The USDA is telling me how fat I am

January 17, 2018

I eat too much. I’m not Orca fat, but I’m not tiny. I weigh 250 pounds, I stand 5’11”, there’s a lot of roundness to me. I’ve tried losing weight in the past. It’s went well at times, less well at others, and like annoying family on the holidays it always showed up again at some point.

So I finally took my wife’s advice and am keeping track of what I eat. The USDA has a life tracker website where you can catalog what you eat, how much you exercise, whatever. A few days ago I took the dive and started keeping track of everything I crammed into my face.

Now, my wife is  a vegetarian, which means that pretty much everyone in the house is a vegetarian 85% of the time. After a couple of days what stood out to me was how few veggies and fruits I ate.

A lot of carbs.

A lot of beans.

Occasionally way too much cheese (and always too much sodium, salt is everywhere).

But not nearly enough veggies and fruits and rarely enough protein.

So, I am a vegetarian who doesn’t eat veggies. Or at least enough of them. But that’s changing, and so am I. I’ve lose 5 pounds since starting, and I still don’t feel hungry. I want to eat, because that’s what I’m used to doing. Eating. Like washing my hands. Breathing. Eating a handful of oreos.

I’m still breathing, but I’m eating fewer oreos.


So many smiles

January 2, 2018

The Thanksgiving holiday was a long one for me. Dealing with family, in-laws, plumbing issues, kids, etc.  It was funny but the most hassle free and comfortable interaction was with my dad and he was the biggest pain in the ass to get a hold of and set something up with, finally getting him to call back Saturday morning to set up lunch before having to pack up our car and drive home Saturday night.

The plumbing issues were my mom’s. She has multiple filters on her lines because she won’t just get a water softener, so every time I’m home I have to change the filters. They don’t always come apart easily, and I had to apply a bit too much ooomph, breaking the seal on a nearby joint. So, I had to do some plumbing work.

My mom thought she had CPVC glue, so I didn’t grab any when I grabbed everything else. When I got there I found it had dried out, so I had to get some more. Having set up lunch that morning, I suddenly had a time crunch, so I decided to gamble and drive into the nearest small town and hope that the was still a Gamble’s hardware store and that it carried the glue. The good news is that they had the glue. The bad news is that I also got to drive past my old high school.

Or what was left of it.

I come from a small town. I graduated with 62 other people, give or take. My class had significantly more than that before graduation, which is a sadder thing to realize now than what I noticed then. But everything looked good. Not new, but not old. Not unkempt. Not roughly patched.

Driving by the high school now and I discovered the school board had been moved into the high school and half the entrances appear to no longer be used except for special events, sports, etc. They had build a new middle school twenty years ago (ten years ago? Time has a way of getting away from you and I honestly don’t remember exactly how long ago this was), and now they seem to just push the high schoolers through the new middle school towards the high school classrooms. Which is alright, but it looks like they did it in a panic, like the folks boarding up a shopping mall to keep out the zombies.

But appearances could be deceiving so I checked their website and, like a true weirdo, started looking at classlists throughout the school system and counting the number of students and trying to see how many names I recognize.

I recognized a lot of them.

There were also about half the number of classes in every grade as there were when I was in the school. Half, or less, the number of kids. There wasn’t a list of courses offered at the high school but there was only one high school student in the national honors society. I remember there being several in my grade alone.

My little town seems to be dying and it kills a part of me. It was a small town and I can remember pretty much everyone, even a number of kids going back to the first grade who were only there a year or two before disappearing to somewhere else in life. There was a tall, gangly kid in second grade named Robert with a perpetual snot ball hanging from his nose, and who sort of hung around with me and a friend named Mike. Both moved after that year, and I remember Mike trying so hard to make Robert a part of…something…at school but no matter what he did, Robert couldn’t pick up the ball and run with it and one day Mike just blew his top, the fact his seven year old self could have held it together this long before becoming too frustrated that his attempts were continually fumbled away. And the look of Robert’s face as Mike exploded, this whole thing clearly coming out of the blue for him. All of us still hung out together afterwards, but it was different.

There was Kevin, this nearly feral blonde bowl cut kid. I’m not sure when he moved away, but he was gone by the fifth grade. I’m not sure I ever heard him utter a single actual word, and he always seemed to be off by himself bouncing one of those big red playground balls on the cement or off the school or tossing into the air for himself to catch. You could try to play with him, he would greet you with this goofy big smile and goofy big enthusiasm, but it just never quite worked. And you would wander off and he would keep going. One day, I’m not sure why I was there or why I was alone, but I was at the school playground and there were like five or six mini-Kevins running around with full elementary school sized Kevin and all of them seemed just as crazy feral happy.

Later there was Amy, but not the Amy who was there at graduation. There was Don. And Clarence. And Justin. And Ben. There was Catherine, who we lost one summer to a car accident between seventh and eighth grades, and who I had formed a small hard crush on the previous school year when she was literally the only other kid who had ever talked with me about Star Trek: The Next Generation.

I wonder about the kids now going through my old school. I wonder about all of the kids who went through it with me. There were so many smiles. Not all of us liked each other. Obviously. But it was also so tiny, so interconnected and known that the dislike was more like not wanting to hang out with that one cousin who just pesters the hell out of you. It was family. Driving past my old school, seeing Time’s wearing on it, seeing the shifting of America wearing on it, and it’s a funeral I’m not ready to witness yet. I hope all of those kids I used to know so well are doing well. I hope they still remember how we used to smile.

It’s The Flinstones, the modern post-Apocalyptic Family

August 9, 2017

So, apparently my president has channeled the parts of the Bible where everyone dies to warn North Korea to play nice.  Watching Trump deliver this ultimatum does anything but fill me with confidence. He looks lost, he looks like he’s lying with his lack of eye contact and constant blinking, there is no conviction to his voice as he threatens Armageddon, a lack of sincerity that feels especially galling considering the threat he’s stumbling his way through.

Watching him talk, you wonder how the hell anyone believes in this guy.

Then you read a twitter feed for one of his prominent supporters, and it becomes clear. They mimic the same vapid, macho bullshit he’s saying. Nuke’em first, kill’em all, etc. To hell with the millions of innocents who will be caught in the nuclear crossfire.  They aren’t Us. They are Them. So it’s okay to kill them with blissful nonchalance.

We’re seeing the ugly self-centeredness and more bankruptcy that is America’s underbelly. As a nation we’ve long been too eager to jump at supposed horrors that lurk in the shadows, from racism to communism to rap music to Islamism; usually while we an actual terror stands in stark relief in the light, daring us to notice.

How should we react to NK? Calmly, with measure. Enforce the economic binds the UN has recently placed on them. Continue to try to talk. And be patient. NK is going to get the bomb. Years of self-imposed and enforced exile from the international community has all but guaranteed it. The fallout from that isn’t something that has to be rushed from a cliff, though.

so, why was she white again?

May 24, 2017

or maybe the question should be why was Ghost in the Shell (GitS), the recent live action adaptation starring Scarlett Johansson, is set in an Asian locale since three of the main characters were Caucasians speaking English?  Ever since there was an initial blow back on the movie for whitewashing I sort of blew off the controversy.  I loved the original anime, and if they made a good live action movie starring Scarlett Johansson I wasn’t going to complain. After all, simply casting a white woman instead of an Asian one for the lead shouldn’t be enough to essentially hit a film with a racism charge.

The problem with GitS, and what makes the whitewashing so obvious that it becomes impossible to ignore, is how the rest of the film was essentially left in place. This was not a story that was appropriated, where its core elements were lifted and fit together with a different culture to create a legitimately new and self-standing work. This was putting white people into prominent roles because appeal to an audience solely through the whiteness.

To draw a comparison, look at Scorsese’s move The Departed. It was a reworking of the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs that starred Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Martin Sheen, among others. What GitS did would be like Scorsese filming a remake of Infernal Affairs set in Hong Kong, starring Asian actors and actresses in all of the side roles, using Asian motifs and cultural touch stones, and then still casting DiCaprio and Damon as the leads because, well, white guys.

What’s confusing is that this should have been an easy fix. If you want to cast a bunch of white people in the leads, set it in New York or LA or even London or Paris. Just pick a city in the west and go with it. Maybe they were worried about turning off fans of the original anime if they changed too much of the story, or maybe they just wanted to keep the Asian motif and didn’t think of how shallowly it used it. I don’t know. But it was a reflection of the general laziness in the script and execution that plagued the entirety of the film. It’s an incredibly slick movie. It looks incredible. But the writing was weak, the dialog clumsy, and it ended up not doing justice to the source material or to the actresses and actors.

Well, then where is single payer?

May 6, 2017

Give him credit, at least he’s facing his constituents. Of course, the line he offers at the end about Obamacare being unsustainable is an unadulterated line of horse manure, but at least he’s saying it to their face.

Our health care spending add a lot to our federal budget/debt. It’s expensive no matter how you cut it. The truth is, though, that the ACA has done more to reign in those costs and control them than we would have seen without it, or that we will see with the AHCA.

For the talk of the cost of premiums going up, they have still climbed at a slower rate than they did the decade previous.  For anyone who had health care, take a look at your premiums. They never went down. And while some places had hikes that were abnormally high, others didn’t. As a whole, it put our health care system in a better place.

It also extended the life of the social security fund. Now, to be clear, social security was never going to go entirely bankrupt. Even after the fund that was set up runs out of money to guarantee 100% of expected payouts, the yearly money coming in was still expected to meet anywhere from 75-85% of those costs. It was never going to shrink to zero and, if some pretty simple and relatively painless (compared with the pain of screwing over the elderly in 15 years who won’t have those social security checks they expect/need) taxes are enacted, there won’t be any short fall.

The ACA has made it possible for a whole bunch of people to have insurance that would have otherwise went without.  And going without insurance does, in fact, kill people. I’ve talked about the moral imperative of caring about your neighbor before. Personally, I think it’s just a bit easier to be okay living in a nation where we decided to put our money where our mouth was and ponied up to try to make sure they could be a bit more okay.

This doesn’t touch this unsustainable malarkey that Rep. Tom Reed went to, though.  The truth is that if the ACA is unsustainable, then market based insurance is going to be unsustainable unless you’re fine with everyone but the very wealthy being able to afford to see a doctor. Which is essentially saying that a whole bunch of people are going to live painful, disease-ridden lives before dying before their time in likely miserable, painful ways while afflicted with diseases and conditions that could have at least been mitigated with proper health care. This is a long way of saying screw the poor. Or even middle class, because health care is really really expensive and even if you’re pulling down $70K a year, if you get hit by the cancer stick you’re also going to get hit with the bankruptcy stick just trying to survive it.

The only fall back at that point is to just go to the emergency room for everything, where they have to see you and treat you since a law Ron Reagan signed in 1986, and then just not pay whatever bills result.

Which will increase costs for everyone else. So even if you’re not paying for someone to be on medicaid, you’re still paying for their care but in a far less efficient way. In other words, you’re spending more money to provide care to that person than you could have spent if you just made sure they could have some sort of insurance.

But, yeah, the ACA isn’t sustainable. Which should mean the only rational choice is to move to a single payer system. Instead, we’re going to go with a more expensive, less efficient system that gives coverage to fewer people. Because rich people, taxes, and an insanely selfish, short-sighted GOP that lies through its teeth about all of this.

I don’t need a Big Brother

April 21, 2017

There is something about the perceived dichotomy on the right between Big Brother and social welfare programs. We’re seeing the budget for the military likely expanded again. In the past fifteen years I’ve witnessed the rapid growth of the Department of Homeland Security and the acceptance of the government essentially having carte blanche to surveil its citizens and to use the information gleaned from that for whatever purpose they want. I’ve seen off-shore prison sites used by my government when they want to get around things like due process. And I’ve seen the FBI throw itself into the middle of a presidential election to influence the process. All of this represents a growth of government. And it seems the majority of those who make up the right wing of American politics is fine with it.

What they are not fine with is socialized medicine. Food stamps. Public housing. Even public lands, really, unless someone gets to pollute and destroy it first to try to pull a privatized buck out of it. I will unapologetically say that these things represent a growth of government, too, except it’s not a growth bent on killing or imprisoning people.

I will also admit to not knowing why the right supports the former but not the latter. I know there are all sorts of possibilities thrown about from a misguided belief that we live in overly violent times (we don’t) to just a pure one-sided “If it’s my team, I don’t care, as long as we win” mentality.  Maybe it just boils down to the idea that one is for our safety while the other is for freeloaders, though I think it takes a remarkable level of pessimism and disconnect with humanity in general to believe there is just this sea of freeloading ne’er-do-wells looking to take advantage of our kindnesses, and that this sea doesn’t include any of ourselves or the people we know and love. It’s all those other people.

A lot of this post stems back to Trump’s proposed budget that essentially slashed all discretionary spending to things like NPR, NEA, science funding, etc. to throw another half billion at the military. It’s also a reaction to the whole idea that you’re un-American if you ever don’t support spending more on the military.

I do not support spending more on the military. Pay the troops more, sure, but lets make fewer air craft carriers then, since they’re now being said to possibly be ineffective.  Our most effective strategy against ISIS has been making sure the locals are trained better paired up with smaller special ops units and targeted drone strikes.

Before I wrap this up I want to also say that I don’t support things like single payer health care and stronger social safety nets and free university education because I want or need the government to look out for me. I support it because I want to look out for my friends and neighbors and it’s my tax money, too. Knowing that the family down the road wouldn’t have to worry about their finances crumbling if their kid gets leukemia means something to me. I care about that, even if I don’t know them. Knowing that all of our kids could go to university or to a vocational school and not put themselves into thousands of dollars of debt to learn a skill to live better lives (and, in turn, to likely enrich the lives of many others) means something to me. This isn’t wanting my hand to be held. This isn’t being a snowflake or some other stupid disparaging crap.

This is how I define being human.  Caring about each other, supporting each other. Life is inherently unfair, and will always be unfair to some degree. But we have the ability to mitigate that unfairness, to level the playing field a bit to at least provide a minimum degree of safety and assurance. We have the ability to give a damn.

Yes, we’re just too damn lazy

April 12, 2017

At least that appears to be what economist Tyler Cowen thinks. I don’t know about most people, but my wife and I work our asses off working, raising our kids, and renovating our house. We cook most of our meals and do our own minor maintenance on our vehicles. The amount of time we get to spend with each other is maybe 90 minutes a night on weekdays, while the weekends fluctuate a bit because we are continually trying to fit more into our days.

Cowen talks about the midwest knowing the “answers” for why the economy is tanking, and it’s that we’re lazy. Not that we’re overburdened. Not that going to college dumps tens of thousands (if you’re lucky it’s that low) of debt onto you. That those of us who should be in the most aggressive stages of our careers were kneecapped by the financial crisis and still haven’t recovered (and likely never will, as our earnings will be lower at every step of our careers than those who came before us and those who will follow us).

We don’t start new businesses or move every five years or anything else because we can’t.  We have two kids. Right now we have insurance through an employer. We have a roof over our heads. No, that’s not something we can toss to the wind and hope it comes out on the right side. Not when things like Amazon and Wal-Mart make a business putting folks like my wife and I out of business. Not that we could get a small business loan to begin with (circle back to those college loans and now our house loan and, looky there, there’s a mound of debt there). And then there is the shrinking social safety net that the GOP looks to continually chip away at because, I don’t know, Amurica or something.

This isn’t laziness. This is just reality for the majority of us. Our jobs don’t pay enough, our debt load is too high, and there isn’t a good enough social safety net to catch us if we fall. Want us to take more chances? Make us less desperate just to hang on. Make it so we know we can take our kids to the doctor  because we have a single payer health care system. Make going to college affordable for our kids since it wasn’t for us. Maybe invest our tax money into our infrastructure and schools instead of into air craft carriers (though I guess bringing up military spending as a place where we can pull back on our budget makes me a bad American, huh Standler?) .

While Cowen laments white males earning less in 2015 than they did in 1969, instead of saying it’s because America is too lazy maybe it’s because the Right has fought tooth and nail to destroy unions for the past thirty years. Maybe it’s the result of high paying manufacturing jobs off-shoring or being lost to automation. Maybe it’s the fact that the minimum wage has been allowed to fall so far behind inflation that it’s worth less now than it was in 1969, too.

We are not lazy. We are not drug addicts. We are not monsters. We’re Americans. We work hard.

They Get What They Deserve

April 12, 2017

Alright, I guess there was some sort of election in Kansas to see who would take over the seat vacated by Mike Pompeo, and the Democrats didn’t get clobbered as badly as they usually do.

Which is good news. And I get that it might portend well for future such races. And it might reflect a growing disillusionment with the GOP. And all of that stuff.

None of which I really want to talk about.

What I do want to think out loud a bit of is just how…blind? Kansan voters must be. They elected themselves a largely GOP local government from the state houses to the governorship. And their state has been in free fall ever since. Their local economy? Sucks. The number of folks with health insurance? Sucks. Their schools? Sucks so bad their schools had to take the state government to court just to get adequate funding.

And they keep voting for the GOP.  They keep voting for the people who have sent their state into disarray. At some point I can’t feel sorry for the midwest. Yeah, changes in our economy have really decimated parts of this country. Yeah, it sucks. But coal isn’t coming back as a big thing in Appalacia. Steel isn’t coming back as a big thing in the Rust Belt. And what factories do open up will employ far more machines than people. And it’s not going to matter how much money we let the wealthy keep in their pockets, or how much of our natural resources we allow them to pollute, steal, and destroy.


kids do stupid things

February 10, 2017

Raise your hand if you have a teenager. Alright, so you know exactly what I’m talking about in my post title.

The Boy has just been making stupid decision after stupid decision lately, all concerning school and him trying to get out of doing all of the work tasked to him.

Now, if The Boy had actual difficulty with school I could sort of understand it. He’s at that point in junior high where they begin ramping up the homework to get kids ready for the harder world of high school.

The Boy doesn’t have that issue, though. School work comes exceptionally easy to him. Even when he complains about his pre-calc being “hard” he is getting it done within half an hour and getting an A on it.

Academically he is ridiculously gifted.

He’s just immature as hell. Like 8 year old level of maturity.

I could understand not wanting to stack his time after school with homework if he gained anything from it. But he doesn’t. The amount of time he can sit in front of a video screen doesn’t change. His bed time doesn’t change. Nothing changes.

Until his grades slip, we have numerous “discussions,” and he begins to lose his screen time entirely while he gets his grades back into shape.

This week he compounded that by breaking a mouth piece on his clarinet and not telling us for a week –  at which point his band teacher emailed us to let us know what was going on, and having a poster project due in English that he didn’t tell us about, and now tried to use weekend plans to get out of doing it.

It’s just a vicious lack of maturity leading to a compounding of stupidity. And in eight about eight minutes when The Boy gets off the bus I get to run head on into this and deal with it. What I would give for just a week of non-stupid mistakes. Screw up but don’t do it because you’re being willfully stupid.

Good luck with that.

How To Embrace Red Ink and Buy A Lot of Expensive Spices

February 7, 2017

This weekend I was driving around far too much and I caught part of a cooking show on the radio.  I love radio in the car. I loath putting a CD in the majority of the time, unless I’ve gotten something out of the library and I just want to make sure I listen to it before I have to return it. So, I’m driving around and I’m listening to the radio when this cooking show comes on and I’m like, Alright, this is good. I like cooking, I like people talking about cooking, I’m going to stick with this.

It wasn’t a bad show. I want to put that out there first, because other than that I’m not sure I’m going to say much else that’s positive because I have such a gripe about it. The main segment that I caught was talking about substituting things in recipes for various reasons, and the lead-up to this peaked my interest because why wouldn’t it? The idea of inserting weird things into common recipes to give them a twist, at least that’s what I was sort of thinking it would take for its direction.

And it did.

Except it was always taking out this pretty common (read: inexpensive) ingredient and popping in this much more expensive ingredient.

Now, we cook a lot of our meals. I would say that in any given week six of the seven nights of the week involves me standing over the stove.  Shopping for ingredients isn’t uncommon and I’m pretty well accustomed to the prices I have to pay for most of what I want, and where I can skimp.

Which is where this radio show irritated me. Nothing against the substitutions themselves, which I’m sure would be at least interesting to try out. It’s more the price difference.  There comes a point where continuously subbing out low cost ingredients for high cost ingredients does more damage to my finances than the benefits it brings to my table. And if your goal is to push people to diversify what’s on their table then putting a financial hurdle in front of them isn’t exactly the best place to start.

Cooking/baking isn’t meant to be affordable, I guess.