Cleaning my insides the Arbonne way

almonds

Mmm, tasty

New post here; who would have figured?

This one is not, however, writing related.  Well, only inasmuch as it might keep me alive long enough to finish the sixth book in the Birthright series, I guess.

No, today I must speak about diets.  I think we lead a pretty good lifestyle at our house.  We work out, eat pretty decent, make the right gestures.  Last month, though, we decided to do the Arbonne cleanse diet.  I personally have a family history of cholesterol and triglyceride issues (thanks, parents!) and thought it would be worth a shot to see what a moderate change in diet would accomplish.

Short version: no dairy, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, salt, or ‘old school’ carbs.  I mean potatoes, wheats, anything processed and altered.  The grains are replaced by brown rice and quinoa (which I actually think is pretty tasty and versatile), we can eat anything green, chicken, red meat and fish, turkey in reasonable quantities.  There are also shakes, one or two a day depending on whether your goal is weight loss as well as overall diet change.  Oh, and almonds.  Lots of almonds.

I’ll be honest; I travel a lot and it was very hard to get this thing going.  Most hotels aren’t quick to offer up subs to the standard menu items.  I eventually found microwavable bags of brown rice and quinoa plus little cans of chicken chunks (rinse well; they’re packaged in salt water but overall sodium is actually pretty low).  Plus, it’s a pocket-pleasing alternative to offensive prices many hotel restaurants think they should be charging.  I wasn’t perfect with this diet; I had spanish rice instead of brown rice once or twice, a chicken nugget that made me grumble a bit, and a few bites of our kids food to taste test.

We also did the 7 day cleanse.  It was a special additive for a big jug of water.  Lots of people complained about the initial taste, but we actually weren’t bothered by it.  It tasted different, to be sure, but not bad.  Add in a package of the fizz mix you get with your shipment and it tasted just fine.

So now the month is over and we’re both very well on track to continue.   We make a lot of chili/fajita style foods, use almond butter instead of peanut butter, and are finding new recipes for meats and veggies on Pinterest all the time.  My only complaint is cooking without sugar.  I tried making bread and protein cookies, and both turned out pretty tasteless.  I’m no Bobby Flay, but I’m pretty sure there’s a sweetener needed to made this work right, and the point is to not add extra sugar and all that.

The reason I wanted to post this to a blog is because I actually have some lab-test results to share.  I see my doctor to check on my cholesterol, and my latest checkup was in the middle of the fourth week.

My HDL improved by 20 points.  My LDL improved by 16 points, and my triglycerides went down by 30 points!

Yes, I plan to add back in a beer or two during my week, but overall I don’t truly feel put out by the diet.  And let’s be honest; if your diet makes you mad and you absolutely hate it, you won’t stick with it, so what’s the point?  I personally like to consider lifetime average here; if I truly make my effort in diet and exercise, then yes, I will have that Girl Scout cookie when they get delivered soon.  Just not all thirty at a sitting.

So go ahead and try the diet.  It might do you well!  Better start buying almonds now, though!

 

A truly effective presidential debate format

imageAh, presidential debates.  Everybody has an opinion on them; they’re rigged, they’re useless, they’re actually helpful, they’re boring, etc.

I propose an idea.  This country is obsessed with reality tv.  From people with a litter of kids to misbehaving housewives to guys who made duck calls to men crawling over each other like crabs in a bucket to win a date with a woman, we apparently have no limit when it comes to this type of media.

I will admit to liking a single reality show in the history of the genre.  It was out probably 10 years ago, and it was called Combat Mission.   It can exactly one season on TNT or TBS or some other cable network.  They took a bunch of SEALS, SWAT guys, contractors, etc, and teamed them up and made them run missions using real military MILES gear. It was awesome, but I suspect it failed due to no juicy interpersonal drama.  These were professionals, and they always acted like it.  They ran their missions, behaved well overall, and that was that.  Halfway through the series, they started making them go to a ‘canteen’ at night: a big tent that had a bar and a cute girl to sling drinks.  Except they would have a couple beers, then go back to their barracks.  I seem to remember one guy getting a little mouthy, but his own team put him in his place.  If pressured, I may admit to watching the first season of MTV’s Real World, when it was new and interesting and every cast member didn’t show with their own agent.

Anyway, I digress.

Let’s combine presidential debate with reality formats for something the country will actually watch and enjoy.  My proposals:

1. A cook off. Everybody gets an hour to bake crab cakes, or maybe choose a regional dish from their home state.

2. Dance off.  Macarena, Paso, who cares?  Make them dance for our amusement!

3. Some sort of home improvement.  Who can decorate the best bathroom?  Who can build the best shed?

4. Lumberjack skills.  Chainsaw and a tree stump= who makes the best tree stump carving?

5. Auto repair.  Everyone has to try and rebuild a Holley carbeurator.  No Youtube  tutorials allowed.

Would showing skills in something that you cared about sway your vote?  Or are we content with their abilities to promise us the most free stuff and say whatever needs saying to get elected?

What the heck has Ryan been up to?

  

 So I’ve broken most of the rules about successful blogging; namely, I haven’t blogged much lately.  Well, at all, if you want to be precise about it.
We all have great sounding reasons for delaying or missing things in our daily lives.   Our kids like it when we spend time with them, my employer really appreciates it when I come to work, the lawn should be mowed (or perhaps I should just buy a few goats), and there is always that persistent commitment looming overhead like the Sword of Damocles, the To-Do list.  AAARRGGGHHH!

However, I do have some good news to report about my careful use of free time.  I recently finished and published my ninth book to Amazon.com!  I wanted to take a quick break from the sci-fi series I have been working on and write about a topic that had been banging around in my brain for a while.

Incidentally I am 25,000 words into book six of the Birthright series, which will wrap up the arc of the invasion portion of the story.  I’ve started working on the 3D model that I’ll be using for the cover art using my old standby: Sketchup and Twilight Render.  Now, however, my 11 year old has claimed a partial stake in my newly built PC so that he can toy around with Blender.  He’s making Minecraft scenes and animations and even taking requests from his friends.  Maybe I can subcontract out future book covers to my own kid!  More on that one soon!

Anyway, I wrote about a topic that seems to be percolating to the top of conversation a lot these days: the government, dystopian conspiracies, and how far they would really go if we let them.  

The good news for you is that the book is free all weekend.  If you’re looking to try out a book that might just make you a tiny bit paranoid about who’s really in charge in Washington, grab a copy and enjoy one on the house!

Here’s the blurb from my book page:
What’s the difference between a patriot and a terrorist?

Whoever is in charge of the watch list.

Jack Swift was a normal guy just living his life in small town America. That all came to an end when the Department of Homeland Security rolled into town; folks started to worry and life got tense

Jack and a few others asked a lot of questions, wanted to know what the government was doing to their city. Soon it became apparent that there was much more going on in his small town than a simple drill. But he poked his nose into the wrong person’s business; Jack was branded a terrorist.

What will he need to do to get his life back? Can the government even do this to him and his friends? Who will stand up for their city if not their own? And if they don’t do something about it, what will the government try next?

Jack didn’t know why the DHS picked his little town to occupy, but now they were in charge.

What happens when the government oversteps its authority, when the people who are supposed to be working for you decide they know better? Jack and the rest of his friends are about to find out.

http://www.amazon.com/Patriot-Terrorist-Ryan-Krauter-ebook/dp/B011PJCFG6
 

Narcissism, thy mascot is the Selfie Stick

selfie stick douchesAh yes, the Selfie Stick.  Damn, where to begin?

We were on vacation recently and saw these stupid things all the time.  It was probably more to do with the touristy themes of our locations, but the troubling phenomena remained.  What the hell are these things all about?

According to Dictionary.com, narcissism is defined as “inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity”.  This can also become self destructive.  Think Tony Stark, Ron Burgundy, Stiffler, Zoolander.  There are others, of course, some more self-obsessed than others.

The thing is that I’m sure there are some legitimate, useful purposes for these things.  Unfortunately, my experiences were limited to watching what has become the primary use: taking pictures of yourself (usually making a stupid face or weird hand gesture) in front of everything you can put your eye on.

Tour bus?  Selfie!  Men’s bathroom door?  Selfie!  Monkey cage?  Selfie!  Pile of seaweed on the beach?  Selfie!

Ugh.  I had to laugh as I watched one couple try to take an actual, normal style photo.  The problem was that they were too close and needed to back up to frame the shot, but there wasn’t enough room behind them for the stick, so they couldn’t snap a photo because they couldn’t get the shot lined up in front of the cameraphone.

I hardly have any pictures of myself.  I’m usually the one snapping the photos (with a real camera, not my phone.  There’s still no substitute for a big lens and image sensor) and a stranger might look at our family photo album and wonder if my wife and kids usually vacationed without me.

Still, it’s better than holding my phone on the end of a stick and taking a photo of myself.

How to debate someone

angry-mobHello everyone.

Today, I’d like to discuss how to engage in a lively debate with someone, be it a co-worker, friend or neighbor.

There’s always a hot topic brewing if you want to instigate a confrontation… um, I mean conversation.

You see, you just can’t have a conversation on the internet via keyboard and screen.  There’s no inflection, pensive looks, and approving head-nodding.  Devoid of emotion, the words can and often are taken with different meaning based on the reader and their viewpoints.  Thence, the birth of the internet tough guy.

I have opinions, some of them very strong, based on the experience of years and reinforced by repair bills and court costs.  Well, not court costs; we all know anything that happens in Canada doesn’t count when I’m required to disclose past run-ins with the law.  I’ve debated with others, most often co-workers, over plenty of taboo, weighty topics which have caused many a bar fight that you aren’t supposed to touch.  Examples are: religion, politics, Ford vs Chevy, favorite NASCAR driver, vaccinations, aliens among us, gun control/2nd Amendment, government conspiracy, prepping/societal collapse, nontraditional lifestyles, and so much more.

The thing is, you need to realize going into a conversation with another person that what you should be after is the REASON for their point of view.  If we talk about something, I’m not expecting to change your mind about it, and I hope you aren’t expecting me to become a quick convert either.  However, there is no reason we can’t explain why we feel a certain way and try to understand those positions.  If you think to yourself, though, “He doesn’t see my point of view; I will now speak LOUDER so he realizes the error of his ways!”, then we’re not going to get very far.

Too often, I think we’re more concerned with making someone else see our point of view than understanding why we hold those views in the first place.  So often arguments quickly devolve into “Well, you don’t see it my way even after I explained it.  You, therefore, are a dumbass and I will now repeat everything AGAIN, but this time slower and with more arm movements.”

I hate to break it to you, but I may not convert to your viewpoint.  I will, however, listen to your reasons because I don’t think your point of view is more or less valid than my own.  We can chat and then figure out if either of us has changed an opinion.  We may each think ourselves totally vindicated afterwards and that the other person is on the wrong track, which is fine too.  We just need to have the good sense to keep our damn mouths shut about that last part.   That’s really important, because we are still allowed to have our own opinions, even if they piss others off.  I just prefer to keep mine to myself for the most part, because it’s a lot easier to find someone looking for an argument than someone looking for a new viewpoint on something.

However, I do have to close with the thought that if you think there’s a better NASCAR driver than Dale Earnhardt, The Intimidator, you do in fact suck.

Self published authors take note!

I was stumbling blindly around the internet the other night/early morning; I started out looking for what a 2012 Toyota Camry would cost and somehow ended up watching a video of the SR-71 Blackbird’s engines, the true history of Grumpy Cat, and finally 15 Sci-Fi movies I should see in 2015.
Well, among the movies was one very interesting entry: The Martian, by Andy Weir. It’s about an astronaut on Mars who gets abandoned by the rest of his crew when things apparently go down the low-G toilet.
The interesting thing here, the really cool thing, to be honest, is that Mr. Weir first self published that novel on Amazon. It was later picked up by a publishing house and now it’s going to be a movie.
Imagine, you wrote a book (presumably because you enjoy the medium and had a story you needed to tell) and now famous people are going to play the characters you’ve created. Damn.
Congratulations, Mr. Weir! And to all those self-pubbed indie authors out there, in the words of Tim Allen’s character from Galaxy Quest: “Never give up; never surrender!”

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Two posts on the same day? Ridiculous, you say!

pursuit book cover copyI’d be completely remiss if I didn’t also mention the big achievement I’ve been working on lately.

The fifth novel in my Birthright series is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  I’m still working on formatting the paperback for Createspace, but that’s much less important in the grand scheme of things.  The book was released within a couple weeks of the third anniversary of the first book in the series and my first adventures in publishing with Amazon’s Kindle program (and eventually Barnes & Noble’s Nook Press).  It’s been a great time; I’ve done what I enjoy anyway, which is writing.  Along the way, people have been buying the novels and I consider myself lucky very time I check out a sales report and see the numbers.  It’s not about competing with an arbitrary number or beating someone else’s sales; it’s about seeing that people actually seem to enjoy what I’ve written and come back for more.

So, if you’re one of those people- Thank you!  If you’re not, well, you should be!    :-)

I want to wrap up this particular story arc in the sixth novel, though I plan to continue writing these characters.  In the meantime, I’m 20,000 words into something completely different.

Looking at media these days, everybody lives dystopian fiction.  Police state, oppressive post-war Big Brother, etc.  Other than one or two novels I can think of, though, you never see any stories about how the places got to that point.  I’m working on a present-day novel about just that: what would lead to an oppressive, unified world government that decided what was right for everyone, everywhere?  It’s told from the perspective of a small Colorado town that happens to be the unfortunate test subject of the measures that would need to be taken in order to assert complete control.

It’s something very different than my normal writing, but what’s the point in calling yourself an author if you never challenge yourself and try something new?  It seems like every time I talk to a co-worker, we end up on the topic of where the country and world are going, and looking at headlines, conspiracy buffs, and what people seem to be interested in reading, I think there’s a market for an origin story on where the dystopian future got its start.  So, there’s that.

For a link to the Birthright novel, titled Pursuit, click here for the book’s page, and happy reading!

 

Of Kittens and Kids

02 15 14 00310 22 14 074 Greetings all,

It’s been some time, I admit.  I don’t even have a real worthy excuse, either.  I’ve been doing the usual; working, catching up with our daily household emergencies (where the hell are all the clothes hangers, why is the insane kitten at the top of the Christmas tree, did I get anything ready for Cub Scouts tonight?), work, etc.  There was an unfortunate incident involving cloned pre-historic saber-toothed badgers, but that was totally my fault and I can’t use that as an excuse.  I start the day with a list of things to do and end the day with most of them not done because I spend the intervening hours reacting to what comes flying my way. Argh.  Oh well.

About three months ago, one of our cats died.  We had two, a brother and sister from the same litter.  They were about 14 1/2 at the time.  The male is still with us, but his sister went to the great sun-warmed napping couch in the sky after a year or so of treating an overactive thyroid.  Complications entered the picture, but we all got to say goodbye one last time as we passed her from lap to lap and then put her back downstairs in her bed before getting the kids ready for baseball practice.  When we went back down for another quick goodbye, she was gone.  It was sad for us, but hit the kids hard because the cats were here before they were, so that’s all they knew- Abby and Stimpy.  Stimpy (the girl.  Abby is the boy, and that’s another blog post entirely) was the sweetest cat ever.  Even though we had the cats for three years before our human offspring showed up, they never got jealous of the kids.  In fact, they adopted them in a way.  They played with them, were more patient than I ever could have been, slept on them and loved them, and basically were everything you’d ever hope an animal would be.

After a suitable period of mourning, we adopted two kittens from the local shelter.  They weren’t related and were a month apart, but they think they’re brother and sister now.  They have an arrangement with our older cat; Tanner and Maddy are welcomed as long as they don’t get too rambunctious with our old guy, in which case they can expect a light cuff on the head but nothing more.  They like him and he has grown to like them back, and we were very relieved to see them all getting along and hanging out with each other.

This, of course, meant we needed to buy some new cat toys, which leads me to this post.  Below are a series of pictures of toys I’ve found scattered around the house.  You must guess whether it’s a cat toy, kid toy, or suitable for both.

IMG_20141119_141104954This is a Culver’s ice cream token.  Mostly for the kids, but it amuses the cats for a few minutes.

 

IMG_20141119_141048639I have no idea what this is.  I think it’s from a board game of some sort, but again, kids and kittens like it.

IMG_20141119_141041880Looks like one of those finger puzzles, but it’s actually filled with catnip.  Cat toy!

IMG_20141119_141032353I think this is our daughter’s.  Kid toy. 
IMG_20141119_141028123Oooh!! Shiny puff ball.  Everyone loves this: kids, cats, even easily amused grown-ups.

 

 

 

 

 

Everything is awesome/the world is about to end

So, where do you fall in that statement?  I have friends on both sides; some aren’t quite Doomsday Preppers but think like them, others figure the world is a shining example of civilization and everything will be wonderful forever.

I straddle the middle ground.  I like to think positive in regards to the world in general, but I also think it’s foolhardy to assume nothing bad could ever happen to us, both as a country and as a civilization.  There are too many unpleasant things out there in the world, too many dark sides to humanity.  There are folks who would kill each other over religion, race, income, and simply where they live.  There are also a lot of kind, forward thinking enlightened souls who would like nothing more than to make the world a better place.

I would paraphrase Tommy Lee Jones’s character in Men in Black.  He’s just told Will Smith that there are aliens in New York and only the MIB knows.  He says something to the effect that individuals are compassionate, intelligent, and capable of all the good things we attribute to humanity.  He also says that people, as a group, are scared, reactionary and easily led to do the wrong thing.

There is a quote by Frederich Nietzsche I’ll post here.  I lost my book with the dog eared pages and notes in an airplane seat back pocket, but here’s the saying as I remember it:

Insanity in individuals is something rare – but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.

Sounds pretty reasonable, no?

In other news, I finally finished the fifth novel in the Birthright series (which I’ve titled Birthright: Pursuit), and boy are those poor people in trouble now!  I’m editing and trying to work on a cover, but I’ve built a new ship model to add to the one I already made and Sketchup just can’t seem to handle all those polygons at one time; the program just locks up and crashes when I try to put both models in the same scene.  Not sure what I’ll have to do about that, but it’s my problem, not yours!  So, editing away I go, while starting work on a different project.  It’s set in modern day Colorado, about a man who finds himself and in fact the whole city on the wrong side of a government crackdown.

 

 

 

 

An actual serious post

I’ve finally been getting back into working on my latest book. There are plenty of great excuses (mostly involving a lot of time spent away from home due to work) and I’m glad to be able to get back to my story and characters. It’s my preferred way to relax, to vent, to be creative and feel like I’m building something rather than just sitting around watching TV shows about spoiled housewives or beauty-pageant moms.
I’m at a point in the story where a character is going to need to deal with an issue that’s been a long time in coming. She’s just lucky when it comes to her little corner of the war; she gets the job done, takes risks and always seems to make it out alive (if not a bit roughed up in the process).
People always line up to go out with her on the next op, but she comes back and usually some of their number don’t. So she finally has the revelation that she’s surviving and they aren’t.
I want to explore her dealing with survivor’s guilt. Now, I know a lot of people from transplant recipients to firefighters to natural disaster survivors can run across this affliction, but the story is about a fighter pilot and so that’s where it centers.
I’ve been reading websites, various foundations that study and help treat this condition. I should probably surf some message boards as well.
The quandary is this: I want to acknowledge this real issue and the fact that it happens. This is a story, an action novel, but the real world is not just Michael Bay and John Woo movies. Real people deal with the consequences later. The problem is, this is not a series of books that is meant to focus solely on heavy issues. I want the story to move, to be fun and yet serious in a Joss Whedon sort of way.
So, I want her to have to come to grips with this, but I don’t want the story to become JUST about this. I want it to be authentic, to honor the very real condition and acknowledge that it can and will happen to anyone, but I don’t want it to feel fake or forced, like I was somehow obligated to shove something in there to show I’m aware of a particular cause.
That’s all, really. No witty comparisons of original vs JJ Abrams Trek or anything like that, just venting the thoughts hammering around my head right now.
I will keep reading and try to have my character deal with this situation as realistically as possible. It’s not the sort of thing that gets ‘fixed’ by the end of a chapter, so I hope I can do it justice.

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