Sunday, November 01, 2015

Experian, T-Mobile and the FCC | Is Anyone Watching?

I received an apology letter from Experian a couple days ago. For those of you that don't know, Experian is a credit reporting service. If you've ever had credit, they have your information. They have your full name, address, social security number and full credit history. Everything that's needed for a company to decide if they want to do business with you.

Here is a portion of their letter:

"On September 21, 2015, we notified T-Mobile USA, Inc. that information Experian maintains on their behalf to perform credit checks had been downloaded by the unauthorized party. Information you provided when you applied for an account at T-Mobile likely was acquired. That information includes your name, address, social security number, date of birth, identification number (such as driver's license, military ID, or passport number) and additional information used in T-Mobile's own credit assessment. No payment card or banking information was obtained. This did not involve access to Experian's credit reporting database."

After they "sincerely apologized" for what happened they wrote this:

"To help protect your identity, we are offering a complimentary two-year membership in ProtectMyId Elite credit monitoring and identity theft resolution services."

Did you notice how the word "complimentary" was in bold? I suppose that was because they thought whoever they were sending this letter out to was of lower intellect. That they are going to think ...

Wow! I didn't even know that happened but look at how great those Experian people are! They are going to take care of this for me! I'm so lucky it happened with them!
First off ... where is my apology letter from T-Mobile? They didn't bother sending out one. Why? Because they wanted to make sure we properly understood that we are nothing more to them than, well ... not much of anything.

Their CEO did write a letter. You have to search the Internet to find it on their web site. If you want to read it, it's at this link:

What "What's His Name", the CEO of T-Mobile wrote for an apology letter
"What's His Name" writes this:

"Obviously I am incredibly angry about this data breach and we will institute a thorough review of our relationship with Experian, but right now my top concern and first focus is assisting any and all consumers affected. I take our customer and prospective customer privacy VERY seriously. This is no small issue for us. I do want to assure our customers that neither T-Mobile’s systems nor network were part of this intrusion and this did not involve any payment card numbers or bank account information."
Obviously "What's His Name" is really angry and right on this. Also note that "What's His Name" took the time to distance himself from the incident. Why did I call the CEO "What's His Name" in the link? Because the genius didn't even bother to put it in the letter or at the bottom of his letter.

He did include his "signature"! As if we're supposed to believe that whole thing was so important to him that he took the time to sit down at a computer, write this letter and proofread it? Then the actual letter was printed, he signed it and the signature was scanned in and place on that posting on the site?

My guess is the closest he ever came to that letter was in the meeting with T-Mobile insiders when he looked at the  IT and Marking representative and said "Fix this, but make sure it doesn't cost us anything". That's why we didn't even get a form letter from them. That would cost money. They can't just be throwing that stuff around. They have salaries to protect and you do that by making big profits so the board and shareholders are happy.

I should have heard about this from T-Mobile first. The fact that I didn't tells me all I need to know about the company. In truth, I don't have an account with them and never will. I was just exploring my options but had to give them my credit information so they could determine if I was "worthy enough" to deal with them.

Looks like it should have been the other way around.

Then there is Experian. They are a CREDIT REPORTING SERVICE! It's already a part of their RESPONSIBILITY to protect my credit. They are one of the 3 out there, the other two being TransUnion and Equifax. I'm pretty sure they're number 3 and if they aren't, they ought to be.

I was in banking for nearly 10 years and it was always my understanding that a credit reporting agency's mission was to deliver an accurate report of a person's credit history and nothing more. What are they doing providing a service beyond that?

They should have the look of not being able to be influenced by ANYONE. That when you get a report from Experian you will be seeing an accurate and unfiltered report of the person or business you've inquired about. That there is no benefit for them to change the report in any way. Doing ANYTHING other than credit reporting makes them beholden to someone else for their income. How are we to know that as a part of their relationship with T-Mobile that there wasn't a "wink and a nod" that when a credit report was requested by Verizon that whenever they happened to ask about a T-Mobile customer that something would be altered in T-Mobile's favor? I'm not saying it happened, but I am saying the look of impropriety is there.

Then to add insult to this incident, what do they do? They offer two years of their credit protection service and an apology. Just 2 years? It should be forever! After all, they are supposed to be the guardian of my credit. If they've done something to jeopardize permanently (and make no mistake, not that my personal information is out there; it is) they should have to protect me FOREVER!

What they've done is the equivalent of if the US Government told our soldiers injured in battle, "We'll be able to take care of you for 2 years. After that, you're on your own". Instead they've take the attitude of a crack dealer. We'll hook you on the service, once you've become dependent you can pay. It's genius!

T-Mobile moves on with a lower Equifax cost because this happened and Equifax has gets some new customers for their credit reporting service. Everyone makes money except the consumer.  Sounds about right, doesn't it?

And where was the FCC in all this? They are the government agency that was put in place to PROTECT us. They should have been putting the screws to both of these companies, forcing them to do the right thing. The right thing in this instance would be to protect the affected person/businesses credit until the end of time. Why they didn't, I have no understanding.

So as it ends up everyone that has responsibility for this issue feels like they've done everything reasonable and practical. They're sleeping just fine every night.

Me? I'm not so sure ...

Friday, July 17, 2015

So What

As much as I hate to use his name James Holmes the Aurora (Colorado) Theater shooter was convicted of 24 counts of Firs Degree murder. That's 2 counts for each of the 12 innocent people he murdered.

In my mind, why 24? Like that is somehow going to make a difference? This useless excuse for a human being walked into a movie theater full of people he had never met and opened fire. As a means to what end? No one but he will ever know, but my guess is that it's something as simple as just wanting to watch someone die; knowing he was the one who did it.

Even if he were to actually say the real reason, I can't say that I would believe him. Why? Because it just doesn't matter why. It just matters that it happened. And now that it's happened, society has to deal with it. As usual, society has got it all wrong.

We are coming up on the 3rd anniversary of the shooting and this is as far as we've gotten? A conviction? Not only has it taken too long to get this far, I'm sure we've spent far too much money to get this far. I would assume it's cost the tax payers in excess of a million dollars.

This is unacceptable. This piece of human trash should have been put on the fast lane to justice. As far as I'm concerned, it's a shame that the right person wasn't at the scene of those murders to put a bullet in his head.

Does that sound a little extreme to you? I get it; you can't let someone be the judge, jury and executioner. But let me remind you this guy was clearly identifiable as the person that was doing the shooting. He was dressed in what I would describe as "SWAT Gear". Helmet, vest, ammo and weapons all visible on his person. It couldn't have been too difficult to connect the shooting to him.

Even if he missed every one of the people, I still say it would have been OK to put a bullet in his head. After all, in my hypothetical, he tried to kill people. In this instance that would have been good enough for me.

Why? Let me remind you, he planned what he did. He had to go out and get all the gear, equipment, guns and ammo he used. It wasn't a rash decision on his part. It wasn't like he went down to the gun store and bought all that at 3:00 P.M., took off the tags and sauntered down to the theater because his girlfriend had just broken up with him. He went down there for revenge, and somehow, these people accidently got into the line of fire. He knew NONE of these people. He's never met any of them before. They were at that theater to watch a movie. He went there to murder people.

Not that it wasn't obvious enough, he even admitted it. His defense "I did it but I didn't know what I was doing, I'm mentally ill". Just take a minute to absorb that. He was well enough to plan out the whole thing, get everything he needed, wait for what he felt was the proper time and then execute his plan. Mentally ill? Color me suspicious. Some would argue that anyone capable of doing such a heinous act would have to be mentally ill. No normal person would do something like that. I would not be one of those people. I think he knew exactly what he was doing.

What I actually wanted to get to is this ... 24 counts of First Degree murder, 140 counts of attempted murder, a few miscellaneous crimes, and it took almost 3 years to get this far. Then there will be months of hearings to determine his punishment. Then after the punishment, (regardless of what it is) there will be years of appeals.

That does not sound like justice to me. It's an insult to the memories of everyone that was murdered and their families. Let us not forget all the people that he tried to murder that survived. Their lives will never been the same. Some will never fully recover. As much as I hate to say it, I'm sure some of them wished they wouldn't have made it.

All of this pain created by one individual. A selfish, narcissistic, evil human.

Let's start with the charges, 24 counts of First Degree murder. That was 2 counts for each person he murdered and 2 counts for each person he almost murdered. What's the point? He didn't kill them twice. How does loading up the charges make a difference here? Is it to make the point that this was a "terrible crime"?

It's my belief that First Degree murder  is the wrong charge for something like this. We need something new. What we need is a charge called "Mass Murder". I don't know how many people a person would need to murder during one event to be charged with "Mass Murder" but I think we could all agree that 12 would be enough.

Once someone is charged with "Mass Murder", they should get the fast lane to justice. A trial no later than 60 days after they're charged. No continuances, no appeals and no "sentencing phase". There is only one sentence, death. The sentence should be carried out within a week. I wouldn't wait that long, but sometimes they may need time to prepare.

Why? Because there is no justification for murdering 12 people during an event. Anyone that would do something like that is broken. It doesn't matter what caused them to do it; there is no rehabilitation, they are broken. Putting them in prison serves no purpose other than to make us as a society feel like we're compassionate. That we are not savages.

We're not savages because sometimes nature makes mistakes. When that happens, the mistake has to be taken care of. I would submit to you that anyone that murders 12 people, no matter the reason, is a mistake of nature. It doesn't matter to me if they are evil, stupid or mentally ill.

That was James Holmes defense. That he was mentally ill. His parents have publicly pleaded for their son's life. While I am empathetic to their situation; keeping him alive will not serve any purpose. He cannot ever walk among us again; he cannot be trusted. Housing him the remainder of his life is an expense better spent on other things.

As callous as this may sound ... James Holmes and individuals like him are no different than any other diseased animal. If you have a dog that is dangerous, you put it down. It puts the dog out of it's misery (even if it doesn't know) and it's the safest thing to do.

It may not be the easiest thing for society to do, but the right thing never is ...

Friday, June 26, 2015

When You're Old Enough It's Just Intimidation

I am a peaceful person. I never look for trouble. In fact I go out of my way to avoid things that could possibly, maybe, if things went wrong, become trouble. That includes drama. I can't imagine anyone liking it less that I do.

Even so, trouble and drama seem to enter into my life on a regular basis. They seem to be the uninvited guests of my life that I just cannot get to leave.

I can't even escape them at the YMCA ...

I go to the YMCA 3 times a week to swim. I've been doing so since the middle of January this year. If there was such a thing I would be a "legacy" member there. My parents joined this YMCA in the 1980s and have had a membership there ever since. That's somewhere close to 30 years.

They were members (as I am) for the use of the pool. They did (as I do) what you would expect someone that's using the pool would do. Showed up with their gym bag in hand, used the locker room to change in and out of their swimming suit; and swam in the pool.

Since they've been members they were able to enjoy the use of the YMCA without any issues of any kind, sans water temperature. I've been going for 6 months and already I'm embroiled in the middle of controversy.

It all started a couple months ago on a Saturday. I had gone in to swim laps at the pool during open swim time. This mean the pool has just one lane that is partitioned off for lap swimming. The rest of the pool is split in half at the start of the deep end. The rule is a simple one. You cannot use the "lap lane" unless you're swimming laps.

It seems simple enough, yet when I got to the pool that day there was a woman in the lane. She wasn't swimming laps, she was just ... meandering in the shallow end of the lane. Now it's not uncommon for someone to stay in the lane after they're done swimming for a minute or two of rest.

So I politely waited for her to exit the lane. After nearly 30 minutes of politely waiting I approached the lifeguard on duty. The lifeguard was a young girl that couldn't have been much more than 18 years old and she was of small stature. I asked if the rule was in fact that the "lap lane" was only for lap swimming. She replied it was. I then asked if this woman was breaking the rule. She confirmed my suspicion that she was. I then asked her if there was anything she could do about it. She shrugged her shoulders and said no, she had a history of being "difficult" and there was nothing she could do.

So I politely waited another 15 minutes and finally decided to ask this woman how much longer she was going to be using the lane. She told me to just jump in and use it, she was happy to share. At that time that didn't work for me. You see, I swim using a lap snorkel. I have a bad neck and it keeps me from being able to properly turn my head to breathe when I swim. So I swim with my face down the entire time. I don't see well in front of me and my concern was that I would run into her.

I explained all this to her and to my surprise she ducked under the lane markers and let me use the lane. At the time I thought it was a nice thing for her to do.

A couple weeks later was my next interaction with her. This time it was on a weekday and her husband was with her. They look Russian to me. I could best describe her by telling you to envision a Russian gymnast whose has gained 60lbs and made it her 60s. To describe him you have to have seen one of those old war movies. Think the HUGE old Russian General with the big head to match.

I have been calling them the "Gorbechav's".

Since I swim with my head down I had no idea that they had entered the pool. Even if I had known, I wouldn't have had any kind of concern, as my first interaction with her was amicable and she knew I had politely waited. So if she was there to "meander" in the lap lane, I would have expected her to wait. After all, I did the same for her.

Imagine my surprise when I almost hit her because she just came into the lap lane. So I stopped swimming and asked her why she was in the lane. I didn't get much of answer. The response I received was something close to "too bad".

I wasn't about to let her take the lane away from me. She had no intentions of swimming and even if she did, I was there first and on weekdays all the lanes are open for laps. She could have chosen any other lane. This was just her attempt to intimidate me.

That is never going to happen. Intimidation is nothing more that bullying for adults. When I was young I was a small in stature and I had my share of experiences with bullies. My growth spurt was a little late at 17 but once it happened I became a pretty big guy. Large enough that's it's rare for me to have issues with anyone.

In the past whenever an attempt has been made to bully me I have just ignored it and went about what I was doing. I will not tolerate that kind of behavior and certainly will not validate that kind of behavior by giving in.

That was what I did this time. I told her she was being rude and I went back to swimming in lane. She remained on one side of the lane, hanging on the lane marker while she spoke with her husband. On about my third lap with her in the lane I was passing her and she actually kicked me in the face.

I'll have to admit I was startled. Rather than saying anything more I stopped my swim. As I got the the edge of the pool I was approached my the lifeguard on duty and (fortunately for me) the pool manager. They had seen that something had happened and wanted to know what. I explained what happened and they believed me. Not just because they saw something happened, I had a nice large red mark on my face.

I was assured that they were going to deal with this issue. I was also told that this couple had been creating problems for some time. After hearing all this I assumed that they would be having their membership revoked. I assumed wrong. The following week they were back at the pool. Mrs. Gorbechav wasn't in the lap lane and Mr Gorbechav reminded me a lot of a hippopotamus. No matter where I was in the pool he was pointed towards me, the only thing I could see was his head. The look on his face could best be described as intimidating. Not to me, but I could see where it might work on some.

This behavior continued for a couple more weeks and then they just disappeared. I thought they had left the YMCA. So I thought the it was all done. Until this week.

This Tuesday while I'm swimming in the lap lane I almost hit someone again. Now you have to work at getting that close to being in my path. I don't swim that fast and there's no way you cannot see me in the pool. With the snorkel I use I am the equivalent of the old guy that rides a trike with the flag on the fiberglass pole.

She didn't stay in the lane so I figured that was just her way of telling me to go to hell. So I continued swimming and on the next lap  as I came up to the wall I see this huge body standing against the wall. When I bring my head up out of the water I find it is none other than Mr. Gorbechav himself, giving me an ugly look. I just turned around like I was doing a regular lap and ignored him.

I get to the deep end of the pool and as I turned around I could see he has decided to start swimming in the lane. Now I'm sure he's trying to intimidate me because there are 3 other lanes open. Even so he's swimming on one side of the lane but he's so large he's actually going over the center line.

Undaunted I continue to swim on the other side of the lane, squeezing past him. I was waiting for him to do something stupid. After 4 or 5 laps the lifeguard on duty who was another young gal came over to me and when I got to the wall told me that there was another lane open. I told her I wasn't moving because I wasn't going to give this guy the idea that he could interrupt my workout.

I continue to swim laps and at this point, I'm about 20 minutes into my regular 65 minute swim. Mr Gorbechav isn't in good enough shape to even float for 10 minutes and by the time I'm at lap 20; he has now stopped and is just taking up one side of the lane in the shallower end of the pool talking to Mrs. Gorbachev. He remained there until I finished my swim.

At the end of the swim as I take a minute to rest the manager of the pool approaches me. I explain to her what happened and she said she already knew, she was watching the whole thing and that he would the issue was being "dealt with". She proceeded to tell me that there had been an "incident" with these same people the previous Saturday. She didn't tell me what happened but made a comment at one point that the police should have been called.

At this point I don't know how they are going to "deal" with this. One of these 2 have already kicked me in the face. That in itself should have cost them their membership. Add to that it isn't just my word that they're being aggressive, the manager of the pool has witnessed both of these incidents.

I can only hope the YMCA actually does revoke these idiots' memberships. The next closest pool is at a YMCA in a slightly larger town about 20 miles away. I hope they enjoy the drive and think of me every time they make it.

If the YMCA lets them keep their membership, I'm going to ask them to take down that anti-bullying poster on display in the pool managers office.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

You're Not Being Courageous If You Don't Care

Caitlyn Jenner (or Bruce Jenner if you must) made a big splash recently when Vanity Fair did a 22 page cover story with pictures taken by Annie Leibovitz. She's certainly one of the greatest photographers of our time and it shows in the photos she took. The truth is Caitlyn Jenner looks pretty good.

She started a Twitter account when Vanity Fair posted her pics and in 4 hours had 1 MILLION followers. At the time of this writing (about a week later) she is already up to 2.5 million. Clearly, people are interested and supportive of her.

The most common term I hear used with her name is "courageous". I have to admit I am bothered by this. Before I tell you why, I want to use a saying I picked up from Denver radio host Mike Rozen; "tell me where you sit before you tell me where you stand".

I am not bothered in any way by what Caitlyn Jenner has done. It's her body and her life which makes it her choice. Who am I to judge? I heard those very same words from Stanley Biber in the early 90's. For those who do not know that name; he is considered one of the pioneers of sex change surgery.

I met Dr. Biber in Trinidad Colorado where he practiced medicine. Trinidad is a speed bump on I-25 near the northern New Mexico border. I was in Trinidad on business when I met him in passing. It was a surreal experience to be sure. An unassuming man, he looked like any other Trinidad resident. I watched him get out of a pickup truck and walk across the street to come into the bank I happened to be standing in front of. The banker I was with introduced me to him, and the conversation we had came up because my father was a doctor, and I was telling him about my father. To his credit it wasn't Dr. Biber who brought up what he did, it was the banker. Dr. Biber was succinct he said "People want what they want. Who am I to judge?"

I later found out that he didn't get into medicine to do sex change operations. It happened completely by accident. In 1969 he had a patient ask him to do a sex change because he couldn't find anyone to do it. Dr. Biber already did general surgery, so he studied all the information he could find on the subject and did his first one, developing technique as he went. For quite sometime, the little town of Trinidad Colorado was considered the "Sex change capital of the world".

That all being said, let me tell you why Caitlyn Jenner is not being "courageous". Because she really doesn't have to care what we the public think. While I realize I can't know exactly what is in her mind, I feel like I can make that assumption.

Why? Because what are we as a public going to do in "retaliation" for what Caitlyn has done? Absolutely nothing, that's what. Caitlyn has an estimated net worth of $100 million dollars. If Caitlyn were to lose every single endorsement and contract she had she would still be able to live the rest of her life in comfort.

I would also submit to you that in order for a person to change their gender, they would ultimately have to decide what other people thought didn't matter. It would be impossible to go through with something like that if you were worried about "what people thought".

Is she doing something good for the transgender community? Of course she is. She has put a name and a face to the process. She's started a public dialog about he subject. All (hopefully) good things for the transgender community.

 But calling her "courageous" takes away from those who have done true acts of courage. The people that have risked and even lost their lives for people they didn't even know.

I think we all know true courage when we see it. Caitlyn Jenner is not risking her life to do this. She may be risking her income, her standing in the community or relationships she values; but none of those translate to an act of courage to me.

In my mind she's showing resolve. She is showing a belief in who she is and what she needs to do to truly be herself. That is an admirable thing; but it is not courage. It shows she was able to get past being afraid of what people thought of her. That she was going to be herself, no matter what the cost.

If you want to use that as a "measuring stick" for courage ... then most of the standup comedians I know are "courageous". We go on stage every show knowing someone is probably going to dislike us. Yet we go on anyway. Knowing that someone inevitably will disapprove of us.

All I'm saying is that maybe the definition of "courage" needs to be refined. If you look up the definition of "courage" it does NOT include the fear of physical harm or the loss of life; I submit to you, it should. What Caitlyn Jenner has done may "technically" meet the definition of the word "courage" but I would submit what she's done would be better described as fearless.

Fearless is a component of courage, but without physical risk. Fearlessness alone just doesn't "cut it" for me. To illustrate, you're using the same word to describe both these actions:

A person changes her looks and lives her life as the opposite gender.

A "door gunner" on a Huey in Vietnam.

One is getting up every morning and their greatest fear is what are people going to think of them. The other has a pretty good chance of being killed every morning they get up.

I just don't see those two as being the same ...

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Crime Without The Punishment

I hate to admit it but for the past couple years I've been watching a lot of the Investigation Discovery ( ID ) Channel; or as I like to call it the "Murder Channel". It's become my "go to" channel. If there is nothing else on I switch right to it.

For those of you that don't know the Murder Channel it runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. With very few exceptions; each and every hour someone dies. These are not Hollywood deaths. They are re-enactments of actual murder cases.

I can't lie; I've learned a lot from watching this channel:
  • It's almost always the husband/boyfriend/wife/girlfriend
  • If your wife/girlfriend gets a personal trainer, there's a good chance he's eventually going to kill you.
  • When a woman cries during the police interrogation, there's a good chance she's the one who did it.
  • If your teenage daughter is in a relationship with someone you don't like, don't try to end it. If you do, you will probably die.
  • People are never murdered for a good reason.
I think the last one is the most important. It shows you how stupid murderers really are. I've also learned that murdering another human being doesn't mean you're going to prison for the rest of your life. Maybe sometime between 15 - 25 years with time off for good behavior. So years after you've taken away a person's chance to live, you will be living your life. Free to go wherever you choose.

This observation is the basis for what I am about to say.

Once you are convicted of murdering someone; that should be the LAST day you walk in out society as a free man/woman. You are obviously broken and there is no reason for you to walk around with the rest of us.

I don't care what you reason for murdering someone is. If you managed to do so, that's good enough for me. You need to go away ... forever.

Whether or not you are pro death penalty; I hope you would agree with me that when someone murders another person, society needs to be protected from that murderer. I believe if you did it once it's that much easier to do it again. Now I'm not talking about KILLING someone. It has to proven that you MURDERED someone.
Once you're convicted, you are immediately sent to prison for life. There's no parole or time off for good behavior. You will live the remainder of your life behind bars ... period.

Once you get to prison there are no creature comforts. You get a cell with the basics required to live, nothing more. In other words; heat, water, a bed, toilet, blankets, food, and the ability to clean yourself.

Did you notice I left out medical care? I don't think someone in prison for LIFE should get any. Why prolong their existence? They're not getting out. If you treat them, you're just prolonging the inevitable. To what end? All they are doing in there is taking up space. Don't misunderstand me, I don't believe they should suffer. If someone does get sick they should be entitled to something for pain, but nothing more. If their body can't heal itself, sorry to hear that, but you should have thought of that before you took someone else's life. There's no reason for society to extend your life. We need to make room for the next idiot.

What we really need to do is build special prisons for people convicted of murder, so they're all together. Ever seen that movie "The Purge"? Me neither; but I did see the commercials. The movie was about a society when one day a year all crime was ignored. You could do ANYTHING without repercussion.

We could do the same thing in these prisons that hold nothing but murderers. Open up the cell doors and let natural selection take it's course. Whoever is left can stay until the next time they open the cell doors.Think of the money we could save by not having to house these broken people.

I'll take it a step further. These are my recommendations for sentencing people convicted of murder.
  • Kill 1 person - The rest of your natural life in prison
  • Kill 2 people - You live in prison for 15 years or to age 65 whichever comes first. Once you hit the end of your term you are sent into a gas chamber (think Auschwitz) with anyone else scheduled to go that day.
  • Kill 3 people - You live in prison for 5 years then see above
  • Kill 4 people - You're taken directly to the gas chamber.
I will take this a step further and have the similar guidelines for rape. Why? Because once you rape someone you have taken away something that cannot be replaced. They will NEVER be the person they were going to be. You MURDERED that version of them.
  • Rape anyone - The rest of your natural life in prison
  • Rape more than one person -  The same as killing 2 people
  • Rape a child -  The same as killing 3 people
  • Rape your own child - You're taken directly to the gas chamber.
I would also add this. If you're in prison for rape, you don't get a door. You should live with the same kind of terror and uneasiness your victim does. Jumping at every sound in the night.

I also believe that these prisons should contain a do-it-yourself suicide cell for anyone that wants to do the "right thing".

You think I'm harsh? Or unfeeling? I'm giving these criminals the same amount of regard they gave their victims.

How does that saying go? Karma's a bitch ...

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Thank You For Minimizing My Existance

There are a many generalizations that have a great degree of truth to them.

Women are fussy about their hair
Most mechanics are men
Little girls like dolls
A new car won't break down
Boys don't like to play dress up

And the list goes on. Unfortunately the people that create TV ads have a clear grasp on these generalizations. They are used to create the ads we all have to get through to watch our favorite shows.

A couple of their favorites seem to be ...

Men don't like to shop
Women do the shopping for the household

I can say both of those generalizations work in my household. I've never enjoyed shopping and I think I shop the way most men do. For what I need and nothing more. There is no "looking around" when I enter a store. I know what I want and make a beeline to it.

On the other hand my wife loves to shop. In our household we have used that to our (or maybe my) advantage. Since I do quite a bit of the cooking; (that's against the generalization) when I make up the meal plans, I put together a list of what I need. I give that list to my wife and she checks our food stores and then gets whatever we need.

How have the advertising agencies taken these perfectly accurate generalizations and applied them to selling products on TV?

Men are stupid

Of course I'm generalizing and of course there are a many commercials that follow this format. Even so, over the course of the past 10 years I have watched the "men are stupid" ads growing in number.

I don't have to like it but it makes perfect sense to me. Why market to the gender that is not interested in going to the store? Why not build up the gender that does by making them feel they are the one that SHOULD BE making the decision because they're the most capable.

In my mind these ads are in the following groups:

The Incompetent / Inept Man

This ad shows a "semi-geeky" looking man putting the last tile up on the wall. Then he steps back and surveys his work.

The look on his face tells all. He did this by himself and is proud of what he's accomplished. That is when the first tile falls out, followed by every other tile on the wall.

As the tiles fall the audio continues to get louder until the very final tile falls. The period at the end of the sentence.

What surprises me is that this commercial is for Lowes. Arguably a company that should have an interest in building up men instead of tearing them down like this. It seems to me, since men do quite a bit of the remodeling being done these days, a commercial showing a guy that hasn't done tile before completing a nice looking bathroom would go a lot farther towards getting a man in their store.

Men Think With ... You Know

This is one of a series of commercials produced for Carls Jr / Hardees. The concept is simple. Men are easily swayed by their own sexual urges.

This translates to a commercial that has a scantily dressed model eating a hamburger. This particular one stars Katherine Webb, who is one of the models in the 2013 Sports Illustrated Swim Suit Edition. A real page turner ... if you keep them unstuck.

This particular commercial is 47 seconds long. Only 16 of those seconds show a burger. What kind of buns are being sold in these commercials?

Men Are Just Stupid

When all else fails just call them what they are; idiots. After all, if it weren't for women, most men couldn't find their way out of the house every morning.

It doesn't matter that they have an education, a decent job and are the father of your children. They are nothing without you and really shouldn't even be allowed to think for themselves. God only knows what would happen if they did. Let's face it, they just shouldn't be left alone.

I know I've gone a little over the top with some of my comments but I've done so to make a point. Over the past 30 years there has been a steady assault on masculinity. A steady narrative in our society instructing men to get in touch with their "feminine side". That by doing so they will be a better person for it.

A lot has been done using the same technique I used in this blog. By OVERSTATING an idea to make a point. It's not just in commercials, it's all over television. You don't have to look any further than some of the biggest sitcoms of all time; "Everybody Loves Raymond" and "Home Improvement". In both of these sitcoms the woman is the voice of reason and the "intelligent" one.

This has been going on since the beginning of television. Watch any episode of "The Honeymooners". It was the biggest show of its time and starred Jackie Gleason, Art Carney, Audrey Meadows and Joyce Randloph. It was a story about Ralph and Alice Kramden (Gleason and Meadows) and their neighbors Ed and Trixie Norton (Carney and Randolph). The men were portrayed as buffoons that couldn't be trusted to make a good decision. The women were the voice of reason.

The underlying  message in these commercials connects to this narrative. If you are just thinking like a man ... you are deficient. I will take this one step further and say I believe this thinking is a contributing factor in the destruction of the family as we know it.

You may think I'm stretching it here but I believe that society now accepts the concept that a father is no longer necessary to complete a family. That since the woman is the more "complete" of the genders and they bear the children they are the only ones really necessary. That all that is required for a child to properly grow up is a "male influence". That could be anyone; grandfather, brother or even a new husband. The only absolute need for a man is at conception.

There's a reason men and woman are different. It creates balance in the rearing of children. It provides consistent parenting because the decisions made in child rearing are made by two parents that love their children and each other. It allows them to take their natural differing perspectives, and with compromise, come up with the best parenting decisions.

What we're ending up with is a generation of adults that feel commitment is not a priority.

The men in this generation have grown up watching the women in their lives move from man to man. The message to them: you are easily replaced. So in their minds: why work at fully committing to a relationship when it's likely not to last?

The women on of this generation are re-creating the concept of the family unit. That used to mean parents and children living in the same household. It worked because you had 2 parents with different outlooks on life. They committed to each other and the natural progression was for each to fill in the gap the the other was unable or unwilling to do.

Since "parents" has turned into "parent"; that had to change. The family unit is now a cobbled together group of people that fill whatever needs the "parent" can't. In this family unit the role of father has been eliminated and has been replaced by "male influence".

The problem with "male influence" is that it comes without consistency. On the outside the concept looks good. Find the best man for the job at hand. Need a guy that's into sports? Uncle Jimmy can do that. How about someone to give them those important life lessons? Grampa can cover that. And the list goes on.

So if there is one; who is this man living in the house with the kids? That's the "husband/boyfriend" and he's there for the mom, like it or not. The "husband/boyfriend" may or may not like the kids. Lets face it, he didn't fall in love with the children. He didn't see them somewhere and think to himself "I LOVE the kids so much that I'm going to find their mother and marry her so I can be their father. It was what I was put on this earth to do!". He may or may not care how they turn out. After all, they're leaving when they turn 18. He does not have the same commitment to their growth that their father would.

He may have no say-so at all, even if it would be helpful. Even if he's given some say-so, it's granted by the mom and remains under her control and can ALWAYS be overridden. He ends up being just one more thing that mom has influence over.

So in the end it's the mom having the final word on EVERYTHING. That is just not the way it's supposed to be; and it's a recipe for disaster. Very few of us can get it right EVERY single time. Everyone makes the wrong decision from time to time. When you make one with a child you may not see the effect for years. That's why having the balance that the traditional parent provides is so important. It's the natural check and balance that nature has provided us.

But what does nature know ...

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Get Your Pitchfork Ready ... You Idiot

It's official ... the political season is upon us. Since I can remember, I've always found the political process objectionable. We are barraged with viciousness that's wrapped in one half-truth after another. Over the past 20 years, political campaigns have become intolerable for me. I expect it to continue to get worse. Why? Because it works; it's as simple as that.

Why does it work? Because there's a segment within our society that's growing at a rapid pace. It spans class, race and education; I call them "knee-jerkers". People so busy with "their lives" that they can't take the time for due diligence when it comes to what they choose to believe. They have become so lazy they blindly pick something or someone to follow. It may be a political party, a TV network, a politician, some talking head on TV or (the part that scares me) anyone spouting the "party line".

Facebook and Twitter have become breeding grounds for "knee-jerkers". The brevity of the posts on these platforms has done nothing but make this situation worse. After all; why check a fact when someone who seems to know what they're talking about posts a 140 word Tweet that you can agree with. Why bother checking out the "facts" only to find out you have been duped and all that rage you have was unfounded?

This topic was brought to my mind by this posting I recently saw on Facebook. It was posted by a comic I have known (we're not friends) since I started. He has 53,000 followers on his Facebook page and 23,000 on his Twitter account. I know him to be a very intelligent man. He is now, and has always been a very political guy; he has a great passion for politics. He incredibly successful.

Along with this meme he posted the following:

in your 60s?

think you were retiring soon?

Not under @JebBush: retirement immediately becomes 70 if he wins.

They hate you, you know. And they want you dead before you see a penny of what you invested in your retirement.

Usually I ignore political stuff. Since I only believe that which I can prove I find reading the opinions of people that have not done their own research is a waste of my time. Every once in while one of these will catch my attention and force me to do a little research. So, when I saw the words "immediately delay retirement for all Americans" on the meme and "Not under @JebBush: retirement immediately becomes 70 if he wins" I felt I needed to check to see if that was true.

It wasn't because I already have an interest in what should be done with social security. Truthfully I feel so removed from the process I just wait to see what happens. What I do have a interest in is finding out if a statement that seems as exaggerated as the one above is true. After all; how is it that the President of the United States can just change social security like that? Something that has been debated and argued about since I can remember without a lot of real change cannot be that easily changed.

Not to mention even I (who has no political savvy) knows that the President can't just change the terms of social security like that. That has to be done by law and it goes through Congress and The Senate. He has no control over either one even if his party is the majority.

So I did a quick fact check on the Internet (which took all of 5 minutes) and found Bush's actual quote. It was the same on more than 20 sites including sites like CNN and MSNBC.

He said this:

I think we need to raise the retirement age, not for people that are already nearing, receiving Social Security, or already on it, but raise it gradually, over a long period of time for people that are just entering the system," Bush said. "And I think we need to do that in relatively short order."

Clearly he has no plans to raise the retirement age to 70 immediately. Clearly no one will lose their social security benefits, nor will anyone that is about to get it have their retirement age changed "immediately" after he takes office.

In short ... it's clearly not true. So why did this well respected comedian post this? Was he fooled? Did he actually know if was false?

The reason is not important. What is important is that on Facebook so far 270 people have liked his post and 198 have shared it. Comments like this one were made by the people following him:

"He is a perfect storm of stupidity. I'm collecting my "entitlement" and if they screw with it I won't be the only one on that bus to start the revolution. I worked 46 yrs and paid into that system and am still paying by working part time to supplement my income. This blow hard can kiss my fat ass."

I'm not here to discuss the merits of Jeb Bush's statement. Nor is it important to me the reason behind why this comedian posted what appears to be an absolute falsehood. I'm more concerned about the FACT that nearly 200 people shared this post as if it were the truth which it clearly was not.

The point of this writing is that it's up to YOU to make sure your beliefs are grounded in truth. Your duty is not to fall for everything you read in social networking or see on TV. Do your own research; check the facts yourself.

All it takes is a couple minutes of reading to keep yourself from looking like a liar or an idiot ...

Friday, April 17, 2015

Make Sure You Check My Spelling

Note: Before you read this I am using the term "bully" very loosely in the blog. These were very poor attempts.

You don't have to be in school to get bullied. Some would say that once you hit a certain age that it may not even be possible any more. You can only be bullied if you allow it to happen. That as an adult you have enough life experience and the ability to avoid such things.

I don't agree and in the past month I've had both in person and cyber bullying attacks. They were both "mild" but I'll have to admit I was surprised that it actually happened.

The cyber bullying was the first and it happened at the end of last month. I was attacked on Twitter by a couple trolls. Trolls are anonymous and that's the was they should stay.

If you've listened to my podcast The Spew you already know that the voice in my head has a very important role. He also has his own Twitter account. It's mostly used to make sarcastic comment to people that I know that "get it" but occasionally he'll tweet at someone who's making news.

The Voice was yacking at Ari Shaffir about his treatment of a fellow comedian. One of his tweets caught the attention of a troll on Twitter.

Let me define what a troll is. It's an account on a site that is set up to be anonymous. It's set up the way so a person can annoy legitimate users and not be held accountable. They attack people from a position of anonymity so the person being attacked has very little information to defend themselves. This kind of thing has been going on on the Internet since it's existence. I've had plenty of run ins with trolls in the past. It's one of the hazards of being online and promoting yourself.

The Tweet that got this particular trolls attentions was:

"@AriShaffir Still no statement on your bit about Damienne Merlina? Who do you think you are? @BillCosby ? @WhatsinaDame @ComedyCentral"

The tweet points out that like Bill Cosby, Ari Shaffir had chosen not to comment on what he did. Pretty simple, it's a pretty easy joke to get.

Then comes this tweet from an anonymous account (which I'm not naming) that says "Seriously? You're comparing Ari Shaffir to a rapist?"

A tweet like that obviously came from someone that is either a fan or looking for a fight or both. I'm happy to debate someone (even a troll) when I have the time or inclination. Add to that The Voice would not let something like that slide so the Voice responded with this tweet:

"@[Deleted] @AriShaffir @BillCosby @WhatsinaDame @ComedyCentral Need I really explain? Neither has commented on the public outcry against them"

Followed by (to complete the thought):

"@[Deleted] @AriShaffir @BillCosby @WhatsinaDame @ComedyCentral They're both comics. Geez ..."

What followed was a Twitter exchange that never really went anywhere. Very early on this troll started correcting my spelling and grammar usage. That is a clear indicator that he (or she) has no real argument and just wants to fight. Plus one of this troll's buddies jumped in and the both of them asked the same ridiculous question for about an hour.

So I just ignored them. I didn't block them and I didn't report them. It took a few days but they both just went away. You may be asking why I chose to ignore them? The short answer is because I know what I'm doing. The longer answer is:

1) Blocking them is validation. In their minds that's a "win"
2) I looked at their accounts, they're idiots and I'm using the term loosely. I'm sure they are "educated". The reason they're idiots is they think they are getting away with something when they clearly are not. Every time they get blocked they are reported. Sooner or later they'll get noticed by Twitter and they'll be purged from the system.
3) If I block them, I won't be able to see their lame attempts at trying to get me to argue with them.

If they were making violent threats I would have done things differently, I would have reported them. But the truth is trolls like this are just a nuisance. They take care of themselves. Ignoring them is the best thing to do.

Now onto case number two ...

It's rare that I get bullied in person. I'm not a small man and my presence can be "imposing". I don't do that on purpose, I just look like a scary biker even though I am far from that.

What makes this incident even stranger is that the attempt  to bully me was made by a woman! Not a young woman either. My guess would be she's in her 50s and based on her accent her name is either Olga or Nadia. She's pretty fit and it's obvious she is some sort of "trophy" wife (maybe 6th or 7th place?) as her husband is a HUGE man with calves the size of a Christmas Ham. Ever see those old war movies with the HUGE old Russian Soldiers? That's the guy!

How would I know what his calves look like? Because my issue with her happened in the pool at my YMCA. It wasn't one time either, there were two. The first one not real bad, the second quickly escalated into something more.

If you follow me or my blog you know that I've been getting my exercise in the pool. Specifically I've been swimming laps. At my YMCA there is only one lane that is partitioned off from the rest of the pool by "lane dividers" which are buoys strung on a rope.

Anyone in that lane is supposed to be doing laps. You can't just float around in there. In fact it's also a rule that you must share the lane if necessary. They don't seem wide enough for that but I've seen it done.

It would be especially difficult for me to share a lane. I do my swimming with a snorkel because of my neck. I can't look forward, it gives me a headache. When I swim I look straight down and follow the line at the bottom of the pool. So if someone else were in the lane, not only would I not see them, I would probably run into them.

So a couple of Saturdays ago I went into the Y to swim and the lap lane wasn't empty, It wasn't being used for laps either. In it was this woman doing water aerobics. Something she could have been doing anywhere else in the pool. The lifeguard on duty was a younger girl who couldn't get her to move out. She just flat out refused, even though  she was clearly violating the usage of the lane.

Since she was refusing to allow anyone else in the lane I ended up waiting 45 minutes in order to use the lane for laps.

While I realize this was not a case of bullying it does show that she has the attitude necessary. She could care less about what other people want and is going to impose her will on others, rules or not. Bullying is not just about taking things from someone else, it's about intimidation.

Things came to a head on Monday. I got to the pool right when it opened for lap swim. I was able to get into the lap lane and had been swimming laps for nearly a half hour when unbeknownst to me her and her husband jumped into the pool.

I also had no idea that she was in the lap lane doing water aerobics as I swam a lap. My first warning was when she kicked me in the face as I passed her.

Fortunately since it was in the water there wasn't much force behind it, so it didn't hurt much. I finished my lap and turned back around and stayed on the opposite side of the lane passing her the next time. I was determined not to allow her to intimidate me. I was also hoping for the lifeguard on duty to intervene and kick her out.

Well that didn't happen and after a couple more laps she moved down the lane to the ledge that is on the deep end of the pool. When I came into that side I saw her with her back to me. I stopped my swimming and had the following exchange with her:

Me: This lane is for lap swimming, not water aerobics

Her: Ignores me

Me: Plus I can't see you because of the way I swim

Her: (turning her head towards me) Maybe you should check your goggles

Me: My goggles have nothing to do with it. You shouldn't be in the lane.

Her: (shrugs her shoulders and turns her back to me)

Me: You're just rude.

At which point I exited the lane and took started using one 2 lanes over. It took me 30 minutes to finish my swim and during that time her husband made it a point to give me the stink eye every chance he had.

Years ago I would have taken the time to swim over and have a nice ugly confrontation with both of them. I'm sure whatever I would have done or threatened would have been enough that they would have steered clear of me. Unfortunately with these people, that would not solve the overall problem. They would just continue to do what they were doing to everyone BUT me. I felt like a better solution would be to make sure they got the message "no more misbehaving".

So I did what any mature adult would do ... I told on them. After I finished my swim I had a long discussion with the lifeguard on duty and the director of the YMCA. Apparently they have been having issues with these people for some time.  Just like everyone else, the staff at the YMCA had talked to about their bad behavior and they had ignored them as well.

In fact, last last time the staff at the YMCA talked to them these people had even threatened to cancel their membership (a staggering $45 a month). I think the YMCA folks were hoping they really would and the problem would just go away. Well that never happened and once these people figured out that nothing was going to be done to stop them they knew they could do whatever they wanted.

That's what put me in the position I was in.

In today's society stupid behavior is tolerated under the auspices of "free speech" and  "individual rights" but the line is drawn at physical violence. Fortunately for me (and unfortunately for them) I had a nice big red red mark on my face.That was enough for the director of the YMCA to take action.

Before these people left they were brought into her office. The rules of the pool and what proper behavior was expected of them when they were at the YMCA.

The end result: The next day they came to the pool and didn't violate the rules. They did manage to give me the stink eye for an hour.

Problem solved ...

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Ari Shaffir A-Hole Extraordinaire

On March 13, 2015 Comedy Central aired a comedy special by comedian Ari Shaffir called "Passive Agressive". I hope you NEVER see it.

Why? Because in it he makes a personal attack against a relatively unknown standup comic Damienner Merlina. He specifically calls her fat, annoying and makes fun of the fact that she has only one arm.

I have taken to the microphone on my various podcasts The Green Room, The Mentorist and The Spew many times stating that a comic should be able to say whatever they want. In the next breath I have also stated that while you can say whatever you want, be prepared to be held accountable for what you said.

I've also written my share of snarky blogs about celebrities and made bad jokes about said celebrities on my podcast. I tell you this so you understand I am no saint. On the other hand, while maybe not done in good taste my comments regarding celebrities were about their public life. If you're going publicize your life (Kardashians, Hiltons, etc) and use that publicity to generate income, you become fair game.

Damienner Merlina does not meet that kind of acid test. What I know about her is that she is a standup comic working on "making it" in Los Angeles. What does that mean? Since I don't know her I can't tell how she's doing or you how good she is. I can only tell you that she is a standup comedian and that in a cursory Google search I can't  find out much about her. I didn't find a web site, didn't find any mentions of her in comedy clubs and I didn't see that she has a podcast. I can only assume she has the same dream that most (if not all) of us that had when we entered in to world of standup comedy. We want to be noticed. We want to work on a stage in front of a crowd that wants to see us. We want to be heard.

Why Shaffir attacked her is beyond my comprehension. It's not like they run in the same circles. They don't compete for the same gigs and from what I can tell MAYBE have met in passing a few times.

As far as I'm concerned what Shaffir did was heinous and here's why.

It's a common thing in the comedy world for comedians to "bust each others balls" but that's not what this was. It was a very personal attack on things he knows will emotional hurt her. Why do I say/know this? Because all comedians have issues with their self esteem, it's a part of what drives us to the stage. It's ours and ours alone to comment on. We own it and we decide on how it is to be used. Shaffir knows this as well as anyone. He knows that what he said would be extremely hurtful, but he didn't care. He had no right to speak about her in that way.

He also is way farther up the comedy ladder than she is. He is pretty well known in the comedy world. He's done some TV, has 13,000 YouTube subscribers (a healthy number) and 110,000 Twitter followers. His podcast "The Skeptic Tank" is pretty popular. He's working pretty regular.

In comparison, I already told you about Damienner Merlina but here are her numbers, 91 YouTube subscribers and 361 Twitter followers.

Yet Shaffir goes on a comedy network and trashes her. We're not talking about a one off comment made on a stage in some club. What he said will be played over and over again. People will BUY this DVD. How is she supposed to fight back? She can't tap into a large network of people that are supporting her to defend herself.

The worst thing about this in my opinion is that this as a standup comic Shaffir like all of us should honor the brotherhood we are ALL in. It's tough to make it in this business no matter what level you are at. He has a clear understanding of that yet still did something that HE KNEW would be personally hurtful to her.

I can only hope that there will be some sort of call to action when it comes to Ari Shaffir. I've have been in the business since 1992 and like everyone I have comedians I don't like, I would never take a shot like this against any of them. There is no room for this kind of behavior in the comedy community. Shaffir should be held accountable.

Watch the video below. It is Damienner Merlina's response to what was said about her. It includes a clip showing what Shaffir said. If it doesn't make you angry, I don't know what will.

Then contact him on Twitter @arishaffir. If you're a subscriber to his podcast, quit downloading it and if you follow him on Twitter, unfollow him. It's the ONLY thing he will understand.

I never thought I'd say this about another standup but he deserves to have his career dragged down. He needs to be made an example of.

Something like this should NEVER happen again ...

Friday, March 27, 2015

You Have a Friend in the Fitness Business

I am constantly amazed by what is available on the Internet. I've been connected with the computer industry since the late 70's.  When I started you paid for nearly everything. Nothing was inexpensive, especially software.

These days, software developers are perfectly willing and able to give you something for free. They work a numbers game that can pay huge dividends if worked correctly. The best example out there right now is Facebook. The company is valued at over 200 BILLION dollars. When was the last time you paid anything for the use of Facebook? Even Microsoft is jumping on the bandwagon. They are planning to release the Windows V10 upgrade to users of Windows 7/8 (legal or not) for FREE. A move no one would have even thought possible as little as 4 years ago.

It used to be when software was "free to me" it was substandard. That you were giving up on the quality of the software or it's features because you weren't paying.

Not any more.

Let me introduce to you a tool I can't live without now that I never thought I needed. I thought an application like this would be too hard to use

A web site? How can a web site, something you need to access with your computer be of any help? Because .com doesn't necessarily mean you can only access it with a computer any more. Right now I have the MyFitnessPal app installed on my Android phone, Ipad and use the web site. There is also an Iphone app (which I used when I had an Iphone) and a Windows mobile app. The only thing there is no app for is Blackberry. Does anyone even use those anymore?

The beauty of MyFitnessPal is how easy it is to use.

I put some screen shots on the left so you can see for yourself how straight forward it is. I started with the app on my phone. The app is free and once downloaded it takes you through a very simple setup process. In the process you put in you overall weight goal.

My starting weight was 309lbs and I set a goal of 200lbs. Then I was asked how many pounds a week I'd like to lose and here's something that says a lot about the program. You can't select more than 2lbs.

That's smart. Slow weight loss means lifestyle change and that's what this app does. It helps you think about what you're eating and how it's going to affect you.

Once you get your information in it is simply a process of entering the things that you eat into the system. That's what I thought would be the hard part. That's the part I never thought would NEVER work for me. What I found was it's actually incredibly easy.

First off, just about anything you can eat is already in the system. Whether you're having a cheeseburger at McDonalds or Green Giant Steamers Baby Brussel Sprouts in Butter Sauce out of your freezer it's already in the system. You can either look it up or point the camera on your device at the bar code on it and it will automatically find it for you. It then pulls up the screen giving you all the information. You tell it how may portions you're eating and it's added.

Here's how extensive it can go.

I happen to be a fan of Mullins Cheese Curds. Mullins is a small cheese company based in Mosinee, Wi. Never heard of Mosinee? I'm not surprised, it's in the middle of nowhere Wisconsin. You can't even buy their cheese online. Go to their web site they only sell in their store or wholesale to stores in Wisconsin. Yet when I scanned their label, all the information on the product came up!

If you look at the screens on the left you'll see that you can keep track of your progress. All you have to do is "feed" the system. It even tracks your exercise and give you credit.

It integrates with the Fitbit, electronic scales and all kinds of other devices. All for NOTHING. There are a few ads but nothing really all that annoying.

Another way to explain it is ... think Facebook for healthy living. That's what they're going for. You have your own profile. You can link to your friends. You can even copy the meal you shared from or to your friend so you don't have to re-enter the information. My wife and I do it ALL the time.

I'm not getting paid for this blog and I get nothing for referring you to them. But I have to say if you are serious about getting your health in order, you need to be using MyFitnessPal.

It's been an integral part of the adjustments I've made in my life. I set my goal at 2lbs a week and have not missed a week yet. February 1, 2015 my weight was 309lbs. As of March 21, 2015 I weighted 294lbs.

Truthfully I've learned so much about what I can, should and shouldn't eat. I can even go big at times. Last Saturday I did an extra hour in the pool, cut down  on my breakfast and a few snacks by just a little and had enough calories for a Little Caesars Bacon Wrap Deep Dish Pizza to literally fill me up!

And I didn't even go over my calorie limit for the day!  That is the way to live my friends!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Back in the Water

I'm not a young man. As much as I hate to say may age (older IS NOT better in the entertainment business), I'll be 58 sometime this year. I grew up in the Midwest and while I my memory has never been great, I can't ever remember not being in the water when I was growing up.

As a child all our vacations revolved around going to a lake. In my earliest years it was in Minnesota, starting in the early 60s it became Big Manistique Lake in Curtis, MI. There is still a boathouse with my name scrawled on one of the old wooden locker doors. Below it every year from 1963 to 1975 is listed. It was 2 weeks in the water every year.

My family home from 1970 - 1978 had an in ground swimming pool. It was 20' x 40' and 8' deep, complete with a pretty good diving board. I hated cleaning that thing ...

But I DID like being in the water and I've always felt very comfortable in the water. In 1968 we lived in Chicago and my parents had the good sense to send me to the High Ridge YMCA every Saturday to take swimming lessons. I was 11 years old and went by myself, my how things have changed.

I would get on the #96 Lunt Ave bus every Saturday morning and ride it for 15 minutes to the YMCA. My mom didn't take me to the stop, I just walked down to the corner and waited for the bus to get there. I can remember a couple times when I was a little late and since the driver was the same every week he actually waited a minute for me while I ran up the block to make it.

Can you imagine letting your 11 year old do something like that today? In Chicago?

Those lessons at the YMCA made me a very proficient swimmer. I never used those skills for exercise, I just was able to "handle myself" in the water. I spent a lot of my free time in the water until I went into the work force. For the most part, my time in the water ended. I spent very little time in the pool for the next 35 or so years. Until the beginning of this year.

I had been in an auto accident March of 2010 that left me in a pretty rough state. Unable to exercise I gained weight which exacerbated my issues. I finally got to a point towards the end 2014 where I felt ready to start exercising. Walking was out of the question and even though I had run marathons before the accident, that was out too. So my only option left was to head to the pool.

My wife and I joined the local YMCA and made the commitment to go 3 days a week. We started in the middle of January and have continued ever since. To my dismay, I was really unable to swim. My issue was not the mechanics, I still could do that. My big issue was breathing. Aside from having to exert myself because of my size and poor physical condition, I was unable to properly breath when I was doing the crawl. My neck is still so stiff I have a difficulty turning my head far enough and fast enough to get enough air to keep going. I couldn't swim half a length of the pool.

So I ended up starting out treading water for 45 minutes at a time. I chose treading water because I had done some research and was surprised to find out that treading water burns a lot of calories! Treading water at a moderate rate burns the same number of calories as  running at 10 minute per mile pace. That meant my 45 minutes was equal to running 4.5 miles! That was the kind of running I used to do daily.

While treading water got me started my goal is to swim laps. At the end of every session I would try to swim a length and by the end of a month and a half I was able to get all the way. It was very frustrating. I felt if I could get my breathing under control I would be able to start swimming. I just couldn't figure out how to get that right.

Click on the image to see more information

Then I found the Finis snorkel! It's actually made for competitive swimmers. They use it to work on their form.

I am no competitive swimmer but what it does do for me is allows me to do the crawl without having to turn my neck to breath. In addition to that I can breath regardless of where I am in my stroke which is also very helpful.

It had an immediate effect for me. I was able to go barely being able to swim 1 length of the pool to getting in 2 1/2 laps.

That may not seem like much to you but if a person in might shape can make a leap like that ... image what a person in decent shape could do.

I'm also going to admit that I did feel a little foolish when I first started using it. I had those feelings of "everyone is looking at me". Those quickly faded away as it has become easier for me to swim laps.

I'm very confident that using this snorkel is going to help me get into shape much faster. Once I get to a point where I'm not struggling so hard to breathe I plan to wean myself off the snorkel. It's a means to and end for me.

So right now I'm spending an hour in the pool at least 3 days a week. I tread water for 55 minutes and swim laps for 5. My plan is to stay at an hour but increase the amount of time I do laps. So far it seems to be working. Today I was able to get 5 laps in without really losing my breath.

My time in the pool along with getting control of my eating is showing some results. On February 1 I weighed in at 309lbs. Last Friday I weighed in at 296lbs. I have had a steady 2lb a week loss since I've been tracking it.

Next blog I'll tell you how I got control of my eating ...

Monday, March 16, 2015

Why You Should Listen to the Spew (Why I didn't quit)

"Squeaky Chicken" from the the first Mentorist Podcast
next to the microphone I use for Podcasting.
The first episode of The Spew was Nov 11, 2010. I had been doing The Green Room since April 2008. By then I felt like I had a pretty good grasp of podcasting. On The Green Room I made sure I was not the story. It was always about the comedian being interviewed.

I felt like it was time to start speaking about myself, that maybe my story might be of interest.

I should have known better, at times my life could be pretty boring. Plus back then I was really not in a great place. I'm sure I was clinically depressed, my finances weren't good and my comedy career was slowly circling the drain. Add to that the fact that I'm actually a pretty private person and can't start any of my stories with "I'd been drinking all day"; I really didn't have much to say.

Just the same I started and have been doing my best to put out something weekly. To some of your credit, you've managed to stay with me ... at times. The journey has not been an easy one. I've floated all over the place with the podcast. At times I did it when I shouldn't. I've even fallen asleep while doing it, all of which I left in. Why? I don't know. "Keeping it real" sounds a little contrived. The truth is I'd rather someone be able to see me for what I am flaws and all. It also gives anyone that's truly interested the chance to see how I got here.

I have to say, here (right now) is a pretty good place.

I'd like to tell you I can remember when the podcast took the turn to where it is today but I don't. It has been over a year now. It wasn't anything that I had planned, it just happened. As the weeks went by, it continued to increase in frequency until it became a regular part of the show. Never planned or scripted, it just happened.

What is "it"?

"It" is the voice in my head or "The Voice" as I call it. "The Voice" among other things is my critical side, my negative side and my angry side.  "The Voice" believes it's my pragmatic side too. The reason is he thinks he's the "smart one". He's a bit of a "know it all" and a "back seat driver". He has an opinion on everything.

The Spew is an "unscripted" podcast, I do very little to prepare. Over the course of the week I write down topics that I want to talk about.  An example would be the topics for this weeks Spew:

Status of The Green Room and The Mentorist

What's going on with this podcast

Mason City
- Open Mic night
- Regular show

Rock & Roll Roulette

- When things go wrong
- Turning up the uncomfortable

I may or may not talk about all of those things. I don't write any scripts or great "one liner's". I sit down in front of the microphone and start talking.  The reason being I want the listener to feel like I am speaking with them. I don't want my words to sound prepared or contrived.

The same thing goes for "The Voice". There is no plan for what he's going to say. It comes out as I'm speaking, there is no preparation. No lines are written or scripted and nothing is pre-recorded. Think about the times in your life when you're doing or saying something and the voice in your head says "this really isn't a good idea"? That's what "The Voice" would say to me out loud.

By allowing "The Voice" to speak on the podcast, I give the listener a look at my fragile side. It's humorous and done without explanation as it happens. It's well worth the listen.

That's how I feel about doing the podcast. In all fairness, I feel like you should also hear from "The Voice". At least then you'll have a better idea of what to expect.

So for the purposes of why you might want to give The Spew a try what follows is what "The Voice" has to say about the podcast.

From "The Voice"

If you read this far I don't know how I can help you. Any normal person would have tapped out by now. I've always said the Vilmos has no business podcasting, now I can say that blogging is not for him either.

While Vilmos would like you to believe that I am a mean busy body know-it-all I can tell you that what I really am is the voice of reason. Let us not forget, I have to hear every single thing that goes through this man's mind. Someone has keep things in perspective. At times telling the truth is difficult but it's something I feel I must do.

So if you do decide to give The Spew a try remember, I'm here for you. It's a thankless job but one I feel needs to be done.

Your welcome!

The Voice

In conclusion.

I've been saying for some time now that The Spew is the most unique podcast on the Internet. No one else is doing what I am. That in itself should be enough of a reason for you to give it a listen.

Thanks in advance if you do!

Listen to The Spew episode this about here

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Just When I Thought I Was Out

Last week on my podcasts The Green Room and The Mentorist I announced that I would be ending both those podcasts along with my personal podcast The Spew. It was something that I had been thinking about for months.

In the 2 weeks leading up to the announcement I had not done my personal podcast The Spew. When the time came to record, I just didn't have it in me. I didn't realize it at the time but I had been pushing through The Green Room and The Mentorist for a while. Mostly because my cohosts Paul Curtis and Super Listener Scott Walker were expecting me to show up. Both have become friends and are very capable podcasters.

If I'm going to be honest, for those 2 weeks I hadn't done The Spew I was done with the other two; even though I didn't realize it at the time. Once that moment of clarity came to me, I thought I knew exactly what I needed to do.

I contacted Paul and Scott and explained what was going on. They were both extremely gracious and while they were both disappointed,  they understood. So we made the announcements on this past weeks episodes; next week both podcasts will have their final episode.

Which left The Spew, how was I going to end that?  Or was it already ended? Should I do a final show? I wasn't sure what to do, maybe I should just let it drift away, having no final show.

Since I was ending The Green Room I felt like I needed to get in touch with the other hosts on GreenRoomRadio web site. I didn't want them to think I was going to close down the site. When I talked with Geno Bisconte the (host of Geno's Pics) he voiced his disappointment in the ending of The Spew. Geno has alway been a fan of the show and didn't want to see me quit doing it. I had also received the same sentiment Scott Walker.

While I appreciated the sentiment, it didn't change my mind. I went about the business of doing the 2nd to last episodes of The Green Room and The Mentorist. Both shows went like they normally do and I'll admit I'm looking forward to the final shows this week. Not because it will be over. They will both be a little difficult, what I'm actually looking forward to is doing some reminiscing.

Then this past weekend I started thinking ... maybe I shouldn't quit doing The Spew. I'll tell you why in my next entry.