Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Future of Travel

I was talking to my grandmother last evening and she was telling me about her and my grandfathers upcoming trip to San Francisco. They live in Boise, Idaho and made their reservation 2 months in advance.

The cost per ticket was around $450 each. It's an hour and half flight. Factor in the fact that they both are checking a bag (a $25 fee for each) and their flight is now almost $1000 between the two of them.

Now if they were trying to make a last second trip this weekend I could see the tickets being more than $400, but with two months notice?

Air travel costs are getting out of control and the alternative to drive is becoming equally as expensive thanks to fuel costs. How are people supposed to get around quickly these days?

I have had two out of town weddings this year and the only reason I was able to go to the one in Idaho was because I had miles. The ticket would have cost over $700! With miles it was much cheaper, but it also meant I had to fly Boise-San Francisco-Chicago on the way back. The other one I caught a good window and ironically the day I landed in Louisville oil prices went up $11/barrel.

So what is the solution? Air travel can't become a thing for the rich or else the airlines will go out of business. They need volume and even many wealthy people don't want to fly 1st class all the time. As already stated, driving is becoming less attractive to people as the time to go cross country is prohibitive and with gas prices, filling up you car 4 or 5 times is gonna cost you big.

Yesterday I talked of the 'Big Idea'. I would like to hear Obama or McCain bring this idea to the campaign. High speed electric train like they have in Europe. Even the most die hard SUV driving American I have talked to over the past 15 years of my life that goes to Europe raves about the train system there.

Train travel in this country has been dieing on the vine for years. The oil and auto industry have both lobbied to kill train travel and get train tracks torn up to have highways in their place. They have very effectively made the purchase of a car a necessity for a great part of the country.

The question is who will gamble and lobby for this kind of travel to come to America? What venture capital group will look to raise billions of dollars to lay the track, lobby congress, and have the trains and stations built?

Some may say that we have Amtrak already. Well I put in a trip check for New York to Los Angeles, a common trip amongst businessmen. The length of that trip? A mere 61+ hours! This obviously doesn't work for most travelers.

Now here is why I think this is such a concern and problem for the country. When it comes to driving we can buy cars with higher gas mileage, or that run on natural gas, hydrogen powered, or even electric.

Yet when it comes to air travel I have been able to find little information about 'alternative energy air travel'. Not to mention when it comes to air travel, safety has to be priority one and I don't know many people that would raise their hand to fly in a plane powered by something other than jet fuel without years of testing beforehand.

As I wrote yesterday, we too often look at today as the only problem. I see air travel becoming far too expensive for most people. If that happens our country will have to find a way to allow people to get around or else the effect will truly rattle our economy like nothing we have ever see before.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Big Idea

One thing that has left our country's political leadership is the, 'Big Idea'. Our leaders at one point had big ideas to try and improve and take our country to higher levels of innovation and change. In the past 20+ years the 'Big Idea' has gone the way of tax cuts and cost of living adjustments for Social Security.

- FDR led us out of the depression and created Social Security.
- Eisenhower led the development and advancement of our highway system.
- JFK challenged us to go to the moon. (Seen in video above)
- LBJ pushed for the Voting Rights Act and passage of Medicare.

We now fight to suppress science in the way of stem cell research and have let issues like gay marriage and abortion distract us from issues that will truly endanger our status as Americans as the leader in the world economically and creatively. We spend money without accountability and have a debt that is out of control. We focus on today's problem and rarely look forward to tomorrow.

Now we have two Presidential candidates who are battling over,,,, well I'm not really sure what they are fighting the election over. Both spend a lot of time apologizing for and throwing their respective surrogates under the proverbial bus. They both spend time blaming the other for oil and gas prices. But I don't hear any big ideas from either.

Obama the candidate is an idea, but what his ideas are I don't really know. Is a person enough to turn around a country that has major issues? Hopefully, but I doubt it.

17people didn't comment on Al Gore's speech to become energy independent in 10 years a few weeks back, but this blog's respect for Gore is well documented.

Is the Gore challenge bold and audacious?

Hell yeah it is. But this is America, land of the free and home of the brave. Shouldn't we be the ones to lead the world on this? Since when are we the country who is afraid?

The rhetoric has to stop and the time is now to act. We now have Al Gore to push for change. My fear is that we really need him to have a more prominent role, like the one he just may have won 8 years ago.

Monday, July 28, 2008

17People Get Healthy!: General Tips

After a long weekend and a distraction from Michael Savage, 17People’s series on health and wellness continues today with big picture goals and tips for getting healthy and in shape.

In my personal turnaround, I read and tried a whole slew of training and eating methods. There is not a single plan that will work for every person and such it is up to the individual to tailor their plan to fit to them.

If you are just a few pounds overweight, you don’t need to train like someone who is 30-40 pounds overweight to get your desired results.

Readers of this blog know how much I love The Biggest Loser and that show was a great reference and tool where to get some strategies and tips. I also can not talk enough about my favorite magazine Men’s Health which has complete workouts, exercises, diets, and tips to borrow and incorporate into your life.

One lesson that we Americans have learned from the Iraq War is that proper planning and strategy is key. Getting yourself healthier from whatever stage you are at requires strategic and effective planning.

What I am saying is don’t let a Donald Rumsfeld plan your personal wellness plan. You can’t assume anything and have to realize that to get yourself into better shape, or to drop pounds it’s going to be hard work. There’s no easy way to get in shape and you have to commit to take care of yourself.

Personal well being is NOT ‘one size fits all’.

Despite what you see on TV there is no meal plan, pill, or operation that guarantees you will lose weight or improve your wellness. Even the much publicized ‘gastric bypass surgery’ has mediocre results if you ask me.

First of all it has some dangers and failures that result in real problems, like death. Second, you only have to look at Notre Dame Football Coach Charlie Weis, a famous gastric bypass patient who has put much of the weight back on.

Below are my general thoughts and tips as to how to change up your life and get healthier. It’s a long piece broken down into many subsections which hopefully makes it easier to get through.

If your goal is to lose weight, find a partner or group to do it with. As just written last week, my recent 37 pound weight loss came as the result of a ‘Biggest Loser’-like contest amongst my friends. Without this I don’t think the results would have been as profound.

Why? I feel to have ‘accountability’ to someone other than yourself, is an incredible motivator. Getting on the scale in front of another person or two, is accountability that stuck with me throughout the entire week between weigh-ins.

We both would say that we were nervous every Monday we got on the scale. There was no elimination, fine, penalty associated with a bad weigh in. Success both felt good personally and served as encouragement and a motivator to the other person.

In addition to the accountability of being on a scale each week, to simultaneously lose weight with others gives you a sounding board and built in support group. It’s not like you need a ‘sponsor’ like exist in AA, but it’s nice to share successes, struggles, and tips with someone who is doing the same thing you are.

Let others involved in your daily life know what you are doing. Accountability and support exist if you lose weight with friends, loved ones, or maybe with your personal trainer. To increase the pressure and accountability let other people that see you regularly know what you are doing. The more people that know what you are trying to do is added motivation to not fail and stick to your plan.

Don’t obsess about pounds. This was probably my biggest failure of the contest. So much is made of weight and pounds lost, but the final goal is to be healthy. If you are eating right, and exercising, the pounds are going to come off.

If you get on the scale one week where you worked hard and ate well, yet only lost a half pound. Don’t freak out, it doesn’t mean you haven’t made yourself healthier.

I once had a personal trainer for a couple sessions. He gave me a very good tip that I should follow better. He said to ‘judge your success on how your clothes fit’. If your shirts are hanging on you better or your pants go on easier, that’s a great sign.

Remember, unless you are way overweight, pounds lost is just part of what you are trying to do. Also a very key distinction is for those who are exercising and lifting weights. Lifting weights builds muscle and muscle is heavier than fat, yet having more muscle means you are going to be healthier.

Don’t let a week or two of slow weight loss weeks change your eating to a less balanced diet to drop weight.

Don’t use Body Mass Index (BMI) as the soul barometer of success. One measurement of weight is BMI. You can calculate your own by clicking on the following link. Yet BMI is a flawed system to me and many others. It is based strictly on height and weight. It doesn’t take other factors into account like muscle mass or body type. There are people who have wide shoulders, muscular big bases (legs, hips), which means their weight is gonna be heavier than a naturally thin person.

Yet BMI gives everyone of a certain height the same ‘ideal weight’ range. I still have 4-5 pounds to get myself to that ‘ideal weight’ number. Use BMI to track your progress, but don’t feel as though you are a failure if your BMI is not under 25. Especially if it means you reduce your muscle gain or start eating like a bird.

Don’t be afraid of food. The biggest mistake made in dropping weight is to essentially starve yourself into a lower weight. I like to refer to it as the Survivor diet from the TV show. People who watch that show see contestants lose tons of weight from the very slight diets they eat on the abandoned islands they live on.

One of the reasons we made the contest four months long was that it meant we had to really change our habits, diet in particular, to promote actual change instead of a quick fix.

You can’t be afraid of food and expect that you will be healthy. It’s more about eating the right foods, and drinking the right fluids to get yourself healthy.

My friend I lost the weight with has said throughout the process, ‘A weight problem isn’t like alcoholism or a drug problem, you have to eat’. While this sounds obvious the reality is to get yourself healthy, there is no ‘cold turkey’ when it comes to food like there is with tobacco, booze, or drugs.

The Survivor Diet or the Cast Away diet is not a ‘sustainable’ method for weight loss. Finding a way to eat right, and still enjoy eating will allow you to remain healthy for the long term.

Balance in life is the key to long term success. Other than the competition the biggest reason for my ability to transform myself, was my current job. I work for a company now that is challenging and demanding, but also affords an actual balance in my life. My campaign work weeks of 100+ hours and my advertising work weeks of 80+ hours are a thing of the past. I know longer get home after 8 or 9PM anymore meaning I can eat and workout earlier.

It has become a macho thing to work and work and work in the US to the point that we don’t take vacations or that our desks become the place we spend more time than anywhere else. It is too often a test of wills where people try and stay longer at their job in order to impress their bosses or co-workers. Yet, in the end it means you are more likely to grab fast food on the way home and less likely to go to the gym.

Success at work is important and you should work hard, but if the cost of that is your own health, what is the real long term benefit?

It doesn’t end when you hit your target weight. I have been asked quite often recently what my target weight is or what I am going to do when I get to that point.

Here’s the reality, many people that lose weight gain it back and then some. I should know, I have done it before.

My plan this time around was to find every which way possible to not just lose weight and exercise, but to truly change my metabolism so I can not just maintain my current weight but continually improve my health. Many of these plans are coming in future blogs.

In the business world ‘continual improvement’ is often talked about and companies strive for ISO ratings to show off to customers and clients. Yet as athletes or people we often get to a weight goal, or run a marathon, and act as though that’s the end of the game.

A better analogy would be an election or a campaign, when you win the election that is just part of the equation. Governing and implementing your plans is what you worked so hard to win the election for.

So when you lose weight or train to get in better shape why should it end at that point.

Having screwed up and ballooned back up in weight before, I am more focused than ever to continue my physical improvement. I may be allow myself a couple more pieces of bread, but my training will continue to be intense and my eating will continue to be responsible.

It’s a fact that as we age, we are predisposed to lose muscle and break down. We can either let this happen or slow it down or reverse it by making a commitment to both exercise and eat healthy.

How many people in their 30’s and 40’s do you see on various medications for their health problems like blood pressure, cholesterol, pain, or whatever ailment or affliction they heard on some awful ad on TV.

If you could avoid popping pills and subsequent side effects to keep you healthy wouldn’t you?

A healthy weight a lifestyle does not guarantee you’ll be healthy but it improves your odds.

That’s my goal and I hope that readers of this have the same goal.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Definition of Trash

While I had planned today to start a four day segment of weight-loss and health tips and stories.

Yet my blood pressure and anger are boiling today from a Right Wing Radio asshole named Michael Savage. Loyal readers know I try to not use curse words on this site, but Michael Savage doesn't deserve to be treated with civility. On his radio show earlier this week Savage went on an unconsionable rant which is embedded below.

Now I don't listen to a ton of political talk on the radio. Intsead I grow my brain by listening to Sports Radio. Yet, I do occasionally listen to right wing radio to hear what the 'other side' says. I roll my eyes at a lot of it, but also feel like I better understand the viewpoints of those not in my enlightened train of thought.

Like many Americans I believe in Free Speech and shock jocks make outlandish comments on these shows. If you wanted to, you can listen to any show and make an issue out of it. Freak out if you want or you can take it for what it is, people trying to make ratings and draw attention to themsleves.

Savage crossed the line, and his lack of a true apology continually sinks himself.

A less reported statement in the above clip is how 'minorities' have been faking athsma for 20 years. This 'not so subliminal' racist statement is worse than Don Imus's 'nappy headed ho's' statemen ever was. He makes it as though minority parents were teaching their kids to fake athsma.

Autism is becoming unfortunately a lot like cancer in the respect that it seems to touch everyones life in some way or another. I remember talking tomy friends who have had kids recently and they have all mentioned the 'fear' they have worrying about it for their kids.

Savage should be fired,,,, again. That's right, this righteuosly indignant lover of freedom has been fired for awful comments before. Savage was given a show on MSNBC but was let go after he said the following to a gay caller.

You should only get AIDS and die, you pig. How's that? Why don't you see if you can sue me, you pig. You got nothing better than to put me down, you piece of garbage.

I am happy to hear noone has come to his defense and noone should. With any luck this will be the end of the career of a piece of shit.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Contest Results

Had a question on yesterday’s blog asking how the “Biggest Loser” contest turned out. So before I get into the 17people training program and tips, here is how everything went down.

We started with four people on week one. After a very successful first week where the four of us lost a combined 23 pounds a roadblock hit. Before that third weigh-in, another of our friends got married. It was a great wedding but we all let loose, a little too much. It caused half the field to not want to weigh in that next Monday and unfortunately they did not weigh in with us from that week forward.

The competition from that point became a two person deal. So every Monday my one buddy and I weighed in. To the great credit of the two guys who kind of dropped out, they both lost weight over the 4 month span and above all were very supportive throughout the process.

The two of us that were left doing the weekly weigh in saw huge results. My percentage of weight loss was 18.76%. That number did not prove to be enough though as my friend lost over 24% of his body weight. It was awesome to see the change in him and the dedication he had throughout the 4 months.

He and I started at different points of weight, a point I feel he would readily admit. He had more weight to lose than me. He and I have known each other since we played little league baseball together 20+ years ago, and since I have been back in Chicago full time he is one of my best and closest friends. The results and change in him has been amazing.

He went to a wedding this past weekend where he saw some college friends who had no idea about what he was doing. Needless to say they were blown away, 24% smaller is a major change.

As I wrote yesterday this is one of the most fun parts of the process. Seeing friends and family and how happy they are for you is an incredible feeling. You feel better and more confident about yourself. We both have told each other that we don’t just look different, but we walk and sound different. There is a renewed confidence that is .

While I lost the competition, there were no losers other than pounds.

As I wrote yesterday, I won’t write any actual pound numbers for my friends, but between the four of us we lost over 135lbs!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


So I have been hinting at this for some time, and today is time to tell the story 17people’s last four month dedication and obsession to health and fitness.

While health care is an issue that is obsessed about in politics in this country, people’s personal health in this country is an equal if not greater problem. We eat like shit, work too many hours, and veg out on the couch or in front of a computer too much.

As a result our country has put on a lot of unhealthy weight which has led to more obesity, higher blood pressure, more cases of sleep apnea, and a rash of Type-2 Diabetics.

By being a healthier, more active country we wouldn’t need to go to the doctor as much and be able to stay off the plethora of medications out there which mask the problems that many of us have inflicted upon ourselves.

On Saturday March 15th after a night of drinking and partying with my friends a challenge was made. Two of my friends were going to be in a weight loss competition judged by percentage of body weight.

A “Biggest Loser” competition of sorts. The bet between them was a trip to Vegas. Another of my buddies heard of the bet and asked to be in on it. He then called me and asked if I wanted in. What he may not remember is as I was stumbling home from a bender that concluded with me eating an end of the night breakfast at one of my favorite Chicago places, ‘Nookies’. If I remember right after a number of drinks I ended up eating my favorite meal there, ‘Crunchy French Toast’. For those of you who don’t know what that is, think French toast that has Corn Flakes cooked onto it.

The next day, crippled with a series of brutal hangovers the “PRAA Biggest Loser” competition was formed. The four of us would weigh in the next day and every subsequent Monday until July 7th.

Being the kind of person that makes small deals into much bigger deals I went to ‘Bed, Bath, and Beyond’ and bought the best digital scale I could so that we had a common scale to all weigh in on each week.

The next day all four of us weighed in. I will not tell any numbers of any of my friends because their weight is their business.

While I don’t like to divulge too much about myself putting my results here for all to see will serve as another motivator to keep the weight off and stay healthy. I started the competition at an embarrassing and pathetic 196.2 pounds (yes, the scale had decimals). My BMI was 31.7. So according to the BMI scale you can use at I was in the ‘obese’ category. I was wearing 34” waist pants and my BP was 140/100.

Why should people be interested in how I worked out, ate, and trained the past 17 weeks?

Because it has worked, and produced incredible results that are both noticed by people who know me, but more importantly, are felt by me.

The results are.

- At the end of the competition I dropped 36.8 pounds to 159.4 pounds.
- My BMI dropped from 31.7 to 25.7.
- My waist shrunk 4-5 inches depending on pants
- Most importantly for me, my blood pressure dropped from 140 over 100, to 112/68
- Have reduce my mile time to around 6:45 when I could barely run a 8:45 mile when I started
- Have gone from being able to do one, maybe two chin-ups to being able to do 13 now and 5 sets of 6.

I mean I fit into a pair of 29in pants the other day!? That's crazy to me, I don’t know the last time I could say.

The whole thing has been awesome. I feel great and while it sounds vein, I looove seeing people now. The last couple weeks I have seen some friends for the 1st time in over a month or three and I have heard the following comments quite a bit.

"You look so much younger"

"You look great! Ugh, not to say you looked bad before, but, you look good now."

"Holy shit!"

"You look you did when you were in high school."

"How'd you lose all the weight? Can you help me do it?"

The last line is why I am going to write about this at length in this blog. Above any vanity, I feel great, I’m sleeping better, and other than the fact I have to buy all new clothes this has been about the best thing I have ever done.

The problem with the answer to the question is that it is not a quick one. I worked my ass off (literally) to get myself in the shape I am in now and it wasn't done by just running a lot or by buying a video or machine off an infomercial.

It was a strategic tireless, dedication that required discipline and self control on things I have not done well on in the past.

I remember at the end of the Biggest Loser last season that Ali, who ended up winning, said that when she trained, she was training as an athlete. That is where I feel I have gotten myself too and I still have more goals for myself to accomplish.

By sharing what I have learned, I hope someone out there will learn something new they can do to enhance their workout or eating habits.

As I wrote yesterday my dad has always talked about the importance and meaning of health. How I feel now compared to 4+ months ago has transformed how I view that belief.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


No this isn't an article about Babe Ruth's legendary 60 home run total in 1927.

60 has meaning to the person who has always been the Babe Ruth figure in my life, my father. My dad is one of the best people anywhere and much of what I am and how I act is the result of him.

I am told by many that I look like my mom and act like my dad. My dad's family will say I look like him, but that's a blog for another day.

Yesterday was my dad's 6oth bday and 17people wants to wish him a Happy BDay and say how lucky my sister and I are to have him for our father.

I could go on and on about all the lessons I have learned or the sayings that have helped shape my life. "The hardest thing for a parent to say is no, but, no you can't go", being a particular favorite when I would ask to go to a party when growing up.

My dad has always, always talked about is the importance of health. Fortunately with few exceptions he is a very healthy 60 year old who still can beat me on the tennis court.

Happy 60th dad, wish you many more healthy years.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Dark Knight

No spoiler alerts here as I would never want to ruin The Dark Knight for anyone.
This movie which I saw in an absolutely packed theatre last evening is one of those experiences you have to see and experience for yourself. I have written on this blog before about the change in the way 'Superhero' movies have been made. That they have been made lately as large budget 'independant movies' with directors and actors of the highest quality.
IronMan was great, I thought The Incredible Hulk was very good and the success and reviews of Spider Man speak for themself. I feel as though the change from bubble gum movies to thoughtful, insightful movies really took a turn in Batman Begins.
The Dark Knight takes this genre to an entirely different level of filmmaking. In my political writing I often talk of raising and lowering expectations. If you build up a performance or event it rarely lives up to it. This is one situation where I feel sky high expectations are far exceeded.
The story is intense and dark, the cinematography is brilliant, and the acting, the acting, the acting, wow. The headlines have gone rightly to Heath Ledger's performance as the 'Joker'. Ledger was fantastic, funny, and terrifying throughout the movie.
17People mancrush on Christian Bale (aka Bruce Wayne, Batman) may not be getting the headlines, but brings a depth to the Batman character that makes Batman more than a superhero in the sense that we have grown to expect. While we have often seen the tortured nature of being a superhero in movies the way Bale and this series of Batman depict it is not PG.
Additionally have to say that Aaron Eckhardt, whom I am not all that familiar with, held his own every bit with the gravitas of Ledger and Bale in the role formerly ruined by an awful Tommy Lee Jones performance as Harvey Dent (aka Two Face).
As a born and bred Chicagoan, I am so proud of my city which has been 'Gotham City' for the past two Batmans. Chicago is a magnificent city with a beauty and openness not found in other major US cities. While the acting was great and the story captivating, Chicago was the quiet star of the film. The city gave the movie cart blanche to shoot on location and do some incredible stunts and demolition.
This movie is an experience you need to see and while I am not in the movie review business this movie is awesome.