Sunday, May 20, 2012

Don't Drink and Blog

What happens when you mix Two Buck Chuck Merlot with a  Microsoft Word? You’re about to find out.

(By my own choice) I find myself back at the first hotel I was housed in (by employers, thus the passive voice) in 2005 when I started as a traveling underwriter (mortgages, due diligence, in case some insurance recruiter is reading this blog and getting ideas). I’m dealing with some stress from having packed up my car (no room for anyone but me) and about the same time when I first “hit the road.” Unfortunately, in 2005, on May 19 (because I didn’t want to do this to my cats on the birthday of one of them: Samba), I took my three cats to the Ventura County Animal Shelter because I could no longer care for them. And to any trolls/bullies/Fucktards getting ideas from that piece of information: forget it and fuck you; you cannot torture me to even 1/10th of the level I have been torturing myself over it for seven years.

Alcohol is not my coping method of choice (because, let’s be honest, unless you’re dealing with stress through meditation, focus and healthy stress relief, if you drink/drug/eat to deal with life’s hardships, not only are your problems still there when the carb/drug/alcohol wears off, but you have added the side effects of overeating/drinking/drugging to those problems. Wildly inefficient and pretty damned stupid, you know? The whole “One step up, two steps back” scenario). However, the fully-packed car took my mind back to that desperate time in 2005 and the years afterwards when I was rootless, essentially living out of my car (and sometimes sleeping in it) and managing, but only just.  I hadn’t thought about this shit in years, but here I am and, here’s the warning, Kids: you have no idea how quickly, strongly and effectively those old, seemingly dead triggers will jump up and try to drag you back into hell.

As a kind of “side” illustration: there was an incident when I still lived in New Hampshire. It was Christmas Eve and I was headed to Burlington, VT (about a 2, 2.5 hour drive) to meet up with my best friend to spend Christmas with her and her family. As I got about 15 miles out of Concord, NH, I noticed that the tachometer was close to the red line, even if I took my foot off the gas. If I tried to put the car in neutral, the engine would rev and it WOULD redline. The accelerator was stuck. I didn’t own a cellphone at that time, it was a Sunday Christmas Eve and if you’ve driven Route 89, you know that except for Concord, West Lebanon and Burlington, there is nothing around. The road was empty that day (because people of common sense were already hunkered down with their families). I couldn’t count on a cop coming by. I figured that I had enough gas to get to Burlington where I could get help, so I drove and prayed that no one would try to pull me over. I got as far as Montpelier, VT  and had to go to the bathroom. I pulled off the highway and into a gas station where my brakes were smoking like I’d taken a torch to them.  I lucked out and even though he wasn’t supposed to be there, there was a guy in the station who fixed the problem (a cable had come loose).   My point is that this happened well over 10 years ago and to this day, if I smell burning brakes, I get shaky and sweaty. You don’t know what lies in wait from your memory and subconscious waiting to pounce. However, knowing that they’re lurking out there is half the battle. Write that down.

I have to remind myself that I KNOW this is temporary. The issues that kept me from establishing a permanent base of operations no longer exist. I am in a position to set up my own home (and according to this morning’s edition of “CBS Sunday Morning”, I am one of 30 some million Americans living on my own. Downside?  It can feel extremely lonely and isolated sometimes, especially when I’m worried or scared. Upside? There’s no one to tell me how badly/loudly I snore or criticize my housekeeping (or lack thereof. More lack thereof. I can clean. I just don’t like to) or say things like “I hate the way you blow your nose.”  I am actively seeking a new home. 1 BR 1 bath, reasonably close to work (the 100 + mile commute of the past week was a motherfucker). However, if George Clooney wants to take up with me, I’ll let him (he’s mine. I just haven’t told him yet).

In a follow up to a previous blog (Dear E! Online, You Morons), I notice that Robin Gibbs’s death is getting more attention from them than that of  Donna Summers. I’ve already ranted: E has truly fucked-up priorities.

I finished off a bottle of Charles Shaw (Two Buck Chuck) Merlot (No, not a whole bottle at one sitting. Half a bottle). Unfortunately, the biggest side effect for me of too much alcohol is a craving for carbohydrates. Wave fried potatoes under my nose and you have my attention. Sadly, there is a Jack in the Box within easy walking distance and I indulged. However, tomorrow is another day, one in which I will be WORKING and I know where the gym is and I shall be fine (and back to eating Paleo).
And that’s it for now…

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Sword, Please

(The bathroom scale just went into storage for I know not how long; one hopes a short time).

Warning: there will be more foul language than usual in today’s post. Not only am I ripshit, but “The King’s Speech” is on. I’d like to take credit for the part where Colin Firth (sigh. I NEVER want to hear an American accent on him) really lets fly, but I don’t think he’s been near me when I’ve missed an exit on the 210.

I just returned from 4 hours of running errands to find a couple of letters from the California Attorney General’s office awaiting me. One was the result  of a complaint regarding a third party debt collector and one was an acknowledgment of a complaint against a third party collector. I take a good look and realize that both of these parties were attempting to collect (illegally) the same old, stale (beyond the Statute of Limitations) debt because as soon as one had put it back to the previous third party collector, those shit weasels had turned around AND SOLD IT AGAIN.

I recently read an article where debtors are now being JAILED through complaints by third party collectors (some of whom are also harassing people IN THE HOSPITAL, telling new mothers that they will not be permitted to leave with their babies unless they settle up outstanding bills, telling other patients that they won’t be treated unless they “go get their checkbooks”. I wish I was kidding).  I’m sure they’re working their way towards the Jabba the Hutt method of dealing with outstanding debt:

Let us compare and contrast this with the news that JP Morgan Chase has lost AT LEAST $2 billion ($2,000,000,000 for you fans of the 0 digit) playing with derivatives, having attempted to drive a cement truck full of nitro glycerine through a small loophole in the Volcker rule against banks trading derivatives. Like the truck on “Mythbusters,” it has blown up in Jamie Dimon’s face.

And yet, he still has his job, a $23 million annual salary and an “invitation” to appear before Congress.
Here’s the difference between the 1% and the 99%: who do you think is going to be made to bear that loss? The board of Chase? No. Dimon? No. The big-ticket customers who can afford to leave at least $10,000 sitting in an account? Hell, no.

That one will be coming around to you and me, friend and probably start by laying off a few thousand employees. I’ve worked with Chase employees (in loss mitigation). They’re decent, hard-working people (who get worked a little too hard but these are the times) who have enough of a burden on their shoulders because the time demanded by the job has been eating into time for themselves and their families. I would wager that the Board of Directors could probably come up with the funds to cover the losses out of their own personal wealth, but it won’t be asked of them.

Meanwhile, I have the law on my side, yet I am being harassed by LVNV Funding (of Evanston, IN) by them ignoring the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and human decency. They sell old debts to Arrow, to Brachfeld Law Group (THAT name is a joke), to Richard J. Boudreau. I complain to the appropriate state agencies and the FTC about these transactions, the buyers apologize to the AGs, put the old debts back to LVNV who sell it to another collector. And the process starts again. Each time they sell it, it’s for about $7 or $8, so the sales and returns aren’t going to trouble anyone. Except me. It’s Whack A Collector.

I’m done playing.

I just sent a complaint to the Indiana Attorney General regarding LVNV Funding and their constant reselling of uncollectible debt that results in harassment.

Third party debt collectors are the scum of the Earth. There are laws, including the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act regarding when they can you, when they must stop calling, the fact that they cannot threaten you with jail or harm and various other rules that they ignore because these laws are toothless. I’ve submitted at least a dozen complaints on various companies and they’re all still cheerfully operating. They promise that I’ll “never hear from them again”, but that doesn’t preclude the next guy from having at it. The State Attorneys General are too busy patting themselves on the back over their $25 billion settlement: “Under the deal struck in February, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Ally Financial pledged to stop the illegal practices that sparked false documentation and "robo-signing," which helped push many homeowners into foreclosure and caused endless headaches for millions of other borrowers.”

General Harris? Fellow AGs? $25 billion is what Countrywide used to fund in ONE MONTH. That’s one company out of twenty. Congratulations: you just put a price tag on ripping off consumers. The next time it happens, they’ll have the fine set aside. This isn’t even a knuckle rap with a rubber ruler.
Fellow 99%-ers, therein lies the difference between the 1% and us. The agencies and forces that are supposed to be serving us are too busy making sweetheart deals with those who would make us serfs to actually protect us. So much for “We the People,” but Citizens United kind of drew a strikeout line through that Constitutional phrase. Money talks and those of us at the bottom of the pyramid; ours has laryngitis.

Way back in the late 1980s, I was a mutual fund accountant for a municipal bond fund. A big one (over $1 billion). It was my job to reconcile the trading activity of the fund manager with the purchase and redemption of shares by the individual investors in the fund. By the way,  I didn’t hate the late Senator Bob Packwood because he sexually harassed his female staffers. I hated him because the shithead said in 1986 that he was going to propose a tax on municipal bond interest as part of Reagan’s tax reforms (which you can thank for complicating the deductibility of IRA contributions. THAT had to be undone in the Clinton Administration.  Capital gains tax rates, however, remained the same or were cut. 1% v. 99%). Municipal bonds and muni bond funds could not be priced for 3 days because of the ensuing panic and its effect on prices (I’ll bet you Peckerwood and his buddies were busy snapping up bargains) . It had a derivatives portfolio from time to time and while it was a fairly small one, those futures had the power to move the fund price by a cent or two in either direction.  On a HUGE squishy muni bond fund, that takes some doing.

Also, way back in the early 1990s, derivatives were the root cause of Orange County, CA (to where I am moving this weekend) filing for bankruptcy protection.

Trading in derivatives (credit default swaps) were part of the worldwide economic collapse in 2008. Former Fed Chairman, Paul Volcker, made a rule: no more derivatives except to hedge against losses on certain investments.

Well, guess who decided that all of Chase’s investments qualified for hedging? And guess who’s been fighting tooth and nail against banking reforms?  Say “Jamie Dimon” once and win twice.

Part of the New Deal was the Glass-Steagall Act, which barred banks from gambling (for that is what derivatives trading is) with customer deposits. From Wikipedia: “The term Glass–Steagall Act, however, is most often used to refer to four provisions of the Banking Act of 1933 that limited commercial bank securities activities and affiliations between commercial banks and securities firms.[2] Starting in the early 1960s federal banking regulators interpreted these provisions to permit commercial banks and especially commercial bank affiliates to engage in an expanding list and volume of securities activities.[3] By the time the affiliation restrictions in the Glass–Steagall Act were repealed through the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act in 1999 by President Bill Clinton, many commentators argued Glass-Steagall was already “dead.”[4] Most notably, Citibank’s 1998 affiliation with Salomon Smith Barney, one of the largest US securities firms, was permitted under the Federal Reserve Board’s then existing interpretation of the Glass-Steagall Act.[5]

Many commentators have stated that the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act’s repeal of the affiliation restrictions of the Glass-Steagall Act was an important cause of the late-2000s financial crisis.[6][7][8] Some critics of that repeal argue it permitted Wall Street investment banking firms to gamble with their depositors' money that was held in affiliated commercial banks.[9][10][11][12][13][14]”
Less than 9 years after your buddies in the Republican Party repealed the legislation (with help from Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin who then got a lucrative job with Citibank. Party shmarty: they’ll all drop trou and bend over for the almighty dollar), the activities Glass-Steagall prevented for 70 years created a worldwide economic collapse.

You’d think the Jamie Dimons of the world would have learned.

You’d think
You’d think that if the California Attorney General and the FTC had received enough complaints from consumers regarding violations of the FDCPA, they’d start shutting down the third party collectors and enforcing the regulations that these people casually ignore as they go about their “business.” There is substantial evidence that people have been driven to suicide by the heavy-handed tactics.
They’ve just managed to really make me angry. Quietly angry. Quiet anger is dangerous because the energy isn’t dispelled through screaming and violent activity. Mine gets channeled into writing letters, making calls and urging regulatory action/prosecution.

“They task me. I’ll chase them round Perdition’s moon…”

Well, I’m saner than Khan, but I’m just as angry.

Load the Genesis device. From FDCPA's heart, I stab at thee....

Oh, and here's a difference between the Presidential candidates (our current President had a basic middle-class upbringing)...

Friday, May 18, 2012

Dear E! Online, You Morons

Dear E! Online,

You people (a phrase I detest) are positively chapping my ass with your fucked-up priorities.
Donna Summer, the Queen of Disco, died yesterday. This was a woman with 5 (count ‘em 5) Grammies, gold and platinum albums and she OWNED the real estate on the Billboard charts like it was her own version of a Monopoly game. Donna performed an Oscar-winning song (“Last Dance”) and when disco faded away, she turned out to be a pretty good painter.

This was an artist as dominant in her time as Michael, Madonna, Whitney and Gaga in theirs.
Yet, what’s getting the big stories on E? Is it a tribute to the Queen of Disco with tweets and comments from her colleagues and those who looked to her as an influence?


Was there a biography and discography noting her smash hits and award winners?

Not unless it’s in stealth mode.

What do we have…let’s see…red carpet “report” on “Men in Black III,” some non-story about some tart named Courtney, a missing person named Nick Stahl, the TV upfronts and, of course, space devoted to the Whoredashians.

E? Really? You take the “Who Gives a Fuck ashians” over Donna? The TV upfronts (and let’s be honest, based on past performance, a lot of those shows will be off the air by December) deserve press over the passing of an icon? Some attention-starved I-don’t-know-what-the-fuck-she-is promoting herself is more worthy of attention than a multi-platinum recording artist who recorded with Barbra Streisand (“No More Tears (Enough is Enough)”)?

Jesus Christ Almighty, who’s running the show over there? You guys went nuts over the passing of Whitney and Michael, but an artist who helped blaze the trail gets short shrift.   Was it because Donna didn’t die under scandalous circumstances? Is it necessary to suck off Ryan Seacrest for E to cover a story? (That’s my Whoredashian theory)

Fine. Donna was a Boston girl (Dorchester, actually, like the Wahlberg brothers) as LaDonna Gaines. She was married twice and divorced once, having had three children, Mimi Sommer (she changed her name to an Anglicized version of her first husband’s name, going from Sommer to Summer) and Brooklyn and Amanda Sudano with her second husband, Bruce Sudano.  Donna’s hits began with “I Feel Love” (one of my least favorites) in 1974 and she was recording up through 2008.
And the Whoredashians have accomplished…[crickets] Right.

Donna hit and peaked before the advent of the almighty music video, but a little British film in 1997 chose one of her songs for one of the funniest low-key scenes ever seen in a movie. From “The Full Monty”:

RIP, Miss Summer. We'll miss you.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

There Will Be A Quiz

A little horn-tooting and then we’ll get to the meat of this post: has posted yet another “blog” that I wrote; this time it’s about the $2,000,000,000 loss that Chase just took on derivative trading.

Also, we are raising money for “Stump” on indiegogo: Please kick in a few sheckels, if you can.

If you piss off Dr. Bruce Banner, he will get large and green and lay a beatdown on your ass (I dearly love what he does to Loki in “The Avengers”). Me, I’ll just pull out a Bachelor of Science in Education diploma from Universitatis V. Montis (aka University of Vermont technically University of the Green Mountains aka UVM aka Groovy UV, Go Cats, Go) and beat you to death with it (considering the item in question is housed in a soft leather holder, this will take some time).
America, you are losing the ability to communicate written English on even a sixth grade level. I see misspellings, misused words, bad grammar (That’s right: it’s spelled g-r-a-m-m-a-r.  G-r-a-m-m-e-r is Kelsey aka Frasier aka Sideshow Bob aka Hank “Beast” McCoy in “X Men 3”) on Facebook, in email, on news websites like USA Today, CNN and LA Times. I find the websites especially egregious because these are alleged “professionals” and if one is going to get paid to write, one should be able to do it better than a 12 year old. I am still ripshit (yep, my own word) over “Trading Up,” a Candace Bushnell (“Sex and the City” author) book. In it, a fireplace was laid out with a DURACELL log. Really? We’re burning batteries???? Not only did the author punt this one, but her editor and any proofreaders missed it, too. DURAFLAME, Candace; those compressed, fake logs are DURAFLAME logs. You should forfeit your royalties for that one.

“Doesn’t matter,” you say. Uh huh. Yeah, let me put it to you this way: we talk a lot about the 1% and the 99% in this country. The 1% who do the actual work of maintaining and increasing their wealth don’t sound like bored 15 year old girls (“OMG”). Want to work your way into that circle? Want to be taken seriously by them so that you can work your way into that circle? You start by sounding like an educated, reasonably intelligent adult. E.L. Konigsberg, author  of several Newbery Awards (highest honor for a children’s book), once wrote “Sloppy speech patterns indicate sloppy thought patterns.” The same goes for sloppy written communication. I get a lot of comments on my vocabulary (positive comments). I’m not more intelligent than most people; I use more words and phrases than “pissed off”, “awesome”, “he’s/she’s all”, etc. I taught the 1982-1983 crop of seventh graders at Shelburne Middle School Language Arts and those kids could spell, punctuate and use good grammar by the time I got done with them (They broke my wrist in the process, but we got it done).
Let’s get to a few pet peeves:

Lie/Lay.  “I’m gonna go lay down.” WRONG!!!!!! If the critter (which includes you, your family, your friends and any furry little woodland friends of Sleeping Beauty) puts itself horizontal, it LIES down. I lie down, you lie down, Rover lies down. And, if you don’t move, you LIE there (like Sleeping Beauty).   However, if you perform the act of putting an object (or a person/furry woodland creature)  down, you LAY it down. There is a reason the phrase is “get laid.” Someone is going to lay you down and well…

Whose/Who’s: “Whose” is a possessive pronoun. “Whose bomb is this?” when you come across an explosive device and want to know to whom it belongs (see what I did there?) so you can give it to him (and therefore foil his attempt to “make beeg trouble for Moose and Squirrel.” You know, Boris and Natasha never said why they hated Bullwinkle and Rocky so much).  “Who’s” is a contraction of “who is.” “Okay, who’s making bombs around here?” means you have come across an explosive device and would like to know who made it (not necessarily the current owner). The only exception is when one is trying to determine ownership of a Tardis: “Is this Dr. Who’s?”

They’re/there/their: They’re – contraction of “they are.” There – adverb describing a location. Their – possessive pronoun describing something belonging to a group of people that isn’t us (or we. Third parties).  “They’re standing over there with their Tauntons.”

I understand some of the confusion: we’re taught (not were taught. I’m using a contraction of “we are” not the plural past tense of "is") that  an ‘s shows possession, so therefore (we think), if we throw an apostrophe s behind a pronoun, we’re golden. Wrong! Pronouns are bloody-minded little bastards and you just have to learn the words.

Good/Well. Good is an adjective, used to describe nouns. Well is an adverb, used to modify verbs. “I slept good” means you didn’t pay attention in Miss Thatcher’s Language Arts class and she is coming for you. If you INSIST on using “good”, you could say, “My sleep was good,” but then people would think you were a pompous ass for using the passive voice. To be correct, you would say, “I slept well.” Sleep is a verb and you are describing the quality of your action (I know, it’s just sleeping, but it IS a verb). Of course, if you snore, anyone within a 100 yard radius probably already knows how well you slept.

Less/Fewer. I’m seeing that more and more express lanes are getting corrected to “____ items or fewer” instead of “____ items or less.” You use less when you are talking about a smaller portion of a single unit. Less water, less talking. You use “fewer” when you are talking about a smaller number of individual items: fewer zombies than the last outbreak. You can be accurate by talking about less rain or fewer raindrops, but not by talking about less raindrops. See the difference? “Jean Luc Picard has less hair than Captain Kirk” or “Jean Luc Picard has fewer hairs than Captain Kirk” (completely sidestepping  the issue of Shatner’s rug).

Let’s hit some seventh grade spelling that seems to flummox 30 year olds:

Definite. Not an “a” in sight (Please note, I can’t get Spell Check to accept it with an a. This should be your first clue).

Separate. “Pa rates with us” if you need an mnemonic (a means to remember it).

I see those two words screwed up all the time. It seems like a lot of professional communication uses one or both of those words and it makes me weep for the American educational system that adults don’t seem to able to master the spelling of moderately challenging words or homonyms (words that sound alike but are spelled differently and have different meanings).

These are not difficult, obscure words or concepts to master. This is not Shakespearian or Victorian English. These are some basics of good English (American or British. Or even Canadian, eh) that have been taking a beating over the past few years (Like the aforementioned Hulk v. Loki; the BEST beatdown on screen since Sam and Ralph in Looney Tunes). Try watching “My Fair Lady” some time. Better yet, because the songs and dances may prove distracting, get hold of “Pygmalion” by George Bernard Shaw (either the Leslie Howard film or the play). Henry Higgins passes off a dirt-poor, lower-class flower seller for a titled English aristocrat by teaching her how to speak proper English.

And actually, the Beast was very well-spoken...

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Self Promotion

Today’s topic is tooting my own horn. I write for this great news parody site and they posted a video this week that I wrote and also a couple of joke status updates on their Facebook page:

(See the Ann Romney and the Avengers status updates. Yeah, I wrote those).

Here’s a link to the video:

You have noticed that I just added a couple of features to more heavily monetize the blog. Clicking on the ads is not generating enough revenue for me to get paid, so I have added the Internet equivalent of an open guitar case to collect donations (please do not chuck in Dunkin Donuts wrappers). While I am waiting on the new employer to clear me for takeoff, so to speak, I do need to bring in some kind of income and this is a way to do it. I have a Brussels sprouts habit to support and Yaz (my faithful car) likes gas and oil changes.

Speaking of shameless self-promotion…

I commented yesterday (via a wonderful Willy Wonka meme) on Bristol Palin criticizing the President’s statement on marriage equality (He’s for it, in case you missed it due to a sugar coma).
Bristol Palin. Passing judgment on other people. Generating a LOT of Twitter and Facebook and press attention. Most of the teenaged moms I know (or those who became moms as teens) are too busy raising their children to spend time and energy sticking their noses into these issues more than to say something to their girlfriends.

I listen to Adam Carolla’s podcast and a few weeks ago, he was talking to Penn Jillette about his recent (that week) ouster from “Celebrity Apprentice.” Penn was part of the same crew (and lasted longer. I don’t watch the show, so I don’t know what the status is). Both men had been on “Dancing With the Stars” (different seasons) and were discussing the “fame whore” tag that has been applied to them because they seem to be making the rounds of these shows. Mr. Jillette made the following remark, which I found intriguing: “People don’t realize that it’s our job to stay in the spotlight. It’s our job keep our names out there.” (I know I probably screwed up the quote, but the thrust of his comments are there). Penn Jillette is a magician, actor, writer and entertainer. Adam Carolla is an actor, writer and entertainer (and emerging Podcast Emperor. Every member of the Carolla family has a podcast except for Molly the Dog  and that could just be a matter of time).

Back to Bristol Palin. In reading some of the articles generated by her comments, I discovered that the Lifetime Channel is presently filming a (brace yourselves) reality show around her. Thus the need to attract some press.

This is a cultural point even lower than the Whoredashians.

First of all, Ms. Palin is not an actor, writer or entertainer.  Whereas Mssrs. Jillette and Carolla provide value for the dollars paid to them in terms of creating entertainment, Ms. Palin…does not. The two gentlemen built careers by paying their dues in performing over the course of years and creating solid bodies of work. Ms. Palin jumped to overnight notoriety by being the unwed pregnant spawn of a failed politician. While the gentlemen use the reality shows as a means to promote their other endeavors (Vegas acts , podcasts, TV shows they’re producing and writing), the reality show and the lecture circuit are Ms. Palin’s sole projects (unless you count a running feud with her baby daddy).  While she and her mother have screamed from the rooftops about “leave the families out of it,” Ms. Palin has seen fit to pose for the cover of People in her high school graduation robes and with her (then) infant son. Hey, when you push yourself into the public eye, you become fair game. We’ll leave the baby out of it because he’s not of the age of consent.

 Like the Whoredashians building an empire out of a sex tape (because, otherwise, who would have heard of them except as Robert Kardashian’s spoiled children?), Bristol Palin is building an “empire” out of the fact that while her mother, as Governor of Alaska, was pushing an “abstinence only” curriculum for sex ed, Bristol was showing her mother’s complete lack of leadership by not only foregoing abstinence, but clearly also foregoing birth control of any sort. (When my parents said, “Don’t,” I didn’t and trust me, I’d have put my father up against the Quitter in Chief any day. I think my mother could even take her).

Were it not for the accident of a famous mother, she’d be supporting herself and her child working in the local fish cannery for that’s the highest skill level she possesses.

I think it’s time, America, to take a look at who we’re “idolizing” and why. Do we love the Whoredashians and BP here because they’re getting rich and famous for doing nothing except to compromise themselves and their honor? (It should matter) We have a young woman passing judgment on others; perhaps it is time to pass similar judgment on her. Unlike her Facebook page. Unsubscribe from her blog. Contact the Lifetime network and tell them that since they’ve sunk so low in their programming, you’ll be watching something else or just turning off the TV. Americans are regarded as fat, lazy, stupid slobs by the rest of the world. Time to change that.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Boobs, More Boobs and Black Widows

To the idiots screaming about gay marriage: last time I checked, unlike visas, there is no maximum quota of marriages allowed in the US. The way some folks carried on, you’d think the gay couples were taking something away from the straight couples. It’s actually a benefit: additional weddings, additional money spent on wedding planners, flowers, banquet halls, DJs (or bands), cakes, tux rentals, bridal and bridesmaids gowns (some in men’s sizes. I don’t judge), honeymoons, caterers, booze, GIFTS…allowing gay marriage could actually be a boon to economic recovery. Of course, I’m slightly bitter in that I know at least one gay couple who will be getting married before I even get asked on a second date. It’s not that I need to be someone’s wife; I’d just like to know that I qualify. And for the record: if you’re against both gay marriage and abortion, better change your mind on one of them. The same sex couples are the folks adopting the unwanted babies.

And we also found ourselves confronted with “Are You Mom Enough?” on Time magazine showing a young woman with a three year old in camouflage cargo pants hanging off her breast (the idea being a “debate” on “attachment parenting.”  Annoyed sigh.  How many people actually cared and/or heard about this nonsense before the media coverage of the magazine?). Cue carefully arranged firestorm choreographed to sell magazines. I’ve never had kids so I’ve never had to deal with the whole breast feeding question. However, I would think that the emergence of teeth is Nature’s way of saying, “time to kick Junior off the tit” (something the Republicans want to do with individuals receiving government subsidies, not corporations. Of course, according to Mitt Romney, corporations are people. That would make them more human than he is). I think the picture was chosen exactly for the reaction it has provoked. But, judging by the sneer on the mother’s face, that’s got to be some sour damned milk that kid’s getting. I hope she’s well-paid for the picture because that boy is going to be needing years of therapy. Not from breast-feeding at his age but from all the others who will be torturing him over it for the rest of his life. For his sake, this should have remained a private matter.

Meanwhile, back in my corner of the planet…

I am awaiting the results of a background check by my soon-to-be employer. I have a clean criminal record: the only thing on it being a jaywalking ticket from Columbus, OH three years ago. No, I am not making this up. Busted cross signal, officious cop (“This is a California license. What are you doing in Ohio?” Really? Do I LOOK like an Al Qaeda operative? NONE OF YOUR MOTHER FUCKING BUSINESS, OFFICER DOUCHEBAG and it’s my right to be here if I choose. THAT is covered by the Constitution ) and it cost me $120. Meanwhile, until I start drawing a paycheck, I will gratefully accept donations as I will be needing a new professional work wardrobe . I had good work clothes and since they became too big, I gave them away to a friend who has also been losing weight and come down to the sizes I had previously been.

And on the topic of getting even smaller…

If you’re a regular reader here, you know I’m a fan and advocate of the Paleo (or Caveman) Diet (No sugar, no grain, no processed foods. Animal products are all grass-fed.  You can grill, boil, broil, no deep fat frying. Only eat it if it could be hunted, fished or gathered). And it has treated me well; clear sinuses, clear skin, muscle definition coming through (except for The Great White Belly, but even that’s responding), fat going bye-bye. Last night, KTLA, one of the LA local TV stations, dedicated their Health segment to the “controversial” Caveman Diet. Link:,0,422016.premiumvideo

We’ll come back to why they hit it with the dumbass “controversial” tag in a minute. Scarlett Johannson (whose name the blow-dried idiot “reporting” the piece could not spell correctly on the web page) talked about using the Paleo Diet to get in shape to play Black Widow, speaking of it building muscle. Judging by this picture, she’s onto something:

Chris Evans. Sigh. Jeremy Renner...whoops! Sorry. Lost my train of thought.

Okay, so the dimbo reporting the story spoke of this diet as being “controversial” because it includes red meat and we all know that red meat contains saturated fats and she then mentioned the Atkins Diet and all the alleged side effects of Atkins…

This. Isn’t. Atkins. This is mostly vegetables, preferably organic if you can afford/get them. Broccoli. Avocados. Brussels sprouts. Tomatoes. Green beans. Cauliflower. Sweet potatoes. Fruit.
Why controversial? Because it doesn’t include Hamburger Helper, Stouffer’s, Betty Crocker or McDonalds. There’s no Coke, Pepsi, Nestle (who got in trouble years ago for pushing third world women to use baby formula instead of breast-feeding their babies) or Krispy Kreme. No Velveeta, General Foods, General Mills, Oscar Mayer, Kelloggs or Nabisco. No Archer Daniel Midlands, no ConAgra. If you’re buying (or growing) fresh vegetables (especially if they’re local), the multi-national food conglomerates don’t get their cut of your budget. If it’s not a prepackaged heat and eat meal with Nutrisystem, Lean Cuisine, Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers on it, the multi-billion dollar diet industry loses money. If you don’t have to attend meetings and pay dues, or consult a counselor 9and pay a fee for it), they lose money. Naturally, you have to be convinced that you cannot eat a healthy diet unless it includes products and services from national brands. Therefore, any way of eating that leaves out the big guys must be made to look scary and dangerous.

Fuck ‘em.

Dr. Robert Lustig’s work on sugar has convinced me that I can do without that crap in my diet. Previous success (although I back slid) with the Protein Power plan (modified Atkins)has convinced me that fats, even saturated fats, are not as harmful as sugar and refined carbohydrates. The people that I know who have switched to the Paleo Diet are perfectly healthy. The research that I’ve read on it shows happy healthy STRONG people.

And if I could wear a black leather jumpsuit like Scarlett…that’s good enough for me.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Learning the Hard Way

I don’t claim to be an expert on nutrition, biochemistry, kinesiology or anything of that nature. I’ve never studied or trained in any of them. I have tried a lot of different approaches to determine what’s best for me to eat for maximum health (sadly, I have found the hard way that this does not include gummy bears, Snickers bars or anything from Ben & Jerry’s or anything from a bagel shop).
I can only tell you what works for me. And, as I’m about to relate it to you, especially what doesn’t. Sadly, I was never one of those nice, obedient kids who, if you told them “Don’t do this because____ [insert undesirable consequences]”, they would cheerfully ignore the temptation and go about their business. (For the record, those kids all grow up to be tattooed/pierced strippers and/or bikers. Or Osmonds). I have the “don’t touch the stove”, “don’t ride your bike down the gravel driveway” and many “don’t touch the cat when his tail’s lashing” scars (and a few from when the dog wanted to emphasize how much she didn’t like to be picked up EVEN when she had ruptured a tendon and needed help getting into bed with my parents. As soon as I started biting back, Lily knocked it off). I’m a Gemini; we learn best when we learn the hard way.

Cash flow has been a bit problematic lately and my current housing (and Extended Stay hotel) now offers free coffee and muffins for breakfast. I have removed sugar and wheat from my diet recently: muffins contain both. Wanting to conserve cash (because I’ve had to travel great distances for job interviews over the past 2 weeks. Oh: I got the job), I have been eating muffins.

Now let me tell you why this was a bad idea:

I cannot explain the biochemistry, but the reintroduction of sugar and wheat are playing havoc with my system. After months of clear skin, I have zits. I’ve been waking up with my hands itching and discovered that they’re covered with eczema (a symptom of gluten intolerance). The bloat is returning to my midsection (the firm, unyielding feeling) and I’ve been maintaining my exercise routine, but the belly isn’t decreasing. I haven’t been feeding my muscles and joints the proper nutrition and I’ve been feeling “crunchy” (and tired and achy as hell).

It’s not just a question of how many calories you consume, the bigger question is what they contain. Food is not just to satisfy hunger; if it’s the right kind, it’s fuel and building blocks. If it’s not, it’s a low grade poison. This is not just dramatic effect: anything that has a bad effect on your body is essentially a poison (I write this as I’m digging and scratching at the dry eczema blisters on my hands).

Time to right the ship. Back to Paleo:  vegetables (fresh or frozen), lean meats and fruit, nuts and grass-fed dairy (if I’m going to eat dairy). Time to undo the damage.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Q & A

I left it open for people to ask questions so I would answer and guess what? Crickets. Not a single blessed question. Fine, you guys are therefore stuck with what I WANT to tell you.

Q: Why is the blog called “50 Lbs. to Normal?”

A: The intention was to journal my weight loss. At the time I started the blog, I was 50 lbs. from the weight that would put me at normal BMI. At the time, I thought it was 146.9 lbs. However, I find out that it’s actually 159.6 lbs. Nope, not a mathematician. That was my best friend’s job.

Q: So what do you weigh now?

A: Let’s say less than when I started and leave it at that. I haven’t been on the scale in a while.

Q: What’s your favorite reality TV show?

A: “Mythbusters” on Discovery.

Q: Really? What about “American Idol” or “Dancing With the Stars”?

A: They don’t blow shit up. Adam and Jamie have vaporized a cement truck and launched a water heater into near Earth orbit. And they get paid to do it. God, I love this country!

Q: How are the Red Sox doing this season?

A: Shut up.

Q: How are you going to vote in the upcoming election?

A: By secret ballot.

Q: What size clothing are you wearing?

A: I started in January 2011 wearing size 18-20, depending on the garment. Right now, I’ve been wearing size 14 (Not Your Daughter’s Jeans) and size 13 (Calvin Klein) jeans for the last 6 months at least.

Q: That doesn’t sound like progress.

A: No, honestly, it doesn’t. And if I think about it, I can get discouraged. HOWEVER, I’ve been told by one of the friendly body builders at the gym that the waist is the last area to shrink and (this part’s kind of questionable) that the fat from the areas that are getting slimmer and more defined kind of drops down to the waist. I’m not eating more and I’m not exercising less. However, people tell me that my waist IS shrinking and my arms and legs are getting VERY defined, so it’s a matter of keep on keeping on. I’ll get into those damned size 11s sooner or later.

Q: How are your eating habits?

A: I’ve gone Paleo for the most part. However, when I’m stressed, I’m finding that I run for the carbohydrates, especially sugar. And I’ve discovered (remembered, actually) there's sugar in soy milk (which I’ve been substituting for dairy. .Back to half & half).  Getting the grain out the diet hasn’t been an issue. If I can have a sweet potato for something starchy every now and then, it’s good. And grass fed butter (the Irish stuff, Kerrygold, that you get from Trader Joe’s) on the sweet potato.

Q: What IS your exercise routine?

A: I’ve been able to get to the gym and lift weights 3 times a week, take 2 yoga classes a week and 1 Pilates class per week. I used to do a lot more cardio and I may get back to it. As life and work schedules change, I’ve needed to change with it.

Q: Why the variety?

A: The resistance training (the weights) are for building muscle. Strength training helps prevent osteoporosis and maintaining/improving strength is good for anyone. There’s something kind of meditative about counting your repetitions (although I’ve forgotten how many sets I’ve done from time to time). Yoga is great for improving my flexibility; that helps prevent injuries. It’s also great for calming and centering the mind during stressful times (e.g. my adult life). The Pilates is mostly for the “core” muscles in the abdomen. Good posture prevents chronic pain. Do I think Hef’s going to ask me to pose for Playboy? No. I’d rather write for it anyway, but I enjoy feeling stronger and being able to move more and do more without feeling like I’m going to keel over.

Q: What do you think of the fat acceptance movement?

A: I don’t think it’s acceptable to discriminate or torture anyone for any reason (unless you start it and then it’s open season): race, sexual orientation, religion, body size, whatever. In fact, bullying says more about the bully and his/her insecurities than it does the bullied. Epithets of any kind are ugly. And that applies to the activists who use them while trying to gain acceptance for their particular group. The term “fatty” for example. It’s an ugly word because it’s particularly unimaginative. It’s the kind of word that someone of little intelligence or education would sling if he felt he was losing an argument. It’s right up there with “poopyhead” in terms of creativity and zing factor.  It’s straight off the kindergarten playground. Arguing that you’re fighting for the acceptance and dignity of fat people while still referring to them and yourself as “fatties” or some other epithet  is hypocrisy. It says you don’t truly believe what you're saying. Calling yourself an insulting name while demanding respect and dignity from others undermines your own message. If you're not going to treat YOURSELF with respect and dignity, why should anyone else? I will call myself fat, but not a "fatty" or "porker" or "whale" or any of the other terms created and used to cause emotional harm.  Calling yourself a "fatty"  argues towards anger and a degree of self-loathing. It's like the old saying of "charity begins at home." People respond to how you regard yourself.  Deeds, not words, Man.

Q: What are you proud of?

A: Well, I’ve maintained my exercise program for over a year. I’ve kept weight off for over a year. I’ve begun to voluntarily eat Brussels sprouts (with bacon), sweet potatoes and spinach. Yeah, that sounds kind of funny, but I found a way to eat them because they’re very nutritious. I’m proud that I’m sticking to my goal of doing pushups.

Q: Do you think you’re making a difference?

A: That’s an old Buddhist story: two monks walking along a beach come across thousands of starfish stranded by a receding tide. One monk starts picking up stars and flinging them back into the water. The second monk says, “There are too many for you to make a difference.” The first monk throws another starfish back into the ocean and says, “Made a difference to that one.” I am making a difference to myself. I have at least one friend who is making some of the same life changes I am and she’s noticeably thinner, feels better and happier. A couple of other friends for whom weight is not necessarily an issue have told me that they’ve benefitted from some of the things I’ve written about improving sleep or walking a labyrinth for stress relief.

Q: If you could be any tree, what kind would you be?

A: Huh? Look, you’re not Barbara Walters and I’m not Katharine Hepburn. Next question.

Q: Are you planning to run any 5Ks or half-marathons?

A: Not at this time. The Wonky Right Knee wouldn’t hold up. Once I get it fixed, who knows? I had to run down a hallway the other day and for the first time in years, it felt GOOD. I wasn’t winded, I didn’t feel awkward or clumsy. It was almost back to when I was a kid and the one event in the President’s Physical Fitness Challenge that I could do well was the 440 yard run. Back then, running felt good. Up on the toes and hitting a stride. I’d like to feel that again.

Q: Do you pray?

A: Sure. “Dear Lord, let me prove to you that winning the lottery won’t spoil me.”

Q: What are some of your goals? Bikini body?

A: No. Maybe eligible, but I don’t see myself in one. I want to go on a zip line tour. With decreased weight, it’s a possibility. I want to get to the Grand Canyon. I don’t see myself hiking it, but with the lower weight, I can ride a mule. When I started, I was 35 lbs. too heavy. That’s humiliating to think that a half-ton animal couldn’t carry me without risking injury.

Q: What has changed since you started?

A: Besides my body, I’m putting a lot less emphasis on the “between the toes” (weight) that I did when I started and getting down to a particular BMI. They haven’t moved much recently and that has the potential to be so discouraging as to derail everything. Lately, I’ve focused more on seeing muscle definition where there was none (Yes, pictures are coming), on the ability to do more physically and on just plain feeling better. I’m wearing my Little Feat tour shirt and for about 20 years, I couldn’t even pull it on. THAT is an achievement. And it also tells me that although I may not be seeing a noticeably smaller belly (or don’t think I see it), it is actually shrinking.

Q: Are you seeing anyone?

A: I don’t kiss and tell. I will say that the guys at the gym are getting friendlier…except for the Fucktard. He nearly knocked me over today and didn’t even apologize.

Q:  What would you like to say in closing?

A: Do what it takes to be the best possible version of yourself.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


Warning: beyond this point, there’s going to be a LOT of bitching.

Yesterday, chasing down a new job, I drove 170 miles round trip for an “interview” that lasted less than 10 minutes. I was dropping off paperwork at a staffing agency so I could be considered for employment by another company which may be ANOTHER 3 digit round trip. The people were nice enough and the pay rate discussed was adequate, but (if you read my Facebook page, you’ve seen this complaint) that was 5 gallons of gas for which I had paid $4.05 for each gallon (and thought that was a bargain. This is California). My car is a very good boy, but he’s a very good boy with 127,000 miles on his engine, in need of some love from a mechanic for which I don’t have money.

My phone crapped out this morning. This is my sole means of being reached by potential employers. I’ll be on my way to see what (if anything) I can do about it in 2.5 hours. Oh yeah, my phone bill is due, too. So is my storage bill. And my car insurance.  And my housing. What do I have for food? One chicken breast, ground flax seed and some almond butter.
And since I probably have to replace the phone (HTC Evo. When it’s good, it’s very, very good. When it goes down, it goes down HARD), housing myself after Friday is going to be a challenge. I live in a hotel (not a fancy one) because I fucked up years ago, my credit has sucked for years and California landlords are picky about credit, down payments, etc. unless one is willing to live in Cockroach Central or let the landlord climb on top of her (seriously. Read the ads on Craigslist sometime). Hotels, so long as you can pay the freight, are not. Well, from tomorrow forward, if I have to shell out for a new phone today, I can’t.
I can’t file for unemployment until Sunday night and it won’t be in until Monday. I’m educated. I have skills and experience. I have to go through this bullshit. You know, I’ve gone through similar bullshit a few times. Remember my rant about Samantha Brick and her means of getting ahead (find the alpha male and play up to him)? A woman with whom I used to work whose chief skill was sucking dick (literally) and the rest of us had to pick up her slack while she was busy employing that skill is still working. She’s at the same company that told me how much they liked me, but I haven’t gotten them to return a phone call in 2 years.

The last straw has been added to this camel’s back. Keep reading.

Meanwhile in America, where, theoretically, if you have the training and willingness to work hard, you can get and stay ahead, Nadya Suleman (the “Octomom”), a woman who’s claim to fame is having 14 children she will never be able to support (her house in La Habra is now saved from foreclosure because she’s filed for bankruptcy. Ms. Suleman: have you considered moving into a shoe?), boo-hooed her way into tens of thousands of dollars worth of cleaning, help with her army of test tube babies and training for a real job (but she’d rather have endorsement deals). And of course, we have my favorite family, the Whoredashians, whose empire rests on one daughter’s big ass, fame addiction and internationally  known sex tape. They’re thriving. I doubt any of them could spell cat if you spotted them the “c”, but I guess pretty people don’t have to work.

And one of Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital cronies, Edward Conrad,  has a book coming out that says “At base, having a small elite with vast wealth is good for the poor and middle class.” (I shit you not) Really? Vulture capitalism that throws the middle class out of their jobs is good for us?  We know you benefitted, Douchebag and you’re probably planning to help your buddy, Mitt,  rape American taxpayers even further. You’ve been giving millions to his campaign.  Thanks, Supreme Court and Citizens United. Way to level the fucking playing field for the middle class.

I’m not so sure I want to do this anymore. I am too old to pump out 14 test tube babies. I can’t tan, so a reality show like “The Jersey Shore” is out of the question and there is no way in hell I make a sex tape (Unless it was with Uggie the Dog, it wouldn’t get that much play anyway).

Donations gladly accepted.

O Glorious St. Joseph, thou who hast power to render possible even things which are considered impossible, come to our aid in our present trouble and distress. Take this important and difficult affair under thy particular protection, that it may end happily.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Goin' Down to the Crossroads

No, I still haven’t gotten on the scale in a while. Nor have I gotten measured or taken pictures. BUT, I can tell you that I have shoulders under those big, white pads that ran between my (fat) neck and arms.  The extremities are coming into line a lot faster than the Great White Belly. However, I am assured that the GWB (not to be confused with the former President but I like it about as much) will fall off. I just have to keep faith.

And Lila, (yoga instructor), I love you to pieces but there's no way I can do this one...

Work/income has taken center stage over the past 2 weeks. Interviews that didn’t result in an offer. Companies that have me filling out 10 pages of forms and returning them (then complete silence) and companies trying to fill jobs for which I don’t have the skills (or the patience. Front line mortgage underwriting is not my bag. Being polite to a loan officer screaming at me because I’m not rubber stamping his loan applications is not my idea of a way to spend a work day. I don’t give a shit if I’m standing between him and a newer, bigger BMW. If that loan goes, I’M the one on the hook, not him) and companies telling me they’ve done a “targeted search” on either Career Builder or Monster and my skills are what they’re looking for in a new insurance/car/funeral (yes, funeral) salesperson. Other than an expired Florida life insurance license (required because I was working for an investment outfit that sold annuities), there is not a single thing in my resume that says, “Sales.” I’ve lost patience with the recruiters who send those emails and have sent back a few snotty “Please show me where it says I do sales” replies. I’ve gotten a couple of apologies. There are also the scams, generally work from home or “processing receipts”, whatever that is.

Tomorrow, I get in my car (assuring him he’s a good boy) and drive about 70 miles for a job interview. No, I’m not kidding. If I get the job, it’s over 50 miles from where I’m sitting right now. Still not kidding. And once again, I find myself at that crossroads: relocate away from the San Fernando Valley, where I have my “creative” friends (comics, actors, musicians) down to Orange County because that’s where the paying work is (and the proposed pay is good) or do I try to keep hanging hoping for something local and better? (The local option went out the window with the interview that didn’t pan out. I’m still kind of fried over that; the description was EXACTLY what I used to do for a previous employer, but the reason I got was “your skill set doesn’t match up to what we need.” WTF? )

One option completely out is Bering Sea crab fisherman. I don’t care how sexy Sig Hansen is; no way I’d do that job.

Well, I have a $12,000,000 Newport Beach estate on my vision board, so I did put it out to the Universe that I want to live in Orange County…(John Wayne liked it down there. He commuted to Hollywood).

Luckily for me, there’s Dog News ( and I have been writing sketches and “blogs” for them without having to be in the same room. While the mortgage work puts food on the table (and I confess to snarfing down some peanut M&Ms. Stress food), the comedy feeds my soul. I can be professional and well-behaved “on the job” as long as I have an outlet. Dog News is an outlet. So is the gym and luckily for me, there are branches of my gym down in the OC. Unfortunately, the yoga and Pilates teachers that I love so much aren’t down there, but I may find folks down there to love. And I have actual friends down there as well, both mortgage and creative.

We’ll see what happens.