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I’ve been a longtime listener of NPR (although of late I’ve come to think of those initials standing for National Palestine Radio rather than National Public Radio given their slanted reporting with respect to Israel). Anyway, every Wednesday morning they have a commentary by Frank Deford who has an alternate personality known as the Sports Curmudgeon (not to be confused with the other Sports Curmudgeon whose true identity escapes me) who periodically speaks on annoying things related to sports (professional, collegiate, and otherwise).

Recently, I’ve discovered that I have a Curmudgeon in me. Normally I’m an easy going individual. Live and let live has been my motto for a long time…I’ve never felt the need to impose my opinions on anyone. However, of late, I’ve been noticing things that have…well…annoyed me. At first I didn’t think much about it…but as time went on I’ve realized that inside of me was another “person” — someone who gets rankled seeing things that are just plain wrong and wants to say something. That is my Curmudgeon. I’ve finally decided to give him a voice…(in the style of Frank Deford):

On Sunday The Curmudgeon was running his morning run when he was passing by the entrance to the Northwest Branch Trail entrance on Kemp Mill Rd in Silver Spring. The Curmudgeon knows the Northwest Branch Trail quite well as he periodically runs along this trail as well as goes hiking on it. The trail is meant for foot traffic only – human or horse. There is an explicit sign at the entrance to the trail on Kemp Mill Road that states no bicycles or motorized vehicles are allowed. As he was running by he noticed a silver mini-van parked near the entrance. The husband and wife had gotten out and had their dog with them as well and were getting ready to go on the trail. However, the part that really bothered The Curmudgeon was the fact that the husband and wife were on bikes and were standing right next to the entrance to the trail where the sign indicating that no bicycles are allowed on the trail was clearly on display. Perhaps they weren’t able to read the sign? No…the sign also included a symbol similar to the one below:

There’s a reason why bikes are not allowed on the Northwest Branch Trail. It’s a soft trail which gets torn up easily by the bike tires. The trail has been eroded to such a state where water now stands, breeding mosquitoes, on parts of the trail and people have taken to simply cutting a new trail around the pools of mud and water. It would be very hard not to understand the meaning of that sign The Curmudgeon thought but apparently these two individuals didn’t think that it applied to them.

But this is not the first time that he’s seen this behavior of people who think that the rules do not apply to them. Ok…The Curmudgeon lives in the Washington, D.C. area and he sees this kind of thing going on all the time with politicians…but of late he’s been seeing this sort of behavior more and more in the neighborhood where he lives. Whether it’s cyclists who think that trail restrictions don’t apply to them or people who water their lawns when there are mandatory water restrictions due to emergency work needing to be done on a major water pipe in the region – this behavior seems to becoming more and more prevalent. “Why?” asks The Curmudgeon. “We all have to live together and work together as a community. I follow the rules…why do others think that the rules don’t apply to them as well?” So The Curmudgeon gets rankled more and more when he continues to see examples of “law-abiding” people who are “law-abiding”…but only when it suits them. He shakes his head and laments the fact that in our society we see politicians, athletes, and entertainers consistently do things that break the rules and then get the all too easy “pass” on their actions…simply because of who they are. And this behavior is trickling down, in a pathetic imitation of the trickle-down economic theory so that even in a nice neighborhood such as his, people feel that they have the right to ignore the rules…when the rules get in the way of their doing what they want to do.

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It’s amazing how a little thing can make a big difference in your life. In early May I decided one Sunday morning to weigh myself to see where I was in terms of my weight. I was appalled…I weighed in at 210 lbs! I’ve never been that heavy in all my life. For the longest time I held steady at 200 lbs (and even that was heavy considering where I normally would weigh for many years before that). I was so angry that I decided that I was going to make some changes in my life and lose all the extra weight I had gained since I got married 14 years ago.

I decided I was going to approach the problem both from an exercise as well as a diet perspective. In the past I tried some of the “fad” diets like Atkins and they worked for me for a while…but once I reached my goal and I weaned myself off the diet I went right back to eating the way I did before and gained the weight right back. I’ve had a membership at the Wheaton Bally’s for many years (and, like most people, I would go infrequently if at all). Well, no more. These days I’m there at least 3 times a week doing weights and/or running on the treadmill at 5AM. I’ve also set two goals for myself:

  1. Run my first marathon in the spring of 2011 and
  2. Get my weight down to 175lbs

I’ve also started to run on the roads on Sunday mornings (I take Saturday off) – I’m working my way up to 26 miles. And I don’t just want to do the marathon and finish – I’m going to finish well. My goal for my first marathon will be to finish preferably under 5 hours.

On top of this I want to get back on my bike. When I was a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin, I used to race bikes. I rode so many miles every week that my weight was around 165lbs (on a 5′ 11″ frame) and my body fat percentage was around 12%. After many years I pulled my old Tommasini Prestige bike out mothball and took it to Silver Cycles to be overhauled. It wasn’t cheap (had to buy new tires and a few other things) but the bike is ready. Riding the bike is like spending time again with an old friend.

On top of that we belong to the Sandy Spring CSA and have more vegetables than we know what to do with (now trying to figure out what to do with all that rhubarb they sent us this week). I’ve completely changed my eating habits and have cut out all the crap food that I was eating as well as paring down on my portion sizes. I’ve also cut down on the meager amount of meat I eat and am considering going vegetarian completely (I already have cut milk out of my diet and have switched primarily to soy milk).

Overall I feel a lot better than I’ve felt in quite a while. In the past 6 weeks since I started this routine I’ve dropped 8 lbs and my energy level has climbed dramatically. I used to run a 5K in about 35 minutes – it’s now down to 31:30 (and I’m working on getting it down to sub-30 range). I’m also working on getting my mileage on the bike up to around 25 miles per ride. On the whole I’m sleeping better and feeling good about myself mentally. It’s amazing how a little thing like getting on the scale one day can really make a difference!

I work from a home-office. Being a telecommuter is great. And working for a company that provides the technology to make working from a home office easier is even better. I work for Microsoft and it has been wonderful — I use LiveMeeting for both internal and customer meetings, Office Communicator if I need to make a phone call to a co-worker who’s online and a VPN to connect to internal corporate resources.

Now, in our family we have the requisite two cars — a 2001 Honda Odyssey and a 1998 Nissan Maxima. The Odyssey is my wife’s car and mine is the Maxima. Since we moved to Maryland back in November of 2002 I have put about 31,000 miles on my Maxima (about 5500 miles per year). But, that number belies the actual nature of the mileage. In the past two years I have put fewer and fewer miles on my Maxima to the point that this year I expect to only put about 3500 to 4000 miles on the car (which is good because it doesn’t get the best gas mileage and I’m waiting to see the 09 Prius before I get another car). However, I did recently start using a new “car” — it’s my old mountain bike that I bought back in 1998 when we lived in Austin and I used to work for a company called DejaNews (you may have heard of them at one point — they later became Deja.com and then they were split in two — the news engine and archive was sold to Google and became Google Groups and the buying engine was sold to eBay and became Half.com).

I really like my new “car”…it’s got a rack on the back with two panniers, it gets great mileage, and it’s impact on the environment is minimal — just my breathing. I started riding it to synagogue in the morning (I leave the house about 30 minutes before services start as the ride is about 2 miles and takes me anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes depending on traffic and I want to have a few minutes to cool down before services start). When I started riding it to synagogue last week I got the funniest looks…here I come in to the synagogue with bike shorts on, a racing jersey (I used to bike race in USCF races when I was younger), and my old Shimano mountain bike shoes. The first day everyone was unsure what to make of me…that was a monday. I didn’t get an aliyah to the Torah because the gabbai said my bike shorts were inappropriate. So, on Tuesday (and for the rest of the week) I wore my winter tights. Still didn’t get an aliyah on Thursday though…I even noted it to the gabbai that I “wore my long pants” just in case. He shrugged. Others wondered what the Rabbi would say if he saw me (fortunately we start too early — around 6:15 AM — for his liking so he doesn’t come to our minyan). Maybe he would institute a dress code — I’m ready for that. As soon as the nine days are over I’m going to buy a pair of sweat pants to put over my legs when I get to synagogue — assuming that the winter tights don’t cut it. Either way, if he tells me that I’m not dressed appropriately then I’ll just say that I’m doing my part to reduce my carbon footprint. 🙂

I’m very happy about my new “car”…and I plan on using it to take me to more and more places. Now I just need to get my old Tommasini Prestige back out of the basement and fix it up. That’ll be my “sports car” 😉

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