Dad the Writer 2

Father, husband, writer...
Father, husband, writer…

July 22, 2015

In continuing last week’s “Dad the Writer,” I need to point out that keeping mentally active is not the only thing needed in order to be an artist and a parent. Yes, you need to keep sharp, but your body can suffer if you neglect it.

While many of us would be happy living on a diet of tea or coffee and whatever we can throw in the microwave, very few of us have the Kryptonian physiology to not die after a few years of this. Luckily, my wife and I have some experience making do with small budgets and trying to eat healthy, so these habits very much informed our current situation.

I’ll be the first to admit it: I dropped the ball when it came to taking care of myself. After the baby was born, and even about a year before, I focused so much on work and taking care of my then-pregnant wife that I did gain weight and neglect my exercise. Now, with the Little One more or less in a stable schedule, my wife and I are getting back to a routine to better ourselves.

I’m by no means a nutritionist, but I have found a few things that work for me to eat healthier and not go on some fad diet, and I’m not a personal trainer, so take my advice with a grain of salt. Just because it works for me, doesn’t mean it can work for you.


Writer by claire-eyhe on DeviantArt

Learn to Cook

Most of us are more than satisfied with just opening a bag and mixing in water or simply putting a plate into the microwave. That might do in a pinch, but I discovered many years ago, long before I’d even met my wife, that learning to cook means having control over what you consume. Diet sodas and even “healthy” meal options often pack in the sugar to mask the fact that they’re basically cardboard.

It takes a little time, but you can choose exactly what you put in your body, and cooking is a good way to de-stress or at least step away from work long enough to refresh your mind.

Our diet right now is almost vegetarian and focused on greens like kale, collard greens, spinach, and other goodies. We add plenty of garlic, lentils, brown rice, and couscous into the mix and some turkey when we want meat. Once in a while, we’ll go for actual red meat, but this is a treat, both for nutrition’s sake and for health’s sake. Sodas and anything processed is also right out.

Alcohol? Well, in reality, we should cut that out to a drink a week, but a little bourbon once the Little One goes down once in a while is a good way to help the day just melt away. Suffice to say, though, that any sort of mixed drink goes right out the window due to the sugar.


Cooking by pianorei on DeviantArt

Works Out for the Meek

You want to know how I lost twenty pounds in a few weeks once? I walked. A lot. At least an hour a day, five days a week. Yes, I did also cut back on sugars and soda, but the main thing is to keep moving. That sounds easy enough when you’re taking care of a tiny human learning to walk, but you need to combine it with something else.

Given that time is more precious than gold right now, I had to find some way to keep in shape that didn’t eat up the clock. I’m not talking about getting on the cover of Men’s Fitness. I mean doing something to keep flexible and strong and even have some energy and keep my metabolism up. I chose to do tabata workouts because they’re easy, require no equipment (mostly), and they can be done in less than fifteen minutes.

The short version is that you pick a small number of exercises (jumping jacks, squats, push-ups, sit-ups, etc) and do them, one at a time for twenty seconds with a ten second break in between. You do as many reps as possible in those twenty seconds. After you do four exercises, you repeat the cycle once and then rest for thirty seconds or a minute before you start again. Doing two sets takes no more than ten minutes and kicks your butt if you’re not ready for it.


Yoga I by Studio4496 on DeviantArt

Sleep When You’re Dead

I used to joke that sleep was for the week. Well, I’m weak. And tired. And Mattie woke up at 3 AM today and figured it was time to play. A lot.

Sleep is SO important. I didn’t realize until becoming a father just how much I didn’t appreciate it. I’ve been tired before, either studying for tests or staying up grading tests. The difference, I finally realized, was that I could step away from my work. I could just tell myself to go take a nap and come back to it in a few hours.

You can’t do that with a baby.

This is where the focus from the last article comes in. Yes, do the work you need and push yourself to sit and actually write or create something in the precious few minutes you can spare, but if you need to rest and have the chance, TAKE IT. You don’t know when that opportunity will come again. And really sleep. Don’t just lay there.

Seriously. I need a week-long vacation after every tooth comes out.

That’s it for today. Stay tuned for more goodies and, in the meantime, enjoy this trailer for Clown, a movie that was surprisingly creepy, if not silly.

“Genius” is Hard Work

You COULD depend on dumb luck and talent... but that's dumb.
You COULD depend on dumb luck and talent… but that’s dumb.

June 20, 2013

Who do you want to be?

When I was younger, my parents told me I could be anything I wanted. From a very young age, I always liked telling stories. When I grew up, this changed slightly to a love of language and poetry. Did I know English when I moved to the United States? Somewhat. But I saw all the stories, movies, and books I was now exposed to and wanted to be a part of that, so I pushed myself to learn English and writing as best I could.

And now look at me. One of my editors is finished with Charcoal Streets and the other is on her way to give me the final corrections and suggestions. Last year, I wrote a gaming book that’s gotten great reviews. A few years before that, I ghostwrote a novel that has been sold and read all over the world.

But I wasn’t a natural talent or anything like that.

My wife likes to say that this sort of thing just comes naturally to me. The truth is that I worked hard at it. I had a passion for it, but I didn’t start off just writing down poetry. I had to work hard at it. Very hard. While I do think there is such a thing as natural aptitude, that isn’t the case with everyone who is good at something.

We all have obstacles in the way of our dreams, but there are ways around them. I learned many things from my grandfather, but one of the most important is that it’s never impossible to achieve a goal. Difficult? Yes. Tedious? Certainly.

Impossible? That man didn’t know the meaning of the word.


Hard day at work by *vaporotem on deviantART

I try to live my life the same way, and whenever a student tells me the assignment or the lesson is too hard, I just smile and tell them the same thing.

It gets easier.

If you can’t understand a lesson in one way, try thinking of it another.

If you can’t lose weight with a diet, try more substantial change.

If you want to be more learned, read and research.

Are some of our goals easy? No. Hardly. But that doesn’t mean we should quit. Even now, despite my pride in the final draft of Charcoal Streets, for example, it’s already been pointed out to me that there are several sections that could be MUCH better. Once this was pointed out to me, I had to agree, although I cried on the inside.

All writers do that.

I’ll say it again… goals aren’t going anywhere. We just have to find different ways of getting there.

Who do I want to be? I want to be a great writer. So that’s I’m trying to do.

Glad Paula Dean Has Diabetes? GOOD!

That glow? It's pure evil. And diabetes. Mostly evil, though. Diabetes doesn't glow like that. You need a black light to see diabetes.

January 20, 2012

You know what? I’m going to say it.

I’m glad Paula Dean has diabetes.

I don’t mean that in the personal sense. Diabetes isn’t something fun to have. It affects your life and your choices and makes you plan activities based on sugar. It can be managed and you can lead a fairly normal life, but it’s always there.

I mean this in the professional sense. I’m glad she has diabetes because she hid it for years, makes her money off of showing people how to make ridiculously unhealthy food, she will make money from having this disease, and she takes pride in the last two.

That butter-chugging money whore…


Paula Deen by ~urielstempest on deviantART

And no, I’m not being too mean. I’m being nice. This is being nice. Being mean would involve Photoshopped images of Dean bathing in a tub of melted butter while she eats salt logs covered in bacon. This? This is justice. She willingly made and ate food that would give most of us a heart attack after the first helping. She indulged in trying to convince others to have her intestinal abominations. There really is such a thing as too much bacon and butter. When you have to measure the ingredients by the pound, you’ve crossed a line. You’ve gone to a dark, dark palce, my friend.

She did all of this in a time where obesity is a national epidemic. She made her fame and fortune from encouraging people to hurt themselves and, when she finally suffered the inevitable consequences of her actions, she hid the fact until she made a deal to make MORE money.

The kicker? She’s not going to stop cooking and eating the way she’s been doing it for years.

This is like a pro-skater breaking every bone in his body after an attempted stunt in a career where he urged his fans to never use safety gear. Said skater then keeps acting stupid.

This is like a porn star encouraging people to not use condoms even after getting 47 types of VD and getting pregnant.


Paula Dean by ~imthinkinarby on deviantART

Make no mistake, though. I love food. I love a good steak, a great pasta dish, and have been known, from time to time, to indulge in fine spirits and ales. And bacon? Get out of my way. I will cut you. I will show you’re your still-beating heart and make you regret the microsecond it took you to get between me and pork heaven.

But to everything… moderation.

Dean is not the only cooking star to show how to make dishes to clog your arteries with butter and salt, but she turned up to eleven. She has butter-flavored lip balm with her name on it. No, it’s not a joke. And now she’s selling diabetes medication? This is like Newt Gingrich becoming the spokesman for marriage. Or Rick Santorum shilling for GLAAD. Or me endorsing Twilight.

It’s not the best it.

To Paula Dean, the person, I’m sorry you have diabetes and will have it for the rest of your life. To Paula Dean, the cook and businesswoman, I hope this teaches you a lesson, you hypocritical bacon-munching sack of carbs.

And now, let’s wash bad thoughts away by embracing the awesomeness of the COOLEST 8 year old EVER. No joke. Check it out, and I’ll see you on Monday.

The Ethics of Bacon

July 15, 2011

I had a recent argument with Dark Archivist. Let it be known that I respect her and her points of view. She introduced me to Poe (the singer, not the author). We have a mutual hatred for L Ron Hubbard. I think her blog is a great read and she even (successfully) called me out on a rant.

But I will not go quietly on this one. It’s on!

She asked how she could eat meat if she could never actually kill an animal. An academic question, sure, and one a lot of vegetarians ask themselves. She, as far as I know, is not vegetarian and is simply asking a question.

I, however, and an avowed meat-eater.


Nice to meat you by *MacGreen on deviantART

I eat meat because it’s a part of my culture. Meat-based dishes are everywhere in Mexico. From the summer carne asada to the oh-so-delicious carnitas, meat from chicken, pigs, and cows is used in virtually everything. And nothing gets wasted. We eat everything: intestines, brains, eyes, ovaries, feet, all of it. Rarely does anything goes to waste, so I feel good knowing the animal’s death was not in vain. It served a purpose and was not just left butchered for the vultures.

“But,” I hear some of you say, “today we have other ways of getting those proteins and nutrients! Surely the little piggies can be saved if we get our protein from beans and other plants, right? Are these dishes really worth an animal’s life?”

In the strictest, sense, yes. It’s not NECESSARY to eat meat in the most basic mathematical terms. I’d love to have beef more often, but hey, I’m on a budget. I can make do without it. A few months ago, I was on what could be described as a mostly vegetarian diet out of necessity. Mary is a wonderful cook who made some amazing dishes with what we had, and I actually think Boca burgers are pretty tasty.

But, by this logic, we don’t need things like flavor. That’s just extra, right? If you want to convince me not to eat meat because I can get the nutrients elsewhere, I will counter that you can get your same veggie goodness from shakes and pills.

Hell, if you want to go that far, eat algae. It’s good for you.


Take it All, It Comes Cheap by ~painwithdesire on deviantART

But maybe we get past this part of the argument. Maybe it’s not about the nutritional aspects of meat.

Maybe meat really is murder.

Something dies. We eat it. But did it have feelings? Did it feel pain?

Frankly, I don’t know. What to eat and not eat is a lot more about nurture than anything else. I have no problem eating a dish made of congealed blood and spices or eating a snail. I don’t even flinch at eating a bug. Why? My parents were wise enough to make sure I tried different foods and understood that what is acceptable to eat is very dependent on upbringing. Some people have no qualms about eating dog because that’s what was available. Bugs? Meh. Small brains. I doubt they have feelings. Cows? Maybe. Pigs?

This one’s the tricky one. Do we know animals are sentient? Do they have emotions? I don’t know. All I know is this.


meat heart by ~monsterism9 on deviantART

I am not a cow. Or a pig. Or a chicken. I am a human being, an omnivore capable of eating plants and meat. Is it moral for carnivores in nature to kill for food? Of course. They must survive. Is it moral for humans to kill animals for food?

Of course. Frankly, vegetarianism, except for that mandated by religion, is insulting. Anthony Bourdain said it best in Kitchen Confidential. Willingly not eating meat is an insult to people around the world who can’t. It’s a luxury only someone relatively wealthy compared to the poorest people on Earth can afford. When you have the choice to be THAT picky, to cut out HALF of what you can eat by simple choice, I don’t think you have the moral ground to criticize those who have no choice in the matter or who choose to remain healthy by eating what is readily available to them. We are omnivores. That is a biological fact. Eating meat is the natural state of a human being. It’s what we came from.

And before you say, “But serial killers have a biological need to kill, so are you saying serial killers are moral, too?”

Well, no. They’re blips on the chart. They’re a chemical imbalance. A lot of them never had a chance.


Meat Lollipop by ~volkano-art on deviantART

Maybe the piggies and the cows have feelings. I’d prefer if they, just from the virtue of being living beings, didn’t suffer as they died for my meal, but a human life is worth more than an animal’s life… most of the time. I’ll admit to having had bosses I’d place somewhere between amoeba and dung beetle. If given the choice between killing a stranger or a dog, I’ll shoot the dog. But it will be quick. A person would have to be a HORRID human being to somehow move below the level of a chicken or a duck. Likewise, an animal would need to be an exemplary moral character. But I’ve never heard of an animal exhibiting anything that could be called free will. Animals imprint on humans. They become attached, but do they do it out of free will or out of biological necessity for protection?

I won’t stop eating meat on the assumption that since I don’t know, they must be sentient.

That being said, I just had a wonderful Pino burger at, well, Pino’s in Laredo. Check it out if you can.

Enjoy the weekend, folks. See you Monday.

Synthetic Pop and the Death of the Artist

Next up we'll have a Dalek barbershop quartet.

June 27, 2011

Well, I called it.

We now have fully synthetic pop stars, and not just virtual copies of anime or video game characters. I’m talking full-blown people.

Japan actually had a completely virtual pop star for about a month until her digital identity was revealed this week.

Eguchi Aimi was the latest member of Japan’s AKB48, an all-girl group that consists of several different teams of performers. She was featured in a commercial, a magazine spread, and was listed on the group’s website. For all intents and purpose, she seemed to be a real person.

Then we find out that she’s actually a composite, which really begs the question…

Japan, this group had sixty-plus members, all attractive young women who were willing to work and perform. Did you really need a completely virtual singer?

I’ll give the management credit. The fact that people were even debating whether Aimi was real or not speaks volumes to the level of detail put into her design. Furthermore, the stills, while looking Photoshopped, are nevertheless quite impressive. She sings, she takes photos, and she’ll never ask for a raise. She’s the perfect client for her creators.


Fame by ~ShimmiChan on deviantART

Of course, this doesn’t answer the question of why anyone would even make her. It’s not like they have a shortage of starlets. In fact, Aimi is a composite of other members of the group. This could easily be a test of the new technology, a stunt to show everyone just how far the programming and hardware can go.

Me? I’m terrified. Management managed to pass off this construct as a real person for a respectable amount of time, and given a year or two, the technology might easily be good enough to do away with the tiny imperfections that tipped off some fans. Think about it. Any recording company with sufficient money will be able to make pop stars on demand.

Combine that with this little study that shows there is a scientific basis for what we consider to be “catchy,” that we might be able to scientifically determine if a song will be a hit in the next few years, and we have everything we need for companies to start churning out Justin Beibers, Lady Gagas, and Rebecca Blacks. Given how Facebook and Google can target ads based on your likes, this will make it so much easier to target specific demographics.


Skynet Nokia parody by ~paulelder on deviantART

Do you think the Grammys will give the award to the programmer or the virtual person?

And if you don’t think a company will invest some money in a pop star that doesn’t eat, drink, sleep, and will do anything and everything without complaining or going on a cocaine binge…

Hi. Welcome to America. Land of the free. Home of the Whopper.


Commercialism. by *WhatIfItAllWouldEnd on deviantART

Let’s get the links out there.

  • It looks like Nine Inch Nails’ Year Zero is going to be a miniseries for HBO. I have fond memories of that album. I used to listen to it as I walked around the Capitol on my lunch break. The dissonance was amazing for clearing my head.
  • Evanescence is coming out with a new album. Without sounding too hipster, I remember hearing them before they got big. Their REALLY early stuff (the albums you can only find on eBay now) is really haunting and a lot more personal, but I’m looking forward to this new one.
  • And finally, seeing as how I ripped the Miss Universe contestants for not understanding basic scientific vocabulary, someone was kind enough to further show how dumb their arguments were by replacing one little word in some of the responses. Enjoy, and I’ll see you on Wednesday.