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

DSC04429

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.

“I feel a cold coming on, and I’m wondering, should I take vitamin C or should I just leave Seattle?” – Caller, Frasier

DSC04886

He vants to drink your blaaad, but only if enriched with yummy vitamin C!

There was the time I almost killed myself through a simple experiment.

I had heard that having a high pH body (basic) was better than having a low pH body (acidic).  I decided to test this to see how it would work out.  Rather than do (as a normal person would) research, I decided to jump right in and purchased some antacid.

I took the antacid.

Going back to basic high school chemistry, what do you get when you mix an acid and a base?  Water and a salt.

I know that they say salt is fine for you.  It certainly is, when you haven’t just ingested something like three cups of it.  My body swelled up, and I’m fairly certain my blood pressure was sufficient to keep blood flowing from the tip of my toes to the top of my head if I were standing on a neutron star.

Wilder Fact:  Neutron Stars are very, very dense.  Not stupid dense as in “she’s so dense,” but heavy-dense.  A neutron star has a density of 7×1014 g/cm3.  Water has a density of 1 g/cm3, which shows you just how stupid the metric system is, since all I know is only that a neutron star is really, really heavy.  If I stood on one, I would be a tiny, thin, puddle of Wilder.  But if I took enough antacid, I could keep my blood flowing!

The Mrs. shook her head.  Life with me is like that, one large experiment.  She notes, correctly, that the difference between science and messing around is writing stuff down.  What do you think I’m doing now?  Yes, I’m writing it down.  Hence, science!

Anyway, I resolved to do many fewer potentially stroke-causing experiments with my life.

One thing that has recently caught my attention is vitamin C.  Vitamin C is, of course, the reason that the British are called Limeys.  The British Navy, enduring long sea voyages, would come down with scurvy based upon their diets consisting solely of rats and rum (I may be making some of this up).  Scurvy is not fun.  Gums bleed.  People die.  In fact, over 300,000 sailors (I am not making that up) died of scurvy in the 1700s.  1,500 sailros died in combat.  Maybe that’s why they drank the rum?

Some enterprising Scottish British Navy Surgeon decided that the cure would be switching from rum to Scotch.  He was fired, but James Lind, another (and real this time) Scottish British Navy Surgeon got 12 men to come down with scurvy on purpose, and gave two of them citrus fruits.  They got better, and also proved that the British diet will kill you more often than a Frenchman will.

After this, the British Navy supplied its sailors with citrus fruit (seeing as this was a much better alternative to them being all dead), and therefore kept their navy at float for years at a time, and allowed Admiral Nelson (more posts on him in the future) to keep the French navy in port.  So, yes, science works.

But Lind was dead for decades before they put his cure into motion.

What’s the deal with vitamin C?

Every animal produces it, except for gorillas, fruit bats, guinea pigs, and . . . (drumroll) humans.  And most animals make more vitamin C per pound than the recommended daily allowance, by far.

Linus Pauling, somewhere around winning his second unshared Nobel Prize©, came to the conclusion that vitamin C was the solution to most of our health problems.  Whereas the FDA thinks you need a tiny wisp of vitamin C, Linus felt that you could treat vitamin C like a sorority girl treats Diet Coke©.  Eat it all the time.  Inject it in your nose.  Have a bath in it.  Put it in your gas tank.  Wait . . . DON’T put it in your gas tank.  Think of the fuel injectors, man!

But, in Pauling’s thought, we people certainly weren’t getting enough.

Pauling’s first thesis is that vitamin C is used in the creation of the stuff that keeps your blood vessels together – collagen.  He thought that cholesterol deposits were the body’s way of putting duct tape on the inside of you so you didn’t bleed internally.  A better solution would be to make the stuff that actually fixes your circulatory system available to actually fix it.

It also appears that you can take a truly amazing amount of vitamin C and not die.

“The mechanism of death from such doses (1.2% of body weight, or 0.84 kg for a 70 kg human) is unknown, but may be more mechanical than chemical.”  – Wikipedia

Another way to think of that would be to have Wile E. Coyote drop an anvil made of vitamin C on the Roadrunner.  But, in this case, it’s radioactive vitamin C, so the Roadrunner turns into SpiderHulkRoadrunner.  Big, and green, and all spider-like, it’s probably more dangerous than a 300 mile tall Bill Gates!

Okay, that’s probably not true, I’m still more afraid of the giant Bill Gates.  But it does show that it takes eating nearly two pounds of vitamin C at a single sitting to kill you.  But no one knows why, but they think it might occur based on damage done to you while forcing it down your throat.  Strangely, sometimes science begins to look like a Quentin Tarantino picture.

The Mrs. and I came to our current experiments with vitamin C through different channels.  She was listening to quacks on the radio, I was listening to quacks on the Internet (specifically a trial that show that vitamin C in conjunction with chemotherapy was very effective against cancer).

Her radio quacks said to take one gram for every 25 pounds of body weight.  My Internet quacks said take vitamin C somewhere between 6 grams a day and 18 grams a day.  18 grams a day is a LOT of vitamin C, but, unless someone is tamping it down my throat with a broom handle, Science says it probably won’t hurt me.

I have seen, again and again, the scientific establishment change cues and opinions on fundamental ideas in my lifetime.  Carbs?  Great!  Carbs?  Tool of Satan.  Carbs?  Great!  Carbs?  Probably not good for you.

John Belushi knew.  Cigarettes and Carbs in the year 2132 will be all the rage.

And it continues.  Eggs?  Great!  Eggs?  YOU WILL DIE IF YOU LOOK AT THEM.  Eggs?  Have a dozen.

It’s enough to make you crazy.

And that’s why I began to focus on vitamin C.  At least from everything I’ve read, it can’t hurt you.  And it might help you.  After dealing with a doctor, Pauling added lysine to his recommendations.  Oh, and the doctor was dying.  Here’s a link that discusses it.  Blah blah blah heart, blah blah blah not dying.

 

But Pauling died of cancer.  So doesn’t that make him a stupid poopy-head with two Nobel™ prizes?  (And he nearly beat Watson and Crick to the double helix shape of DNA, which would have bagged him a third.)

Pauling died of prostate cancer, which, statistically, every man who lives past 70 will get.  And he was in his 90’s.  He’s smarter than me with my single Nobel© prize for blogging.   What can listening to him hurt?

So, now, I’m taking vitamin C.  In much more than the recommended daily alliance.  And, since The Mrs. isn’t tamping it down my throat with a broom handle, it probably won’t kill me.

And, vitamin C is cheap.  And I’m cheap, so that works.

I’ll let you know how it works out after I get my next Nobel® prize.  In the mean time?  I’m avoiding antacid.

As can be shown in the story above, I am a horrible choice to emulate for health advice.  Talk to a real doctor.   

“All I’m saying is if you want to be on a diet, you might want to stop hanging out by the dessert cart.” – 13, House, M.D.

20150609_165158

Recently, I’ve had some pretty good success with losing weight.  Sadly it has involved amputation.

Just kidding.  I’ve been losing weight due to what I eat.  Or, more accurately, what I don’t eat.

I’ll start my (average) weekly diet that I’ve been following for a while with my favorite day:

Friday

Friday Breakfast Menu:  All the coffee I want! (no cream, no sugar)

Friday Brunch Menu:  More coffee!  (no cream, no sugar)

Friday After Lunch Workout Meal:  Coffee. (no cream, no sugar . . . seeing a pattern here?)

Friday Late Tea:  Coffee.  (again)

Friday Dinner:  Friday night we normally go out.  That’s when the fun begins.  Habitually, I make the glamorous switch to iced tea (unsweetened).  While this may sound daring, it’s nowhere near as daring as . . . the appetizers.  Generally we have something fairly low carb, like calamari.  Mmmmm.  I’ll have a salad, a low carb vegetable like broccoli, and then a huge ribeye.  The Mrs. and I will share some wine with dinner, and generally a little more when we get home.

Saturday

Saturday Breakfast:  Mmmm, coffee!  But this time fresh ground good stuff.

Saturday Lunch:  Varies from nothing (50% of the time) to a low carb whatever.

Saturday Dinner:  This varies as well.

We have what is known as Gourmet Night.

The Mrs. and I were fans of the television series Hannibal.  For those of you unfamiliar with the show (which is most of you since ABC summarily cancelled their best show ever), it follows the career of Hannibal Lecter, a serial killer and cannibal.  It’s a great family show.

The show is particularly good at showing Dr. Lecter making dinner.  And in the scenes in the show where he’s in the kitchen with the food processor and a cut of meat, well, it is a show about cannibals.  You can’t help but wonder exactly what (or who) Dr. Lecter is having for dinner.

The scenes on the show, however, are shot in such a vivid, crisp and cinematic way and the food looks so wonderful on screen that it inspired The Mrs.

Since we have been having Gourmet Night, she’s made intricate dishes like Beef Wellington, Beef Bourguignon, and, last Saturday, it was ribeye covered in a cream mushroom sauce.  Oh, and a nice Chianti and some fava beans.

The Mrs. isn’t alone in her culinary inspiration from that show:  Hannibal inspired a cookbook.

I must state that no neighbors have been harmed in the making of any dish at Wilder Gourmet Night.

If Friends and Hannibal had an ugly baby, it would look like this.

Sunday

Breakfast: Coffee.

Lunch: Coffee.  Sometimes eggs and a breakfast meat, like smoked alpaca.

Dinner:  Something from the grill – steaks, burgers, brats, chicken, ribs, brisket.  The big Atkins cheat of the week is generally here – grilling and BBQ go with ice cold beer.  Hey, I don’t make the rules.  Mojo does:

Monday

You know the drill before dinner.  Coffee.

Dinner:  Either leftover BBQ meat, or, more generally, a salad.  Like a lettuce salad.  Some ranch or, more recently, lots of hot sauce and a little ranch.  Perhaps some torn up sandwich sliced chicken.  All the carbonated water I can drink.

During the weeknights there isn’t any alcohol.  As Mark Twain said,

Willpower lasts about two weeks, and is soluble in alcohol.

But he didn’t live to be even 150 years old, so what does he know?

Tuesday

Coffee.  Again.  I bathe in it.  I put it in my armpits for deodorant.  I rub it in my hair for conditioning.  I place it on my face for moisturizer.  I use coffee grounds to brush my teeth.

Dinner:  Salad (as above) and/or an Oscar Mayer® Portable Protein Pack.  I know, I know, they are horribly expensive for the amount of calories you get in the Portable Protein Pack – but part of what I’m paying for is willpower.  I had one.  I can say “Stop” that’s enough.

Sure, I could make my own, dice some ham and cheese, but the pre-packaging is just enough to say, “You’re done here, John Wilder.”

Am I hungry, especially during the week?  Sure.  But I’m surprised sometimes at just how full the two ounces (that’s sixty-five kilograms) of the Portable Protein Pack will fill you up.

Also, all the carbonated water that I want.

Wednesday

See Tuesday.

Thursday

See Wednesday.

You might think that on a diet like this, I’d be hungry occasionally.  No, not at all.

I’m hungry ALL THE TIME.

Okay, that’s an exaggeration.  I’m rarely hungry after a nice ribeye.  And coffee is much more filling than you might expect and also has the good side effect of doubling as my personality.  Also, your stomach shrinks, and it takes much less food to satiate (JohnWilder® Certified ACT Word) your hunger with a smaller stomach.

As far as skipping meals?

Starting in sixth grade, when they stopped making me eat lunch at school, I stopped eating it.  Breakfast is the most important meal of the day?  Never been all that interested in eating breakfast on a regular basis.

And, when I do eat breakfast or lunch, I don’t get less hungry during the course of the day, I get even more hungry and my hunger at dinner is even larger.  And, when I’ve had to work long (12-14 hour days) for a long duration (weeks), and they bring in lunch every day?  I’ve eaten lunch for the energy burst.  And, also the pants waist size increase, because who doesn’t want to gain weight.  I mean, they make bigger pants, right?

My mathematical formula relating lunch to weight loss looks like this:

  • Lunch once a week?  I can lose weight.
  • Lunch twice a week?  I can maintain weight.
  • Lunch three or more times a week?  I can expand like the Russian Empire.  I start covering my French Freedom Fries with mayonnaise and capitulate to the forces of metabolism and gravity.

When I’m working human length hours at work, however, I’ve learned that hunger actually isn’t strong enough (in the small amounts of it that I feel) to drive me to cheat on my diet.  That’s what wine is for.

“One piece of pizza surely won’t hurt,” says the wine.

Every person (by now, at my age) knows someone, or more likely multiple people, who have had gastric bypass surgery.  I’m not going into detail on the surgery, but after reading up on it, all I can say is I’d prefer the diet that I’m listing up above.  The people who I know who’ve had surgery have said nothing but good things about it, and I’ve seen a man lose so much weight so fast he looked like a candle on the black dash of a 1998 Toyota Corolla® in the Sun.  Literally, a candle melting inside the corona of our Sun, or so Jim Morrison told me.

But surgery sounds like much more work, pain, and much more cost than simply eating a lot less.

Besides, who needs surgery when I have all the coffee I can drink?

Before you go and jump into even considering this, GO SEE A DOCTOR!  I’m just telling you what’s worked for me and my results.  If you think this is good advice, write down JOHN WILDER KNOWS NOTHING 453 times in cursive.  Please, take responsibility for your own decisions, heaven knows someone has to.

Weight Loss and Penn Jillette

“You can’t say your favorite kind of cake is birthday cake, that’s like saying your favorite kind of cereal is breakfast cereal.” – Tom, Parks and Rec

DSC02083

The way I look when I’m in a cake coma.  Mmmmm, cake.

I was hanging out with The Main Squeeze, talking.

Me:  “What are you doing next weekend?”

The Main Squeeze:  “Nothing.  You?”

Me:  “I’m free.  Let’s fly to Vegas and get married.”

Pause.

The Main Squeeze:  “Okay.”

I called up the frequent flyer number and got two tickets to Vegas.  This was before e-everything, so they actually overnighted the tickets to me.  Actual paper tickets.

We got there late on a Friday night and the next morning took a cab downtown to get a marriage license.  We debated the Star Trek chapel, the Elvis chapel, and decided to get married in the mall area at Bally’s Casino.

If you’ve not been to a casino, the first principle is to get you gambling, and then give you enough booze that you make poor decisions with your gambling.  The second principle is to overwhelm the senses.  The final principle is to have really extravagant stores so that winners can be parted with their money prior to getting back on the jet to Peoria.  We didn’t have to worry so much about the extravagant stores, since principle one and principle two had separated us from enough money that buying the signed NFL™ football© helmet® wasn’t going to be happening.

Sunday morning, we got married.  Truthfully we were a little hung over.  At the wedding chapel in the mall, the hostess went through the checklist.

“Married, right – have your certificate.”

“Right here.”

“Okay, religious or secular ceremony?”

“Religious.”

“Candles or no candles?”

I looked at the soon-to-be The Mrs.  She shrugged.

The hostess leaned conspiratorially closer to us and said in a low voice, “Candles cost extra.”

The soon-to-be The Mrs. shook her head.

“No candles.”  The hostess smiled.

We waited about 15 minutes for the pastor to show up.

He looked about as hungover as we felt, but his face brightened as he went down the checklist.

“Religious.  Good!”

He performed the ceremony and The Main Squeeze was now officially The Mrs.

So, you’re in Vegas, you just got married, what do you do?

If you’re the Wilders, you go and get tickets to Penn and Teller.  Penn and Teller, if you’re not familiar with them, they are comedy/magic, and, if you’re not careful, a bit of philosophy.

They performed this trick at the show, but unfortunately shot three audience members.  Remember, magic is not pretty!

At one point during the show, which I will remind you was being held at a casino, Penn Jillette said (and I’m paraphrasing):

“Folks, if you’re looking at an investment, look at those slot machines out there.  It says, in flashing neon, 98% return.  From the beginning, you know that you’re going to lose.  The best odds out there are the black jack tables, and if you use probability, and can count cards, over the course of gambling for a weekend with a $10,000 stake, odds say you might clear $500.  See all the bright and flashing lights out there?  The only thing keeping them on is the Hoover Dam, and bad math.”

Wow.

There are moments when you’re cured of something, but at that moment, I knew that I’d never be a serious gambler or have a gambling problem.

Cured,

of gambling,

in a casino,

by a magician.

Now, that’s magic.

After the show was complete, Penn and Teller ran off stage towards the doors that let us in.  Literally, they ran.  I thought they might have been late for something, like free yogurt, but when The Mrs. and I got to the exit, they were standing there, shaking hands with and talking to every fan.

Teller is the “silent” part of the act, and we talked with him first:

John Wilder: “You put on a wonderful show.”

Teller:  “You are a wonderful audience,” and he exuded humility and sincerity with every word, like he was grateful we came to his show.

We then moved on to Penn.

John Wilder:  “You were great out there.”

Penn put his hand to his head as if concentrating, eyes closed.  “John, that is your name, right?”

I was stunned.  He continued, “Thought so.  John, in 2017 you will write about my miraculous weight loss, and both the Red Sox and the Cubs will win a World Series® between now and then.”

He then disappeared in a cloud of smoke.

 

 Potatoes, stupid hobbit!

Fast forward to 2017 and my meeting with Bruce Wayne.  I’d promised myself that I would lose weight, so I began researching.

In the back of my head I remember hearing on the Internet about Penn’s weight loss.  I looked up what he did.  He lost NEARLY A POUND A DAY!  That’s 450 or so grams per day (as if that means anything to anyone).  He ate nothing but potatoes for two weeks.  It turns out that he was hospitalized due to his high blood pressure, which was caused by his weight and that got him motivated to change.

My conclusion was:

That’s simply not reasonable.

But weight loss isn’t reasonable.

Wilder Age Effort Required to Lose Two Pounds a Week
Before 20 Run.  A little.
Mid 20’s Run, 2-5 miles a day for several weeks
Late 20’s An hour a day on the exercise machine
Mid 30’s Run, 4-6 miles a day five times a week, skip lunch
Late 30’s Radical Atkins diet
Early-Mid 40’s Radical Atkins diet plus six hours a week exercise machine
Late 40’s Radical Atkins/Food Restriction plus three hours a week
Late 50’s (Projected) I will have to work hard enough to power Nebraska on a Skittle® a week
By the time I’m 70 I am declared a national treasure because my energy output is greater than all the oil and I pull CO2 out of the atmosphere and eat nothing, but my jeans are tight

And weight gain isn’t reasonable, either.  Let’s say you see someone who, like Penn, was 100 pounds (that’s sixteen megaparsecs in metric!) overweight.  You say, indignantly, “Boy, they sure let themselves go.”

Unfortunately, the math doesn’t quite agree with you.

A pound is roughly 3600 calories, so 100 pounds is 360,000 calories, or enough Diet Coke™ for all of the sororities at USC for a weekend.  But, 360,000 calories is around 300 calories a day for three years.  That’s two 12 ounce Cokes© a day.  (One ounce in metric = one Italian squirrel bladder.)

Let’s say 50 pounds.  That’s one soda pop.  A day.

As I said, weight loss isn’t reasonable.

So, in addition to being accountable, I now must cease to be reasonable.

So, what goal to go with?

The average goal for people in the literature is two pounds a week.  Seems legit.  But then I see 1% a week.  So, if you’re 200 pounds, that’s 2 pounds a week.  One hundred?  One.  That seems even more legitimate.

But then I see Penn losing nearly a pound a day.  Is that really real?

Yes.  A 27 year old from Scotland fasted for 382 days.  No food.  Over a year.  Of course, he had a head start at 456 pounds.  He made it down to 180 pounds, and five years later was 196 pounds.  There are multiple, similar cases on record.

When you think about it – that’s exactly what fat is for – it’s the emergency storage of calories so you don’t die during periods of prolonged famine.

I’m awesome at weight loss, I’ve done it a lot, but unlike my previous results, the man from Scotland’s main success wasn’t the 382 days, it was the fact that he reset and didn’t gain the weight back.  It seems to be working so far for Penn as well.

There’s a goal, the loss.  But that goal must be followed up with a change in lifestyle.

So, what am I doing next weekend?  Not eating potatoes, but I’m also not being reasonable.

Reasonable didn’t get me married in Vegas, and reasonable won’t get me where I want to go on weight.

John Wilder is not a doctor.  You would be stupid to take medical advice based on the ramblings of an internet madman.  As always, own your own decisions, and talk to a doctor if you have questions. 

As a bonus – if you have 45 minutes to spare, Penn and Teller’s 1986 film, “Invisible Thread.”

 

“I’m Batman,” – Batman, in Batman

Bruce Wayne and I were sitting having iced tea.  Okay, it wasn’t the real Bruce Wayne, but it was close enough.  I was in the process of asking Bruce for advice, because, if you knew Bruce Wayne, you would ask him for advice too.  For the record, the iced tea was real iced tea.  Brewed, even.  Not a mix.

Bruce and I had shared a few stories.  I told him how I’d saved 20 odd men by stopping an explosion in the nick of time using my calm, cool and collected command while others were paralyzed by the shock of the unfolding events.  He countered by telling me how he had (using only his briefcase, his martial arts training, and his quick wits) subdued two armed bandits that were up to no good in a dark alley at night.  I countered with the time that I saved the Earth from falling into the Sun using my super-strength to stop the UFO people from  . . . oh, wait, only the first two things are true . . . .

See, I told you I knew Bruce Wayne.

With. A. Briefcase.

(I’m betting it was a Batcase he devised in his secret Batcave.)

Our topics which led (more or less directly) into restarting this site, ranged fairly far and wide.  And then I made my mistake.

“Well, Bruce, I’m certainly going to lose some weight.”

A smile.  “Really.  As you know, John, I just lost a few pounds.”

This part is true.  How Batman Bruce could be in even more optimum weight was beyond me, but, yes, he had lost some weight.  I saw him before and after.

“And, John, I had a friend that I reported to weekly.  In fact, I sent him a report card weekly.  You can send me a weekly report card, if you want.”

Not a command.  An offer.  That was somehow worse.  It was up to me.  Not some outside entity.  Me.  If I never sent him a report card, Bruce might have forgotten (but Batman never forgets), and I would have carried on, same as before.

That meeting happened on a Monday.  On Tuesday, I hit the gym with renewed vigor.  The sweat poured down my body, and in the course of a two minute montage of me training, I mastered karate, boxing, and lost 35 pounds.

No.

I did work harder.  And began to get serious, perhaps even a bit fanatical about my diet and exercise program (there will be much more on this in future posts).  At the end of the week I’d have to tell Bruce how I’d done.

I realized that Bruce had made this offer to help me.  And, even though I’d hit the gym for 756 hours the previous year, I’d gained five pounds.  I realized that this was indeed the spark.  The Mrs. could not hold me accountable.  Nor The Boy or Pugsley.

Nor could my Grandma have been the person.

Oh, Johnny, but you tried so hard. Want some more cake?

So, I’ve now been reporting to Bruce for several weeks, and have exceeded goals most of them.  Why would this work when all of the previous years of sweat not work?

Accountability.

There is an accountability that comes from having someone review your report card.  The Roman philosopher, Seneca said (about 2000 years ago):

“We can remove most sins if we have a witness standing by as we are about to go wrong. The soul should have someone it can respect, by whose example it can make its inner sanctum more inviolable.  Happy is the person who can improve others, not only when present, but even when in their thoughts.”

And would you want to disappoint Batman?

Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude -James Buffet (Warren’s Cousin)

The photo above is what inter-dimensional real estate might look like

Today everything changed.

Actually, it was yesterday.

I have been thinking a lot, I mean, a LOT about what I want to do when I grow up, and finally came to the conclusion that it was to trod (tread?) my sandaled feet over the bones of dead kings as I took their thrones, watching them crushed, seeing them driven before me, and hearing the lamentations of their women!

No, wait. That’s Conan.

Me, I wanted to start blogging again. I came to that conclusion. I mean, if I talked, even AS LOUD AS I COULD, I could only influence a few hundred cult followers people. My booming basso profundo voice only carries so far.

But blogging could allow me to reach everyone on Earth with an IPhone©, or an unexploded Samsung®, even. If you’ve been in a restaurant recently, you’ve seen that’s everyone, even babies.

As I discussed my evil plan for world domination helping people with a friend, a funny thing happened. This person, making a salary and bonus in the top 1% of people in America, decided to sign up to sell real estate, and follow their passion to see where it takes them.

Huh?

As I discussed my evil plan elsewhere,  a different blogger decided to take up a keyboard again, and (maybe) a person to pick up a long-neglected novel.

Huh?

There are thousands of people that are literally sleepwalking through life.

You may be one of them.

I was.

Let me explain:

I was driving through a small town in the Midwest with my sons and saw a sign that said, “Jim McGill, Insurance and Real Estate.”

I spontaneously pulled out my best radio announcer voice and said,
“Jim McGill is here to help you with all of your insurance and real estate needs, AS HE HAS FOR A THOUSAND YEARS HERE IN CEDAR RIDGE.

“No one has more experience than McGill, who has brought the experience of his countless years of his nigh-immortal life and communion with the deep powers of the earth to find the best property for you. Since the dawn of time, there is no insurance agent who will ever get you a better deal.”

The Boy piped in: “Brought to you by the power of the Necronomicon™.”

We laughed. Life is like that around our house.

I reflected on it the following day at work. Why was it so very funny? (And, trust me, nothing makes a joke better than explaining it)

Simple: because you expect an immortal living on Earth to have a mountain redoubt, and an evil plan to take over Estonia, not sell insurance in a town of 2000 people.

Then it hit me. I don’t have a thousand years. I *might* have 30 or 40.

Why did I waste today?

And why did you waste today?

You don’t have many days. That’s why I’m writing this at 12:36AM instead of playing a game.  Or sleeping.

I don’t have time to waste, since I’m not an immortal insurance agent.

And neither do you.  Unless you’re Jim McGill.

Regardless, get to work.