Hot Tubs, Money and Health

“Oh, okay. So I guess you came here in a Hot Tub Time Machine, too.” – Hot Tub Time Machine 2

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A homemade cocoon for our first hot tub.  Notice the used insulation – true Alaska!

It was twenty years ago today . . . oh, wait, that’s Sergeant Pepper . . . in my case it was closer to nineteen years ago . . .

I had just been paid the biggest bonus that I’d ever gotten.  It had been a good year, and I managed a high profile project well – I’d saved the company several million dollars while bringing it in on time.  I had a great, supportive, guru boss (this is both good and bad) who had solid numbers to take to the higher-ups to support his case.  Awesome!

Also awesome was that, after taxes, the bonus could pay down approximately 1/3 of the credit card debt I had at that time.  I had been at the point in my life where I was trying to keep my head above water after a divorce, and credit cards had been a stop gap.  The Mrs. and I sat on the couch in the upstairs living room, as the Sun shined its last golden rays of the day into the room, providing a soft, mellow glow.  We argued about the merits of choosing to pay down the debt, versus other options.  We spent several hours discussing it.

So, The Mrs. and I sat, and made the momentous decision that . . . forget the debt, we’re getting a hot tub.

I know that this is probably not what your financial advisor would suggest you do, unless your financial planner was a twenty-eight year old with a short attention span who lived in his parent’s basement so he could save his money to buy even more weed.  It was a horrible, frivolous decision.  And it was one that I have never regretted.

Not only did we get a hot tub, we got the full-blown Sundance™ party hot tub – seats eight.  We even custom ordered it to match the same colors as our house.  When it arrived several weeks later we moved out of the house and into the tub.  I exaggerate.  We still went into the house for showers.

When we moved to Alaska, we took the hot tub with us.  I eventually encased it in an outer cocoon of plywood and insulation, so even when it was -55˚F outside, the tub didn’t freeze, and didn’t cause the meters at the power plant to spin at light speed.

Our house in Central Midwestia was a great place to hot tub, but if there’s a truly awesome place to hot tub, it’s Alaska.  The Mrs. and I would sit out in the tub for hours watching the aurora borealis write physics equations in the sky in particle, ions, and color.  The aurora would move and undulate, lasting (on a good night) hours as the rivers of light threaded through the sky.  We’ve had a hot tub at every house we’ve lived at, although we never used the one we had in Houston, since . . . it was Houston.

I think that buying that first hot tub was a good decision for two reasons:  we got out of debt, but we did it slowly, and with discipline.  That was good to teach us to live within our means and be frugal, unless I really, really needed those night-vision goggles.

But this isn’t a post about finance, that’s Wednesday’s topic.  Today’s is health . . . and, like apple cider vinegar, hot tubs appear to also be amazingly good for you under most circumstances:

Hot tubs appear to make the following things better:

  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Aurora Viewing* (Offer Void Outside Alaska)
  • Stress (lowers it)
  • Sleep (makes it better)
  • Blood Pressure (lowers it)
  • Migraine Frequency and Intensity (lowers it – I’ve never had one – it’s working!)

I think the other nice thing is that nobody has a laptop or an iPad™ or a Palm Pilot© in the tub – we’re forced to spend time with . . . us.  And that’s good for overall family life.

On the flip side, people mentioned these negative health consequences:

  • Infections from unsanitary hot tubs (In my experience this would be hard to do.)
  • Birth defects (I’ll abstain when pregnant.)
  • Lower sperm count (No comments here.)
  • Heart issues (But, isn’t that every darn thing??)
  • Chlorine over-exposure (see below)

I have had personal experiences with the chlorine, especially early on nineteen years ago when learning how to chemically treat the tub.  At one point, my hot tub had nearly the same chlorine gas content as last seen during trench warfare in France.

Most recently The Mrs. bought a swimming-pool sized chlorinator for the hot tub because there might be 50 hot tubs within 20 miles, Wal-Mart doesn’t stock any hot-tub sized chlorinators.

This aircraft carrier sized chlorine-berg treats approximately 100 times the volume of water as the hot tub on its lowest setting.  The deceptive danger from this chlorinator is that as it sits and bobs in the tub, it’s releasing chlorine into the water, and not a whole lot comes out as gas, so the water doesn’t smell like chlorine.

I got into the tub for a bit after the chlorinator had been sitting in there for about 48 hours.  Pretty soon I felt like I was getting prickly heat (if you’ve never had it, it’s the feeling of pins and needles from when you go from cold to hot).  The way that you solve prickly heat is to . . . wait it out.  Seventeen minutes later, I determined it wasn’t prickly heat, but an actual chemical burn from the chlorine in the tub forming hydrochloric acid and eating my skin.  On the plus side?  I got a rad chemical peel of the type that New York women pay the big bucks for.

One website went as far as recommending no more than five minutes in a hot tub.  I regularly spend several hours in one, but not several hours at 104˚F.  More like 102˚F.  Meh.

So, a bad financial decision is sometimes a great life decision.  Maybe some Beatles in the tub tonight?

 

PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF EVERYTHING YOU HOLD DEAR TALK TO SOMEONE SANE BEFORE FOLLOWING ANY ADVICE HERE.  Can’t you tell by the stories that I’m not to be trusted on certain topics?

Weight Loss Plateau, Exercise, Apple Cider Vinegar

“It gladdens me to know that Odin prepares for a feast.  Soon I shall be drinking ale from curved horns.  This hero that comes into Valhalla does not lament his death.  I shall not enter Odin’s hall with fear.  There I shall wait for my sons to join me.  And when they do, I will bask in their tales of triumph.  The Aesir will welcome me!  My death comes without apology! And I welcome the Valkyries to summon me home!” – Ragnar, Vikings

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Miley Cyrus after some bronzing and a bit of weight loss.

 

What’s the ugliest word in the English language to a person who is losing weight?

Plateau.

Plateau came from the French, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary (LINK), and first entered into the English language just a decade before when Napoleon was on his Russian Winter Vacation (hint: no land wars in Russia – Napoleon started with about 500,000 French troops on his joy ride to Moscow, and when he crossed back into France he was down to 27,000).

The first recorded use of plateau in the sense dieters dread (The stage at which no progress is apparent) was in 1897, the same year that John D. MacArthur, whose foundation gives out the MacArthur Genius Grant (HINT HINT!), was born.

Plateau comes from the Greek word “platys” which means “flat, wide, and broad.”  Wide and broad are the last adjectives a dieter wants to hear, since those are generally the adjectives that started the diet in the first place.  Taken together, “flat, wide, and broad” also describe my first girlfriend, but I digress.

Every time I’ve lost weight, I’ve ended up at a plateau (or two, or three) on my way down.  I don’t seem to have the plateau problem on the way up, or if I have, I’ve never managed to really notice it because the scale is covered in melted rocky-road ice cream dripping from my chin.  And, as plateaus go, this one isn’t horrible, I’m still pleased with the overall weight loss.  But it is a marked decrease when compared to the earlier rate, when pounds were dropping faster than Kathy Griffin supporters.

I credit some of the earlier losses to water.  One think I’ve noted about the Aktins/Primal lifestyle is that two days or so after I stop eating carbohydrates, my weight takes a significant bump downward, which I attribute either constant prayer to the Norse god Wåysfyärläëss (wears furs, has a wolf and a book containing the carbohydrate content of Norse cuisine) or, more than likely, a drop in pure water weight because I’m no longer digesting carbs.

The second place I lose water is working out, and they sure have noticed at the gym, since they’ve installed an intricate drainage system around the stair climber I normally use.  They also are building a vaguely ark-like think near the climber, and the staff runs for life preservers when I wring out my headband . . .

Emotionally, the early, big success helps you a lot.  It shows that your efforts really do pay off, that the sacrifice of time, sweat, and sweat chocolate ice cream is worth it.  But in the last few weeks I’ve lost the equivalent weight of clothing that Mylie Cyrus normally wears (like an ounce).  The change in Jupiter’s gravitational impact on me between night and day is more than that.

From XKCD, reminding me that little changes add up.

I’ve hit plateaus before, and used a variety of techniques to get through them, but hacking off limbs is painful and has a bit of an air of desperation about it.  I did some research, and there are some things I’ve started/going to try that I thought I’d share:

  1. Change Up My Cardio – I had been climbing more virtual stairs than the number of times that Stairway to Heaven was played in 1978, but at a constant, Clydesdale pace.

This week I’ve changed it up and am doing interval training, doing four minutes my Clydesdale pace, and one minute like a greyhound.  An old greyhound.  With hip problems.  But, this one change (four minutes medium and one fast, repeat 6+ times) has already increased my stair climbing number by 43% in terms of the number of floors climbed.  43%!  Now, I should be increasing my output and going up farther and faster, I weigh less, right?  But 43% is a lot.  And it feels good.

 

Verdict:  Yup.  This will help break the plateau, but the gym folks are now digging a sweat moat.

 

  1. More Sleep – Studies have shown that people who get less than six hours of sleep a night lose less weight on a diet than those who get eight hours of sleep.

I’ll never average more than 8 hours of sleep a night until I retire.  Never.  Work happens during the day, and my boss wants me there . . . in the morning.  Ugh.  My mind has different ideas, though, and I hit my creative peak in the evening.  I will put in an effort to get more sleep than the six hours I’m averaging now.  But life is really spelled T-I-M-E.  I just have all the time I want, even now.

True Wilder Story:

I went up to my friend, Madge, and said, “I’m so tired, I’m just wondering if something is wrong with me?”

Madge:  “What time did you go to bed?”

John Wilder:  “2AM.”

Madge then, after slugging me, patiently explained that sometimes tired is a symptom of “not sleeping enough,” whatever that is, and perhaps the ultimate cure was sleep.

Why sleep when there’s caffeine?  Silly Madge.

Verdict:  I’ll try, but . . . sleep is for the weak.

  1. Re-fanaticize About Calories – As time progresses, sometimes lifestyle changes start to slip a little backwards . . . I’m not talking about burying my face into a full box of donuts, but there is part of my mind that likes to pretend that Bud Light® and a single slice of pizza doesn’t have any carbs.

Verdict:  Back on it with a passion.

  1. Vitamin C – One website (one) that I reviewed thought that since vitamin C is an anti-oxidant that somehow it does something that might slow weight loss. It was boring, so I can’t remember.  Heck, maybe I slipped into a coma.

Verdict:  I’ll keep this one in my back pocket for now.  Maybe if the plateau doesn’t break in June . . .

  1. Apple Cider Vinegar – Wow. Not sure how I missed this one.  I could do an entire post about the supposed benefits of this stuff.  The websites mention that the apple cider vinegar should be unpasteurized, unfiltered, and unboxed.  Wait, the unboxed is a Sammy Hagar album.  I was a bit skeptical about the unboxed part, thinking it might come in a used one liter Miller beer bottle, but, no, Heinz sells the stuff, too, so it seems legit?  Some claims about Apple Cider Vinegar:
    1. Helps with upset stomach
    2. Cures hiccups
    3. Soothes a sore throat
    4. Kills cancer cells???? (everything does in a petri dish)
    5. In a 2006 study – Lowers Cholesterol
    6. Aids in weight loss by suppressing appetite and increasing metabolism
    7. Clears acne
    8. Controls blood sugar, especially in pre-diabetic patients
    9. Whitens teeth (SERIOUSLY – DON’T DO THIS! IT WILL DISSOLVE YOUR TEETH.)
    10. Prevents metabolizing starches (not all carbs, like sugars, but somehow slows down metabolizing of more complex carbs)

Verdict:  Wow.  E, F, H and J are amazing, if true.  D would be amazing, but sounds bogus to me.  I’ve started taking some of this morning and night and now kinda smell like a salad.  Doesn’t seem to be a downside except causing my teeth to turn into a crumbly calcium paste.  We’ll see?

I’m pretty sure that the weight loss dam will break in the next week or so, or else I’ll have to pull up the stone altar to Wåysfyärläëss that I put in the backyard and apologize to the neighbors about the wolf and the chanting and drinking of mead late into the night.

Wait, Mead doesn’t have calories, does it?

Nah.  On to Valhalla!

Okay, I’m reminding you again – I am NOT a medical doctor, though once the MacArthur Fellowship comes in I’m thinking of becoming a Podiatrist, because feet need love, too – SO DON’T CONSIDER THIS MEDICAL ADVICE OR DO ANYTHING WITHOUT DISCUSSING WITH YOUR OWN PHYSICIAN.

Diets Don’t Work, Systems Do

The goal is getting from Point A to Point B as creatively as possible, so, technically, they are doing parkour as long as Point A is “delusion” and Point B is “the hospital.” – The Office

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The view out of the back of Stately Wilder Manor. We’re horrible neighbors to those poor people. 

“Such as are your habitual thoughts, such will also be the character of our mind.” – Marcus Aurelius

I’ve been a person who has used goals as a motivator and scorecard all of my life, and then comes Dilbert creator Scott Adams to tell me I’m doing it all wrong.  Adams writes about systems, and how they’re preferable to goals, and I’ve written about him writing about systems before (LINK).

But, you’re thinking, “Friday is a day for Health topics, John Wilder, and you’re blathering on about systems versus goals.  Have you lost the plot, man?”

Well, no.  This week I read something that was pretty eye opening:

Most Diets Fail.

The data shows a stark wasteland:  somewhere between 65% and 95% of dieters regain all of their weight (and most get a bonus of an even higher weight rebound) within three years.  All of their weight.

Wow.

One researcher noted (LINK to Traci Mann) the reason that diets failed is because the entire biology of the person losing weight fights against them like a rabid Rottweiler tugging on a crate of Slim Jims®.  The body responds with things like a slower metabolism, and significantly higher hunger pangs, since after you start losing weight, your body starts fighting back with more signals that you’re starving, even as you are still 20 pounds more than you weighed in college.

And that makes sense.  Your body is made to survive.  All of the people who were losing chunks of body weight and thought, “Oh, this is fine,” died.  No kids.  And those most likely to live through a famine?  People who can slow their metabolism and get really focused on finding chow.

So, you’re hungry, and your metabolism slows.  You need willpower to fight, right, and you’ll win?

Seriously, do you think Oprah Winfrey, a self-made billionaire and likely one of the smartest 0.001% of Americans, is lacking in willpower?

No, she isn’t.

Further, the willpower of dieters is subject to distraction in ways that non-dieters can’t imagine.  Somebody brings donuts to work?  You don’t have to just resist them the first time someone says, “Hey, John Wilder, would you love a nearly perfect mixture of fats and sugars, covered in powdered sugar and filled with lemon pudding?”

YES I DO!

But I say no.

And when the donuts go onto the counter in the break room near the precious, precious coffee?  I have to sit and deal with their lemon-stares all day long.

To successfully resist, I have to say “no” the first time, and again, “no” every time the temptation is available.

(Once coping method I use to reduce desire for the wonderful thing that is donuts?  I imagine someone was picking their nose and then putting their sweaty fingers on all of the donuts.  Then they don’t look so pretty anymore.)

Again, unless I say “no” every single time that temptation raises its pretty donut face, I lose, but I also understand that, regardless of all of the physical facts associated with hormones, metabolism, and hunger, the person holding the fork is still . . . me.

Some dieters succeed.  Why?

We previously talked about change (LINK) the emotions that drive it, but changing a lifestyle is like changing a habit.

The successful dieters transition from diets being a goal, and making it a system or a value and no longer a goal.  Let’s say your goal is to weigh 120 pounds.  And you get there.  Now what?  Eat whatever you want?  That’s what caused the problem in the first place.

To win, you have to have a system.

And that’s why I hate cheat days.  I mean I hate them because they destroy entirely the results that I’m looking for in a diet.  It undermines the habit I’m creating by saying, “Hey, John Wilder, it’s cool if you want to put a gallon of pudding in your armpits, and eat another gallon.  It’s a cheat day.”

For me, a cheat meal on Saturday turned into a cheat meal plus a cheat lunch, plus a cheat lunch on Sunday, and, well, why not a cheat Sunday dinner.  It legitimized the concept that I could eat ANYTHING at that time and, well, another meal couldn’t hurt that much more, right?

No, a cheat meal is a planned failure for a system, because it idolizes the exact habits you’re trying to eradicate.  Moderation is not my fried, and, looking at the people who actually have lost and kept the weight off?  There’s nothing moderate about them.  They’re fanatical, and driven by the burning desire to change.

So they develop a system, or at least the winners do.  For the rest of us?  Pudding, anyone?

Good Work, Significance, and First Break All the Rules

“We’re put on this earth to do a job.  And each of us gets the time we get to do it.  And when this life is over and you stand in front of the Lord . . . well, you try tellin’ him it was all some Frenchman’s joke.” – Fargo (Series) 

DSC03481The Boy on his day job, attacking dragons, lions, and the French.  He’s pretty good with that, since we haven’t seen any of those around here recently.

Nothing has a greater influence on the well-being of a man than the work he does and how significant it is.  Studies have shown that doing good, significant work increases testosterone levels, decreases anxiety, decreases depression, and increases the likelihood of developing super powers, like fingernails that grow on command, or advanced control of nostril hair.  I’m just kidding – decreased anxiety, how ludicrous!

I know you’re thinking, “John Wilder, how can you make such an outrageous claim!” but I assure you, thousands of scientists have been working for decades just to prove me right.  Oh, and Gallup, Incorporated® did an actual study that proved exactly what I’m saying.

Their study came out in the book, First Break All The Rules.  You can buy it (and I do recommend this book) here .  (Full disclosure, at some point I might get around to monetizing these links, but as of the date of this posting, not yet.)

The authors, Buckingham and Coffman (like many business book authors) manage to pack a decent five pages worth of material into the current edition’s 368 pages.  Also, other folks (consultants) glom on to it with, I’m sure, tests, powerpoints, websites, charts, and four day training courses in Orlando in the off season, complete with a coffee bar and a buffet lunch with an added spousal event where the spouses go and tour Epcot, get to take a photo with Walt Disney’s frozen corpse, and drink mojitos all day long.

But back to the book . . .

The book is based on 1.5+ million hours of interviews with over 80,000 managers over the span of years.  Gallup then looked at which of these businesses were highly productive and profitable, and, rather than come up with a theory, just looked at what the data said about these high-performing organizations.  What came out of it were 12 questions that determined employee engagement.  Crazy idea – if employees are engaged at work, the place gets profitable?

What sort of sorcery is this?

Here are the 12 questions, and it’s important to note that they are in order.  The first question matters more than question 12.  I know that there are those of you who say all questions should be equal, and they are.  Some are just more equal than others.

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work? This one is top of the list. 

I’ve had managers who give you a desk and say, go do it.  What is “it”?  Nope, the only thing you see is a contrail as they head away from your desk at nearly lightspeed.  Then you’re left guessing at what “it” is.  This turns work into an eternal game of “warmer”/”colder”, assuming that your boss even gives you that kind of feedback.

I’ve also had bosses who say – “go fix the thing – I don’t care what you do, just don’t break the law or spend more than $10,000,000.”  Those are actually really clear expectations.  I like bosses like that.  And they like me.

  1. Do I have the material and equipment to do my work right?

If you know that you’re in charge of the Canadian space program (Is it called CASA?) and they expect you to create a manned space expedition to Mars within ten years, eh, you certainly have clear expectations.  But if they only give you two dog teams, some moosehides, and the retired Mounties from Saskatchewan, well, you’re going to be as frustrated and conflicted as a vegan poodle in a butcher shop.

  1. Do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?

 I can recall finishing a project (it took 45 straight 12 to 16 hour days) and watching as the last piece went into place.  What I did in those 45 days was what I do best – and it was wonderful, and I was in the zone.  I saved my company tens of millions of dollars.

But I’ve also been in the job where I was tasked with correctly folding up manufacturing drawings.  Yay!  More folding!  But, within two months I was doing research for the company (and, accidently recreated Soviet research into the perfect railroad tie).  It got better.

However, there are places where you’ll never get to do what you do best.  Imagine Seth Rogan teaching physics to high school students?  Yeah, that probably isn’t where he’d be best used, unless the class was really titled: “The Physics of Marijuana, Dude.”  At some point, if the company can’t use what you do best, you’ve gotta hit the rip cord and bail out of there (the preceding does not constitute parachuting advice nor parachute training).

These first three form a triad – they speak to having clear purpose, tools, talent and using them all to create value.  This is food for the soul of the deepest level.  If you have these three elements at work, you are happy at work, and generally also happy at home.

The other elements are also important, but decrease in importance as we go:

  1. In the last seven days, have I received praise or recognition for good work?

Most of us are people (technically The Boy isn’t, since he is an android sent from the future to destroy the popularity of Justin Beiber by bombarding Beiber’s brain with dank Twitter memes) and people like to have their good points brought up.  Funny, huh?

  1. Does my supervisor or someone at work care about me as a person?

Ditto.  I like to work with people that want me to keep breathing.  It’s nice when you walk in and have a cup of coffee with a coworker and they genuinely pretend to being interested in my boring life.  Your mileage may vary, but still not as important as doing important work well, though it can be a partial substitute if your employer is slowly eating your soul.

  1. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?

I think that no matter our age, we all want to improve, do better, and want the advice of people we respect to help us grow, because those are people that can become our mentors.  Not Mentos™.  Mentors.  They are different things, though both can be minty.

  1. At work, do my opinions count?

I’m sorry – I wasn’t listening?  Did you say something?

  1. Does the mission or purpose of my company make me feel that my job is important?

Let’s pretend that all the questions above this are answered with YES!  In that case, you’re probably happy, unless your job requires you to grind kittens into Kitten Chow™.

That’s how it’s made, right?

  1. Are my coworkers committed to quality work?

If the people you work with do bad work, goof off, or are in some other way not contributing, I know you don’t like it, because if you’re reading this, you’re smarter and have great character and probably don’t need deodorant because your body gives off a faint scent of sandlewood whenever you sweat.  But if your coworkers are trolls from the reject pile that do work like poo flinging monkeys?  Yeah, takes a bit out of your pride of doing work.

On the plus side?  You’d think you’d get a good performance review, unless your boss is threatened by you and your genius and natural sandlewood smell.  Then you’ll get a review that says you don’t fling enough poo.

An aside at an appropriate place:  Pugsley just told me, “For a writer, you’re a pretty good typist.”  Thanks, pal.

  1. Do I have a best friend at work?

Not a killer if you don’t, but really nice if you do.  When you go home, explaining to your spouse the poo flinging monkeys that you have to deal with at work is like explaining to Albanian lawyers (who have offices in a strip mall) how a photocopier works.  Frustrating at best.  Amusing when the Albanian Strip Mall Lawyers go at the copier with pliers and some Allen wrenches left over from an Ikea© bookcase assembly.  (Spoiler alert: the NEVER ACTUALLY FIX it, but they go at it with gusto!)

Is it just me, or did anyone else ever assemble an Ikea bookcase and end up with a functional hovercraft?

Oops – big digression.  Having a friend at work makes you want to stay there.  Duh.

  1. In the last six months, has someone talked to me about my progress?

Getting toward the end (keep in mind, less important as we go down) – this is a variation on point 6 – the concept that humans want to be more effective and to have someone they respect tell them how well they’re doing.  Honestly, that’s what we want – someone to tell us how awesome we are.  It is a rare person who wants actual truth.

And, as a manager, after a long time doing it?  I gave ‘em both barrels in annual reviews.  Full on truth.  But HR was getting none of that truth – HR exists to justify why you fire employees and reduce their benefits to those of a typical Botswanan goatherd, so when you ding an employee on a review, they start circling like high school students around a dank meme.

Don’t give them that dank meme!  (Also, would someone please tell me what a dank meme is?)

Urban Dictionary says:

“Dank Memes” is an ironic expression used to mock online viral media and in-jokes that have exhausted their comedic value to the point of being trite or cliché. In this context, the word “dank,” originally coined as a term for high quality marijuana, is satirically used as a synonym for “cool.”

So, now you know.

  1. In the last year, have I had the opportunity to work and grow?

I have had that opportunity!  Most of the growth, unfortunately, was due to Pop Tarts©.  So, Pop Tarts™ were introduced in 1964.  Winston Churchill® died in 1965.  Coincidence?  No.  The carby goodness of Pop Tarts© was created to kill world leaders.  Avoid the trap!  Especially the strawberry ones.

As a set of questions for leaders to gauge the environment they create?  Priceless.  These 12 questions are wonderful in that respect.  Every leader should strive to create an environment where they get the most out of their employees, not only because it benefits the business, it also benefits the employee.

Whew.

I have at least two more topics that are directly related to this, and I’m over 1900 words on this post right now.

Okay.  I give up.

This is my first unanticipated two or more part post.  In the near future?  IQ and the workplace of the future.  Not that this will be an important topic to anyone.  Or, really, everyone.

Okay, really, it is everyone who will be impacted by this, we’re on to a trend that will determine all of future life for humans in Western civilization for at least the next 80 years.  But that’s too scary to think about right now.

So now?  I’m just going to make my fingernails grow like crazy!

 

You Can’t Cheat the Scale

“Dad, before you blame the dryer, have you ever considered stepping on the bathroom scale?” – Frasier

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Pugsley, after a particularly bad binge a decade or so ago . . .

One of the things that I do to keep myself motivated while exercising is to watch Youtube videos about people who’ve done amazing things.  I do this while I climb endless stairs to nowhere at the gym while the sweat runs down me like money through a government agency.

Now, keep in mind, there’s a component of survivor bias associated with these videos.  I have yet to see a video put together by someone who said:

“I started this diet at 245 pounds, and finished at 260 pounds plus now Nutrasystem® owns my spleen and just sold it to a Chinese billionaire to pay for all of the food I ate – I’m an utter failure.  Oh, and my wife left me for Mickey Rourke.”

No, those videos don’t get made.  And is it just me that I think that Mickey Rourke might smell like dried leather and day-old potato salad?  Unrefrigerated potato salad.

So, I watch these videos.  At ten weeks in, sometimes motivation is about as high as a Baptist teetotaler on temperance Tuesday, especially after having climbed over nine vertical miles.  A quote from one of the videos struck me – it was Penn Jillette (I’ve talked about him earlier, here) talking about his weight loss.  And his comment wasn’t the point he was trying to make, it was just an aside:  “I don’t know how much I weighed.  No one weighs themselves at their heaviest.”  This really made me pay attention.  And think.  Wow.  That is a really profound truth.

Why is that so profound?

My theory is that our brains create reality distortion fields that allow us to ignore certain things, or mark them as insignificant.  Then it hit me.  I can ignore or get used to the way I might look in a mirror, but I cannot ignore the actual weight shown on the scale.  I can’t hide from it, I can’t explain it away.

The second data point was that Penn posted his weight to his friends as he, quite single mindedly, proceeded to lose the weight equivalent of a fifth grader.  Penn posts to his friends, I post to Batman.

I wrestled when I was in high school, and one of the rituals was weighing in.  To be able to compete, you have to be at or under the weight that you’re planning on wrestling at.  They weighed us in on a balance scale, like you used to see in the doctor’s office.  If the weights balanced, you passed.  One of the junior varsity wrestlers (I’ll call him “Steve,” because his name is “Steve”) was just barely over on the weight, as close as I’d ever seen.  One of the other wrestlers noticed that Steve was chewing gum (helps you spit, so you can lose weight that way, too).

“Hey, Steve, take out your gum.”  Steve took out his gum and stepped back on the scale.  With the gum still in his hand.

Some kind soul convinced Steve that perhaps the gum weighed just as much in his hand as in his mouth, and he threw it away . . . and made weight.

Numbers on a scale can’t be cheated.  They’re objective.  They’re real.  And saying “The extra weight is really muscle” only works if you’re Vin Diesel.  Or Chad Kerosene.

My weight is a fact, and as a fact, it’s the number one way to destroy the pretty little lies that my brain cooks up to tell me everything’s fine the way it is.  John Wilder’s Brain:  “You don’t want to be hungry.  You don’t want to work hard.  You like pie.”  Mostly true.  I rather enjoy working hard, but really do like pie.

Eliminating Variation

I’ve tried to pick a day and time to minimize fluctuations and also the opportunity for me to tell myself more lies.  In past weight loss iterations, I’ve picked the low weight of the week, and just recorded that in my spreadsheet, but now, I’m all about first thing Friday morning.

I’ve noticed the following things make my weight vary.  By vary, of course, I mean be higher:

  1. Carb Intake. I’ve noticed that the amount of carbohydrates that I eat impact how much I weigh.  I’m certain that ties back directly to the amount of water my body can get rid of if I’m not trying to digest carbohydrates.
  2. Work Outs. If I’ve not been able to work out, again, there’s a lot of water that remains in the system.
  3. Recent Food Intake.  Duh.
  4. Phase of the Moon. Sometimes you step up on the scale and . . . huh?  How did that happen?  This (for me) is a pleasant surprise about half the time.

And how are things going?  Pretty well.  I’ve (consciously) varied from diet and exercise during Spring Break (wooo, party!) and for Pugsley’s birthday party.  That really points out the impact of carbs on my system.  They have no real positive effect, and I find my energy, motivation, and even mood are better when I’ve been avoiding carbs.  As part of a systems approach (more on that soon!) carbs are something I’m leaving out.

Every Thursday, I have the folks at the gym take a picture.  I’m planning on having The Boy stitch them together to a time-lapse when I’m where I want to be.  As it is, the improvement is noticeable.  And it has to be.

I’m thinking that Mickey Rourke is sniffing around The Mrs.

But she’s sure to smell him first.

Diet, then Exercise. Diet first. Atkins and Paleo work.

Yep, I don’t need food anymore. Just water, maple syrup, lemon juice and cayenne pepper.-Veep

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Visited this Denny’s before the Russians built a Denny’s at the North Pole.

Historically, I had been able to bring down/control my weight by exercise alone.  In fact, at the age of 18, I was singly responsible for 80% of McDonalds® pre-tax profit.  A sample order:

  • One Big Mac®
  • Two Cheeseburgers
  • One Large Fries
  • Make that Two Large Fries
  • Nine Pack of Chicken McNuggets© with Hot Mustard Sauce
  • Make Sure You Put in THREE Sauce Packs
  • A Cherry Pie
  • No, Make that Two Cherry Pies
  • Large Orange Drink.

I would then look at my date and ask if she wanted anything.  I did learn that high school girls like a healthy eater, or were perhaps amazed to see such a consumption event.

When I was between 15 and 19 I could eat like this each and every night, and not fluctuate too much during the school year, and I wasn’t fat, either.  Now the easiest part of almost any daily workout started with a quarter mile run.  During an average workout, I’d sweat out about a gallon of water.  That 7.48 pounds of water.  Or sixteen metric beers.  In reality, one of our coaches said that a day of our practice made boot camp in the 70’s look easy, so we were really working hard.

Fast forward to early dates with the Not Yet The Mrs.  We visited her hometown, and were walking down Main Street.  We took a left hand turn into a bakery and inhaled the smell of just baked sugar cookies on a spring day.  She smiled at the aroma as the memories came flooding in.

It is now that I have to come to a shameful admission:  The Mrs. has a drug problem.  If she doesn’t take a certain drug, she starts sweating, and if none is administered, eventually withdrawal symptoms will kill her.

I’m speaking of insulin.

At the tender age of eleven, The Certainly Not Yet The Mrs. was diagnosed with Type I diabetes.  Type I diabetes is not the “addicted to Twinkies® and chubby and insulin seems to not work anymore” but rather the “pancreas has left the building and no longer produces insulin type.”  She actually slugged me in the upper arm the first time I looked her in the eye and told she should deal with her addiction.

You see, insulin is absolutely required for your body to turn sugar into the gasoline that runs your cells.  If you don’t have enough insulin (or in the case of The Mrs. ANY insulin) your blood will turn to maple syrup, and you will become a zombie Canadian, and start to like hockey.  And eat brains.

No, I’m kidding.

Why I Owe The Canadians for The Mrs.

Without insulin you’ll die.  And that happened routinely before insulin was isolated in the early 1920’s.  By Canadians.

In October 1920, Canadian Frederick Banting concluded that . . . (it was Insulin). He jotted a note to himself: “Ligate pancreatic ducts of the dog. Keep dogs alive till acini degenerate leaving islets. Try to isolate internal secretion of these and relieve glycosurea.” – Via Wikipedia, kinda

No one knows what that means.

But Banting figured out how stop the hockey-loving zombies by illustriously isolating islet insulin in at totally tubular test tube.  And, thus 90 years later, allowing The Mrs. to not have maple syrup for blood.  Oh, and to live and stuff.  Even with the insulin, however, a Type I diabetic has to watch what and when they eat, so they don’t temporarily spike their blood sugar and turn zombie.

When The Mrs. was growing up, her parents sent her to “Diabetic Camp,” which is (by her description) a cross between hell and un-air conditioned hell where they have no candy.  Well, they have candy, but it’s made from coal-tar extract and pebbles instead of sugar.   They learned how to be diabetic.

Back to the Story

So, we made that left turn into the bakery in her home town, and bought a cookie.  As we walked out, she said, “My Mom figured out that I was buying cookies here during lunch when I was in Junior High after I became diabetic.  She said, ‘You’re digging your grave with your teeth, girl,’ and I always remembered that.”

Although The Mrs. has very good teeth, I could not imagine her getting to a standard six foot depth for a grave, even if she cheated a bit on standard width.

Then I realized it was a metaphor!

Fast forward to some other time in the future (in the last three years or so) when I heard my next metaphor.  The second in twenty years.

“You can’t outrun your teeth.”  This pithy observation indicates that I can eat a metric ton more than I can work off on any given day, especially since I have a desk job calculating the approximate number of electrons in William Shatner on a daily basis.  Not a lot of time to get away from the desk, since I have to keep calculating how many electrons he gains when he drinks more coffee.

“You can’t outrun your teeth.” Well, of course I can’t, they’re busy digging my grave.

And that’s what Karl Denninger says.

Karl makes several points as he writes (quite passionately) about health and how it intersects with the economy.  As we look to the way our health care system is gradually melting like the Wicked Witch of the North East covered in picante sauce, Denninger notes that getting healthy is smart, and also it removes you from the nonsense related with health care nowadays.  And Penn Gillette showed that there is a direct correlation between weight and life expectancy.

Diet, especially as you get older, is key. Atkins and Paleo are (for me) two good choices.

J.P. Sears has a fun take on Paleo.  He’s a bit cynical, but I still like Paleo.  Enjoy!

So, Atkins® and Paleo (Mark writes about it at his blog, here’s a great recent post) are based around changing not only the total amount of calories that you consume, but the types of calories.

For example, drinking a gallon of gasoline would provide you about 31,000 calories.  So, if you just drank a tenth of a gallon of gasoline each day, you’d never have to eat anything (DON’T DO THIS AT HOME OR ANYWHERE!  IT WILL NOT BE GOOD FOR YOU! GASOLINE IS NOT FOOD!).

But just like Justin Bieber can’t process a thought, your body cannot process gasoline.  At all.  IT WILL KILL YOU.  But when someone says a calorie is a calorie, they have no idea what they are talking about.

Let me explain:

To determine the number of calories that food has in it, they dry it, burn it, and see how much heat it gives off.  When you think about it, you would see that firewood would be awesome to eat!  But it’s not.  It does, however, make awesome toothpicks.  All energy content isn’t the same – your body has to be able to convert it to use, and some things are converted to energy more easily than others.  I’ve read in the past that the order of preference is something like this:

  1. Alcohol – because it’s what a body craves? Well, it gets used first.
  2. Sugar – like, well, a sugar high. No one is surprised.
  3. Other Carbohydrates – okay, you have to use enzymes and explosives to break the stuff up.
  4. Protein/Fat – depends on several factors which one gets used. It’s like The Mrs.
  5. Pebbles and Dryer Lint – mmm, mmm, good!

Paleo and Atkins remove part of number 1., most of number 2., and some of number 3.  That leaves your body (lots of times) burning at the number 4. level, which is where you want to be if you want to either lose weight or stay lean.

In my case, avoiding 2. and limiting 3. allow me to lose weight and also have a ton of other beneficial effects:

  1. I lose weight. I know I already mentioned this, but it’s just awesome.
  2. My mood is better. Nuclear war?    It’ll be fine.
  3. I still have number 1. Yay wine!

Honestly, I could not physically eat the order I listed (and, I’m sure at some point that was a real order I actually ate) anymore.  But I have teenagers . . . .

I guess I’m back to supporting 80% of the pre-tax profits of Taco Bell®.

So, do you have a strategy or system to keep lean?  Does it involve Scotch?

Oh, final thought – I AM NOT A DOCTOR!  EVERYONE CHANT – YES, HIS ADVICE (except for not drinking gasoline) IS HORRIBLE.

Identity Theft, Dormant Bank Accounts, Check Your Statements

I”Identity theft. Apparently he used to sit on his couch, hack high net worth accounts all over the world. Turned it into a collection of Hummers, helicopters, and, apparently, Freddie Mercury’s ashes.” – Prison Break

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Conquer the Crash of 2004?  You bet!  Rode it out with Mad Max.  You remember that, right?

If you only read one post I’ve ever written, read this one.

William Blake said, “Life can only be lived forwards, but understood in reverse.”

Stupid William Blake.

It started last January, but to tell the story I have to start on April 17 of this year.  Every year, tax day is on April 15.  Unless April 15 is on a Saturday, Sunday or Monday.  So, essentially tax day is tied to the calendar like Easter (only PhD’s in Astrophysics and the Cadbury Cream Egg® people can figure out when Easter is, and that was only after the advent of the digital computer).

Anyhow, not wanting to put things off until the last minute, I sat down on my computer 36 hours prior to my taxes being due (that’s at least 40 metric hours).

TurboTax® is like the person who holds your hair when you vomit.  It’s nice of them, but you’re still in horrible agony with a convulsing body with things going entirely the wrong direction.  That’s the way I feel about tax day, even if they send some of my money back to me.  I rationalize that it’s easy, and, heck, procrastinated to the point where I took a day off to do taxes.

I sat down with a hot cup of coffee, my trusty laptop, and proceeded to open all of those letters that showed up in January with “Important: Tax Information Enclosed” emblazoned in blood red on the envelope.  I soon had piles of income, deductions, stocks and toenail clippings arrayed in front of me next to the computer to begin entry into the government’s enabler (TurboTax©) and began entry.

Income was easy.  Had all of that.  Whoops?  Where are the interest statements on two accounts?  Pugsley brings the mail in most days.  On a windy day, Pugsley might have dropped it and those statements might have blown into Canada along with William Shatner’s toupee.

I called up my bank, “Yo, what gives?”  (Okay, I actually said, “Verily, what mayhap be uppith with my interest statements?”)

The response was, “Hmmmm, ohhh, okay, I see.  Those accounts are dormant.  You’ve done no transactions with them for 24 months.”

John Wilder:  “Can you undormant them?”

Nice Lady:  “Sure!”

John Wilder:  “Wow, does this happen often?”

Nice Lady:  “Yeah.  What’s really bad is that in some states if the account is dormant long enough, the state takes the money.  And there’s nothing you can do to get it back.”

John Wilder:  “Wow.”

Nice Lady:  “That’s a rough conversation.”

I completed my taxes, but this conversation stuck in my mind.  It seemed pretty wrong that this could happen to someone who was just, you know, saving their money and being all responsible.

So, on Friday after lunch, I called up my bank and began to request my account balances.

The nice lady (a different one this time) began rattling them off.  A year previously I had put them all in a spreadsheet (minus account numbers) and was comparing them:  “Yup, that’s right.  Yup.  Yup.  Yup.”

Nice Other Lady:  “And that’s it.”

I didn’t need to add them up.  There were the right number of accounts, and most of the amounts were the same.  But the amount on the biggest one wasn’t the same as the spreadsheet.  Not even close.

And it wasn’t more money.  It was smaller.  By a lot.

A lot.

A lot.

Over 10% of my net worth was missing.  More than my home value, plus all the cars I’ve bought in the last ten years.  Just gone.

You know that whole, “blood runs cold” thing?  It wasn’t running cold.  It was cryogenic (cryogenic comes from the Latin word “Cry” because your money is missing and “Genic” meaning this level of stupidity must be genetic).

I pretended calm.  Have you ever tried to pretend to have idle chit-chat with your boss while you think that even this second your bank accounts are draining faster than Amy Schumer chases a cheeseburger?

The next three hours and forty-one minutes at work were the equivalent of sixteen years of my life.  The drive home took another four years.  I now identify as being seventy-one.  I think I will list that on my Social Security application next year and argue that I am “age-fluid.”

As I drove home I prayed.  “Please oh please.”

Further, I deduced that there were three possibilities in the situation:

  1. Russian hackers had pilfered an account and were living high on the hog with their fat Bulgarian mistresses in some country where they use wrapping paper for money and eat dark bread and vodka all night.

(I have no idea if Bulgarians are fat, but I was not thinking good things about the potential hackers).  Now the family fortune isn’t watched over by a series of accountants I keep chained in the basement, it’s been because I’ve worked really hard – in some years nearly 4,000 hours a year (and gotten amazing results for my company lots of times).  As such, I have stacks of unopened bank statements I don’t read; I’m off at work.  I know I have enough money for most things I’d like to do (most of my wishes are small and involve T-shirts with funny sayings on them), and so, I skip opening them.

Sadly for me, most banks will only allow you to fix hanky-panky if you let them know in sixty days.  I’m not sure I’d opened even statement during that time period.

My blood ran colder.  This was the worst possibility.

 

  1. Whatever state my bank was located in had confiscated my money and had bought themselves hot tubs for their tax accountants and a new snow plow.

This was marginally better.  My accounts had just gone dormant, and I could make a good case that they were big poopy heads and give me my money back, meanie.  The legal term for this is Prima Whinius.  And maybe they could take the plow back.

 

This was a better possibility for me.

 

  1. I had made a mistake about how much money I had.

This was a pretty remote possibility.

The amount that was missing was a pretty big one, one I’m sure I hadn’t imagined, and one that the Other Nice Lady had NOT mentioned.  I distinctly remembered going through the statements, account by account, and adding them up a year previously.  And it was the biggest account, by far.  It’s like playing hide and seek with Al Roker’s former pants.  If you can’t see them, you’re just not looking.

In a strange way, I was hoping it was this, because then I could pretend I wasn’t as stupid as in either point one or two above.

I finally got into the driveway.  The Mrs. was (thankfully) gone to drop The Boy and Pugsley off at a Junior Wine Tasting Festival, while I tore into the house like a poodle chasing a pork chop on a stick.

I ran downstairs to the vault where I keep the gold coins I swim in and my financial statements.  (It’s actually a closet filled with tents, sleeping bags, and plastic bins of my cable bills from 1897.

I reached in, and pulled out  . . . the golden ticket – the first statement I found was for the account.  I ripped it open and looked at the balance.

It was the big number I was expecting.  It was from less than six months ago.

I ran upstairs, and dialed the bank.  I read the account number off, and asked for a balance.

Nice Lady Three:  “Well, John Wilder . . . ” and it was the same number from earlier in the day.

“Is there any problem, sir?”

“Yes,” I croaked into the phone, stress filling my voice, “I’m missing more than 10% of my entire net worth out of this account!”

“Sir, are you sure?”

I looked at the statement again.  I looked at the second page.  It showed a different number.

A much smaller number.

One that matched what she said.  And it had the right account number next to it.

Crap.

It turns out the statement aggregated three accounts.  Two of the accounts showed up on other statements that I also got monthly in other, separate envelopes.  Wow.  I’d double counted a house and a Corvette™.

Dangit.

I then recalled that moment a year ago when I’d added up my accounts, and found, happily, that I had a house and a Corvette® more than I’d expected.  Yay!  Strangely, my emotions then hadn’t included panic or hyperventilation.

The Mrs. returned home, and I outlined the situation.  To her?  No big deal.  It’s my job to watch the money and to make sure we have enough money to buy Pez©, pantyhose, and elephant rides.  I watch our net worth, and The Mrs. watches Mystery Science Theater 3000.

My Lessons and Takeaways:

  1. Check your Statements.

Money isn’t actually real, so if the Russians take yours, and you let the bank know about it within sixty days?  They’ll make some more for you, or at least that’s what the Internet thinks.  I don’t online bank or use ATMs, so those aren’t danger points for me.  But the more you expose yourself to those that love Bulgaria, the riskier it is.

  1. Check your Statements.

And actually math them.  Make sure that everything looks good monthly.  I’d call your bank every other month.  Actually, I’m volunteering.  Send me your banking information and Social Security Number.  I’ll check for you for free!  (HINT:  THIS SOUNDS SUSPICIOUS BECAUSE IT IS – I CHARGE A FEE)

  1. Periodically Stir Your Money.

That will prevent the state from thinking it’s dormant and stealing it.  It will also prevent your money from sticking to the sides and bottoms of the pot as you cook it.

I am probably now old enough to adult more, so I probably should adult.  I should probably figure out a way to invest it so it returns money to me, instead of just the bank.  I know, this is a crazy idea.

  1. Outside of How Much You Spend and How Long You Are Retired, Money at the Margin is the Most Important in Retirement

When I re-ran retirement scenarios?  Yeah, I’m gonna need to work longer or adopt Justin Bieber.  Okay, I’ll work longer.

In the end, the biggest take away of the Wilder Financial Catastrophe That Really Wasn’t of 2017®?

I haven’t changed, and I’m the same John Wilder the day before and the day after, and a bank error in my favor won’t hurt me.  And, as I continued to open statements?  I found half a Corvette® to add back to my net worth.  Yay!

I lost something I never had, but now you have an awesome blog post.  Tell six friends or I’ll tell the Russians where you live.  On tax day.

Now you understand what an evil genius Blake was.  Lived it forward, understand it now.

You should watch this, it’s how I felt.  It has four instances of cussing, but it would be PG-13.  Honestly? I cussed a lot, too.