Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Kill the Penny!

In 2010, it costs about $0.0167 to make a penny.

The question is this: why in God's name are we still making pennies? At that rate of return, don't you think it's about time we just stop making them?

The government is constantly trying to save money; why not start here? If we are saving 67 cents for every penny we DON'T create, isn't that going to be a financial windfall, given the number of pennies created each year? If the number of pennies we make are in the 1-2 billion range, how much would we be saving by not making them?

I'm not saying we have to stop making them altogether, but maybe take 2011 off and see how it goes?

Have you ever run out of pennies? Ever? Have you ever needed pennies and not been able to find any? Do you ever look in your pocket and say, "I wish I had more pennies"?

Of course not, because they are everywhere. Getting pennies back is like jury duty: it's great in theory but it's just annoying when it finally comes your way.

It costs so much to make a penny because it has become so devalued. It's not worth much now, and it wasn't worth much 20 years ago. What makes you think it's going to be worth ANYTHING 20 years from now?

Why don't we slowly start phasing the penny out? (I'm obviously not the first person to come up with this idea.) Instead of getting pennies back, you can get a 1cent postage stamp, or a stick of gum, or a thumbtack or a band-aid or SOMETHING.

Most banks don't even accept rolls of pennies anymore. How is that even legal?

I'd even be willing to compromise with a 2-cent piece. You can even keep Lincoln's face on it. I'm guessing that most people wouldn't mind getting only $0.02 back in change when they are owed $0.03. That is how worthless the penny has become in our current currency.

Show me one real world item that is worth a penny. One practical equivalent that you could purchase for a penny.

That's right, there isn't one. We don't have penny candies anymore. Hell, I get annoyed by nickels, pennies are five times more annoying.

The worst part of this is that with all these pennies scattered across the globe -- and so many of those forgotten, lost or discarded -- we are probably losing millions of dollars a year in couch cushions alone. It is cluttering up an already cluttered world, and for what. So if you can accumulate five of them you can almost have enough for a small coffee creamer?

Just get rid of the damn thing. It's about time.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

16 is Greater Than 18

All right I haven't put up a blog in a while, and it's a really stupid topic to make my triumphant return, but I'm starting to worry about the NFL.

Sure they are currently the #1 sport in the nation -- in terms of popularity, quality gameplay, parity and any other metric you want to use (this point is inarguable so don't even attempt it) -- but they are doing everything they can do kill the proverbial golden goose.

I could cite the fact that they black out a team with a large stadium and a tiny market (Buffalo: 3rd smallest market, 7th largest stadium) for non-sellout games, but don't prorate to take into account smaller stadiums with bigger markets (Chicago: third largest market, smallest stadium).

I could cite their not allowing two double-headers.

I could cite their ridiculous rule of only allowing 30 seconds of an interview for broadcast a few years ago. Or the fact that one network couldn't show another network's highlights while a game was still in progress. (Are you really trying to tell me that the league is trying to avoid saturation????)

I could cite the fact that there might be a lockout in 2011, and that certain owners (see: Jones, Jerry; Snyder, Daniel) are trying to circumvent the revenue-sharing that made the league the greatest sports league in the world in the first place.

I do worry about all of these things. They seem to portend pride before the fall. Baseball, boxing and horse-racing were the three most popular sports in the year 1900, and they are all laughingstock now. (Yes, I said they are ALL a laughingstock.)

But the thing that worries me the most is the idea that the league is thinking of changing the number of games in a given year from 16 to 18. This would a be a colossal mistake, and a possible sea-change in the future of the league.

Let's start with this: if they go to 18 games, they will never -- EVER -- go back. It will be permanent. And it will be horrible. And for me it has nothing to do with more injuries or not allowing rookies to make the team.

The league switched to a 16-game schedule in 1978, and it's no coincidence that it matches exactly to the point at which football started leaving basketball in the dust in terms of popularity.

16 games is absolutely perfect, and the reason it is perfect is that football is a game of fours.

What the hell am I talking about? Well, think of it this way: baseball is a games of threes and nines. Three outs, three strikes, three bases (plus home plate); nine players on each team, nine innings. Those numbers really do speak to the history and symmetry of baseball. They are the essence of why the game works and carries such tradition. It's why people like Billy Beane compare players from 1908 to players from 2008.

When the NFL switched to 16 games, it found its perfect number. Football is a game of fours. Four downs, four quarters, four divisions in each conference, four teams in each division. Sixteen games is four times four: most coaches split each season into four "quarters" of four games each to gauge their success. Even the 100-yard field can be split into four "quarters" of 25 yards each for offensive strategies.

And unlike any other sport in America, you can spit out a record to give an immediate shorthand of how good a team is. They are a 2-14 team, a 7-9 team, a 12-4 team, or a 14-2 team. (In the Patriots' case, they were a 18-1 team, but that's a different story.)

You won't hear anyone saying "I think the Twins will be a 91-71 team this year."

We all know about 16, and I'll bet it helps many of us with our math. We know the shorthand, let's stop the prospect of a team going 9-9, or 16-2. Or 4-14.

It doesn't sound right!

They always say that no sports organization is better than the NFL at improving its product and reducing flaws. This has always been true, but now they are becoming too clever by half. I know that an extra two games would add some extra revenue, but it's a permanent solution to a temporary problem (ie. the recession).

When the NFL switched the playoff format to allow 12 teams for the 1990 season, it was absolutely the right move. 10 was too few, 14 was too many. Twelve is perfect: it leaves good teams out of the playoffs, only allowing the VERY good ones in (in theory anyway). In that way it distinguished itself from Baseball (who only allowed 2 per league at the time, and only 4 per league today), as well as hockey and basketball (in which more teams make the playoffs than miss them).

Let's not forget that in 1993, the league experimented with an 18-week schedule (16 games for each team with two bye weeks). It was such a disaster, and so disruptive -- to teams' routines and fans' viewing habits -- that it was scrapped after only one season. Unless the league wants 2011 to look like the strike-shortened season of 1987 (ie. all f'd up) where they only played 15 games, they need to leave a good thing alone.

Eighteen games is a cash-grab, no more. It doesn't improve the product. It doesn't give two welcome extra weeks. (We are always geeked for the playoffs to start.) And there is no upside. It's going to provide for more sellouts, maybe, but also more blackouts for struggling teams. It's not for the fans, it's for the separation of loyal fans and their money.

If 18 wasn't good enough for a legal drinking age, it sure as shit isn't good enough for the League.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Record Stores are Relics

I have just over 1500 albums by my count, and though they weren't all purchased on CD or cassette, thousands -- if not tens of thousands -- of dollars of them were. Record stores became both a Mecca and a sanctuary for me in my younger life. My buddy Cialini and I went to Camelot Records in Eastview Mall every Saturday for the better part of a year to blow the bulk of our paychecks on the new music that was coming out that week -- as well as bricks of blank tapes for "dubbing" purposes. It didn't take Cialini and I long to amass a pretty huge collection of rap and hip hop albums of the early 1990s.

More than just being a place of commerce, record stores have always been a place of discovery for me. I have to admit, I've never been one of these DJ Shadow-type characters, going into the "back room" where the obscure vinyl was. But that didn't make my record store discoveries any less revelatory. Back in the days before the internets, there were no reviews online to tell you whether an album was going to suck or not. You had to either get The Source or RapPages to get the scoop. (Ironically, having only a couple of voices rather than thousands of them tended to lend more clarity than modern online criticism does.) But if you got to the record store and that month's issue of The Source hadn't come out yet, you were going on blind faith.

I would buy albums sometimes for no particular reason. I remember buying Stetsasonic's "In Full Gear" album because I thought the cover looked kinda cool. Ditto Grand Daddy I.U.'s "Smooth Assassin." I bought Lord Finesse's "Return of the Funky Man" because of a video I had seen once on MTV and liked; ditto Spice-1's "Spice-1" (a very bad album with one very good song). Record stores were not a safe place to take chances back then ... but that is what made every surprisingly good album such a great victory.

Back then I was a proud cassette man, partially because I found their analog pedigree more reliable than the fickle digital format, but also because I am a cheapskate and CDs were more expensive. Besides, I didn't have a Bose stereo or anything, so I didn't need CD-quality anything for the most part. By buying tapes, I could more quickly build up an arsenal of music that would later become the envy of a few of my friends. (This was the embryonic stage of a possibly self-destructive "ticker" mentality that has permeated into other avenues of my life and turned me from someone seeking pleasure in life to someone collecting the most shit.) There was almost nothing better than suddenly seeing an album that you had been mulling over buying for months in the bargain bin for like $1.99. I remember once I came home from the mall $80 lighter, but with 13 new albums.

I would quite literally quantify my paycheck in terms of how many tapes I could buy with it. I kid you not. I bought almost nothing else.

After college, I made it my mission to visit every single solitary record store in Rochester, New York, just because I loved going to them so much. I made quite a dent too, and spent hours upon hours sitting at vinyl listening stations and thumbing through stacks of CDs and tapes.

I used to go to Soundgarden in Syracuse, NY about once very two weeks, and I would drop between $30 to $50 on every single transaction. (I am physically and genetically incapable of buying only one CD.)

So with these qualifications in mind, please hear me out when I say this...

There is little need for record stores right now.

Now before all my record store employees and crate-diggers get mad, let me explain. I'm not saying that there WILL never be a need for record stores again, but right now, anyone with a computer can get any album they want for $9.99 on iTunes and the cost of a blank CD. (Some can get them even cheaper, if they know where to look. Wink wink.) The biggest problem is that while record stores are still a wonderful place to spend an hour looking through CDs, they are not practical in their current incarnation.

First of all, the staff at many record stores are assholes. I hate to say it, but it's true, and this is one place where it permeates both the mom-and-pop shops or the big box stores. At the mom-and-pop shops, the counter jockeys are aloof, too-cool-for-the-room hipster assholes who think they are Jack Black in High Fidelity. (This is a broad generalization, I know, but you know I'm not wrong.) They stare at their clipboard or their cell phone, and when you say "excuse me" to ask for help, they say, "What's up" in a tone that really means "this better be important."

The Best Buys and Circuit Citys of the world are hardly better. They may be slightly more friendly, but they generally know jackshit about the music they are selling. And at any one of these places, when you check out, they don't say "thank you" or "have a great day." They usually say "yuuup" as they dismissively hand you a receipt while looking the other way.

These oversights are simply stupid for the music industry. If a consumer can eliminate the annoying human interaction (yecch) that was inherent to purchases pre-1995, why wouldn't they? Why would I want to deal with some patchouli-smelling shitbag with a bad haircut when I can get the exact product -- the EXACT SAME PRODUCT -- online, usually for cheaper. I don't have to drive anywhere, I don't have to pay postage as I might if ordering from a catalog, and I don't have to put my pants on.

If anything, you would think that record stores would be bending over backward to make the customer experience more enjoyable for their patrons. You would think that they would employ armchair music experts who could not only point you to the album you want, but suggest one or two others as well. You would think that with download technology eclipsing their raison d'etre, they would find other innovative ways of dealing out the goods, much like other brick-and-mortar retailers have done with other products.

But the music industry has never been smart about catering to their customers. They have seen an unconscionable drop in sales, not (just) because the music of today stinks, but because they are not offering any more-attractive alternative. The entire idea of capitalism is that, if someone is willing to sell for cheaper, you go to them. Period, end of story. The Recording Industry has tried to litigate people into buying their wares, at exorbitantly marked-up prices.

And to me, this is the crux of why record stores are failing: they are following an old model, and relying on litigation and fear of prosecution to keep them competitive. (You know, in lieu of actually improving the attractiveness of their product.)

I think it's great that they are having "Record Store Day" tomorrow (April 17), and I may try and get out to a couple of record stores to show some support and buy some new tunes. (I have bought two CDs in the last two years, both by mail. I have downloaded dozens.)

But record stores are not going to recover until they drop their prices.

The bottom line is that with iTunes selling most albums for $9.99, along with the convenience of not having to go anywhere, record stores simply cannot compete. It is strictly impossible. But the price of CDs has not gone down significantly. Yes, it may be $8.99 now instead of $11.99, but that's a drop in the bucket.

When any new technology ages, the price naturally drops. It happened with the VCR, DVDs and players, TVs, computers... you name it. I remember when blank CDs were $1 per disc: now you can get a 100-pack for $15 if you know where to get them. It's natural evolution, and it's the way that inflation balances itself to some degree. But record stores have never received this proverbial memo.

Instead, you still have FYE stores selling CDs for $17!! Seventeen American dollars for a mass-produced piece of plastic that probably cost fourteen cents to make. This is the greed of the industry. Everyone's gotta make a living and make a profit, but this borders on extortion.

Think of music in opposition to the video industry. The video/DVD industry has a model: pay a small fee to watch one time or rent for a small window of time, and pay a larger fee if you want to keep it. There is a certain level of concession made by both parties in this transaction. If you only want to keep it for 3 days, it's $5; if you want to own it forever, it's $15. Simple. If you don't like the movie you rented, well it was only $5 to find that out; if you want to own it, here is a modest increase in the price, and you can watch it whenever.

The record industry has no such model. Unless you're in the library, you can't borrow a CD for $3 and then bring it back. Home recording equipment made that impossible. Why not, I'm not sure; renting didn't cripple the VHS market in the '80s and '90s, and illegal recording capabilities existed then too.

So what you have is a monolithic record industry who is not only unwilling to bend on pricing to meet market demand, but actually actively price-GOUGING. It's no wonder that the record industry has no goodwill with the buying public. They expect you to pay 5-6 times more than you should be paying, and that's with risking buying a crappy product! And all this for an unknown commodity you can't even rent ahead of time to see if you'll like it!

My solution: every record store should go the Fugazi route and sell every single album for $5.99 or less. You are still making a profit, you are underselling iTunes (by a lot, I might add), and you are bringing people into the record stores, where their eye might be drawn to another album they wanted. Oh and another one, oh and that one! They could walk out of your record store with four albums for under $25 ... instead of possibly one for $17.

You are also encouraging people to take chances on buying more music, and therefore broadening their scope to possibly purchase other music they might not have otherwise given a shot. If I know I only have to pay $6 for an album instead of $13, I'm going to take way more of a chance on trying something new that I might not have before. Good for company, good for consumer.

Again, the record companies are still making a profit, and I'm still walking away with a shit-ton of tunes.

Naturally, this will never happen, because the myopic, short-sighted music industry wants to squeeze every fucking penny they can out of you. They are not interested in creating a diverse culture of music experts, but rather of maximizing their profit-margin. What they don't realize is that if they would just ease up on their greed for a short period of time, they would probably get back on their feet.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to get in my car, drive downtown, find a place to park, pay $14 for a CD that I can't listen to beforehand, and spend 25 minutes trying to get the goddamn plastic off.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Video Store Memory

I don't know why I just thought of this, but there was an incident that happened to me at an old job, and it still bothers me to this day. I don't know why I can't let things like this go, but there was something about it that still infuriates me. It might be one of the reasons I hate people as a whole.

I was working at a video store -- this was about 1999 or so, when they still had VHS tapes -- and we had a program with our popular new releases that if we didn't certain titles in stock, we'd give you a coupon for a freebie for next time. This usually applied toward big-name movies, or "Blockbuster" titles, if you will.

One night was especially busy, and we were all out of one movie, and so we were handing out coupons left and right. (I don't even the remember the movie, which I should if I'm going to continue harboring resentment toward the incident.)

We did keep a small stockpile of these movies behind the counter, because we found out that people were coming around with no intention of renting the movie in question, just to get the free coupon. There was nothing more priceless than having some asshole come up to the counter saying, "You don't have any copies of ________, so I'll take a coupon." I would say, "Well actually, it's your lucky day!" and then produce a copy of the movie. More than a few times, the person would say, "Oh, no never mind," and I would leave a comment on their account not to give them any coupons or refund them any late fees for trying to scam. Ah, the good old days.

So anyway, this one guy comes up to get a coupon, and so I gave one. We were completely out of copies, even our backups. The kid didn't look like white trash: he was relatively well-dressed, nice-looking enough (no homo) and if I didn't know better I would have assumed he was not a piece of shit.

I gave him a coupon and dated it one month later to the day, which was the policy. Since we were so busy, I forgot about the kid and started ringing up other customers. The video store I used to work at did a ton of business, and Friday nights were often out the door.

About ten minutes later, the kid to whom I had just given the coupon for the freebie (to be redeemed at a later time) came up with the movie that we had been out of, and so he plopped that and the coupon on the counter, smiling a sketchy little smile as if to say, "Give my my free movie, bitch."

I was pissed for two reasons:

1) It turns out that this sonofabitch went into our "Employees Only" video drop box and found the movie he was looking for. (We didn't have a lock on it, and at this store it was out on the floor, not behind the counter.) He went into an Employees-only space, like a selfish hunk of shit, and just took what he wanted. Make no mistake, this was a violation. Since I had already given him the coupon -- and didn't wait until he left the store as I had been instructed to do by my manager -- I had no recourse. And the reason I had no recourse was ...

2) ...because I never put a date range on the ticket. I gave an end-date, but I never gave a beginning date. (From this point forward I would always put the next day's date on the ticket.) I still don't know whether I was furious at myself or at the scheming piece of trash who did this.

The worst part is, I'm sure he doesn't remember the incident. Even worse, I couldn't pick him out of a lineup, which means the odds of me identifying him well enough to punch him in the testicles gets slimmer by the day.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Facts

I'm having trouble figuring out whether the Tea Party members and/or many Republicans are stupid, or just evil. And more importantly, which one would be worse. Which would you rather have in charge: a gang of good-hearted but foolhardy incompetents, or a well-oiled, brilliant evil cabal.

I honestly can't tell which these people are. I suppose that there has to be a combination of both. But with the groundswell of misinformation spreading around like so much astroturf-growing fertilizer, are the people perpetrating this horseshit actually too dumb to understand? Or are they so smart that they know repeating the lie over and over will eventually make it "truth."

Take the example of J.D. Hayworth -- the man who is running against John McCain for the Arizona Senate seat this year. He said in reference to gay marriage: "You see, the Massachusetts Supreme Court, when it started this move toward same-sex marriage, actually defined marriage -- now get this -- it defined marriage as simply, 'the establishment of intimacy.'"

Rachel Maddow, to her credit, kept her cool -- and a straight face -- when telling this dipshit that there is no mention of "establishment of intimacy" anywhere in Massachusetts law. The would-be senator basically said it's a "difference of opinion." No, fucko, it's not a difference of opinion. It's either a fact, or it's not. Why is it that facts suddenly mean nothing in today's political argument.

[Side note: I wish these subintelligent jackasses would stop using the "gay marriage is like allowing a man to marry a horse" fallacy. A marriage is not legal if is not with the bride's consent, nor can an animal given consent to marry. From a strictly legal standpoint, this is pretty clear I would think. If I have intimate relations with a woman -- just go with me on this one guys -- it doesn't mean that she and I are married, now does it? And if these hypocritical assholes are so concerned about this, why are they not up in arms over that waste of blood platelets in South Korea who just married his pillow? Why so quiet, Brent Bozell? I can't hear you, Mitt Romney.]

Facts are not malleable. Interpretations of facts certainly are, but facts themselves are not. Let's get that straight. When there is unequivocal proof of something, it is a fact and not just a matter of one's own opinion. So based on this, J.D. Hayworth pretty much embarrassed himself in front of anyone who could see that the pantless Emperor is running around with his dick swinging in the wind.

So when people call Obama a "communist" (or when radical-liberals called Bush a Nazi), I'm not sure if they were just trying to evoke an dishonest emotional reaction to a buzzword, or if they were too stupid to truly understand what those words really mean. While it's true that many of the Bush Administration's foreign policies smacked of imperialism, it was certainly a far cry from the Third Reich. And just because Obama believes in higher taxes for those who can afford it (and begrudgingly enacted TARP), that does not make him a "communist" or "socialist" as some might say. To paint him as such is not only dishonest, it's just fucking stupid. Anyone who would truly call him a socialist has a) no idea what Obama is really about, or b) what the words "communism" and "socialism" mean. There is also a third choice, c), that implies that they might be very knowledgeable, but are intent on steering their hapless flock of mongoloids the wrong way.

We know that the Republicans have been engaging in Psy-Ops for a while now, putting up "anonymous" billboards of Obama with a turban, or some other nonsense. The idea is that Obama must "hate America" and is trying to pull a fast one to ruin the country. He is a closet terrorist, you see??!?!? He's waiting for the right time to strike! And we better take back our country or else! [Cue Toby Keith music]

The problem is, Obama is not a terrorist. Anyone saying that he is, is either a liar, or too stupid to know the difference. Either way, that's a problem, because those people's votes count just as much as mine.

But people are afraid to call these assholes liars. (Calling these liars assholes only exacerbates the problem.) And this here is the conundrum of liberal influence. I hate to use the term, but people are far to politically correct to call these lying scumbags ... well ... lying scumbags. It is perfectly appropriate to call a liar a liar, and to point out exactly where he is lying. And if he's not lying but is incorrect, someone should be able to quote scripture and verse as to where someone is wrong. (Note to Republicans and teabaggers: this would work for you too, if you ever said anything based in fact.)

I had a conversation with a good friend of mine the other day -- one who has a conservative bent -- in a forum were some comments were left, and he and I had a disagreement, and that's fine. But one of his commenters said something so stupid that I couldn't believe it. He said (and I'm paraphrasing), "I can't wait until Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and Obama are out of office so they can stop racking up trillions of dollars worth of debt, and Republicans can get back to making this country profitable again."

I'll let that one settle in for a second.

I hate to quote the creepy Eric Massa, but he did say one thing right: the national debt did not start last year. Without playing the "blame Bush" game here, in 2000, we had a huge surplus, and now, we have a huge debt. (Part of that is because we are fighting two wars and people with teabags hanging from their clothes don't want to pay any more in taxes, but that's a different point altogether.) That is economic fact. It's not an opinion I made up because I'm a "tree-hugging liberal." You can make the argument that you feel Republicans are better when they are in charge; that's fine, that's an opinion, and one to which you have the right. But what you don't have the right to is facts: the fact is, neither Obama, or Herr Pelosi, nor that sniveling ineffectual Harry Reid caused financial meltdown.

In fact, I read an article the other day saying that despite some hard-to-swallow realities, the Obama economic policies are actually working. [Update: here is the link to the article.] I would love to see him really nail the banks abusing TARP, and until he prevents them from anally-intruding their customers with prohibitive fees and unannounced interest-hikes, I can't say I approve with 100% of what's done. But to say that he's destroying the country economically is not matching up with the numbers.

[Side note: I sent a private message to my buddy telling him that his indignant friend was, and I quote, "a fucking retard." I'm not proud of using that language, but based on my limited exposure to this post-Keynesian economic theorist, I believe it in my heart. My friend responded, something to the effect of, "Well I don't know about that, he served in the military and saw a lot of combat." Out of respect to his service, I relented. However, can we please stop justifying people's right to an incorrect opinion just because they served in the military? I admire the service, but you don't suddenly become a genius -- or get credit for being a good person for that matter -- just because you put on a uniform. It's a total cop-out to say that just because I haven't worn the uniform that I don't have right to an opinion about something. That's a fucking cop-out, and it's how children argue. How about as long as my opinion isn't related to military inner-workings -- something of which I know nothing -- I'm not dismissed like some kind of coward? Just because you served and I didn't, scissors does not beat rock, sorry. Fuck that horseshit.]

Now I am not some rah-rah Democrat. Remember: I am not a registered Democrat and have not been for over a decade. I think Democrats are a bunch of weak do-nothings, who would rather be inoffensive than get things done. The way they squandered a year and a half of a supermajority is mind-boggling, and emblematic of why Dems can shit in their hat for all I care. But by comparison, Republicans on the whole come off like evil fearmongers. They would rather shout empty slogans and call people names than to have rational, fact-based arguments. [If you want a really great, nonpartisan site to sort out the lies, go to Politifact.com. They do a great job of separating truths, half-truths, untruths and outright bullshit.]

Can we please get to a place where facts make sense again? Where people are honest and forthright, even with difference of opinion? I don't even mind people having hatred for other people, but do it for the right reasons. Hate Obama for who he is (a liberal), not for who he isn't (a terrorist, a communist). If you are part of the white-noise, then you are part of the problem.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Feast or Famine

I had a routine physical last month and turns out that, for a fat guy, I'm actually in pretty good health. My blood pressure was good -- likely due to my dutiful consumption of blood-thinning alcohol -- and my cholesterol is only a hair above normal. This came as a shock to me, since when I got a "health screening" at work in 2006, all my metrics were way off. So I was happy, although it would have been nice to have the doctor say that I needed more peanut butter pie in my diet.

He did tell me that I have to drop some weight, because if I don't, it will lead to health problems down the road. Since my health is inexplicably decent, I figure that it's probably a good time to start shedding some unwanted poundage.

I told the doctor that I was planning to go to the gym a lot more, and that I was hoping that I could offset my high-calorie, low-nutrition diet with some hardcore exercise. And he told me something that I guess I had never considered before: no matter how much you exercise, you can't out-run a bad diet.

This was shocking to me. I had always figured that I could counteract any visit to the BK drive-thru with an hour on the elliptical. But it turns out it's the other way around: I could do three hours on the treadmill and a side of french fries would kill it.

This BLEW my EFFING mind.

Okay, not actually, but it did give me a new look on food. My relationship with food has always been close but not a healthy one (no pun intended). One of my New Year's resolutions was to start cooking more and cooking BETTER. Not necessarily healthier but more delicious and less easy; more food that's not made in the microwave. So when my doc told me I had to stop eating as much -- he even gave me a meal plan with a lot of cottage cheese and apples -- I thought I was kissing my delicious foods goodbye.

Then a couple of weeks ago, I stumbled upon a method of eating called ADF -- Alternate Day Fasting. It's also known as Intermittent Fasting (I.F.), and it is basically this: eat every other day. It sounds impossible, but I've been doing it for a couple non-consecutive weeks and it's really given me some interesting results and insights into my relationship with food.

Here's how I do it: I can eat pretty much however I choose from 6pm to 6pm on alternating days, and then I go without eating (or if I have to cheat, I keep it under 300 calories) on the other 6-6 shift. It's definitely not a quick fix -- my weight has gone down, but not drastically -- it's a long-term strategy. The idea is to limit calorie intake over time. Since the body deals with calorie intake over long stretches of time (week to week as opposed to day to day), it will result in long term loss of excess fat.

Oddly, there are also tons of additional health benefits, such as a reduction of glucose and insulin, and lowering risks of coronary disease, strokes and blood pressure. In fact, in all the research I did, there was no real downside ... other than the fact that many of us are miserable bastards when we are hungry.

I have been referring to it as the "Caveman Diet" because it follows the eating cycles of cavemen, who did not eat every day, but rather ate when they got hungry and then went and hunted their food, gorging on it when they could. They had very little if any belly fat, and actually had a longer lifespan than we do. (Their early deaths were due to other unsafe factors in their lives, like biblical floods and brontosauri.

For me, this method is forcing me to re-think my codependent relationship with food. Rather than absently chewing on food during bored hours in front of the tv, I'm now abstaining altogether. To me, this is so much easier than counting calories or staying away from foods I like. Now, I just don't eat one day, and I don't worry the next.

I'm starting to appreciate food more instead of feeling like I "need" to have it all the time. Truth is, I don't. Also, when 6pm rolls around and it's been 24 hours since I've had anything significant, having that first piece of food is like Christmas morning and the opening day of football seasons rolled into one. Not to mention, I am stuffed after even small portions now. Maybe that means my stomach shrinking, or maybe it means my body is not just getting full faster. Either way, it's gotta be a good thing.

You would think that this would give me a tendency to gorge on my "food days," and while that was true early on, I've pretty much reined that in. I probably do overeat a little bit, but definitely not to complete excess. And when you spread one days over-eating over two days (and repeat for several weeks), you are still looking at a net loss in calorie intake.

It's not the easiest thing in the entire world: there are days that I'm just a miserable asshole to everyone because of my self-induced starvation. When that happens, though, I'm not gorging on three slices of pizza; I'm having a granola bar and a cup of coffee for a little boost.

The worst part is, of course, beer. On days that I can't eat, I also can't drink anything but water, so booze is out of the question, unfortunately. That will probably be a good thing, long term, both for my liver and for my finances. Plus, I don't have to give it up altogether, just rein it in. And that's the beauty of this plan all the way around: I'm not giving anything up, I'm just limiting the window in which I can consume them.

I have no idea if this will work for me long term, or if I'll even be able to keep with it, but I am feeling pretty good about it so far. And the best part is, I don't actually have to DO anything ... I just have to "DON'T" something, and that's eat for 24 hours. Its actually much easier to do that than go to the gym. (Not that this replaces working out, I'll get back to exercising in about August or so.) I'm hoping that long-term, I won't "crave" food as much as just enjoy it when I get to it. It's okay to be a little bit hungry (or a whole hell of a lot-bit) every once in a while. And just knowing that 6:00 will come around soon enough is surprisingly comforting.

Monday, January 11, 2010

First Post of the 2010s!

It's been a while since I blogged, so I thought I'd weigh in on three things that are really annoying me right now. I have OPINIONS!

1) Yes, I admit that the Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien hasn't been very good, and most of that has to do with Conan's (excuse the cliche) losing his edge. The day Conesy lost me was when he had Paris Hilton doing a Bob Hope-style walk-on, complete with golf club. It wasn't spontaneous, her jokes were not particularly funny, and worst of all, it let Paris Hilton in the club.

The thing that was great about Conan's old show is the way that it allowed all the nerds in. Those of us who were never the "cool kids" were able to relate to a guy like Conan -- although his self-deprecation is often too belabored. People like Paris Hilton were the target ... they shouldn't be allowed in the clubhouse. When Conan legitimized this talentless tart, I realized that he wasn't one of "us" anymore, he was one of "them."

Now, I do give him a little slack. It's not like I hate Conan, or think he's a true sell-out. But I was no-longer compelled to watch his show, because he wasn't getting the laughs. But I had expected Conan to find his groove ... eventually. After about a year or so, he probably would have found his new voice -- a la David Letterman, who holy shit will have been on the air twenty years in 2013.

But it looks like Conan won't get his chance, because for some reason, NBC seems to think that Jay Leno is the answer. Jay Leno, who milked Bill Clinton and OJ Simpson jokes for well over a decade, but somehow inexplicably trounced Letterman in tv ratings. (Well, actually, it's very explicable... Americans are fucking idiots.) So now, as if he was some sort of automatic ratings machine, NBC is going to move him back to 11:35, and then Conan to 12:05. Keep in mind, Leno has been ON TV FOR THE LAST SEVERAL MONTHS. Maybe people got tired of Leno, and you have to give them just a tad bit more credit than to think they would have forgotten he existed just because he was on at 10pm.

So after the Olympics are over, Leno is going to be on again AFTER the local news instead of before. And my hope -- as well as my prediction -- is that the public realized from the 10pm experiment that Leno is old and stale, and just not that damn funny, and that Conan bolts for another network and can do his own thing again without having to live up to the "Tonight Show" brand. Because at this point, who gives a shit.

2) The "Rooney Rule" is the rule in the NFL that all teams must interview minority candidates before they can make a hire. The idea is very noble: to get exposure for more minority candidates so that they will have more chances at jobs. It is affirmative action, yes, but it's also been proven to be very effective. (The Steelers, to their credit, put their money where their mouths are, as they hired Mike Tomlin, a black coach who led them to a Super Bowl championship last season.)

But this past week a pair of Washington teams -- the Redskins and Seahawks (see what I did there, football fans?) -- hired high-profile coaches without following the spirit of the Rooney Rule. The Skins did a cursory interview with their assistant coach Jerry Gray, and the Seahawks did a sham interview with Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. Both teams knew they were going to hire established coaches, which makes the interviews of the minority candidates seem especially hollow, and condescending.

But you can't really blame the teams for hiring who they did -- two of the most well-known football coaches of the last fifteen years. Back in 2003, the Detroit Lions fired their coach because recently-deposted 49ers Steve Mariucci became available, and they knew they wanted him. The Lions got fined because they didn't interview a minority candidate. (The Cowboys, incidentally, did not, even though their sham interview consisted of a phone call with Dennis Green.)

But think about it, why force these teams to interview a minority when they know with 100% certainty that there is no chance that any of the minority candidates have a chance... not because they aren't qualified, but because the teams had pre-existing coaches in mind. But you can't just throw the Rooney Rule out, can you??? There's got to BE a better way!

I have the solution, and I'm not the first to come up with it, but I'll tell you about it. The Rooney Rule should be this: if you only interview ONE candidate (eg. Pete Carroll, Mike Shanahan), you don't have to do a phony interview with a minority candidate. This would allow these teams to expedite their hirings and stop with the phony bullshit.

If your team does MORE than one interview, however, that team has to interview at least as many minority candidates as they do white candidates. This, you might think, is also a sham, but it shouldn't be. A wider net cast would mean that teams would open up their searches anyway, so the more exposure the better for all. If they just implement this in the Rooney Rule, all will be well.

3) Mark McGwire is a selfish asshole and I hope he never gets into the Baseball Hall of Fame. I have never liked him, because of what an arrogant cock he was in 1998 when he broke the then-home run record and went on Letterman talking about what a service that he and Sammy Sosa did for the country. Not for the NL Central, not for Major League Baseball. For the COUNTRY. He can shit in his hat.

It's interesting that when he didn't get immunity in the 2004 baseball steroid hearings, he decided to pull his "I'm not here to talk about the past." And then he remained silent about the matter for over five years.

But today, he decided that he wanted to fess up about it. Why? Because his conscience was weighing on him? Because the truth needed to be told? Because he wanted to tell kids not to do it? No, of course not. It's because he wanted another job in baseball, and this was the only way that anyone was going to let him do it. If he wanted to take credit for saving the nation 11.5 years ago, he can take the heat for being a sack of shit.

4) I read a Facebook group called "I Shouldn't Have to Press '1' so Speak English!" Of course, this is blatant anti-immigration racism in the guise of pro-America populism. It's horseshit. If you don't like brown people, just admit it. Stop acting like somehow you are a more legitimate American just because you speak English. Remember, America has NO official language, and that's the way the Founding Fathers wanted it.

Of course, when you go onto the site to read the comments, there is a lot of "go home to your country" and "learn to speak English!" and other such nonsense. But do you know what's so ironic? Spanish speakers are not ruining the language in this country: English speakers are.

If you've ever listened to a NASCAR-loving hillbilly speak, you can tell that they don't have what we might call a "command" of the English language. Not only do they mix their metaphors, but they usually leave the "g" of gerunds, such as "learning," "talking" and "eating." They use phrases like "that dog don't hunt," and "git er done!" but somehow get upset about Ebonics. (Also, they are under the borderline retarded notion that Ebonics was something proposed to be TAUGHT in schools to students. It wasn't: it was meant to be taught to TEACHERS so that they could more effectively communicate with their students.)

Also, can we agree that even common language is dying? And it has nothing to do with people from other countries trying to usurp our linguistic dominance. It has everything to do with lazy Americans (blacks AND whites both) who don't feel like learning the correct ways to say things, instead relying either on what "feels" right, or what they thought they heard once.

The best example of this is "irregardless." I'm sure that a bunch of these shit-kicking hicks have used this combination of letters. But the truth is, there is no such word. It came about by some numbskull combining "regardless" and "irrespective." Before "Bennifer" and "Brangelina," there was "irregardless."

But do you want to know the infuriating part? Some dictionaries actually recognize "irregardless" as an actual word. Basically, the least educated of our society has somehow come to dictate language, and infiltrate the intelligent, correct-spelling world with their stupidity. If these "I hate pressing '1' to speak Inglish" people had any integrity at all -- or any LEGITIMATE respect for the English language, as opposed to using it as some kind of patriotic wedge issue -- they would be storming the offices of Webster's and demanding that such heresy be stricken from the books, to PRESERVE OUR LANGUAGE!

But no, these cro-magnon faggots will flip over their Bill Engvall cassettes and LOL whenever he says "Heerrrrrrrrrre's yer sign!"

Ahhhh... I feel so much better now. Happy New Year!