SubscribeStar Saturday: Fat

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In 2011 I undertook what I call my “Weight Loss Odyssey,” which saw me go from around 285 pounds or so down to—at my absolute lowest—172 pounds in about eleven months.  I’m not sure if that’s too fast, but it proved to me that, with the right mindset and loads of self-discipline, losing weight is easy.

Well, the concept behind losing weight is easy.  Like most things in life, the solutions are straightforward; they’re just unpleasant, or difficult in their implementation.  I’m no nutritionist, so take that into consideration, but my method is simple:  consumer fewer calories than you need to maintain your weight.

Your body burns calories just by existing, and the heftier you are, the more calories you burn by default.  There’s a handy weight loss calculator that makes it easy to figure out the maximum calories you should consume to meet your weight loss goals within a certain timeframe (it also warns you if your goal is dangerously unhealthy; my twenty-six-year old 113 pound drop in weight loss was, apparently, safe).

Lately I’ve been eating way too much.  I could offer a host of excuses, but it really boils down to self-indulgence.  I enjoy eating.  Food is good, even the crummy stuff I like to eat.

Ultimately, though, it’s all a matter of self-discipline, and the benefits—not just physically, but mentally and spiritually—are well worth the effort.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Bric-a-Brac

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This week I’ve been thinking and writing about home, as well as the idea of self-sufficiency.  Home is certainly a space that serves a utilitarian purpose:  a place to sleep, a shelter from the elements, a piece of land for growing food.

But the concept of “home” encompasses far more than the practical.  There is a distinct difference, both aesthetically and spiritually, between a cookie-cutter, white-washed apartment complex flophouse and a home.  Anyone who has moved out of such a space, only to move back into one, realizes how depressing such places are.

Naturally, many enterprising and decorative sorts have turned divorced dad domiciles into homey spaces.  For many people, especially young people, such complexes are necessary, and I don’t mean to demean anyone living in one (I lived in such a place, once, and it suited my needs at twenty-two; it would be a nightmare for me now).  But it’s those little decorative touches that really help bring a home to life.

I’m not much for decorating myself, but while washing my dishes, I was contemplating some of the odds and ends I have over the sink.  My kitchen sink has a window over it, facing into my mudroom, which ages ago was a screened-in back porch.  Now the mudroom is closed in, but the window remains.  On the sill I keep a number of little figurines—bric-a-brac:  some unpainted plastic Chaos Marine miniatures from Warhammer 40K; an Energizer Bunny sticker dispenser; a pewter figurine of an Imperial Ordinator from The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind; a folk-art figurine made from nuts, bolts, and washers, holding a sign that reads, “Visit Stone Mountain”; a little Jack O’Lantern stress ball; and an icon of St. Thomas Aquinas, a gift from an aggressively Catholic colleague.

What I realized is that these little figurines aren’t just the nerdy detritus of my youth, accumulated on my kitchen windowsill; they’re fun little expressions of home—and of liberty.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Concert Postmortem

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My poor health recovered, I tested negative for The Virus, and the Spring Concert was a smashing success.  I managed to get back to work Wednesday, giving me time to build—for the first time since the 2019 Christmas Concert—my Frankenstein’s Monster sound system, rehearse my students, and wire up a ton of microphones, amps, keyboards, and the like.

After every big concert, I spend part of a class period conducting a “concert postmortem,” my pet term for reviewing the highs and lows of the previous night.  It’s a good opportunity to discuss elements that could be improved for the next concert, but also to allow the students to bask in the glory of their performance a little longer.

Not surprisingly, this process tends to work better with high school students, who have developed politeness filters and know how to phrase suggestions diplomatically.  They’re also veterans, so they understand better the realities of live performance, and don’t have unrealistic expectations.  Middle school students tend to either be over-awed by the experience (one student Thursday evening exclaimed, “That was awesome!”) or very critical of small errors.  That’s why we frame these discussions as “constructive criticism,” which helps the students understand the purpose is to build each other up and point out areas where we can all improve.

Regardless, I’m letting readers in on that process a bit with a general “concert postmortem,” including our finalized set list.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Concert Preparations

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Next week my little school will host its annual Fine Arts Festival.  It is for artsy students (and their teachers) the equivalent of the State Championship game for athletes—a big stage onto which the students have an opportunity to showcase their talents, and to demonstrate the works they’ve been laboring over all year.

It is a fun, stressful, exhilarating, and exhausting week, all in one.  As both the Music teacher and the de facto sound and lighting guy, I have the dubious task of constructing a sound system that works for dance performances, a concert, and a Shakespearean play.  I call this setup the “Frankenstein’s Monster Sound System,” as it consists of various bits of differently-branded technology, all linked together in a glorious tangle of cables.

But the effort to build an ad hoc sound and lighting system in a high school gymnasium is worth it in the end, especially during and after the concert.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Silence of the Lambs Book Review

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This Spring Break Week I’ve been reviewing and recommending short stories, something I began doing back in 2020.  To wrap up the week, I thought I’d offer up my review of Thomas Harris’s 1988 novel Silence of the LambsThe film is a masterpiece, and quite a faithful adaptation of the book.

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Lazy Sunday CVII: Easter

Happy Easter—He is Risen!

While you’re getting on your Easter Sunday best and tightening your Easter bonnet, take a few moments before the service (or after the sunrise service) to look back at some past posts about Easter:

  • The Classiest Easter Eggs” – This post looks back at the tradition of Fabergé eggs, which started life as an Easter gift from Czar Alexander III of Russia to his wife.
  • SubscribeStar Saturday: Easter Weekend” – Last Easter was quite unusual, with churches shuttered and everyone stuck at home.  This post detailed how my family approached the particularly unorthodox Easter of 2020 (of course, for Orthodox Christians, it wasn’t Easter at all!).
  • SubscribeStar Saturday: Easter Weekend 2021” – To follow up last year’s Easter Saturday post, yesterday I wrote about Easter Weekend 2021.  It also features some of my plans for the long, glorious Spring Break that awaits.

That’s it for this quick Easter 2021 edition of Lazy Sunday.

Happy Easter!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Easter Weekend 2021

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It’s Easter Weekend 2021!  Unlike last Easter, which was “decidedly un-Eastery” in The Age of The Virus, this Easter is starting to go back to normal.  By the time you read this post, I will have had my second shot of the Pfizer vaccine, so I’m either fully medically acceptable to our cosmopolitan elites—or dead.  Gulp!  I’m not sure which is worse.

Regardless, more and more folks are vaccinated, and churches have been reopened for many months now here in the South (they never should have been shuttered in the first place).  I fully expect that tomorrow will see a return, albeit a perhaps socially-distanced, diminished return, to the jam-packed Easter services of The Before Times, in the Long, Long Ago.

Easter is the most important holiday in the Christian calendar, probably in a dead-heat with Christmas.  Just as Christmas celebrates Christ’s Birth, Easter commemorates His Resurrection—the ultimate testament to Christ’s Victory over Death, the Devil, and the Grave.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Inspector Gerard Preview

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This Thursday, 1 April 2021, I’m releasing my first book, a collection of ten of my Inspector Gerard “one-minute mystery” stories (the paperback edition is available now).  The collection, The One-Minute Mysteries of Inspector Gerard: The Ultimate Flatfoot, reproduces stories I first wrote twenty years ago, starring the hard-boiled, absurd, postmodern private eye, Inspector Gerard.

The whole “gimmick” of Gerard is that the solutions to his cases involve evidence and details denied to the reader, making the cases hilariously unsolvable.

For my generous subscribers, I’m sharing here three of the best Gerard stories:  “Dial ‘M’ for Malfeasance,” “Sleazebag in the City,” and “Inspector Gerard and the Video Rental Caper.”

Preorder The One-Minute Mysteries of Inspector Gerard for Kindle or order now in paperback.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Small Ponds

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Blogging is a notoriously inwardly focused medium, one in which the blogger injects not only his or her beliefs into the commentary delivered, but even his or her personality—lives, thoughts, seemingly unconnected details, etc.  At its best, blogging offers a glimpse into how people think, and the inextricable intertwining of the personal, subjective interlocutor with the supposedly objective facts under consideration.  At its worst, it devolves into self-indulgent “me-search,” in which the writers’ subjective experience becomes the primary—even the only—means through which the writer can understand the topic.

The latter situation is what I strenuously wish to avoid, though my blog is, at times, excessively self-indulgent and solipsistic.  I don’t think I’ve quite gone as low as a mommy blogger or a gloomy, self-absorbed teen, but I’ll admit I occasionally dash of some hasty “me-search” to meet my self-imposed daily quota.  Perhaps these pieces are worth your time—I hope they are—but I apologize if they aren’t.

That said, I do believe there is value in learning from one’s personal experiences (as I write that, I realize how painfully obvious that observation—I can’t even call it an “insight”—is).  Much of human wisdom—of history—consists of the hard lessons learned from individuals’ personal experiences with the world.  While I am by no means a great man or a world-historic figure—one critic of the blog once labeled me a “mediocrity”—I have, at least, thrown myself into multiple arenas in my short life, each one teaching me something different about our world and the human condition.  From politics to music to writing to teachingand on and on—I’ve learned my fair share of insights.

All of that waxing philosophical is to get to this point:  I have learned that the small pond—the small school, the small town, the small institution, the small business, etc.—is, while oft overlooked or derided, a very nice place to be.  The small pond is where opportunity exists.  If I am indeed a mediocrity, I’ve made a good life for myself being, perhaps, the First Among Mediocrities, the one willing to toss his hat into the ring.  That has made all the difference.

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