Time To Change – Setting The Starting Parameters

Some people are not going to like this post.

I understand that.  There are lots of ways to approach the process of losing weight and getting into better physical shape.  If a certain way works for you, I would expect that you will have an emotional attachment to that system.  There is a lot of passion that is generated by discussions of this sort.  It’s all good.  Remember that my criticism is of the system and not of the people who use it.  My approach is very simple.

Did it work for you?  Great.

Here’s what works for me.

You will never find a popular/fad diet here.  You will never find a diet that requires you to completely eliminate any particular food group.  You will never find a diet that requires unusual eating patterns (I’m thinking of regular fasting here).  You will never find a diet where you buy pre-packaged food.   The reason is simple.

I don’t believe in them.  I don’t believe they are based on good science that will help people in the long run.  I do believe that most of them can help you lose weight in the short term.  Possibly a lot of weight, possibly in a short period of time.

That’s not the answer I’m looking for on this journey.  I’m less than 20 pounds away from my goal.  I could jump on one of these quickie diets, drop those pounds in a couple weeks, get my “Damn, don’t I look good” photos taken and then begin the inevitable slide back up the weight chart.

Just. Not. Interested.

Here’s what my “program” is based on.  The sure knowledge that I eat too much, often of the wrong food and I sit on my butt for too much of each day.  I don’t need someone to prepare my meals for me.  I’m a grownup, I ought to be able to feed myself.  I don’t need someone to tell me I need to go outside and play.  I’m a grownup, I ought to be able to maintain the base level of activity to keep my body healthy.

I just bent some people’s noses out of shape.  That’s fine.  Remember, I’m describing my process.  The only one I’m responsible for on a daily basis.  That means learning what my body needs.  A body in late middle age.  A body with T2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • It’s really not that complicated
  • But it’s still hard
  • People who want to sell me something should be treated with a LARGE dose of skepticism
  • It’s about a balanced diet
  • It’s about regular exercise
  • As long as you’re willing to put in the work, it doesn’t require anything fancy or expensive
  • If you’re not willing to put in the work, it doesn’t matter how much you spend
  • Success or failure is mine.

Your journey is different.  Even if you’re a late middle-aged, T2 diabetic with high blood pressure.  My way will almost surely work for you.  But I’m not offering a guarantee.

My job is to succeed on my journey.

My hope is to share what works and to inspire you on your journey.



(Some folks face different issues than I do.  It is possible to have additional medical conditions that make weight loss more difficult.  Their journies will be very different and more difficult.  My belief is that the majority of us don’t fall into that category.)

My resolution remains:


want to am going to be The Guy again.  The Guy weighed 175 pounds and looked good and felt good.  And his blood pressure was good and his blood tests were good.



Active Minutes – Goal is 150/week

Steps – Goal is 10,000/day

Watch my activity on my Fitbit page

Biking Mileage – Winter Break

I track my mileage with MapMyRide

The next milestone is getting back below 185.  I will get there and go on.

Official Weigh-In Weight

192 pounds

Weight Change this week: -1.0 pounds

Total Weight Loss To Date: 1.0 pounds– Goal is 17  pounds

Goal Weight and Total to Lose – 175/35


Photo – Back To My Roots

In the beginning, there was black and white.  That’s where you began.  It’s where you learned.  I skipped over that part.  I have no formal training at all.  I picked up a camera and started to play.  And I played in black and white.

It was never my primary film of choice.  I was a slide guy (and that is an enormous pain in the ass today.  Somehow I have to come up with the money to get hundreds of slides digitized.  Sigh.  Prints I can scan quickly).  While I love shooting in color, I continue to be fascinated by the unique artistic and creative challenges of black and white.

So I’ve been playing with some shots recently.

This one is almost cheating.  The keyboard is black and white except for some orange icons on the “f” function keys.  But the original color version just felt blah to me.  So I flipped this to black and white and cropped it a little.  Everything seems to pop a little more for me here.

This one started as a much wider angle view of the washing machine at the laundromat.  If you spend much time in such places, you know that boredom is the one constant.  So it can be a great place to try and find some way of being creative.  Because I didn’t want a perfectly centered picture, I took this from the side.  That resulted in an image that looked titled and no amount of simple cropping fixed it.  So I zoomed in tight on just the door.  The blur in the window is my laundry underway.  Laundromats give me a slightly disoriented feeling, and the blur of the clothes plus the slight blurriness on the edge of the door give me that same feeling.  Again, almost a cheat because the majority of the item is silver.  But what little color there was in the image was distracting, so the B&W works here again.

There was plenty of color here, but again it felt like it distracted.  This is my writing desk set up.  The dual screen is a new experiment that I find intriguing.  The lighting has a noir feeling to it that is offset by the whimsey of the rubber ducks and Wrimer, my writing companions.

Just as when people ask writers where our ideas come from, the answer for photographers is the same.  Ideas are everywhere.  You just need to keep your eyes open for them and be willing to experiment along the way.  Play with something new, go back to something old.  The process of playing is a large part of the process of creativity.

All images are the property of J.D. Phillippi.  All rights reserved.

Copyright 2018

Short Stories – The Djinn Falls In Love and Other Stories

This post is part of a year-long series about short stories.  Read about my “Year of the Short Story” HERE.

The Djinn Falls In Love and Other Stories by Mahvesh Murad, K. J. Parker, Kuzhali Manickavel, Maria Dahvana Headley (2017) – A collection of stories from around the world focusing on the djinn, the magical spirits from Arabian and Muslim mythology.  From breakthrough writers to the world-renowned, like Neil Gaiman, this is a fascinating and sometimes challenging collection of stories.

  • Keep Calm and Focus on the Short Stories
    •  Amal El-Mohtar — A Tale of Ash in Seven Birds
    • Catherine King — Queen of Sheba
    • Claire North — Hurrem and the Djinn
    • E.J. Swift — The Jinn Hunter’s Apprentice
    • Helene Wecker — Majnun
    • Hermes (trans. Robin Moger) — The Djinn Falls in Love
    • Jamal Mahjoub — Duende 2077
    • James Smythe — The Sand in the Glass is Right
    • J.Y. Yang — Glass Lights
    • Kamila Shamsie — The Congregation
    • Kirsty Logan — The Spite House
    • K.J. Parker — Message in a Bottle
    • Kuzhali Manickavel — How We Remember You
    • Maria Dahvana Headley — Black Powder
    • Monica Byrne — Authenticity
    • Nada Adel Sobhi — Time is a Teacher
    • Neil Gaiman — Somewhere in America
    • Nnedi Okorafor — History
    • Saad Hossein — Bring Your Own Spoon
    • Sami Shah — REAP
    • Sophia Al-Maria — The Righteous Guide of Arabsat
    • Usman Malik — Emperors of Jinn

This is a highly recommended collection from just last year.  For most westerners, the “djinn”, are the “genies” of A Thousand and One Nights and the variations on the theme.  As with so many cultural items picked up along the way, our understanding of the character is largely reduced to a cartoon.  The Djinn can be found in cultures all around the world, and they are a multi-faceted concept.  This collection offers a wonderful insight into them.

Every offering is written with great skill, and I was challenged to expand my understanding along the way.  Which is what great storytelling always does.  Some of the stories touched me more deeply than others.

My favorites here are:

  • “Reap” – In some ways the least”challenging” of the stories.  Not because of the writing but because the story of U.S. military operators directing drones in Afghanistan is very familiar.  What they see through the eyes of their drone is something else entirely.
  • “Majnun” – One of the djinn has turned away from his kind and become a human who exorcises djinn from other humans.  His confrontation with his ancient beloved is beautiful and heartbreaking.
  • “A Tale of Ash in Seven Birds” – This is a stunning piece of writing that shows the djinn fleeing from one form in our world to another trying to survive.
  • “Message In a Bottle” – a scientist has the cure for a worldwide plague.  It is sealed inside a bottle.  The question is this, is it the cure for the disease inside, or the pestilence that will destroy the world entirely?

I could list almost every story here as a favorite.  There is just a handful that didn’t connect with me.  But none of them left me feeling that I had wasted my time reading them.

Looking for something new and different?  Here’s a great collection to add to your list.

Writing – We Don’t Need No Stinking Rules!

I am fascinated and troubled by many posts I see from new/aspiring/beginner writers on some of the writing social media sites I frequent.  There is a recurring theme of “What are the rules for…?”.  How many words in a chapter, how many chapters in a novel,  what’s the “right way” to write such and such.

It just makes me shake my head.

So, after first stating that I am a journeyman author myself but a veteran reader, let me say this clearly:

There are no rules.

Every English teacher, every grammarian, and a great many authors just had their heads explode.  So let me explain.

Certainly, there are “rules” when it comes to things like grammar and usage in any language.  Knowing those rules is a solid foundation for any writer.  A foundation that I absolutely support.  Learn the rules.

Then toss them over the side as needed.

You will see me say this over and over and over on this blog – the only things that matter is the story.  If, in the pursuit of your story, you need to use non=standard English, do it.  If, in the pursuit of your story, your chapters are five words long or five thousand words long, do it.  Ignore the classic plot diagram of introduction, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution if they get in the way of your story.

Great stories have been told that ignored the rules.  Great stories have been told that adhered to every rule.

It’s not about the rules.  It’s always about the story.

Looking for “the rules” is a belief that there’s a magic formula for writing.  Once you know the proper “spell” you will become a great/popular/best-selling author.  It just isn’t so.  If it were that easy, there would be a lot more best-selling authors out there.  Sadly, there are people who claim to sell exactly that.  Without even looking at their product or ideas, I say stay away.  There is no easy checklist of rules for success.

Learn your craft.  Learn how great writers have done it for centuries.  Watch as some of the greatest simply do their own thing.  Watch them tell their story.

Then do likewise.



A Life In Faith, Whatever the Hell That Is

(My faith is an important part of my life.  I do not set up my life or my beliefs as anything other than my understanding of the Divine.  If they shine some tiny light on your journey then I will be happy for us both. YMMV)

I do not wear religious jewelry except at worship times (and not always then).  I have no religious symbols or scripture tattooed on my body.  I have a small Episcopal Shield bumper sticker on my car.  I don’t pray in public.  I don’t use any of the common religious phrases in conversation (sometimes I will use “Amen” sarcastically). I almost never quote Scripture outside of my community of faith.   If you passed me on the street, you would see no obvious indication that I am a person of faith.

And I’m just fine with that.Triquetra symbol

My guides in living a life in faith begin with Matthew 6:5-6, which says:

 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

I’m also a big fan of Matthew 7:16-20, which says:

By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

I want the world to figure out my faith by watching me live my life.  By the work that I do and the manner in which I deal with the people around me. I do not trust people who make a big show out of their faith.  I know there are many fine, faithful people who do all of the stuff listed above.  It’s not for me.  Judge me by the fruits of my faith, not the flash.  That’s just me.

I am unconvinced that I have anything to brag about spiritually and therefore it’s not my place to be telling anyone that I’m going to a final reward.  I’m suspicious of those who seem convinced that their heavenly ticket is punched.  I live in hope of redemption.  I am yearning for the gift of grace.  But if I’m honest, I’m not making any claims about my personal salvation.

I have no desire for crowns or harps or wings.  My goal is to come before God and saying “I know it wasn’t enough, but it was the best I could do.  I took the gifts you gave me and made as much out of them as I could.  I’m sure I didn’t get it all right.  But I did the best I could.”.  And being greeted with “Well done, thou good and faithful servant”. (Yeah, I kind of like the old fashioned language.)

A life in faith isn’t about fear of Hell.  It isn’t about certainty.  It isn’t about piety or purity or polity.  It’s about taking what is given us, good and bad, gifts and challenges, and doing as much as we can.  Knowing that it will be imperfect, knowing that our great mighty works in this world will be the least of our accomplishments in the next.  That it may be the tiniest moment, when we get that speck of creation time and space just right, that is the true jewel of our time on this planet.

Any moment may be the moment. So my goal is to live every moment as a moment of faith.  And to do the best I can.



Writing – A Walk Through Memory

(I attended a “Writers Salon” put on by the wonderful folks at James River Writers late last year.  An interesting evening.  JRW is a great local writer’s organization.  The exercise was to do some “free writing” in a short period of time.  Don’t worry about editing or spelling, just write.  The prompt is those first two words.)

I remember…

The simple joy of walking. Today it always seems like walking has to be for a reason, to a destination. But there was a time when walking was just for the joy of seeing what was on the next block, over the next hill or around the next corner. My head was up, my eyes and ears were open and I experienced the world in a way I don’t seem to have the time to do anymore. The air was filled with wonderful aromas and I filed my lungs with it. I remember the joy of seeing things I had looked at a hundred times before but actually seeing them for the very first time. I remember that the world seemed a startlingly wonderful place. Rainy days, sunny days or days when the wind blew hard, it was all thrilling and wonderful and new. I remember when a walk was an adventure. Today when I walk I think to look for those wonderful sights and intoxicating smells that I remember.

(I did this on my phone originally.  Went to a writing event with no writing materials! What was I thinking?  That was an interesting experience.  I’ve determined that I don’t like writing on my phone.  I have cleaned it up to post here.

Sound like fun?  Try it yourself.  Five minutes.  No editing in that time period.  Share in the comments if you’d like.  You can clean it up for posting!)

Life Among the Underemployed – Milestone?

(These posts will appear when there is something to report)

I am comfortably in excess of 400 days without full-time employment.

need-a-jobAnd that sucks.

In the course of that time I have been:

  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Depressed
  • Inspired
  • Hopeful
  • Defeated
  • Tired
  • Scared
  • Scared
  • Scared

I hate writing these damn posts.  I hate that I have anything to add to this series.  I hate that I feel like I am not pulling my weight in my family.  Everyone else has steady, full-time jobs.  I’ve applied for over 150 job openings.  In as many different industries as I can think I might qualify.  I’ve gotten two interviews.  I didn’t get the nod at one and did at the other.  I tried the work with Aflac (great company and products) but the work just wasn’t for me.  It made me dread getting up and going to work each day.  Nausea, anxiety, you name it.  So I told them that it just wasn’t working out.

As it turns out, looking for a full-time job is almost a full-time job in and of itself.  Which is hard when you are trying to staunch the bleeding from our financial reserves doing multiple part-time jobs.  There’s never enough time and that adds to the stress.

I don’t know what to do.  I know that I can’t quit.  Quitting sounds really inviting some days.  Roll up into a ball and quit.  Pull the blankets over my head and quit.  Dive to the bottom of a bottle and quit.

Just effing quit.

But that’s not who I am.

Maybe things will change before I hit 500, or 200, or 600, or 300…

So I will keep my head up, my eyes open, my heart strong.

Waiting to see the next chapter in my life.

Whatever it turns out to be.

And I’ll keep you up to date on how that goes.