Archive for Fitness

All Scoped Out

Ah, modern medicine. Got a problem with your gut? Just run a camera down there and see what’s up.

That’s pretty much how it went for me, anyway. I’d been sweating ulcers or a hiatal hernia for a while, so I finally went to see a GI specialist last week. Today, he ran the scope down my throat.

IV drip

Cold, cold saline going in

They told me I’d be awake for the procedure, so I’d hoped to get a look at the monitor, see what the doctor sees. What they didn’t tell me until today was part of the cocktail they use to sedate me for the procedure is an amnesia drug.

Sure enough, as far as I know it was lights out. I remember a few seconds of gagging, and telling myself not to fight it. Chances are I couldn’t have moved if I’d wanted to, but next thing I know my doctor and my wife were standing at the foot of my bed.

On the upside, the doc found no evidence of ulcers or hiatal hernia.

Fortunately it wasn’t one of these bad boys, either

On the downside, I get to learn more about something called eosinophilic espohagitis, which is a fancy way of saying I probably have a food allergy. Now it’s just a matter of figuring out what my triggers are. The doc says to avoid processed foods to start with, which is a good idea in general.

At least I have some peace of mind now. Ulcers could have led to surgery, as would a hiatal hernia. There was no talk of strictures or acid reflux scarring, so I’m guessing that’s clear. I’m fortunate, as this is at least the second time I’ve had some weird symptoms pointing to big problems, only to learn it’s actually something minor.

Works for me. Onward to bigger and better things, as I’ve got a race to train for.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Warrior Dash Promo Winners

Congratulations to Alyn Day and Jack Finley on winning autographed copies of Lie with the Dead as part of my St Jude Warrior promotion! Thanks, Alyn and Jack, for supporting my run and the children of St Jude.

Dig.

Lie with the Dead

While the drawing is over, I’m still taking donations until the day of the race and would greatly appreciate the extra support. Simply visit my St Jude Warrior page for more information.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Fare Thee Well, Fitbit

I’m one of the lucky winners of the Fitbit Force skin rash lottery.

Taken on Sunday, 2/23

I’m far from the only one reporting a problem, and now Fitbit has issued a recall on their Force devices. The company first blamed a nickel allergy, and they’re still using that as their main explanation. However, they’re acknowledging it may also be a glue used to bind the Force device to the wristband. This makes a lot more sense, as this rash feels more like a chemical burn than a rash. I’ve still got the burn/rash today (Monday), yet I haven’t worn the device since Wednesday evening. I notified Fitbit and they immediately issued me a refund and a shipping label to return the device.

Here’s the thing: I liked this device. While in many respects it is a glorified pedometer, and using RunKeeper and GPS on my phone is probably more effective when I get back to running, I liked the addition of a display and the ability to track activity all day. I also liked that it does sleep tracking and has a silent alarm. I had yet to really put it to the test in karate classes, but it seemed to be pretty good at figuring out when I was active versus just moving around on day-to-day tasks.

My personal feeling is their manufacturer used cheap materials. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the worst parts of the burns are beneath the two joins between the underside of the device and the strap. With luck, it will be something they’ll be able to straighten out soon.

Will I purchase another Force if that’s the case? Honestly, I’m not sure. I thought about downgrading to Fitbit’s Flex, but I hate the idea of a single-purpose device. There are also new competitors coming, like Atlas Wearables, who make devices capable of tracking more data (heart rate would be terrific) and which are waterproof (ideal for when I run the Warrior Dash this summer).

My only other concern? Dragging a sword across it in iaijutsu class or snagging it during judo work and partner drills. I can worry about that when a new device is in hand, though.

In the meantime, farewell, Fitbit. It was nice while it lasted.

Update 3/6/14:

It’s been two weeks now, and the photo below is what the wound (I think it’s fair to call it that) looks like now.

They’re turning me into a lizard!

Tasty, huh? It doesn’t itch near as much, and it’s mostly just crusty, dry skin as it heals. It’s cracked in a few spots, though, so I try to keep it clean and I put unscented moisturizer on it.

Fitbit still maintains it’s skin irritation or an allergic reaction. I don’t buy it, but hey, I’m not a doctor.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

You’ll Believe a Fat Man Can Fly

I tell people I like karate because there is a lot less high kicking and jumping than in an art like taekwondo.

Then I made black belt, and last week I learned this kata:

We run this one slightly different, but there’s still a 360° jump and a jump kick into a 180° turn with a four-point landing. Swell.

I’m not giving up, though. I’ve said “I can’t” in karate before, and before long, I could. This is why I’m still doing leg day this morning, even though my publisher is on his way down for a meeting. This is why I’m thinking about investing in a solid stand for box jumps. This is why I’m looking at tweaking my stretching routine.

I may not be as graceful with kicks and jumps as some of my instructors and fellow black belts, but I will be able to do this.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Why the Hell Would You Eat That: Big Chain Pizza

Let’s get this out of the way up front: if you’re getting a pizza from a big pizza chain, you may as well be eating frozen pizza. Don’t trust any pizza place that can “run out of crusts,” because frozen pizza is exactly what you’re getting.

I didn’t even know this was possible until we moved from the Chicago ‘burbs out to central Illinois. One of the few pizza joints in the area at the time was a Marchelloni’s, which later became Geo’s. They had a thick, buttery, doughy crust most Chicagoans would call pan pizza, and they pretty much sucked. However, their competition was worse, so we gave them another shot one night and ordered a couple of large pizzas.

“We’re out of large crusts,” she tells me.

“Okay, can’t you make more?”

“We don’t do that here,” she says, all snide like I’m the asshole. Turns out the crusts are made elsewhere and shipped in frozen to the actual store. No thanks.

Know who else does this? Pizza Hut. Our local PH had a night donating their proceeds to our elementary school, so we paid them a visit. They were jam crowded with townies and unprepared, so they ran out of everything but regular thin crust (and those were “going fast”).

This is why these pizza joints’ pizzas are nasty, greasy messes. Yeah, Pizza Hut may be edible when it’s hot and fresh, but suck it down fast because it becomes slop two minutes after it hits the table.

Now, I realize some of you are stuck in the wild pizza frontier outside of Chicago and New York City. I realize some of you think Domino’s, Pizza Hut, and the bland bullshit served up  at your local mom & pop dustbowl pizza place is pretty good. I pity you. I really do. When some friends of ours from L.A. first tried Domino’s out in Baltimore and were impressed, I wept for their souls.

See, when the dough is made fresh on the spot, it’s got your standard dough ingredients. If you can see the guy rolling out your dough, you’re in the right place. Frozen dough? Now you’re getting preservatives and shit in it. It’s been processed, just like the garbage pizza in the freezer aisle. Not to mention these big chains need to make sure the crap they’re serving has to taste the same at every location, which means the rest of their ingredients are equally processed and preserved and loaded with things like MSG. Domino’s and Papa John’s can claim “fresher ingredients” all they want, but remember, McDonald’s makes the same nonsense claim about their fries.

I’ve tried your revamped pizzas gentlemen. An improvement? Maybe. Good pizza? Sorry, no.

I’ll admit I’m a pizza snob. Am I a Chicago or New York pizza guy? Both. I love a good Chicago stuffed pizza, and I like the giant slices you gotta fold in half to eat, so long as they’re not hyper-processed chain food disguised as the real deal.

Growing up in the ‘burbs, we could get good pizza just about anywhere, and most everywhere had a signature flavor the chains couldn’t match. Friday nights were pizza night in my family. Even our dog responded to the word pizza with excitement. Most places we called were dedicated pizza joints, but there were a couple bars that had pizza ovens, too.

Unfortunately, the farther I move from Chicago, the harder it gets to find good pizza. Things were so bad my mom, who commuted to the suburbs, brought pizza home with her on Friday nights. One pizza joint gave her an insulated delivery bag when they found out what she was doing. An hour from the oven, their pizza tasted better than anything local.

Out here in Peoria, most of the bars serve frozen pizza. The locals think it’s great, but to be fair, they have nothing to compare it to. In fact, the pizza is so bad out here, people dip it in ranch or Catalina dressing. I was horrified the first time I saw that. If the pizza is so bland you have to jazz it up with a dip, why the hell are you eating it?

The biggest culprit is Butch’s. Peorians love Butch’s because they make their pizzas locally in Morton, and they sell their own hot sauce and seasonings. My theory is they make the hot sauce to disguise the flavor of the pizza: no matter the topping, a Butch’s pizza tastes like a salt lick. It’s good bar food because you’re drunk and hungry and won’t remember the flavor anyway.

Monical’s is the nasty local chain of choice. They’re all over the Peoria area, and if I drive east on Route 24 into Indiana, I’ll pass half a dozen or so of them, all right there on Route 24. Their pizza is a cracker with a little spaghetti sauce on it. Dry and bland. Kids go ape over it, but they’re too young to know better.

Understand, no pizza is going to be good for you. My point is if you’re going to eat something unhealthy, shouldn’t it at least taste good? Shouldn’t it be worth those extra calories? The extra laps around the track you’ll have to punish yourself with?

Choking down a Caesar’s hot & ready just isn’t going to cut it.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Why the Hell Would You Eat That: Bullshit Meat

Processed meat is not good for us. Aside from cutting a hunk of meat off an animal, slapping it with spices, and throwing it over a fire, there’s not much you can do to meat that makes your body say, “Hell yeah, give me more of that!” The abundance of salts, chemicals and preservatives wreak havoc on us.

I get it, though. I’m a big fan of the occasional hot dog, sausage, or deli meat. Chorizo in a skillet? Hell yes. Brats and Italian sausage on the grill? All summer long. A good ham steak? Smoked sausage in a spicy jambalaya? A finger of mozzarella wrapped in fine prosciutto? Some of mankind’s finest culinary discoveries, if you ask me. They may not be good for me, per se, but they’re not going to do much damage in moderation.

That all said, why eat the bullshit meats? I’m talking the lowest of the low. The ones that lie to you when you’re browsing the shelves, hoping you won’t take a closer look at the ingredients list. The ones that should say “sausage*” on the front, complete with the asterisk.

Sadly, they’re the ones that fill the majority of the meat section at your local supermarket.

I’ve covered supermarket chorizo in the past, so I’m going to focus on hot dogs and smoked sausage instead. The running gag for these things is they’re all composed of snouts and lips, but let’s look past the rumors and check the ingredients.

Ever taken a bite of a hot dog and wonder what the hell you were eating? I did that with Bar S hot dogs.

"Made with chicken and pork." Pass.

“Made with chicken and pork.” Pass.

These were purchased because they were the cheapest on the rack. A relative grilled them. I took one bite and thought I was eating something that had spoiled, so I went and fished the label out of the garbage can. As the print gets smaller and smaller, it gets scarier and scarier. What’s a good hot dog made of? Beef. What’s this crap made of? Chicken and pork. No, correction, “mechanically separated chicken” is the first ingredient. Second? Water. Then pork. There is even more dextrose (sugar), corn starch, and salt than there is beef.

Now we know where the snouts and lips rumors come from.

I should note Bar S is not the only culprit, here. Oscar Mayer doesn’t get a free pass. Nor does Ball Park. They may have their high-end hot dogs that are mostly beef (sometimes with their new favorite beef marketing term, “Angus”), but they’re happy to sell you the bullshit at a far cheaper price because they know most of us just don’t care.

In contrast, let’s take a look at two of my favorites, Nathan’s and Hebrew National. The first ingredient on their labels? Beef. Even better? Hebrew National carries the kosher designation. The ingredients are pretty much beef, spices, and yes, a couple of those scary nitrates. But Jesus, at least you’re getting the real thing!

Even better, look for Vienna Beef. They’re hard to find at supermarkets, but a hot dog stand isn’t a hot dog stand without Vienna Beef signs hanging around the joint. Red Hot Chicago? Okay, fine. But if the place is buying no-name garbage to keep costs down and margins up, walk your ass out. All beef or nothing, people.

Yes, I can absolutely taste the difference, and so will you. Buy a package of Hebrew Nationals and a package of some cheap crap, grill ‘em side-by-side, refrain from smothering them in condiments, and take a bite. There’s no way you can tell me they taste the same.

On to sausage. The problem with sausages is they’re so loaded up with spices and other flavorings, they conceal whatever the meat filler is. This is how people learned to choke down things like haggis back in the dark ages where they had to eat every piece of the animal to survive. Got something that isn’t very appetizing? Smother it in potent herbs and spices. All the fat and protein the body needs with enough flavoring to help a medieval man keep it in his stomach.

And this, my friends, is how they get away with lying to you. Even the major labels. The consumer in me is comfortable buying Eckrich because I see the commercials and ads all the time. I’ve been throwing their smoked sausage in jambalaya for a while, but then I took a look at the label.

Et tu, Eckrich?

Et tu, Eckrich?

I’ve been seeing their ads since Saturday Morning Cartoons were a thing. Pork, turkey, and beef!? If I want turkey sausage, I’ll talk up some local hunters. But hey, let’s take a look at what didn’t make the picture, the actual ingredients:

Meat ingredients (pork, beef), mechanically separated turkey, water, corn syrup. Contains 2% or less of dextrose, flavorings, autolyzed yeast, modified food starch, mechanically separated chicken, monosodium glutamate, potassium and sodium lactate, salt, sodium diacetate, sodium nitrite, sodium phosphate, vitamin c (ascorbic acid).

You sons of bitches. Corn syrup? Dextrose? Chicken? Why? Why!?

They want it to be cheap, that’s why. They want it to survive on the shelf, and they don’t give a shit what we cram down our gullets because we don’t give a shit what we cram down our gullets. They have all those leftover bits of meat they can’t sell as steak or pork chops, so they grind it up, put it in sausage, and fill it with bullshit to make it palatable. It’s haggis by marketing rather than necessity.

As an alternative, I tried Aidells all natural sausage. I tasted samples at my local Kroger, thought it tasted great. The difference in flavor was not quite as obvious as in the different hot dog brands, and the Aidells had a texture I’ll describe as “dry.” Not bad, just different. Okay, fair enough, but let’s look at the label.

You had me at "cajun"

You had me at “cajun”

Most of us know “all natural” has been adopted as marketing speak, so let’s just ignore that for now and concentrate on the ingredients:

Pork, water, salt, garlic, spices (including white pepper, red pepper and black pepper), sugar, paprika, celery powder and dehydrated onion.

No corn syrup, no mechanically-separated anything, and no chemical additives my browser’s spellcheck insists isn’t a word. Hallelujah, bitches. Sold. They cost a little more (even after the sample lady handed me a coupon), but they tasted great in our jambalaya and I felt a lot better about inflicting them on my kids.

That’s the great thing about today’s supermarkets and corporate foods: they know some of us are getting educated. There’s a demand for the good stuff, so there’s an incentive for them to produce it. Does it cost a little more? Yes. Does it take a little more effort? Yes. For now. But isn’t it worth it? Between the better flavor (in most cases) and not turning my body into a food lab, I say it’s totally worth it.

The big corporate food conglomerates today are no different from RJ Reynolds back in the day. Sure, they know some of this shit is bad for us, but nobody’s stopping them yet. I wasn’t thrilled to see a ConAgra Foods logo at the bottom of the Hebrew National page, but that’s the way things are going; big corporations are buying out locals and organics in an effort to pad out their portfolios with the good stuff.

You can still do one better by hitting your local butcher. We’ve got an IGA store nearby with a butcher, and they make fresh-ground Italian sausage and chorizo. Both are terrific. I can also go to Peoria’s Alwan & Sons and get some killer cuts of beef, pork, and chicken. This costs more, too, so I can’t do it all the time, but the taste and quality are there.

I’m no health nut, I’m just a dad who spent too much time on the Internet and started reading the labels. I’m not necessarily anti-big corporation, and I’m not going to call you an idiot for not shopping exclusively at farmers markets. I buy the good—okay, better—stuff because it makes sense, and I’m willing to sweat a bump in the grocery bill.

If enough of us do the same, maybe those costs will come down.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Training Around Injury

I screwed up my left arm in a judo match about two months ago. Nothing went “pop,” nor was there any obvious sign of injury. About an hour after class a muscle in my forearm started to burn. It lasted a few days, but I didn’t let it bother me much. Because I’m a stubborn asshole, I went back to judo class a week later and had another match.

I could feel the same muscle aching during that second match. Once again, an hour later, it hurt like hell. Any pinching motion with my fingers felt like a hot poker to the forearm. It settled a little, going from burning to aching over the course of a few weeks, right up to and through my black belt test.

With the test coming, I couldn’t stop training altogether. Not a chance. So I trained around the injury. I had no trouble with kata. I had to be careful grabbing and pulling, and I put a pad on my forearm for partner work, but I could do just about anything else in class and practice.

The sophisticated medical device I was given to rehab my arm

Sophisticated medical equipment: a giant, snapped rubber band

Flash forward a few more weeks to today and I saw the athletic trainer at my day job. He diagnosed what I already suspected: tennis elbow. He told me keep doing the stretches I found, then suggested adding ice, massage, and some exercises with a giant chunk of rubber band. I asked him if I could keep training, and he told me to keep working around the injury until it heals up (which, unfortunately, could still be a while).

The key is finding out what you can do. Too many people have a small, nagging injury and declare it couch time. This doesn’t do any good. Can’t run? Do some upper body exercises. Hurt your arm? Run. Hangnail? Suck it up, buttercup.

A back injury may be an exception, but there’s generally a way to work around injury. One of our black belts screwed up her knee, so she did kata from a chair, just working the upper body movements. After her surgery, she did kata while staying in one stance to rehab the knee. It paid off: her doctor was shocked at how quickly she healed.

Succumbing to a small injury is just finding an excuse to skip workouts. Cultivate the opposite and find an excuse to work out, and you’ll be able to accomplish more than you think.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

We Should Encourage Health in One Another

I’m going to have a direct conversation about fat acceptance.

Across several social networks, I often see some skinny or muscular person make a crack about fat people needing to get in shape. Then someone—generally someone larger or who has difficulty cutting weight—takes them to task for their attitude. This is then followed by a swarm of posts offering support and encouragement to the larger person, telling them, “we love you for who you are.”

I can’t blame them. I hate seeing those arguments, too. The problem is the defense does not encourage a change in health.

Let me be clear: this does not mean said large person deserves scorn or derision. Fat people do not deserve to be belittled any more than anyone deserves to be teased for their race, sexuality, culture, or religion.

One of the saddest photo projects I’ve ever seen is Haley Morris-Cafiero’s Wait Watchers set. After a chance photo catching someone making fun of her weight behind her back, she set up situations to catch this happening over and over. Some of it is tough to look at because most of us have been guilty of this at one point or another.

Hell, I’m guilty. I’m down fifty pounds from my heaviest and I’m still a big guy. I shudder to think how large I could have gotten without a course correction. My friends tease me about my size or my eating, yet I’ll still make a fat crack now and again. Is it a defense mechanism? Is it just plain funny? Or am I just an asshole? (Probably the latter.)

This brings people down. We all know this. It makes fat people feel worthless, and if they’re already working on a fitness program, it makes them feel like they’ve failed. This is where the angels swoop in to tell them, “It’s okay, we love you for who you are.”

This is true. We do love you for who you are. We accept you. But we don’t have to accept your health situation. Overcompensating for the assholes pushes the problem of inaction to the opposite extreme. Instead of feeling like they’ve failed, the fat person feels like they don’t need to change their situation after all.

I think back to the number of people we’ve lost in the writing community. I think about dead friends and family members. About dead co-workers, both current and former. It’s not just fat people we’re talking about now, it’s a general lack of health. Heart disease. Diabetes. Cancer. Sometimes it’s drugs, alcohol, or depression, but for the most part, we’re talking preventable problems.

And I think about how those losses tear us up.

Would you ever tell someone, “I love you, and I can’t wait to see you in an early grave?” Hell no you wouldn’t. But that’s the behavior we encourage. I can’t count how many people I’ve seen show up on Fitocracy, bitch about how tough working out is, get an outpouring of empty support, and then disappear altogether.

There will always be assholes, and there will always be bleeding hearts. We need to do our best to find the balance between them. Here’s how:

1) Understand that the people who say shit like “fat people are fat because they’re lazy” aren’t being real or telling it like it is, they’re being tactless assholes.

2) Understand that general fitness is more important than size or weight. Seek good health, not a number on a scale. The latter tends to follow the former, but not always.

3) Understand fat jokes are funny. Yes, they hurt sometimes, but don’t read into them too far. Change the channel, browse to a different web page, ignore the trolls, and move on. If your friends are being intentionally hurtful, it’s time to find new friends.

4) Understand your friends and family absolutely do love you and accept you. Instead of seeking validation, ask them for help. A workout partner is by far better for you than an emotional crutch.

5) Understand that change is going to be difficult. There will be pain, sweat, and hunger. The payoff is worth it. Trust me.

6) Understand that you’re neither Jared Fogle nor a Biggest Loser contestant with monetary support and a trainer. You may not have a miracle transformation. Your change will take more time and effort than a thirty-second commercial or a one-hour special would have you believe. What works for them may not work for you.

7) Understand that your friends’ compliments and looks of surprise after your changes will be much more encouraging and affirming than false “it’s okay that you’re fat” sentiments.

In the end, we should all be encouraging good health in one another. We don’t need to beat one another over the head with it, but it should be made clear that we’re here for one another.

If you disagree with me, that’s fine. Please refer to #1 above. Otherwise let me know how I can help.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Why the Hell Would You Eat That? McD’s Fries

It doesn’t take a genius to understand McDonald’s food isn’t great for you, and after seeing Supersize Me, I tend to avoid the golden arches as best I can. There are times, however, I’m in a hurry or I want to let the Rugrats abuse the McD’s indoor playplace, so I cave and order something.

This time we’d just finished a veterinary visit for our cat and needed to grab something quick on the way home. McD’s was handy and convenient. As I ate my fries, I recalled a claim that, “McDonald’s fries haven’t been within two miles of a real potato.” I was never sure that was accurate, but the fries certainly don’t look or taste like fresh-cut fries I get at some restaurants, or like fried potatoes made at home.

I know someone who worked for McDonald’s briefly in the ’60s, and she said potatoes used to be delivered directly to the restaurants. Today, a manager I know says the fries are delivered pre-cut and ready for the frier. So what’s really in them?

To the Internet! Here’s a video of how McDonald’s fries are made, courtesy McD’s Canada:

At first, it seems all is well. Lots of potatoes, peeled and sliced and sent off to the restaurants where they’re fried in canola oil. Okay, fair enough. But let’s listen a little closer, shall we?

At the 2:10 mark, Mario says:

Once the potatoes are cut, we push the strips through a blancher to remove the natural sugars from the strips. This will prevent some variation in our color once we re-cook the product.

So McD’s fries are blanched to remove natural flavoring? WTF?

So following the blanching process, we add a dextrose solution to add that nice even coat we see at the restaurants.

They “remove the natural sugars” but then turn around and add dextrose, a sugar. And then it gets a little scarier:

We also add an ingredient to our strips to make sure we prevent the graying of our product throughout the process.

Note he doesn’t tell us what this ingredient is. I’d have to guess it’s some kind of preservative, or something like a bleaching agent. I’m no organic nut, but it seems to me we just don’t need that crap. McD’s, if you’re going to go through the trouble to tell us how you’re doctoring up our food, at least have the balls to fess up on the mystery ingredient.

Keep watching and we learn after the fries are sprayed with the mystery ingredient, they’re dried, fried, and frozen. In other words, they’re cooked twice before they leave the factory, then they’re re-fried (read: re-heated) at the restaurant.

I don’t get it.

Their point to this video seems to be, “Hey, look, we use real potatoes!” My takeaway is more like, “We care more about how the food looks than what’s in it.” Most of the flavor in these things is the salt. Hold the salt and a McD’s french fry doesn’t necessarily taste bad, but it sure doesn’t taste like a regular potato. Most of their flavor is marketing.

There’s a bar not far from here that slices their potatoes in-house. Order them loaded and you get real shredded cheese and chopped bacon, not cheese sludge and bacon bits. They cost a little more, but I’ll take their fries over McD’s any time.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

2013 Reboot

It’s been a long year already. Most of my plans have been derailed, but now it’s time for a fresh start.

Here’s the deal:

Late last year, my karate instructors told me they wanted to put me up for black belt in March. Two other candidates and I put together our attack team and we started training on Sundays. This also meant attending more classes, practicing and studying more often at home, and following the New Year the three of us started additional weekly training separate from our team.

Writing karate papers today

My writing and studying through the first quarter of the year looked like this

Training soon trumped everything, including writing. If I were a full-time writer, it wouldn’t have been an issue. However, I still have obligations to a day gig and I have a family, so something had to give. For the time being, unfortunately, that meant the writing.

I didn’t want to mention it here because I didn’t want to jinx it. See, my dojo doesn’t play games when it comes to black belts. It’s earned, no question. I felt confident I would pass the test, but there’s always a very real possibility of failure. I had to write three essays, take a 120-question written test, attempt the various physical requirements several times, and the test itself took about eight hours and covered just about everything I’d learned from white belt up to that point. I certainly didn’t want to be the guy talking up my upcoming test in public, only to turn around and have to admit I failed it.

Fortunately, I passed.

Our Kamiza

Our brown belts left on the altar following the kamiza ceremony

All three of us passed, in fact, and I scored better than I expected to. Two of us attended a seminar for our style, Shuri-ryu, the weekend following the test, and then this past weekend we had our formal promotion ceremony to receive our black belts and make things official.

It’s a huge load of pressure off, and it’s nice to finally have real free time again. My karate training will continue, but now I’ll be able to dial things back down to a sane level again. I’ll have my Sundays freed up and I’ll have more time for writing in general. I’ll be able to fiddle around with the camera again, and I can revisit my writing plans for the year once more.

Back on Track

Back on track, in more ways than one

I’ve resumed my normal fitness routine, too. I got back on the weight bench last week, and this morning I went out for my first run of the season. It was short and not near what I hoped, but I’m glad I could get back out there. I’m hoping to run the Warrior Dash again this year if my schedule allows, and I can’t let this stubborn Winter slow me down any longer.

It’s also catch-up time. I owe a few people a few different things. It’s about time I handle that, too.

So here I am with a fresh start on 2013. And it’s Spring Break, so it’s a good week to kick it all off. Stay tuned here this week for more news and updates, and thank you all for sticking around while I’ve been quiet.

Your patience will pay off!

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Beaten, Not Broken

Coming down to the wire on something for next month. The prep has been taking its toll.

My mornings look like this now:

Morning Remedy of Champions

Every pro knows you need to work with injuries

This event has been consuming my time since August. On the downside, it’s put me farther behind on some of my writing projects. On the upside, I feel ready for this. If I get through it, it will have been worth it.

I’ve got a problem with my left elbow and grip, and I have assorted other dings and bruises. One of my training partners has bad knees. One of the guys on my team has a leg injury, and another is about to be taken out by a surgical procedure.

We’re adapting. We train around or through the weak parts. Giving up and walking away isn’t an option. Treat and rehab the nagging injuries: that’s how a pro does it. Tape and ibuprofen and therapy and stretching.

“You’re getting old,” they say. “You don’t recover quick anymore.”

So I should sit and rot? No way. Pass me that brace and get out of my way.

Business note: I’m switching hosting providers. The site and my email may be inaccessible for a short period as a result. I don’t plan to lose anything, but one never knows with these things. I’ve had it with all the spam getting through my current provider’s filters and it’s time for a change. See you on the other side.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Using the Time We Make

Last night, I sat down on the weight bench so exhausted I could hardly lift the plates to put them on the ends of the barbell. I thought about just skipping the workout. To hell with it. Crash out and get some much-needed sleep.

Tired as hell, but the weights will not beat me.

Not as heavy as the soul-crushing weight of defeat

Then I got pissed.

I don’t have time for this shit. When do I make up a workout? When I’m at work? When I’m writing? When I’m in karate class? During my next workout?

No, I made the time for this workout, and I needed to use it. I got under the bar and started pushing. I kept moving and watched the clock during my rest periods to make sure I didn’t waste any of that precious time. An hour later, my sets were done and I felt great.

The same attitude applies to creative tasks.

When I’m writing, I don’t have time to screw around. The fingers need to be flying on the keyboard if I’m going to get anywhere. If I’m tired and the words come out in long streams of crap, I can clean them up later.

It’s about time I remembered that.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.