there was no way that she could have safely lost the remaining weight she did. 

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I don’t know if there is fault to be cast, but I believe that the Biggest Loser needs to regroup and evaluate their criteria for a winner.  Healthy living and healthy weight should be the standard by which Biggest Loser should brand itself.  Rachel Frederickson embodied neither and there is no justification for how she looked.  Allowing her to win sets an ugly precedent, and if the show or trainers don’t address what has happened then I fear that a future contestant may pay the ultimate price in trying to win.  Losing weight and changing one’s life is something to be championed, we should all seek to live healthy, stay active, and help others do the same when you are able.  The Biggest Loser will certainly face criticism and backlash, and I’m sure they’ll weather the storm; I however, will not continue watching the show until this issue has been addressed.  I encourage others to put pressure on the show to acknowledge the pitfalls and dangers that Rachel has placed herself in by losing an unhealthy amount of weight.  This season the biggest loser was the Biggest Loser.

I’m a lazy ass

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A Recap of The Things I didn’t do this week…

First and foremost, let’s get this straight!  I did not cure cancer this week – not that I had any expectation of doing so nor do I possess the mental acuity to achieve such profundity.  Moving on, although perhaps in no better of a direction, I did not find Jimmy Hoffa or Ambrose Bierce – again, not specifically on my radar, but I keep an eye open (even if my wife frequently questions my peripheral vision as she tries to keep me from sticking my foot in my mouth.)  Other things that were seemingly out of my grasp this week include: saving the starving children (anywhere,) starting a homeless shelter (they’re often very smelly,) visiting the sick and infirmed in hospitals (again smelly, and the last thing I need is another cold,) starting a dot com (it’s not the 90’s anymore,) seeing 12 years a Slave (which is probably the most grievous thing on my list.)  I didn’t send a rover to Mars or Pluto.  I didn’t make Jedi – something I really believe I was meant to be.  I didn’t earn my black belt, but then again I don’t practice any martial arts.  I did not walk on water or turn water in to wine or serve myself as food, which totally puts to rest the idea of me being the reincarnation of Jesus to bed.  I did not, despite the constant rumors, stabilize a wormhole.  I suppose I could have set my sights on something more attainable and tried harder to keep up with the dishes or done the laundry.  I could have emptied the garbage before it was overflowing on to the floor.  My shoes are constantly gathering in mountains at the base of the couch, and there really is only so many times you can shake-clean and cologne-fresh your underwear.  Listen, I was busy. 

There are just so many things that pop up over the course of a day, like waking up, and going to a job.  Frankly, it’s astonishing I did anything this week!  I mean, when that alarm goes off in the morning and I have sit up to get out of bed, that is one hell of an accomplishment, and don’t get me started on taking a shower or brushing my teeth; I might as well go back to bed after all that activity; but I persevere.

The list of all of the things that I didn’t do is quite long, and I’m feeling rather down on myself.  There are people out there winning Nobel prizes, going for Olympic gold, and teaching bears to ride bikes.  There are kids out there apparently digging wells and bringing clean water to 3rd world cultures, overachievers.  Meanwhile, I’m here typing on this keyboard, ignoring the pile of dog crap petrifying in the corner of the room just trying to avoid and dodge the soccer ball, dinosaurs, Hot Wheels cars strewn about the unvacuumed carpet – another thing I didn’t do this week.

When Hell Freezes Over

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Somewhere today some very intelligent kids are asking for their pony, their Ferrari, their unicorn, their “insert the thing your parents said you can have when hell freezes over.”  Being squarely planted in the Midwest among the cornfields and back roads of rural America, I figured what the hell, why not go for a walk.  My trek into the subarctic -16*F (-40*F+ windchill) proved to be an exercise in nature’s beauty and holy shit is it cold!

 I assembled the required clothing for a jaunt into the tundra: shorts, wind-resistant track pants, subzero-overall bibs, double sweatshirt (1 moisture wicking,) jacket – windproof, winter jacket – bigger and still wind-resistant, cotton socks (best I could do,) Timberland waterproof insulated winter boots, double gloves, double hat (one hunter style with ear flaps,) a scarf to wrap and tie around head, and leave a small eye slit.  I was ready, and I was more than excited about the prospect of trudging through the frozen wasteland of my subdivision.  I was not disappointed.

I pointed my compass towards the open farm fields and watched the snow devils whip and whirl across the fields, my eye slit allowing just enough wind to pierce and sting the tiny bits of cheek that remained exposed.  The power of the weather is amazing, and while I was fully prepared, and have experienced similar colds in my life; it was another reminder of our place in this great big ball of existence.

When I was in my early to mid twenties I recall similar days to today, dressed in similar garb, walking under the “L” tracks to Coffee of Chicago on Clark and Buckingham from my apartment at Freemont and Sherridan.  Late at night as I closed down the shop and walked north along Clark I remember a street void of traffic, if just for 5 minutes; I laid down in the middle of Clark and made a snow angel, got up and proceeded to some local watering hole and drank away my chills.

I’m an older wiser version of that person now; I don’t get drunk at the local watering hole, and I don’t lay down in the middle of the street to make a snow angel.  As a forty year old father and husband I do put on a ridiculous amount of clothing and head out into the extreme weather, just to check it out, because I’m still a kid, I’m still curious just to be curious, and I want to continue making my stupid stories in life.

It would be easy to stay inside and say, it’s fucking cold.Image  I don’t particularly like that idea of life.  I want to know/remember what it feels like, looks like, smells like, as experience and life washes over my skin and still causes a little stinging sensation.  I want my kids to know that experience is what life is about, even at the smallest level.  We learn by doing, not by listening.  We make memories by being a part of something, not being passive to it, and we stay young by doing the stupid shit that we are too old to do, knowing that we are never too old to do anything.

We All Do It

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8:15 AM.  Down the hall I hear my son laughing; a minute ago he walked past the kitchen table, as I was TV parenting, and said he had to go potty – he had the “pad” in tow.  After several minutes of giggling to what I know was an open door to the bathroom, I sat my coffee cup down, pulled my fingers from my archaic keyboard, and tiptoed over to peer down the hall and see my boy standing buck naked in front of the toilet playing the “pad,” and no this is not an euphemism.  I hear myself say his name, and give him a look that says, “OMG, I can’t believe what I’m seeing, because it’s like I’m looking in the mirror.”  That’s when I realize, we all do it.  

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They follow us everywhere, our smart phones, iPads, Tabs, and dozens of other handheld devices, even (especially?) to the bathroom.  Unlike my son I close the door; but add 35 years to him, a little less giggling, and that’s me – drawers down finishing a Facebook post, playing WWF, smashing my head against my phone as I contemplate buying a cheat for that level of Candy Crush I’ve been stuck on for a week or laughing at Grumpy Cat and his exploits of being the Andy Rooney of felis catus.  How much longer am I in the bathroom now?  Is my cranky colon due to my unwillingness to part with my virtual world?  Have cases of extreme hemorrhoids gone up since this technology became so mobile?  Is this a disgusting topic?  Have I asked too many rhetorical questions?  We all do it, right?  

I think I’ll send my kids to college for proctology or audiology.  Between $200 Beats headphones making Swiss cheese of eardrums, and toilet seats causing broken butt holes, there’s a goldmine of possibilities.  What about a redesign of the toilet seat?  Heavy padding?  Memory foam?  A Sleep Number for your anus?  An ergonomically designed seat to cradle and relieve pressure from the sphincter?  (Dear patent office, I am calling dibs on these ideas!)  

We really are addicted to these handheld devices, and frankly many of us, especially the generations growing up never knowing a time they didn’t exist, get anxious (hell, they lose their shit) when they don’t have them on their person.  Listen, I fall asleep with it, and sometimes roll over on it (occasionally kissing it) – which I know is causing my internal organs to melt; but I did manage to through my mid twenties without the aid of these devices.  I went to college without a cellphone, when AOL was king, and the ping-wang-cachsssshhh-ga-bing-ga-bing of Al Gore’s internet wasn’t anything but a big chat room, and I had to go to the library to get information.  What’s this all mean?  

I don’t know, but it won’t get better.  Soon enough all white collar workers will work from home in a virtual office, and I’ll send TPS reports from my Golden Throne 2000 (patent pending.)  The next generation of college grads will tune into iTune University for their practicums and lectures.  They will wire themselves into the internet, which will simply be Facebook, and conduct business in they way they’re comfortable with, leaving the grey haired white skin suits to gather dust at conference tables and business meetings.  The farms and open spaces will be owned by Amazon and feature shipping centers where the rest of us, who don’t work the way they work, pack UPS trucks with all of life’s necessities.  The Matrix will no longer be viewed for entertainment value, if it ever was, and will be a blueprint for future generations.  And when I get home I will still take a deuce and see what I Fucking Love Science has to say today.  That’s all from this side of the frontal lobe; and as always, be kind to each other, we’re all we’ve got!

Happy Overplayed Cliche’ Day 2014

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Let’s face it, 2014 has no other choice than be amazing; it starts on hump day!!!  Okay, that’s the first and last time I will use this overplayed, albeit it initially hilarious, turn of phrase/commercial/idiom in 2014 – it should be retroized in about 5 years (seeing as the cycle to get to retro spins faster and faster year by year.)  The snow is falling, I’ve had 3/4 of a pot of coffee, and I’ve played Crash Drive 2 for my son, played crash drive too on the floor with Hot Wheels and Tonka trucks.  We are now in a lull; he’s got tornado videos going on the pad, wife is scrolling Facebook, and I’m hammering out these words.  Life is good.  I am curious as to how many people made New Year’s resolutions that A) They don’t remember making, B) Have already broken or C) Have made in the past and have no plans on keeping this year or any year, they just needed to save face in front of some friends at a party.  I rarely make resolutions, mainly because I don’t keep them; however, I am entering year 3 of being physically fit and tobacco free – which all things considered is a lifetime of resolutions.  Frankly, new year, new day, it doesn’t really matter.  It’s just an opportunity to write the wrong year on a bevy of different forms and papers; I’d say checks, but who the hell writes a check anymore.  I’d like to start the year off with the appropriate level of gratitude it deserves – I am grateful for my job; it’s great to be employed w/ health benefits and to work around the amazing professionals in my building – I have a level of security that very few can claim.  I am grateful for my struggles; they teach me about what is important in my life (even when I don’t want to learn a lesson.)  Well, boy-wonder is eating oatmeal, struggling through the fact that he has another cold – he’s been sick since before Thanksgiving, on two courses of antibiotics, and I’m not ready to call for another round.  Please don’t bring up eating or sleeping – he eats amazing, and sleeps average (could be better.)  My brain is saying it’s time for a nap, there will be no workout today, and hopefully the day will get better than the Rachael Ray show that’s on our TV (but how could it really, it’s Rachael Ray.)  That’s all from this side of the frontal lobe; as always, be kind to each other, we’re all we’ve got!

Happy Tuesday and The End of The Two Zero One Three

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Happy Helluva Tuesday to ya’all – my minions, my peeps, my friends, my loved ones… They coffee is hot, the day is young, and my daughter is asleep on the chair next me, and no this is not unusual.  She loves to come down early and fall back asleep, especially if I am down here, and she can’t break out a few early morning Oreos (which is frowned upon.)  Anywho, it’s the last day of 2013, and I’m fairly certain that I have zero idea of where the hell this year went.  For all of my trying to proclaim the beauty of being in the moment, I have no doubt that this past year was on fast forward (which really isn’t a thing anymore seeing as we skip or go to a chapter;) but I digress.  I don’t know what 2013 was like for you, but for me it was a gem, a diamond?  It wasn’t a catharsis or anything, however, I did find new and old passion in many different areas of my life.  I’ve gone from Spin attendee to Spin instructor (who is taking his classes back in the new year!)  I’ve written more in 2013 than I have in the past 10 years combined.  I’ve realized that while I won’t be an astronaut, I can still accomplish whatever I set my mind to.  I might be 40, but I have no idea what that means, and I’m not sure it matters, and it definitely won’t dictate what I will or won’t do.  So what does 2014 hold?  I don’t know.  However, this year is the year of the book; I’ve always been encouraged to write one, but I feel the story is ready to bud.  I want to thank each of you who read me everyday for reminding me of just how important writing is to my life.  2014 will have highs, it will have lows, and it will be beautiful as long as I remember the most important lessons: all I have to work with is in today, happiness is my choice, resentments are poison, money will come and go, and to live kindly and compassionately regardless of external conditions, oh yea, and donuts are wicked food items sent by Satan to make me fat.  We kick this last day of 2013 off with a winter snow storm, which may or may not amount to much, but be careful out there tonight – seriously, don’t drink and drive, it’s stupid, costly, and deadly.  Well, that’s all from this side of the frontal lobe, don’t forget to read my other posts; and as always, be kind to each other, we’re all we’ve got.