Tuesday, June 30, 2009

CoX vs. WoW: Character Creation

In comparing two MMORPGs such as City of Heroes/Villains and World of Warcraft what better place to begin than the beginning, i.e. character creation.

As is common for these sorts of games, World of Warcraft has a fairly simple character creator:

First you pick your race which controls which faction, Alliance or Horde, you belong to as well as where you start in the game geographically and what classes you can take. Each race also comes with three minor benefits to differentiate them from the others. For example, humans are natural diplomats and earn reputation with game characters faster than other races while tauren are better herbalists. Next you pick your class. Are you a warrior or a rogue? A priest or a warlock? A hunter or a paladin? Class defines your character's abilities, what armor you can wear, what weapons you can use, and what spells are available to you. Not all races can be all classes so if you want to be a specific class you may find your choices for race limited. For example, the only Horde race that can be paladins are blood elves so if you want to play a Horde paladin you've got to be a blood elf.

Finally there are cosmetic decisions to make; male or female, what skin/hair color, do you wear earrings, do you have facial hair, and so on. The exact choices you get vary by race and gender. Trolls, for example, get to choose from a variety of tusks. You'll notice that aside from gender and skin color, all of WoW's cosmetic choices center on the head. That's because the look of your clothing is determined entirely by what you wear in the game.

City of Heroes has a bit more complicated character creator.

First you choose your archetype (AT) and your origin type. Archetype is analogous to World of Warcraft's classes. Heroes and villains have different ATs available to them but NCSoft is about to implement a system that will allow heroes to become villains and villains to become heroes so that won't be true for too much longer. Origin type defines how your hero or villain got his superpowers. It affects what missions you will receive at the beginning of the game and later on will control what sort of enhancements you can use to modify your superpowers. There's no real game advantage to taking one origin type over another as you probably won't have any trouble obtaining enhancements for whatever type you choose.

Next you choose your character's primary power set and select one of the first two powers from it to start with.

The original design for CoX called for players to have a free hand in choosing superpowers for their characters much like pen & paper role playing games like Champions. CoX's developers quickly discovered a serious design flaw in that approach. In a game like Champions there is one player known as a game master or GM who creates the adventures the other players go on and is responsible for overseeing how the players develop their characters. If a player makes a bad decision, the GM can tell him so and have him change it. In CoX that's not possible and it was quite easy for players to choose powers that would make their characters ineffective, i.e. gimp themselves. So the CoX devs redesigned the game to limit players' choices, making it hard to gimp their characters. Part of this redesign was introducing archetypes that describe general game roles, for example scrappers are hand-to-hand damage dealers, and then giving each AT a set of power sets to choose from that all do basically the same thing but do it in different ways. For example a scrapper could use martial arts, a broadsword, a katana, or claws among other things. Then within each power set there are a variety of powers to choose from. You start out with only one or two powers available to you and as you advance in level more powers are unlocked so that you can choose to take them if you want.

This is followed by choosing a secondary power set. This is sort of a secondary thing your character can do though it's not your primary focus. Since it's your secondary power set only the first power is available to you and the others become unlocked more slowly than your primary power set.

Now we start getting into the meat of CoX's character creation. The comic book genre that the game emulates is marked by highly individualistic costumes. Few superheroes and villains dress alike. CoX strives to capture this and does so admirably well. First you choose a general body type, male, female, or a huge male. Then you choose a general build and finally you have sliders that allow you to modify aspects of it.

Finally comes the actual costume designer. As you can see from the picture, you have many options for customizing your character's appearance. This part has absolutely no effect on the game aside from how you look. Of course final results tend to vary according to the player's design sense. I've seen some really beautiful costume designs and some really bad ones.

Though not pictured here there is one final step where you choose a name and have a chance to enter a battle cry and background for your character. These things have no effect on game play and are there purely for role-playing reasons.

That pretty much wraps up the differences between the two games character creation process.

City of Heroes vs. World of Warcraft: An Introduction

For many years now my primary form of recreation has been playing massively multiplayer online roleplaying games (MMORPGs). Such games offer a large amount of content to play through coupled with thousands of other players to potentially interact with. The first MMORPG I played was EverQuest (EQ). I tried Asheron's Call (AC) for a little while but my friends weren't interested in it and I wound up going back to EQ. Currently I play City of Heroes/City of Villains (CoX) and World of Warcraft (WoW).

Currently WoW is one of the most successful MMOs on the market while CoX…isn't. As is so often the case, this seems to inspire a bit of jealousy on the part of some CoX players and it's not uncommon to see flare-ups of WoW Derangement Syndrome on the CoX forums. In fact there's one going on right now as I type this about WoW ripping off CoX because Blizzard has indicated they are looking at allowing players to change factions much as CoX is looking at letting heroes and villains switch sides. Though I should note they actually aren't looking at doing the same thing. Apparently what Blizzard is considering doing is allowing people to exchange existing characters for equivalent new characters of the opposing faction. So you won't see orc and troll members of the Alliance but rather someone would exchange an orc warrior for, say, a human warrior of the same level with the same gear.

Anyway, since these threads generally consist of players who lack much experience playing the game they are putting down, I thought it might be both useful and interesting to make a series of posts comparing the two games from a more neutral vantage point.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Comcast: June 26, 2009

It's Friday afternoon and I'm trying to play World of Warcraft. The problem is that I keep getting disconnected from the internet. Finally I complain about it to a couple of guild mates. One of them immediately responds, "Comcast?" I reply in the affirmative and he proceeds to explain that Comcast frequently likes to reset internet connections for some reason. My guild mates want to go to Kharazan for fun. It's a "raid" instance designed for 10 level 70 players. My friends are very well geared level 80 players. Though not as well geared I have several level 80 characters who could accompany them but decide not to due to the frequent disconnects. After the fifth disconnect I finally give up on playing WoW and go watch television instead. I am not happy and decide that I might as well blog about any bad service I receive from Comcast, hence the sudden flurry of Comcast postings.

Comcast: Signing Up

I called Comcast on a Thursday to get information. The customer service rep (CSR) that I talked to told me internet service would be $23 per month for the first year and then $43 per month after that. I could install it myself or I could have them send a technician out to do it for me for $50. I could supply my own cable modem or they would provide one for $3 per month. I would need to supply my own networking equipment.

The very next day, Friday, I went to Best Buy to price a wireless router and adapter and wound up buying those plus a cable modem as well as a splitter and some coax cable so I could do the install myself. I then called Comcast to tell them to sign me up. The CSR, a different one than the previous day, proceeded to quote me a price of $19.95 a month for the first year and then $42 per month after that. I thought it was odd that their pricing had changed from the day before but since it was cheaper I told her to go ahead and sign me up. She proceeded to put the order into the computer or rather she proceeded to try to put the order in but she didn't know how to do it and finally had to call her supervisor over to do it for her. I thought this kind of odd given that her job was to take orders but whatever.

She then asked me when I wanted to schedule an installer to come by and I explained that I'd been told the day before that I could just do the install myself. So she tried several times to put it into the computer but couldn't figure out how to do it and rather than call her supervisor back again instead insisted that we had the wrong kind of services for a self-install and said that we would have to have an installer come out. So I said alright and set up an appointment for Monday figuring I could have the installer look at the cable outlets scatter throughout the house and see if they were usable instead of having to have the cable modem with the television which is at the extreme opposite end of the house from where I want to put the computer.

So Monday rolls around and the installers show up. They're nice and professional and quickly determine that the other cable outlets aren't hooked up and consequently can't be used without doing a lot of work so I tell them to just put the cable modem with the television and I'll deal with it. They then proceed to connect a splitter and hook up both cable box and modem. The only thing they do that I couldn't have done for myself is install a Comcast cable modem since I didn't have one. They explain that they can't use my cable modem because I bought it from Best Buy instead of Comcast and so I'll have to call Comcast tech support and give them information from the modem and after about three or so days they'll put the modem information into their system and then I can use it. In the meantime I've got to rent a modem from Comcast.

There's absolutely no reason why I couldn't have done the install myself as the first Comcast CSR told me I could. The second Comcast CSR just didn't know how to enter stuff into the system despite it being her job.

Comcast: AT&T vs. Comcast

About a week after Hurricane Ike I called both AT&T and Comcast to inform them that their lines going into my parents' house were physically down, having been taken out by a falling tree. The AT&T customer service rep (CSR) that I talked to was polite and helpful. I called on Saturday afternoon and an AT&T technician showed up at my parents' house bright and early, around 9 am, the next morning to hook them back up.

By way of contrast, Comcast had apparently configured their voice mail system to hang up on anyone trying to make tech support calls. After laboriously working my way through their voice mail system to the tech support only to be told to try again later and then be disconnected, I decided to try Comcast's online support instead since I already had internet access back at my apartment. After sitting in a Comcast chat room for 15-20 minutes a Comcast CSR finally showed up. She was rather rude and her attitude could be summed up with the phrase, "Why are you bothering me?" So I explained that I just wanted to make sure they knew they knew the lines to the house were down since I didn't know if their equipment could detect that or not and was told, and this is almost verbatim, "We'll get around to it when we get around to it."

Well it took Comcast about a month to get around to it and when they did get around to it the technician made a half-assed job of it. My parents repeatedly called Comcast to let them know there was a problem but the CSRs would just tell them to unplug their cable box, plug it back in, and wait 20-30 minutes and that would fix the problem. Even when told that my parents had already tried that and it didn't fix the problem, the CSRs would insist they do it again. It took another two months before Comcast finally decided that maybe resetting the cable box wasn't going to work and sent a technician out who then fixed the problem.

Add in the fact that every person I know that has Comcast has complained about the quality of their service and several have recently switched from Comcast to AT&T U-Verse and I was definitely leaning towards signing up with AT&T to get my internet access.

So armed with the knowledge of how much my parents already pay for Comcast cable I went down to an AT&T store to price their U-Verse service. I inquired about internet coupled with the second tier of their television service and it wasn't that much more than my parents are currently paying for Comcast's bottom tier. For more channels plus a free DVR plus internet I didn't see how Comcast could match the price but, to make my parents happy, I called Comcast anyway just to compare.

AT&T offered $10 off a month for the first 6 months plus $100 cash back, free installation, free cable modem, free wireless router, and a free adapter. Comcast offered $23 a month for internet for the first year then $43 month, I was told I could do the install myself or they could send a technician out for $50, I could supply my own cable modem or I could rent one from them for $3 per month, and they didn't supply routers and adapters so I would have to buy those from someone else.

The way it broke down, AT&T was cheaper for the first six months. Comcast was cheaper for the first year unless you had to buy networking gear, as I did, in which case AT&T was still cheaper for the first year. After than AT&T was about $7 more a month but for that $7 I would be getting more channels and a free DVR so I was all set to go with AT&T.

It was at this point that I discovered that my parents have reached an age at which they don't handle change well. Since just the idea of switching them from Comcast to AT&T was clearly causing them a lot of distress and remembering how much trouble they had learning to operate the Comcast remote and navigate the Comcast menus, I decided that it would be best to stay with Comcast despite AT&T being the better deal.

Comcast: 10-1 BC (Before Comcast)

Since I seem to be stuck with Comcast for cable and internet I figured I might as well blog about the experience.

To give you some idea of where I'm coming from, when I moved into my apartment I had to get my cable service from OpTel and I had a choice of phone service from OpTel or Alltel. At the time I was working for a division of MCI so as a benefit I was receiving a monthly long distance credit but I had to have MCI as my long distance carrier to use it. Since OpTel insisted on being both local and long distance carrier if I used them I went with Alltel instead. When OpTel proved to be extremely bad at providing cable I dropped them in favor of DirecTV. (Amusing story, when I went into the apartment office to ask if we were allowed to have satellite the apartment manager told me, "No, but if we don't see the antenna we don't see the antenna if you know what I mean." I did and shortly thereafter I was a DirecTV customer.) To give you an idea of just how incompetent OpTel was, shortly after I cancelled my OpTel service I discovered that my television, through no action of my own, was suddenly receiving more premium movie channels from the OpTel cable coming out of the wall than I had ever gotten as a paid subscriber and continued to do so for about a year before they apparently figured out that instead of disconnecting me they had hooked me up with more channels and finally cut me off. It didn't really matter to me at that point since I'd been a DirecTV customer the entire time.

When Alltel offered DSL I signed up and when they sold their broadband service to Windstream I went along. After being an Alltel/Windstream customer for over 10 years with no real complaints about the quality of service I had received from them it was with a certain amount of sadness that I called them to cancel my account. Same goes for DirecTV. I was happy with their service but they just aren't practical at my parents' house unless we want to cut down a bunch of trees, which we don't.

Saturday Weigh-In: June 27, 2009

Weight: 367 lbs.

Not sure if I'm losing weight or just breaking even. To avoid feeling discouraged I'm not going to start tracking weight loss until I'm sure I'm losing weight.

Going into this week I was planning to go to the store to pick up frozen tilapia filets and single-serving microwave packs of frozen vegetables. The idea was that every day around noon I could bake a filet and zap a vegetable pack for a light mid-day meal that would tide me over until my parents decided to eat, making it easier for me to make healthy choices at whatever restaurant we go to. I should just clean up the kitchen and start cooking for the three of us but Dad seems resistant to eating home cooking these days, they'd both probably want more variety than I'm likely to want to make, and I'll admit I enjoy eating out.

Anyway, when I got to the store I decided instead of getting the fish and vegetables I should just get some frozen entrees since it would be less work, not that we're talking a lot of work to begin with, and provide more variety. Now if you're trying to lose weight there are three basic frozen entrée brands to consider; Stoufer's Lean Cuisine, Weight Watchers, and Healthy Choice. Though it's been quite some time since I bought any, I remember Lean Cuisine and Weight Watchers to both be decent choices. Healthy Choice, on the other hand, tends to have about as much flavor as the cardboard box it comes in. The only Healthy Choice product I've found to be edible are their hot dogs. Everything else is pretty tasteless. So I picked up a mix of Lean Cuisine and Weight Watchers. So far I've had one Lean Cuisine, a tortilla encrusted fish, and it was alright. Nothing to get excited about but not terrible. Unfortunately the three Weight Watchers entrees I've had have been pretty vile, largely consisting of low quality chicken meat smothered in various sauces that try to overpower your taste buds so you don't notice how bad the chicken is. So it looks like I'm down to eating Lean Cuisine. We'll see how they do this coming week.

Of course the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray and mine certainly did this week. I was able to get a couple of grilled chicken dinner salads this week but mostly my parents wanted to eat at places like Taco Bell where there aren't really any good healthy choices on the menu. We'll see how this next week goes.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Saturday Weigh-In: June 20, 2009

Weight: 369.4 lbs

I was afraid of something like this. I'm either gaining weight or, at best, breaking even. The optimal eating schedule for weight loss is to eat 5-6 small meals a day. My parents only eat twice a day. They have breakfast and then a lunch/dinner that can be anytime from 2:00 pm until around 5:00 pm. Of course they're in their 80s, they have significantly less muscle mass to support, and they spend a lot of their time sleeping. Their caloric needs are a lot lower than mine. Eating twice a day is fine for them. I, on the other hand, am usually starving and frequently have a headache from low blood sugar by the time they get around to having their lunch/dinner. This leads to between meal snacking and when we do eat I tend to go for high calorie dishes with high carbs and fat. Even when there are healthy choices on the menu, such as a grilled chicken salad, I'm hesitant to get them because they are relatively low in calories, compared to the others things on the menu, and I'm worried about not eating enough. Keeping calories down is good but you don't want to make your body think you're starving or it becomes a harder to lose weight.

My goal this week is to come up with some light, healthy meals I can eat in the early afternoon and late evening to keep me from getting overly hungry during the day. Right now I'm thinking a baked tilapia filet with some steamed veggies would make a good mid-day meal and might make it easier to eat a lighter meal when my parents do go out for their lunch/dinner.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Attack on the Basij

This is video out of Iran showing protesters attacking a building controlled by the Basij.

Supporters of the Second Amendment often cite the need of the People to have the means to resist a tyrannical government. Supporters of gun control tend to scoff at this argument because the firearms that we allow private citizens to own don't come close to matching the military's firepower. To those people I saw watch this video.

The Basij have assault rifles and a fortified position while the protesters have nothing but rocks and other improvised weapons. The protesters would be much better off with some semi-automatic handguns and I guarantee you the Basij wouldn't be walking around on the roof of their building taking potshots at people if the protesters had a few high power hunting rifles at their disposal.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Gone Green

I've temporarily changed the blog to a green template as a show of support for the people of Iran.

It's Just A Joke?

Lately I've heard a lot of liberals try to defend David Letterman by saying that his remarks about Governor Palin and her daughter were just a joke and that conservatives should just get over it. To them I have one thing to say...

"A nigger, a wetback, and a fag walk into a bar..."

It's just a joke, right? Sure it's in poor taste and highly offensive to boot but it's still just a joke. But I'll bet you the vast majority of Letterman's supporters would be clamoring for his head, and rightly so, if that was the joke he made instead of calling the Governor and her daughter sluts.

What Letterman said was highly offensive and saying it was just a joke is no defense.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Welcome to Houston, Madame Speaker

White Trash Buy Movie Tickets, Too

A friend of Michael Jordan told Jordan biographer Sam Smith that Jordan had declined to endorse Democrat Harvey Gantt's 1990 challenge to North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms because "Republicans buy shoes, too." If true, this would make Jordan a lot smarter than a lot of people.

For example, Megan Fox recently said, with regards to keeping Megatron, the villain of her new film Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, from destroying the world that she would "barter with him and say instead of the entire planet, can you just take out all of the white trash, hillbilly, anti-gay, super bible-beating people in Middle America?" I'm pretty sure that the studio is counting on those same white trash, hillbilly, anti-gay, super bible-beating Middle Americans to buy tickets to her movie and without them it will be a lot harder for the movie to turn a profit. I'm not anti-gay but I'm sure I'm still one of the people that Ms. Fox would like Megatron to take out and I won't be seeing the movie because after her comments I'm not real inclined to put money in her pocket. I was on the fence about whether to see the movie or not, I wasn't a huge fan of the first one, but I was leaning towards seeing it until she shot her mouth off so now they can do without me.

Personally I think Megan should be careful about calling others white trash when her most memorable scene from the Transformers trailers is a ¾ rear shot of her in cutoffs astride a motorcycle with her ass stuck up in the air. That's not your acting ability that the studio is promoting, dear.

Someone else who could learn from Michael Jordan is David Letterman. Letterman, of course, recently referred to Governor Sarah Palin as looking like a slutty flight attendant and then made a joke about that statutory rape of her 14-year-old daughter, Willow. In one fell stroke he managed to insult conservatives and women. When even NOW, which has a history of ignoring misogynistic attacks on conservative women, called him out on his behavior he didn't apologize but instead explained that he had meant Palin's 18-year-old daughter, Bristol, instead of Willow. So apparently in Letterman's world the rape of a 14-year-old is bad but the rape of an 18-year-old is funny. In this case Letterman should have taken a cue from Texas businessman Clayton Williams who managed to scuttle his own run for Texas Governor by remarking to reporters that the weather was like rape, you couldn't do anything about it so you might as well lie back and enjoy it. Female Texas voters were not amused and Williams' chances of being elected went down in flames.

Would Letterman have made a crack about Michelle Obama looking like a slutty gym bunny and then make a joke about the rape of Malia or Sasha? I'm inclined to think he wouldn't. In fact, I rather imagine he'd be appalled by such a joke. Perhaps in the future before making political jokes he should try applying them to his own party and see if he still finds them funny. But since Letterman apparently can't find any humor in the President getting the number of states wrong or giving the British Prime Minister DVDs that won't play on English DVD players or banning the press from a press awards ceremony, I suspect that would mean Letterman wouldn't be doing any political humor at all. And that would probably be a good thing.

Take a lesson from the Dixie Chicks who shot their mouths off, insulted their audience, and were then dismayed when their CD sales plummeted.

If you insult the people who ultimately pay your salary, don't be surprised when they suddenly decide to give their money to someone else instead.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Flag Day

Seeing as today is Flag Day and just two days ago I read an article by someone who thinks we need a new national anthem I thought I would post not one but two awesome renditions of the Star Spangled Banner.

The first is from the movie "Heart & Souls" and features Robert Downey, Jr. singing with B.B. King backing him up. The second is a guitar instrumental by a former paratrooper with the 101st Airborne.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The E Word

Bear with me a moment. This is a post about losing weight, not politics.

Since joining Facebook at the end of last year, I've made contact with a lot of old college friends. It's been an interesting experience to see that many of them are liberals and that's fine. I may not agree with their politics but then we don't spend a lot of time talking politics. However, it rapidly turned out that one woman, we'll call her J, wasn't just a liberal but a barking moonbat. As in when she found out that one of her "friends" was a fan of Ann Coulter she couldn't wait to trash the woman behind her back on Facebook and in very short order all of J's moonbat friends were chiming in with all sorts of vile things including one man who expressed the desire to whack this woman, that he didn't know, in the kneecaps with a baseball bat. All this J took in stride as if it was the most natural and reasonable thing in the world. When I, however, posted in her thread that Ann Coulter was just the conservative version of Bill Maher she had a meltdown. I mean you would have thought I'd literally walked up and pissed in her Wheaties while she was eating them from the way she reacted. It was then I realized that whatever our history was, were I to meet J today for the first time, we could never be friends and so I removed her from my friends list.

So what does this have to do with losing weight? Well, J's moonbattery wasn't limited to just politics. Even back in college she was struggling with her weight. During the week we were talking to each other on Facebook she posted a link to an article she'd found on the web claiming that exercise had nothing to do with weight loss. The article claimed that it was all about what you ate and that exercise had no effect at all on weight loss. To give you an idea of just how thoroughly the author had researched his/her claim, he hadn't done any actual research but instead settled for hypothesizing that anyone who has ever experienced weight loss while exercising was also probably watching what they ate and thus it was what they were eating that caused them to lose weight instead of the exercise.

Based on my own experience I can tell you that hypothesis is worth the paper it's written on. What's that you say? It's not written on paper? It's just words on a screen that will vanish as soon as you click on the next link? Well, there you go.

Even as a child I lived a relatively sedentary lifestyle. I was never really into sports. While I might occasionally go out and hit a ball around or go swimming or play with friends, I also spent a lot of time sitting in front of the television or reading or working puzzles or building models or some other activity that didn't exactly burn a lot of calories. Except in the summer when my parents would send me off to camp where I would be fairly active with a variety of scheduled activities like boating, nature walks, trampoline, and swimming. Of course what I ate at camp was different from what I had at home. At home Mom tried to make us balanced meals. At camp they, generally, tried to make meals that kids would eat with minimal fuss. At home Mom would never have given my brother and me donuts for breakfast but at camp they did. At home I never got a soft drink and candy every afternoon for a snack but at camp I did. And yet every summer I would lose weight and then put it back on during the rest of the year.

Then came college. I attended Georgia Tech where the PE requirements included a course on either aerobic conditioning or weight training, a swimming class called Drownproofing (You, too, can get college credit for letting someone tie your hands and feet together, hang a brick around your neck, and throw you in the pool. Seriously.), and a lifetime sport. First quarter I took aerobic conditioning. Every class we would engage in some aerobic activity. At the end of the quarter our final grade was determined by how fast we could run 1 ¾ mile. I did it in just under 12 minutes, earning an A for the course. Outside of class we were expected to earn 30 "aerobic points" a week by engaging in various activities. We had to keep an activity diary and that also played a part in our final grade.

Winter quarter I took Drownproofing and I wasn't kidding about having someone tie your hands and feet together, hang a brick around your neck, and throw you in the pool. The course was a holdover from WWII when apparently the Marine Commandant toured the school, which had a large ROTC contingent, and decided the cadets needed a class that would teach them what to do if their transport was torpedoed on the way to Europe. The tying of hands and feet was used to simulate the loss of an arm or a leg. A rubber brick simulated carrying the weight of an assault rifle. Personally I think if I've just had an arm and a leg blown off and have been dropped into the water of the North Atlantic I've got bigger problems than holding on to my rifle but that's just me. Dubious usefulness of the course aside, swimming is one of the best aerobic exercises you can do.

Spring quarter brought Bowling. A fun course but not real high on the list of good workouts.

What was I eating while I was getting all this exercise? Let me put it this way. It was the first time in my life that I had complete control over everything I ate and I wasn't the least bit worried about my weight. So I ate a lot of burgers, fries, pizza, soft drinks, whole milk, cookies, cake, candy, etc. As an example, a favorite breakfast was scrambled eggs with cheese, grits, breakfast sausage, and a biscuit or two smothered in sausage gravy. Definitely not the diet of someone trying to lose weight and yet lose weight I did. Despite my horrible diet, my freshman year of college was the leanest year of my life.

If I wasn't eating right, why did I lose weight? Because I was getting a lot of exercise. Remember the golden rule of weight loss. You will lose weight if the number of calories you burn in a day is greater than the number of calories you consume. Dieting restricts the number of calories you take in but its exercise that burns the calories. Both diet and exercise are important parts of any weight loss plan and anyone who tells you differently is probably trying to sell you something.

I've heard a lot of people say they can't help gaining weight because they have slow metabolisms. Did you know there's a way to speed your metabolism up? It's called exercise. Aerobic exercise will burn calories while you're working out. Weight lifting will help burn calories 24 hours a day. A 6 pack seems to be the Holy Grail of weight loss for a lot of people. Guess what. If you want a 6 pack you've got to get some exercise. Want to get rid of that "chicken wing" that hangs down whenever you lift your arm? Exercise is the key. Ever see a flabby thin person? I have. You want a firm body, you've got to exercise to get rid of the flab.

Here's a fun little test. See if you can think of anyone, outside of sumo wrestlers and the like who deliberate work at maintaining bulk, who leads a physically active lifestyle and yet is fat. To give you an idea of the sort of person I'm talking about, I used to work with a guy who played basketball every morning with a friend before work and the first thing he did after work was go to the gym, when he wasn't organizing a softball league or the like. The guy was constantly in motion and there wasn't an ounce of excess fat on him. He didn't do all this stuff because he was worried about his weight. He did it because it was fun to him.

We, as a society, have become more sedentary. With 100s of cable and satellite channels to choose from there's always something to watch on the television. If there isn't we can always put on a DVD. Or maybe browse the Internet and read some guy's random ramblings. Or we can play video games. I mean who wants to take the trouble of rounding up enough friends for a game of football when you can play from the comfort of your couch with a soft drink and potato chips at hand?

Exercise is good. Go out and get some.

Saturday Weigh-In: June 13, 2009 – Starting Over

Weight: 268.4 lbs

It's been about 4-5 months since I last posted a weigh-in. I've just been through a rather stressful experience as I had to give up my apartment and, at the age of 47, move back in with my parents. They've reached a point in their lives where they need the extra help around the house but at the same time I really hated to give up my own place. Anyway, I figure now is the perfect time for me to get back on track with my weight loss plan.

I find it interesting that I'm a few pounds heavier than I was when last I weighed myself. During the month of May I didn't eat right but I was very active physically. Lots of running up and down stairs and moving heavy objects, mostly running stuff out to the dumpster. I didn't eat right partly because I was stressed out and wanted comfort food and partly because I was just too tired to make anything. Nevertheless I've had a couple of people tell me I look like I've lost weight. I'd put it down as a placebo effect from them knowing I've been getting a lot of exercise except I've also taken my belt in another notch and I've noticed some of my clothes have gotten a little looser. So I'm hoping I've exchanged some fat for muscle.

The good thing about living with my parents is that their house is in a nice residential area so I can get up and go walking first thing in the morning without having to worry about cars constantly whizzing by. This week I've walked a mile every morning and I intend to gradually increase that distance. I should get some exercise videos to work with on days that I can't go walking because of the weather. Since my floor is no longer someone else's ceiling there's no reason I can't jump around in front of the television.

The bad thing is that my parents only eat twice a day. They have breakfast and then sometime mid-afternoon they go out for lunch/dinner. I suppose that's fine for someone in their 80s but for me it's not working as well. I need to find something to healthy to eat around lunch time, not a full meal but just something to tide me over until they're ready to eat, and then again around dinner time. As it is I've been getting into their candy and potato chips which I need to stop. This morning I bought some peanuts as a healthy alternative to the potato chips so we'll see how that goes.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Remembering the Duke

Seeing as today is the 30th anniversary of John Wayne's passing I thought I'd post a clip from one of my favorite movies of his, The Cowboys.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Random Thought For the Day

Bill Maher once infamously said the muslims involved in 9/11 were brave because they were clearly willing to die for their cause. I have to disagree. If they had believed that they would spend an eternity in Hell paying for their sins then I might call them brave but that's not what they believed. What they believed was that all sins would be forgiven, and they apparently took advantage of this by committing a lot of sins involving booze and strippers before the big day, and that they would be rewarded in Paradise with 72 virgins. That's not bravery. All that is is proof that comedian Larry Miller was right when he observed that you can get men to do anything as long as you end your description of the activity with the phrase, "...and then you meet women."