February 2009

I haven’t had a cup of coffee since sometime on Tuesday afternoon. Since then I’ve had some tea. Right now, I’m drinking some low-caffeine, Earl Gray tea.

The effects of not having had two or three cups of coffee today or any yesterday or much of the day before that are not too bad. My head is a little achy and I feel a bit tired, but, it not so bad.

Could be worse. I could be giving up crystal meth.

This morning I weighed myself at 183. Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the month-and-a-half long period of introspection for Christians. I thought about if there was something I could abstain from for this period and the one thing I really thought of that may remind me I’m a human being is coffee. Though I don’t drink nearly as much of it as I used to, but still it’s something I drink a good deal of.

Not drinking it is a pretty small thing to abstain from, but one I felt reasonable and perhaps will help me a bit fitness wise.

I don’t think they had coffee back in Jesus’ day and I certainly don’t think they’d ever envision a time when people could simply have something steamy to drink in a disposable cup.

Thinking about all the coffee I drink, I realize that I must leave a landfill of paper waste behind each year.

Tonight we are supposed to have warm weather and I will be happy to get out for a run again. Last night was brutally cold and I was layered excessively. It feels like forever since it was even fall weather. As it stands, there are 22 days left of official winter and I am happy for that. The cold weather will likely stick around after that, but at least there’s a marker with which to use as a frame of reference that warmer days are coming.

I took this picture a few minutes after our first snowfall here in Albany back in mid November. Though we don’t have any snow on the ground right now, it feels like cold weather has been with us forever.

In the meantime, hopefully the coffee wont be hard. I’ve had to remind myself today twice, but I guess you just have to remind yourself and not make a big deal out of it.

As I understand, Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas will be here in Albany in a short while to picket Albany High School and hold a demonstration on the SUNY Albany campus.

A lot of people are predictably up and arms about the firebrand (likely insane) preacher coming here to protest against the gay lifestyle, which–as a Five-Point Calvinist–he believes is an insult to God and the source of all misfortune and wickedness in the world, particularly here in America.

I understand there is a call for a counter protest of Phelps and his church (which is largely comprised of family members, it is so small and insular). I myself look forward to snapping some pictures of their interesting, albeit offensive signs. I live right near Albany High and I like taking pictures of strange things.

Anyway, I just wanted to point out to those out there who may be participating in a counter protest that Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church, their God Hates Fags mantra and anything else that defines them, are crazy. They are so crazy in fact that 99 percent of the world–including the clinically insane–believe that they are nuts. Therefore, the point of a counter protest (most protests in my opinion do nothing at all) is just kinda, well, futile.

As offensive as Fred Phelps may be to gay people, their families and even most Christians, there’s nothing getting up in arms about Mr. Phelps’ people will to stop them. If you do that, you only play an integral part in the street theater that Westboro Baptist Church so much enjoys, which is confrontation. If they did not have confrontation, they would be little more than an afterthought, but in the decade since they first caught America’s attention, they have continued on precisely because they know that it bothers people and like a child who pulls a classmate’s pigtails for enjoyment, they like to get a rise out of folks.

There are few people in the world who are converted to the Westboro Baptist Church’s thinking and reports have shown that even children who grow up in the church often leave, so it’s not as if you’re really doing them much of a favor.

If you want to do gay folks a favor, it probably makes more sense to petition your state senator or assembly person to support marriage equality than to go out to a sidewalk and do a whole lot of shouting at people who really don’t give rat’s ass if you disagree with them on whether the sky is blue.

Fundamentally, Fred Phelps is a sad figure. He’s a man known for an abundance of anger and hatred. Still, he’s just a small figure in America, the representative of a loony fringe element that has no particular political influence and are so marginal that even mainstream conservative Baptists wont acknowledge them.

My advice is to watch Most Hated Family in America, a documentary that came out a few years ago about the Westboro Baptist Church. If nothing else, it is humorous because the host, Louis Theroux did such a good job of making it just that, comedic.

If you wouldn’t argue with a mentally ill man on the #55 bus who wears tin foil on his head, smells like urine and tells you that the spirit of Heinrich Himmler is controlling his mind, then why would you care what Fred Phelps says. You’re only playing an essential role when you counter protest this guy. Better just to watch.

Our nation guarantees most forms of free expression, including some of the most shocking and offensive. Certainly, picketing the funerals of dead gay people, troops and priests is offensive, but in the end, no one really takes the Phelps seriously except a small, fringe group of folks. They are a cult, but unlike the People’s Temple or Heavens Gate or other destructive cults, they largely abide by the principle of peaceful–albeit crazy–protest. That said, they are rarely cited with breaking laws and instead, gain publicity when people show up to incite them.

In closing, if you have any doubts of the futility of protesting Fred Phelps’ crew (and I seriously doubt he’ll be there) watch this segment of the BBC documentary, particularly the last few minutes of the clip. You’ll stand corrected.

We’ve had a few warm days in the Northeast before it became chilly again. Still, the streets and sidewalks are mostly clear here in Albany of snow and ice.

Last weekend I went on five and seven-mile runs. Two night this week, while the ice was melting, I went on smaller runs.

Yesterday I did a four-mile run and today I ran a five. It’s cold outside, but I’m happy that there is really only about a month of winter weather ahead of us. March in this part of Upstate New York isn’t exactly pleasant, but it’s not totally miserable either.

It feels good to be out running again as opposed to inside on a treadmill. It’s a good time to connect with myself and to listen to what my body is telling me. Still, I’m sure we’ll get some snow sooner or later and the sidewalks will be snowy and icy again. Meanwhile, I’m content with having been able to get out for some good runs.

This morning I slept through the noisy alarm of my cellphone for probably about an hour without even once acknowledging it. It took my roommate pushing my door open to get the thing off and rouse me to waking.

It seems to me that just before I awoke was when I had a very interesting and enlightening dream.

Sometimes, when I am breathing into a pillow or my head is in an uncomfortable position during sleep, I have dreams in which I feel agitated or morose.

In this morning’s dream–some of the details have escaped me–I felt depressed. Despite my feeling down, I passively accepted that my mood was garbage and seemed to have some confidence that like in real life, the sadness would pass after a while.

Still, when I saw myself in a mirror, the right side of my face, extending down to my collar was covered in awful facial boils, small but numerous and with whiteheads. Staring at myself, I felt ashamed because I knew that the boils were from my state of mind rather than anything else. Like a symptom of depression such as a lack or abundance of appetite or lack of coordination, I saw the facial problems as caused by my mood.


For about a year now I have been in the habit of weighing myself daily. Probably the majority of weight loss experts say that a person shouldn’t weigh his or herself everyday but there’s a lot of experts out there and a lot of advice that works for some and not for others.

Of course I am not happy with the above photograph. It’s a little over three years since my friend took that picture of me and I am about 40 lbs. lighter now than when it was taken.

Weighing myself every morning, recording the data on the lower right corner of each day helps me keep perspective and not let my weight get out of hand the way it did leading up to this picture.

It helps to have that feedback day-to-day, even if the added two or three pounds from the previous day is water. I liken it to checking your blood sugar as a diabetic. I’ve been writing about it for a while on this site.

This picture of me at a scuzzy bowling alley back in November 2008 probably doesn’t show enough of my body to demonstrate that I’ve shed some extra weight. Without becoming any more self-absorbed, I would try to find a picture more suitable. I guess you’ll have to take my word for it.

Still, I’ve much work to do and the key to being successful in losing weight and maintaining that success is to keep at it and not let up.

When I was in my early twenties I used to run all the time indoors and outdoors until my shirts were drenched in sweat. I had lost weight from my teenage years and was down to about 165 at one point. At the time I thought I’d never stop exercising, but sure enough, I did. For a period of about six years, I only exercised in fits and starts with no real sustained effort. My weight creeped up on me, culminating in the shape that I was in in that photo right there from January 2006.

There’s much work to be done in my life on this and it can only be done mindfully and purposefully and compassionately.

This morning, I could scarcely scrape up the energy to go to the gym so I let myself sleep in. I’d gone the previous four days and as much as I enjoy the elliptical machine or the treadmill, bike and ab exercises, it makes me tired. Good to treat the body with compassion and let it rest.

Yesterday, as the sun was setting over us here in Albany I took this photograph. I was looking to get some shots of the sun falling westward, but instead I was captivated by the urban ruins nearby the Corning Preserve. It’s easy to become depressed by the shuttered buildings that are so common in our cities in Upstate New York, but I suppose there’s another way to look at it, which is that the shut down businesses are just a part of the natural progression of life which is towards disorder. After all, nobody who visits the Roman Coliseum, stands by the toppled pillars of ancient Greece or sketches the crumbled churches of the middle ages has the first reaction of morbidity. There’s something strangely beautiful with things coming apart, though it’s harder to appreciate them when the are coming apart in your vicinity and your lifetime. I suppose that’s the difference. As I was staring at this car through the viewfinder I wondered a few things about its life, questions that only God himself I suppose knows like how it get to be pushed up against the fence, if it broke down at the side of a road or simply wouldn’t start one cold morning despite it’s owner’s desperate attempts to revive it. Who was in the Oval Office when it was driven of off the lot and who was president when it stopped running? Did an eager, horny couple ever steam up its windows and paw at each other in the backseats or the front. How much carbon did it spit out during its life. Nothing deep to think about really, but interesting to me. This car, like the abandoned buildings around it, was once reliable. Now it’s scenery and nothing more. Someday it will likely be moved to a junkyard to completely rot away, but right now, I suppose you just have to appreciate that it’s there to see.