Welcome To The Realer World

Here’s a trick question: How does an alcoholic deal with stress?

The trick, of course, is that an alcoholic deals with stress the way he deals with everything else in life, including peace, joy, tragedy, comedy, and politics: He doesn’t. He uses a chemical to ignore it.

This is why the first year of sobriety can be pretty awful for some, and why we lose so many people a few months in. Yeah, 12-step programs work, but they’re only the best (statistically speaking) solution to a very, very difficult problem. The success rates are dismal.

Life is hard and complicated, and it doesn’t give you a break, and a recovering alcoholic has very rusty life skills. Stress management is key, and frankly if you don’t have some sort of higher power in your life I don’t want your odds.

In my case, I had a pretty firm grasp on a higher power, not to mention the fact that I was desperate to end the insanity and the chaos. And I had no legal problems to deal with, no job issues or divorce or any of the hundreds of things waiting for some when they start a sober life. And I had an intact family, battered but still hanging in there.

So knowing what I faced, I embarked right away on a stress management program, and being sort of an absolutist I aimed at eliminating stress altogether.

It can be done, trust me, at least for a reasonable period of time, but you have to have the ideal situation. And some things are out of your control; I always have John, and I made the grievous error of tearing my rotator cuff and needing surgery.

Still, it’s been a pretty stressless past year, and it was time to push forward, nudge the future a bit. So I made some decisions, registered for classes, and started sending out resumes. I also started on a diet and exercise regimen that I hope will get me healthier and thinner.

I began my online class, went to my first Wednesday night class (four hours), and yesterday spent the entire day, 8:30 to 6, in a weekend crisis management class. Tiring but OK. There was stress but aside from some mild irritation last night, I thought I handled it well. I’m on top of my game, smoothly sailing, give me your best shot, I got this thing down.

So changing a flat tire on a busy road in the pouring rain this afternoon with my butt sticking into oncoming traffic was merely a reminder that this is a game of chance, a new roll of the dice every day, and that stress is probably best managed not by avoiding it or minimizing it, but by the way we approach it. This is, in fact, the essence of the Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
Courage, to change the things I can;
And the wisdom to know the difference.

I might also ask that THE SPARE NOT BE FLAT, TOO, but then Sundays are pretty busy days for God. And the rain makes the flowers grow. And I burned a whole bunch of calories.

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UB-Day September 30

(UB-Day marks the birthdays of people born between 1955 and 1964. If you want to know more, please read this post.)

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Eric Stoltz (9/30/1961)

Eric Stoltz was born in Richard Nixon territory, Whittier, California, but raised in American Samoa and Santa Barbara, where as a teenager he earned money by accompanying local musical theater productions on the piano. He went on to study at USC, and then joined a repertory company in Scotland. He returned to the states and studied with Stella Adler in New York, and got his first movie role in…

…EVERYBODY SAY THIS TOGETHER…

Fast Times At Ridgemont High. We officially have a cultural marker for ubeys, no question.

He got immediate attention in 1985 for his performance in Mask, as Cher’s deformed son, and in John Hughes’s Some Kind of Wonderful in 1987.

During the 1990s, he went back and forth from stage to film to TV, building up an eclectic résumé that includes both studio films like Pulp Fiction (1994) and independent films like Sundance Festival Winner, The Waterdance (1992).

On television, he had a recurring role as Helen Hunt’s ex-boyfriend on Mad About You, and he also spent a year on Chicago Hope (1994). From 2001 to 2002, he had a recurring role on Once and Again, and he’s done some directing, including an episode of Law & Order.

Stoltz has had relationships with three famous ubey women — Ally Sheedy (UB-Day June 13), Jennifer Jason Leigh and Bridget Fonda. He currently lives in New Mexico.

Trivia: When Michael J. Fox had scheduling conflicts, Stoltz was cast as Marty McFly in Back to the Future and actually filmed for eight weeks before Fox rearranged things and was able to accept the role.

Age Today: 46.

Shares Birthday With: Kieran Culkin (25), Jenna Elfman (36), Fran Drescher (50), Barry Williams (53), Marilyn McCoo (64), Len Cariou (68), Johnny Mathis (72), Angie Dickinson (76), Elie Wiesel (79), and Deborah Kerr (86).

This Day In History: Actor James Dean was killed in a car accident at age 24 (1955).

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UB-Day September 29

(UB-Day marks the birthdays of people born between 1955 and 1964. If you want to know more, please read this post.)

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Stephanie Miller (9/29/1961)

Do you know Stephanie Miller? Hmm. Strange. She’s been sort of a fixture in this house for a few years, although not lately. Just goes to show you.

Stephanie was born in Lockport, New York and attended the University of Southern California, getting a degree in theater. After college, she performed as a stand-up comic at the Laugh Factory, and at many clubs around LA and New York. She also had a few small acting jobs.

But radio was a-callin’ Ms. Miller. She returned to Lockport to work on air at station WLVL, then moved to WCMF in Rochester to work as “Sister Sleaze on the Brother Wease Show (I really have no idea). She progressed up the chain and in 1993 was hired by talk station KFI in L.A., where she achieved high ratings with her weeknight talk show.

In 1995, she hosted her own late night TV show, although it was cancelled after 13 weeks. She also co-hosted the MSNBC show Equal Time, with Bay Buchanan, in 1997.

In September 2004, The Stephanie Miller Show was launched, three hours of liberal talk but also comedy and goofy stuff. It’s widely popular (and heard here in Seattle from 6 to 9 am) and just a whole lot of fun.

Miller has never been married, although she’s been making a list of future husbands for a while now (Keith Olbermann has been at the top lately).

My personal favorite Stephanie Miller story was the time she was on Larry King, representing some liberal viewpoint or another. A viewer sent a threatening letter, viewed by all concerned as a death threat. The viewer also included his address and phone number, so our Ms. Miller called him. On the air. Some things are priceless.

Trivia: She is the daughter of former U.S. Rep.William Miller, who some of you may remember as Barry Goldwater’s vice-presidential running mate in 1964. She’s got lots of interesting pictures.

Age Today: 47.

Shares Birthday With: Andrew Dice Clay (50), Bryant Gumbel (59), Ian McShane (65), Jerry Lee Lewis (70), Robert Benton (75), Anita Ekberg (76), Steve Forrest (83), and Lizabeth Scott (85).

This Day In History: Willie Mays took off running in a game against the Cleveland Indians and made a basket catch over his shoulder of a 450-foot blast. It is widely considered the greatest catch in baseball history (1954).

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UB-Day September 28

(UB-Day marks the birthdays of people born between 1955 and 1964. If you want to know more, please read this post.)

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Janeane Garafolo (9/28/1964)

Here’s something I’ll bet you didn’t know: Janeane Garafolo comes from Big Oil. Yup. Liberal activist and all. Life is funny.

Born to an Exxon executive and his wife, a secretary in the petrochemical industry, Janeane was born in Newton, New Jersey but also grew up in Southern California and Katy, Texas (where she graduated from high school). While attending Providence College, where she ultimately got degrees in history and American studies, Garafolo entered a comedy talent search and won the title of “Funniest Person in Rhode Island.” Which may be hard or not, I have no information.

After earning a reputation in the 1980s as a Goth-like, pre-grunge feminist observational comic, Garafolo made her film debut in Late For Dinner, one of my favorite films (and impossible to find on DVD, grrr), in a tiny role, before becoming a cast member on the short-lived The Ben Stiller Show on Fox in 1992. That led to her role as Paula on The Larry Sanders Show on HBO, which earned her two Emmy nominations.

She joined the cast of Saturday Night Live in 1994 but left after six months, citing weak material and a sexist attitude on the set (it was a horrible SNL year anyway). She did call Adam Sandler’s comedy “childish,” forever endearing her to me.

In 1996, she starred with Uma Thurman in The Truth About Cats and Dogs, a modest hit but a film she claims to detest now. She was also initially offered the Renee Zellweger role in Jerry Maguire, assuming she lost some weight, but Zellweger got it anyway.

She worked regularly in films in the 1990s, including in The Cable Guy, Half-Baked, Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, Dogma, Reality Bites, and Mystery Men.

In the 2005-2006 season, she appeared as Louise Thornton on The West Wing, and next season she has a featured role on 24.

Trivia: She was offered the part of Monica on Friends but turned it down.

Age Today: 43.

Shares Birthday With: Hilary Duff (20), Naomi Watts (39), Moon Zappa (40), Mira Sorvino (40), Steve Largent (53), John Sayles (57), Bridget Bardot (73), and William Windom (84).

This Day In History: Encounter at Farpoint, the first episode of the TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation, aired, beginning a continuous run of Star Trek shows that lasted 18 years.

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The Virtual Scale&#153

“In real life, I assure you, there is no such thing as algebra.” –Fran Lebowitz

I lived for a long time with the illusion that algebra was part of my DNA, that something I learned in high school would never leave, regardless of how often I used it. Which, of course, was never.

I had to take a math assessment test a while back, though, when I registered for classes at a local college; I didn’t have to, because I’m not getting a degree, but it wasn’t worth the effort to persuade the nice lady at the registration desk. Besides, I was curious.

Not so curious now. It wasn’t horrible, is all. The adviser who helped me arrange classes noted that people my age who score the way I did usually either are teachers or parents who help with homework. I didn’t mention that I’d spent two hours the night before reviewing basic concepts, trying to remember how to multiply fractions.

Mathematics, then, never a strong point, is not going to be part of my skill set. Arithmetic, on the other hand, I can do. Give me a spreadsheet to build, in fact, and I’m in computer heaven. Numbers can be fun.

So when I decided it was time to lose weight and try to eat and live better, I opted to play to my strengths (or nerdiness, whatever).

(Yes, I said I wasn’t going to blog about this. I say lots of things.)

Diets are just tricks, sleight-of-hand maneuvers to help us lie to ourselves. We get fat, all things being equal (i.e., no endocrinology issues), by eating too much or exercising too little, or (probably) both. You can count fat, carbs, protein, fiber, sodium, fingers, toes…the only thing worth counting, really, is calories, what you bring in and what you give back to the world. Or so it seems to me.

Psychologically, though, it’s a different game. So my mission, assuming I accepted it, was to find an interesting way to lose weight while doing it the old-fashioned way; that is, making sure “less” and “more” are on the right sides of the equation.

I know there are some of you who look at counting calories and think, “That is so 1965.” Sorry. But the earth revolves around the sun, dogs are man’s best friend, George Bush shirked his National Guard duty, God didn’t make little green apples and it don’t rain in Indianapolis in the summertime…and calories count.

So. Your body takes a certain amount of caloric intake to maintain its weight (this can vary, for lots of reasons, but if you’re sedentary, for example, multiply your weight and 14 and you’re in the ballpark). A pound is considered 3500 calories. Ergo, if you weigh 200 pounds and sit on your butt a lot, you need 2800 calories a day to stay where you are, and if you drop that to, say, 1800 calories a day, in a week you should lose 2 pounds (1000 x 7 = 7000).

Two pounds a week is an ideal weight loss, say the experts, who are generally puritanical and thin. I don’t know a single fat person who wants to lose only 2 pounds a week, even facing facts. “But you didn’t gain it all at once,” they say. Hello? YES WE DID. Or it sure felt like it. And it’s a lot easier to double your caloric intake than halve it. And more fun.

But quicker weight loss runs into trouble, arithmetically and physically. You can’t lose a pound a day by dieting if you only need 2800 calories to stay in place; you’d end up in negative numbers. Plus, you’d starve. And below a certain level your body assumes it’s The Great Famine and shuts down the metabolism factory, and thus you end up totally screwed.

This is what I call The Einstein Factor&#153. You know, in the famous Theory of Relativity that people pretend to understand but really don’t in which Einstein proved that nothing can go faster than the speed of light because he said so.

But people do lose weight fast. Like wrestlers, jockeys, and Tom Hanks in “Philadelphia.” What’s their secret?

They do the math. They not only get into negative calories by eating less, but they exercise more *shudder*. Our theoretical 200-pound person up above can double his/her weight loss simply by burning 1000 extra calories a day. Which means walking briskly 2-3 hours daily, for example. A commitment.

But, wait. What about those gastric bypass people who get on the cover of People magazine? They lose weight like crazy.

Yeah. Because they’re real fat. Back to the numbers. If you weigh 350 pounds or so, that’s nearly a 5000-calorie maintenance requirement daily. Lop off 3500 calories a day and you’ve still got 1500 to eat, which is not that hard. Especially when your stomach is all hog tied and you spend most of your waking hours in the bathroom.

But there’s more! Keep reading!

Your daily caloric requirement goes down as you lose weight, obviously. And as you drop pounds, the amount of calories you burn with a given exercise goes down, too (slower, though). So there are a number of calculations that have to be tweaked constantly.

Thus we have The Virtual Scale&#153. You were waiting, I know.

I’ve determined how much weight I want to lose (this is pretty easy). I’ve picked a time period to lose it in. I’ve opened my spreadsheet. I’ve got a food scale and I know how to use it. I have a calorie-counting Web site bookmarked.

The first 10 pounds will be easy, no sweat. After that, every week, I’ve plugged in exactly how much extra exercise I have to do, eating the same amount of calories, to keep the net caloric loss at the same level. And I’ve projected this all the way into January, when I should be where I want. Gradually I’ll add in more exercise as needed, so no big change that way, eat pretty much the same, and be happy and healthier.

And all this without stepping on a scale.

See, here’s the beauty of my plan (which you would be paying big bucks for somewhere else, trust me): According to my spreadsheet, and the laws of physics or mathematics or metabolism or something, my weight loss should be imminently calculable without once turning toward that stupid appliance on my bathroom floor. All I have to do is crunch the numbers and the software will tell me what I weigh. And I can tell you. Or my wife, or son, or strangers at the bus stop. Probably all three.

And just typing this, I’ve burned extra calories. Don’t you want to know how many? Me too. I’m going to look it up now. But I won’t blog about it.

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UB-Day September 27

(UB-Day marks the birthdays of people born between 1955 and 1964. If you want to know more, please read this post.)

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Beth Heiden (9/27/1959)

We’ve had married ubeys, and Brat Pack ubeys, and virtually the entire cast of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, but today marks the first sibling ubey.

Not overshadowed by her famous brother (Eric; UB-day June 14) in the slightest, Elizabeth Lee Heiden-Reid was a natural athlete, and exceeded her brother in running and biking; she biked as sort of cross training, but won the U.S. Road Race Championships and the World Road Race Championships in 1980. And following the 1980 Winter Olympics, where she won a bronze medal in the 3000 m speed skating event (with an injured ankle), she was the NCAA Women’s National Champion in cross-country skiing and an All-American in the sport. She was also a stand-out high school soccer and tennis player.

For most of her speed skating career, Heiden was still a junior, but she already belonged to the absolute world top. This led to the situation that she participated in both junior and “regular” championships during the same season several times, both with great successes. This was most obvious in 1979, when she became World Allround Champion and, three weeks afterwards, World Junior Allround Champion, while at both championships winning all four distances. In addition, in between those two championships, she also won silver at the World Sprint Championships, winning both 1000 m races.

Heiden still is one of only two American women to have become World Allround Champion, the other one being Kit Klein in 1936. Heiden was inducted in the National Speedskating Hall of Fame in 1989. Her brother Eric was inducted the same day.

Trivia: As a high schooler, she set the world record in her age group for running the mile.

Age Today: 48.

Shares Birthday With: Avril Lavigne (23), Gwyneth Paltrow (35), Shaun Cassidy (49), Mike Schmidt (58), Wilford Brimley (73), Sada Thompson (78), Arthur Penn (85), and Jayne Meadows (87).

This Day In History: Lancaster, PA became the capitol of the United States. For one day.

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Broadcast Baby, Part 2

This is turning into Media Month here on this site, I guess. The radio interview I taped several weeks ago aired last night, and it’s now up on their “Past Shows” site and will be for a week (it’s under the “Tuesday” heading). I’m in the second hour, so if you forward to the one-hour mark you’ll be there.

I also have the raw MP3, which I’ll edit and tinker with a bit and maybe post here when I figure out how, assuming I get permission.

I’ve found that the show’s site works better in IE than Firefox, but your experience may differ. At any rate, if you’re interested in listening to me ramble on about recovery, have a listen.

And make a game out of it! Count the “uh’s and umm’s” and compete with your friends! A good time for all.

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UB-Day September 26

(UB-Day marks the birthdays of people born between 1955 and 1964. If you want to know more, please read this post.)

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Linda Hamilton (9/26/1956)

Linda Hamilton was born in Salisbury, Maryland, and studied acting at Washington College and then in New York with Lee Strasberg.

She made her film debut in a big way, starring in Children Of The Corn in 1984, a film that was widely panned but still has a huge cult following and probably has become a fixture in the nightmares of a whole generation.

It was her role in The Terminator, though, that cemented her place in film history, playing the buff, resilient Sarah Connor.

She followed Arnold and company with several film roles, including Jim Belushi’s love interest in the 1990 film Mr. Destiny, a corny, sentimental, sort of dumb film that still has a place in my heart for some reason.

In 1987, she was cast in the TV series Beauty and the Beast with Ron Perlman, another creation that has a legion of fans and (I’m assuming) web sites, even after all these years.

Hamilton has continued to make films and appearances on television, including a guest shot on Frasier and the volcano flick Dante’s Peak.

She’s been married three times; she attributes her first two divorces to her bipolar disorder, for which she finally sought treatment in 1996. Her third marriage was to Terminator and Titanic director James Cameron, which ended when she discovered Cameron was having an affair. She got $80 million in the divorce settlement and apparently has no hard feelings.

Trivia: Linda Hamilton has a twin sister, which, when you think about it, would have made a nice plot twist in The Terminator.

Age Today: 51.

Shares Birthday With: Jim Caviezel (39), Melissa Sue Anderson (45), Olivia Newton-John (59), Mary Beth Hurt (59), Christie Todd Whitman (61), and Jack LaLanne (93).

This Day In History: West Side Story, by Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein, and Stephen Sondheim, opened on Broadway (1957).

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UB-Day September 25

(UB-Day marks the birthdays of people born between 1955 and 1964. If you want to know more, please read this post.)

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Heather Locklear (9/25/1961)

Doesn’t it seem like Heather Locklear has been around forever? There’s a reason for that.

Born in Westwood, California, the daughter of the dean of the UCLA school of engineering, Locklear attended UCLA and began modeling and working in commercials for the school store. She got her first TV role in 1979 (TV movie Tales of the Unexpected) and then an episode of CHiPs the next year.

Aaron Spelling spotted Locklear and cast her as bad girl Sammy Jo on Dynasty in 1981 (she’s 20 at this point, in case you’re not following the math). She was so popular that Spelling also cast her opposite William Shatner in T.J. Hooker, so she had two prime time shows throughout the 1980s.

After a failed sitcom, now-veteran Heather Locklear was added to the cast of Melrose Place in 1993, and when that show went off the air she immediately jumped to Spin City with Michael J. Fox.

After losing out to Teri Hatcher for a part on Desperate Housewives, Locklear starred in the airport drama LAX (2004-2005). Currently (I’m guessing), she’s just trying to catch her breath.

Trivia: Her cousin is Marla Maples, Donald Trump’s second wife.

Age Today: 46.

Shares Birthday With: Matt Hasselbeck (32), Catherine Zeta-Jones (38), Scottie Pippen (42), Aida Turturro (45), Bob McAdoo (56), Mark Hamill (56), Anson Williams (58), Michael Douglas (63), Robert Gates (64), and Barbara Walters (78).

This Day In History: Spanish engineer and mathematician Leonardo Torres y Quevedo, a remarkable inventor, demonstrated his Telekino device, using electromagnetic waves to control a ship from shore, thus bringing in the era of the remote control (1906).

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The Incredible Lightness Of Being (sic)

It’s a stunning early fall day here, brisk but sunny, something I didn’t expect yesterday and so I mowed the lawn, maybe for the last time until spring. It’s hard to say in this neck of the woods.

And my first quarter as a college student since 1982 started today, although sort of with a whimper. I checked in with my online class and got the week’s assignment. Wednesday night I have my only regular class on campus, although on Saturday I begin a month of weekend all-day sessions. I have no idea how this all will work out, but the goal is to acquire a chemical dependency certificate within a year or so, and be working in the field before then. After that, maybe Wal-Mart, who knows? I don’t.

And in the spirit of preparing, I tossed out some nuts.

I was eating nuts at Mom’s house in Arizona on my visit; I cleaned her out, and I just got the taste and bought a big jar. There wasn’t much left, but I emptied the rest into the sink.

I also opened half a gallon of my favorite ice cream, ate my fill, then discarded that, too.

This past year has been an adventure in a lot of ways (including ice cream), most involving new challenges but some about letting others sit for the time being. “Sit” is sort of an operative word for me, unfortunately.

When I had surgery last November, I was pleased and surprised to find myself on the low end of fatness, maybe 25 pounds above what I consider to be a normal weight for a guy just south of 50 who lives in the United States of Obesity. I was encouraged; losing 25 pounds would be nothing, a walk in the park. So I spent the next 10 months gaining 25 more, just to be a smartass.

Autumn is a good time to focus on this, or it feels that way to me. It’s been 4-1/2 years since the last time I took the pledge, and that worked out well. I dropped 60-plus pounds, and got new clothes and everything. The problem with eternal vigilance, though, which is necessary at my age, is that when they say “eternal” they actually mean, like, eternal. Constant. Not so much with the ice cream.

It’s all good. I’m starting new things, classes and autumn and (this is sort of a prayer, now) some kind of real, non-writing job that interests me and pays on a regular basis, a regular amount. So turning this fatso thing around fits right in.

I have no idea, actually, what will happen to this Web site you’re currently visiting, but I’m assuming I’ll still be around, ubey-ing and all. And I have no intention of turning this into a weight-loss blog, with graphs and numbers and pats on the back. Although I might make a note here and there about how I’m doing. Just to keep me honest.

I’m not about to say where I’m starting, either, except that the number I saw on the scale this morning had a “7” in it. You can probably figure out the other numbers from that.

I have no particular plan, except to eat less and exercise more, although I might try a few tricks I know. Drink a lot of water, stay away from sugar, eat regular meals, that sort of thing. It’s not rocket science. I know how to walk, and I have an iPod; I think that pretty much covers it.

I’m not in a hurry; there are no more reunions in my foreseeable future, or movie roles or old friends to fool. I’m just going to defat now, and with any luck by spring, when I drag that lawn mower out again, it’ll be a little easier to push it around the yard, my stomach will stay inside my pants where it belongs, my wife will be all googly-eyed about my stunning physique, and when I step on a scale there won’t be any of those damn 7s. Not even one.

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