What I Did This Year

Allow me to be immodest for a moment.

I’ve worked pretty hard this year to get fit, and I’m finally starting to see the result. I like it. By chance, I’ve posed for three photographers in 2010, about four months apart. That means I have visual documentation of my progress, which I’m proudly sharing below.

January 1st – 213 pounds (35% body fat, 30% muscle)
photo by J.D. Roth

At the start of the year, I weighed more than I ever had in my life. And I felt awful. I couldn’t sleep. Walking uphill to my office was taxing. I was stressed, and I ate to cope with it. It wasn’t good. I resolved to make 2010 the Year of Fitness, but I was slow to start. Here’s how I looked on our jungle vacation in late February:

Me in a Hammock in Belize
Here I am, lounging in a hammock in Belize. I am fat.

April 1st – 207 pounds (33% body fat, 31% muscle)
photos by Gabby Francis

My first photo session this year was with Gabby Francis, a Get Rich Slowly reader who e-mailed offering to take my photo. Gabby works as a production assistant in television, but wants to branch out into photography. She was very patient with me, and it was fun to chat with her while we worked. But I was more than a little uncomfortable. I hated how I looked and felt. In three months of trying, I’d lost only four pounds.

photo by Gabby Francis
I’ve been using this as my primary publicity photo.

photo by Gabby Francis
Let’s be very clear: I hate how heavy I am in these photos.

photo by Gabby Francis
This is me trying to be happy. It was tough.

July 23rd – 187 pounds (27% body fat, 34% muscle)
photos by David Hobby

You’ll remember David Hobby from my tale of win-win conflict resolution: I stole one of his photos from the web; he suggested a creative solution for restitution, and ever since we’ve been supporting each other. He’s a good guy. He’s also a pro, running Strobist, a giant among photo blogs.

When David told me he was going to be in Portland and wondered if he could shoot some photos of me, I was happy to agree. I’d lost 20 pounds since the photo shoot with Gabby, which allowed me to feel more relaxed in front of the camera.

photo by David Hobby
David’s a pro. I like that he specifically told me not to smile.

photo by David Hobby
“How about something at the table with you rolling pennies?” David asked. “Like a LOT of ’em.”

photo by David Hobby
“Would it be too much trouble to have you take a photo of both of us?” Kris asked.

Aside from the fact that I chose to wear the same shirts for David as I did for Gabby (what was I thinking?), I like how these turned out. I was still heavy, but the weight loss was starting to become apparent.

November 18th – 175 pounds (24% body fat, 36% muscle)
photos by Amy Jo Woodruff

My friend Amy Jo is an editor — but she wants to be a photographer when she grows up. After seeing her photos of Lisa, I agreed to pose for her too. This was my favorite photo shoot so far. I haven’t yet lost all of the weight I want to lose, but I’ve shed most of it. I no longer have those chubby cheeks or the bags under my eyes!

photo by Amy Jo Woodruff
“You can’t sit there,” said Amy Jo. “There’s a weird light across your eyes.” Psycho-killer!

photo by Amy Jo Woodruff
Now officially my favorite photo of myself. I can retire the one I’ve been using since 1999.

Amy Jo asked me to list fourteen words that I feel best describe me. I gave her this list:

  • Adventurous – I love to try new things.
  • Creative – I love to make new things.
  • Curious – I love to learn new things.
  • Evolving – I’m a different man today than I was yesterday.
  • Independent – I make and act on my own decisions.
  • Intelligent – I am smart.
  • Playful – I like to joke and jest.
  • Positive – I look on the bright side.
  • Resourceful – I search for ways to get things done.
  • Sociable – I enjoy the company of others.
  • Tenacious – I pursue my goals with vigor
  • Unguarded – I share myself freely, and I accept the word of others.
  • Versatile – I am good at many things.
  • Zealous – I’m passionate about my friends and hobbies.

“It’s funny,” she said as we were walking to the park. “Whenever adults do this exercise, all of their words are positive.”

I laughed. “Yeah,” I said. “Kris told me that she could think of some other words to describe me. Like ‘obsessed’. I told her that’s why ‘zealous’ is on the list.”

I have negative attributes, just like everyone else. I’m sure you all could name them. But I don’t think it’s productive to dwell on them. Instead, I like to focus on my strengths, and let those guide my life. Dwelling on the negative is a sure path to misery. I don’t want to be miserable.

photo by Amy Jo Woodruff
Welcome to middle age, my friend.

photo by Amy Jo Woodruff
I love in-jokes. This one’s for all of those who’ve read Foldedspace since the beginning.

So, to summarize: Since the start of the year:

  • I’ve lost 40 pounds.
  • I’ve dropped from 35% body fat to 24% body fat.
  • I’ve increased my muscle mass from 30% to 36%.
  • I no longer use my C-PAP machine.
  • I can run faster and farther than I ever have in my life.
  • I can lift more weight, too.
  • And most of the time, I don’t crave ice cream. (Just don’t look at my work area right now, though!)

My physical transformation hasn’t happened by chance. It’s taken hard work and dedication. But I’m starting to believe I really have made a lifestyle change. I want to exercise more now, not less. It sucks when I don’t get a workout in. (And somedays, like I hope to do tomorrow, I actually work out twice.)

So, do I think Crossfit works? Hell, yeah!

Before   After

Maybe if I keep it up, when I’m 91 I can be like Olga Kotelko.


It’s been a l-o-n-g time since I had fun with photography, but I’ve been using my cameras more and more recently. I like it. And while my “photography eye” hasn’t quite returned yet, I am beginning to see possibilities.

For instance, today at the Clackamas County Fair, I spied a litter of piglets. I knew right away that I wanted to photograph them. And I even knew how I wanted to compose the photograph. I waited a couple of minutes for their pen to clear of people-lets and then worked to compose a shot. I still have no sense of lighting, but I ended up with this, which both Kris and I like:


“You should enter that photo in next year’s county fair,” Kris told me tonight. Maybe I will.

(p.s. As you’ll read at Get Rich Slowly in the morning, Kris’ triple-berry jelly was awarded “class champion” this year — it was the best jelly in the county!)

It’s Not Easy Being a Man

For a long long time I’ve wanted to be be able to support my artistic friends by commissioning them to do art specifically for me. I’ve had this dream ever since I saw some of Nory’s work from the Art Institute of Seattle back in the mid 1990s. I’ve never had the guts — or the dollars — to do anything about this until now.

When I saw that Jolie was painting Tiffany’s Kermit the Frog toy just for kicks, I knew right away that I wanted her to paint a Kermit for me, too. We fixed a price and she got to work. Tomorrow I’ll take delivery of this wonderful piece:

It's Not Easy Being a Man

Jolie calls this “It’s Not Easy Being a Man” (after Kermit’s song “It’s Not Easy Being Green”), which I think is hilarious. And yes, this painting is going to be proudly displayed in the man room, where my gentleman friends gather to sip Scotch now and then (and dream of being able to smoke our tobacco products, if not for the Wrath of Women). Also note that Kermie is sitting on a copy of Your Money or Your Life, the book that helped me turn my financial world around.

Thanks, Jolie. I love it!


On my drive home today, a dragonfly struck the window of my Mini Cooper. Curiously, the impact did not kill the creature, though it certainly was stunned. Instead, its tail somehow became tucked beneath one of my wiper blades.

I was sad to see it happen, but I didn’t do anything about it. What could I do? It looked alive, but I couldn’t be sure. And what good would stopping the car do? I figured it would be dead by the time I got home.

It wasn’t.

As I unloaded the groceries, I noticed the dragonfly was very much alive. It was flailing to escape from the wiper’s grasp.

“Kris,” I called. “I need you to do something for me.”

“What is it?” she asked.

“There’s a dragonfly under the wipers. It’s still alive, and I can’t bear to look at it. Can you take care of it?”


I know this is a reversal from typical gender roles, but that’s how it is in our house. Kris deals with death and destruction all day long. I write about the psychology of money. I’m the sensitive one; Kris is matter of fact. Killing insects is her province (though I’m responsible for spiders.)

She carefully freed the dragonfly and held it in her hand. “One of its wings is broken,” she said.

“What should we do?” I asked. She gave me a look as if to say that I shouldn’t be such a baby.

“Don’t worry about it,” she said. “It’s just a dragonfly.” She hung it from a clerodendron blossom. I tried to ingore the thing as I went about my business, but I couldn’t. I found its plight heartbreaking. I stood by and watched it closely for several minutes.


The dragonfly was beautiful, a sort of crystal blue with deep liquid eyes and lace-like wings. It was conscious and active. It gesticulated with its forelegs, it rotated its head, it vibrated its wings.

Eventually, it made a futile attempt to fly, but merely swooped to the grass. The dragonfly could walk just fine, but could not take to the air.

A part of me knows that it’s ridiculous to be so concerned about an insect. Eventually, I had to leave. I don’t want to know how this creature’s story ends. Its destiny seems clear enough. It’s a shame that something so beautiful cannot live forever.

Postscript: Now I know how this dragonfly’s story ends. Simon finds it and eats it. Alas, poor dragonfly.

Opal Creek Hike 2009

Last weekend, I joined Andrew and Tim and Josh and Paul for our annual trek into the Opal Creek wilderness area, which is located between Stayton and Detroit. This is the first time I’ve been able to make the journey in several years. On my last trip, I made this photo, which was published in Audubon magazine:

Opal Creek Pool
Opal Creek swimming hole

As usual, we left early Friday afternoon. The five of us piled into two vehicles (including my Mini Cooper!) to make the two-hour drive. Here’s a map of our destination (I don’t know the source of this map or I’d provide credit — it’s not mine):

We parked at the locked gate located at the left edge of the map. The first part of our hike followed a pot-holed gravel road along the Little North Santiam River. A bridge over Gold Creek provided a scenic view, and was followed by a brief passage along a cliff-side that reminds me of something out of World of Warcraft.

After 2.2 miles, we turned south to catch the trail along the creek. (On our outward hike, we took the north route along the gravel road through Jawbone Flats.)

Hiking Along Opal Creek
Andrew, Tim, and Josh hiking along the creek

We hiked east 1.4 miles to Opal Pool, then another 0.6 miles to the washed-out bridge. Only the bridge isn’t completely washed out. It’s a log that has fallen across the river, and which had been “drafted” for use as an official bridge. But the log has settled over the past couple of years, so the Forest Service has closed it to the public. That didn’t stop this group of scofflaws. We scampered across, and then hiked the final three-quarters of a mile to Cedar Flats. There we pitched our camp.

Over a meal of “Greek burritos” (read: Andrew’s hodge-podge dinner) and scotch whisky, we talked about resource depletion and economic collapse. Tim is a self-professed “doom and gloomer” who is concerned about the implications of a growing population in a world with finite resources. It was a fine discussion, one that lasted the entire weekend, but we did not solve the world’s ills.

Around the Campfire
Andrew and Paul, sitting around the campfire

Most years, the group spends Saturday hiking upstream to our favorite swimming hole. (The swimming hole depicted in the first photo on this page.) This year, however, nobody was interested. The weather was cool. Swimming in cold water didn’t sound fun.

Instead, Andrew and Tim made the 16-mile round-trip hike up Whetstone Mountain and back. The rest of us stayed in camp. Paul read and so did I. I spent a several hours pacing the 40 steps between two fallen logs, reading The Shipping News for book group. (I’ve become a master of reading while walking. It’s awesome.)

While we read (and napped), Josh explored. About 100 yards from camp, across some fallen trees, he found a sort of voluntary huckleberry farm — and an interesting fungus. He summoned me and Paul to see:

J.D. and Paul
J.D. and Paul on a log. Photo by Joshua Bennett.

On Sunday morning, I woke early. The air was cold. (Later the group agreed that the temperature was probably around 5 or 6 degrees centigrade.) Despite the chill, I crossed the creek and found a deep-ish spot where I could bathe. The water was not much cooler than the air, so it wasn’t a big deal. And it felt great. You can be sure that I was very alert after taking a cold bath on a cold morning.

There are few things I love more than spending time in the woods. I’m not sure why I don’t do it more often. It brings out something vital in me. I love exploring off the trail and playing in the creek and gathering wood for a fire and sleeping under the stars. And I love being surrounded by scenery. There’s so much beauty that one’s senses almost become dulled to it.

Opal Creek
Opal Creek just below Jawbone Flats

On Sunday morning, we packed up, hiked out, and climbed into our cars. After stopping for burgers and shakes, we drove home to our workaday lives. I’m already thinking of next year’s trip.

Old Man

It’s not often that I allow another “official” photo of myself to enter the “canon”. (Like all the “quotes”?) But every once in a while I find one that I like.

Two weeks ago, I played photographer at Celeste and Nikki’s wedding/commitment ceremony. I’m only just processing the photographs today, and I found one that Kris took when she commandeered the camera from me for a few minutes:

Old Man

I have to admit that despite all of the numerous flaws I see in myself here, I like this photo. It captures how I think of myself nowadays: an aging rascal. Time to add another “official” photo to the “canon”, I guess.

2009 Noah Roth Family Reunion

When I was a boy, we saw my father’s family several times every year. We lived down the road from his parents, so when my aunt or my uncle (or both!) took their families to visit grandma, we’d traipse down for a visit. Some of my best memories from childhood involved playing with my cousins.

As adults, however, we all sort of drifted apart. For at least a decade, we didn’t see much of each other.

But over the past ten years, there’s been a renewed interest in spending time together. We have a private online family discussion forum. And about once a year (sometimes twice!), we get together to chat. And to eat. (Our family sure knows how to eat!)

Last weekend, we all gathered at my cousin Scott’s house in Shedd. It was good to see my Uncle Stan (who has had health problems) and my cousin Mart:

Stan and Mart

I’ve forgotten how many cousins I have. It’s a lot. A dozen? And most of them have children. In fact, many of them have six or eight or ten children. I cannot keep track. Here’s one of my cousin’s daughters, enjoying the salvaged swingset:


There was no roast pig this year, but we did not want for food. We had chicken and burgers and beans and fresh-roasted corn on the cob:

Corn on the Cob

We had far, far too many desserts:

Too Many Pies

As we enjoyed ourselves, the grass farmers worked their fields.

Combine at Work

One side effect of the heat and the dust and the tractors were several dust devils. One of the dust devils was notable for its size (hundreds of feet into the air) and its duration (ten minutes?):

Dust Spout

Also for its intensity:

Dust Spout

I enjoy these family reunions a great deal. I’m thinking it’s about time for me to host one next year. I wonder if Rosings Park can handle a swarm of Mennonites!

Some New Romantic

While cleaning my office this afternoon, I found the journal I kept when we traveled to London, Dublin, and New York during the summer of 2007. Two years ago today, we were spending our last full day in Dublin. I spent €29.13 (roughly $39.84) on lunch, magazines, ice cream, and mass transit.

But what I was really excited to find was that while touring the big art museums on that trip, I had written down some of my favorite artists and paintings. Right now, Kris and I are in the process of redecorating the “Man Room” (the red room, or the den), and I’m looking for some art to put on the walls.

While I cannot afford originals, I might be able to afford some reproductions. So I’m taking this chance to transcribe the notes to a more permanent location.

Francis Danby

Francis Danby was an Irish landscape artist who lived from 1793-1861. His images seem liquid and dreamy. They’re definitely part of the Romantic era. At the Royal Albert museum in London, I saw a Danby painting I really liked: The Upas, or Poison-Tree, in the Island of Java. I can’t find it online anywhere, though, and I only have a vague recollection of what it looked like.

Here are some of Danby’s other works:

The Deluge (with Noah’s ark in the background)

View of the Avon Gorge

The Enchanted Island

Oberon and Titania

Sergei Chepik

There’s a terse note in my journal: “In St. Paul’s, I like the paintings of Sergei Chepik.” Unfortunately, this doesn’t tell me much. Looking online, I can see that Chepik was born in 1953, but I don’t particularly care for the works I can find. I wonder what I meant by that note.

Joseph Turner

Before we left for England, a friend of Kris’ parents urged us to check out the paintings by Joseph Turner (1775-1851) while we were at The National Gallery in London. Turner was another English Romantic. He focused less on landscapes, though, than on sea scenes. And his work evolved until his later stuff became quite abstract (almost what we’d consider modern art).

On the whole, I didn’t like Turner as much as I had hoped, but there were several pieces I did like:

The Shipwreck

The Junction of the Thames and the Medway

Ulysses Deriding Polyphemus

Snow Storm: Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps

Dido Building Carthage

Frosty Morning

Rain, Steam, and Speed — The Great Western Railway

John Constable

While Turner was not my favorite, I did find one English artist that I loved. John Constable (1776-1837) was another English Romantic painter that I liked (notice a theme here?). Many of his subjects depict quiet country life, that pastoral lifestyle for which I pine. His work has a very natural feel about it, as if he understands the plants and the animals.

Note that Constable, too, got more experimental with age. Here are some of my favorite Constables:

Stratford Mill

The Valley Farm

The White Horse

The Haywain


Salisbury Cathedral


I’m not sure which of these I’ll choose to decorate the den yet, but I’d like to use one or two of them. I have a story about that last painting from Constable, though.

While we were in England, we took a driving tour of the countryside. One of our stops was in Salisbury to see the cathedral. I took several photos of it.

A couple of weeks later, we were in New York. While touring The Frick Gallery, I happened upon Constable’s Salisbury Cathedral. Excited, I pulled out my camera to review the photos I had taken. I wanted to compare them to the painting. A museum security guard was by my side instantly, telling me to stop. I tried to explain to him that I had just been to this cathedral. I showed him the photo on my dSLR. He was unimpressed. He wouldn’t let me browse the photos on my camera, even if I promised not to take a photo. I was disappointed. (Thanks to Kris for correcting my memory of this story.)

Flash of Insight

I’ve been itching to make more photographs lately, and to learn more about the craft. This interest is made more urgent by the fact that Celeste has asked me to be one of two photographers next weekend at her commitment ceremony with Nikki. I’m happy to do it, but also nervous because I haven’t used a camera regularly for more than three years.

Last night I picked up my seldom-used Nikon D90, attached a new SB-600 flash unit (the first flash unit I’ve ever used), and took some photos of the MNF group.

Background: When I was in high school, I was part of a church youth group: the Mennonite Youth Fellowship, or MYF. This group has remained friends for more than 20 years, though now many folks are in different churches. We call the group the “MNF group” because we used to get together to watch Monday Night Football — before there were so many kids…

It was fun getting re-acquainted with the camera. I didn’t get any great shots, but I had fun trying:

More importantly, I got to play with the flash unit. Having never used one before, I didn’t really know when or how to activate it. Eventually I realized that “fill flash” can be a powerful option, even in decent light. For example, here on the left is Diego running across a balance beam without flash. On the right is a similar shot with flash:


I like it.

This isn’t exactly earth-shattering news, I know. But as somebody who has rarely done flash photography, I’m intrigued by the possibilities.

I learned most of my photography skills by taking a series of community college classes. I’m tempted to take one again this fall to get more practice. I’m excited about dabbling in photography again. I’ve been away too long.

Snow Squirrel

Here’s our Walnut, one of our squirrels. He’s hungry, cold, and none too happy that I continue to bother him with the camera.

Squirrel 9096

Our current snowfall totals: six inches on the ground, half an inch of ice, and then another eight inches. The snow continues to fall. The forecasters expect it to stop soon, though, but I don’t know if I believe them. When I went to bed last night, they said nothing about snow of any kind today.