Fitness is not fun

Fitness is fun. At least this is what everyone trying to make a buck off of their latest and greatest performance tracking widget wants you to believe. But I am telling you today that fitness is not fun. It is rewarding. It is enjoyable. These are true, but it does not fit into my definition of fun.

Fun is carefree, relaxed, full of laughter, contemplation, pleasure, and excitement. Fitness is full of discipline, endurance, and pain, with reward being slowly rewarded by steady progress toward a goal.

Why am I bringing this up? Because I’m tired of companies trying to make fitness fun. Apps, spreadsheets, and analysis are useful, and even necessary depending on your goal, but they are not fun.

That said, I don’t want to leave you hanging if you’re trying to motivate yourself for getting started in the gym. Do you want to know what gets you through the hard and annoying things about fitness? Do you want to know how to make it through the slumps that will come? Do you want to know how to push through to reward, satisfaction, drive, and accomplishment? Yes—of course you do!

There is only one thing you need to drive and push you—your reason for getting, and staying, in shape. You have to have a reason to get you in the gym after a long day at work. You have to have a deep-seated motivation to avoid the donut at work. That one thing is a seed that grows into a lifestyle.

I’ve done what many others have done throughout my life: joined a gym, worked out for three months or so, and then quit. Several times. Until I turned 34 when I discovered my motivation—taking care of my health.

My wife had been diagnosed with cancer 6 months earlier and just completed chemotherapy. I had recently started working again after four months of unemployment. We had a 6-month-old son. I was drinking almost every night after the kids went to bed. But as I reached my birthday, a light came on for me.

It was looking like my wife was going to make it through (she did—Baruch Hashem!). I was enjoying my work and watching my third son grow. I had a lot to be thankful for! I knew that I hadn’t taken very good care of myself for a while, if ever really, and needed to change. My wife always ate well. She never smoked and rarely, if ever, drank. I realized that if she could get cancer in spite of taking care of her body, then I was screwed and didn’t stand a chance! My wife motivated me to start taking better care of myself. So I joined a gym.

The first year, I made it a habit and learned how to make it a part of my life. The second year, I learned more about strengthening my body, and I took care of a shoulder injury to prepare for my third year. My third year, I trained. I put on 20 lbs of muscle and went from 33% to 19% body fat. This year, my fourth year, I am trying to overcome years of eating habits and reduce my body fat from 24% to 15%.

Through it all, I’ve had many interruptions and shake ups that would have stopped me from going in the past. My kids have gotten sick. I have gotten sick. My wife has gotten sick. I have had pain. I have had just slumps where I didn’t want to go for long periods of time. Sometimes, I was just sleepy. There is no fun in going when everything around you is saying “not today!” No app or spreadsheet is going to motivate at these times.

Through all of the things I could use as excuses to stay home or stop going at all, I’ve pushed through because I remembered the one reason I started going in the first place.

That seed of motivation had grown into a desire to learn and improve. It has lasted me through shoulder surgery (where I couldn’t work out) to the downs of life that discourage working out. That seed has grown into a tree so that now you could say I have “the bug”. But even now, years into it, I still need that seed of motivation that pushes me when I don’t want to be pushed.

It is still the one thing that drives me. That one thing is realizing that I need to fight to hold on to my health. I need to do what I can to prevent disease instead of letting life just have its way with me while I sit on the couch. I know that things can change in a moment, but when it does, I’ll know that I have done my best to keep that moment at bay. It’s really just a desire to live my life and not let it live me.

If you don’t have that desire, that one point of motivation that doesn’t push you out the door into the cold night air, or the oven blast of the day, then you won’t go out when it’s nice. If you don’t have a voice inside your head saying, “do what you can now and improve while you can”, then you won’t do a thing. Save your money at the gym, on the supplements, the trainer, and the new shoes.

When you start, spend your time defining what that seed of motivation is. What is that one thing that brought you into the gym? Your health? Your kids? Your reflection? Plant that one thing in your being and keep it there. That seed grows into discipline and hard work. That’s the only shortcut for change and success. Everything else grows from it.

And this is where the fun comes in. It’s fun every time you walk back in your door tired and sweaty, knowing you did something you truly wanted to do. It’s fun when you look in the mirror and see gradual improvement. It’s fun when you get the unexpected compliment. It’s even fun when you’re buying new clothes because the old ones don’t fit any longer. That is fun.

Field Trippin’

I found this hilarious and surprisingly good story about a teacher being dosed LSD by one of his students just before going on a field trip. It’s a funny, funny read and has a surprisingly sweet ending. Field Trippin’

At first I felt lightheaded, like I hadn’t eaten anything or was out in the sun too long. Then I started noticing my legs. It felt like each step I took was propelling me up into the next. It was like I was walking on a brand-new track, only five times as springy. I noticed my whole body bouncing up and down. Something was amiss.

Noah

A friend posted an article on Facebook about the movie Noah which asked, “Should Christians say no-ah to this twisted Hollywood take on the Old Testament story?” You can read the article here. I was really glad when I saw it because the trailer generated curiosity when I saw it, and this article finally made me search for what intrigued me.

As soon as I saw the trailer, my curiosity was piqued. The darkness of it, the cruelty, etc. Then I immediately thought of the 1999 animated film Prince of Egypt. Not because it was dark, but because it was such a fantastic retelling of the story of Moses that the familiar was transformed into the unknown and unfamiliar. New details! New questions! New ideas! It was an exciting and emotional retelling story about the man who would guide the birth of the Jewish nation.

Why was it like that? Because the writer, Jeffrey Katzenberg, drew from Jewish midrash (storytelling) 1 and inserted his own based on his understanding of those stories as a 20th Century Jew. See here. Midrash are not only ancient stories, they are also modern retellings and interpretations of ancient tales. They don’t have to exist agreeably with existing stories. And it’s okay if they disagree. It’s a story. It’s a way to make you think. Some are more authoritative than others, but they all serve the purpose to help us understand and learn.

Which leads me back to Noah. There has obviously been a lot of artistic license going on in this film. And the article referenced by Facebook friend gives me the impression that the Christian community is not taking too kindly to it. Therefore, I would like to put forth my question, does this movie use midrash to tell a relatively short tale?

Who are the writers? A suspiciously Jewish-named pair, Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel. And I’m off to a good start as the answer to my question is already starting to take care of itself. With just a brief search, I found this great article about the movie on the Jewish Journal here. I won’t go into it in length, but I’ll say that, yes, they did use Jewish midrash and inserted their own. Just like I suspected.

And this makes perfect sense. Jewish writers with a Jewish background relying on Jewish sources to tell a Jewish tale, while also filling in a couple of details with their own understanding of things.

Here’s where the important difference comes into play. This is a story with Jewish origins and footholds, and is a tenant to the Christian faith too. Broadly speaking, Christianity is not receptive to new ideas about their established traditions. The fundamentalist Christians are threatened by ideas that stray from the literal text of the Bible. Which, don’t forget, has its own midrash wherein Noah is a happy story about lots of fuzzy animals and fun boat ride. To be fair, this is widely used as a children’s story in the Jewish world too.

Simply, the difference is the worldview. Christianity holds a fairly tight worldview on how things should be interpreted. When those established ideas are threatened, the backlash is unavoidable. Judaism is much more open to questions, doubt, and entertaining new ideas. For instance, Judaism has made room for evolution in its understanding of Creation even by Rashi, an 11th Century rabbi who has provided Judaism with one of the greatest commentaries on Torah even to this day. Which, compared to Christianity, well… some say God put the dinosaur bones there to test their faith.

In the end I think the value of the movie will come down to how open are you to ideas that are not established by your faith? Are they threatening? Or are they entertaining and provide new ways to think about an ancient tale?

A movie isn’t for the purpose of defining a faith. Even the writers, having a Jewish background, both consider themselves atheists. It’s a story. A story that should make you think about something in a new way. That’s all. It’s not taking over your faith. It’s a modern equivalent of sitting around the fire listening to a great storyteller. Is he trying to convert you to his interpretation of the story? No, just sharing the things that he has always thought about it.

Sit down at the fire. Have a listen. Enjoy yourself. Try to learn something from it, even if you don’t agree with it. It’s just a story.

  1. Midrash is essentially traditional stories that fill the many gaps in the biblical narrative. An example of this is that the Bible tells the priests to make sacrifices, but it never gives exact directions (as it does with the construction of the mishkan). The midrash steps in and fills those details from stories of how the Jewish people fulfilled those commands given by God. Midrash also fill the gaps in the stories of Creation, the Exodus from Egypt, the battles of King David… etc.

Web Services Addiction

Web Services

This is a small project I’ve had on the back burner for a while. I finally got my mess together this morning and got it done. It’s a summary of the web services I use because I needed to look at all of them objectively. I want to simplify and this gives me a way to objectively look at the benefits of using them, in hopes to slim down to simplify.

Outlook

All in all, Microsoft provides a great service. Email storage is unlimited. Yes, unlimited. They offer cloud storage with OneDrive. OneDrive includes 7GB of space. They also offer document creation with an online Microsoft suite. You can use your desktop mail App with Outlook if you choose, though I’ve found it to be a bit troublesome at times. Microsoft’s draw here is the Xbox integration. If you’re on Xbox live, you’ve got access to all of the online services.

A couple of nice features of Outlook email is the storage. It’s truly unlimited and is super useful for a backup of email by just forwarding a copy to your outlook address. Microsoft also allows you to create aliases for other purposes. You can even change your primary email to an alias. I don’t know if there’s a limit. You can configure 3rd party emails with outlook and send from that email address.

Integration with iOS is easily configured. Outlook provides built in contact, calendar, and reminder syncing without any additional configuration. A nice touch here is that you can use the 3rd party email address on iOS. Unlike Gmail, Outlook won’t force your primary outlook email for the send address. Another nice feature is you can control how many days your email syncs on the device.

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Yahoo

Yahoo’s service is pretty nice too. The online UI is pleasant and unlike Gmail, Outlook, or even iCloud, you don’t reload a brand new page to access a different service. Everything is under one webpage. In sum, this is a nice product. Email storage is 1TB, not a GB, a TB. This is as good as unlimited. Yahoo’s big draw is Flickr.

Yahoo’s draw is the storage. 1TB is nothing to sneeze at. I don’t even have a 1TB external drive (I know, I’m a luddite). The draw here is speed. This interface is fast when you switch between services. It’s really great. You can use this with your desktop client… if you don’t mind POP. How 00s is that? Otherwise, you can create aliases and also add 3rd party email for sending and receiving.

iOS integration is very nice. It’s easy to set up. In addition to all the Microsoft provides, you also have access to notes. Notes are stored in Yahoo’s inbox, in a Notes folder. I don’t think that’s ideal, but it works.

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Gmail

Gmail… Gmail… Gmail. Gmail is pretty much the standard for everyone’s email. Google has provided a great service out of the gate and has always been more innovative than the competition. Historically, they’ve offered the best spam filtering, most storage, and most convenience. They laid down a good foundation for where they’re at now. Google’s services also include Plus. Plus integrates with photo storage similar to Flickr, though more socially driven. Google also has an office suite. In addition to this they have their own browser, so if you use that you’re tapping into resources not even thought of by the competition.

Email can be configured with your desktop client. Aliases are sort of available with Gmail, but really only through a Gmail hack created by Google. Adding a 3rd party email is a breeze, but you’re going to have to finagle to get it to send from that as a default on a desktop or iOS client. It’s automatic from Gmail’s apps.

Storage is a nominal 15GB. Which is really a lot of space, but when you compare it with Yahoo’s and Microsoft’s offerings, it’s no competition. Integration with iOS is the same as the others. It’s easy-peasy and takes no time to setup. There’s nothing extraordinary about its use.

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iCloud

Finally, we arrive at Apple’s offerings in iCloud. The major draw is the thorough integration with your Mac and/or iPhone. iCloud is tied in with iTunes… sooooo if you have iTunes, you have iCloud. Like the Microsoft and Google, you’re getting a full suite of services which includes document creation in Apple’s iWork suite.

The biggest annoyance for me about Apple’s service is the domain name changes they’ve had. I’ve been using the service since 2005, so I have a dotmac, dotme, and doticloud email address. Under one primary account. You cannot choose a primary, all iTunes emails go to the original you opened it under… it’s all very worrisome in a first-world sort of way.

The storage is something to talk about here… it’s paltry. Downright sad even. Apple gives you 5GB of storage. This is for everything from emails, documents, to yes, even iDevice backups. iCloud also backs up third party apps linked with the service. If it were for email alone then it would be mostly acceptable, but to include iCloud storage for everything else… well, you’re rocking the casbah of that 5GB pretty quickly.

Those two things aside, implementation is the main draw. Everything is seamless between Mac, iDevice, and web. You also get Find my iPhone, Keychain, Passbook, Photo, and Documents & Data. Anything that uses iCloud syncs smoothly from all of your devices. It’s really very nice. If you need extra storage, it’s not terribly expensive, but you’re shelling out a Jackson just to get up to Google’s 15GB. Oy vey. But again, integration is what gets you… sort of like having to have a G+ account in order to backup photos.

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Conclusion

I have been wanting to write this for a while just to get a comparison of all the services I use. There are things that I really enjoy about each service that draws me to them like a moth to a flame, but the annoyances of each, now that I can look at them this way, outweigh the benefits.

The only email that sees action is Outlook and iCloud. Google’s Docs get some love, and I appreciate the services of Flickr, minus the social aspect. It’s a real disappointment to me that so many services require integration into the provider’s greater ecosystem. I’d love to have my Xbox login without having to carry the other services. I’d love to use Flickr without having to get a Yahoo mail. Google… well, Google is it’s own beast and there’s not enough I can complain about with them. But I have Google because after they killed Reader, Feedly was only working with Google for the sign in. Now that they have other services for integration, I can narrow another down.

In all, I have so many backup solutions that I think Flickr, and therefore Yahoo, can get the axe. That said, I’m excited to see what Yahoo has up its sleeve. I think Mayer is doing some good work there and I can’t wait to see where the service goes. Google can get the can now that Feedly has other services integrated. This is relieving. Outlook I think will stay for now, though I can see it getting the axe if I can figure out a way to keep all the crap I bought from Xbox available without deleting that sign-in.

I hope this info helps you like it helped me. Try to simplify if you’re a web service addict. Find the services you really enjoy and make the most of them. Don’t water them down with like providers just for the sake of loving one aspect (he said as he typed this into Google Docs on his Mac and emailed it to WordPress).

The Lego Movie Review

This week I took my sons (5, 7, & 10) to see The Lego Movie. It was a fun movie. The characters were surprisingly engaging. The dialog was really funny, and Morgan Freeman’s work was very entertaining. All of my kids enjoyed it, though the youngest started to get bored toward the end, which may tell you the length of time required to sit in a theater is a little much for younger kids.

I won’t spoil the movie, but stick to your vow of not promising to cry from a Will Ferrell movie and you’ll be fine. You should also watch The Matrix again. This implies there is a lack of originality in the story, but what do you expect from a company that makes its money from spoofing other forms of popular entertainment.

All in all, it’s a very fun movie. I laughed, I didn’t cry (barely), and it became a part of me.

Would I buy The Lego Movie on Blu-Ray? Probably.

A fun, entertaining movie with something for the kids and parents.

A fun, entertaining movie with something for the kids and parents.