Programming Note

As background: Thursdays are usually my slow day here on SITD. I usually do a little surge of writing over the weekend that tides me through the first half of the week – and the end of the week usually brings its own observations I scramble to get in for Friday.

But late-week fatigue, other commitments, and the like have made Thursdays the red-headed step-day of the Shot In The Dark schedule for years and years, now.

I’m going to fix that. Sort of.

So – the urge to do another book project has overtaken me. And writing Trulbert as a “Dickensian Serial” on this blog six years ago was not only a lot of fun, but short-circuited some of the usual pitfalls of trying to write a book, most particularly the whole “self-discipline” thing.

Indeed, I believe the fact that one of you readers called it exactly that was what sparked an interest to turn an extended series of “comical” posts into a novel. And it was suggestions in the comment section that led to an actual ending.

So I’m gonna do it again. I’m going to earmark Thursdays for the new project.

Or should I say, “new” project.

Thursdays will likely be light on other content, and devoted to a “chapter” of my next project.

More next week.

Who’s Got Two Thumbs…

… And is scheduled to appear on the Joe Piscopo show, on AM970 The Answer in New York City at 7:25 central time/825 Eastern today?

Um…

OK, you can’t actually see me pointing my thumbs at myself, so the joke doesn’t make much sense.

Anyway, as this is written I am scheduled to appear on Joe Piscopo’s morning show in New York this morning. Notify the media!

Wait. I am the media.

Anyway, if you’re in the New York City area, tune in!

Times In Which The Mundane Is Spectacularly Radical

Let’s say I write an article in which I assert that the mid-day sky is actually bright scarlet red in color.

You might respond “You’re just Mitch Berg. You’re a conservative, so you always think stupid things”. That response is half, maybe 3/4 true – but doesn’t say anything about the color of the sky. What it does is say “your argument is false because of who you are”. The term is “Argumentum ad Hominem” – latin for “arguing against the man”, rather than the facts the Man presented. It’s a logical fallacy. Who I am has no bearing on the facts I present, right or wrong.

You might then respond “You don’t have a degree in meteorology – how would you know anything about the sky?” That’s also true – I’m not a meteorologist. But it doesn’t address the facts presented, but rather my credentials. It’s called an “Appeal to Authority”, and it’s another logical fallacy. One’s credentials might lend authority to a statement – but not truth or falsity, all by themselves.

You could try another tack, something like “you are an idiot”. That’d be called an “Appeal to Ridicule”. Again – I might be actually an idiot, but it doesn’t address my factual assertion in any way. It’s…yep, another logical fallacy.

Maybe you could dig back on Twitter, and find some example of me saying “the sky is blue”, and post a before-and-after saying “Hah! You’re being inconsistent!”. That’s called the “Argumentum Tu Quoque” – focusing on the fact that one has changed their mind on a subject, rather than the facts at hand – which is a really dumb one; the fact that I was a Democrat growing up, for example, doesn’t make me less a conservative today (or vice versa for someone else).

You could go on the offensive, and claim that if I believe the sky is scarlet with “Sooooo, what you’re saying is you want old people to die”. That’s called a “Straw Man Argument” – trying to make someone defend an argument they never made. I said the sky was scarlet – nothing about Grandma at all.

You could write “the sky is blue, because as I noted above, the sky is blue”. That’s called “Begging the Question” – perhaps the most mis-used phrase in the quasi-educated dialect of English, which people usually use to refer to “asking a question again”. It means “using your conclusion as proof of your conclusion”.

Or – here’s a radical thought, you could post a picture of a bright blue, or dull gray, sky and tell the world “Look! The sky above is blue! It’s not even a little bit scarlet!”. That would address the actual facts of my assertion that the sky was bright scarlet.

And the technical term for that is “a factual argument”.

I’m writing this not because I’m trying to go all Jordan Peterson on you, but because our society would be a lot stronger, smarter and BS-proof if more people learned how to make a logical argument, and to spot and call out an illogical one.

“That’s just NPR!” or “That’s just National Review” or “that info came from people allied with “the swamp”” and many other arguments…aren’t really arguments at all. They are illogical deflections.

Not to go all Walt Kowalski, but there was a time people had to learn this stuff. And there are times I think, reading social media, that learning the basics of, if not logic, at least spotting gross illogic and not being illogical, should be required before people can vote…

much less post on Facebook or Twitter.

And if I’m ever appointed king, or otherwise become a benevolent strongman…

(Careful, kids – in some quarters, particularly academia, the above is very un-PC. It’s what we used to call Samizdat. )

This post was originally run on May 11 2020. I’m re-running it because, well, it seems appropriate.

Shot In The Dark: Today’s News, Two Years Ago (Again)

The Babylon Bee – America’s most accurate source of news – defines “Karen”, who is sort of the anti-“Rosie The Riveter” of the current crisis.

Watch carefully. Anything look/sound familiar?

“Karen’s” hairdo – it’s “ELCA Hair“.

If you read Shot In The Dark, you’re years ahead of the hoi-polloi.

2020 Pledge Drive – Final Day

Thanks to everyone that’s donated so far! I appreciate it more than I can express.

———-

After 18 years of doing this blog, I’m continually humbled and amazed that people keep coming by. I say I’d keep doing it even if I still had five readers a day (as I did, back through most of 2002) – but seeing people actually keep coming back certainly makes it even more fun.

I thank you all.

I am passing the hat, as I usually do every year about this time – and am gratefuil for any support you might be able to spare.

UPDATE – Don’t like PayPal?

We can sure try iWallet, if you prefer:

Update 3/19 – Thanks, all!

Now It Can Vote

It’s weird, the things that stick in memory.

In my mind, February 2002 was cold and snowy. Who knows if that’s true – but that’s how it’s stuck in my mind.

I was working at a company in Minnetonka whose death spiral, which incompetent management had started long before the post 9/11 “Dot Bomb” reared its head.

9/11 had happened five months earlier. And my own personal collapsing tower, a divorce, had happened not long before that. I was living with my two kids – at the time, 8 and 10 years old – and getting used to a whole new way of living.

And as both worlds – the wider one and my personal one – spun out of control, I found myself missing the voice I’d lost fifteen years earlier, when I’d gotten whacked from my first, and to that point last, talk radio gig at KSTP. I didn’t need, or ask for, much – but having some way of getting what I was thinking out to someone other than my kids, dog and cats was something I was craving.

And which seemed so, so far away.

I”d come back from lunch, to an office across the lake from Ridgedale Mall, and was already bored out of my mind.

I went to Time.com – and it occurs to me, it may have been among the last times I ever did that – and read an article about “The New Generation of Conservative Intellectuals Online”. One of the featured thinkers was none other than Andrew Ferguson – and his “blog”, the Dish.

And, most importantly, a sidebar on how to create a “blog”.

I ran home that night, fed the kids, put them to bed, and went out to “Blogger.com” and started setting thngs up…

…and got to my first roadblock; picking a name.

Not sure where “Shot in the Dark” came from: I think it was mostly a play on words, encompassing the DIY/no idea what I”m doing vibe that I felt, as well as my nascent Secone Amendment activism

Either way, that next morning I got up at 5:30AM – the only “me” time I really had at that point – and started writiing.

And nearly every weekday morning for the past 18 years, it’s been the same routine. My kids are grown up and moved out, and one of them has a kid of his own. My little writing hobby that drew maybe half a dozen readers a day morphed into what I have today – four-figure daily readership – and so much more, a social circle and a radio show and a bunch of friends I can’t imagine my life without, and a whole world the doors to which I thought had slammed shut in the eighties.

Anyway – today Shot in the Dark turns 18. It can vote and join the military.

And I’d like to thank you all for being here, and being the reason I do it, all these years; some of you, literally since just about Day 1.

Thanks. And here’s to 18 more.

When Making Your Evening Plans In The Northwest Metro

My band, “Elephant in the Room”, is playing at Neighbors in Albertville tonight from 9PM-1AM.

Santa was just sitting in the night that pic was taken; Jon Heyer will be back tonight.

And for all you long-time NARN listeners – that’s my old producer, Tommy Huynh, singing. The guy can do Robert Plant, Dexter Holland and…Brad Delp?

Oh, yeah. Brad Delp.

Hope you can stop out to our favorite bar in the far northwest subs!

Fair Warning

I can listen to people scrape their fingernails on chalkboards (kids, ask your parents) all day long.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t sounds and words that make my teeth hurt and make me nauseous.

My example I have always hated the word “Document”, and all its uses and derivatives. Document? Documentation? Documentary? All of them. The only exception is the sentence “I just watched someone who overused the word ‘document’ get eaten by mice”.

My worst boss ever was a (I’m not making this up) near-functional illiterate QA manager to whom the company’s benighted tech writers had to report. And she once described the tech writers’ job as to “document the documentation in the documents”. It wasn’t *that* episode, or the fact that she advocated changing the job title to “Documentalist”, that made her the worst boss ever – oh, Lord, no – but it put a cherry on top of the crap sundae that was that job.

Which is one of the reasons I tune out the radio when impeachment talk comes up Part of it is because Adam Schiff justifies retroactive bullying – but largely because if I hear another smug, sanctimonious voice saying “documents documents documents documents documents…” again I’m going to kick a puppy.

When Out And About This Weekend

For my band, “Elephant in the Room”, it seems to be feast or famine.

This weekend is “feast” – or as I’m calling it, our “Winter Tour 2019”.

Friday night, we’re at “Neighbors”, in Albertville. It’s our first time out there, and we’re looking forward to our first gig in the Northwest exurbs! We’ll be playing, roughly, from 9PM-1AM.

Then – Saturday night, we’re back at the Stillwater Bowl and Lounge. Don’t let the name fool you – it’s a fun room, good crowd, and they have those edge-of-the-metro food and drink prices that make going out a *lot* more fun!

https://www.facebook.com/Stillwater-Bowl-and-Lounge-969003089810159/

Hope you can stop out!

What I’m Not Doing This Weekend

Well, it seems at least one tradition is on a “pause” for the foreseeable future.

AM1280 and the NARN won’t be out at the State Fair this year.

Fifteen straight summers, the NARN guys and I worked out at the Fair. The station took a different route this year.

Which on the one hand is fine – no need to add “getting to the fairgrounds” to all the other show prep stuff.

On the other hand, it means I lose the big benefit of being with the station at the Fair: having an air-conditioned room with a fridge full of water to retreat to when the crowds get to be too much. That, along with getting to meet the audience face to face, was one of the highlights of whole “show at the Fair” experience.

I’ll have to come up with some other side hustle that offers that…

Deja Vu All Over Again

One of my life’s great face-to-desk moments was in the fall of 2004.

Back in 2003, I’d participated in “National Novel Writing Month”, usually known as NaNoWriMo. “Nano” takes place every November; the goal is to write a novel – 50,000 words worth – in those thirty days. It doesn’t have to be much of anything – it’s just gotta be done.

Now, I went into NaNoWriMo 2003 with an outline for a book that I’d been tweaking in my mind, and then on paper, for 5-6 years. I’d fleshed out characters, come up with a pretty cool plot, and had things pretty well laid out. And I hit Nano running; I think I got through 100,000 words – and 40% of my outline.

I put it away for a bit – but figured I’d finish it between then and the next Nano, in the fall of 2004.

That fall, the opening of the TV season included a series that smacked into me like a Proust compilation hitting a cement floor; my novel about a bunch of people stranded by a crash under bizarre, perhaps supernatural circumstances suddenly went from “original” to “just like Lost“.

And so it was back to dreaming about writing a novel.

That opportunity came to me finally six years ago, as I started writing a series of satirical observations about local Libertarians, which morphed – at the suggestion of commenters, truth be told – into a “Dickensian serial” about a highly tongue-in-cheek collapse of civilization and “reboot” of the political order. Trulbert was a hoot to write, and even more fun to see people reading. I sold probably 500 online copies – profiting enough to take a halfways decent vacation.

And it whetted my appetite for more.

I’ve been fascinated by the idea of the US finally taking some critics’ suggestions (including, occasionally, mine) and breaking up into some smaller, more politically contiguous countries, and what that’d mean. There was on the one hand an urge not to go full-blown satirical, a la Trulbert; I still go back and forth on that, as “desire to try something different” runs up against “go with what you know, and also unknown people can’t get typecast”.

So the urge to do another Dickensian serial about a divorce – maybe amicable, maybe not, a la my 2005 serial, Secession Diaries – between the several states has been bubbling around since, well, Trulbert came out.

That urge has been mightily tempered by the fact that Kurt Schlicter seems to have taken over that market.

BoCo

I was remiss (overwhelmed with life, really) in not noting last week the big local media news – Bob Collins of MPR has retired after 27 years at the Taj Ma Klling and 45 in radio all together.

Bob worked at MPR, so it’s an absolute given we’d disagree on…well, most things. We sparred a time or two over at the “NewsCut” blog he ran for many years over at MPR. Which says something – Bob would spar. Most MPR figures hid behind the organization’s magisterial facade and didn’t bother engaging the peasantry.

Not Bob. He was the only MPR staffer – and one of very few mainstream media figures – to ever appear at a MOB party, back in blogging’s heyday. The image of Collins talking, I think, sports with Gary Miller was one of the highlights of that whole time of my history doing this blog thing.

And I would be lying if I didn’t admit that he wrote two of the things that I’ve been proudest of in all my years of doing this.

In 2007, I wrote a piece o the death of Bo Diddley, about which Bob wrote:

Mitch Berg, author of the Shot in the Dark blog, pens a tribute (by the way, to see why Berg is, perhaps, the best blog writer in Minnesota when it comes to music, see his post on Bruce Springsteen.), invoking some long-forgotten images of when rock married politics, as in the 1989 George Bush inaugural

I’ve gotten a lot of compliments writing this blog – notably, the fact that so many of you spend time reading it every day – but yeah, that one coming out of the blue stuck with me.

And the next year, during the run-up to the Republican National Convention in Saint Paul, I walked from my job at the time over to a news conference held by a group of groups that were planning the demonstrations at the convention. Collins took up the scene:

What about what most people think when they hear a term like militant, violence, for example?
“The violence that I’m worried about is the violence that’s being carried out in Iraq right now,” she answered, which isn’t really an answer.
“You’re not answering my question,” a blogger said, uttering the five words that mark a great political journalist.
“I know,” she said, adding that she doesn’t consider the blockades being planned — allegedly — by other groups “violence.”
“That’s not what we’re planning,” she said.

I was the blogger, natch. And while I’ve never been a “political journalist” – I’ve always preferred “irascible peasant” – I always took that as a great compliment.

Anyway, good luck out there, Bob.

This Weekend – Join The Herd!

Why not stop on out to the Eagles in Stillwater on Friday or Saturday from 8PM til Midnight?

They seem to like us in Stillwater – back in April, we slew at the Stillwater Lanes and Lounge (it’s a much better venue than the name suggests), and this is like our fifth weekend playing the Eagles.

Come on out and join the Herd!

Pledge Drive

I’ve been doing this blog since 2002 – and while my traffic remains gratifyingly high even as the “glory days” of blogging have passed, I’d still do it if I had five readers a day. I just plain enjoy it, and every reader just adds a little more fun.

But every once in a while I like to pass the hat. I didn’t do it last year – but I figure why not?

So if you can throw a buck or two in the pot, it is much appreciated!

Thanks!

UPDATE: Thanks to everyone who donated yesterday (I’ll send personal thank-yous later on here). I’m going to push this for one more day.

Thanks, all!

Big Personal Data

I’ve never gone into a lot of detail about my personal live – family, relationships, jobs – on the blog.  Not only are there too many creepy stalkers, but the left’s culture of “othering” means they’re far from above trying to screw with the personal lives and livelihoods of people they disagree with.

But to make a long cryptic story short and more cryptic – I’m leaving my contract job of a year and a half to go to a full-time direct position.  I’m wrapping up at my current contract in about a week, and will be starting the new job in the next couple of weeks.

Now, it should surprise nobody who has followed this space, or otherwise knows me in any way, that I take job hunting very seriously. I was a single parent for a long time, so cash flow was, to borrow a Joe Biden quote, “a big f*****g deal” to me. It maybe the one thing in my life I’m seriously OCD about.

And so I keep statistics. I have a googledoc spreadsheet on which I keep the details of every job search I’ve ever been on since I got into the IT business as a technical writer in 1993. I keep them partly out of morbid curiosity, and partly to show myself that I’m really not doing all that badly so don’t get depressed.

So since I’ve got nothing else going on, let’s take a look.

Aggravated Aggregation

I’ve had 29 job hunts since 1993. An average of 2 per year during my five years as a tech writer, and a little less than once a year since I’ve been in UX.

The *average* job hunt – from starting the hunt to getting an offer – has taken 33 days (plus an average of 10 days after the offer before starting the job, whether my choice or their paperwork). This past one was 54 days almost on the button, plus three weeks from the offer to start. (The worst was 2003 – almost five months. The shortest was 2010; I made my first call Friday as I was holding my layoff notice, interviewed Monday at 10AM, got the offer at 11:30).

BUT – in the 54 days I was on the market, I made it to four final interviews – from initial contact to final interview. Three of ’em I didn’t get. The one I actually got? 15 days from initial contact to offer. I’ve been tracking *that* time – the cycle of the final, successful opportunity from first contact to offer – since 2005. The average time for *successful* cycles is…15 days!

Not All Hunts Are Created Equal

Of course, not all job changes are the same. I break ’em into three categories (I said I was OCD, and I meant it):

  • Green: Job hunts where I’m looking while I have another job.
  • Yellow: Job hunts where I have a fixed end date on my current job. It’s been anywhere from 2 to 11 weeks, usually 30 days, but it’s notice.
  • Red: Jobs that end with no notice. Note that I’ve never been fired for cause in my life – even in radio – but sometimes, jobs just end with a bang; an immediate layoff, a contract losing its funding, whatever. Either way, the “Employed” switch gets flipped to “off”.

This past search started as “Green” but changed to “Yellow” – I was told my contract was ending two weeks after I started shopping.

And it’s interesting (well, to me): the times of searches from start to offer are:

  • Green: 37 days
  • Yellow: 29 days
  • Red: 46 days. Although if you leave out the outlier, my five month slog during the 2003 tech recession, it comes down to about 30 days, too. But then, recessions happen. I’ll keep it in the numbers).

So it seems that it’s true – it IS easier to look for work when you *have* a job already! But it also seems that having a fixed end date adds to the urgency a bit…

Jobs Is Jobs?

Oh, yeah – the vast majority of my jobs over the past (koff koff) couple of decades have been contracting (some of them “contract to hire”). Does that make a difference?

Nope. 28 days either way (if I leave out the outlier in 2003).

Glass Half-Empty: I’ve had way too much experience at job hunting.

Glass Half-Full: Stumbling, completely by accident, into the career I’m in was one of my life’s happier accidents. After all this, I still love going to work in the morning.

(Well, OK – I’ve got short-timer syndrome pretty bad, here).

Notre Dame

It was a Sunday morning in the second week of June, 1983. I had just gotten out of my sophomore year of college, and was on the trip to Europe I had been saving for since I was 14.

For the first three weeks, I was in Europe – the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Switzerland and what we used to call West Germany (kids, ask your parents) – with the Jamestown College choir. I’ve written about the choir before – it was the little college choir that could; at one point, it had been rated as one of the three best small college choirs in the United States. And 11 years earlier, 1972, it had been the first American choir to be allowed to sing at Notre Dame.

It was 11 years later – a period that doesn’t seem so long anymore. We were getting ready to sing one of the big masses on Sunday morning.

And I had a horrible cold.

And for a beautiful, glorious hour and change, I didn’t care.

The cathedral was built centuries before amplification – and yet the spoken voice carried clearly through the sanctuary; it seems like you could hear every congregant praying, individually, as you sat in the choir.

And singing?

It was one of the most sublime musical experiences of my life.

After the mass, the cold reasserted itself. I needed sleep. I found a cabinet in the basement that looked like it’s been there for hundreds of years, and was covered in dust that looked like it remembered Napoleon. I didn’t care; I slept for two hours and got i shape for the afternoon concert – a full performance for the afternoon audience of worshippers and tourists.

And in that room that had been built halfway between Leif Erickson and Christopher Columbus, I stood and sang and marveled at the sheer acoustic glory of the whole experience.

Not my choir.

I was still sick – but I wasn’t going to waste a gorgeous summer Sunday in Paris. I went to rhe Louvre – because who goes to Paris without going there? – and then got intentionally lost in the Latin Quarter, spending a few hours wandering around quite happy not to know where I was or what I was doing.

I knew I could find my way to the Seine river – and of course, the spire at the Cathedral was almost always visible, wherever I was.

I thought about that the other day, as I watched the spire come crashing to the ground.

And that’s really the last I want to think about that image.

The Squeakiest Wheel

So last Monday and Tuesday I went to see *both* nights with Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes at the Dakota.

Now, this’ll be the fourth year, I think, I’ve caught Johnny and the band at the Dakota – which is as far west as they ever go, since their fan base never got far west of New Jersey even during their commercial heyday (big album sales in the seventies; some big placements in the eighties; one top-forty single with the help of Jon Bon Jovi, Springsteen, and Steve Van Zandt in 1991).

Now, they are perhaps the tightest band I’ve ever seen. LIterally – the whole seven piece band (guitar, keyboards, bass, drums, trumpet, trombone and sax) taking cues on the fly and launching songs from a 45 year career instantly.

And once every night – just once, a little before halfway through – Johnny seems to decide to test the band on that, by asking the audiene “What do you all wanna hear?”

And then he filters through the cacaphony from the audience, and finds a song, and calls it out – or sometimes just starts singing the first line – and the band counts off and plays.

And in previous years, the call from the stage caught me flat footed.

But not this year. I spent time practicing, drilling on my response, so I’d be there with a title when the challenge when out.

Monday night, when Johnny presented the opportunity to the crowd, I was right there. I donned my projecting radio/command voice, and shouted out “Got To Be A Better Way Home!” – a deep cut from their 1978 album “Hearts Of Stone”.

And a second or two later, boom. There it was.

(Not *quite* that fast).

Now, I do believe gluttony is a sin. But doggone it how many times do you get to go for a bifecta in life?

So the second night, when we got to that part of the show, I was ready. “Sweeter than Honey!”.

And darned if they didn’t launch straight up into it:

I’ll be attending both shows next year, God willing. But I think I’ll sit out the request time. I had my fun.

When Making Plans For The Next Three Nights

Tonight: The House DFL may be trying to amend their Universal Gun Registration and Red Flag Confiscation bills to the Omnibus Public Safety bill. Debate may well happen tonight. It’s entirely possible we’ll need to get a huge turnout of people down to the Capitol or the State Office building to show the Legislature what Minnesotans really think about the erosion of our civil liberties.

That’s still up in the air. What I’d suggest is that you sign up for the MN Gun Owners Caucus’s email blasts – then, you’ll be getting the latest news. Also, make sure you “like” the MNGOC’s Facebook page – that’s also being updated constantly.

And maybe I’ll see y’all at the Capitol (or somewhere in the Capitol complex) tonight!

Friday and Saturday nights: My band, “Elephant in the Room”, is playing at the Stillwater Eagles both nights from 8-midnight. We do everything from Elvis to Nirvana, from the Cars to, well, The Eagles. I mean, we gotta do Eagles at the Eagles, right?

Stop on out, have a drink, say hi!

Cold Shock

One of the advantages of being almost 6’5 is that there’s a lot of room to pack away weight before people – and, well, you – really notice.

One of the disadvantages? When you finally do notice, it’s pretty shocking how bad things have gotten.

I was a downright scrawny teenager. When I was 14, I was 6’2 and probably 130 pounds. When I graduated from high school, 6’4-5 and about 190. College? I think I was like 220 pounds.

There’ve been ups and downs, of course. From 2007-2010, I biked to work most of the time – and got into some decent shape. And then went back to car commuting, and fell back out of it.

But over 30-odd years of life, somewhere along the line I got out of the habit of stepping on scales. For, like, 15 years. I didn’t really want to know. In the past few years, I knew I’d packed on a bunch of weight, and had a gut going on, and was getting kind of jowly. I knew my knees were killing me. When I took off my socks at night, there was some ankle swelling. One of my co-workers described me as “heavy-set”, which was a first (and a kick in the head, for someone whose self-image has always been and still is “Scrawny”. Also, she was a *really cute* co-worker, so there was that). But there were always bigger, nastier things to worry about.

A year ago today, I went in to the doctor for my first routine checkup in probably five years. I suspect the doctor knew that I’d been one form of denial or another – maybe I’m not the only middle-aged guy he’s busted on that. So I’m fairly sure he tricked me into looking at the printout with my actual weight on it – I think he said it was some billing stuff I needed to sign.

But I don’t honestly remember, because I almost blacked out. My actual current weight was right there, in big numbers. And I nearly soiled myself.

In my mind, I figured maybe, absolute worst case, I’d be 280 pounds or so. No more.

Nope. I was over 300.

SIgnificantly.

How significantly? I still don’t want to talk about it. Picture a hypothetical number, “n”, in your mind. We’ll come back to it.

The doctor – who must have been a psychologist earlier in life – eased us into a talk about the need to update some lifestyle choices. The weight wasn’t the last of it; my blood pressure was borderline-high, and, well, the list kept going.

And as I left the appointment, I thought – who do I know that’s actually pulled this off?

My thoughts turned to my friend, former producer and now lead singer, Tommy Huynh, who’d been writing about his experiences on the Keto diet.

Now, Keto had always been a joking matter to me – “How can you tell if someone at a party is Atheist, a Cross-Fitter, or on Keto? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you!”) – but at this point I figured I had nothing to lose – and with effort, drove past McDonalds on the way home, made an omelet and some bacon, and started researching.

Keto involves a diet that’s about 50-60% fat, 30-40% protein, and less than 10% carbohydrates – and to get started, you keep it to 20 grams of carbs a day. A regular tortilla is almost 30 – so potatoes, rice, legumes (including peanuts) and of course wheat, flour, corn and corn meal, and especially processed sugar are all right out. Even fruit is problematic. We’ll come back to that. You also operate at a calorie deficit – but the goal is, through restricting your carbs, your metabolism starts burning fat for energy instead of muscle.

And so I dove in.

It got worse, of course. That Monday, I went to the gym, worked out, and got back on the scale. The scale at the gym read “n”+15 pounds – worse than at the doctor’s office.

So I just kept going. I figured out how to eat a diet that was more than just eggs, meat and cheese; spinach, almonds, coconut flour and flaxseed meal all became staples, sooner than later.

And to avoid obsessing, I limited myself to weighing in every four weeks, to start with.

And after four weeks? Down 15 pounds.

Four weeks later? 12 more.

At my follow up checkup with the doctor, I was down some more. Blood pressure was down 20 points. Blood sugar well in the “safe” zone. Cholesterol a *little* high, but then I had no baseline. We’ll be seeing in coming weeks what’s happened there.

It was about that time that I noticed my knee pain had nearly disappeared, that climbing stairs wasn’t an effort, and that a day outside hacking away at hedges, which used to be a nightmare that I’d be trying to get out of after half an hour, was kind of fun again.

I was down 50 by mid-July at my niece’s wedding. Around 70 by fall.

And it almost feels bad to say this, because I’ve had friends who’ve struggled mightily with their weight – but it wasn’t that hard. It was a huge lifestyle change, of course – I haven’t had fast food in a year, I read menus and nutrition labels VERY carefully, I log what I eat pretty religiously, and even now I “cheat” very, very rarely (as in, I’ll eat a pita with my greek food once a month or so). The gym is now 3x a week, rather than 3x a year. But once I got it into my head that nothing tastes as good as getting healthier feels [1], and learned how to cook tasty stuff I *could* eat anyway, it *actually wasn’t all that bad*.

And I did figure out how to make some fun stuff; I make a pretty serviceable pizza crust out of mozzarella cheese and coconut flour; I make root beer floats out of diet root beer and whipped cream; and since I started replacing half and half with heavy whipping cream in my coffee, my morning Java has never tasted so good. I’ve changed my restaurant habits – pizza and nachos are out, dry rub wings are in, and I’ve become a regular at some of the local barbeque joints, and it’s been a wonderful thing.

I’ve been plateaued at about 75 pounds since the fall – I need to get my metabolism kicked up, which means I have to hit the biking hard when the ice is finally gone – but I’m OK with that for now.

Yes, I know – keeping it off is the hard part. Which is why I’ve pretty well resolved there’ll be no back-sliding into the regular American diet. I may transition from Keto to Paleo – introducing some unprocessed fruits and the like – but the days of wolfing down a frozen pizza are pretty much donesville.

Anyway – I’m writing this to encourage those of you who might be fighting that battle; if I can do it (so far, one picky, label-reading, carb-hunting day at a time), you can do it too.

[1] As I write this, I picture me falling over with a heart attack tomorrow, and some social media twerp writing a photomeme: “Pundit PWNed after ironic last Facebook post”.

Deep breath.

“Wyatt”

One of the best-known, and certainly longest-running, series in the history of this blog was my 130 part series of 20th anniversaries of events between deciding to move to the Twin CIties in 1985, and my oldest child’s birth in 1991. The series took (doy) six years to write.

One of the characters that popped up was a roommate I had at the time. I gave him a pseudonym (as I did with a couple of the people that were, er, on the “colorful” side) – “Wyatt“. He had a thing for the ladies, was addicted to pretty much everything to which one could be addicted (and dealt in some of it vocationally), He gave off certain signs of mental illness, although I was pretty bad at noticing that kind of thing back then. Our roomate situation ended one night in 1988, when he shot up the house we rented in what I had ascribed to a cocaine-fueled frenzy.

I’ve neither talked with nor heard from “Wyatt” for over 30 years. I will confess, I googled him about ten years ago, and found from a few news stories – a break-in at a liquor store, a trial and sentence – that showed that his habits were keeping him in just as much trouble as they did when I knew him.

I also knew he had a father – a fairly wealthy man, a former Navy frogman who had done well in, I believe, real estate or insurance or something like that – and a mother. And I knew his family loved him, and spent a lot of money and, I suspect, a lot more effort and emotional energy, trying to get him on the right track – including sending him to treatment in Minnesota, which of course led him across my path in 1987.

And when I became a parent, his story – the whole family’s story, really – terrified me; it was possible, no matter how you loved your children, for the unreasoning, cackling spectre of mental illness and its sidekick, addiction, to take that kid from you no matter what you did and how hard you clung to the hope you could do something about it.

A bit of curious googling over the weekend brought it all back.

“Wyatt” had a real name. And he died in 2010 – ironically, not long after his departure from the series. Tragically, but not in the least bit surprisingly, he died of mixing drugs and booze.

And I’m going to admit – while my “Wyatt” tales in “Twenty Years Ago Today” were true down to the last comma and semicolon, they painted as one-dimensional a picture of him as one might expect someone who, twenty years later, was still kicking himself for letting that kind of dysfunction into his life, and the consequences it brought.

The article – featuring his parents, who have stayed involved in trying to help the mentally ill over the years – brings a human aspect to “Wyatt” – Wyeth – that I wasn’t ready to acknowledge when I wrote the series, over a decade ago.

My very belated condolences to everyone involved.

A Couple Of Birthdays

It’s been a little crazy lately, and in the rush I neglected two birthdays.

The first, of course, is today.

Reagan

Note:  This is an “encore” of a post I wrote in 2013

Today would be the 108th birthday of the greatest president of my lifetime.

People say “there’s no Ronald Reagan in American politics today”.  And they’re right – but as his son Michael told me in an interview a few years ago, it’s not that there couldn’t be.

Because Reagan had three great talents:   he was a great, natural communicator (who, unlike a lot of “natural communicators”, honed his craft with relentless discipline);  he developed a vision and he stuck to it with determination and focus; and most importantly for today’s  conservatives, he knew how to build coalitions, rather than exclude people from them.

We have plenty of people who can communicate well, although the conservative movement has had its share of duds in that department too.  And we have not a few who can visioneer with the best of them  – in fact, with the rise of the Tea Party, our movement’s best years may be to come, provided they keep the faith.

But as to building coalitions?

Today, we’re better at building silos.

Reagan did something that conservatives are terrible at today; he got social conservatives (at the peak of their notoriety and political cachet), blue-collar Democrats who the economy had turned into instant fiscalcons, Jack Kemp-style economic hawks and paleocons together…

…by focusing remorselessly on what they agreed on;  fixing the economy, and ending Communism.

And once in office, that’s what he focused on.  Oh, he paid lip service to issues that were to him tangents – and lip service from the world’s greatest bully pulpit ain’t chicken feed. But he didn’t fritter his political capital away with excessive natterings about issues that were tangential to his vision, and the vision his coalition all agreed on in electing him.  He spoke eloquently on issues – many of them – and that speaking had its effect.

Some call that an abdication; it was in fact a matter of leaving that work to the members of his coalition (example:  he exerted very little executive effort on abortion and gun control – but the efforts to roll both back at the state and local level started to coalesce during his time in office anyway – in part because of his leadership from the bully pulpit.  But for all that, always, the focus was on “dancing with the one what brung him” to DC at the head of an impossibly-diverse coalition; his rock-solid, bone-simple two point agenda, fixing the economy and toppling the Commies.

As I moderated the “Where Do We Go From Here” event last week at the Blue Fox, and listened to some of the friction and cat-calling across the party’s various factions, I thought there was a lot of focus on what divided us.  And so my final question to the panel was “what do we all – all of us, from socialcons like Andy Parrish to libertarians like Marianne Stebbins, actually agree on?”  Because that is the only real way forward for any of the factions – since if any faction takes Parrish’s (tongue in cheek?) advice and forms a separate party, it’s the road to mutual palookaville, with multiple parties that are less than the sum of the parts they once were.

So for my annual Gipper Day celebration, it’ll be the usual; jelly beans at my desk, taking the kids out to dinner to talk about what Reagan’s legacy has meant in their lives (other than the uninformed, out-of-context crap the DFLers in their lives’ll say)…

…and asking my fellow conservatives “what do we agree on?”

The second? Well, that’ was yesterday.

Shot In The Dark

Yesterday was the 17th anniversary of my starting this blog.

Hardly seems possible, sometimes.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to you and yours!

It’s gonna be a light posting day, as this whole holiday season has been.

But to tide you and the world over until tomorrow, here’s a good New Years resolution from Amy Alkon:

Now, go out and smack the world and the year upside the head with some kindness.

When Making Weekend Plans

So – if you’re out and about and need to warm up and work up a sweat tonight or tomorrow, stop on by the Eagle in Stillwater. My band Elephant in the Room will be playing from 8 ’til Midnight, Friday and Saturday.

It’s in the old Famous Dave’s, on Highway 36 at Greeley.

We’ve got some music for the holidays, too! [1]

Good food, not-too-expensive drinks, great location, pool tables just around the corner, fast service – and EITR. What a perfect way to decompress from the holidays?

(And don’t forget – we’ll be at the Outpost in Ramsey on Friday, January 11. Two weeks from tonight!)

[1] OK – to be accurate, it’s two songs. But hey, you’re not gonna get that from a dance club DJ, are you?