Wednesday, November 9, 2016

What The Fascist Government of Donald Trump Means for America


Let's look at the bright side. A year from today there will no longer be protests at abortion clinics because abortion will be illegal.

If you are a college student who relies on Pell grants to fund your education you no longer have to face all that paperwork to qualify for your next loan because there no longer will be any loans.

If you enjoy knowing that health insurance companies could no longer drop your coverage because you became ill or could deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition know that a year from today you'll be able to once again worry about losing your health insurance because the Affordable Care Act is history.

If you slept easier knowing that your 25 year old child was covered by your health insurance worry no more because with repeal of the Affordable care act your child is on his or own for health insurance.

Remember how the stock market was at 8000 on the day Bush left office and how yesterday it was 18,000? Well kiss that goodbye.

Enjoying Medicare and Social Security benefits you have paid for? Well enjoy no more because they are about to be replaced with privatization that will benefit corporations not you or me.

There will no longer be a need to fret over the $1 billion decline in the Federal budget because that will be wiped out paying for increased militarism

We no longer have to worry about honoring international agreements over climate change because those agreements are now history

Trade agreements we had with countries that favored American exports were just wiped out because no civilized nation is going to negotiate with a bully in the White House

There is no longer a need to worry about a madman having his hands on the codes that could start a nuclear war because by 12:01 pm on January 20 a mad man will

Have you been enjoying the separation of church and state? Well enjoy no more because they just became one entity.

Are you gay, lesbian, or transgender?  Prepare yourself for more harassment and mistreatment because someone who openly is disgusted by you was just made our leader.

Worried that your spouse might cheat on you?  Its ok because we have a new "president" who complained to a reporter about how he wanted to "fuck" a married woman (while he was also married) but was disappointed when he couldn't.  Apparently infidelity is now a new family value just like hate is.

Have you enjoyed the elegance and grace of Michelle Obama as the First Lady? Well enjoy no more because our new first lady is a former stripper who likely entered the country illegally.  Heckuva job.

Remember how we had a relatively free press in America? Well look it up in the history books because the open disdain for the legitimate media and threatening and assaulting members of the media are now acceptable behavior

There is no longer a need to worry about the rich becoming richer and the rest of us taking it in the shorts because the rich are about to enjoy more tax cuts and you and I will pay more to make up for their largess

There is no longer a need to worry about public land like National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges being sold off to promote business growth because they will be

Stop worrying about all those regulations that ensure you have safe food to eat and clean water to drink and clean air to breath because Mein Fuhrer has promised a 70 percent reduction in those types of regulations.

If you're a female Trump supporter don't become upset when men make lewd comments or grab your genitals because your leader has legitimized that sort of behavior.

Remember all that talk about "family values"? Well they have been replaced by a society that condones calling a female a "bitch" or a "cunt" and now it's ok to openly display images of the hangman's noose around certain races of people.

If you are physically or mentally challenged don't worry about pesky laws and regulations that protect you and your dignity because it's now ok to mock you and make fun of you.

If you are an investor make sure you buy stock in companies that produce coat hangers because demand for them will sky rocket when Roe v Wade is overturned.

Out of work and looking for a job? Then move to the Southwest and help build Trump's Wall. Just don't plan on getting paid for your labors because Mexico isn't about to cover the costs.

If you live in coastal areas you don't have to worry about pesky laws and treaties that might protect you from rising sea levels because they are gone.

Enjoying those cheap prices you pay for items made in China that you buy at Wal-Mart? Well enjoy no more because the isolationist trade policies we are about to endure (tariffs on imports) are about to increase the cost of those items.

Remember when we were kids and practiced diving under our school desks to protect ourselves from a Russian nuclear attack? Well worry no more because we will now be best buddies with Russia.

Worried about more attacks by radical Islamists? Well you should be because Mein Fuhrer's anti Muslim rhetoric has increased the likelihood of that occurring.

Hate those Hispanics living down the street? Well quell your hatred because they will be deported but remember you're going to have to pay more taxes to pay for their deportation.

Remember how eight years ago, people cried tears of joy at our first African-American President? Last night half our nation voted for a man endorsed by the KKK.

Worried about increased gun violence in America? Well worry no more because the NRA will have an office in the White House and eventually everyone will be carrying a gun

Prepare yourself also for the United States becoming the laughing stock of the planet because with the coronation of a racist, misogynistic pig as the leader of the formerly free world that's exactly what we have become.

Lastly I hope everyone has stocked up on a 4-year supply of KY Jelly because the American electorate just gave us all a need for it. Use it liberally

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Unnecessary Hassle by the British Virgin Islands Customs Department


The following was sent as an email to the British Virgin Islands Tourism Board and to the British Virgin Islands government after an unfortunate yet classically Caribbean jerk around of our dive operator before we were allowed to leave the dock for our dive on November 2, 2016



Hello British Virgin Islands Tourism

My partner Cathy Hayslett and I landed in Road Town, Tortola, on Wednesday November 2, 2016, as passengers on the Norwegian Escape cruise ship.  Our time in port was limited, with a scheduled arrival at 7:00 a.m. and all aboard time at 2:30 p.m.   We chose to dive with the incomparable dive company Sail Caribbean Divers as an excursion off the cruise ship and as this blog post of mine attests we had a wonderful time with that company.  Diving With Sail Caribbean Divers on Tortola, British Virgin Islands



 What we didn't have a wonderful time with, and what threatened to ruin our trip, was the heavy handed activities of a couple of BVI Customs agents who decided that 8:30 a.m. on November 2 was the perfect time to harass our tour operator claiming that their paperwork was not in order and had not been received by the Customs Department.  Consequently our tour operator (and their clients - us) was forbidden from leaving the dock until this issue was resolved.

"This issue" took more than an hour to resolve. It included paperwork from our dive boat being removed from the boat and taken to the BVI Customs office where it was "inspected."  Several phone calls were made from a snotty BVI Customs agent to her supervisor and then when a light rain began to fall your Customs agents just disappeared.  Meanwhile tourists paying for the privilege of enjoying some of the nature of the British Virgin Islands sat on a dive boat twiddling our thumbs and wondering why we chose to waste our time and money in a country that seems more interested in local jerk-around politics than it does in providing a quality experience for its visitors.

Eventually after several more phone calls and conversations with the dive boat crew (all of whom had long-ago submitted their paperwork to Customs) we were allowed to leave the dock - but not before wasting time that could have been spent in the water.  At conclusion of our dive trip we were returned to the dock where we had just enough time for one cold Carib beer before we had to board the ship for our departure. This afforded us ZERO time to learn about Road Town and from the standpoint of your economy, to spend any hard currency in your country.

I have traveled to 72 islands in the West Indies and lived on two of them and this was my fourth time in the British Virgin Islands.  Therefore I am well aware of how the back scratching political system works in the islands.  The BVI have the potential to become a major player in ecotourism (you're already a major player in sailing tourism).  However that potential will be dashed if you continue to jerk around tourists who are the mainstay of your economy.  Allowing some low-level Customs agent who is likely trying to impress her highers up with her strict adherence to the rules might be good for her career advancement but it does nothing for the image of the BVIs and even less for your economy.

I'm not sure who this message should go to in the BVI government but I wish you would forward it to someone who might be able to rectify the situation.  If you want to jerk around a company over false claims about faulty paperwork do it in the afternoon when the dive boats are back at the dock. Don't do it at 8:30 a.m. when paying customers want to enjoy what little time they have in your lovely country.


Lousy Service from a Lousy Dive Company in Nassau, Bahamas



We participated in a two-tank dive with the Stuart Cove's Dive Center on New Providence Island, (Nassau) Bahamas on November 4, 2016.  This was done as a shore excursion from the Norwegian Escape cruise ship. The lousy service and shoddy professionalism exhibited by this company from the moment we were met at ship side until we were returned to the ship with 10 minutes to spare before departure, prompted me to write the following letter to Guest Relations at Norwegian.

I have arrived in the Bahamas 58 times since my first time there in June 1984.  In all that time the Bahamas Tourist Board has used the slogan "It's Better in the Bahamas" as its marketing slogan.  The tourist board needs to take a look at Stuart Cove's because it sure as hell isn't better than anything.

My advice to you is to find an alternative.  Sit around drinking cold Kalik beers all day long rather than waste your time and your money on these clowns.

Guest Relations
Norwegian Cruise Line
7655 Corporate Center Drive
Miami, Florida 33126

Re:  Two-Tank Dive Provided by Stuart Cove in Nassau, November 4 2016

Dear NCL

My partner Catherine Hayslett and I participated in a two-tank SCUBA dive in Nassau as a shore excursion from the Norwegian Escape.  We are writing to vigorously complain about the lousy experience we had with your vendor Stuart Cove.  This is especially important in comparison to the absolutely wonderful experiences we had earlier in the cruise with Underwater Safaris in St. Thomas and especially with Sail Caribbean Divers in Tortola.

Our experience with Stuart Cove began with the one-hour long drive from the cruise ship to the dive shop way at the western end of New Providence Island.  Curiously as our ship was docking in Nassau we saw a boat for Bahamas Divers sail past us in the harbor.  Why couldn’t you use a company that is right there by the cruise terminal instead of one an hour away?  Right now I think you should rename your excursion “View the Sights of Nassau on the Long Drive to the 2-Tank Dive” – it would be more appropriate.

Once at the dive center we sat on board the dive boat for ONE HOUR waiting for divers from other cruise lines and some private individuals to show up.  Each minute that slipped by put us closer to our ship return time and gave us less time to enjoy the dives we paid for.  As we sat there twiddling our thumbs waiting for people to show up, we received ZERO assistance from any of the staff in assembling our dive gear or in helping with safety checks.  One individual testing the air in his tank found that it was leaking air.  When he pointed this out to the dive boat captain he was told “It’s no problem, mon, they do that occasionally.”  Really?  Not on any other dive boats I’ve been on!

When all 19 divers were onboard (too many for a comfortable dive) we departed for the first dive site about 25 minutes from the dive center.  Once there we were given a cursory briefing and then all 19 of us jumped in the water.  When we did so we went in with ONE dive master.  You probably don’t dive but take it from me one dive master for 19 divers of various skill levels is not only stupid it’s dangerous.  We dove to 80 feet with the dive master seeming to be hell bent on covering as much ground as possible in the least amount of time as possible. In other words, keeping up with him was nearly impossible.  How on earth can anyone expect one dive master to keep track of the location of 19 divers when he was trying to set a land speed record for gliding through the ocean?  Again, this was stupid and dangerous.

For our second dive we were in about 28 feet of water and for this dive all 19 of us dove in but the dive master chose to stay on the dive boat because, in his words, he was “too cold.”  You have to be kidding me!  You can’t make this stuff up.   So with a cold dive master safely on the dive boat, 19 of us, again with various skill levels (two participants were taking part in their first dives after being certified so they were at a real disadvantage), we swam around under the sea surface for about 55 minutes with no direction, no guidance, and nobody who has sufficient survival skills to help anyone who might become entangled, have an air issue, have a gear failure, or any of about 100 other things that can go wrong under water. 

On our late return to the dive shop (the last dive participants boarded the dive boat 1 hour 45 minutes before our cruise ship was scheduled to leave) we were herded onto a bus for the trip back to Nassau.  The bus driver assured us there was “no problem, mon” in returning us on time.  However our bus driver forgot to fill the bus with fuel and had to turn around and waste about 15 minutes when he returned to a gas station where his company had an account so he could fill up with fuel.  “You don’t want to coast back to the ship on no fuel do you mon?” he asked.  We know the bus driver was not a diver (he told us so).  Thus during the time we were on our dive he could have been filling up the bus with fuel.  Instead he chose not to and his incompetence almost resulted in us missing the ship.  What is Norwegian’s responsibility to its passengers if an incompetent vendor returns your passengers after the ship departs?  I would like to know for future reference.

With fuel onboard we departed for the cruise ship dock but before arriving there we diverted to Cable Beach to drop off three passengers who wanted to attend a fish fry.  That was bad enough but making matters worse, rather than simply letting people off the bus, the driver saw fit to escort the three people to one of his favorite restaurants thereby wasting an additional 10 minutes.  From this vantage point we could see the Norwegian Escape; it was now 30 minutes from departure. Unfortunately we were not on the ship.  When we finally returned to the cruise terminal we raced past security and ran to the ship and boarded it TEN MINUTES before scheduled departure.  This of course meant that we were afforded no opportunity whatsoever to see any of Nassau – well other than what we saw during the two hours wasted driving to and from the dive shop.

Our dives on Nassau were the most expensive, least safe, and least enjoyable of the three dives we took part in on this cruise.  Norwegian should be ashamed of itself for foisting a company like Stuart Cove on your passengers!  In addition to this letter I will be writing to PADI, the Professional Association of Dive Instructors, who certify Stuart Cove to take people out diving, and inform them of the shoddy professionalism demonstrated by these clowns.

For future guests of Norwegian who land in Nassau with you and who have an interest in SCUBA diving, Norwegian should do itself a favor and contract with a reputable company concerned about your passengers.  Stuart Cove obviously is not.  If you refuse to change vendors then I recommend that you do not offer SCUBA as an excursion in Nassau.

For the record, the next time we are in Nassau on a Norwegian cruise the LAST thing we are going to do is shell out $179 each for a lousy dive with an incompetent dive company.


Cc:  Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI)


Sailing on the Norwegian Escape - Bigger Isn't Always Better



We sailed aboard the Norwegian Cruise Line ship "Escape" from Miami to St. Thomas, Tortola, and Nassau during October 29 to November 5, 2016.  The Escape is the newest and largest ship in the Norwegian fleet and its heavily marketed because of those traits.  However as our rather disappointing experience aboard the Escape suggests, bigger isn't necessarily always better.

The letter below was sent today to Norwegian Cruise Lines.  I'm certain given the number of other frustrated, annoyed and generally disappointed people we encountered on this cruise, Norwegian will be receiving many other similar responses.  At least I hope so.  What they do with this information is up to them.  However if they had a modicum of sense they would heed the comments and concerns of their otherwise dedicated guests.  Time will tell on that one.

Guest Relations
Norwegian Cruise Line
7655 Corporate Center Drive
Miami, Florida 33126

Re:  Cruise Aboard the Norwegian Escape, October 29 – November 5, 2016

Dear NCL

My partner Catherine Hayslett and I were aboard the Norwegian Escape for a 7-day cruise to St. Thomas, Tortola, and Nassau, during October 29 to November 5, 2016.  The two-fold reason for the cruise was to 1) celebrate my 65th birthday and 2) to become engaged to be married. 

At the conclusion of this cruise I can say with great confidence that there simply are not enough words in the English language to describe how thoroughly disappointed we were with our cruise aboard the Escape.  Norwegian may be able to enjoy greater corporate profits by cramming more people onto bigger ships, but in the end that quest for corporate greed ruins the experience for your guests.

Let us begin with there being only 2 pools on the entire ship for 4,260 passengers.  Let’s add to that 4 hot tubs for 4,260 passengers.  Do you really expect that shoving all those people into such tight quarters will result in a quality experience?  Then next let’s examine the wait times to be served a drink at one of the bars in the pool area.  It’s bad enough that you charge extortionate prices for a bottle of beer or a Bloody Mary but then add an 18 percent gratuity to the cost for simply (and finally) reaching in a cooler, grabbing a beer, opening it, and then handing it to a customer.  It used to be that the best deal on a Norwegian cruise was a 32 ounce “oil can” of Foster’s beer.  Now you have discontinued offering them.  Then to top it off you have jacked up the price of already extortionate prices of your drinks, you refuse to allow people to bring their own water on board (citing “safety” concerns – that’s pure horse hockey and you know it….you want to sell people water… it has nothing to do with safety), and then you charge passengers a $15.00 charge per bottle if we want to bring our own bottles of wine on board.  The ultimate insult is being charged $30 a day to access the Internet.  Seriously?

Next let’s consider the excruciating long wait times to be served meals in the main dining areas and the packed-like-sardines feeling of trying to dine in the Garden Café.  One morning in the Savor we waited 1 hour 30 minutes from the time our breakfast was ordered until it was served.  At least the wait staff remembered to drop off some coffee relatively early on in the experience.  Let’s also consider the hour long wait in the Manhattan Dining Room that resulted in Cathy’s veal being so tough it was like leather when she attempted (and failed) to cut into it!  The Cruise Daily regularly stated that breakfast would begin at a certain time yet when that time arrived the Garden Café (as an example) was not open.  The omelet station server said that his station would open “in 8 minutes” or “sorry we don’t open for another 20 minutes” and then he proceeded to parade back and forth in front of his station for the next 20 minutes while a growing line of annoyed passengers waited and waited for him to step in and begin preparing a meal.

Evening entertainment was practically impossible to enjoy because, again, you have too many people competing for too few seats in the venues.  Invariably our attempts to book entertainment were met with “sorry sir, that show is already booked.”  While we are on the topic of entertainment, I would like to know why you did not provide for any contact with the very historic 2016 World Series.  We could watch the Czech Republic play Russia (a team from Moscow to be exact) in basketball, and there was no end of English Premier League soccer shown endlessly and there was even a tennis match or two but no baseball and especially the World Series?  The bulk of the passengers on this cruise were from the United States not England, the Czech Republic or Russia but you could find no way to show the World Series between one team that had not won the series in 108 years and another that had not won in 68 years?   Can we assume that you did not show the World Series because Norwegian would have had to pay a fee to Direct TV or whomever is your service provider?  Given how much you charge for everything else, was it really too expensive to show America’s past time to a ship full of Americans?


The original route of the cruise and the ports we visited

When we docked in St. Thomas the weather was questionable at best and we wondered if our dive excursion had been cancelled.  We went first to the Shore Excursions desk to inquire but there were 40 people in line (I counted) waiting for ONE employee to answer their questions.  Flummoxed by this situation we went across the room to Guest Services where five people stood doing nothing and we asked if they had any information on the status of the shore excursions.  They pointed at the shore excursions desk and told us to go wait in line to find out.  Really?  Can’t one department work with another to extend information to guests? Or is there a turf battle between competing departments and nobody wants to share information?

On the topic of Guest Services I would like to know why on the four occasions I dialed “00” for Guest Services the phone rang a minimum of 20 times and a maximum of 46 times with nobody answering the phone.  I know the number because I counted the rings.

For whatever reason the bulk of the employees we encountered on this cruise were not happy campers.  There was a noticeable lack of espirit de corps that has epitomized earlier NCL cruises.  Maybe it was a result of the staff being worn out trying to keep up with the demands of 4,260 increasingly frustrated guests?

We are currently booked on the transatlantic crossing of the Epic from Barcelona to Port Canaveral in November 2017.  However out of fear that the service on that crossing will be as lousy as it was on the over-stuffed Escape we are giving considerable consideration to cancelling that trip.  Seven days of lousy service on the Escape was bad enough; I can’t imagine what 13 days of it would be like in the middle of the Atlantic.


I am not sure what has happened to Norwegian in the three years we have cruised on you but the quality of the service and the value for the dollar expended have both declined dramatically.  The quest for greater corporate profits might make your CEO richer and your investors happier, but attaining those profits at the cost of quality service and happy customers who make those profits happen, is a lousy way to run a cruise line.

Diving With Sail Caribbean Divers on Tortola, British Virgin Islands


On November 2, 2016, as a shore excursion from the Norwegian cruise ship "Escape" we dove with Sail Caribbean Divers in Road Town, on the island of Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands.  Diving with this company was, without doubt, one of the finest of my novice-level diving experience.  My partner Cathy Hayslett, who has been on more than 150 dives on three continents, was also massively impressed with the quality of the dive and more importantly the quality of the customer service provided by Sail Caribbean Divers.  

On our return from the cruise I wrote a review of the company and posted it on Trip Advisor.  I'm re-posting that same information here and hope that if you are a diver, and plan to travel to the British Virgin Islands, you look no farther than Sail Caribbean Divers for your trips.  You will not be disappointed.



“If There Is A Grade Higher Than A++ This Company Deserves It!”
My partner Cathy Hayslett and I participated in a two-tank dive with Sail Caribbean Divers on November 2, 2016. This was done as a shore excursion from the Norwegian Escape. From the moment we boarded the dive boat, the six of us on this trip knew we were in the hands of professionals. Our objective for the day was to dive the Wreck of the Royal Mail Steamer Rhone in up to 85 feet of water. Before each dive we were given extensive background information on where we were diving, what to hopefully see, and all of the standard safety precautions. We had four dive masters for the six of us which is totally unheard of with most dive operators. There was simply no way any of us could have encountered any sort of problem without one of their highly professional dive masters being right there to help us. 
Brian and Matt are two of the superb staff who will ensure you have a safe and highly satisfactory experience when you dive with Sail Caribbean Divers

Because I am a relatively novice diver (14 logged dives) I informed Brian, one of the dive masters, and he went out of his way to make sure I was safe and that I experienced the most possible from the dive experience. The other dive masters, Adam, Matt and Marcus were equally as helpful and readily available.

The dives were incredible with visibility of at least 60 feet. Marine life was super abundant which, for a retired wildlife biologist, was an added treat. All in all from the beginning of the trip until our reluctant return to the ship we were well cared for (the pound cake during our surface interval was so tasty I had two pieces).

The only snag in the experience was before departure when the British Virgin Islands Customs Department decided that jerking around the dive operators over some ridiculous paperwork held up our departure for an hour. This was totally NOT the fault of Sail Caribbean Divers - it was Caribbean politics at its finest. Because of our late departure (which, again, was not the fault of Sail Caribbean Divers) each dive participant was given a free t-shirt as a token of the company's concern for the tardiness of the departure. They certainly were under no obligation to do so but felt it was necessary to keep their clients happy. Not many dive operators would have gone that extra mile.

As we departed the dive boat at the conclusion of our trip, I shook Brian's hand and told him "I would come back and dive with you any day." And I meant it.

Its obvious from this review that both Cathy and I absolutely loved our dives and loved this dive company. We cannot recommend them highly enough and are certain that if you choose to dive with Sail Caribbean Divers you will return from the experience with the same effervescence that we possess. I guarantee it.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Successful Struggle to Control My Weight

Back in the days when I thought Stella Artois was a great source of protein. NOT!

My weight and its control have been major issues for me since childhood. I remember as clearly as yesterday the spring morning in Grade 3 when during a recess on the playground my compassionate fellow classmate Tim Ebner knocked me to the ground and stuck a safety pin in my buttocks.  As he did he proudly proclaimed that he was “letting the air out of your ass.”  I never liked my body after that.

I was a wrestler for a couple years in high school and did so in the 154 pound class.  For a 5’5” freshman that was a bit chunky but I endured.  On May 29, 1969, when I graduated from high school I weighed 165 pounds and on January 1, 1970, I weighed 180 pounds. By now I was 5’9” tall but that didn’t help hide the weight very much.  Several years later I met and married someone who was a fantastic cook and along with loving her, I loved the food she prepared and the pounds kept packing on.

As I aged I kept telling myself that I would take care of the weight issue “one day” but that day never arrived.  It didn’t help that I was drinking like a fish and 99 percent of the food I consumed was processed. Chris Haney still tells stories about the time we shared a house together in Athens, Georgia, and I would make dinner consisting of a loaf of Wonder Bread and as many hot dogs as it took to fill me up.  The weight kept piling on.

Eventually much to my horror, during one visit to my family practice physician’s office, I stepped on the scales and topped out at 311 pounds.  That shock caused me to go on a Weight Watchers diet and I can say that I lost some weight, eventually getting down to 297 pounds. That however, was after being on Weight Watchers for 3 years!  Something needed to be done and the sooner the better.

My weight issues could possibly be genetics-related.  Half of my genes originated among the svelte codfish eating, fjord-living hearty soles on the coast of northern Norway.  However the other half originated in Eastern Europe.  Certainly one quarter of them originated in what is now the Czech Republic and the other quarter originated in what was then Poland but is now Germany.  Having traveled to both the Czech Republic and Poland it is easy to understand where my mesomorphic body type may have originated.  There are a lot of people walking around in Warsaw and Prague that look a lot like me in body form but luckily most were not as heavy.  I could blame my weight issues on my Eastern European genetics but to be fair it is best to blame me and my laissez faire attitude toward my own body. 

As my weight increased so too did my blood pressure.  Along with the higher blood pressure I developed atrial fibrillation which has been linked to obesity and was at a higher than usual risk of contracting adult-onset diabetes.  Also, as a dear friend from college who has a similar hate: hate relationship with his weight recently found out, obesity can also contribute to contracting esophageal cancer.  These maladies are just a partial list of what can befall those who have weight issues.

America is at the epicenter of an obesity epidemic.  Currently Arkansas has a 35.9 percent obesity rate – the highest in the nation.  Curiously most of the southern United States, where fried food is king, have not only the lowest rate of high school graduation but also the highest rate of obesity among its residents.  The cost of health care for people suffering from obesity is staggering.  Several years ago one of the cable networks began broadcasting a television show titled “My 600 pound life” as a matter of fact way of looking at people whose weight was completely out of control.

My weight remained out of control and I did nothing about it (except eat more pizza and drink more beer and make half-hearted attempts at walking off a few pounds now and then) until late September 2015 when a former love interest put her foot down.  She had purchased tickets for a couple of performances at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center in Sarasota in mid-January 2016 and she wanted me to lose enough weight so I could fit into long pants for those performances.  There were other relationship-related issues that came out in her statement that evening that made it abundantly clear if I wanted to remain in a relationship with this woman I needed to get off my fat ass and make it more slender.

Crunch Fitness Was the Answer

Worried more about losing her than about my health (I still have her!) I joined Crunch Fitness on University Parkway in Sarasota in early October 2015. There for $10 a month, I had access to an abundance of weight machines, cardiovascular exercise equipment, free weights and, best of all, access to a one-hour free consultation with a personal fitness trainer.  Purely by luck when I called to make that appointment, Crunch set me up with Bryn Edwards, a 26-year-old body builder whose muscles had muscles on their muscles.  This kid was massive!  Bryn and his knowledge turned out to be the best investment I have ever made.

The only thing Weight Watchers did for me was help me watch the weight pack on


Resistance Training

"It's not how much weight you move, its how you move the weight."... Bryn Edwards, Personal Trainer

After discussing my weight and health goals, and the timetable I had established for myself, Bryn set me on a five-day resistance training cycle.  At first Bryn had me on a schedule of: Day 1 – Legs, Day 2 – Chest and Abs, Day 3 – Upper Back, Day 4 – Shoulders and Day 5 – Biceps and Triceps.  My initial plan was to set the weights at a certain number (let’s say 60 pounds) and then 12 repetitions of each exercise, and do 3 sets of repetitions. In other words, for exercise “A”, I would lift 60 pounds 36 times.   Soon however that became too easy and I increased each exercise to 4 sets giving me 48 repetitions.  The weight started to slide off.  Eventually my weight loss plateaued and through the help of Ed, another excellent trainer at Crunch Fitness, I mixed up my workout routine. I did this mainly to trick my metabolism.

After several months of the same exercises every fifth day, my body knew that I would be doing 48 repetitions of 120 pounds when I did Leg Press.  However to trick my metabolism I reduced the amount of weight I was lifting but increased the number of repetitions.  Where at first I was doing 48 repetitions of 60 pounds, I was now doing 100 repetitions of 40 pounds.  My body and my metabolism responded accordingly. 

Still later to fool my metabolism even more I began “Pyramiding” my weight lifting.  Where I was now doing 100 repetitions of 40 pounds, I switched to 60 repetitions of 40 pounds, 20 repetitions of 60 pounds and 20 repetitions of 80 pounds.  Again my body and my metabolism responded positively.

My current workout plan is presented at the bottom of this blog post.

April 29, 2016 - 240 pounds and dropping


Nutrition

Along with the resistance training, my trainer developed a nutrition plan and suggested that I follow it.  He called it a nutrition plan because, as he explained it to me, “Diets are for dieters; nutrition plans are for people serious about their health.”

My nutrition plan was high in protein, high in fiber and encouraged me to eat good fats and good carbohydrates.  Along with consumption of the correct foods I made a self-imposed ban on drinking alcohol to see if that would aid with weight loss.  The nutrition plan, inserted below, allowed me six meals per day but I could rarely consume more than four.  To aid the quest I recorded every morsel of food consumed on a FitBit program on my computer.  The program tracked the protein, carbs, fiber, fats and sodium in each item I ate each meal which was essential knowledge for maintaining my weight loss.

My trainer Bryn Edwards has muscles on the muscles of his muscles.  Its my goal to one day have shoulders and biceps like him.  Its a lofty goal but at least I'll try


My common sense weight loss and maintenance nutrition plan was so successful that I actually lost 1.8 pounds during a 5 day cruise in early November 2015.  By now I was conscious to the point of being self-conscious about what I ate and how much I ate. During that cruise I only had egg white omelets for breakfast, and ate in the sit-down restaurants each lunch and dinner (avoiding the buffet line completely).  The result was losing weight on a cruise.  As Mike Bentze, my primary care physician said in astonishment after my cruise, “NOBODY loses weight on a cruise!”  However I did.

At first following the nutrition plan was difficult because my eating habits had become so bad and I’ll be the first to admit that it was difficult giving up comfort foods like cheese curds and Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream, and at least one and often two Domino’s pizza’s each week.  However with determination I did it.  A major factor in making me do it was the FitBit program.  Whenever I would get curious about a food I was not to have, or if I started Jonesing for some pizza, I would pull up the FitBit food tracker, look at the calories in what I wanted to eat, marvel at all of the bad fats in food I wanted to eat, and then pick up a few strawberries and eat them instead.

The weight began sliding off me.

Recommended Nutrition Plan for Weight Loss and Maintenance
Among 42 meals a week you’re allowed to “splurge” on 3 of them


Meal 1

6 Egg whites   (1 cup)                        
1 Fat choice
1 Veggie choice
1 Carb choice                                                 
6 Egg whites (1 cup)

Meal 2

1 Lean meat choice
1 Carb choice                                     
1 Veggie choice

Meal 3
1 Lean meat choice
1 Veggie choice
1 Fat choice

Meal 4
1 Lean meat choice
1 Veggie choice

Meal 5
1 Lean meat choice
1 Veggie choice
1 Carb choice

Meal 6
1 Lean meat choice
1 Veggie choice
1 Fat choice

Notes:
Berries (1/2 cup)
Avoid apples because of sugars
Use cinnamon on oatmeal not milk
Meat should be baked or grilled NOT fried
Cucumbers any time

Lean Meat Choices (5 ounces per meal)

Chicken breast
Turkey breast (93 % or leaner
Fish – tilapia, salmon, cod, tuna, flounder, shrimp
Steak – sirloin or round
Ground beef (90 % or leaner
Egg whites (1 cup)

Veggie Choices (1 cup)

Green beans
Squash (spaghetti squash)
Broccoli
Spinach
Lettuce
Cauliflower
Tomato
Green Pepper
Red Pepper
Yellow Pepper
Mushrooms (a fungus not a vegetable but close)

NO Carrots, peas or corn

Good Fat Choices

1 tablespoon of almond butter
1 ounce of raw almonds
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon of coconut oil

Good Carbohydrate Choices
½ cup oatmeal (measured dry)
4 ounces of sweet potatoes
¼ cup cream of wheat
½ cup of beans (black, garbanzo, etc)


Cardiovascular Training

Estimates vary depending on with whom you talk regarding the value of cardiovascular training.  I’ve heard some people say that as much as 50 percent of weight loss can be obtained from proper cardio training while others contend that the percentage is much lower.  Regardless of which estimate you hear and which one you believe, I have learned that cardio training is great for toning your thighs and it does wonders for reducing your blood pressure.

When I began my weight loss odyssey I focused on elliptical machines where I set the resistance level at “6” and huffed and puffed my way through 6 minutes of a supposed workout.  With the passage of time I increased the resistance level to 12 and increased the time to 40 minutes.  An additional consultation with another Crunch trainer, Matthew, resulted in me changing my cardio routine in another attempt to trick my metabolism.  Matthew suggested that I lower the amount of minutes on the elliptical to 20 minutes but do the training in “intervals.”  By that he meant walking at a normal pace for 2 minutes and then run move like I was being chased for one minute.  Doing so would cause my heart rate to fluctuate and that would help burn more calories.

Matthew also suggested further that I mix up the cardio routine and employ not only an elliptical machine but also a stationary bicycle and a treadmill.  He further instructed me to do cardio training 3 times a week instead of the daily routine I had been doing after each of my resistance weight training opportunities.  My current cardio routine is also displayed at the end of this blog post.  My current workout regimen is set on an 8-day cycle that includes five days of resistance weight training and three days of cardio training.  Because I’m a tad obsessive-compulsive, I now work out 7 days a week so I’m hitting each muscle group a minimum of four times a month and devoting 12 days a month to cardio training.

June 28, 2016 - 228 pounds and still dropping


The Results?

On October 7, 2015, when I had my first training session with Bryn Edwards, I tipped the scales at 297 pounds.  My trainer measured my percent body fat that day using an impedance calculator and discovered that my 44.4 percent of my body was fat.  On that day my frame was carrying 131.1 pounds of fat.  On July 13, 2016, slightly over 9 months later my weight was 224 pounds and my percent body fat (measured with the same machine) was 20 percent.  On that day I was carrying 45.9 pounds of fat, a loss of 85.2 pounds of fat or a loss rate of about 9.5 pounds of pure fat per month.  At the same time I had added about 13 pounds of lean muscle for a net weigh loss of 73 pounds.  As of August 2, I have lost an additional 2 pounds of fat bringing my current weight to 222 pounds. 

A year ago today I was fitting snuggly in size 2XL work out shorts. Today I fit loosely in size Medium workout shorts.   A year ago today my two pairs of long pants were each size 46 waist;  along with them was a belt with a similar size.   Today I'm wearing size 36 waist pants and dress shorts.  One year ago today all of my shirts were 2XL and some were 3XL.  Today those shirts (the few that I still have) fit like a tent.  Now I only wear size Large shirts (both t shirts and dress shirts).   I'd like to try for some size Medium shirts but I think my chest is just too large to accommodate that size.  I'll try just for the hell of it however.  Its all related to weight loss and toning.

Best of all, a year ago today my blood pressure (while on blood pressure medicines) averaged 132/90.  Today I average 104/62.




My goal now is to drop a further 12 pounds which would return me to a weight to 210 pounds – a place I have not been since 1993 when I moved to California.  I also want to reduce my percent body fat to 15 percent because according to one table I viewed, that would put me squarely in the “lean” category for a male my age. 

Once I reach my desired weight the key will be to maintain it.  Certainly I will fluctuate but as I do so I won’t be burdened by the bad eating habits of the past.  Recently I saw an advertisement at McDonald’s for “2 Sausage and Egg McMuffins for $3.00.”  Quickly whipping out my FitBit program I discovered that there were 760 calories in ONE Sausage and Egg McMuffin at Mickey D’s.  If I followed old habits I would have purchased both of them, scarfed them down and consumed 1520 calories in one sitting.  Now by using my head and eating wisely I have four full and nourishing meals each day and among them the combined total caloric intake usually ranges between 1,300 and 1,500 calories. There is no way I’m going back to a McDonald’s for breakfast sort of lifestyle. 

Not long ago while visiting a friend who had suffered a stroke I was talking with a 25 year old hard body nurse regarding my friend’s status. As I talked to her I noticed that she was talking to my chest and biceps rather than to me.  She told me that my friend was out of his room for an hour or so and I replied that I would just go to Crunch Fitness and workout for an hour.  A sly smile crossed her face as she said “You can work out with me anytime.”   If only I could have halved my age in an instant.  However regardless of my age or hard body nurses I’m never going to allow myself to go back to the body I was living in.  It’s simply not worth it.


August 2, 2016 - 222 pounds and 20 percent body fat.  I'm almost there


Current 8-Day Workout Regime

My current 8 day workout regime is a modification of what I originally began working on.  I changed it so that I could “fool” my metabolism and if you follow this regime eventually you will want to change yours as well. I learned after about 7 months that by doing the same exercises daily your body gets into a “ho hum, this again” mode and doesn’t respond like it did when you first began working out.  The regime described here is likely not the one I’ll be working on in a couple of months; by then it will be changed out and I’ll be trying something more adventurous.  For now, however this is working for me and it will likely work for you.


DAY 1 – LEG MUSCLES (1 Hour 15 Minutes)

Exercise
Weight Used
# of Repetitions
# of sets of Repetitions
70
5
1




100
20
4

120
20
1




25
20
4

35
20
1




20
20
4

30
20
1




40
20
3

60
20
2




50
20
5




45
20
4

90
20
1




40
20
3

50
20
2




DAY 2 – CHEST MUSCLES (1 Hour 10 Minutes)

Exercise
Weight Used
# of Repetitions
# sets of Repetitions
40
20
3

60
20
2




0
20
5




20
20
4

30
20
1




20
20
4

30
20
1




45
20
4

60
20
1




20
20
5




25
10
5




15
20
3

25
20
2


DAY 3 – CARDIOVASCULAR and ABDOMINALS (1 Hour 5 Minutes)

Exercise
Weight Used
# of Repetitions
# sets of Repetitions
0
20
5




35 (against chest)
10
5




25
10
2




60 seconds each
6
1




Machine
Time
Level

30 minutes
12





DAY 4 – UPPER BACK MUSCLES (1 Hour 20 Minutes)

Exercise
Weight Used
# of Repetitions
# sets of Repetitions
55
20
3

70
20
1

85
20
1




55
20
3

70
20
1

85
20
1




55
20
3

70
20
1

85
20
1




40
20
3

50
20
1

60
20
1




50
20
4

70
20
1




30
20
4

40
20
1




60
20
2

DAY 5 – CARDIOVASCULAR and ABDOMINALS (1 Hour 5 Minutes)

Exercise
Weight Used
# of Repetitions
# sets of Repetitions
0
20
5




35 (against chest)
10
5




25
10
2




60 seconds
6
1




Machine
Time
Level

30 minutes
12





DAY 6 – SHOULDER MUSCLES (1 Hour 5 Minutes)

Exercise
Weight Used
# of Repetitions
# sets of Repetitions
15
20
5




15
20
5




10
20
5




50
20
5




40
20
3

50
20
1

60
20
1




40
20
3

50
20
1

60
20
1




20
20
3

25
20
1

30
20
1



DAY 7 – BICEPS and TRICEPS (1 Hour)


Exercise
Weight Used
# of Repetitions
# sets of Repetitions
0
20
5




30
20
3

40
20
1

50
20
1




30
20
5




35
20
3

45
20
1

55
20
1




40
20
3

50
20
1

60
20
1




40
20
3

50
20
1

60
20
1

DAY 8 – CARDIOVASCULAR and ABDOMINALS (1 Hour 5 Minutes)


Exercise
Weight Used
# of Repetitions
# sets of Repetitions
0
20
5




35 (against chest)
10
5




25
10
4




90 seconds
6
1




Machine
Time
Level

30 minutes
12
ADDENDUM:  After consulting with trainer Erin Fuller at Crunch Fitness on August 4 2016, I am adding two additional exercises to my Cardiovascular and Abdominals workouts.   The exercises will aid in tightening my core muscles and especially the abdominal obliques (the love handles - or quickly becoming the lack of love handles :D)  These include 

Wall Sit With Medicine Ball - 60 seconds each, 5 repetitions 1 set
Resistance Band Torso Twist - 3 seconds each, 20 reps, 5 sets