Traveling to a new city? Gone are the days when you could seek out a relatively unknown local haunt with killer food and great drinks.

Looking for a secluded beach? Sure you can find one, and the reason it’s secluded is because it sucks.

Want to attend a festival? If it’s worth a damn, you can be sure it will be packed with folks just like you.

The internet, social media and review sites like Yelp have ushered in the hidden gem’s death. Millennials will never again experience the risk of venturing to some remote corner and braving an untested meal. Online reviews have all but ensured the cream rises and the shit falls. I assume the worst places are kept afloat by an older generation unaccustomed to deliberate option weighing, but eventually that will fade.

I don’t judge this trend too harshly. My valuable dollars are better spent on one sure thing than wading into a dozen streams hoping for a catch. Take craft beer, for example. An overwhelming influx of new breweries makes keeping track a challenge. Beer Advocate allows people to rate each brew they drink and turn their courage into a safe filter for those looking to try something delicious on the spot. I reference the site when I’m making decisions so I can derive maximum enjoyment for each beer I drink.

On the other hand, diving in without a safety net is thrilling. Life experiences are not only the highlights, but the lowlights. And the spaces in between. When you remove any uncertainty, you’re left with a flawed decision making mechanism. Choices we make, bad and good, shape us. Like immune systems, we need a little bit of bad luck in order to keep us alert and healthy. The stories resulting from an exceptionally crappy incident are often infinitely better than those where everything went off without a hitch. We miss those when we’re tiptoeing along the paths traveled before us.

My gripe is simpler, though. Everything is so damn crowded. Savvy planning packs key spots and events unlike ever before.

Big cities always have two major scenes, those for the tourists and those for the residents. Review sites have broken that barrier now, too. While kitschy eateries and famous bars drew visitors in the past, people now hunt for the most authentic experience. The result is more outsiders at beloved locales and locals looking for a new location to relocate.

Events are even worse. Take Disney’s International Food & Wine Festival. My first trip to the annual celebration was back in Oct. 2011. Three days in Florida during an off peak time allowed us to hit most major attractions in all four theme parks and still had time to enjoy the multicultural fare from Epcot’s food kiosks. The stark contrast between the thinness of those crowds relative to the busy summer months was a dream. Any stereotypes about long lines vanished before my eyes. Flash forward to 2013. In two short years, the secret was out. Disney marketing convinced people to vacation in the offseason and crowds approached early summer levels. This kept me far away in October 2014.

Closer to home, there was the infamous Bacon Fest NY 2012. Capitalizing on the incessant  trend of fetshisizing bacon that’s plagued our culture over the past five to ten years, someone decided this event had to exist. Organizers expected 500-1,000 people and planned accordingly. The result was almost 3,000. Jesus Christ, people. Bacon is good, sure, but does it require the over the top obsession we’ve placed on it? Featuring bacon in ice cream or beer or any other dish screams, “Look how hip we are.” Same goes for the hordes that get giddy over it.

Sorry for the interlude. Tangents will kill you. Especially while driving.

One can see this trend most conspicuously in the expansion of “Con” culture. Comic Conventions used to be havens for a certain sort of enthusiast, removed from the mainstream. Now San Diego Comic-Con attracts more people than ever before. And they aren’t just from nerd culture. The move towards mass appeal has opened the floodgates. Other less famous conventions, like NYCC, have seen visitor numbers swell recently. The result is more famous guests and exponentially longer lines.

If a person or place does something well today, you can be sure it’ll be mobbed tomorrow. Word of mouth spreads like stage four cancer. We have two choices: join the masses in an abbreviated high quality experience or slog through a mediocre one. Some things are worth doing, no matter how crowded. People will always make the trip out to the beaches on July 4th. Or to visit family on Long Island for Thanksgiving. No amount of assured stress deters them. But maybe, just maybe, every once in a while it’s worth removing the training wheels, going against the grain, cutting away the safety net and any other cliche in favor of creating your own unique adventure. It may just end in utter failure, but at least you’ll have a story for your valor.

Women and men tend to value very different physical traits when searching for a potential partner. A common motif among opinion polls, dating sites and anecdotal evidence is that women prefer taller guys. Many times, it’s relative. A 5’2” girl might be happy with a guy who’s 5’8”. Other times, a girl sets the specific and arbitrary baseline of 6 ft., as if it’s somehow the magic number after which every guy becomes an Adonis. Men, on the other hand, will often discriminate based on weight. There is a whole line of products emblazoned with the phrase “No fat chicks.” But, while height preferences continue be accepted and embraced by the female community, the lingering taboo against discussing obesity has reduced male proclivities to “anti-feminist,” “misogynistic” and “supporting the patriarchy.”

How fair is that, though? Height is one of those variables a person can’t change without some very horrific procedures. It is not a predictor of health problems nor does it inform on the personality or tendencies of an individual. Aside from playing certain sports professionally, there aren’t any limitations on short person’s ability to live a normal life.

However, society constantly places a premium on taller men. Celebrities notoriously inflate their heights or wear lifts. Men often embellish by an inch or two when asked their heights. The stereotypical Napoleon Complex is a disparaging description of the inadequacy short men must feel. We project an inherent deficiency in someone based solely on an irrelevant genetic variance.

When women openly declare a preference for tall men, there’s no backlash. No social justice warriors step in and argue against these biases. Everyone seems to understand. It’s biological, right? An innate attraction to what’s perceived as more virile and better able to protect the herd. An entire group of men are relegated to second class.

Try saying you aren’t attracted to an overweight woman and you’ll suddenly understand the double standard we’ve accepted. Men who want a fit woman are shallow and perpetuate an unfair image of female beauty.

People can control weight, though. In theory. In the 1950s, 33% of Americans were overweight and only 9.7% were clinically obese. This was a decade of American prosperity. We had won WWII and climbed out of the Great Depression. Industry was booming and people had more income and more free time. By 2014, the obesity rate had skyrocketed to 27.7%, with an additional 35.3% listed as overweight. That’s 63% of the population over the normal BMI range.

Genetics is a common excuse for obesity but how does that make any sense? Every person alive was birthed from those before him or her. Did we have a mass mutation whereby everyone’s metabolism suddenly slowed? Or is it because of the 20% increase in caloric consumption between 1970 and 2010? Combine that with less overall physical activity and you’ve got a very fat populace.

It’s the same with the medical conditions people like to cite as reasons for gaining weight. The blame is never on lifestyle and decisions, but on every other excuse.

For these reasons, it’s fair to make assumptions about a person’s mental and emotional fitness when they’re obese. I would never suggest a fat person can not be “nice” or “charitable” or “funny,” but you can certainly raise questions about self control and emotional stability. If someone can’t manage something as simple as calories in vs. calories expended, are they fit to manage other areas of life? Obesity is also precursor for several serious ailments.

Consciously destroying your body for temporary gratification is not attractive. Of course everyone has the right to consume as much food as their bodies can handle. This liberty doesn’t absolve you of the responsibility not to do it. Consuming too many calories extends resources unnecessarily, forcing more food production and ensuring a larger environmental impact and worse treatment of livestock. There are also documented economic costs related to healthcare and decreased productivity.

There are cases where people do have medical conditions that may slow metabolism, but these are relatively rare and still don’t explain poor choices. A person predisposed to heart disease shouldn’t indulge in red meat. A diabetic must monitor sugar intake. A family history of cancer means you should avoid carcinogenic substances. Some people need to sacrifice more for good health. Leading a life filled with hobbies and interests makes you a more interesting person. Whether these are active or sedentary, drawing satisfaction from other activities can preclude you from overindulgence in harmful substances. There are so many explorable avenues beyond the most primal and basic.

Returning to the original topic, the issue isn’t feminist, it’s realist. Being attracted to a fit women is embracing someone who makes responsible decisions and takes control of her life. “Fat Acceptance” operates under the false assumption that a person can be “Healthy at Every Size.” It has gained traction among those who would rather move the goalposts instead of centering their shots. The movement perpetuates dangerous myths about obesity and encourages people to deny widely regarded science in favor of emotion. If a school changes the passing grade to 50%, more students would pass. They’d move from grade to grade, never questioning their choices until it came time to graduate. Then, real life would teach them that knowing half of a subject is not good enough. Why change age old standards so a select group of irresponsible people can feel better about themselves?

Just because you fall into a group of people on the other side of an argument, doesn’t mean your argument is valid. Citing exceptions of unhealthy thin people and healthy obese supports fat acceptance like throwing a snowball in congress denies climate change. It’s fallacious reasoning based on outliers. Additionally, asserting something repeatedly doesn’t make it true.

Let’s stop criticizing individuals for uncontrollable criteria and start questioning those who knowingly refuse to improve their lives. Or at the very least, let’s not suggest a person is shallow for appreciating physical fitness while failing to point out the double standard in requiring 1.83 meters of human flesh just to knock on the dating door. One of those is adjustable, the other is not.

Pecan PieAnyone who knows me well knows my affinity for pecan pie. Long ago, I ditched the traditional birthday cake in favor of the delectable nut-topped treat. The combination of thick corn syrup and quality whole pecans assembled neatly in a pie crust is the sole reason I still look forward to getting older each year (seriously, though, I can rent a car, I’m done with milestones).

I never liked cake. When I went to birthday parties as a kid, cake was always the part I dreaded. At bake sales, I’d always go for cookies or brownies. It only grew worse over time. Sometimes I try to trick myself into thinking that the chocolate cake on a dessert menu will satisfy. The giant confection Bruce Bogtrotter puts down in Matilda looks amazing. It has to be rich and chocolatey and delicious, right? No, it always disappoints.

Plenty of people enjoy cake and I’m sure one or two weirdos out there may even hate pecan pie. But to anyone lukewarm on it, or those who share my disdain, why do you keep reviving a tired tradition every year? Your parents probably arranged candles on your first birthday cake as a photo op when you turned 1. Years and years of repetition, during which you had no control over choices beyond vanilla, chocolate or strawberry, conditioned you to believe this is how it’s done. But if you like skittles, stick birthday candles in a bowl full of them. If you don’t have a sweet tooth, blow them out over a plate of mashed potatoes. Traditions are only meaningful if you believe in them wholeheartedly.

Pecan pie is an odd form of rebellion. Admittedly, it’s inclusion at my annual year ticking is no Matilda-esque defiance. But it’s mine and I came to it through skepticism, reason and my own realization that I didn’t have to eat crappy desserts on my own birthday.

Next time you’re confronted with a choice between old traditions and the potentially earthshattering unknown, open your mind to the possibility of change. The world will still revolve if the old guard is torn down. And if, after some soul searching, you still like cake, then eat it proudly. More pie for me.

Happy Pi Day, everyone.

P.S. Anyone looking for a quality pecan pie should try the Goode Company Brazos Bottom Pecan Pie.

I stumbled upon an article about women’s fitness a few days ago and it frustrated me enough to inspire a blog. A lot of myths persist about the kinds of workouts women should be doing, how you should diet and how quickly you can see results. There are several buzzwords targeted at women, such as “tone” and “belly fat,” that often confuse those trying to lose weight. Many “women’s workouts” are at best ineffective and at worst detrimental to your intended goals. As someone who has helped several female friends lose significant amounts of weight, I’d like to offer my $.02 on the issue.

Myth #1: Women Should Work Out Differently Than Men

Women’s Fitness, as an industry, has traditionally been viewed distinct from men’s. Men lift heavy weights to build muscle, women do Buns of Steel (I’ve dated myself) and abdominal workouts to “tone up.”

Obviously, it’s true Women and Men have certain physiological differences, but our core muscular systems are essentially the same. We all have pectorals, abdominals, shoulders, deltoids, lateral muscles, biceps, triceps (interestingly the correct plural for these are actually bicepses and tricepses, respectively), abdominals, the muscles in our lower backs, quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, calves and any others I missed. If men are going to get reamed for skipping leg day, why should women get a pass for neglecting any of their own muscles? In fact, women can benefit from undertaking a consistent weight lifting plan that hits every muscle group on a weekly basis.

The core of this idea stems from another pervasive myth in women’s fitness…

Myth #2: Women Will Bulk Up if They Lift Weights

Without a doubt, this is the most often used argument against women lifting weights. The reasoning goes that because men lift and gain large amounts of muscle, the same will naturally occur for women on an identical plan. Women embrace their femininity and usually don’t want to look like female body builders.

This logic is fundamentally flawed. Great amounts of testosterone, levels far beyond what women produce normally, are required to build large muscle. It’s common for female athletes and bodybuilders to supplement an intensive workout routine with testosterone (shh, it’s a secret), in order to build the muscle necessary to compete at a high level.

The truth is, weightlifting DOES build muscle, but in a way that won’t compromise whatever physical goals you’ve set. While you won’t get huge (, the added muscle will actually accelerate fat loss.

Myth #3: You Can Target Areas to Lose Fat

The myth of toning is another notion holding women back from achieving success. Bodyfat is a package deal. Ab crunches will not burn belly fat any quicker than lunges will shrink your thighs. Some are predisposed to gain and lose fat more quickly in certain parts of their bodies. Two people can be the same height and weight and look drastically different. No matter how many  targeted exercises you do, however, nothing is going to change the way you lose fat. Weight training, cardio and a good diet are the only way to achieve that.

Myth #4: A Calorie is a Calorie

Women’s fitness doesn’t have a monopoly on this myth, but the diets targeted at women certainly exacerbate the problem. “Low fat” or “low carb” diets deny your body essential nutrients you need.

Carbohydrates, proteins and fats should all be part of a healthy diet. Whole grain carbs and fibrous vegetables are essential for a strong metabolism. White grains, potatoes and even sugar can be used early in the morning and before a workout for the quick energy they provide. Proteins are great for building lean muscle and to stay satisfied longer. Fats, particularly the unsaturated variety, can keep your cholesterol low and your heart healthy. Foods high in mono- and polyunsaturated fats include olive oils, nuts, fish and eggs.

Myth #5: Lose 20 Pounds in 30 Days!

…or 2 weeks or an afternoon. This weight loss is atypical for most people. Occasionally, people at a very high starting weight can see temporary movement at these levels, but it usually involves the initial shock of major lifestyle changes.

You should shoot to lose no more than two pounds a week. If you average more over an extended period you may be burning muscle, which will ultimately prove counterproductive to long term goals.


When approaching fitness, it’s best to remember that tried and true methods will always win out over fad diets and trendy exercise programs. Like the fashion industry, these trends are cyclical, carefully engineered to constantly sell you the next big thing. Turn away from the misinformation and false promises and devote yourself to a healthy, sustainable lifestyle you can use forever.