Thursday, February 21, 2013

Broken Down Cars & Unconditional Love

So, the reason I posted all the sins of my Mercury LN7 was because of what I think it has taught me about Unconditional Love.

This car has betrayed me over and over again, on a nearly daily basis.  It has tried in several ways to kill me.  It devises new and bizarre ways to fail me.  And yet, I love the car.  It seems crazy, I know, but I have chosen this car to be my own and will not go back on that choice.

And that is just the way God has been with me.  I am even worse to God than my LN7 is to me.  And yet He continues to love me and work on fixing me up.  I sometimes doubt that God can really love someone as unfaithful and guilty of betrayal as I am.  But I am forced to either one of two conclusions.  Either, (1) I think that my capacity for loving the unlovely exceeds God's; or (2) God really is able to love me in spite of my failings.

I think I'll go with the latter.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Trials and Tribulations of My 30-Year-Old "New" Car!

In reading the following list, you have to understand that I am not complaining about the "new" car I bought.  I still love it!  But I wanted to catalog what has gone wrong with this car to date, because it has given me an unprecedented level of trouble.  And I say that as someone who has excelled at buying problematic cars!

Also, I have a method to my madness.  After making this blog entry, I intend to do a follow-up posting about what I have learned from this trying experience!  Okay, here goes:

I bought the car on November 10, 2012.  It had a bit over 74,000 miles showing on the odometer (most likely 174,000 miles!).

Stuff I found inside the car after I bought it ... hmmmm.

My LN7 ... posing next to the place it is trying to send me!

* Just driving it back home, I noticed that I was breathing in a LOT of exhaust fumes, and getting light-headed.  I subsequently bought a carbon-monoxide (CO) detector and found that I was breathing in rather alarming amounts of this toxic gas.  More on that later.

*  I got home and looked at the tires ... there were three different sizes of them (all 13" diameter), and at least one of them was almost bald.  I later replaced these with new 14" Firestone Winterforce tires.

* The passenger's side door lock quit working almost immediately, so I ordered 2 new lock cylinders from ebay.

* The accessory drive belt was squealing, so I replaced it.  Within about 10 days, it started squealing again.  In the process, I found that the alternator bracket was missing a bolt.  I found one to put in.

*  I noticed that the passenger's side door has a huge gap between it and the body along the rear surface behind the window.  Unresolved as of yet, but I did glue some foam in there to help keep the exhaust gas out.

*  Parking brake didn't work.  The 3rd time I attempted to fix it, it finally stayed fixed.

*  The hatchback would not stay open.  Ordered new struts from AutoZone.  That is still working.

*  Car was running rough, stalling and missing.  I replaced the spark plugs, spark plug wires, coil, and eventually the carburetor.  Problem was not fixed.

*  Blew out the lower radiator hose.  Replaced it.

* As soon as I put in the new radiator hose, it became apparent that I had a blown head gasket. I took it to a shop where they replaced the head gasket, made the warped head flat again, did a valve job, installed a new camshaft, a new water pump, and a new timing belt.

*  Car seemed to run better, but the carburetor now stuck coming off idle, so that it wouldn't go until you pressed quite hard, and then all of a sudden, it would cut loose, and you'd have too much acceleration.  Still having that problem, but at a less severe level.

*  BEFORE all the engine repairs and carb change, I averaged 29 mpg.  AFTER all the repairs and installing the rebuilt car, I'm averaging about 25 mpg.  Wait, WHAT!

*  To help with the CO problem, I sprayed foam into all the crevasses around the hatchback.  I also put an extended tailpipe on the car.  Those things helped a little, but the engine rebuild is what really made the carbon-monoxide problem go away.

*  Driver's side door stuck shut.  Ordered a new latch, which took 20 days to arrive.  In the mean time I had to climb in and out of the passenger's door.  But when the car was in the shop for engine repair, he used the driver's door.  After that, it wouldn't shut at all, so I had to duct tape it shut and enter/exit through the passenger's door.

*  Water temp gauge stopped working.  New sender was installed along with the head gasket job.

*  Replaced the driver's side latch.  Other than some funkiness with the lock cylinder orientation, it basically works.

*  New winter tires (on 14" Escort rims from ebay) required 1" thick adapters, which pushed the wheels out farther than they should be.  Right rear wheel hits the fender when carrying a passenger.

*   Yesterday morning, my seat broke.  The seat came unattached from where it had been welded to the seat track.  I took it out at put the passenger's seat over on the driver's side.

*  This morning, the car would not start.  Roll-started it and drove to the gym.  After my cardio session, the LN7 would not start again.  Diagnosis:  Broken "yoke" on the negative terminal.

I'm sure I've left out quite a few items, but that's most of what I've dealt with since buying this car.

Dating Challenges of the Shy Anglican Parish

This morning, I was thinking about all the struggling little Anglican parishes I have known in my 22 years in Anglicanism.  Some have gone under due to losing "critical mass".  One of those was among the most beloved parishes my wife and I have attended.  And yet, somehow, it couldn't attract enough parishioners to itself to survive.

I got to thinking how unfair this is, that so many beautiful, small Anglican parishes are struggling.  As I thought about this, I thought about the metaphor of a shy, introverted girl who is longing to go out on dates with a gentleman, but against whom the entire deck seems stacked when it comes to the dating scene.

I think many folks get attracted to a loud, boisterous, in-your-face church, perhaps with a worship band loud enough to hear when you drive by the church building in a car.  Churches with big youth groups, singles ministries, and a host of other programs.  Churches that promise a lot.  Churches that "put out" on the first date.

I think it is very easy for a nice, shy parish to get lost in the noise.  I mean, one cannot just put a marquee sign out front that says:  "Come, experience our AWESOME humility!!!"  Or, "Hey, come behold our EARTH-SHATTERING quiet reverence!!"

I don't have an answer to this problem.  I'm just blogging about it to share my sadness that so many nice, shy Anglican "girls" get overlooked.

Gym Bans Skinny People!

This is just a logical extension of the Planet Fitness anti-bodybuilder, anti-fitness mindset:

Sorry, skinny people -- you can’t work out here.

One gym in Canada is taking the growing “plus-size friendly” gym trend to the extreme and banning too-trim gym rats from exercising at its facility.

Body Exchange in Vancouver has a strict policy that only allows plus-size women to join their fitness center.

Founder and CEO Louise Green told last week that the gym is a “safe haven” for overweight people.

Read the rest here.

The obvious question is:  What if (horror of horrors!) one of the members actually succeeds at weight loss?  Does she get kicked out of the gym?  After all, her newly slim body is a non-welcoming threat to new members!  It is more likely, however, that the gym owners know that none of their clients will succeed.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Bodybuilding Contest Prep in Lent

I've read this passage many times, and heard it read in church service yearly, but yesterday it jolted me awake.
And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,
Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered. 
And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. 
And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.

What got my attention about the passage was the word "bread." This was because I am on an extended bodybuilding contest prep diet, which doesn't allow me to eat any bread.

During the prep periods for two of my past bodybuilding contests, I had to drive by a bakery every morning on my way to work. This became a certain special kind of torture. And, on those rare occasions on which I was allowed a "cheat meal" and ate bread, I found that its taste had become to me as sweet as cake.

So when the passage about Jesus' fasting and temptation (from St. Luke's Gospel) was read yesterday morning, it hit me in a powerful way. More than usual, I identified with Jesus in his temptations.

I think it almost goes without saying that American Christians today are better at feasting than at fasting. One look at the extended guts on the faithful, and perhaps even particularly on clergymen, should be enough to convince anyone that living a "fasted life" is not high on the list of concerns of today's average Christian.

I am thankful to the bodybuilding lifestyle for many reasons. One of them I thank God for today is that it has taught me self-denial. It has taught me to fast.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Why "Bro Science" IS Science!

There is a hotly raging debate these days within the bodybuilding community regarding what is pejoratively referred to as "Bro Science."  Proponents of "official" Science mock the efforts at scientific inquiry made by those with no credentials other than dramatic success in bodybuilding.  I made this video to explain why I believe that so-called "Bro Science" very often is a valid form of scientific inquiry.

There is a huge crop of young minds that possesses a truly religious fervor in the worship of Science.  Anyone who has performed official scientific studies for a living (as I have, for a few decades now) knows how messy and subject to human failings "official Science" can be.  Often, the wrong questions are asked, or important variables overlooked and left uncontrolled.  Often there is bias towards one finding as over against the opposite finding.  "Real" science is quite messy, not the clean and simple thing that many of its proponents would have us believe.

Here is my video.

And here is a video from 19-year-old Ian McCarthy, which takes up the opposite view.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

St. Valentine's Day Poem - Redux

For those of you who may have missed this poem last February, here it is again!

 Saint Valentine's Day

On this most blessed day, the candy sellers are the winners.
The scandal of a saint's day reimagined by the sinners.
The cards will fly, the lovers gorge, the florists will deliver.
Any everyone will hope to catch a dart from Cupid's quiver.
No fasting nor remembrance for you, dear St. Valentine,
But gluttony and avarice, and chocolate and wine.

If each day in the kalendar were stolen thus away,
We'd gobble gobs of Swedish fish upon St. Peter's day,
Or else each pair of lovers, driven on by high decrees,
Would have to exchange jewelry in the shape of golden keys.

On John the Baptist's Day, the silver chargers would accrue.
We'd swallow candy flaying knives for St. Bartholomew.
To honor Theodosia, we would swarm the beach with glee,
And gaily in her honor cast ourselves into the sea.

For Latimer and Ridley and Archbishop Cranmer's sake,
We Anglican romantics could burn hot dogs at the stake,
And just to wet our whistles as we watched the pretty flame,
Sip rich Ugandan coffee for the martyrs of the same.

The pagan in his revelry will never be contented
Until each fast becomes a feast, and all the year's unLented.
But as of now, be thankful that they scarcely have begun,
And of the days of martyrs have perverted only one.
For us who would remember of each martyrdom the price,
A lowered head, a silence, and a Collect may suffice.

©  2012, Paul Erlandson

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Perfect Response to Ian McCarthy

This guy says EXACTLY what needed to be said to Ian McCarthy.  Well done, sir!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The New Crop of YouTube Bodybuilding "Experts"

Bodybuilding -  You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means!

Something new is happening in the bodybuilding world, something completely unprecedented as far as I know.  I am speaking of the huge new crop of self-proclaimed bodybuilding experts.  Typically, these guys are 16 to 25 years old, skinny, have never competed in bodybuilding, and do not look at all like bodybuilders.

You might wonder:  "Who would listen to these self-appointed bodybuilding gurus, who boast months of training experience, act as if they know everything there is to know about bodybuilding, but have not built there own bodies to any appreciable degree?"

At least, that is what I wonder.  In the old days, the paradigm was different.  If you were a successful bodybuilding competitor (usually someone who had done well at the national amateur level), and if you looked like a bodybuilder, folks would listen you your advice on bodybuilding.  But now, suddenly, you don't need to have competed to know everything about bodybuilding.  It is not even necessary to look the part!  What a day we live in!

I first became aware of this phenomenon by watching this video debate between Dave Pulcinella (a very good and experienced bodybuilder) and the immensely popular but completely inexperienced Ian McCarthy.  I was appalled at the know-it-all attitude that Ian exhibited toward Dave.  Given Dave's incredible bodybuilding accomplishments, a bit of deference, a modicum of humility might have been expected.  But no, not from Ian!  He has Science on his side, and therefore knows far more than Dave about bodybuilding.

Here is Ian again, in a follow-up video.  It is important to note that he has hordes of rabidly faithful followers.  I don't understand why.  It is some sort of rebellion against traditional (i.e., REAL) bodybuilding?  Is it some sort of Radical Mediocrity movement?  Check out this guy's amazing physique!

Ian's Follow-Up Video

But Ian is far from the only new expert!  Check out this fellow with the incredibly inappropriate name "Big Zeus":

This fellow has so far learned about trap development, but not learned about deltoids.  He also believes that giving up Coca-Cola is too big a sacrifice for most people to make in the pursuit of bodybuilding:

No comment necessary:

Why would anyone listen to someone who looks like the Pillsbury Dough Boy?  But, yet, he feels compelled to share his expertise:

Important thoughts on not rushing into pre-workout forumula use!

It makes me nostalgic for the good old days, when accomplishment proceeded mentoring.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Planet Fitness: Anti-Bodybuilder. Now, Anti-Hot!

My diligent viewing of the TV show Mad Men should have made me realize that, eventually, every advertising strategy will be used.  Like that VW ad featured in an early episode:

I used to think that advertising would appeal to the desire in us all to be winners, to be the best at something.  But I have completely underestimated the advertising appeal of mediocrity!  No entity had capitalized on the massive thirst for mediocrity (and the attendant fear of the achievements of other) than has Planet Fitness.

I already knew that Planet Fitness was the place where you could safely work out without the danger of building any muscle:

But now, I am surprised to find that (if you are a woman, anyhow) Planet Fitness is the place where you can work out without becoming beautiful (hot)!  Who knew that there was such a pent-up demand to pay for a product or service that leaves you totally unchanged?!  I may have to given more consideration to my "instant water" scheme.

Planet Fitness had "pizza nights" and bowls of Tootsie Rolls at the door, to help guarantee that you don't turn into a bodybuilder or a hottie.  I still have to admit that it is surprising to me how many folks want to be comforted in their mediocrity rather than urged on to excellence.