T.I.L.T. #130 – Fitbit My Butt Or Bust!

T.I.L.T #130 – Fitbit My Butt Or Bust!

It’s official: my ass is huge. I know this for a fact because the ratio of pants I have that fit versus ones that don’t has taken a turn for the butt-ugly. I literally have an extra wardrobe of clothes for some guy who used to be able to wear them but who seems to have mysteriously vanished.

There’s no question about how this happened. You see, I’m kind of an expert on the fat-ass-dom because I spent many years as the fat kid. I was thin and fit until I was nine years old. I was active, running around the neighborhood with my friends, and my natural metabolism worked pretty well. Then we moved to a new town and I lost my social network and became more of an introvert, spending a lot of time alone on my butt whiling away the time with artistic pursuits. Around the same time I developed a sweet tooth for anything sugary and chugged as much Coke as I could get my hands on. The result: I ballooned into FAT-KID in no time.

I kept expanding like this exponentially until I was a blimp at the age of nineteen. Then a small miracle happened: I lost my job and my car died. I was soon broke and could only afford minimal food and had to use my bike to get around and look for a new job. Before I knew it, voila! In no time I was thinner than I’d been since I was nine years old. Not exactly a healthy or happy way to fitness but at least the only pants that didn’t fit were the ones that were too big!

Truth is getting fit isn’t rocket science. I recently read a great book called EAT MOVE SLEEP which is all about balancing these three basic things: how much activity you do versus how many calories you pump into your system versus getting enough recovery time to keep your system firing on all levels.

During my adulthood I’ve had my ups and downs on the bathroom scale, generally fit to various degrees, but the last couple of years the ratio of calorie-burning activities versus calorie-consuming ones has taken a turn towards fat-land again. And I certainly have had not enough sleep. In short, too many hours sitting at a desk all day nibbling whatever sweet treats colleagues kindly offer me, too many hours zombified on the couch watching movies at night while sipping ‘relaxing’ non-diet beverages, and too many hours tossing and turning as all the excess sugar raged through my system in search of my infinite butt storage facility.

But enough is enough. My butt is so big that if I lie down on my stomach you can park your bike in between my fabulously fat butt cheeks!

Thankfully in this modern day and age I’ve found some technology to help me: FITBIT! In case you have no idea what this is, it’s a small gadget I carry around in my pocket that counts my steps all day. This syncs to my iPhone and connects to an online community of users also counting their steps, thus creating a giant virtual footrace of everyone trying to outstep their fellow Fitbitters. You might think all this is silly, but it’s surprisingly motivating.

The worst thing is when I forget to put my Fitbit in my pocket, or even worse, misplace it for a few days. Suddenly I’m sad not to be able to keep up my step count and feel less inclined to make the effort to squeeze in extra steps whenever I can during the day. It’s like the steps I take somehow don’t count since I can’t quantify them and share them. Dumb, I know, but that’s the digital world we live in these days. It’s kind of like posting pictures of what you cooked for dinner on Facebook: it somehow tastes better thinking of other people might be wishing they could have some.

Despite Fitbit stepping for a while now I haven’t felt like I’ve been making enough progress towards my dream of wearing my large collection of unwearable pants. So I decided to up my game and go running again. I used to jog regularly years ago before I accidentally stepped in front of a moving car and luckily escaped death but still ended up with one unfit foot. (Hint for world travelers: when in London, make sure to look the ‘right’ way before crossing a street!)

To make running even more exciting, I’ve also taken it digital with a great mobile app called ‘Couch to 5K’. This is a training program designed to move you step by step from being a couch potato to being a running machine ready to run a 5K race. It combines a series of walking and jogging segments scientifically designed to increase your stamina bit by bit, since most people overdo it when they try to get into running and end up injuring themselves or overwhelming themselves to the point that they give up and end up right back on the couch with their favorite potato chips. Best part of the app is the ‘trainer voice’ that yells at me like a Marine drill sergeant, “MOVE IT!”

Will it all work? Only time will tell. So far so good. I’m stepping, running, sleeping better. I’ve entered a 5K race so have a deadline in mid-April to focus on. Now I just to need to cutback bite by bite on the calorie conveyor belt and hopefully soon the ratio of too-many-too-small pants will swing to just the right number of pants that fit just right.

Fitbit my butt or bust!

T.I.L.T.! #129 – LIKE ME!

Friday, 20 February, 2015

Hello again faithful readers and listeners. Like me! Like me! Like me!

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean ‘like like’ me. Hate me for all I care, but please, please, like me! I mean, you know, hit that button that says ‘like’!

Wait. Crap. This page doesn’t have a like button. Then how am I supposed to know if you like me? I guess I have to go to Facebook. Or go to Google+ and see if you ‘Add 1’ me. Or Twitter and see if you ‘retweet’ me. Because how on Earth will I feel any self-worth in this world unless I have some virtual icon with a thumbs up letting me know that you really care?

Oh, my what is the world coming to when likes, and plusses, and bird chirps sustain my self-esteem these days?

Yes, folks, this week’s T.I.L.T. is all about the rise of social media as our go-to-barometer of cultural validity. When and how did this happen? How did our social lives become boiled down to prancing pixels on a glowing screen floating in a cloud?

Think about this for second, what do you think of when someone asks you, “Are you a social person?” Do you think about websites or chatrooms or forums, or do you think about real people in real time in real space? OK, I guess you could argue that behind all those ethereal pixels there are real people, but are you so sure? Maybe they’re all just faux-persona like SIRI from iPhone, or Watson from IBM, or the HAL 9000 from one of the best sci-fi movies ever which was actually set in a futuristic time already passed!

What is it that drives us more and more to engage with screens and a virtual social network than the one in flesh and blood surrounding us? Seriously, when is the last time any one actually went to a ‘social’ like they did in the last centuries? For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, a ‘social’ was a gathering of people where they would get together in the same place in person, and — wait for it —  socialize!

How and when this lovely term for a ‘party’ fell out of fashion is not clear to me, but maybe it was a political thing since socialism is a four-letter word in some circles who can’t count. Seriously, why is social medicine somehow bad yet social media is somehow good?

I think we need to bring back the good old-fashioned ‘social’ event. But to keep up with the times, instead of a dance card where the belles would jot down the names of the beaus they would like to grace with a dance, we give everyone a big fat LIKE button right on their ass. Whoever gets the most LIKES on their ass by the end of the night wins and we know they are a real ass!  Come one, why be shy about it by hiding your likable ass invisibly online?

Then again, who am I to talk? Here I am rattling away online, invisible, trying to connect to all of you via social media, and to what end? To be heard? To make you think? To be LIKED?

Yes, that’s it, I just want to be liked. But then why don’t I go out on a street corner, stand on a soap box, and shout out my utterly mundane protestations? Hmmm. I wonder. Is it because online, in social media, there is some sort of illusionary permanent record? Some sort of tracking or statistics that we can analyze as some sort of validation of our popularity? Oh, please, let this go viral! Oh, please, please, let me have more Facebook friends than Taylor Swift! Oh, please, please, please, LIKE me!

You know, I currently have 752 Facebook friends. No offense to any one them, but I honestly don’t know most of them. The vast majority are people I met or know through some ‘social’ context and then we ‘connected’, digitally speaking. Does that make us friends? One of my real friends, a guy I’ve know in person and had regular good times offline with since I was a kid, actually has it right: he only has three Facebook friends and he is proud of it. It’s not that he isn’t internet-savvy and doesn’t understand all this modern social media, quite the contrary, he makes his living as a computer programmer. But he places great value in the term ‘friend’ and is a very sociable person in the flesh. I really LIKE him.

So who do you really like? What do you really like? Do you like more things online than in person these days? Are you more social online than in person? I mean, just what are you really LIKE?

Do you even remember what life was like before Facebook, Google+, or Twitter? What was social media before social media? An email copied to more than one person? A postcard you could put on your fridge or office wall for all the world to see? People signing your yearbook? Or maybe just simply smiling at each other without the help of an emoticon?

I have a love-hate relationship with social media. There are times where I can gorge for hours on the virtual buffet, feeling connected to so many people’s personal ups and downs while I sit in my pajamas on the sofa in the dark farting at will without concern. But then there are times where I feel very anti-social media and could not care less about who ate what for breakfast or their latest cat videos or god-forbid their favorite game about farms or candy or angry birds. Really, you want to be liked? Get a life!

But why is all this on my mind? Well, I’ve been battling technology to learn how to ride the social media wave to promote T.I.L.T. and build my new website by adding share and subscribe buttons galore in the hopes that maybe just maybe you’ll like me (please look at the sidebar – subscribe!).

Will it work? Will you connect with me, will you share me, and help me spread my social media wings like a shy dancer in the corner of a social who just wants to strut his stuff for a good time but doesn’t trust his dance shoes or know the latest dance moves? Oh, I hope so, I pray so, because, gosh, who doesn’t just want to be LIKED?

Hmmm, maybe T.I.L.T. needs a Facebook page . . .   

T.I.L.T #128, Friday, 13th February, 2015 

HAPPY V-DAY!

Hello again faithful readers and listeners, and thank you for all the positive feedback last week to the relaunch my world-famous blogcast T.I.L.T.! There’s nothing like being praised for my oh-so-self-less self promotion, so yes, please love me, stroke my ego and stoke my feelings of self-worth. I can’t imagine a better way to go into the V-Day weekend! And I don’t mean Veteran’s Day — a much more worthy holiday — no, I mean that holiday of love, romance, and expressing your affections with outpourings of your wallet in the forms of fancy dinners, flowers, and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates: Valentine’s Day!

Ah, Valentine’s Day, yes, the true romantic’s holiday named after Christianity’s favorite martyr of love, Saint Valentine. Who was this Valentine? Why was he a Saint? And what does he have to do with love? Truth is nobody knows! Or to be exact, Wikipedia offers nothing but conflicting legends of dubious origins. A most popular one says Valentine was a priest in ancient Rome who was sentenced to die because he secretly helped soldiers get married. You see, the emperor at the time thought married men didn’t make good soldiers, besides, gay marriage was still illegal in the Roman colony of Alabamacus.

The legend continues that Valentine was a saint because he healed his jailor’s daughter of her ‘blindness’ before he was executed and left her a letter signed ‘Your Valentine’. I think ‘blindness’ is a euphemism for, well, you know, ‘showing her the light’. I wonder what the letter said? Perhaps it was the first Valentine’s card with a romantic poem and a touching sentiment like:

“Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

Sorry to die,

But thanks for the screw.

Eat some chocolate, you’ll feel better.

Your Valentine”

Anyway, one thing is for sure though, what a day for chocolate sales! 48 million pounds of chocolate is sold in the week leading up to Valentine’s Day. If you think that’s a lot, well, I’m afraid the King of Christian martyrs of love, Jesus, has got Saint Valentine beat by a ton with chocolate sales for Easter hitting 71 million pounds. Of course that’s nothing compared to Halloween which tops the scales with 90 million pounds. Sorry, Saint and King of Saints, I guess Beelzebub has a better marketing team.

Not that it matters, I doubt Valentine or Jesus, or even Saint Nikolaus for that matter, ever ate chocolate or even heard of chocolate before they got to heaven where billions of pounds of chocolate are eaten every second — chocolate didn’t make it across the ocean from the Americas until the 16th century. It was the British in the 18th century that first popularized giving cards and chocolates as a sign of affection. My favorite example of an early Valentine’s card reads:

“Roses art reddeth

Violets art blueth,

If I gaveth thee chocolate,

Canst we then screweth?”

Ah, those Elizabethan poets sure had a way with words. Wait a second, weren’t Elizabethans in the 16th century? Ah, who cares, Shakespeare still said it best with the immortal lines:

“A rose by any other name would still smell as chocolatey.”

OK, now I’m just getting silly, I admit it, but I have love on my brain since it’s the day before Valentine’s, and like most real romantic men in the world, I haven’t prepared at all. I’ve got less than 24 hours to come up with something special for my Darling Dear and I must say I’m a bit stumped. You see, we still got a box full of leftover Christmas chocolate we can’t seem to eat our way through despite nightly bingeing. I buy her flowers almost every week ‘just because’. And for some reason I fear my poetry might not quite leave her swooning. I did try to write one:

“Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

Eat me, not the chocolate,

And then we can screw.”

Hmmm. No, I think not. There’s always cliché sexy underwear or lingerie to be bought to express your true feelings on Valentine’s, but my Darling Dear just bought herself some a couple of days ago with the credit card we are never-ever-ever-ever-supposed-to-use-even-if-our-lives-depend-on-it.

Hmmmm. Wait a second, maybe I should get her a heart-shaped credit card! I’m sure she would love that. Believe it or not, they exist. Google it. But is mere money for frivolous spending the right way to express my affection? (‘YES, YES! FRIVOLOUS SPENDING, PLEASE! ’, I hear my Darling Dear scream in my sub-conscious imagination which I promptly ignore.) No, no, that’s just too unimaginative, too unromantic. (‘NO IT’S NOT!’ she screams.) I mean if I’m going to give her money it would at least be better in the form of jewelry, yes? (‘JEWELRY! WOOHOO!’) Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, right? (‘DIAMONDS! SWOON! SWOON, SWOON, SWOON!’) But we just got married last year, diamonds and all, so who needs more diamonds? (‘YOU CAN NEVER HAVE ENOUGH DIAMONDS!’) Hmmm. What to do, what to do . . . maybe a cookbook? (‘NOOOOOOOO! DIAMONDS!’) Or a nice scarf? (‘IT’S NOT CHRISTMAS, DAMMIT!’) I just don’t know. (‘AAHHIIIEECCHH!’) What was that noise? Hmmm, anyway, I guess the most important thing is to somehow show her I love her, to make her feel special and important, which doesn’t take any artifices like gifts. (‘SIGH.’) Maybe poetry still is the best way. Something short and sweet and from the heart, like:

“Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

Thanks for your heart,

Which I love true.”

(‘SWOON!’)

Okay, faithful readers and listeners, until next week when I’ll try to explain the trials and tribulations of trying to build a website with easy-to-use-and-easy-to-understand subscription features so I can hook you on my T.I.L.T. brilliance and eventually pump you full of ads to make me rich so I can drown my Darling Dear in diamonds! Happy Valentine’s Day!

T.I.L.T. #127 – T.I.L.T. 2.0 – T.I.L.T. LIVES!

T.I.L.T. #127, Friday, 6th February, 2015
T.I.L.T. 2.0. – T.I.L.T. LIVES!

Wow. Where to begin? Time flies when you’re having fun. It’s hard to believe that my last T.I.L.T. was seven years ago in the spring of 2008. Now it’s 2015 and another spring approaches. I just reread my last TILT and it was like looking at a picture in an old forgotten photo album, a snapshot of time of where I was back then in my life. That younger guy in his late thirties had no idea what was coming, not a clue what the guy now in his mid-forties could tell him about where his life would take him from that last TILT in 2008 to today in 2015. Feels like a time machine. Back to the Future has already come and gone. Think about it: where were you seven years ago? Did your dreams come true?

Well, my faithful readers, faithful listeners, who I have so long neglected during this seven-year T.I.L.T. drought — forgive me! — before we get too reminiscent about the good old days before the world economic crisis when good-old George W. was still in the White House, I must re-introduce T.I.L.T. to a new generation of readers and listeners.

What is T.I.L.T.? It’s my world-famous blogcast that came out weekly from 2005 to 2008 and then stepped into a black hole only to reappear today in 2015. It’s world-famous because back then my family lived on two sides of the ocean — still does. It started as a weekly e-mail column, then appeared in blog format online, and eventually I started recording T.I.L.T. verbatim as a podcast because some people prefer to listen than read, hence, T.I.L.T. is a ‘blogcast’.

But was does T.I.L.T. stand for? If you’re only listening to this and cannot see the full stops between the T and the I and the L and the T, T.I.L.T. is an acronym. And to explain it I will quote from the very first T.I.L.T.:

“So, T.I.L.T! is born! Now, I hear you asking, “T.I.L.T! What’s it stand for?” And, well, you choose! See, originally I thought, “This Is London Theatre!”. But then I realized that, hey, I may be an aspiring playwright but damn if I ain’t worked in a theatre in forever and “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!” There are infinitely more trivially fascinating things in a city such as London. So then I thought, “This Is London Town!” or better yet, “Texan In London Town!”

But then it hit me — what if I move? Or take a trip? Do I want to limit myself to London? Certainly there are countless trivialities waiting to be mined beyond the ‘confines’ of London? So then I thought “Taking In Life’s Trivialities!” Which sounds kind of grandiose but hey, all I know is I like the sound of T.I.L.T.!

Besides, the word ’tilt’ itself is a wonderful thing. If you have never looked it up in a good dictionary, do so — you will be surprised how many meanings it has which I think lend themselves for such a trivial column as this! Of course, if you have any better suggestions for the acronym T.I.L.T. – please feel free to send in your suggestions!”

My, my, that was almost ten years ago in 2005 when I was living in England. Boy that guy had even less of an idea of how he would become the guy of 2008 in Germany writing the last T.I.L.T. than that guy did of the guy now still in Germany in 2015 trying to bring T.I.L.T. back to life. I think T.I.L.T. might really stand for “Time Is Life’s Test” because every passing day, every passing year, life keeps testing us all to see just what we are made of and how we stand the test of time.

Think about it on a global scale: what would the world of spring 2008 think of the world of spring 2015? The global economic crisis came and more or less went with stocks and unemployment rising and falling like an endless seesaw ride. Bush II left, Obama came, and now Bush III and Clinton II stand lurking in the wings of world history. The ‘war on terror’ was not won by large armed forces sent to Iraq and Afghanistan and is now spread around countless remote corners of the world being fought by remote-controlled drones in a virtual-meets-reality-video-game-like tragedy. Al-Qaeda has been upstaged by ISIS. The ‘war on drugs’ has been won or lost depending on which side you stand with the legalization of marijuana in many states. Global warming only got warmer. Gay marriage became mainstream. Health insurance became ‘gotta have’ and Guantanamo Bay looks set to become the next Vegas resort with built-in permanent residents in a soon to be reborn Cuba! And last but not least, phones became smart and gadgets of all kinds are becoming wearable fashion items connected to ‘the cloud’. It really is Back to the Future these days — please hurry up with the flying cars!

What about my life over the last seven years? How have I stood the test of time? Well, I won’t get into all the details of my personal and professional life since who really needs to hear about the dirty laundry of other people than celebrities? But the short version is: stopped being an English teacher; started working at a university as a residential manager; became a workaholic; built a student theater; got promoted; had a blast; had a mid-life crisis; got divorced (farewell former ‘lovely-better-half’, may all your Starbucks lattes be grande!); wallowed in self-pity and loathing; worked more; built a bar and music club; got promoted again; fell in love again; played more, tried to work less; got married again (hello ‘best-little-wife-ever’ – may all your home-cooked experiments be tasty!); and am about to be promoted again as I try to build a better campus and off-campus life and begin to dream of finding a way back to home in the USA before another seven years flies by. And somehow inexplicably gained about twenty-five pounds. Could it be the bottomless German beer and bratwurst? Or is it all the tasty home-cooked experiments of the best-little wife-ever? Hmmm. Who knows, but hey, call me fat and happy, OK?

Despite stopping T.I.L.T. for so long, one of the main things that has not changed and has stood the test of time is my ambition to succeed at creative writing in some artistic and professional way. I may still not be published, but I have written a collection of short stories, have nearly finished a novel, and am determined more than ever to finally put my ‘stuff’ out there. One of the main things I have learned over the last seven years is that if I really visualize, and believe, and set a concrete deadline where people will show up expecting to see some results, I can actually move mountains. If I can succeed at my day job again and again, driving countless productions and projects and participants and audiences of all kinds, then I should be able to succeed at any creative ambition, right?

Ironically, it seems that I have known this all along and nothing has changed since my last T.I.L.T. where I unknowingly prophesied the same truth when I wrote:

“Lesson To Self: The only way to fail is to believe you failed.”

God knows I have proven that true too many times with many failures large and small especially when it comes to writing. But I have also proven the reverse true in many successes, so I guess it all balances out. That is the essence of T.I.L.T. after all, first you lean one way, then the other, and so on. Maybe T.I.L.T. stands for “Thriving In-between Life’s Tilts”.

Until next week, faithful readers and listeners, may you live long and T.I.L.T.!