Romney’s personality a problem if the election is close

My dad told me a story about Mitt Romney when the would-be president had yet to be a would-be senator, then governor, then presidential candidate. Dad worked as a dispatcher for Summit County in Utah, home of Park City and also many of the 2002 U.S. Olympic venues. It was also Romney’s home (at least one of them) during the Olympic buildup.

Romney was home when the fire alarm went off. Fire department crews went to the house and Romney was there, outside, to greet them to shoo them away. There was no fire, he said. Local rules, however, required fire crews to inspect a property where fire alarms went off. Romney wasn’t having it. I don’t know how the incident eventually ended, whether crews were able to get in. I do know he tried to stop them. And I know what my dad says the fire crews said about Romney: that he was a first-class jerk.

If Romney were elected president, I doubt he would be the least likeable president we ever had. And if this New Republic piece, Temperamental Journey, is to be trusted, Romney is not always a jerk, he just has a temper. The piece points out that Romney criticized John McCain for his, so bad on you, Mitt, for seeing the mote without recognizing the beam.

This whole issue, I have to admit, is personally grating to me. I hate abusive bosses. (For the record my bosses now are sheer delights.) I have had abusive bosses. Because of my own sense of self-awesomeness I don’t take well to overly harsh criticism. I’ve been verbally smacked by a boss several times before when I deserved it and I knew it. In those cases I took it well. Also in those cases I never got the sense that those bosses believed they were superior to me, aside from their titles. When it got me riled was when I believed the boss was either inept, condescending or obviously uneven in the application of discipline.

Duke University scientists (I’m a Carolina fan, but I’ll give credit where it is due here.) determined almost half of the U.S. Presidents through Nixon had some form of mental illness. I think it certainly requires a bit of narcissism to even run for president, but mental illness will do. In some it was a good trait to have.

Maybe being a jerk is a good trait. More troubling, perhaps, about Mitt’s actions in these minor instances is that it might suggest he believes the rules don’t apply to him. Those firefighters were obeying the law, it inconvenienced him and it made him angry, so much so that he at least tried to get them to not obey it themselves. The same thing, according to the New Republic piece, happened during the Olympics.

This may get to the core of the reality as to why Republicans continue to seek an alternative to Romney. Sure there are many who believe he hasn’t been a true conservative on social and fiscal issues. And if it comes down to Romney versus Obama, those critics will hold their noses in Nov. 2012 and vote for Romney anyway. But Romney is lacking some regular guy cred. He just doesn’t seem like a guy you’d ever want in your house, for fear he might yell at your kid for leaving the spoon in the hot chocolate cup.

Contrast that with another experience my father had. My dad, as a cop, worked an event for then California Gov. Ronald Reagan. No cop complained about Reagan. They loved Reagan. My dad loved Reagan. In large part it was because Reagan didn’t show any indication he was looking down on the cops working that event. Perhaps Reagan could be a jerk. But on the one occasion my dad’s paths crossed with his, the man came off well. Romney, not so much, and that may be the biggest thing that keeps him from the presidency. Romney’s personality wouldn’t make those who are solidly opposed to retaining the current president from marking “Obama” on their ballots. It might motivate some who are less solid to skip the election completely.

UPDATE: Allow me to refer you to the story from the New York Times, Republican Leaders Still Seem Torn About Romney.

On the one hand this could represent ridiculous expectations by the New York Times, given that we haven’t even had the Iowa caucus yet. Why wouldn’t the party seem torn? It’s supposed to be torn. It used to be torn all the way to the convention and sometimes even through the eventual nominee’s convention speech.

On the other hand the story reflects the growing reality of presidential politics, that many battles are settled long before the official contests begin.

What I think back up my case is the sense that I don’t get a real sense of excitement about Romney, not from anyone. That doesn’t mean he’s a jerk, as my column suggests. It just means no one sees the man as they saw Reagan or Obama or Hillary Clinton. Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul have their passionate backers, but I don’t see it in Romney fans.

Shedding a big guy — week 8

This lobster weighs what I have lost. I'd probably gain it all back and then some by eating him, because lobster requires butter.

To lose weight at all on Thanksgiving week would seem an accomplishment, right? It would if I had binged that day. But I didn’t. That happened on Wednesday.

Stress and lack of sleep contributed to Wednesday’s overindulgence. So did the decision to just live like I was several weeks ago.

On Thanksgiving day itself I was pretty conscious. We didn’t have the big feast anyway, this year.

I’m off work this week and decided to significantly amp up the exercise on my time off. I want to have a stellar week after a few weeks of slow progress. On Saturday I ran for the first time since I started this. I did some other exercises, too, including a long walk on the treadmill. This week my plan is to make it akin to Hell Week, what we did in high school leading up to football season. That, and getting more sleep.

Here’s to Hell Week!

Bottom Line:
Beginning weight: 404
This week’s weight: 381.2
Last week’s weight: 382
One week change: -0.8
Total weight lost: -22.8
Weight loss goal: 205
Percentage body weight goal: 50.5 percent
Percentage body weight lost: 5.6 percent
Percentage of goal lost: 11.1 percent
Plans for this week: Hell Week!

A Thanksgiving reality check

It is time for a Thanksgiving reality check.

• My body is about twice as heavy as it should be.
• My pay is about half of what I had hoped.
• I have a lot of gray hair, wrinkles and occasional skin tags.
• When I eat I have to consider what will go through me quicker.
• My kids argue with each other.
• I have yet to hit it big with my writing career.
• I have a history of investing years in things that in the end don’t turn out to be what I thought they were or what I hoped they would be.
• I have never seen Europe, Africa, or Asia.
• I have suffered the pains of seeing my candidates lose on election day.
• I have also suffered the pains of seeing my candidate win, then underperform.
• The car I drive would not be my first choice.
• The van my wife drives is not my first choice either.

And yet here is the reality that moves me the most. In years past I had a dream of life and the one I see today is almost exactly the one I dreamt of then.

For all of life’s challenges, I have the blessing of having chosen above me in marriage, knowing the love for a child and of a child, living in a place that rewards me every day with beauty, having a job that lives for me, having the passion to do that same work away from the workplace, having a $12.84 treadmill in the garage that helps me get healthier, having maintained my devotion to the Los Angeles Dodgers, having the ability to reconnect with cousins and old friends I had missed for about 30 years, having old and new friends who have decided to back me up in taking on one of my life’s biggest challenges, having employers who support my wishes, a wife who loves me even when I make it difficult and most importantly a faith that God knows who I am and loves me, and sent me here to experience all the things I’ve mentioned and forgotten.

I am blessed. I am rich. I am grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Shedding a big guy — week 7

This coin cost $1 million and weighs as much as I have lost.

Well there is better news near my belt this week. I lost the weight I picked up. Why this is really good news is because I have to admit this is where my commitment gets challenged the most, in three big ways.

1. I’m seven weeks into a program. Typically that’s when things get a little boring and the excitement of the initial weight loss is not as intense. The novelty is gone.

2. Being seven weeks into the program the weight loss slows down.

3. The holidays begin in earnest this week.

Something is different this time. You are one thing that’s different, but I better stop beating that note to death. Nah. Actually that is the biggest difference and I can’t overstate it.

So I’m seven weeks in, I’ve dropped 22 pounds, which according to my math puts me more than 10 percent of the way there.

I have my thoughts on overcoming those three ways my commitment gets challenged.

1. Your presence has helped so far. It helps in moments where I am tempted to eat more than what’s healthy. There is some weird motivation I feel to make you all proud. So that motivates me to get past the boredom and make adjustments. In the end, adjusting is the key to all of this. And frankly, excitement about food has often been the problem anyway.

2. The slow-down just means the change from week to week is not as noticeable. But I calculated this thing to take two years to get where I want to be. I keep reminding myself that I am still on pace.

3. A few years ago I had some of my best success during a holiday season. There will be a lot of treats around the next several weeks, but just because that second cookie (or first) goes away this time, it doesn’t mean it will never be in my life again.

As always, thanks for checking in. Honestly, it gets difficult at times, but I am committed to this.

Bottom Line:
Beginning weight: 404
This week’s weight: 382
Last week’s weight: 385
One week change: -3
Total weight lost: -22
Weight loss goal: 205
Percentage body weight goal: 50.5 percent
Percentage body weight lost: 5.4 percent
Percentage of goal lost: 10.7 percent
Plans for this week: Get enough sleep. Get up early. Make better meal plans.

No good reason for a break, but I’m taking one

I'm sure you can find plenty to do while I take a break.

The Narrative Arts Podcast will get a break for the next two weeks. This week there is no good reason. Next week is Thanksgiving, so that one is justified. The week after that I’m on vacation at work, so in theory I should take that week off from the podcast, but I think I will post a new episode then, and the week after. Then we will be done for the year.

During that time keep looking back here for updates on my weight and other items. I want to take the time off to focus on the book I wrote all those years ago to get it ready for republication.

If anyone knows how to fix websites, too, I could use a hand. I changed the settings to make it wider and the font bigger, thinking it would make the site more readable. The only trouble is I can’t seem to find the code for that spare piece of the header at the top of the page. I thirst for ideas.

If you want a great podcast to go listen to, I highly recommend you plug in your ear phones to the This American Life podcast “Very Tough Love.” I don’t think of TAL as hard-hitting journalism, but this show caused some real ripples. You can read all about it on the site. I may say more about it later if I can get an answer to a question I asked.

Talk to you again soon.

Shedding a big guy — week 6

Big Fish

Even still, this thing isn't wearing me down anymore. (You can find other big fish like this one at

I got the call today that I didn’t wanna hear, but I knew that it would come.” — Don Henley, “Heart of the Matter”

Going into what I believed would be a two-year process I knew this moment would come, the day I had to report a weight gain. How much of a gain was a surprise. I thought going to the scale I’d see perhaps no weight lost, or that I would be up a little.

This week I did go off the rails. It wasn’t on election night, when newspapers across America buy pizza for the staff working late. I did OK that day. It was the next day. I came home from work and had just a few Weight Watchers points left in my day, and I went beyond the limit. I didn’t go beyond the points limit for the week, but that’s only because I had activity points built in. Thursday and Friday I didn’t do terribly, but I wasn’t as conscious as I have been in weeks past.

When Saturday came (Saturday is my official weigh in day) I stepped on the scale, saw the number and reflected. It wasn’t painful, necessarily. Standing on a scale once a week captures a single moment in that week. The week before I might have caught the scale at just the right moment. On Saturday I might have caught it at just the wrong one. As big as I am, it’s easy for my weight to fluctuate. At least I hoped that was true. I hoped that what I had done the week before hadn’t really created almost 3 pounds of weight gain.

The next day my hunch proved true. I got on the scale and was back close to where I was the week before. This morning I was below it.

It is good to check in once a week, because that is often enough to once in a while get what could be bad news. I saw this week’s weight gain more as a reminder that this will take a long-term commitment. The two days since the weigh-in have gone well. Next week I expect the number will reflect that. In times past I might have let that number discourage me off the program. I’m sticking with it this time. I feel too good and have done too well. Plus, I have you to answer to.

Bottom Line:
Beginning weight: 404
This week’s weight: 385
Last week’s weight: 382.2
One week change: +2.8
Total weight lost: -19
Weight loss goal: 205
Percentage body weight goal: 50.5 percent
Percentage body weight lost: 4.7 percent
Percentage of goal lost: 9.3 percent
Plans for this week: More fruit. More vegetables. Keep upping the exercise minutes. Stay within the program.

Pony Boy on the podcast

My dad

Most boys, at least through my generation, have a period where cowboy seems like a pretty admirable career choice. The hours might be long but the wardrobe is special, especially the hats.

I watch my dad these days as his quality of life diminishes with each round of an illness that takes a shot at him every few weeks. It makes it harder still to see the images of him as that sweet boy, wearing that cowboy get-up, complete with the chaps.

His aspirations were huge and he had the guts to go after them, especially as a boy. It caused heartburn for his mother, but what boy hasn’t?

This week’s podcast tells of my father, the pony boy.

Changing an old friend

That headline could be misinterpreted, I know. No diapers involved, though some might prefer there were.

Over the past couple of months I have been in the process of reworking a book I wrote more than a decade ago. In fact, I finished the first draft in 1994, and that’s the draft I’m working with. That decision was largely one of convenience. I could get that one easily scanned and put into a Word format. As it turns out, that was a fortuitous technicality.

My reworking of the book has come in occasional sprints. I’ll take on several chapters at a time, then set it aside for weeks. I had hoped to have the new version available on digital formats by now. This process is not harder than I thought, just harder than I hoped.

A few things get in the way. In my day job we are almost daily met with the advice to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Reporters can miss deadlines waiting for their stories to be perfect. (Sometimes we miss them because we procrastinate, but that one’s tough to admit.) Most times we have to settle for a story that tells what is the truth, though not always the whole truth. Another source can add context. Sometimes that context plays second fiddle to deadlines.

In reality that should shock no one. We do the best we can to get the best story out there that we can. Right now we certainly don’t have the whole truth on what’s going on with Herman Cain and allegations of sexual harassment. So reporters are forced to go out with what they have. Recently I wrote a blog post about a disagreement over campaign signs. I didn’t know exactly what caused the problem, so I was left with an imperfect story.

There is less impatience with a book and that can be a bad thing. The impatience is not gone completely and when I do finally release the new version of “Going Too Far” it won’t be perfect. The challenge has been figuring out how much better I want to make it. My initial thought was to just let the book reflect where I was in 1994. Now I don’t want my 1994 writing to affect sales for stuff I write in 2011. When I first took on the task of reworking the book my goal was to make just minor changes. As soon as I started the work, though, I realized I couldn’t live with that. Just today I had an idea for it that I think will improve it greatly, but will add time to the process. So this thing will take longer than I had hoped. At times the work will be kind of agonizing, if sitting at a desk writing on a computer can legitimately be called agony.

So now I have to complete my first edit. The next step will be to rewrite it implementing my brainstorm from this morning. Then I will have to read it again. After that I will have a pro editor read it. Then I’ll make final changes. Only then, will I feel good about sending the story out there.

Still, it probably wouldn’t hurt to establish a deadline. I’ll get back to you.

Shedding a big guy — week 5

Lug this around for a while and you'll know what I have shed so far.

Candy. Candy, freaking candy. Not just candy, but chocolate candy.

I went to the scale this week again not completely sure the news of the number would be great. This was kind of a tough week. The good news was that I battled and I finished well, and in the end the number was fantastic (for someone not on a television show), a 2-pound loss that put me over three different milestones.

The 2-pound loss means I’ve now lost more than 20 pounds, more than 5 percent of my body weight and more than 10 percent of my goal. To hit those marks on a week that saw plenty of peanut M&Ms and Snickers is even better. Really, the best news is I ended the week headed the right direction.

Diana went with the kids to a trunk-or-treat event and had bought candy to hand out. There were not all that many kids, though, so she brought nearly all of it home. I stayed within my point allotment for the week, so the real challenge was eating healthy. I missed on the fruits and vegetable during the middle of the week, but on Friday I came back. Perhaps the capper was Friday night after a 30-minute walk on my $12.84 treadmill, I had some wiggle room still in the week, but I chose an apple to end the night.

Like I said last week: Small victories make a big difference. Here’s to more milestones. Thanks everyone! The fact that I know some of you will be checking in keeps me motivated.

Bottom Line:
Beginning weight: 404
This week’s weight: 382.2
Last week’s weight: 384.2
One week change: -2
Total weight lost: -21.8
Weight loss goal: 205
Percentage body weight goal: 50.5 percent
Percentage body weight lost: 5.4 percent
Percentage of goal lost: 10.6 percent
Plans for this week: On three days this week I did my treadmill walk before work. It meant getting up early and going to bed early, but I really liked how that felt. It blew up a little on Wednesday, when I worked from 8 in the morning until 10 at night, but I’d like to do those morning workouts again this week. So that’s one thing, and I’ll be eating more fruits and vegetables.

The gratitude begins

Everyone else is expressing gratitude this month. Why should I be any different?

Actually, this podcast episode on The Narrative Arts podcast is the tale of a single moment in which I found myself feeling especially blessed, despite a lot of evidence to the contrary.

I left a message on the Oregon Coast, one that I remind myself of often, because I’ve become even more so since that day in 1994.

Join me on the podcast. Please forgive the warbled sounding music. It’s another challenge in my bid to learn how to do all this.