Monday, August 13, 2012

8 days between me and failure/success

It looms. Big, dangerous and scary as anything.

In just 8 short days I could be "unsuccessful" at my Kickstarter campaign. That innocuous word belies the effort I've poured into this campaign and the pain I'll feel if it is applied to me.

In the grand scheme of things, it wouldn't be that big of a deal. I'd still have the book draft to edit, polish and, eventually publish. I'd have worked to refine my book pitch and shared my story with numerous friends. And I would have learned a lot about myself and the publishing process.

But I'm scared right now.

I'm also excited. Being at 35% of my funding goal (needing just $4,500 to finish) means that I have a 90% chance of being successful. It puts me in the upper echelons of all Kickstarter campaigns. It means that, for three months at least, I can work full-time on my novel to get it ready for you to read.

It means that I'm 8 days away from my dream. In just over a week I could have the goal of years within my grasp. See, this campaign has been going on for 22 days, but this path has been one I've walked all my life. And I'm almost there.

$5 from 900 people
$10 from 450 people
$25 from 180 people
$50 from 90 people

I'm just that close.

Please click here and then click the big, green button on the right. Anything helps.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Lizard Brain

I'm immersed in fear, baptized by it.
I die within it, consumed. 
Each plunge, each little-death wakes the old panic.
The beast struggles to live.
Bowel-gripping hands pull, grope and claw;
hope flutters away. 

But I've done this before;
I've died this death.
Dying, I yet live. 
But knowledge cannot eclipse pain.
Familiarity breeds connection. 
I know full well the consequences, yet I continue.

Remembrance tells me I will rise again.
History declares the breath will come before I drown.
My fear has no scholar's memory.
For this moment, I'm drowning. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Embracing Failure

I've had a risky week. Over the last seven days I got a tattoo, went white water rafting, launched a fundraising campaign to publish a novel and jumped out of an airplane at 13,000 feet. The weird thing is that the most nerve-wracking part of all of it was signing the wavers. In particular, the phrase "active negligence" created some discomfort in my bowel region while I signed away my right to sue the people responsible for safely escorting me from an altitude of over 2 miles back to terra firma.

But without the risk of failure, there's no hope for success.

When the youngest female billionaire, Sara Blakely, was growing up, her father would ask "So, what did you fail at today?" Instead of encouraging the safe path, Sara's dad pushed her to failure. In doing so, he helped her to build up a tolerance to fear, so when it came time to launch her idea (Spanx), she did it. It worked.

I've talked a lot recently on Facebook about the possibility that I might fail in a huge, public and embarrassing way. I'm not trying to fail. That's not the point. But, if I do. It's okay.

If I'd died while jumping out of a plane or rafting or if my tattoo had become infected and my leg had to be amputated, that would be terrible. But I took calculated risks, despite the opportunity for catastrophic failure. I went with a tattoo artist I know and trust, I went with a rafting company that has a good safety record and I thoroughly researched the skydiving company before booking with them. I looked at the risk of failure and decided that the opportunity of success was worth it.

Now I'm in the midst of a 30 day risk with the fundraising campaign. With 25 days to go it's 28% funded. I know the statistics of how many projects will fail, how many will succeed and by how much. I know that right now I have about an 88% chance of success. Those are pretty good odds.

But I could still fail. Even though I've done everything I can to stack the odds in my favor. Even though I'm working hard to push toward success. Even though I have amazing supporters who believe in me. I could still fail.

I could have fallen to my death from a plane.

Even though I know that it's about 200,000 times more likely that I'll die driving to the skydiving place than I will while jumping, there's still a chance I could have died.

That's why most people don't take risks. They avoid the dangerous. They hide from their fears. Because something bad could happen. Something could go wrong. And then when it does, they're proven right and become even more risk averse.

It's like continuing to wear arm-floaties in the pool, as an adult, because of that one time you almost drowned. You can stay in the shallow end. You can keep your floaties on and pull up your bloomers. But I'm going to be over in the deep end, getting water up my nose after a cannonball - or it might be a belly-flop.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Obama and Romney want Me

According to Gallup polls, 90% of Republicans have already decided to vote for the Republican nominee and 90% of Democrats have already decided to vote for the Democratic nominee. This is typical of most elections. People aligned with a party vote for that party. Republicans will vote for Governor Romney; Democrats will vote for President Obama.

What will likely decide the race is how independent voters decide. That's me.

I voted for President Bush in 2004 and President Obama in 2008. I'm not registered with any party (nor will I ever). I'm the target for the presidential campaigns. I'm the undecided voter that they need to woo in order to get elected in November.

But here's the problem. They aren't talking to me. Their campaigns aren't addressing me, instead they are rallying the people who've already decided to vote for them. They're preaching to the choir, so to speak. I don't really care what Republicans have to say to other Republicans or what Democrats have to say to other Democrats. I especially don't care how the Republicans view the Democrats or how the Democrats view the Republicans. It's all turned into white noise for me. Just endless rancor and argument, ad nauseum.

So, the strategy of the political campaigns, turn up the volume. They think that if I won't listen to the lower levels of vituperation and diatribe that somehow I'll suddenly listen to louder, meaner and flashier versions of the same. Uh, nope.

President Obama, Governor Romney, please stop. Think about who you're addressing with your campaign. The people, like me, who haven't chosen a side yet, won't be swayed by hatred or discord. We won't be pulled into your camp by louder fighting. We're longing to hear something different. We're longing to hear a voice that speaks for us. A person who's willing to represent us. Not just their party, but all of the American people, Republican, Democrat and Independent.

If you want my vote, you're going to have to do something different. I hope you do.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Starting Body by Science (again)

Today the wife and I are going to start back up with the Body by Science workout. It's based on the book by Doug McGuff (he's a doctor) and John Little. It uses exhaustive research to debunk a lot of the myths about exercise and what constitutes health. In the end they recommend high-intensity training through the Big 5 workout (that takes about 12 minutes once a week).

The basic idea is that you need to completely exhaust your body in order to call up the fat reserves for more energy and induce the building of muscle. As a survival tool, our bodies are designed to do the most amount of work while using the least amount of energy. We're great at adapting to be efficient, but that's not good for building muscle and losing weight. So the Big 5 workout pushes past efficiency to exhaustion, forcing our bodies to use up reserve energy. From a total muscle-energy deficit, the body is forced to replenish and rebuild, so instead of going to the easy-to-access food or muscle-tissue for energy, it goes to the more difficult fat tissue for the necessary energy.

When you've completely exhausted your muscles, your body takes between 5 and 10 days to return to normal energy and repair the mico-tears in your muscles (why you're sore). That's why you only do the workout once a week.

What's your experience with working out? What have you found that works for you?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Why I Won't Watch "The Artist" No Matter What You Say

Two words for you: Citizen Kane.

The American Film Institute says that CK is the best film ever made. So I watched it. It's not. In fact, CK is one of the worst movies ever made. The story is unintelligible to anyone who isn't privy to the inside jokes between the director and his friends. If I wanted to watch an inside joke I could go to YouTube rather than sit through a couple of hours of mind-numbing garbage.

Which brings me to The Artist. It's a black-and-white silent film released in 2011 staring a Frenchman and it won Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor at the Academy Awards. That all tells me that it's a movie made by film students, liked by film critics and awarded by other film students. Everyone wants to feel like they're on the inside, so they perpetuate terrible movies for the sake of "art."

Art doesn't have to suck. Citizen Kane sucked, but no one wants to admit it, so they all play along. It's like the revolutionary Jabberwocky Project. Guess what, I'm not falling for it. Not this time. I wasted hours of my life on CK and I won't do the same with The Artist. I know what you're going to say, "But it's so good." "Just give it a try, you'll like it." "All the critics can't be wrong." "But it won so many awards." "It's so well made."

Whatever.

I may run the risk of never seeing a fantastic movie. But did you ever think that you're running the risk of perpetuating a terrible inside joke because you're too afraid to call it what it is?

Think about it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

[Gambling Metaphor]

You know what they say, "You gotta know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em, that is, unless your pot-committed in first position holding pocket rockets."

What? They don't say that? Well, they should.

I'm not sure how much miscellaneous gambling metaphors apply to real life situations, but they're fun to say.

"Don't look a gift horse in the mouth."

"I don't have a dog in this fight." (oh, except for the dog fighting, that's bad and wrong, but the gambling is ok, I guess)

"I'm all in."

"It's my Ace in the hole!"

"Play it close to the vest."

"Deal me in."

"It's time to double-down on ____."

"When the chips are down."

"Cash out."

What other gambling metaphors see daily use? How do you think gambling has had such a significant impact on the English language?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Weight Loss and Being a Foodie

Memphis style ribs
 My driver's license lists me at 260 pounds. I'm pretty sure I low-balled the number when I went to the DMV because I was embarrassed about what it probably was (I didn't have a scale at the time, so I don't know for sure).

I love food. I adore it. It's delicious and it brings me a lot of joy. I love making food. I love eating food and I especially love sharing the food that I've made and eating it with other people.

But being 6'4" and 260+ isn't healthy. According to the Body Mass Index that's obese. It puts me at a higher risk for heart disease, diabetes, blood clots, cancer and just about every other disease.

But I love food!

Texas style brisket
Since being 260-ish pounds when I got my license in 2008, I've dropped at least 52 pounds (I'm currently at 208). Which, according to the BMI puts me just above a normal weight range (it starts at 205). I've lost 30 of those pounds since September.

I still love food.

The difference is that I don't devour it like I once did. I recently smoked a 5 pound beef brisket (all day long) and then had just two slices of it. Maybe 5-7 ounces. When I was done, I felt satisfied, the food was delicious and I didn't gain any weight the next day.

Smoked pork shoulder
For me, food isn't the enemy, consumption is. I don't need to inhale my food. I need to savor it. A 4 ounce steak can provide me just as much satisfaction as a 16 ounce behemoth. I just eat it more slowly, I relish the experience of the tender, buttery beef nearly melting on my tongue.

I love food, but I won't be a slave to food.

I love food, but I won't be unhealthy when I enjoy it.

Over the next months I'm going to focus on building muscle and getting rid of the last few pounds of fat. Then I'm going to grill up a steak over a hardwood-lump charcoal fire.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

The Importance of Ideals

Today NPR is reporting that President Obama is promoting Democratic Super PACs to raise money for his upcoming campaign. This is a 180-degree turn from what he's said in the past condemning Super PACs and the Citizen's United decision by the Supreme Court. The logic is, essentially, that they have to keep up with the Republicans, even though they don't like it.

Sorry, but that's not how ideals work. You stick to them, even when it's not popular, even when you might lose, even if it might kill you. If you don't then I have to question the existences of the ideals in the first place. Not long ago I criticized Mitt Romney for saying one thing and then another (about taxes). The same criticism goes to the President today. You can't hide behind the legality of a thing if you think it's wrong.

Fifty years ago it was legal to segregate and deny people the right to vote based on race, but principled people with strong ideals opposed the immoral laws. They faced persecution, pain and even death for their ideals that contradicted the laws. Yet, in the end, they won a great victory in the Civil Rights movement. One of the key markers of that victory is an African-American man in the White House.

Here's the letter I wrote to the President:
Mr. President,
I am incredibly disappointed that you would switch your stance on the use of Super PACs in your campaign. You said yourself that they are detrimental to our democracy, yet, in the face of some negative advertisements you're willing to sacrifice your ideals to win a campaign?
The Super PAC arms race can't be won in the same way that the cold war was won. We will all lose if your campaign reflects the vituperative tone of the Republican primaries.
Four years ago you campaigned on a message of hope and change. Your fund raising mobilized the youth through crowd-sourced tools online. You inspired a nation to imagine a world in which we all have a voice, not just the very wealthy. Please don't make your words of four years ago a lie by aligning yourself with any Super PAC or promoting them in any way.
I know you can't collaborate with them, but you can resoundingly condemn them for what they are - muck-rakers and borderline slanderers.
Please eschew Super PACs, for the sake of your ideals and for the sake of our electoral process.
Sincerely,
James Wood

I also started a petition at the White House website. You can sign it here.  The petition was removed because it doesn't address current government policy. I'll leave the text of it up for your perusal, even though it's not live anymore.

The text of it is:

Condemn Super PACs and refuse to support them in the campaign.
The president said: "I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities." and that "[Super PACs are] damaging to our democracy."
Yet on February 6, 2012 he and his campaign began to promote Democratic Super PACs to combat the spending of the Republican Super PACs in the upcoming campaign.
We request that the President abide by his ideals and eschew the Super PAC money. He should condemn them be they Republican, Democrat or Independent as they all serve only to drown out the voices of the people.
Please return to the message of hope and change that inspired a nation in 2008. Don't support Super PACs in this campaign.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mitt Romney Is . . .

After Mitt Romney released his 2010 and 2011 Tax returns I couldn't resist doing a little digging to see where that puts him. Apparently a worth of over $30 million puts him in the top 0.007% in the US. His taxes alone are more than 99.966% of people in the US make in a year.

Mitt Romney Occupy Taxes Money Income Wealth
Mitt is the 0.007%