Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Why I Don't Fear Death

When the day comes for me to cast off my mortal coil, there will be sadness, yes (no more lasagna, just for one thing*). But I will be immensely grateful knowing I'll never again endure an exchange like this:
Plumbing Company:
Please note, that when we come in to do the boiler swap out and begin work, your portion of the balance will be due.

Are you saying you'll want the entire balance paid before work is finished? Normally, one pays at the end of a job. Is there a reason for this?

Plumbing Company:
According to our terms and conditions, you will be required to pay half of your portion of the balance on the day materials are delivered and job is started. the remaining balance is due day of system start up. apologies for any confusion.

Just to be sure I understand…..this means I pay the rest of the money when the job’s done, right?

Plumbing Company:
the last payment is due on day we start up the system.

What work will remain after you start the system?

Plumbing Company:
there is no more work after system start up.

* - Also, I'm pretty sure there's no Internet in Heaven. If there were, we'd be exposed to YouTube video comments, which certainly aren't conducive to the heavenly environment. So if there were Internet, they'd need to filter it, ala China, leading to headaches which God and his management people would surely sooner avoid. So, yup, no Internet, for sure.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Digit: Save Money Without Thinking About It

So, so smart. Please share this (pinched from Andrew Tobias' blog), especially with younger people:
Tom Foley: “Well, if you like Paribus, have you seen Digit? Using a special algorithm, they transfer small amounts of money from your checking account to a savings account a few times a week. Think like $6.25. , then, a few days later, maybe $2.37, so you don’t even notice. It takes more on payday and when you receive your tax return, but relatively small amounts. It has some behavioral finance motivational messaging built in and is great for teaching the power of savings to new or young savers. I signed up a few months back for fun, and checked my balance today, like $475. All sorts of guarantees so you don’t overdraw the account, and you can manage it by text, app or online. It’s super neat.”

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The More She Talks, The More She Loses Them

In case you missed the comments beneath my previous posting, "The Smartest Thing Hillary Clinton Could Do"....

shel emm said...
I completely agree that her focus needs to be on her message and not engage with Donald Trump. In the debates (despite your recommendation, she should attend), she should make it clear that it will not be a debate but a conversation. She should explain how we got to where we are on issues like health care, the economy, foreign policy, and how she intends to go forward.

A good deal changed to the state of the Democratic Party in 2008. The focus before then was reaching the independents and perhaps sympatico Republicans. In 2008 and 2012, the focus was soley about getting out your own vote. Stop convincing others, just get your own people to the polls. It was practically a miracle in this time period that states expanded voting rights by adding additional days and hours for voting. This completely backfired on the Republicans as African Americans proved far more likely to take advantage of early voting than the rest of the population. The most important stumbling block will be in states that have made efforts to curtail voting rights. Republicans have learned from their mistake, and have been in high gear to roll back voting rights.

jim leff said...
She can't win a debate. If she fails to really vigorously return his attacks and just wonks out on policy, she'll not only disgust the un-winnable Trump supporters, but she'll anguish her own supporters, who emotionally want to see someone stand up to Trump. But almost no one but the most died-in-the-wool Clinton supporters want to see her snarl at him. She just can't get away with it.

The smug, oily way she speaks about him almost (almost!) makes him more appealing to a centrist/moderate like me. The best analogy I can make is to the scene in "Bowling for Columbine" where Michael Moore badgers Charlton Heston. I hate Heston's politics on guns, but in that scene Moore made himself so stridently, obnoxiously sanctimonious that I was moved to sympathy for Heston (though certainly not his politics). I think Clinton, and the button she pushes, does the same for many people (especially independents like me). She's absolutely not the person to carry an anti-Trump message. She's the worst possible person for that, and will exhaust and dismay even left-leaning voters who aren't bought-in to Hillary-ism. The more she talks, the more she loses them. That's been demonstrated time and time again.

At this point, blessed with her third (out of three) seemingly un-closeable lead in a national election due to a seemingly weak opponent, she has nowhere to go but down. Not one thing she does, not one word she says can help her in this election. My posting is not a wry "modest proposal". It's quite clearly her best bet.

Consider at least this: Bernie supporters are WAY more likely to vote for Hillary-as-an-abstract-symbol than Hillary-as-an-actual-person. She's not going to "grow" on them. She doesn't "grow" on people. That's just not her forte.

The Smartest Thing Hillary Clinton Could Do

Two points are inarguable:

1. No one who likes Donald Trump will have their mind changed by anything Hillary Clinton has to say.

2. No one who dislikes Hillary Clinton will have their mind changed by anything Hillary Clinton has to say.

There's nothing for her to do. It is not in her power to increase his negatives or her own positives. For those rubbed the wrong way by her love-it-or-hate-it voice, six months of Clinton grinding over what a prick Trump is will only work against the intended narrative. And in the course of those six months, she and Bill will commit many unforced errors. All while Trump trolls the bejesus out of her (America's brashest troll meets America's tightest coil).

This election is Clinton's to lose. She's got as strong a margin as she started with (and feebly squandered) against Obama and Sanders. So the smartest thing Hillary and Bill could do would be to rent a nice house in the south of France until November, and disappear. Not say a word. Let her proxies (not Bill) snipe at Trump. Let Trump be the only candidate committing unforced errors. Give him the total spotlight he craves. Let the nation experience nothing but wall-to-wall Trump for six months. Let Trump undo Trumpism.

Also: hand over $100 million of her titanic campaign funds to Adam Chodikoff. He's the Daily Show producer with the prodigious memory who dredges up those gotcha clips showing politicians directly contradicting themselves. Let Chodikoff do nothing but put produce viral clips of Trump lying and self-contradicting. Have him go through every iota of Trump on tape and work wonders. And fund him to plaster the airwaves with that stuff, sans comment. Let the public burn out on the country's most despised public figure without assistance - without a word! - from the country's second most despised public figure.

Either check out the comments, below, or else see them replayed in this followup.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Cheney's For Trump

When I was younger, it was fashionable for those on the left to describe those on the right as "fascists". Liberals weren't paying the least attention to conservative takes on issues; instead, they were sniffing past all that to some inner core of being, where they believed they detected the whiff of jackboots. It was offensive, provocative, and the trope died long ago.

Obviously, we're still as tribal as ever - maybe more so. We still talk past each other on issues, because our attention remains ratcheted on a deeper sense of otherness; the way in which conservatives are, like, assholes, and liberals are, like, assholes. Of course, both are right; assholery is a pan-human trait that's more readily perceived on the other side (as I once wrote, "Racism, sexism, classism, etc. are nothing more than the incomplete registration of a perfectly appropriate misanthropy").

But then today Dick Cheney, a man of principles (even if you detest them), endorsed Donald Trump, who shares very few of those principles. And I can't help imagining that the primary appeal, heaven help me, had to be Trump's fascism.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Tortilla Chips that Taste Like Real Corn

What if tortilla chips actually tasted like corn on the cob? The nixtamal (aka hominy) process, where alkali is applied to make corn a stable ingredient - and one that can be formed into dough - for making tortillas, posole, chips, grits, etc., sacrifices corn flavor and sweetness.

But, again, what if tortilla chips actually tasted like corn on the cob? They can!!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Stupid, Stupid, Bad, Stupid NY Times Article on Weight Loss

There was a report in Monday's NY Times about a study done on contestants from the "The Biggest Loser" TV series. The study puts forward the unsupported conclusion that massive weight loss is often followed by a massive decline in metabolic activity, assuring regain of the lost weight.

There's a germ of truth to this, but the article is a report of a crappy study by crappy scientists, using, as a data set, poor schlubs subjected to extreme, inhuman, and unscientific weight loss regimens for a crappy TV show. This is bad, bad, bad.

These contestants are made to exercise upwards of 7 hours daily, put on starvation diets, and expected to lose circa 10 lbs per week. If this extreme regimen didn't wreck their health and unbalance their metabolisms, I'd be amazed. It's incredibly stupid, and it's distorting everyone's notions of weight-loss.

I wrote about weight loss a few years ago in a series of articles (indexed here). I drew from the single best source of weight loss know-how: the thousands of body builders who've perfected the art of "cutting" (periodically shedding body weight after a cycle of "bulking", or packing on muscle). What the rest of us consider a monumental challenge is, for them, an everyday thing, totally worked out.

The Times article describes how hunger drives people who've lost weight to binge eat. That's because they're doing it wrong! Body builders know that starvation is the entirely wrong approach to weight loss. They eat many small meals which carefully balance clean protein (no fatty/cheesy), high fiber, complex carbs (no simple carbs) and good oils (no saturated), and they reduce their calories just slightly - just enough to create a deficit. They don't starve themselves, so their body never retracts into starvation mode, and they never ever feel hungry. Two reasons for the non-hunger:

1. Eating per above (nothing like what that TV show's contestants are subjected to), it's really hard to consume 1800-2200 calories per day. Not only will you not be hungry, you'll feel like you're over-eating!

2. If you eat that healthful diet, with no simple carbs and great care taken to balance out carbs/fats/protein in every single meal, and you eat small frequent meals rather than giant infrequent ones, you won't experience glycemic swings or other ripple effects giving rise to cravings. It's like magic. You feel great, not deprived.

So there's no hunger. And if there's no hunger, there's no weight regain (plus, hunger in and of itself launches under-the-hood processes unfavorable for weight loss, as your body hunkers down amid the perceived conditions of deprivation and starvation).

Then there's the exercise regimen.

Drudging on a treadmill for 4 hours per day (as these contestants do) is the 1978 solution. Athletes do not train this way. They do sprints, and interval training (run/swim/whatever as hard as you possibly can for a limited amount of time, rest, repeat). Endurance runners look gaunt and haggard. Sprinters are ripped and dynamic. It doesn't take a genius to recognize the preferred route.

4 hours or exercise/day is counter-productive. 15 minutes three or four times per week of interval training, plus weight lifting most days (increased muscle mass raises resting metabolism) is all that's necessary. Otherwise, you're just grinding your body into bearing down in adversity, as the metabolism stalls in starvation mode. Not helpful, and certainly not fun. And definitely not sustainable.

Accommodating your body to extreme diet and exercise brings you to abnormal "new normals". It's unsustainable. No one can continue that regimen and diet after the weight loss. How could you possibly not regain the weight?

The way you lose weight is:

1. Lift weights, plus schedule short, infrequent bursts of very intense aerobic exercise followed by ample rest (only if you've had a stress test!!!).

2. Eat more! Many small, perfectly-balanced meals with no simple carbs or fatty junk, never skip meals, and ensure you get just below the calories you'd need to maintain weight. Never let yourself be hungry. If you're hungry, you're probably burning muscle. If you burn muscle, you lose muscle mass, and your metabolism slows. No deprivation (unless not eating pecan pie constitutes deprivation)!

3. Aim to lose a pound or so per week. Any more means you're dehydrating (dangerous!), or else doing something so extreme as to make your behavior unsustainable.

Most of all, you need to unify your diet (i.e. your weight loss regimen) with your diet (the way you eat every day). Once slow, gradual weight loss is complete, the only adjustment to make is to replace those couple hundred marginal daily calories (don't do so via fatty crap or simple carbs!). Keep all other activities intact. Change nothing! Just delicately slide in a few more calories (difficult, given that you're already gorging on healthful food all day long).

Again, it's a 1978 concept that you need to work to expunge your fat via special, extreme, unsustainable regimens. Instead, adapt a healthful, non-extreme lifestyle and let the body come into harmony...which is what it's been trying to do all along. Then just keep doing that (it feels great!).

The extreme exercise, extremely low calorie diet, and ridiculously accelerated weight loss of that stupid show dooms participants to failure. That should be obvious to anyone with a brain, much less distinguished researchers, who certainly shouldn't be using these poor shlubs as data sources.

I'm ashamed of the Times, the reporter, the scientists, and the producers of the stupid show, who've all worked to set back the public's conception of weight loss by a half century. Don't listen to them. Listen to the body-builders.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Einstein's Self-Image

I have no doubt that, in the most private corner of his psyche, Albert Einstein deemed himself a hopeless loser due to his funny-looking hair and disorganized desk.

If you fully grok what I'm saying (it's worth serious pondering; just because I've spared you the usual 1200 over-written words doesn't mean this is a simple point), and object that none of us are Einsteins, I'd urge you to bear in mind this quote: "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."
- Albert Einstein

Thoughtful readers may have noticed that this quotation elegantly addresses some of the fretting re: the limitations of individual human nature in my "Manager's Dilemma" posting).

More great Einstein quotes

It's All Good, Man

People who say "it's all good!" a lot are desperately trying to convince themselves.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Manager's Dilemma: Talent and Laziness

Here's the most counterintuitive management tenet I know: urging workers to try harder isn't the appropriate recourse when they're performing tasks for which they're ill-suited.

My sister - a natural artist who emerged from the womb able to draw, paint, and sculpt - inadvertently taught me this early on. Like most naturally gifted people, she didn't view her talent as special. She assumed everyone could do art! From her perspective, people who draw poorly simply aren't trying hard enough.

This misapprehension can be spotted in many circumstances. Gregarious people assume shy people don't try hard enough to be social. Attractive people think unattractive people don't make enough effort with their appearance. Etc., etc..

I grasped this early on, yet it was slow to fully sink in. This led to problems when people I've managed have failed to be, for instance, creative, or clearly articulate. My urge is to coax them to try harder. They seem, above all, lazy. I've continued making my sister's error long into adulthood.

Egotists don't have this problem. They see people around them (especially those under their supervision) as lesser creatures, so deficiency is unsurprising (they'd never have expected workers to match their magnificent talents). Given that egotists run most hierarchical organizations, this explains why such operations are usually stiflingly drudge-ish. If you never expect people to step up, to "bring it", to leap to unexpected new heights, there's little alternative but to treat them as finite commodities, and to box them in so their core competencies can be efficiently pumped, like egg-laying chickens in tight little pens.

Managers who don't have big egos, by contrast, are shocked and perplexed when workers can't do what they can, leaving those workers confused and annoyed by the expectation that they'll magically exhibit faculties not in their nature. The problem is that the very notion of a fixed, limiting "nature" involves a condescending worldview that's creepy terra incognita for those lacking the condescension gene.

Yet, as with many shortcomings, there's a hidden pearl. If you don't know better than to expect greatness and transcendence, workers sometimes, indeed, will step up to meet those expectations. Whenever people recall that they "did their best work" in a certain situation, it's generally the result of having worked for a non-egotist, who declined to box in chickens because "nature" was never imagined a limiting factor.

But while it's fine for hope to spring eternal, the challenge is to remember that it's not laziness that prevents cats from fetching balls or cows from hunting mice.

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