Why I Still Make New Year’s Resolutions (even though half the time they end up being a dumpster fire of failure)

“I want to see fat Spencer,” my roommate Kelly calls out.

“You knew fat Spencer! Fat Spencer was the Spencer you first met,” I reply.

“It’s been too long. I’ve forgotten.”

“Here,” I say, handing Kelly a photo from September 2011.

“Wow. Hard to believe it’s even the same person. But congrats on being able to land a wife with that body.”

“Yeah, thanks. That’s how I know I have a great personality.”

September 2011 vs December 2013

September 2011 vs December 2013

Four years ago I was pretty large, pushing 250 pounds. Now, I’m down to about 190. Mine is not one of those stories where I made a New Year’s resolution to get healthy and over the course of twelve months went from being fat to having ripped abs. I still don’t have ripped abs…because french fries are still delicious. My weight loss journey has hardly been a steady course of shedding pounds.

I decided to actually start exercising on a regular basis around the middle of 2012. The first time I went running by choice, I sprinted as much as I could for about 15 minutes. Then, I came home and laid on the kitchen floor, breathing hard and waiting for the urge to vomit to pass. My wife kept looking over from the couch asking if I was OK. Since that time, there have been plenty of ups and downs and long, long plateaus where it seemed like nothing was happening. But when I look back on that picture from 2011, I’m reminded that things were happening, even if it wasn’t as quickly as I would have liked.


That’s why I still make New Year’s Resolutions, because I still believe that change is possible. I still believe that my life isn’t something that’s just handed to me, it’s something I create and shape.

Don’t get me wrong. Just like everyone else, I still fail to reach my resolutions a lot of the time. At the beginning of 2015, I wrote down about 20 different things that I wanted to do over the course of the year. Many of them didn’t happen. Here are a few of the failures from 2015:

Do at least 12,000 push-ups. “1,000 push-ups a month? 34 push-ups a day? That’s so easy. I can knock that out in, like, 5 minutes a day,” the January 2015 version of myself thought. I was so young and naive. Pretty sure this goal was abandoned sometime before March.

Post on this blog 24 times. Guess how many times I posted? 7. I was hoping to post once every two weeks and I barely made it to once every two months. If 24 was the field goal post, my kick ended up hitting the Gatorade cooler on the side lines.

Take 4 classes. There are lots of classes I’m interested in. Comedy classes, art classes, fencing courses (instead of just wearing a catcher’s mask and swinging a broom stick around the backyard). I could go on. Classes are expensive, but I thought I could at least manage one per season. In 2015, I ended up taking one class. Twelve months, and I could only manage a single class. (To be fair with this one, I did sign up for another class that ended up getting cancelled, but still.)

Despite the failures, I keep making resolutions because there were a few resolutions that were actually a success. Here are a few of the victories from 2015:

Run 400 miles. In 2014, I ran roughly 300 miles, so I upped the goal to 400 for 2015, just over 1 mile a day. I ended up running 562. Yeah, I know. I’m basically more talented than Usain Bolt.

Launch a web comic, and have the first 15 entries posted by the end of the year. Did it. It’s been hard and more time-consuming than I hoped it would be, but I still did it. In fact, I posted 19 entries in 2015.

Pay off at least $10,000 in debt. Yep, did it. Suck on that, student loans from hell.

The luxurious lifestyle I imagine my student loan officer living

The luxurious lifestyle I imagine my student loan officer living

Resolutions are hard. There’s no doubt about it. And people are very quick to mock you when you say you have some. Seriously, watch people try to choke down their laughter if you ever use the phrase, “New year, new me” in a non-ironic way.

But the truth is, there’s probably something you want to change about your life. You wish had a better job, wish you spoke up more, wish you had a better relationship with your parents, wish you knew how to cook bacon without turning the bottom of the pan black and filling your apartment with smoke (some of these might be some of my own stuff coming through). Maybe people have told you you can’t change. Maybe you’ve told yourself that. But you can, even if the change is slow course of tiny steps in the direction you want to go. Don’t be scared of the word resolution.


Whole Foods is the Worst

I haven’t uploaded any new stand-up material in 4 years.

After moving to Chicago back in 2011, I started focusing more on improv and stand-up got pushed to the back burner. However, I recently took a 5-week stand-up class that culminated in a performance of the material I wrote during the class. Here is a portion of my graduation performance. I hope you like it.

Local White Man Says People Only Hate His Swastika Tattoo Because They Don’t Know the True Meaning of the Symbol

Twenty-four year old Brendan Carmichael is considering getting his swastika tattoo removed after what he calls “years of misunderstandings.”

Carmichael’s tattoo is on his right forearm. It is a simple black swastika with the phrase “all is well” scribed beneath it in a gothic-looking font. Carmichael says he was inspired to get the tattoo after his parents paid for him to study abroad for a semester in India.

“In India, there are swastikas everywhere, and no one calls anyone Hitler. Those people just get it, man. Sure, the Nazis used the symbol as a banner for their hateful acts and terrible crimes, but that doesn’t erase the original meaning of the symbol.”

Tattooer concentrating on giving someone a tattoo

Pulling up the “Swastika” Wikipedia article on his phone, Carmichael points out that the swastika is a sacred symbol of the Hindu and Buddhist faiths. “India was such a spiritual experience for me when I went. I wasn’t worried about money or girlfriends or anything. People were always playing weird looking guitars and a lot of the women had neat nose rings. I just felt centered, you know? I don’t see how Christians are free to walk around with cross tattoos when the swastika is just a particular type of cross, really. I’m not trying to be offensive. If anything, people are being discriminatory and insensitive towards me.”

When asked why he thinks he has encountered such problems with his tattoo in Western culture, Carmichael says, “Americans are just so ignorant of history. They think they get what I’m about just because they’ve seen ‘American History X’ or something. People throw drinks on me at bars sometimes, and I think, ‘Would you do that to Gandhi?’ I keep posting really educational articles about the true meaning of the swastika on Facebook, but no one seems to care.”

Carmichael says he even met a Jewish guy in India who had a swastika tattoo. When asked that gentleman’s name, Carmichael said he couldn’t remember it because, “it’s been a long time, and I think I was pretty high the night I met him. But I’m sure I still have his email address around somewhere.”

A New Project

If you follow this blog with any regularity, you may have noticed that updates are not coming as regularly as they once did. That’s because for the past couple of years I’ve been spending a lot of time working on a side project. I’ve been slowly piecing together an ongoing web comic that I am now excited to start sharing.

The web comic is basically a love letter to the year I had just after graduating from college. During that time, I moved back in with my parents, worked several minimum wage jobs, and tried to help plan a wedding with my long-distance fiancée. It was a challenging, awkward, hilarious year. So now I’m writing and illustrating a comic inspired by that time. If that sounds like something you’re interested in, check it out:


The first entry went up today, and I plan on updating it 3 times a month.

This is something I’ve put a great deal of work into, so I would love it if you took the time to read it. If you’ve enjoyed the humor on this blog, there’s a good chance you’ll like this web comic just as much.

This new project does not mean that this blog is dead. I will still update this blog as inspiration comes, but if the posts are a slow coming, you know why.

Thanks for reading!

Internet Justice Is Not Justice

The internet can be a great place. The other day, I casually quoted Rev Run during a conversation (like I so often do), and both my wife and our roommate were puzzled.

“Who?” they asked.

“Rev Run. One of the founding members of Run DMC.”

“I’ve heard some of those words before,” my roommate Kelly said.

“Come on! You know, Rev Run! He had that show on MTV about his family, and at the end he would sit in his bathtub and type deep thoughts into his phone.”

They gave me blank stares. At this point, I was able to pull up the “Run’s House” Wikipedia page. “Come on guys, the show was on the air for 6 seasons!” Even I was surprised by that.

"Oh no, I hit 'Reply All' again."

“Oh no, I hit ‘Reply All’ again.”

That’s one of the reasons the internet is a great place. It’s a fantastic resource for showing your friends that you’re not the type of person to just make up a show about a middle-aged man who sits in a bubble bath and sends out folksy inspirational messages on his Blackberry. And the internet is good for more than just frivilous stuff, too. Just last week, my friend Lena launched a beautiful website that helps speak against the negative voices that a lot of us carry around with us everyday.

But there’s a dark side of the internet, too (and I’m not just talking about weird Craigslist ads).

Just last week, a small pizza place in Indiana came out and said that while they would serve gay customers, they would never cater a same sex marriage because they believe homosexuality is a sin. (For a moment, let’s set aside the fact that the only person who would ever want pizza at their wedding is whatever Ninja Turtle finally gets April to marry him.) This is not necessarily a new phenomena. For over a year there have been cases of Christian business owners not wanting to provide services for ceremonies that celebrate same sex relationships, but this pizza place has been the first to be so forthright about their view since the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana began dominating the American news cycle.

The reaction on the internet was about what you would expect. First, people flooded their Yelp and Facebook page with negative reviews, then people made harassing calls to the restaurant, and at least one person threatened to burn the place to the ground. Then, some conservatives who support the owners of the pizza place started a crowd funding campaign and quickly raised over a staggering $800,000 for the restaurant. Lines were drawn. Shots were fired.

That wasn’t the only divisive news story of the week.

Just a day before the news about the pizza place broke, Comedy Central announced that South African comedian Trevor Noah would be taking over for John Stewart when he ended his tenure as host of “The Daily Show.” Some people were not pleased with that decision. So they took the time to comb through over 5,000 of Noah’s tweets and cherry-picked about 6 (or less than 0.20%) that they found mildly offensive.  They then took up torches and called for his immediate dismissal.

Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah

This is internet justice. If someone has an opinion different than ours, we do everything in our power to ensure their demise.

In case you’re new to this whole Internet thing, there are whole blogs dedicated to finding people who write racist and misogynistic tweets, sending those tweets to that person’s employer, and then rejoicing when that person gets fired. It seems great, doesn’t it? But we’re not talking about politicians or people of power. We’re talking about getting someone dismissed from their cashier gig at Target. I hope the person who rings me up at McDonald’s doesn’t hold hurtful beliefs, but I don’t think one wrong view means it’s my responsibility to bring swift vigilante “justice” and rob them of their income.

Because that sort of reaction is not justice at all. It’s not fighting the good fight. It’s reactionary absurdity.

The problem is, when someone we don’t really know says something we don’t agree with, we don’t see that person as a human being anymore. We see them as an idea.

Oh, they sent a racist tweet, so I got them fired. Look, I’ve helped fight racism.

No, you’ve just cost someone their job.

Yeah, but now they’ll realize their actions have consequences and probably reconsider their stance on the issue.

Oh yes, I’m sure the fact that they just got fired because of the actions of the people they already senselessly hated will make them change their opinion of those people.

How I feel reading the Twitter.

How I feel reading the Twitter.

A couple of weeks ago, I had dinner with my friend Ben. Ben and I are both Christians, and I asked Ben what he thought about Christians having to provide services to a wedding ceremony that they might not believe in. Ben thought for a moment, then said, “If I was a baker who thought that homosexuality is a sin, and someone wanted me to provide a cake for their same sex wedding, I would be up front with them and tell them I don’t believe in what they’re doing, but then I would give them the cake for free. I mean, doesn’t that show the love of God more than refusing them service?”

I thought that was a beautiful response. Ben is great at reminding me that there are always more than two ways of looking at an issue.

As simple as it sounds, maybe that sort of selfless kindness is the answer. What if, instead of throwing up a bunch of negative reviews on a Yelp page, some people involved in the local LGBT community decided to meet and eat at that Indiana pizza place once a week? What if they engaged the owners in conversation and tipped well and treated them with respect? Would the owners change their views? Maybe; maybe not. But isn’t a story of hope and redemption better than one of hostility and retaliation?

I know this sort of thing isn’t easy (I mean, I rejoiced when Anonymous hacked Westboro Baptist Church’s website, too), and I know that it’s impossible to answer every sort of question that arises from an issue with so many layers in 1000 words on a blog. I don’t want to discourage anyone from standing up for what they think is right. If you see an injustice in the world, I absolutely want you to call it out and try to make it better. However, there’s a difference between seeking justice and seeking retaliation. Justice seeks to understand, searches for common ground, and reaches out in love. Retaliation seeks power, wants to cause hurt, and needs the final word.

“Seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless.”

4 Tips on How to Write an Online Profile without Seeming like a Weirdo or Boring Robotic Humanoid

About 5 months ago, I got a new job. Since I work in an office with about 200 people, one of the things the company has started doing is creating small articles on the internal office website that will help everyone get to know new people. Last week, it was my turn to be featured.

Writing about yourself online is challenging. Trying to take your whole personality and wealth of human experience and squeezing it down to just a few hundred words is no small task, which is why most online profiles end up being far too broad.

“Hi, my name is Rick. I’m an accountant. I like movies and food.”  Wow, so insightful.

“Hey, someone brought doughnuts to share this morning. Who would want to know about this? I know, Rick! That guys loves food. I see him on the other side of the lunch room everyday. Eating. Classic Rick.”

What follows are some tips that will help you make an online profile that won’t make you seem too weird or boring. Luckily, part of the process at my company involves answering questions, which is a little easier than trying to create material out of thin air. So for each tip, I’ll also share how I responded for my profile.

Tip #1: Don’t Be Human Ambien.

The Question: What has been your best unexpected travel experience?

How I responded: “It’s hard to choose the best, but I have fond memories of the time my wife and I travelled to New York City for our college Spring Break back in 2009. We thought it would be fun to rent a row boat out on the pond in Central Park. How hard can it be for two totally inexperienced twenty-somethings to maneuver a small boat with two wooden sticks? Turns out, pretty hard. Our rental experience basically turned into bumper boats as we collided with other people desperately trying to avoid us. Other couples don’t seem to like it when you interrupt their romantic boat cruise by ramming them and almost hitting them in the face with your oar.”

Lots of questions lend themselves to story. Stories allow you to share an experience that is totally original and completely yours. So share an engaging story, not a bedtime story.

Tip #2: Don’t Be Vanilla. And Don’t Be Vanilla Ice.

The Question: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

How I responded: “For a while, I wanted to be a member of the SWAT team. I had no real interest in carrying a gun, but I did think it would be fun to be the guy I saw on TV who got to knock in doors with a Battering Ram. On career day in elementary school, my teachers didn’t know what to do with ‘SWAT team member,’ so they just lumped me in with all the other boys who wanted to be policemen. But I made sure all the other kids knew I was only there to strictly knock down any barriers with my ram of justice.”

Sometimes, the problem with questions is that they can easily be answered with just a word or two. Feel free to kick open the doors and let more air into the room. When you do, people get to see more of your personality.

My friend Alex was once telling me about someone she knew and said, “She’s so vanilla she’s probably one of those people who eats cereal for dinner.” At 28, I still believe it’s perfectly acceptable to enjoy a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch at 8pm, but I get Alex’s point. I don’t think anyone is truly vanilla. People only seem vanilla. Even Vanilla Ice isn’t vanilla. If you don’t believe me, go back and check out some footage from VH1’s 2004 reality show hit, “The Surreal Life.” That guy is off-the-wall, unapologetically himself. But to the point that he seems unstable. So you have to find the balance vanilla and Vanilla Ice. Be real, but genuinely real. Not the “Real Housewives of New York” “real.”

However, if like Vanilaa Ice, you do have a picture of yourself rapping with a Ninja Turtle, be sure to include that in your profile.

However, if like Vanilaa Ice, you do have a picture of yourself rapping with a Ninja Turtle, be sure to include that in your profile.

Tip #3: Leave Your Bowling Trophies Out Of This

The Question: What would your six-word memoir be?

How I responded: “Hmmm, so many options…

‘Is There Any More Cake Left?’ the story of my ongoing love affair with dessert

‘Nope, Nothing Around Here Looks Familiar,’ the adventures of me and my bad sense of direction

‘This is What Disappointment Tastes Like’ the story of a guy who’s eaten far too many meals at Waffle House

Is it weird that most of these are food related?”

We’ve all accomplished things in life, and it’s fine to be proud of those things. Even sharing stories about those accomplishments is fine. But in the same way that you wouldn’t bring your trophy from that hot dog eating contest on a first date or your plaque for “Best Powerpoint Presenter” (Oh, look, he’s implementing a laser pointer) from your previous job to a new job interview, you don’t have to paint yourself like a superhero in an online profile. It’s OK to show your faults. Be humble, even a little self-deprecating. Being relatable is always good.

My elementary school experience in one picture

My elementary school experience in one picture

Tip #4: It’s OK To Wear Your Cape (Even if it’s just on old beach towel held on with a safety pin)

The Question: Name a fictional character who resonates with you.

How I Responded: “One of my favorite fictional characters is Peter Parker, because I’m 28-years-old and still read comic books. (I can sense your condescending judgment from here.) I love the fact that he gets to swing around Manhattan as Spider-man and save people, but at the end of the day he still has to take off his mask and figure out how to pay his student loans and get his dating life in order. Also, how can you not like a guy who takes the time to make jokes and witty insults while he takes down the bad guys?”

Revealing to my whole professional office that I like to spend my weekends in comic shops hanging out with people who spend time debating whether Frank Miller is a genius or a jerk probably isn’t going to earn me any cool points. And as any middle schooler will tell you, cool points are the only real currency that matters in life. But it’s OK to be different. It’s OK to talk about the things that you’re passionate about. It’s OK to be excited about things. (Although, visible excitement over anything is a quick way to lose 25 cool points in middle school.)

So those are my tips. Now go out there and confidently present yourself on the internet. Unless you’re jerk. The internet has enough of those.

Who wants to be the Ryan Atwood to my Seth Cohen?

One of my favorite stores is Half Price Books because print is dead and I refuse to pay full price for it. My good friend Ben happens to work for Half Price, so when I gave him a ride to work the other day I decided to take a look around.

At first, I felt sort of bad because there was an author doing a book signing at the front of the store. She had a table and some signs, but when it came time for her to read an excerpt, there was no microphone or anything. She was basically yelling prose at people as they stood in line waiting to buy Great Expectations for 50 cents.

I felt uncomfortable, so I moved away from the table and into the DVD section. I took a moment to browse the Clearance shelf, which is when I caught sight of something truly glorious. Season 1 of “The O.C.” I pulled it down and looked at the price. $3?! Oh yes, this is something worth investing in.

“The O.C.” premiered in the Fall of 2003. At the time, I had just entered my Junior year of high school, and the main characters on the show were also 16. I felt a connection despite the fact that most of the actors were actually in their early 20s. In the second episode, when the main characters went to a raging party at their friend’s beach house where people were getting drunk and snorting cocaine, I thought, “Finally, a show that really speaks to my own high school experience.”

After buying Season 1, I went home and started binge watching right away. It was hours of sweet, sweet nostalgia guided by the soothing mellow tones of Phantom Planet belting out, “Californiiiiaa. Califooornniiiiaaaaa! Here we coooooooome!”

All was right with the world until tragedy struck. As I popped disc 3 into my DVD player, I realized something was terribly wrong. Who are all of these unfamiliar characters on the Menu screen? When I popped the disc out and examined it more closely, I realized it was actually Disc 3 for Season 3. Someone must’ve mixed things up before selling the season to Half Price.

After contemplating the best course of action, I realized the smartest thing to do would be to try to contact Half Price via social media. Surely, they’ll want to know about this and make it right. I quickly fired off a couple of tweets…



When Half Price didn’t immediately respond I decided to move ahead with my viewing. So I’m missing 4 episodes. How much could really happen in that span of time? Turns out, things move pretty quickly in the Orange County.

3 After a while, I became concerned that maybe Half Price was ignoring because they didn’t consider me a very serious customer. One time I was at a Half Price and saw a couple with over a dozen DVDs in their hands. Then, their elementary school aged daughter walked up to them with a book in her hand, and the mom spat, “No. I told you. Were not getting any books!” Yikes. I certainly didn’t want HPB to perceive me as one of those terrible people who only comes in to buy the entire Fast & Furious collection for under $10. I fired off another tweet…


After an hour and a half, Half Price had still yet to respond to me. They have to be ignoring me on purpose. How do they not have someone watching their social media at 10’o’clock at night for just this kind of emergency? I was becoming exhausted. (Not just because of the missing disc, but also because Seth was having trouble choosing between Ana and Summer. I mean, sure, he’s had a crush on Summer for years, but Ana is a girl who likes comic books. They have a deeper connection. And are Ryan and Marissa ever going to get on the same page? After what happened it Tijauna, probably not. Amiright?) I tweeted again.


If you’ll recall, the show “One Tree Hill” came out around the same time as “The O.C.” Both of them were about pretty white people with problems. The only real difference was O.C. had the ocean and OTH had basketball. All nine seasons of OTH are currently on Netflix. That’s right, 9 seasons. That show was like adult Power Rangers, where every couple of seasons they would bring in a whole new set of regulars and give people some new outfits. By the end, it looked so different from how it started they might as well have called it “Mighty Morphin ‘ One Tree Hill: Turbo Force.” I couldn’t bring myself to actually watch it.


Now, roughly 2 weeks later, I’ve completed season 1 of “The O.C.” It was an emotional roller coaster, and I’ve already ordered Season 2 from Amazon. (Insert your judgmental comments here.) I’ve still not heard from Half Price Books, and I’m assuming somewhere out there is someone with the wrong disc 3 for Season 3. Maybe, through this post we’ll find each other. Until then, I guess I’ll just keep “driving in the sun, looking out for number one.”


Random Fun Fact:  Several of the episodes in Season 1 have characters staying at a shady motel called “The Mermaid Inn.” The Mermaid Inn is actually the Beach Plaza Hotel in Long Beach, CA where I spent the summer of 2006 living with 30 other college students as part of Campus Crusade Summer Project.


long beach project 004

lbc project and more 002