Late Birthday Blog

In what has now become a basically annual or semi-annual occurrence, I’m actually writing a blog entry! Granted I’m almost two weeks late on my annual birthday blog but I’m still going to count it. I’ve written about my birthday at 27, 28, 29, 30 and 31. A bit less than two weeks ago I turned 32. So I guess this is like a state of the union sort of thing at this point.

My last few birthday blogs I’ve written about some of my strength goals. Here’s the good news: I actually hit a major strength goal and then some! One of my life goals was to make a deadlift. Which, for those of you unfamiliar with the movement, basically consists of grabbing a barbell sitting on the floor and standing up with it in your hands. It sounds simple and it is but with 500lbs in your hand it becomes difficult. So, on April 16th 2014, I did this:

And then a few weeks later on April 29th 2014, I did this!

The first one was 500lbs even. The second one was 529lbs (or 240kg). So not only did I meet my goal, I beat it! I was very happy to make that lift given that just five months earlier I was still struggling with a hip/back injury. Since that first 500lb deadlift, I’ve actually made that weight for a double (ie, two lifts in a row, much harder to do than a single one) and I’ve done at least 10 lifts of 500lbs or more. I’m hoping for a 250kg/550lb deadlift one of these days but my training has been minimal over the last six weeks because I spent 8 days in the Dominican Republic for Pan Ams and then I spent 12 days in Russia for Junior Worlds. So I’m not as strong as I was in mid May. But I will have the ability/opportunity to train consistently going forward so starting this week I’m going back on a program to get that 550lb deadlift.

Outside of training stuff, I am still working hard on hookgrip, my business/project related to Olympic-style weightlifting. Just one year ago, hookgrip’s facebook page was at 17k likes. Now it’s at almost 93k likes! That’s a huge year-over-year step, I’m really curious where it’ll be at next year! 200k, 300k? Who knows. I’m really not sure what’s even possible given that it’s kind of a niche market and there are only so many people who do this sort of weightlifting. Outside of facebook, I’ve also been working hard on growing the hookgrip reach on instagram and I’m happy to say that in under one year of regular posting, I’ve gone from a couple hundred followers to over 55k. Instagram posts routinely get over 1000 likes and a lot are hitting 1500+ at this point. Really encouraging!

And outside of just social media metrics, sales are really strong on the hookgrip store and I have two employees working for me full-time. They help with both content creation (ie, editing pics, selecting pics for albums, posting videos) and store management (counting stock, adding new items to inventory, photographing products, shipping items, emailing customers). I have a lot of new products in the works and I’m always on the lookout for cool new idea for products that no one else is doing. I’ve also entered into partnerships with a number of companies — including Rogue Fitness, the market leader for CrossFit-related products. Rogue now sells a couple of hookgrip items and we’re probably going to expand that partnership down the line.

So I’m really excited about hookgrip. Beyond the crapton of content that I have already gathered that I still have to post, I am about to embark on a month-long trip that takes me to Salt Lake City, Beijing and Las Vegas. Salt Lake City is for the US National Championships, Beijing is for a training camp at the Chinese National Training Center (the Chinese are basically the best weightlifting country/system in the world — along with the Russians) and then a bachelor party in Las Vegas combined with a couple extra days to hang out with my good friend John Broz (and some of his lifters who I am friends with as well). It should be a great trip! Not just because it’ll be fun but also because it should be great for hookgrip content. The content from the Chinese National Training Center will likely be the most popular content that I’ve even gathered for hookgrip. Although, until I see who is training there and what they’re doing, I won’t know exactly how good the content will be until I get there.

On the poker front, I’ve been seeing all of these posts from the WSOP on my facebook news feed and I have to say — it feels like a lifetime ago that I was out there in the hallways of the Rio. I think it was 2011 so it was only 3 years ago but I feel incredible far removed from it. I still see a lot of familiar faces winning bracelets and playing events though so that is nice — congrats to anyone who managed to pick up a bracelet in the prelim events this year. This past year I actually flirted with the possibility of returning to online poker in some form. A few of the new legal/regulated poker sites approached me and one got as far as making me an offer to come on board. But at the end of the day, it was not much money (under $100k/year) and I didn’t want to have to move to Atlantic City or Las Vegas unless it was a really compelling offer. I never really investigated the company and work environment because I knew that I was not going to take a job for that level of compensation. The job did sound interesting in the few phone calls that we had but at this point in my career I am already doing things that I find interesting. So I need more than just an interesting job to make a career switch. It would need to be a hard-to-resist combination of interesting, money, upside, work environment, coworkers, etc. I’m not so sure that sort of opportunity will ever come from poker so I think I may be permanently past that stage of my life. We will see though! For right now, hookgrip is my full-time work and I occupy my spare time with dating, weightlifting, friends, etc. I’m happy with how things are going, 32 should be a fun year.

I guess that’s it for awhile! Unless I find something compelling to write about in the meantime…

Post Trip Update

That title should actually read trips.  I’ve been on an absurd number of trips lately and it doesn’t appear as if it’s going to let up.  Just recently, I did a two week trip to Finland/Estonia/Russia in September and I just returned a few days ago from a three week trip to Poland for Worlds and then a one week addon trip with my family.  It’s been pretty nuts.  All of the trips were good though and I managed to snag some awesome business class seats for most of the flights — using credit card points.  And on the last leg home this most recent trip, I was lucky enough to sit in Lufthansa First Class from Munich to New York JFK.  It was crazy!  The seats are absurd.  This was the seat across the aisle from me:


It was just awesome.  The food was great, the seat was super comfortable, it turned into a completely flat bed and Lufthansa does turndown service where they put bedding down.  It rivaled a normal bed at home.  Incredible!  The seat retails for north of $10,000 one way so I guess it should be awesome.  But, obviously, I didn’t pay for it with $.  I used miles and it was worth every one of them.  I just hope to get into the Lufthansa First Class cabin again — maybe next time flying through Frankfurt so I can visit their First Class Terminal.

Speaking of being pampered — tomorrow I have a massage scheduled.  It’s my first massage in a long time.  Maybe over a year.  When I was living in Costa Rica, Cayman and Vegas, I used to get them regularly but I couldn’t find a masseuse that I liked in Philly so I gave up.  I think that was probably a mistake.  I think I’ve developed a few injuries from lifting and lack of soft tissue work.  I’m going to fix that going forward by getting at least one massage per month.  I also found a really good chiropractor who is way better than the ones I’ve gone to in the past.  This guy definitely gets it and he doesn’t just crack my back a few times before sending me on my way.

But all that being said, I’m still struggling to get my back better.  It’s the same injury that popped up around April.  I think I’ve finally narrowed it down to a lack of soft tissue work and my bed.  My back felt great on my trips and, even without any lifting while home, it really felt terrible.  The last few nights, I’ve been sleeping on a big couch cushion that I pulled off my couch (it’s about seven feet long, part of my sectional) and I feel fantastic.  So I’m probably going to get a new firmer mattress (even though my current one is about three years old and it was an expensive mattress, I think it’s too soft for me), get massages, do stretches and see if that resolves the back issue.  This is actually the first time that I think I’ve figured it out!  It feels like night and day depending on where I sleep.  It would be amazing to be able to lift again — I’ve missed it so much and I’ve gotten very weak.  I would love to be able to gain back all of the weight that I’ve lost over the last few months.

hookgrip continues to get bigger and bigger at a significant rate.  I’m still having a ton of fun with it and I am excited to see where it goes from here.  I’ve brought on a few part-time employees to help me with things that I don’t really have time for.  And I started importing some products to sell (such as knee sleeves, which have sold really well).  I have some more items on the way and I think what I have planned should be popular with the weightlifting/crossfit community.  It’s been a great experience overall — having fun, making enough money to pay for trips, great feedback, seeing some amazing weightlifting, etc.  The facebook page is north of 28,000 likes and the instagram (which I started posting on about five months ago) is around 8,500 likes.  I’m still getting good feedback on both and I have a huge amount of content still to distribute.  Overall — things are going great!  I couldn’t be more excited for what will happen with hookgrip in 2014.

I’ve talked a little bit in the past about poker stuff that I keep up with these days.  Which, frankly, isn’t much.  I watched Ultimate Beat — which I was interviewed for.  I think Scott did an amazing job researching a very difficult subject.  It’s a hard story to tell and I think he got some good feedback about how to tell the story a bit better and I think he’s redoing it.  But really I’m not sure what sort of fixes he’s making.  I’ll have to wait to see it.  I also know that there was the Justin Timberlake movie (called Runner Runner) which has some aspects that were loosely based on my life (obviously an overwhelming % of the film has nothing to do with me, it’s just a few things that seem similar to my story).  I haven’t seen the movie yet but I’d like to see it at some point soon.  Maybe once it’s available via on demand.  It’s still cool to see a mainstream poker film though!

Lastly, I’ve been approached by a few companies about employment in poker.  Partly because new jersey poker is moving along nicely and I live nearby so I guess I’m a logical candidate to be part of the physical presence in New Jersey.  The fundamental problem with the offers so far is that I’m just too tied up in hookgrip things these days to take a desk job.  Especially jobs that don’t pay particularly well.  If the jobs paid significant money, I would have a tough decision to make but at this point, I can make enough money from hookgrip to pay the bills and I have reason to believe that it could do a lot better for me down the line.  So I don’t see a reason to uproot my hookgrip progress for a job that doesn’t offer nearly the same upside or any sort of significant current compensation.  Although, the prospect of returning to poker in some sense does really appeal to me.  I still love the market and sometimes I think about all of the things that I wanted to do with PocketFives in the 6-12 months following from the time period where Black Friday happened.  We had some big plans and great momentum.  It still depresses me a bit to think back to the 2nd quarter of 2011.  Sad days but I’m glad I emerged from it mostly unscathed.  Either way, poker in the future is still a maybe!  But for now, it’s all weightlifting for me.

Quasi Birthday Blog

True to my word, I haven’t written a blog entry in over 4.5 months. That’s not because a lack of interesting things happening in my life but more so because I don’t think the readers here care. As I stated back in December. But, here’s a quick update on the usual things that I’ve been posting about:

  • hookgrip: It’s going really well.  I’m closing in on 17,000 facebook likes on the hookgrip page.  I passed 10,000 about five months ago so I’m still adding fans at a decent clip.  More and more people are telling me how much they love what I’m doing and so on.  I had some good trips to Albania (early April for Europeans) and Peru (early May for Junior Worlds) and I got some really good pics at both.  I’m excited about the project.
  • My lifting has been on-and-off in terms of how well it’s going.  I go through streaks where it goes well and then I get hit with some sort of setback.  For instance, my trips to Albania and Peru didn’t really help.  Plus I got really sick in Peru and lost 13lbs in 8 days (I’m better now and thankfully I managed to gain the weight back without too much trouble).  I recently managed to get my squat back up into the 360-370 range (and I did a triple with 335 and a double with 347) which is about the best I’ve ever done.  But I did that with a back strain which just isn’t getting better.  It’s been about two months now that I’ve been dealing with it and I’m getting annoyed.  I am able to train through it but every day I am dealing with a cramp/strain in my lower right back.  Nothing I’ve done to it has made it significantly better or worse.  And it doesn’t hurt more or less when lifting so that’s why I’ve trained through it in the hopes that it would resolve.  It hasn’t so I’m going to take the option of last resort which is resting it (the reason that I don’t rest things at the first sign of pain is because most aches/pains resolve themselves in a week or two and if I stopped lifting anytime something hurt, I would lift about twice a month).  I’m also going to try to go see a sports med doctor.

So, outside of hookgrip and lifting, I’ve just been doing the usual stuff.  About two weeks ago I was a groomsman in Jeff Williams’ (yellowsub86 for the poker crowd) wedding.  I haven’t seen any professional wedding pics yet so I don’t have one to post but I assume those will show up at some point.  But it was a great time and I really enjoyed myself.  I then spent a week in the south (partly in Atlanta, partly in Charlotte) and I attended another wedding the following weekend on St Simon’s Island in southeast Georgia.  The second wedding was a family wedding and it was very enjoyable as well.

While I was in Charlotte, I visited with some high-profile USA weightlifters and I was asked to be on a few podcasts.  They’re kind of about weightlifting but here are the links.  First, I was on Weightlifting Scoop which was about 40 minutes and it was more of an interview.  Second, I was on Weightlifting Talk which was a lot longer (100 minutes) and I am only involved for parts of it and it wasn’t really an interview.  It was fun too though.  I don’t really think they’ll be all that interesting for most of you but I suppose I should link them.

On a more relevant note for the poker crowd, I never wrote a blog post about a very exciting subject: it is possible to play online poker legally in the United States now.  Of course, you have to be in Nevada, you need a cell phone (not exactly a big deal, just need to mention it), you need to have Windows, traffic isn’t exactly huge yet, etc.  But, you can play.  And that’s huge.  I don’t think I would have predicted that you’d be able to play online poker legally in the US about two years after black friday.  As far as government decision speed, that’s quite fast in my opinion.  I was expecting more like four to five years.  And I still think it’ll be several more years before we see it more widespread with good player pooling and big exciting tournaments.  But maybe I will be proven wrong.  Either way, I think it’s awesome that Ultimate Poker (would not be my first choice of name but I can see why they did it as they’re owned by the UFC owners) is online and dealing hands.  Awesome start.

What’s interesting about this is where it puts me as far as my career.  I wrote a blog post upon exiting the poker world professionally a little less than two years ago and I stated that it was virtually certain that I would not return to poker until it was licensed and regulated.  Well, now it is.  There are a couple of options.

First, I can make poker sites that’ll rank highly for certain keywords.    I own some good domains for this such as and various others which I think would do well.  There are some issues.  First, I’m not sure it’s going to be possible to be an affiliate easily which will limit monetization.  In other countries, such as France, affiliates are able to do well setting up sites like  But it might not be the same in the US.  Some sites, like Bluff, are doing their part to get some good traffic around the legal keywords (for instance, they’ve set up this page about the legality of poker, which is good linkbait) but overall I still think I could do well with a site re traffic.  Second, dealing with poker sites and selling ads is quite annoying.  So while I think I could get a lot of good traffic, I am not super into the idea at this time.

Second, I could go work for a poker site.  I think there are upsides and downsides to this and I have been approached about a few opportunities over the last year or so.  But nothing that I felt like I couldn’t turn down without regret.  Going to work in a corporate environment with a boss, meetings, dress codes, office politics, etc has its upsides and downsides, obviously.  Overall that aspect is most certainly a downside for me.  But if I managed to come across a position that fit my skills, would allow me to succeed and is something that I’m passionate about, I would definitely consider taking the spot.  So that’s an option.

And, third, I could just keep doing what I’m doing and not re-enter the poker world.  I would guess that, more likely than not, I will end up working in poker again.  I’m not sure how, where or doing what but I feel like there are a lot of really cool things that can be done in online poker as a licensed and regulated product.  I just am not sure when that’ll happen.

So, lastly, since I’m not likely to post again in a few days, I should mention that I’m about to turn 31.   At this point, it’s a tradition to write about my birthday.  I’ve written about my birthday at 27, 28, 29 and 30.  And now 31.  Last year I wrote that I wanted a 400lb back squat and a 500lb deadlift.  Unfortunately I didn’t hit either one.  And this back injury is standing in my way right now.  But I did hit a number of PRs in all lifts over the last year and I know that I am ready to hit both once I get healthy and I can get some solid training under my belt.  I think it’ll only take 2-3 months of healthy training to get there given the strength base that I’ve built for myself now.  And I will find a way to get healthy.  Overall though, I think birthdays are not exciting anymore when you’re in your 30s.  Getting older is obviously a part of life and worrying about it is a total waste of stress/effort/etc.

I’m just focused on delaying the effects of age as much as I can.  Thus far, I’m still feeling pretty damn good.  Back when I was in the 18-20ish range, I ate a ton.  People were always like “you know you can’t eat as much when you’re in your late 20s because blah blah metabolism blah blah.”  Well, that part is bullshit.  I dropped 18 lbs in a month from Jan 15th to Feb 15th and I didn’t do any unhealthy starvation stuff.  I retained 14-15lbs of the weight loss.  I’m the fittest, strongest and leanest (measured by BF%) I’ve ever been and I am hardly dedicated to my diet (I do avoid gluten because of the joint inflammation that I get from it).  So given that the whole metabolism in the 20s thing is bullshit, I’m just kinda curious about which age-related effects are going to hit me and which won’t.  Well, not that they won’t, but I guess I mean when they will hit.  For now, I’ll just keep working on getting older one day at a time.  It is much better than the alternative.

Hey, whaddya know, a blog entry!

Just figured that I would log an entry since it’s been six weeks without an update. There’s nothing too major going on these days but there are a lot of relatively small things happening.

First, hookgrip progress is coming along. And by that I mean the actual website. In terms of the facebook page, it passed 10,000 likes a few weeks ago (on January 15th). And on Feb 6th, it will be one year since I started posting pictures on the hookgrip page seriously. I would say that 10,000 likes in a year without having a website and with very minimal advertising spending (I spent around $60 at one point, as an experiment to see how it would perform) is a very successful year simply on the facebook presence front. Of course, facebook traffic is not super valuable and it’s pretty limited with regards to what I can do with it (ie, the moderation options are quite weak, apps are difficult to install on a page, lots of limited functionality, etc) so I really need the site to be up soon. Right now I have two separate programmers working on separate projects related to the site. Once those programmers wrap up their work, it should be relatively simple to bring their work together and launch the site in a matter of weeks. The problem is, neither of them is done yet. So for right now, I’m doing what I can to be as ready as possible for them to finish their projects and get the site rolling when I have their work completed.

Secondly, on a personal level, my gym (CrossFit Center City, in Philadelphia) runs something called the BCCC every quarter. Since I’ve been there for nearly 1.5 years, I’ve seen a number of these come and go. It stands for “Body Composition Change Challenge” and the general idea is to set goals and stick with them for 30 days. Some people want to achieve performance goals, some people want to gain weight, some people want to lose weight, etc. For the most part, my goal over the last 1.5 years was to gain weight and get stronger with the overarching goal of just feeling relatively good. I came into things at around 180lbs and, mostly on purpose, ended up at ~208lbs as of three weeks ago. Of course, not all of the 28lb gain was muscle but that’s how things tend to work when you’re trying to gain weight. My general attitude is that it’s very easy to cut fat on a periodic basis in the long-term process of getting big/strong. So I took the Jan 15-Feb 15 BCCC as an opportunity to do one of those cuts. Of course, my goal was not to starve myself of calories in the hopes of losing as much weight as possible. I want to retain as much strength as I can. Instead, my goal was simply to eat no processed food, very little sugar and lots of protein. Not only did I know that that sort of diet would result in weight/fat loss, I also was curious to see what sort of effect the dietary change would have on me. After all, I’ve never been this strict about my diet ever.

The results have been pretty amazing. First of all, I’ve gone from 208lbs to 195ish in a few weeks. I say 195ish because I’ve been as low as 194 but that was first thing in the AM and I always tend to weigh the least then. If I was to step on a scale right now (11pm at night) I’m sure the number would be between 195 and 196. So given that I’m 17-18 days in, I’m happy with the weight loss. While losing weight was definitely not my number one goal, I am happy to lose some of the fat that came along with my strength gain. I’m sure that I will slowly put fat back on when this cutting period ends but I’m okay with that as long as muscle comes along with it. But, more importantly than the weight loss, I feel absolutely incredible. Sure, I feel hungry here and there. And I’m a little sick of bacon, eggs, beef, chicken, sweet potatoes, other veggies, etc. But for the most part, I look forward to my meals and I enjoy them. And I have higher energy levels. Not to mention that inflammation in my joints is all but gone. It used to be that the first 3-4 warmup sets of squats would be quasi-torture. Even getting up off the couch at night would result in some decent aches and pains. But I wrote a lot of it off as just being a natural side effect of lifting to my max or close to my max on a daily basis. As it turns out, that was wrong. Considering that I’ve been lifting just as frequently (and about 95% as heavy, which is understandable given the weight loss) with zero issues, I think that there’s a pretty good chance that I had some inflammation in my body from my comparatively poor diet. As I’m sure you know, things like gluten can cause a LOT of inflammation for many people and a lot of them are totally unaware of what’s going on. Considering that I’m a very gluten-aware person and I didn’t bother to attribute my stiffness to my diet just goes to show that these things can be hard to track down. I’m noticing a lot of other health-related benefits as well so in that sense, I’m extremely happy with the BCCC thus far. The real issue is how to get back to gaining weight once I come off of this diet. I obviously don’t want to just go back to eating inflammatory foods but it’s also quite hard to gain weight without those foods. I will likely have to research this more and possibly become a better cook as well.

Also, on a sidenote, the BCCC essentially requires (you can opt out, but it’s discouraged to do so) before-after pictures and measurements. So I may or may not post those in a few weeks. We’ll see. Just for my own tracking, I do own an ultrasound bodyfat tester (this one) and I tested myself a few days ago and came away with the following:


This particular tester calculates bodyfat by measuring the thickness of the fat layer at various points. I know that essentially every bodyfat testing method has flaws but, as I understand it, this is probably the best at-home system to use. I certainly wouldn’t bet on it being exactly accurate but it’s a lot better than anything else that I’ve been able to find. And it does seem to reflect my changes in body comp so it’s at least getting the general idea correct. I would have loved to test myself at the beginning but unfortunately the tester stopped working and I had to send it in for repairs and I only got it back about two weeks into things. That’s okay though, the before/afters should tell the story.

Anyway, outside of those two things, the only real news is that my early April trip to Bulgaria has now become an early April trip to Albania. For whatever reason, the European Weightlifting Federation decided to move the European Senior Weightlifting Championships a few months prior to the event. It’s going to cost me a few hundred dollars in change fees but there’s not much I can do about that. So, yea, I’m going to Tirana, Albania. I’m excited because I booked a business class ticket using miles and I’m going to be in a USAirways Envoy Suite (a GREAT product, it’s an amazing seat — I flew it from Frankfurt to Philly this past summer coming home from the Olympics) and then I’m going to be in Austrian Airlines’ new business class product on the way home. They just released a new seat (you can tell that I’m a frequent flier nerd) that’s supposed to be pretty freaking awesome so I’m pumped about that. Sometimes being a little crazy about earning points pays off.

Anyway, that’s the update! Hope everyone has a great February!

Been awhile

In some ways I feel like this blog is dying a slow death. On the one hand I am about to celebrate seven (!) full years of blogging. I originally started this on Dec 31st 2005 as a place to post pictures from the 2006 PCA. I decided that I liked writing here and I just kept going. In some ways I still like it but in other ways I feel like it’s a waste. Most of the people who still have this in their RSS reader are either family members, friends or poker people. With the family members and friends, most of the communication happens via facebook, emails, google chat, etc. And the poker people, with good reason, have either moved on to other things or they are spending most of their time figuring out how to use VPNs, how to move abroad and how to get their FTP money. Or, if they’re really bored, maybe they’re playing some online blackjack or gambling sports just to get a gamble in. It doesn’t seem like that crowd gives a shit about what I have to say because I’ve also moved on from their world — at least for the time being. I don’t blame anyone for not giving a shit, I wouldn’t either if someone who blogged about an interest of mine moved on to something that is not an interest of mine. Perfectly reasonable. So I’m really not sure that I see a point to posting here anymore but I’m not going to say that I’m completely done with it just because I might get the itch again at some point in the future. That being said I wouldn’t expect to see a lot of posts here in 2013.

I spend most of my free time working on hookgrip. The hookgrip facebook page just recently cracked 8000 likes. I get a lot of interest in the pictures that I’m taking. I am also going to have a booth at The Arnold this year in early March so that’ll be a pretty big step for the business. Right now I’m taking some of the final steps to actually launch the website. I wrote a blog entry here about why the site isn’t launched yet. I’m confident it’ll be up in the next few months though as I’m working on the development of the site itself on a daily basis now.

In training news, I’ve been doing something a bit different since the CrossFit Total a few months back (late October). I’ve been spending almost all of my training time working on my front squat. The reason is that I was developing some bad habits in the back squat and I want to “reset” my form to be more upright and to hold my back/chest position properly. Things are going well in that respect, I feel like my new form is becoming a lot more natural. Fewer and fewer reps are bad. Today I managed a front squat PR of 142.5kg/314lb. While that’s a very easy back squat for me, it’s a whole different ballgame having the bar on your chest. At some point it basically just crushes you. But the good news is that I’ve gotten a LOT stronger in my chest/delts/etc from the front squatting and I feel like I have lost very little when it comes to leg strength. I’m sure my back squat dropped by a bit since I haven’t put anything in the 160kg-170kg range on my back in well over a month but it won’t take long at all to get it back when I go back to it. So the current plan is to just keep front squatting. I would like to do 150kg/330lb for a front squat single by the end of the year. Hopefully it’ll happen!

I’ve been doing a lot of traveling lately. I went to Colorado Springs in the middle of November to visit the US Olympic Training Center. And then I went to Palm Springs (I guess I like places with Springs in the name?) in early December to take pictures at the American Open (one of two big national meets that happens each year in the US). After the American Open I spent a few days with friends and family in the San Diego area before flying home. Both trips went really well. I don’t have anything major planned but I am planning on going to a few regional meets (within a few hour drive) in January and then of course the Arnold in Columbus, Ohio in early March. But the big stuff is after that. I will be attending the European Senior Championships in Varna, Bulgaria in early April. And then I will be attending the Junior World Championships (I went to this year’s Junior Worlds in Guatemala) in Lima, Peru in early May. It’s going to be a TON of traveling! But I think it’ll be worth it.

Anyway, I guess that’s the update for now! Happy holidays to everyone and I hope you have a healthy/safe/fun New Year if I don’t post before then. I’m sure I’ll check in within the next few months though.

Obama, again

Four years ago I wrote about why I was happy that President Obama was elected. Or, more accurately, why I was anti-McCain/Palin. Once again, I supported Obama over the Republican ticket. Here’s why:

The biggest reason BY FAR that I supported Democrats in this election is that I am a social liberal. And I don’t want to support what I consider to be a socially backwards party. And a party that spends altogether too much energy on totally meaningless bullshit and doesn’t seem focused on making the country better. And that party is the Republican party. Forget the economy for a second — I will address that further down. The Republican party is ridiculously backwards — from my point of view. That’s not to say that every Republican is backwards. It’s people in the party leadership and people in the media who are prominent Republicans who make every Republican look bad. For instance, check out the Republican Rape Advisory Chart.

Republicans, to me, seem focused on silly things. Granted, they may be things that are important to their base. But they are not things that are important to me. Things like “protecting marriage” (which should not be regulated by the government in my opinion) and gun-control scare tactics (ie, “Obama is going to take away your guns, he was just laying low during the first term!!”) are total nonsense. Society is moving on. Republicans need to get with it. The Democrats might be silly in some ways but at least they get it to a MUCH greater degree that we live in a socially liberal society and not a Christian country. This is the way things are going and this is the way that things will keep going. Standing in the way of social liberalism is a waste of energy and it is not a winning political strategy — in my opinion. The internet and other communication tools will continue to spread social liberalism and social conservatives will see less and less support as time goes on.

So, the economy. It’s a big problem. Obama took the deficit from 10 trillion to 16 trillion. I am very unhappy about that. I don’t think Obama and other Democrats really take the problem as seriously as they should. They are seemingly fine with continuing to spend our way out of the big deficits. They might say they aren’t fine but their actions don’t seem to reflect that they have concerns. And, frankly, the economy was something that could have swung my vote to the Republican side. I am a social liberal but the economy is more important to me than whether gay marriage gets support. Here’s the problem: I never saw Romney’s plan laid out. I think Obama did a great job of drawing attention to this because his statements are what made me search for details on how Romney planned to cut the deficit. I didn’t find much of anything other than general statements and a couple of statements on cutting taxes. It just doesn’t add up that we’d actually see smart cuts in spending. I guess what it came down to is that I felt like neither candidate would be good for the economy. Romney and the Republicans are so hellbent on cutting taxes that I feel like they would do that whether or not economists recommended such a move. I don’t think cutting taxes is a good idea unless there are definite plans to cut way more in spending. We need to get spending under control and Mitt’s plan lists things that are pretty much peanuts in the grand scheme of things. The big issues are healthcare, military and a few other things that are the big items on the gov’ts bill each year. Privatizing Amtrak is not important. I’d love to see it happen but the bottom line is that Mitt did a very poor job selling me on the idea that he was the guy to reduce the size of our government. I know that Obama certainly will not do a good job of that but at least he wouldn’t try to set our country back socially like Mitt would have done (in my opinion).

Overall, I feel like the Republicans are total idiots. Obama was incredibly defeat-able this election. The Republicans, once again, put forward a terrible ticket. There’s a HUGE market in this country for a socially liberal and fiscally conservative party. Essentially, people find the Democrats more socially appealing (and it will continue to trend that way) but they don’t trust either party to handle the economy well. Firstly, the Republicans could easily move more to the middle on the social level and pick up a huge swath of voters. Way more than they would lose on the other end especially considering that the extreme social conservatives will not have anywhere meaningful to go. Granted, losing support (ie, social conservatives who simply stop voting) or votes to a third party is a potential issue but the current party platform is obviously not working either. Secondly, the Republicans need to convince me that they are not the party of hillbilly idiots who do not believe in science, evidence and smart decision-making. Because I currently think of them like a party of idiots — maybe because the loud voices of their party and outlets like Fox News make them look like total morons. I don’t think that fixing my perception of those things would require Republicans to give up their core values of smaller government, lower taxes, aggressive national security, protection of guns, belief in the free market and so on. They just need to dump some of their socially conservative policies and try to bring in more support from the middle.

Anyway, I feel pretty disgusted with the thought of what the economy is going to look like in four years but hopefully we’ll see something different over the course of the second Obama administration. I don’t think it’ll be different but we can always hope. The best thing I can hope for is that the Republican party stops acting so backwards and realizes that it has a huge opportunity in 2016 if they can get their heads out of their asses.