Ten Minutes

When I first started this blog and decided that I would post every Friday, I was under the impression that there were seven days between each Friday. I’ve since come to discover that no, there are not seven days in a week. It’s more like three. The week goes like this:

  • Day 1: Friday
  • Day 2: Weekend
  • Day 3: Tuesday

And then it starts over again. I can’t seem to account for any more time than that.

Most of this time lately has been spent at work. You know, big project, lots of stress, and the usual. I’ve been trying to squeeze in some minutes here and there finishing up the memoir. You know, that book that I’ve been saying will be ready “soon” since fall of 2016. I’m running out of time, though, since I carved “2017” into stone as the publishing date. (Yes, the second page of the book is made out of granite. All the fancy books do that.)

Then there’s Christmas to get ready for, which is bearing down on us hard already. To make matters worse, I’m out of town every weekend in December. If you haven’t guessed by now, there’s only one thing on my Christmas Wish List:

  • Time

I hope I get it.

And in case you’re wondering about the blog post title, that’s the amount of time I allowed myself this morning to write it. It was an experiment, and I said I’d stop as soon as the ti

NaNoWriMo 2017

I began NaNoWriMo this year much in the same way as the previous three years. On Halloween evening, after the ghosts and goblins have run off to bed (and I’ve polished off the rest of the candy), I grab my bag and head to Dragon’s Lair Comics for the annual NaNoWriMo kickoff.

People typically start gathering as early as nine in the evening. There’s some socializing and various writing activities, with attendees participating in one or both. Door prizes, in the form of free books, are handed out to lucky winners. But all of this is just to pass the time until midnight, when the fun really begins.

For those new to the concept, the idea of NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000-word novel in thirty days. If you do that, you win. If you don’t do that, well, then you’ve done what the other seven billion people on the planet do every November. In the eight years I’ve done this, I’ve won three times.

At ten seconds before twelve, the room packed with wannabe authors began their enthusiastic count down. At midnight, the room fell instantly silent as everyone got down to business. Fired up myself, I began feverishly:

It was a dark and stormy night when the half-giant Haggard discovered the young boy wizard, Henry Porter, hidden away by his evil family, the Duzzles. Haggard was a wizard and he took his magic wand and shot it at the Duzzles bam, bam, bam until they fled in fright. This freed up Haggard and Henry to enjoy a cake before heading off diagonally toward Wizard World.

This was a great start. It’s rare and magical when the words begin to flow, almost unbidden, and I could sense that something good was going to come of this month. I stayed until about 1:30 — it was still a school night after all — but managed to get my first nine hundred words of the new story in before packing up my bag and heading out into the night.

My second night of writing (which, technically, is still the same day: November 1) went just as well.

After spending some time in Wizard World, Haggard bade farewell to the young boy wizard, Henry Porter, who needed to go to school. He went to the train station, climbed on board the Pigsnout Express and waited for the train to leave the station. Unfortunately, just at that moment a tornado came out of nowhere. It lifted the train car, with Henry Porter still inside, and carried it off somewhere over the rainbow. The train car came crashing down on a wicked witch, killing her!

Oh man, when it flows it flows. I kept at it that evening and wrapped up November 1st with 1,900 words, a couple hundred ahead of schedule.

I had trouble at work the next day, thoughts of the new story swirling through my brain not unlike a tornado. I couldn’t wait to get home to continue this epic adventure. I added another two thousand wonderfully crafted words and went to bed giddy as a child on Christmas Eve.

The first weekend of November was soon upon me and I decided to devote two whole days to it, a plan that worked beautifully. By Sunday evening, I’d racked up a five day total of nearly 12,000 words!

The November days and nights blended into November weekends, but I kept up my frantic pace, until just last night, with still an hour left of the magical month, I wrapped up the story:

Henry sprang on his broom, to his friends gave a whistle,
And away he did flew like the down of a thistle,
But I heard him exclaim, ere he flew out of sight,
“Let the Duzzles beware, for this wand, it can smite!”

Okay, time for me to fess up. The only fiction I wrote this entire month was what you just read. While I did attend the kickoff at Dragon’s Lair late on Halloween, I got absolutely nothing done. Around ten minutes past midnight, I didn’t want to write at all. I was tired, uninspired, and I just wanted to go home.

I spent most of the rest of the month heavily bogged down by the day job, until November 18 when my oldest daughter Sarah got married. Yep, you read that right. I have a child who is now married, which is something I’m still not sure I’ve wrapped my brain around.

As far as the writing goes, I’m trying to wrap up the ol’ memoir in progress. I missed my goal of September 2016, missed my goal of January 2017, missed my goal of April 2017, and then again missed my goal of October 2016. But hey, I think December is looking pretty good. So keep your fingers crossed for me. Once the memoir is published, I can finally get back to fiction. I’ve already got a start on the next novel:

When Lucas Cloudtreader was twenty years old, he still lived with his aunt and uncle on their blue milk farm. He hated the farm and wanted to go on space adventures. So he found an old space man that everyone had forgotten about. “Take me to space, you old space man!” cried Lucas one day. And do you know what? The old space man did just that . . .

Rogue Two

The roguelike game Moria had one problem: it was written in a programming language and for an operating system that wasn’t exactly popular. I mean, how many people are going to set up one of these babies in their basement just to push an “@” symbol around a screen to collect fake gold? I mean, besides me?

Note of Irony: the only places that have computer systems like that are universities and big businesses. Which means exactly 100% of the people playing Moria, probably shouldn’t be. You do have to admire the human spirit, though.

Angband Origin

This changed in 1987 when the Moria source code was rebuild from the ground up using a more commonplace language and on a more widely available operating system. Specifically, C and Unix. This change allowed the game to be more easily expanded, enhanced, and ported to other systems.

Which is where Angband comes in. It vastly improved the scope and depth of its predecessor and, more importantly, was now available on the PC. Even today, Angband one of the more popular Rogue descendants. Angband was (and is) my “Rogue Two.”

Playing

Basic game play didn’t change. You create a character, run it around randomly-generated dungeons, kill monsters in your way, find treasure, gain experience, and ultimately lose touch with reality. But in a good way.

Most of my best playing took place over my lunch hour (back when such a thing actually existed in my life). And most of my best lunch hours took place on Tuesday. This is because Tuesday was “double stamp” day at Subway (back when such a program actually existed). Once a week, a small band of my coworkers and I would walk the half mile or so to Subway, order sammies, chips, and drink, then walk back to work. At that point, I would hunker down with my Angband character and spend the rest of my time working on the critical task of taking my XP from 274,397 to 279,113. I mean, you can see how really important that is.

Cheating

I will admit, I never did come to grips with the concept of permadeath. Roguelike games are complex and represent a huge commitment of time. To build up a character over two months only to die by accidentally eating a poisoned mushroom is a bit infuriating. Yeah, yeah. “It’s all part of the game,” they say. But to me, a game is supposed to be fun. And this isn’t exactly governed by the International Olympic Committee.

To that end, I figured out how to cheat permadeath and just kept plowing ahead. I even made it easier by creating my own software which I called the Angband Companion. It ran only for the PC version, but it would automatically backup and restore characters. If http://altair.cnchost.com still existed today, you could get your own copy.

Winning

I finished the game exactly once. It took me about a year and a half to accomplish, but I finally did it. Sure, I didn’t play every single day during that long period, but that wasn’t because I didn’t want to. I also want to eat a pound of peanut butter every day, but sometimes moderation is a good thing.

It was an amazing feeling, though, to reach that goal after such a long time but I will admit it was also a relief. My interest in the game dropped to zero in an instant, having no desire to start back at Level 1 and do the same thing all over again.

One More Time

Around seven years ago or so, I went looking for it again. Yep, still out there. More variants than ever. I grabbed one and began playing and . . . it was hard. I mean, like really hard. And slow. Was it always like this? I mean, yeah, a year and a half to finish a game. But I suddenly felt like at this pace it would take me upwards of a decade to finish.

“I have an idea!”

Being the technically-minded person that I am, I figured out how to edit the weapons inventory of the game and created a hammer. Mjolner had nothing on my creation. It increased my armor class, bumped my stats, gave me all sorts of abilities, and best of all, dealt out damage the likes of which Angband had never seen. I called it the “One Hit Wonder.”

Picking up new new weapon, I approached my first monster and true to its name, my weapon dispatched the vile creature with a single swipe. “Ha ha!” I shouted. “This is going to be fun!” My new strategy: win as quickly as possible. Basically, descend every time I hit a down staircase, clear out any monsters in my way, pick up any treasure, and repeat.

In no time at all, I found myself about one hundred levels down and facing the Big Baddie at the End of the Game. A single WHOMP. An explosion of gold, objects, and treasure. And I had won.

Did I cheat? Of course I did. But again, this is a game. A game isn’t supposed to be frustrating and take years and end in misery. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Note: I’ll be taking the next two weeks off. See you in December!

Rogue One

It began like any other workday. I woke up, brushed my teeth, and most likely took a shower. I drove to work, parked, and most likely grabbed a piping hot mug of tequila to start my day. No different from the previous thousand or so work days. But little did I suspect the turn my life was about to take on this ordinary day some twenty-five years ago.

Stephanie stopped by with a problem. “I’ve got this game here, but I can’t get it to work,” she said. “Game?” I replied. “What kind of game?” I don’t remember her exact reply but she definitely had a game and it definitely wasn’t working.

For context, it was a computer game. And for even more context, this game ran on a VAX/VMS system. In a world where we press a single, glossy button to install software, it’s strange to think of a world when games practically came on punch cards:

“I see the problem,” I said, looking it over and figuring out how the developers intended it to be run. “Tap, tap, tap, tap,” went my fingers and in a few minutes, the following screen greeted us:

Game History

What you’re looking at is the character-creation screen of Moria. It’s a text-based game. No fancy 3D graphics, or even color, for that matter. Just single, ASCII characters that make up the game world.

Moria began in the early 1980s when a fan of the similar Rogue lost access to it. Still wanting to play, he wrote his own from scratch. And he wasn’t alone. Moria was just one of many games inspired by Rogue:

For this reason, games in this genre are referred to as roguelikes. Roguelikes generally share the same basic characteristics:

  • Tile-based
  • Turn-based
  • Hack-n-slash gameplay
  • Permadeath
  • Potentially the most fun you’ll ever have with a keyboard and screen.

Gameplay

I found the game strange and somewhat confusing at first. If you’re used to controlling a game with a few buttons and a mouse, it may seem dizzying to have to learn dozens of single-letter keyboard commands to make it work. ‘q’ to quaff a potion, ‘a’ to fire a wand, ‘e’ to view your equipment, and so on. Oh, but once it clicks, it clicks. Like becoming fluent in a foreign language.

Heavily inspired by Dungeons & Dragons, you begin by creating a character. Each character is defined by a number of attributes: Intelligence, Strength, Dexterity, which affect gameplay down the road. High intelligence benefits the Mage class, high strength benefits the Warriors.

Once the character is created, you land in the Town. This area contains six stores where you can buy and sell goods, haggling with shopkeepers over prices. At the very beginning, you buy supplies. Weapons, food, spellbooks: everything you’ll ll need to stay alive once you go down that first maze of down staircases and pass though a one-way door.

After that, the general idea is to hack and slash your way through randomly-generated dungeons, killing monsters and finding treasure. As you build experience, you go deeper and deeper underground until you ultimately meet the biggest bad guy in the world and attempt to defeat him.

On the other hand, if you get killed, you die and the game is over. Just like in real life. So if you’re used to games that let you respawn upon death and die many, many times during the course of playing, it can be difficult coming to grips with the concept of permadeath.

I’m not sure words can convey how addictive this can be to just the right type of brain. Discovering new dungeons, gaining experience, obtaining gold, and building up stats, to me, is about the greatest false sense of achievement ever.

I never did complete Moria. Before I got a chance Angband came along. Tune in next week for the story of what I like to call Rogue Two.

Not What They Used To Be

It’s all a bit unfair, really. The year begins with January, which for some inexplicable reason, lasts around eighty days. After that is spring, a dull and pointless six month period which brings nothing but yard work. During the six months of summer, I wither in the heat shielding my eyes from the blinding sun. And then the year wraps up with the ninety-day month called Christmasber.

Squeezed in there toward the end, for a precious small amount of time, I get October. It represents the bestest season there is, which is why it’s so unfair that it’s also the shortest one. October means pumpkins and Halloween and pumpkins. It means black and pumpkins and orange and pumpkins and most of all it means pumpkins.

It’s strange to think, then, that this iconic squash, so front and center in the fall season, began its journey so unobtrusively.

While the vegetable itself can be traced back thousands of years, what we might consider its modern origins began during the American colonial period. While most pumpkins today are carved or poured into our morning coffee, back then it was an actual food, though hardly celebrated. I recently traveled back in time and sat down with famous Early American person Benjamin Franklin for an interview and asked him about the topic.

Charlie: “Mr. Franklin, than you for sitting down with me today.”
Ben Franklin: “It’s my pleasure.”
Charlie: “Is it okay if we just skip to the part about pumpkins?”
Ben Franklin: “But I have this new invention — “
Charlie: “Sorry! I’ve only got like five minutes, so I have to skip to pumpkins.”
Ben: “Okay.”
Charlie: “So what are pumpkins like in your time?”
Ben: “Well, I’d say they’re about the LAST thing we want to eat.”
Charlie: “Why?”
Ben: “They’re everywhere. Massive supply. Low demand. We can bake bread, brew beer, and work our kitchen with finer foods. No need to stoop to the pumpkin.”
Charlie: “But pumpkin bread! Pumpkin beer! Pumpkin beer is awesome!”
Ben: (scoffs) “Pumpkin beer is for people who can’t afford real grain but who can pluck a rotting gourd off the side of the road.”
Charlie: “Oh”
Ben: “Believe me, calling Peter a ‘pumpkin-eater’ is not a compliment.”
Charlie: “Well, you’re going to be a bit surprised by the twenty-first century.”
Ben: “Because of flying cars?”
Charlie: “How do you know what a car is? But no, because of how elevated the pumpkin has become in society.”
Ben: “Do tell.”
Charlie: “Well, it all began at Starbuck’s —”
Ben: “Ah! The coffee chain named after the young chief mate from the Pequod.”
Charlie: “Seriously, how do you know this stuff?”
Ben: “Well, about that invention you wouldn’t let me talk about.”
Charlie: “Yes?”
Ben: “Let’s just say, how do you think you traveled back here to talk to me in the first place?”
Charlie: “You mean —”

Sadly, at that point my time was up and I got snapped back to the present. But Ben was absolutely right. The pumpkin meant “last resort” back then and I’m sure anyone from that time period would be shocked to know we now have thousands of products, everything from pumpkin spiced coffee to pumpkin spiced dog treats.

Personally, I’m totally okay with it. In fact, to enjoy all things pumpkin even more, I move that we expand October to thirteen weeks and cut January back down to size. Does anyone second the motion?

Chess

Many, many decades ago, I learned the fundamentals of chess. I’m not sure if this happened at my own request or if my dad simply declared it a fundamental life skill. But he made sure I knew where the pieces started, how they moved, and the basics of strategy.

We played a fair number of games together. I always lost, of course, but then again, I was only two years old.

Haha. Actually, I was more like twelve years old, but I’m not joking about always losing. Sure, it’s a complicated game. And yeah, I was very early in my chess-playing career. But none of that meant I had set my feet on the path of a lifetime losing streak.

Then one day it happened. I began with pawn to king four, he countered, I played, he advanced, and after an unknown number of moves I looked down at the board in wide-eyed disbelief and declared “checkmate.”

And that was the last time I won a game of chess.

For whatever reason, it’s a mental blind spot for me. As vastly intelligent and incredibly humble as I am in many other areas, being able to “strategize” a chess game simply isn’t in my wiring.

They say that grandmasters are able to see many, many moves ahead. My problem is that I can barely see two moves behind. Let alone plan anything. I move through a chess game with all the skill and foresight of a person fumbling for a flashlight during a power outage.

Even so, I wasn’t prepared for something that happened to me last year. Thinking I might try to actually learn something, I found an online chess site. They had a number of lessons and tutorials for all skill levels. To begin, you either had to choose your own level or — this is the cool part — play through a game after which the site would determine your proper course.

I chose the latter. “Stand back, everyone. I’m about to do chess.” I began with pawn to king four, the software countered, I played, it advanced, and after an unknown number of moves the game abruptly stopped and said, “Got it! Click next to continue your chess training.”

Eagerly I clicked next only to be humiliated with: “Lesson Zero. This is a pawn. It can move one space forward, or two spaces forward on its first move…”

Seriously?

The silver lining in all this: so many hours of my life recovered which I can now spend on other things. Heck, I may even start a blog.

Things That Go Bump in the Night

It’s October again, which means we’re now officially seven weeks into the Halloween season, going by the standard retail marketing calendar. (This also means we’re officially one week into the Christmas season.) So what better way to kick off the month than with a scary story! One of the “ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties” kind.

When we first moved to Austin, I looked forward to a number of things: better career opportunities, lots to see and do, and (most importantly) not being buried under five feet of snow every year. However, there were a few things I didn’t look forward to and at the top of that list sat: scorpions.

For the first few months we were here, I carried around a mild but nonetheless irrational fear of the little beasties. I’d never seen one before, not in real life, and I didn’t want to. I’d heard stories from our real estate agent and others who’d lived here a while, so I expected to see one at every turn. But as our time in Austin moved on and I still had yet to run into any, I figured maybe the whole scare was overblown.

Until one day while at work I got an instant message from Laura.

We had a pile of pillows on the floor in a corner. She moved one and out skittered a little scorpion. The emphasis is on little. Because when I got home that night to see it I felt a bit disappointed that I’d gotten all worked up over nothing. All the scorpions I’d seen in the media were big, ugly, scary things. Now, I’m not saying that this one cute and cuddly. But in comparison to my runaway imagination, this was relatively tame.

A few years went by and I only saw maybe two or three more. A decade went by and nothing. At this point I assumed humans had finally won the battle and I had nothing more to worry about. Until last year when we moved north.

While everything to the south of our new house looks like standard suburbia, our backyard, to the north side, butts right up against a thousand acre ranch. Whereas our front street sees cars, and garbage trucks, and delivery vehicles, our back fence wards off wandering cattle.

I enjoy this odd arrangement, where two worlds meet, but that also means we’re on the front line of the War of the Arthropods.

Even before we moved in, we encountered our first scorpion. Of course, by now they didn’t bother me any more than any other random bug encounter would. Plus, it was already dead.

“That’s one,” we said, knowing that there were more on the way.

Fast forward to July 2017. We stopped counting scorpion findings somewhere around two dozen. I would say eighty percent of them are already dead and the remaining are very near death as Laura approaches with a sledgehammer.

Anyway, on the night of July 27, I went to sleep like any other night. I was two or three hours into a nice, cozy sleep when my eyes flew open at a sharp pain on my left pinky followed quickly by one on my left arm.

“What the hell was that?” my brain thought, not having the benefit of reading an entire blog post about scorpions to set the stage. I climbed out of bed and walked to the bathroom and turned on the light. My finger felt sore but in my still-groggy state I somehow began to wonder if I didn’t just imagine something, or this was all a vivid dream.

There on my finger was a little white circle with a red dot in the middle. Okay, nope: not imagining things. But what was that? Did a spider bite me?

I went back to my bed with half my brain thinking, “I’d better investigate this.” The other half of my brain was thinking, “It’s late. Just go back to sleep.” (That’s the half of my brain I like to refer to as “the stupid half.”)

Flipping on my phone’s camera light, I conducted a quick search but couldn’t find anything. The confusing thought that maybe I dreamed all this still fogged my brain. I headed back to the bathroom and looked at my finger again. Still white and red and slightly swollen. Okay, nope: still not imagining things.

Upon my second trip back to the bed for further investigation, I was relieved to find physical evidence of the incident. There on the bed as I peeled back the covers further, lay a small, arms-curled-up, dead-spider-looking thing.

“Aha!” I said to myself as I found a container to scoop him up in. But as I scooped, the dead-looking spider uncurled all his long-leggedy appendages and revealed himself in his full scorpion glory.

Now safely bottled up, I placed him on the kitchen counter so he could think about what he did. I returned to bed one last time, conducted a quick additional scan in case he had any friends, and went back to sleep.

The next day I showed him off to the family. I took the jar to work and showed him off to coworkers. At that point, figuring he learned his lesson by now, I took him outside to a thick stand of trees and let him go. If you’re not squeamish about such things, you can view his escape here.

Tune in next week when I might tell you about the tarantula we found walking around our driveway when we came home from dinner last week. You know a spider is big when you can see it from the street.

On second thought, never mind. We’ll be too deep into the Christmas season for such tales by then.

Day 10,007

[Cue female voiceover]

Previously on Charlie’s Blog. Charlie commemorated his ten thousandth day of dieting with a look back over twenty-seven years of pain, suffering, and Chex Mix. During that era, there arose The Great Diets, standing far above the rest. We left off with 1,032 days of the Third Great Diet still unaccounted for.

[Cue theme music and roll opening credits.]

The Third Great Diet began with cancer diagnosis and treatment and ended with—well, the good news is it hasn’t ended. I never gained it all back, so technically speaking, this diet is still going. I sleep well at night knowing that I haven’t screwed it up. Yet.

I’m sure giving it a shot, though.

As much weight as I lost during cancer treatment in 2012 (around 40 pounds), I did gain about ten of it back by Christmas that year. That particular gain (right after that very particular loss) alarmed me enough to declare, “Never Again!” and it worked. By the end of 2014, two years later, I was down another thirty. And I did it all without the help of Rituximab, Cyclophosphamide, Hydroxydaunorubicin, or Ensure shakes.

“I did it!” I shouted on that fateful day I hit my previously-unattainable goal weight.

“You did it!” my scale shouted back to me, sharing my triumph.

That momentous occasion called for celebration. And celebrate I did. To the tune of gaining forty pounds back over the next two years.

Rats.


Through all my years of yo-yoing, one thing was a given: the weight I gained quickly always came off quickly. If ever I gained ten or fifteen around the holidays (hahaha . . . I said “if”) then come January, those last ten or fifteen peeled off as quickly as they went on. By the end of 2016, I had no reason to believe this wouldn’t continue.

“It’s okay, Charlie! Shovel in another bucketful of Chex Mix. Come January, these last ten or fifteen pounds will peel off as quickly as they’re going on.”

Except they didn’t.

Weight loss is controlled by a little known organ in the body called the squizzard. It secretes an enzyme (called stopstuphinurfase) into the blood stream that tells your brain to tell your hands to stop stuffing your face. I don’t know if because I’m getting older, or all this yo-yo dieting has finally caught up to me, but my squizzard is broken and I can no longer afford the stopstuphinurfase injections on my new insurance.

January turned to February. February to March. And March somehow went right into September. And no matter what I did, I just couldn’t make it happen.

“But this is what I do!” I exclaimed in desperation one morning as the scale refuses to budge.”

“No, this is what you used to do,” the scale replied. “Before you broke your squizzard.”

I think what I really need is a vacation. While most people use vacations as an excuse to over-indulge in the gastronomical delights, I tend to pull way back. I’ve had several business trips this year. When I returned from the longest one, I found myself miraculously back in Onederland. When I returned from my most recent one, same thing.

“Check it out!” I said to my scale both times. “I’m definitely back!”

Two days later, I’d be up three or four pounds again.

“No. No you’re not,” the scale mocked.

So as of today (Day 10,007, Diet #129, Reboot 1) I’m still pretty much hovering where I’ve been for most of the year. On the bright side, I am down about fifteen pounds since The Disaster of 2016. But that still means I have twenty-five to go. And at the rate I’m going, I’ll hit it . . . um . . . around . . .

Looks like I’ll see you all back here for an exciting update on Friday, June 12, 2020!

Day 10,000

When I retired the old blog and started this here new one, I admit I was happy to leave behind the burden of diet-related blogging. The new domain came with a fresh start and an “I can talk about anything I want” attitude. And for sure: how’s the diet going? wasn’t anywhere on the anything I want list.

In spite of that, this is somehow my eighth post on the topic here. That’s right, on the blog where I swore to not talk about weight loss, weight loss now comprises nearly ten percent of my posts. Yay, me!

But that’s okay! Because today is a super duper special day. Fate demands that I drag up The Topic more time for today is Day 10,000. That’s a real number. I’m not exaggerating for effect. I even used the internet to double check my work.


Long time readers will know that I’ve been on a fair number of diets during this period. For those of you keeping score at home, I’m currently on #129 (Day 33). But more on that later.

Looking back over a ten thousand day stretch, it’s clear there have only been three diets that have counted. And I mean, really counted. So hop in the car and buckle your seat belt. We’re taking a drive down memory lane.

The First Great Diet

The very first Day One began several lifetimes ago. (Twenty-seven years, four months, and fifteen days ago, to be precise.) On May 1, 1990 I looked down at my midsection and thought, “Huh, I’d better do something about this.” I weighed in at 194 pounds that morning: the heaviest I’d ever been in my (short) adult life.

For whatever reason, I waited five months before doing anything. It wasn’t until October when I suddenly found myself up another eleven pounds and thought, “Huh, I’d better do something about this.”

Long story short, The First Great Diet was a huge success. I cut down on calories, swam laps almost every day (yes: actual exercise), and drank gallons and gallons of Slim Fast. And in only 335 days, on Day 495, I magically hit 168. Down thirty-seven pounds total.

The Second Great Diet

Right after the end of The First Great Diet, I learned a new dieting thing. I didn’t even know it was a thing. Looking back, I’m sorry I ever found out about what can only be called The Thing: gaining it all back. It’s a terrible Thing. Why this is even a Thing at all boggles my mind.

Gaining it all back took 684 days. It was difficult at times, but I somehow pulled it off. On Day 1,179 my scale told me I’d reached the start weight of The First Great diet. Rats. Of course, my brain kept lying to my body, “If you did it once, you can do it again!” So I made many subsequent attempts to get the magic back. But it wasn’t until Day 3,854 that The Switch came on again but good.

Long story short, The Second Great Diet was a huge success. I went low carb, switched to walking as my exercise, and drank gallons and gallons of Vernor’s Diet Ginger Ale. And just 306 days later, on Day 4,219, I was basically back to where The First Great Diet left off.

The Third Great Diet

The success of my first two diets brought me untold fame on fortune. I was People Magazine’s World’s Most Awesome Dieter for three years running, appeared on Oprah twice, and was even Time Magazine’s Man of the Year. Heck, I even wrote a book about it all. (At least that part is true.)

But the constantly ringing phone and the hounding paparazzi finally got to me. There was only one solution: I had to get out. So I did what any of you would’ve done in my shoes. I gained it all back. Unfortunately, this did not bring me the happiness I expected and I realized that it was time for The Third Great Diet.

Long story short, The Third Great Diet was a huge success. I got cancer, went for walks around my living room for exercise, and drank gallons and gallons of Ensure. And just 1,106 days later, on Day 8,968, I was only a few pounds above the end-weight of the First Two Great Diets.

Introspection or Whatever

Here’s the thing about The Third Great Diet. Out of the dozens and dozens of diets I’d been on, this one was truly different because it was born out of half a year of that pesky cancer thing. I swore — I swore — that I would absolutely and positively not “gain it all back” again.

And I think that’s why, instead of 300 or so days for the typical diet run, this one ran over eleven hundred days. That’s not a “slim fast” approach. That’s someone in it for the long haul.

Now at this point, the astute reader will note a small delta between Day 8,968 and today. Yes, yes, I knew it would come to that. The good news is, I have not gained it all back. The bad news is, I sure seem to be making a solid run at it. Here’s the full graph, end to end, in all its glory:

The graph is, of course, all over the place. This graph has seen more ups and downs than thirty kangaroos on an olympic trampoline. But let’s peel back a layer of data and just look at the 1,000-day increments:

Strange how flat it looks. Except for maybe three anomalous readings, I seem to clock in around the same weight every 1,000 days. In fact, sometimes I look at this and think, “Why do I even bother?” All the pain and suffering and deprivation for what: Day 10,000 looking about the same as Day 1? Is that what all this has come to?

But it’s exactly that kind of thinking why I take comfort in the final graph. All the pain and suffering and deprivation isn’t for nothing. It’s because without all of that, this is the graph we’d be discussing today:

And I’m okay with that.

Tune in next week, when diet-related posts will suddenly comprise eleven percent of this new blog! I need to fill you in on the last 1,032 days.

Fan Mail

Welcome again to my fourth annual fan mail blog post.

I never intended for this to become a tradition. But then again, I never expected that I’d be forever inundated with fan mail like this. With all the pain, heartache, and uncertainty in the world, I sleep well knowing that good people are taking time out of their busy schedules to contact me.

So without further ado, let’s look at Fan Mail 2017:


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When I ask myself, “Self, where should I share enormous pieces of writing?” I always answer, “At this place, Charlie. At this place.” Good to know that someone is grateful for it.


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Sorry, I never get spam feedback. Best of luck to you, good citizen.


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