Vote, Dammit?

It is so ironic, given the topic of this post, that WordPress just suggested that I add a prompt to tell you guys to go vote.  LOL!

I’ve been studiously avoiding not posting any commentary anywhere on this particular election because it’s been a trip to the freak show.  As I’ve said before, it’s like watching an evil succubus in a bad pantsuit snarl at an orange marshmallow in a wig.  You all know how I feel about voting, political parties, and the like, so there’s no need to belabor the point.  Now, however, we have a truly epic scandal featuring Donald Trump making some pretty horrible remarks about Nancy O’Dell and how he views hitting on women.

I have been accused once or twice (or more) of not being a good feminist which, given the current brand of feminism, doesn’t phase me at all.  I don’t believe that “rape culture” is really a thing, and I don’t think that women should have to have pay equal to men.  I just don’t.  That’s not how real life works.  I am not personally offended by Donald Trump’s remarks.  I do not, however, think he is fit to lead.

Before we go too far down the political thing, I know an unfortunate number of people who have been raped.  I’m not talking about “husband wanted to, I didn’t,” either.  In one case, I’m talking about a friend who got drugged by one of her friends in high school when she was 16.  In another, I’m talking about a friend who was assaulted when she was 8.  I was good friends with two guys in college, one of whom was raped repeatedly by his neighbor growing up and the other who was molested by his older brother for years.  The sad fucking unfortunate truth, in my experience, is that it happens to kids who don’t understand what’s going on and don’t tell their parents.  To my knowledge, none of those parents knew what had happened to their kids.  My friends never told.

I do remember one night very clearly.  We were all at a house party, and my friend Josh was with us.  Josh was six four, a rugby player, and hot as fucking fire.  You’d think, being a rugby player, that he would have been a total douchebag, but he was hands-down one of the nicest, most decent guys I have ever known in my life.  We were walking into the house, and some idiot grabbed my friend’s ass – just blatantly grabbed on.

Josh, who already had a broken nose from the day’s rugby game, grabbed this guy by the shoulder and said, “Hey!  You don’t grab girls by the ass – you treat’em like a lady!  You need to apologize.”

The guy turned, and you could tell he was expecting someone about his size, but when he realized he was smirking into Josh’s pecs, he looked up, looked scared, and apologized to my friend.  He also gave Josh a very wide berth the rest of the night.  For the record, if Josh hadn’t grabbed the guy by the shoulder, my friend probably would have slapped the shit out of him.

So yes, there are douchebags out there.  I’m not saying rape doesn’t happen.  My personal opinion is that it’s a much bigger problem with children on up to the mid-teens.  Just my opinion.

But I think Donald’s remarks are gross and pretty telling of his true character.  i don’t think he’ll be a good president.  I do think that anyone who tells you to vote for Hillary on the basis that she’s a woman and would never is fucking deluded.

First of all, Hillary has long turned a blind eye to all the shit that Bill got up to.  I thought it was common knowledge that he used to use state patrolmen to procure him coke and hookers while he was the governor of Arkansas, but maybe not.  Hillary helped cover up so much of his wrongdoing.  To say that Trump is worse is laughable to me.  Look up the videos of Hillary laughing about killing tons of people or taking out Gaddafi.  There are rumors he was raped with a bayonet when al-Qaeda caught him.  Think about that.  Raped with a fucking bayonet.  Ask what happened to Ambassador Stephens.  Per the story I read, he was sodomized, genitals cut off, mutilated in other ways, and left still alive in a ditch.

And Hillary laughed.

Let me be crystal clear about this: Trump and Hillary are bad people.  Bad.  I personally think Hillary is worse just because of the sheer scale of what she has done in her long, sordid political career.  Talk about bring up the bodies…!  I don’t think Trump is any good either, though.  Of course I don’t want to see a president who behaves like that around women.  Do I think that he would be the first?  Hell no.  There are so many politicians buying hookers, snorting coke, and getting into shady shit that they probably think that’s their job.  He’ll fit in great on Capitol Hill.

The point I’m making is that, with this election most particularly, people need to just fucking stop voting.  How can any conscionable person vote for these two freaks?  I mean that seriously.  I know tons of people who are voting for Hillary and who are perfectly happy to act like she isn’t a war-mongering bitch, but I’m no such pretender.  Can everyone please just stay home so that we have a total vote of no confidence?  Please?!?

If you have to vote, vote for Johnson or Stein.  Preferably Johnson.  I don’t really even care whether or not he’s a “real” libertarian.

That’s the thing about the Libertarian Party that people don’t seem to understand.  “They’re a mess.”  “They can’t get it together.”  Nope, and they never will.  Such is not the nature of libertarianism.  Liberty is anarchy.  I have never met two intellectual libertarians who agreed on everything.  Ever.  I see them spit and spat and posture and preen and make excellent points in intellectual arguments that have to be witnessed to be believed.  Because honestly, and I’m not just saying this to stroke my own ego, the libertarians I know are also the smartest people I know.  They are almost all mathematical minds who tend to divorce reason and emotion.  They focus on outcomes, not on feelings, and they never agree on everything.  The Bro-Co and I find solace in one another, but we do not agree on everything intellectually.

You might say that this is true of the Republicrats too, but libertarians put a lot more emphasis on the philosophical side because, well, they just do.  And they get mad about it.  They will refuse to vote for someone who isn’t “pure” enough or who is too socially conservative or whatever.  They get bogged down in details.  That’s just the way it is.  Libertarians will never unite and take over.  I think, in a way, they’d be sad if they did.  There is a certain joy in contrarianism amongst literally every libertarian I’ve ever met.  It would take away their fun if they actually won something.  They revel in holding up a mirror to the cognitive dissonance and challenging beliefs that are held to be fact.  Because dammit, it’s fun.

So my two cents on Trump?  Duh.  Are you people fucking surprised?  The sky is blue, water is wet, and Trump’s a douchebag.  Grass is green, politicians are crooked, and so is Hillary Clinton.  Move it along, folks.  Nothing to see here.

Brangelina

I know this may come as a shock to you all, but I’m not a hopeless romantic.  I know, I know, it’s hard to believe.  I’m so effusive with emotions and not at all embittered by failed relationships and an expensive divorce.  I do occasionally have the capacity to surprise myself though, and I do like to think that once in a while – a great, great while – love prevails.

I have this friend from Korea who shall remain nameless just because God knows who still reads this thing that might know her.  She got together with this guy not that long before the ex and I left, so it’s been a solid 3+ years ago this month.  They are both older, never married, no kids, etc.  I knew her very well but didn’t know him at all.  He was new at the time and embarking on an adventure to a foreign land before old age got the better of him.

They were ridiculous.  They went everywhere together, cooked for each other, took amazing trips to exotic lands… It was the sort of thing to make someone like me pretty jealous, honestly.  But I was always happy for her.  She dated one of my friends while we were all there at the same time, and… Well, you know the story.  He left, she was brokenhearted, blah blah blah.  Same old Korea story.

Well, it looked like this story was going to end the same way.  Apparently this guy had tired of Korea and decided that it was time to move along, too.  I suspect he wanted her to go with him, but she had a contract to finish, and well, things just didn’t work.  They took one last great trip together and parted ways in Sri Lanka, I think.

I assume she was heartbroken.  I remember how it was when my friend left.  She called me crying one night, wondering if he’d come back.  He didn’t.

Folks, I don’t get thrilled very often, but when I woke up and saw that this other guy had actually boarded a plane and gone back to her because he missed her too much to leave her, it made a few drops of blood pump through my black old heart.  I think a piece of my soul might have found its way home.  (They break off and fly away at various points, usually due to something generally beyond my control.)  There is a picture of them together at Incheon, and his face is covered in her lipstick.

I mean, come on!  That is a fairytale “ending” right there!  That is the kind of thing you see in the movies.  That is the movie moment we all wait a lifetime to have.  That is some Brangelina shit right there.  Well.  You know.  Before the whole Brangelina thing exploded, but fuck that, it’s Hollyweird, they’re all freaks.  … Okay, I admit it, I was rooting for them.  I was disappointed when People confirmed the divorce filing.

Anyway.  Sometimes it’s nice to a bit of faith restored, even if it’s only for a day or heck, even an hour.  I’m sure that tomorrow I’ll be jaded again, but right now, I’m kind of touched and happy that somewhere, for someone I know, love prevailed.  I’m used to seeing cranky married couples who have grown apart or who are too tired to care much about their mate because they have jobs and kids and a car payment that is equivalent to their mortgage.  When I see two people who are still willing to go the extra mile for each other, well, that’s fucking rad, honestly.  If only we were all so lucky, to find someone who inspired us to act thusly.

So today, for like, an hour, I believe in happy endings.  I thought I would share that story because apparently they aren’t always just urban legends as I originally suspected.  Sometimes people do actually care enough to show up, virtually unannounced, at an airport and sweep you off of your feet.  That is awesome, man.  That’s what life should be about.

Betty and the Mule

I have a friend at work, Betty.  Betty is a few years younger than my folks would be, but she’s getting close to retirement age.  I probably met Betty about two weeks into my tenure at my current job.  She popped up at my cube, and she said something like, “I’ve been meaning to meet you.  I had a good feeling about you as soon as you got here.”

Betty is one of those people who has her people.  She either likes you or she doesn’t, and she’s not terrifically good at hiding it when she doesn’t.  I honestly have no real idea what it is that she sees in me other than I’m kind of weird, but there must be something.  I consider Betty to be my guru, my wise woman, and the official crone in my life, and I mean that in the best possible way.  Betty is one of those people who just knows things, and she looks at the world a bit differently than most.  I enjoy her company a lot, and if nothing else, she gets me.  She doesn’t always agree with me, but she gets where I’m coming from, at that’s saying a lot, since most people look at me like I have two heads half the time.

Betty was a bit under the weather the other day, and it seemed like it was getting her down.  Betty doesn’t get down all that often, but when she does, it shows.  She went home early that day and didn’t come in the next, which is highly unusual for her.  She’s fond of giving cards for holidays and birthdays and sometimes just for no reason at all.  She always sends all of our “official” field adjusters birthday cards.  I don’t think the company reimburses her, either.  She just does it because she enjoys doing it.  Anyway, circling it back around, I decided to pick up a card and leave it on her desk for her.  I’m not a card-giver, but I thought she could use a bit of pick-me-up.

The Halloween cards are all out, and y’all know I loves the Halloween.  I found a goofy one with an old woman sitting on a mule wearing a wig and clown shoes, and that just seemed like a Betty card to me.  She’d put a wig on a mule.  No shame, either.  I’d put a wig on a pig, and I’ve said so frequently.  Let’s be real: animals in wigs are funny.  So I bought the card on my lunch break with my salad and left it on her desk.

She was back the next day, spirits significantly improved, and she thanked me for the card.  We had a good laugh over the mule in a wig, and she proceeded to tell me a story about her childhood.  Betty grew up in the sandy bottoms between Dosh and Naples, where my granddad used to take me driving on Saturday evenings and where I now do the same with my littles.  The homestead is gone now, as is the starch plant, but stories about the river bottoms linger longer than you would expect, given the propensity of the rising and falling water to wash things away.  Something about living life from one flood season to the next: things have more staying power than you’d ordinarily figure.

Betty grew up poor.  I mean, there’s poor today, and then there’s poor like back in the 50s and 60s down by the river.  When Betty was born, her family lived in a three-room house with no indoor plumbing.  They had a water pump outside where they drew water for cooking and bathing, and the outhouse was some distance away from the home.  The property was covered in black locust trees that her father had planted.  She was the youngest of a herd of children.  Her parents snuck off to a shack that they had far away from the house, down the property somewhere, when they wanted “alone time.”  It was a different time.

But that mule on the card made Betty think of Barney.  Barney was their white mule that they kept around for various odd jobs.  I found it rather entertaining that they had a mule, for whatever reason.  I guess if you knew Betty, well, trying to picture her with a mule around is rather comical in and of itself.  But they had a white mule with a gray muzzle, and his name was Barney.

Barney and Betty’s father had a somewhat tenuous relationship.  He liked Barney for the help he provided around the farm, but Barney was stubborn, as mules tend to be, and sometimes he’d give the mule what-for when Barney decided he’d had enough of whatever was going on.

Barney had a pen, and he frequently escaped from said pen.  He could jump the fence pretty handily, which isn’t what I would have thought from a mule, but apparently they aren’t half-bad jumpers.  Betty’s dad got so mad about the mule repeatedly escaping that he set up an electric fence.  He strung a corn cob onto the electric wire before turning the power on so that Barney would get a taste of the electricity when he did turn the power on.

Well, that did not deter Barney.  Betty’s dad also tied a log around Barney’s neck, just in case the fence wasn’t a big enough deterrent.  (He was admittedly not a nice man, and like I said, it was a different time.)  Well, Barney jumped the electric fence with the log tied to his neck.  And of course, it was Betty’s job to chase the mule down and get him back into the pen.

“Oh, Margaret, I chased that mule…!  I can’t imagine what it must have looked like, me twelve or thirteen years old, running through a field after this mule with a log around his neck!

“Well, I’ll tell ya… We were right down there by National Starch, when it was still in business, and the shift change happened while I was out there running after that damned mule.  And you know, I told this story to a friend of mine years later, and she started laughing and said, ‘Oh my God!  Was that you?  I used to work at National Starch, and I saw you!  I remember telling my husband that story, and he didn’t believe me!  Laughed because I thought I saw a white mule running around with a log around its neck!”

But no.  True story.  It took hours to catch the mule and get him back in the pen.

“I had a bit of a love-hate relationship with that stupid mule.”  She laughed and went on.  “You know, we used to have a songbook at school.  Isn’t that ridiculous, that we only had one songbook?  Well, every day, someone would get to take it home, and I was so proud on the day I got to bring that book home…!  I took it out to the pasture, and by God, I sang to that mule!  Maybe that’s why he wanted out so bad!  Can you imagine?  Singing to the mule!”

We both had a good laugh over it, the thought of a young Betty serenading the mule.

She never did tell me what finally became of Barney the mule.  I suppose there was probably nothing to tell.  Like everyone and everything in all old tales, eventually their part in the story is finished, and they pass on into history, unnoticed but for a story that almost seems like ghost, hazy and disappearing into legend.  His bones have probably long since sunk deep into the sandy bottom ground, bone meal for the row crops that flank the roads there now.  Or maybe they washed away during high water.

Barney is gone, and the times have changed, but there’s always been something witchy and weird about the river bottoms to me.  Betty talked about her sisters taking the old steel belted radio to the barn and plugging it in at night, and they’d listen to music and twirl to the beat, making circular patterns like sigils in the sand.  I can almost see it – moonlight shining down on those sticky, thick summer nights, dancing on the river water and through the irrigation ditches still full from the spring floods, and the whole Illinois River valley naked to the eyes on high.  There are a couple of spots up on the bluffs where you can look down and see what feels like the whole valley and the whole world, and it seems like everything is open and known, and it seems as though nothing could ever be hidden, even though the river itself remains quietly behind the trees.

The best place to see it and feel it, to really let it seep in, is on the side of the road at Hodges Cemetery.  I don’t want to be buried, but I have long thought that if I had to be put into the ground, I’d want to be interred there at Hodges, where it felt like you could see the whole world, and you could watch the water rise and fall and the seasons change and the leaves fall.  It’s a witchy, weird place, and I never pass by there and over the crest of the bluff without thinking that there is some strange magic down there in the bottoms.

Maybe I liked the story of the mule so well because it reminded me of my grandfather and the stories he would tell.  He used to talk of going down to the river with his friends, skating on the frozen water and carrying large walking sticks attached to a rope, which went around their waists.  If the ice broke, the walking sticks would help the other guys pull them out.  And it did happen to his friend once that the ice broke beneath his skates.

And I remember driving down through Naples, maybe going to the old Abbott House when it was a restaurant or maybe just passing through, but there is an old house that sits cattywampus on a corner.  It has an upstairs porch that runs the length of the house, and it just seems an odd place.

“That used to be the house of ill repute, Margaret.”

The red house.  I always wondered how he knew.  I suppose it may just have been that everyone knew, as everyone still knows everything worth knowing around here.  Or maybe he and the guys made their stop there when they went down to skate.  Hell, maybe his grandpa took him there when they were over in Dosh on a duck hunt.  I never asked.  I wish now that I had been a bit more insolent.

But the ladies leaning over the balcony are long gone, and so is Barney the mule.  The corn and beans are coming out of the ground again, another growing season reaching its inevitable conclusion.  The bottoms are torn apart now to make way for the pipeline.  It’ll go the same way that everything else does.  They’ll sink it into the ground, and it will be forgotten, save for the occasional story, talking about how so and so worked on it or how grandpa lost yield off of that field that year because it was torn up or how the ground never drained off quite the same way again.  The people who put it there will move on with their lives.

For as long as I’m here though, I’ll go on my occasional drive down to the river bottoms, and I’ll think now of that mule running around on sandy ground, a log around his neck, my friend a chubby, awkward girl chasing after him while laughing strangers look on.  And I’ll laugh, too.  I mean, come on.  It ain’t every day that you see a fat kid chasing after a white mule in a soggy field.  That’s comedy right there.  That’s life on the river.

The Devil Is In the Details

Today was an exciting day in Ancapistan: I made my first Forex demo trade today.  Does that seem fairly unimportant?  It’s not.  This is probably one of the most important days of my year, actually.  I have been working for six and a half months to get to this crucial point.  It’s a big fucking deal.

I haven’t made all that many comments about my quest to learn how to trade currency because, well, I’ve frankly been afraid that I’d jinx myself.  My main fear was that I’d lose motivation and never get to the point of even demo trading and backtesting, let alone making a real trade with my own cash.  I guess I just didn’t want people to think I was delusional about the reality of currency trading and talking out my ass or something.

The reality of currency trading is that it isn’t that hard to learn, per se, but there is a lot of information out there about it to parse through.  Some of it is good information.  Some of it, well… Some it is crap, to be perfectly honest.  There are websites and forums for retail traders – places where they can exchange trading strategies, thoughts on brokers, feelings about trading, etc.  (If you think feelings about trading aren’t important, think again, and read on.)  There is one terribly important thing to remember about trading as you read through the forums, though: trading, by nature of what it is, attracts certain types of people, and those people don’t always have your best interests at heart.  In fact, it’s safe to assume that they don’t.

A fine example is Forex Peace Army.  As far as I can tell, it was long considered to be just about the best place to go to get honest reviews of brokers and where brokers could potentially defend their reputation.  I enjoyed reading reviews on FPA because, frankly, the government makes it very difficult for US citizens to find a good offshore broker who will take them.  If you want to know my thoughts on government involvement in the markets, that’s for another post (spoiler: GET THE FUCK OUT, UNCLE SAM!!!!), but when it came to light that FPA was accepting money from brokers to pad their reviews, it was disappointing.  But not unexpected.  You have to expect that sort of thing in the Forex world.

Nobody is your friend.  The guru whose word you would follow to the blowup of your account?  He’s not your friend.  That dude on the forum who seems like he knows everything and can recommend a great broker?  He’s not your friend.  For all you know, he is the broker!  The broker ain’t your friend, either – market maker brokers least of all.

So getting good information is your first worry.  Learning that information is the next step, and that takes time.  I spent a lot – and I do mean a lot – of nights sitting up after the kids went to bed, reading about technical analysis, margin calculation, money management systems, price indicators, and market psychology.  I put together spreadsheets that will calculate position size for me, show me where my equity is based on two different MM systems, and I’m in the process of creating a points-based system for my swing trading strategy.  I can say with perhaps just a smidgeon of conceit that there are few endeavors I have put as much effort into learning as I have put into Forex trading.

Almost everyone who knows me and knows about what I’m doing has asked me why.  Why am I doing it?  Where did I get the idea?  How the hell do you even go about learning it?

I’ll start with the idea because the answer is simple: I don’t remember.  I read about it somewhere one night after I did some online seminar.  The person in question had discovered it, found they loved trading, and did extremely well with it.  Their friend had tried it and quickly realized that it wasn’t for him.  I fell down the rabbit hole on Google, and I was hooked.  Instantly.  It was like being hit by lightning.  It excited me, and that sort of leads onto the why.

It excites me.  Trading is risky business, and risky business excites.  That’s why it attracts the people it does.  But I also love learning about it because for one thing, it’s dead useful in other areas of life, but also because you will never learn everything there is to know about the markets.  It appeals to two different but strong aspects of my personality.

The third why has to do with money and personal/financial freedom.  I like the job I’m in right now, but I’m bored, and I don’t make enough money.  Having watched my company, which has been good to me and which I have loved working for, balloon from small potatoes just a few short years ago into what I expect to be one of the dominant market players in crop insurance, I have realized something: I don’t want to work for corporate America forever.  Sometimes it seems like it might be nice to climb the ladder, but honestly, the siren song of power over others is one that I can more or less ignore.  I’d prefer to have power over myself, which I think is probably a trait that sets me generally apart from many others.  Also, it’s something that no more than a handful of people can claim for themselves, and I want it.

When I think about what I want for myself – what I really want – it looks something like this: free time to read and, more importantly to write; palm trees and a beach; sandals year-round; travel more or less at will; and a good education for my kids.  It doesn’t include wasting my life in an office, kissing ass for a paycheck or a promotion, wearing the company logo, or being a “team player.”  I just don’t care about those things or even particularly like them.  I love knowledge for its own sake, reading and writing, warm weather, adventure, and time spent with people I care about.  That’s what makes life: living it.

You know what one of the great things about Forex trading is?  You can have the trading platforms and charting software on your laptop, tablet, and phone, and you can do it any time, anywhere.  The markets are open somewhere almost all the time.  How many “jobs” can you honestly say you can carry in your pocket?  And if you’re a swing trader (the style I would prefer, at this point) or playing the long game, you probably won’t spend more than two hours a day “at work.”  Now, if day trading is your jam, by all means, chain yourself to your computer and grow some gray hair, but I ain’t about that life.  Might as well be back in corporate.

It sounds pretty good, right?  Make your own hours, make a bunch of money… Well, the sticking point is that most people don’t make money trading Forex.  If the numbers are accurate, over time, 95% of traders get out by choice or run out of money to throw at the monster.  I think in the short-term, the number is probably closer to about 75% and winds up being about 95% over the long-term.  But before you pearl-clutch and say, “The horror!” think about the following: 95% of people are not technically successful, and that’s not just at Forex – that’s at everything.

So I stand by what I said that Forex isn’t that hard to learn, but it is time-consuming, and you do have to stick with it and sift through a lot of crap.  I have sat around reading and making notes on many, many nights when I wanted nothing more than to turn on a movie and space out before bed.  I can’t tell you the number of nights I passed out on top of my computer with my pen in-hand.  I’d wake up at 2:30 in the morning to a black screen and be pissed off that I hadn’t gotten in 30 more minutes of study.  I wrote myself tests, emailed them to myself at work, and did them on my breaks.  I sat out on my deck one afternoon while the kids were napping and got a pretty roasty sunburn because I got so absorbed in reading about options for US clients seeking foreign brokers.  It’s been six months of that shit, and that’s nothing.

Well.  Not nothing.  Actually, it’s been a lot of hard work and a lot of nights going to bed long after I would have liked.  It’s been days of feeling like I knew it all and other days feeling like I had lost my fucking mind and what the hell was I doing, deluding myself into thinking I would ever be any good at this.  That last part is the worst: the self-doubt.  The self-doubt and the loneliness.  Because I literally know no one who is doing this.  I don’t know anyone who does anything more than long-term stock investments – blue chips that are destined to have good, long runs.  I told my cube mate what I was doing, and she just blinked, smiled, and said, “I have no idea what you just said, but it sounds scary.”

But oh my God.  The self-doubt.  I have made it into bed some nights when I was done and just stared at the ceiling, wondering what the fuck I was even doing.  You are wasting your time.  You don’t have time to waste, and you’re wasting it pretending that this is ever going to do anything.  You’re not that great at math.  You don’t know anything about the markets.  People go to college for four years and can’t get the hang of this crap.  Nobody can beat the market – even Warren Buffett basically believes that.  What the fuck are you doing?  Go suck someone’s dick at work and try to make it there! 

I have no idea what kept me going other than sheer stubbornness and the belief that somewhere out there, somebody had made it work.  And if somebody – some nameless somebody – could make it work, there was no reason in the world why I couldn’t, too.  That voice in the dark is an asshole.

I haven’t made it as a trader – not even close.  I have a solid six months more of demo trading left to go before I even consider funding a live account.  That’s six profitable months.  If I can’t be profitable, I’m not investing.  Period.  It’s a fool’s errand to invest money before you can be profitable in demo.  Because the emotions are real when real money is on the line.  All those pretty lines on the graphs equal two emotions, greed and fear, and you will find out how strong they are pretty fucking fast.  I am convinced down to the ground that trading will lay bare your soul to you, and if you can deal with what you see and get a handle on yourself, you’ve won 95% of the battle.

I fear both fear and greed.  I’ve asked myself what I would do if I eventually got to the point of turning handsome profits every year.  Would I buy a big house?  A fancy car?  Expensive jewelry?  Fur?  Men?  Drugs?  Would I still be a good person?  Worse still, what if it exposed the fact that I never was?  Would it be like looking upon the portrait of Dorian Gray?  Would I see someone draped in all the splendor the money of the world could buy but who was rotten down to the core?

And what about fear?  What would I do if I found out that I was a coward after all?  What if I let the fear keep me from winning?  What if I couldn’t get a handle on my emotions and allowed my inner fears to sabotage me?  What if I was secretly afraid to win?

These are all questions I’ve wrestled with, and some of them I still don’t have good answers for.  I don’t know if I’m a good person, and I don’t know if I would be with money.  I think money just magnifies the qualities that are already there.  I think I would be arrogant.  Self-important.  A lot above it all, instead of just a little.  Spend too much.  But I don’t think I would do others really wrong.  I might not be the nicest person who ever walked around, but I don’t think I would be bad.  I’d probably just end up hurting myself, more than anyone else.  I think.

And fear, well… If you can manage the voice in the dark, you’ll probably be okay.  Fear isn’t always wrong, either.  Sometimes it can be a good flag when you’ve made a rash decision based on greed.  But you have to be able to hang on when the trade goes against you.  Your stop-loss is there to save your ass if you evaluated the market incorrectly.  But you have to be able to stomach some drawdown.  You can’t be afraid just because you’ve had a losing trade or five.  Everyone loses.  The best traders in the world aren’t always right.  Nobody is always right.  Accept that you have to lose, and you’ll sleep better at night.

Now, ladies and gents, we have come to the point where I answer your question: how did the first trade go?  I mentioned back in a post a month or two ago that I wanted to lose my first trade, I think because I didn’t want my ego to get away from me, and I also wanted to be able to learn from my mistakes.  Well, I got my wish… And I didn’t.

I made my first demo trade going short on the Australian dollar against the US dollar.  I did my analysis last night and determined that I’d look at it this morning before work to see if it was going the way I thought it would.  It did.  Almost down to the letter, it did what I was thinking it would.  So I set my stop-loss, my take-profit, and let’er rip.  And I watched and waited.

Interjection: If you’re a long-term or swing trader, I don’t really recommend checking on your open trades throughout the day.  It feeds the ego, and it feeds the fear.  Just set your trade and see what happens when the market has closed and the candlestick has formed for the day.  I got a little taste of both of those emotions because the trade did move against me for the better part of the morning, actually.  It turned around about 11:30 and went very nicely from there. At the end of the day, I was a tidy little 25.3 pips ahead.  Not too bad for a first day out.

Except for one thing.  I screwed up the position size.

Scoff all you want.  I understand how position size works.  I know how to calculate it.  I’m not a total rube, but I am really bad about one thing: reading the damn directions.  It’s one thing to write this crap down on paper, but it’s a little bit different to do it in the trading platform.  In my head, for whatever stupid reason, units equaled something much larger than the broker platform seemed to think.  (I’m not using MT4, which is the industry standard, because it doesn’t run on Mac without Wine or whatever it is.)  Moral of the story is, my position size was comically small.  I mean, I think I beat my head on my desk for making such a rookie mistake.  But, you know… I am a rookie.  A dumb one, at that!

After thinking about it for a couple of minutes though, I had to smile, because honestly, I really believe what I said about trading laying your best and worst qualities bare, and one of mine was neatly exposed the very first day: I’m careless with “the easy stuff.”  I always have been.  And it’s because I lose focus, get in a hurry, and don’t check myself.  It plagued me in school, and it plagues me still at work.

It’s easy to laugh it off when it’s fifth grade math or some piddly little thing at work that I missed, but it’s not funny when suddenly there’s money involved.  Thankfully, there wasn’t real money involved this time, but I learned two very good lessons today.  The first and most obvious was that carelessness won’t do here.  There’s no re-doing your homework in real life.  You damn well get it right the first time.  So I shall strive, in all areas, to be more careful and give the details their due because that’s usually where the devil is: in the details.  The second thing is that every single trade, whether it goes my way or kicks me in the face, is a potential learning experience.

I’m calling the whole thing a win, including the stupid fail.  I like to think I got the best of both: the kind reassurance that I’m not totally clueless, but the sound kick in the ass in relation to my own personal shortcomings that need cleaning up.

I may not – will probably not, in fact – ever get rich as a Forex trader.  Fortunately, that’s not the goal.  The goal is, eventually, to wrest control of as much of my time and potential freedom and can reasonably be expected, given the limitations of a reasonably comfortable, modern life.  I don’t really care if I live in a big house or drive a Ferrari.  I do want to be able to travel and show my kids the world, and I want them to have a decent education and a comfortable life.  I want to not waste my entire adult life in a cubicle or an office.  I want to have the time to write a book or two, maybe get it published, and spend some time jamming on my 12-string.  I’d like to spend two hours or so a day working out, and I’d like to go to concerts on a regular basis.

I consider these to be reasonable goals.  Attainable goals.  Financial freedom doesn’t necessarily look like a condo on North Lake Shore Drive with three cars in the garage and a lake house in Geneva.  Sometimes it’s just being content with fewer material things but happier at the time you have to enjoy the immaterial things.  That’s the life for me.  If wanting to become a “full-time” trader means that I have to give up some of column A for the fruits of column B, then I will gladly surrender those things.  I’ll take back my time and right to self-determination.

I will just as gladly settle for a second income that allows me to live my life a little bit better than I do now.  And if I never have financial freedom or that second income, at least from Forex, well, dammit, at least I can say I tried.  I’m not going to go to my grave saying that I was too damn scared to try.  That’s the worst thing that fear can do to you: paralyze you into inaction.  That’s when fear really wins because if you never try, not only are you a coward, but you’re a true failure, as well.  I don’t know about you all, but I ain’t about that life.  Give me long odds and a desperate struggle any day.

Signing off from Ancapistan: good night and good luck!

Hamstrung

It’s been a slow week.  I haven’t felt like working out, eating right… I’m not sure what’s up with me.  I’m going to see Tarah this weekend, and I’m ready.  I need to get away for a few hours and refresh my mind.

I have a problem, and I don’t quite know how to address it.  Well… I do, but I don’t know how to stop caring about it.  Not giving a fuck is this incredibly valuable life skill that I have yet to master.  For most people, completely throwing hands up and not caring in any appreciable way anymore is impossible.  The only person I ever saw that came close to it was my grandfather.  He didn’t give a fuck.  As a direct result of his not giving a fuck, you knew that when he told you that he thought you were a moron, he really thought that.

My grandfather was from a different time, when people cared less, I think.  To rather illustrate the point, a story about how he caught a guy trespassing on his hunting ground down on Meredosia Island.  My uncle was with Grandpa.  The man had his hunting dog.  Grandpa shot the dog dead.  Of course, the guy was irate, threatened him with the law, etc.  And my grandpa very calmly told him, “You are trespassing on my property.  That was your warning.  Next time I shoot you.”

And he meant it.  He didn’t give a fuck.

My situation involves behavior that is out of my control.  I know that I should not worry about it because I can’t control it.  The problem with the behavior is that it’s trying to control me.  Having just gotten out of a really horrible relationship that was based largely on the other person trying to control me, you can imagine that I’m not too keen to take the bridle again.  I resent people trying to use messed up behavior to get what they want from me.

I see it everywhere: dishonesty in relationships.  It doesn’t matter if those relationships are professional, personal, romantic, or friendly.  People have this wild tendency to not tell the truth.  Nobody wants to stick his or her neck out.  Everyone is afraid of losing their head.  They’re all hamstrung by fear – fear of consequences, fear of what others will think, and fear, perhaps, of what they’ll think of themselves for demanding honesty in their interpersonal interactions.

Here’s the thing, though: bravery is rewarded.  Open communication makes for honest, healthy relationships.  Does that mean you have to be honest to the point of asshole?  Absolutely not.  You can be straightforward and tactful at the same time.  You can have a good opinion of yourself and maintain humility.  You can ask for what you deserve without being pushy or selfish.

It seems to like the reward for that kind of levelheaded, frank, kind communication would be happiness.  It would mean deeper, more meaningful relationships with loved ones.  It would mean greater efficiency and improved dealings at work.  So why are people so scared to have these open conversations?

I think it’s partly fear of poor reception and partly laziness.  I don’t mean laziness in the physical sense, but rather a certain emotional laziness and a tendency to go the route that ensures the least amount of personal discomfort.  There’s a certain short-term efficiency with dishonesty.  First order consequence.  Of course, that leaves open the question of second order consequence.

In my mind, relationships are like exercise, studying, or really anything else in life that you expect to get something out of: sometimes you have to endure a little bit of short-term discomfort for long-term gains.  People don’t like being told things they aren’t necessarily prepared to hear, but at the end of the day, sometimes those things need to be said.

Where I get genuinely bothered is when people are irritated or even angry about something but hide it behind false acquiescence, and then they later do things contradictory to their previous words.  They quietly withdraw support or say things about you when you aren’t there.  If you don’t like something, that’s fine, but be honest with me.

More and more, I see what I don’t want out of my relationships.  And the thing is, I feel like I can generally be honest with people.  I don’t try to hurt people’s feelings, but I’m not going to hide my thoughts away, either.  The result is that people think I’m a straight shooter, on the one hand, but they also regard me as something of an asshole on the other.  One thing I can guarantee is that people don’t ask for my opinion if they don’t really want it.

And I take that as a compliment, truthfully.  I know that when someone asks for my thoughts on something, they are genuinely interested in my response and not just looking for someone to reflect the answer that they want.  I expect the same courtesy from others.

I’m finding myself lately in the position where people are not honest with me.  They make passive-aggressive statements, don’t communicate the real problem or invent problems where there really are none, and then attempt to make amends by offering something they know I don’t want.  When I refuse, I look like the guilty party, and they get to be justified in slagging me to everyone who will listen.

I don’t care if people smear my name, really.  I am fine with who I am, and I know that I haven’t done anything wrong.  I’m not going to be anyone’s punching bag, and I’m not going to roll over and let someone gaslight me into oblivion like I did before.  What hurts is realizing, for good and all, that I’m not ever going to have the relationship that I want to have with the people in my life who behave like this.  One the one hand, I suppose you could make the argument that I shouldn’t want people in my life like that anyway, and I don’t, but there is always this hope – hope that things will change and suddenly be okay.

But I’m an adult.  I’ve been through a lot.  I’ve been in a horrible, manipulative relationship, and I know enough now to know that things aren’t going to change just because I want them to.  I have to acknowledge the limitations of the situation and the other people involved.  I have to recognize that the reality looks very different than the ideal in my mind.

I have to remind myself that, at the end of the day, the only person I can truly control is myself.  I can make the choice every day whether or not I’m going to be happy, kind, dedicated, cooperative, helpful, loving, sensible, and truthful.  And that’s what I’m going to do.  I’m going to choose to be happy.  I have to.  I have to stop worrying about the shit that I can’t control.  I have to stop giving a fuck what people think.  Treat other people better than they deserve, and it will never be an issue.  Or if it is, the world will know the truth because you’re better than your detractors’ words.

So that is what I will do.  I will be better tomorrow than I was today.  I am not going to cry for what never really was and never shall be.  I will accept things as they are with a shit-eating grin on my face, and I will make do with what comes.

I’ll leave you all with the parting thought that we should all be happy at what comes merely because it’s coming.  One of my coworkers’ parents passed away with no warning at a rather young age two days ago.  That person has no more chances, and I’ll bet he never saw it coming.  Tomorrow is not guaranteed, and life is too short to give a fuck.  Shoot the dog.

Observations of a Wallflower

I went to see OAR at the Pageant in St. Louis last night.  I had two tickets thinking someone would go with me if I paid for the ticket.  Turns out the answer to that would unanimously be, “No.  Just no.  You’re on your own, Marge.”  I had a vague idea in my head why people wouldn’t want to go.  I can now confirm it.

First of all, I had a great time, even going alone.  I’ve been doing stuff alone – mostly by choice – for years, and it doesn’t bother me at all.  I don’t feel sad or lame showing up to things on my own.  To the contrary, actually.  Sometimes going by myself to an event or even traveling alone for a few days makes me feel kind of cooler than everyone else.  Maybe sometimes it is just flat-out more fun to go with a group, but I honestly think most people are just scared to do things by themselves.

I was not into OAR back in the late 90s/early 00s, when they were fresh and new and probably at the height of their career, in terms of coolness factor.  I had a few Chicago friends who liked them, but nobody around here that I knew listened to them.  I never gave them much thought because jam bands were not my thing back in those days – still aren’t, by and large.  I was listening to Rammstein, System of a Down, and classic rock, for the most part.

I don’t know what made me listen to OAR one day, but it was over a year ago.  Maybe I thought about my camp friends who liked them, or maybe I randomly thought of the burned OAR CD one of my friends had.  I don’t really know.  I listened to them, they were upbeat, and it came at a time in my life when that was really what I needed.  I didn’t need more introspective, dark hipster shit.  I’m half-ashamed to admit that I think I teared up the first time I heard the ad-libbed part of the 34th and 8th version of “Crazy Game of Poker.”  That was my life in that moment, and it really kind of sucked.

So last night, I left the girls with Grandma and drove down to the Lou to hear my guys.  Friends, I didn’t get the memo.

First of all, I am apparently not a typical OAR fan.  I’m not saying that with condescension, either – I just legitimately do not fit in with that crowd.  Like, at all.  Not the STL OAR fans, anyway.  Usually when I go to a concert, I slot right in with the rest of the crowd.  Man… Not this time.  I stuck out like a sore thumb.

There is a uniform for OAR fans.  If you’re a guy, you shall wear a plaid or patterned button-up shirt with khaki shorts and Sperrys or leather flip-flops and a perfectly trimmed beard or perfectly clean shave.  You will have good hair, nice teeth, clear skin, and excellent muscle definition in your arms.  The eye candy was outstanding.  I have literally never seen that many attractive men packed into one place in my life.  Ever.  It was like being back at Mizzou.

The girls were all hotter than me except that one random lesbian over there.  They were predominantly thin, blonde, wearing skinnies, booties, and a half-slutty, cleavage-baring shirt with lace and/or cutouts.  Giant bag optional.

Enter Marge.  I was wearing my skinny jeans because they were clean.  So check by default, I guess.  I was wearing Chacos because it’s still hot out, and I don’t put away my Chacos until it is just too fucking cold to wear them.  Also, hello!  Concrete floors!  Sensible footwear is a must.  And, of course, I was wearing my ancap flag shirt that’s a little too big but oh-so-comfortable.  I didn’t have time to change.  I really thought there would be at least a few laid-back stoner types there.  Nope.  Not a one.

Now, to be clear, I know OAR is a “party band.”  I know they aren’t “super-deep” like Radiohead (fucking gag me, I hate goddamn Radiohead) or any number of the other “hipster” bands I listen to.  I get that.  But it’s okay to want to listen to something that is upbeat.  OAR absolutely helped bring me through one of the darkest times in my life.  That’s why I went to see them.  I felt like I owed them a ticket.

I’ll be honest, though: I am not enamored with the other OAR fans.  When I think of “tools,” these are the people I think of.  Current or former Mizzou Greeks.  Attractive, certainly, but completely shallow and incapable of meaningful conversation.  These are not “ideas” people.  They are absolutely delusionally self-confident, and they could afford to give some away to me.  Actually, I think they did.  After observing their behavior last night, I walked away thinking that there is literally no reason on Earth why any of them should have more money or be more successful than me.  Most of their quality physical attributes can be gotten through exercise and good diet.  Their success rests solely on the fact that they’re so delusional, they aren’t afraid to act.

And I hate to say that about an entire group of people, that they’re ridiculous and annoying, but that was my feeling, leaving the Pageant.  I have never been surrounded by a more ridiculous group of people.  If I were in a famous band, I would be ashamed if my average follower acted like that, especially if the fanbase is supposedly aging out of their 20s.

The thing that drove it home for me was the drinking.  Holy fuck.  The drinking.  Now folks, you all know I like my whiskey.  I can drink a lumberjack under the table, but I don’t do it every time I go out or go to a concert.  I’ve had plenty of nights that ended with my head in the toilet.  I’m 32.  It takes less time to recover from minor surgery than a massive hangover.  Also, frankly, I like OAR. They’re fun.  I came to listen to and watch them.  That’s the major reason I go to concerts.  It’s not that I don’t want to have a few drinks with my friends and have fun, but I want to be able to remember the concert, you know?  I don’t get to go to that many, and I don’t understand not wanting to appreciate what you’re listening to.  So I guess there’s probably a fundamental difference in motivations there.

I watched people go back to the bar literally a dozen times, in some cases.  Friends, drinks were not cheap.  I bought one double Jack on the rocks, and it cost nearly $20.  I should have brought my flask, and I will the next time I go to the Pageant.  I can’t imagine wanting to spend that much money on drinks.  Like I said, I love liquor as much as the next person, but seriously, you can get white girl wasted very cheap.  Believe me, I know how to do it.  What are people out to prove, spending that much money on cash?  Do they really have so much to blow that spending $10 for a cup of cheap beer is nothing, or is someone else footing the bill?

The other thing I noted was that the event was very “couple-y.”  Everyone was hooked up except for me and that one lesbian over there with the gay guy.  Everyone.  Even the “unattractive” (read: average) people had dates.  Groping happened a lot.  It didn’t bother me to be the like, one single person (story of my life), but I was just impressed by the sheer number of hooked up people.  Do OAR fans have an easier time finding mates?  Is it because they’re all hot?  I don’t even know.  I don’t get it.

The one single, straight man in there was like, 50 and dressed like a frat boy.  And he found me.  Old men always do.  He acted like he thought he was 25.  I have met very few men over the age of 40 that I would still consider to be tools, but this guy was a tool.  It took forever for him to take a fucking hint, and he laughed like a donkey at everything I said, even though I was just politely answering his questions.  Like, dude.  I’m 32 with kids, not some frat house floozy hoping to snag a sugar daddy because I failed with the hotties my own age.  Sheesh!

Incidentally, I always get hit on by older men.  Always.  Very rarely do men my own age go for me.  I suspect I’m scary.  Even when I was 20, it seemed like I attracted men 5-15 years older than me.  It was cooler when I was 20.  Now 15 years older is getting pretty close to 50.  Sorry, aging men: 45 is my ceiling.  Fifty-year-old who thinks he’s 23 is a solid hell no.  I’m horny, not desperate.

Anyway.  I’ve read a few things that seem to indicate that OAR fans – and party/jam bands, generally – have a reputation for being unruly and kind of obnoxious.  Drunken antics, drugs, and stupid behavior were par for the course not that many years ago.  I think there have been efforts to curtail that behavior, but the fact that the original fanbase is aging out of that kind of behavior naturally probably helps.  Although honestly, most of the people I saw last night were younger than me.  I’ve seen online debates about OAR’s “sellout” status and that factor driving away “true” fans (i.e., the older fans closer to my age).  For the record, I don’t think they sold out.  I think they don’t want to make the same record over and over, and I think that their label probably pushes for certain sounds to sell albums.  Selling albums is hard these days.  But I doubt the people I saw last night care about selling out, anyway.

The truth of the matter is this, in any case: my fellow OAR fans disappoint me.  I know it’s no good to make generalizations, but the vast majority of them are people I would never seek out under normal circumstances.  I talked to a couple sitting near me, and they seemed cool and relatable, but they were the only people I saw who looked like hippies.  “Frat douche” would be how I would characterize the bulk of the people I saw last night, and that’s not my tribe.

But I really enjoyed the show, despite the audience factor.  I still enjoy the music. For audience interaction, they rank #2 among the concerts I’ve been to.  Ani DiFranco is far and away the most authentic performer I’ve ever seen live.  I won’t say OAR isn’t authentic, but I think they know their brand and have been doing it long enough that they’ve gotten really good at phoning it in.  And you know, when you’ve been touring for 20 years, that’s a good thing.

I think they enjoy what they’re doing – you’d have to, to survive that long living on buses and performing two-hour shows every day or two for months and years on end – but I also think they have learned how to give a good show disguised as a great show.  They have learned conservation of resources (effort) – in other words, they’ve found their “McDonald’s point.”  They give essentially the same show (with some minor variations) every night, enjoy it enough to put in some effort, and have figured out how to make it look like they’re putting in more than they are.  They’re delivering the expected product without killing themselves.

Does that sound like a harsh review?  It’s not.  This is a band that goes out and plays their instruments and sings their songs.  They interact with the audience some, and they give a solid performance.  I give a lot of credit to performers who are still musicians because when you look at the “big” acts – Britney, Taylor, whatever the fuck else is popular right now – most don’t sing live, many can’t or don’t play instruments on stage, and they get up there selling sex.  OAR plays live, and best I can tell, they aren’t selling sex, although Jerry DePizzo ain’t too hard on the eyes, in my humble opinion.

I would go see OAR again, but I’ll be honest and say that they would be better outside.  Part of that is me wanting to be able to sit on the grass and just listen and enjoy while drinking beer out of a cooler without having to fight 150 drunk people for overpriced beverages.  I also think it’s a band to enjoy with a group.  Flying solo or even with fewer than 4-5 people people probably isn’t your best bet.  They’re a party band.  Roll like you’re actually going to a party.

Overall, a great night.  My general disdain for other OAR fans didn’t really detract from the experience.  I went because I felt like I owed them a ticket for helping me keep my chin up on the bad days I’ve had over the last year and a half.  (I don’t know if you know this, but there have been a lot.)  Music doesn’t have to be pretentious or somber to be meaningful; it just has to strike a chord in you.  OAR strikes a chord in me, and I am utterly grateful that it struck the positive ones because that was what I sorely needed.

So thanks, OAR.  I have a quote from one of your live versions of “Poker” up on my cube wall at work.  You put a smile on my face on days when I had precious little to smile about.  That’s worth a lot – enough that I can forgive your fanbase.  I’m up for game two.  Maybe not next year, but I’ll catch you again one of these days.

 

The Great Online Dating Experiment

I’ve been contemplating the particulars of getting back into the dating world for a while now.  It was bad enough the first time, but it’s going to be doubly interesting with a divorce under my belt and three kids in tow.  And let’s be honest: as we get older, the pool shrinks because people have married off.  Also, ladies, it’s not a foregone conclusion but a statistically probable truth that if a man hasn’t attempted marriage by 40, he’s probably not in the market.  That’s okay, for the record, but don’t go expecting that you’re going to be the one who changes him.  So between the jobless layabouts, fuckwits, alcoholics, perverts, toxic bachelors, nontoxic perma-bachelors, dudes who have three kids with three different women, and mental patients, it’s a shark tank out there.

It always was.  But there was more choice when I was younger.  Man, if the wisdom of age could go back and counsel my 21-year-old self…!  No point in lingering on the foolishness of youth because it is known, Khaleesi.  I do say, for any potential young readers, don’t sell yourself short.

Anyway, I’m lonely and bored.  I need adult conversation – preferably intelligent conversation that doesn’t revolve around people known to both parties (read: gossip). I would be enthusiastic if that conversation happened over a drink or two or perhaps a quick lunch.  Really, anything.  I would be doubly enthusiastic if it led to other extracurricular activities.  God, would I.  Celibacy is, in fact, the worst form of self-abuse.

The main issue is that I don’t have time to go out trolling the bars for undateable alcoholics anymore.  Also, have you seen what lurks in the dark corners in the Jacksonville watering holes?  I mean… It’s bad.  There are occasionally decent college guys from IC or Mac, but they’re in college.  My friend Tarah scrounged one up for me the last time we went out, and I should have just taken the opening and run with it because he was into it, but fuck!  He was 22!  It just made me feel old.  We weren’t even inhabiting the same planet.  And he was smart and sweet enough, but seriously.  Twenty-two is still a baby.  I’d feel like I was committing statutory rape or something.

Anyway, given that I don’t have scads of free time and the little that I do have is usually devoted to some other project that I consider to be more important in some way, there isn’t a lot of hope for meeting someone out on the town.  So what do you do to cut to the chase?  Well, most of America gets on Tinder or some other manner of online dating platform.

Online dating used to be one of those things that was reserved for social retards and people too hideous to get dates with “normal” people, but the scene has changed a lot since I was beating my head against the wall the first time.  Most of my Chicago friends are on Tinder (for sure), Bumble, or any number of other free online dating sites that promise you the person of your dreams – for one night, at least.  What the sites don’t promise but will definitely deliver is an untold amount of creepiness and fuckwittage.

I clearly remember Adrienne taking to Facebook one evening, raging with moral indignation.  She had been talking to this guy – good-looking, presumably employed, seemingly nice.  They were scheduled to have drinks, and he didn’t show up.  She waited around for an hour, got hit on by someone already there, but she was so bummed/furious at being rejected by this other person that she passed on the one who was there.  The logical person in me says that second bit is a fail on her part, but I get being so miffed at a situation that you just aren’t in a position mentally to take advantage of it.  She posted a long Facebook rant, and I was like, “Dude, common decency is uncommon.  Life is hard.”  (She says, “Life is hard,” a lot.)

The reality is that in a place like Chicago, where the dating pool seems virtually bottomless, online dating reduces you to numerical status, and the massive amount of options gives people the illusion that there will always be someone better.  It’s a logical fallacy, but in a world of endless choices, it’s easy to fall into that trap and not be happy with what you’ve got.

I, however, have never had such a problem.  They weren’t beating down my door when I was in my prime, never married, and childless, so my expectation is that I will find the scene far harder now.  And I’m fine with that.  I personally don’t care if someone has been married before and has kids because hey, at my age, it’s a lot harder to find people without a storied history.  That’s life, and I’m cool with it.

That said, I fully expect the Internet to be full of freaks.  Full.  You hear stories about dick pics, gross messages, and bad dates.  Well, I am here to be your guinea pig.  I will wade into the pissed-in pool of online dating so you don’t have to.  You can sit on your couch with Netflix, popcorn, and your phone and read about all the stupid shit that happens to me.  I can pretty much guarantee that there will be at least one cringe-inducing experience because that’s how I roll.  One of my coworkers was heard to remark just this Friday past, “Margaret, that is a very odd story.  You have a lot of strange, uncomfortable things happen to you.”  You’re just now noticing?

So here’s what I’m going to do: I will make myself three (honest) online profiles on OKCupid, Tinder, and Bumble.  For those of you who haven’t done the online thing or who are just kind of out of the loop otherwise, here’s the skinny on these three different services.

I feel like everyone knows about Tinder.  It’s a notorious “hookup” app that has gained massive popularity among the college and 20-something crowd.  The crowd is growing steadily older though because hey, us “old” folks need lovin’, too!  Tinder is where the infamous “swipe right, swipe left” thing came from.  People make profiles that are primarily based on photos, and if you like what you see, you swipe right.  Don’t like them, you swipe left.  It has generally been my understanding that guys swipe right almost continuously, so it falls back on women to be more selective.  I have a lot of friends who use Tinder, to varying degrees of success.

Bumble was created by a fired exec from Tinder.  The premise is mostly identical, but men aren’t allowed to message women.  I think the idea is to cut down on the amount of creepy, gross messages that most women receive on dating apps because women have to make the first move.  It’s supposed to give women more control and weed out the weirdos.  I’ve heard tell that the quality is generally higher on Bumble on all fronts – looks, education, jobs, etc.

I will say up front that while I don’t relish the idea of gross messages from random strangers, in real life, I don’t generally approach men.  I might look, I might smile, and I might accidentally “bump” someone in the bar, but it’s been a damned rare occasion that I went chasing.  Call me old-fashioned, call me sexist, call me anti-feminist, but I honestly feel like it’s part of the natural order of things for men to do the chasing.  I’m not saying that women shouldn’t go after what they want, but on the one or two occasions that I’ve chased, it didn’t work.  You know why?  Because for the most part, I think if men are interested, they’ll put in the work.  If they aren’t willing to work for it, there’s a reason.  He’s just not that into you.  My experience across the board has been that when a guy is into it, he will come after you.  And honestly, if a guy isn’t man enough to show interest and stick his neck out, I’m not interested.

I know it’s all the thing now to want sensitive guys who cry or whatever, but I ain’t about that life.  I mean, don’t be an asshole, but be a fucking man.  I feel like there’s this small but vocal subculture in the West right now that wants to castrate men and make them into giant, lazy, man-children.  They want them weak and easily dominated, and I am just not about that.  Be a fucking man.  Chop wood and go kill something.  Be the hunter.  Be good to your wife or girlfriend or boyfriend or whatever the hell you have, but for God’s sake, man up.  Okay, rant over.

OKCupid has been around for a while.  I actually did it for a very brief period in college when it was brand new.  One of my friends was ordered to do it for a class, and she actually got a date off of it, so I gave it a go.  I ended up meeting someone about a week before I left for Korea the first time, but you know.  Left on a jet plane.  So it goes.

Like most of the major sites, they talk some crap about algorithms or whatever.  I think that’s mostly marketing.  There isn’t a lot of solid proof that any of that works because it’s hard to account for the spark.  I think probably the best you can do is search for people who seem both reasonably attractive and interesting to you.  Common interests are a good place to start.

I’ll give this thing a month and see where it gets.  I promise that I will report back at the beginning of October and share the creepy messages and random shit that gets thrown at me.  Maybe that will even include a bad date, but I’m not holding my breath.  As always, I hope for the best but expect the worst.  Whatever the outcome, I will make another post about it with the results from all three sites.  Wish me luck!  Given my dating history, I will absolutely need any you can spare and more.

Oh, and I signed up for a 5k trail run at the beginning of November, and I’m thinking about entering the one here in town for the Pumpkin Festival the third week of October.  If I don’t take any extra days off, and barring any more random acts of God/flu bouts, I should be ready for it.  I will also do a post about that with my final review of Couch 2 5K, possibly including pictures with my fat ass lying across the finish line in a pool of sweat.  Stay tuned!

The Fall 2016 Playlist

I haven’t done a music round-up for a while now.  I’ve been listening to a seriously random mash of stuff lately.  Well, that’s not different from normal, but I feel like I’ve really been running the gamut for the last couple of months or so.  I suppose that could be because I’ve been trying to put together workout playlists, and that always brings me back to rap.  I run to rap, and I don’t apologize for it.  Doesn’t running just wanna make you bust a cap in someone’s ass?  Murder was the case, yo.

Anyway, I haven’t done a music post for a while.  I thought about writing about how my ex-husband threw away my German parka, but you’ve already heard about my mint condition X-Men: Age of Apocalypse comics that bit the dust, and you’ve certainly heard enough about what an idiot my ex is, so there’s really no reason to keep beating a dead horse.

Here’s a slice of what I’ve been jamming out to lately, including a brief review.  I’ll try to keep the trap rap out of the picture…

“Hallelujah” –  Ryan Bingham (live version)

This one popped up on my weekly Spotify recommendations a month or two ago.  It might be a little too countrified for some of you, but it speaks to me.  “I miss living… And living misses me…”  Don’t miss living if you aren’t actually dead.

“Speedom” – Tech N9ne ft. Eminem & Krizz Kaliko

This song renewed my respect for Eminem.  Like, holy shit.  This one is on my running playlist.  I try to time it for when I know I’m going to get tired because it gets me to power through the slump.  If you appreciate stupid-fast rap, Eminem, or Tech, you will love this or already know about it.  Technicians are insane.

“Gods and Monsters” – Lana del Rey

Let it be said that I’m lukewarm on Lana del Rey.  She has some songs, such as this one, that I can listen to on repeat for ages, and then some of her stuff I find totally blah.  Her voice is mediocre and atonal.  I feel like she’s human heroin or some related opiate.  She’s fuzzy, sleepy, and not that exciting, frankly, but like I said, she has her moments.  This song speaks to me.  Actually, this song probably was me, at one point.

Side note to Spotify lovers: I discovered this song on a David Lynch tribute playlist.  HIGHLY recommend said playlist, if your a regular user of that service, as I am.  It’s one of my favorites.

“Been On My Grind” and “Back Up” by DeJ Loaf

I love this chick.  “Been On My Grind,” from start to finish, is pretty much my entire life right now.  My only regret about these songs is that the beats are slow, so they aren’t great for running.  Still great songs when you need a pick-me-up.

“I been on my grind all week.  I ain’t been gettin’ no sleep, but that shit don’t matter to me.  I’m tryin’ to fuckin’ win, man.”

“America’s Sweetheart” – Elle King

Daughter of Rob Schneider and some supermodel.  I love this chick.  She’s got some attitude.  One of my coworkers brought me this song because she heard it and thought of me.  I’ll take that as a compliment.

“Sing to Me” by Tim Bowness and Steven Wilson

I love me some Steven Wilson.  Progressive rock is pretty good, guys.  If you like this song, I highly recommend “Trains” by Porcupine Tree (Steven Wilson).  He actually just put out an album… Name is currently escaping me… But it’s about the imagined life of this real woman that was found dead and decomposed in her NYC apartment.  Nobody had missed her.  I really enjoyed it and have given it a couple of listens now.  Steven Wilson does excellent things with music.  Even Tom Woods, whom I love but is a huge dork, loves Steven Wilson.  Go listen.  Right now.

“Kraken” by Three Trapped Tigers

Tokyo Dave got me turned onto TTT, a British electronic trio.  He’s obsessed with them.  I’m not obsessed, but I’m extremely appreciative.  I’m 95% sure it’s because I associate this band with him, but this band sounds like I feel Tokyo should look like.  That probably doesn’t make sense, but if you could see my visualization of the Tokyo cityscape, it would.  Their drummer is phenomenal, and if you like layered electronic stuff, I expect you will like this.

“Click” by Ultraspank

Terrible, terrible name – great band.  Sheesh, worst name ever.  Anyway, if you liked the industrial and techno-edged rock stuff (KMFDM, NIN, et al) that was coming out in the late 90s/early 00s, you will like Ultraspank.  They never got big or anything, but they’re good.  You’re welcome.

“No Good” by Kaleo

Another coworker recommendation.  These guys are Icelandic, I think, which you wouldn’t believe to listen to them.  They sort of remind me of the Dirty River Boys.  I quite like them.

And speaking of the Dirty River Boys…

“Down By the River” by the Dirty River Boys

Loved this song the first time I heard it.  Still do.

Margielas” by Chief Keef

This one’s for you, Melissa.  In case you forgot who that is, Melissa is my Jewish granny who works on the west side in Chicago (read: the hood).  She said she’s sending me a matzah ball soup kit for Hanukkah so that my masquerade as a Jew in the name of warding off the Jesus freaks around here will seem more convincing.

“I didn’t think you guys were looking for converts.  And also I think I’d lose respect for the Jewish community if you took me, frankly.”
“Well, I wouldn’t be a good Jewish grandma if I didn’t nag you about making matzah balls and keeping kosher and all that.”
“Can’t you just nag me about becoming a doctor and marrying another Jew?  I hate cooking.”
“Me, too.  I can’t make matzah balls.  I think they have these kits…”
“I’m just going to buy the Jewish gingerbread house at Walmart this year as a joke and warning and be done with it.”

Also that weekend, we went to the Boatel with the rest of the crew that was in town.  She ordered a roast beef sandwich that was supposed to come with “tiger sauce,” whatever the fuck that is, and it didn’t.  She complained and made them take it back.

Cue the turn back to the rest of us, holding up her hands, and saying: “I’m such a Jew. But it wasn’t right.  I’m not paying if they don’t get it right.”
Me: “Okay, Myrna.”  (That’s her actual Jewish grandma, and that woman does not pay for dinner if she’s supposed to be picking up the tab.)
Holly: “We were all thinking it.”

Anyway, she despises trap music, so I make it a point to play it whenever she’s around.  I guess her students love it.  She says Chief Keef lives in LA and can’t come back to Chicago because the cops want him dead.  He’s a horrible rapper, and the beats aren’t great for running, but I love this ridiculous song.  I also love Margiela.  He’s an anti-Semite, but John Galliano is a goddamn genius with fashion, regardless of how you feel about him.  Dior hasn’t been as good since he got fired.  All the more reason for Melissa to hate this song, I guess.  I doubt she’d appreciate the Jew-hating.

“Invitation” by Britney, bitch

I am ashamed to say that I’ve had this song on repeat for a week now.  It convinced me that pop music now is about 10 years behind the hipsters of the world.  I was listening to spacey, electronic shit like this 10+ years ago.  … Please ignore the fact that I’m buying a PBR shirt and a flannel off Amazon.  I can admit that I’m a dirty hipster who loves her indie cred when it comes to music, but seriously, this kind of slathered-on electronic stuff was huge in the hipster scene well before it was mainstream.

Whatever.  I like spacey, electronic stuff.  I don’t pay much attention to the lyrics.  I find the actual synths relaxing, and with the auto-tune in high gear, it almost doesn’t sound like Brit-Brit.  Truth be told, I don’t totally mind Britney, and “Toxic” was a great song.  Hello, Germany 2004… I absolutely remember dancing with Holly and Erika in Heimbar to that song.  Good times.

“Fuck the Po-Po (live)” by Corey Smith

I fucking love this song.  My aunt and uncle took one of those citizen’s police academy classes a few months back, to my horror.  Far as I can tell, it was designed to make people love the bacon, and that is just never going to happen in my case.  I know there are good and bad cops, but, you know, an-cap.  I’m distrustful of authority.

“For every cop who thinks his badge is a crown, this song is for you, and I’ll never bow down.”

“Testarossa Autodrive” by Kavinsky

My ex-husband hated this song.  Hated it.  So play it once just for that reason.  I use it for running because it’s a fast-moving song.  I agree that it’s not something to listen to on repeat, but if you like uptempo electronica, this is a great song.

“Just One Day of Endless Love” by Lalleshwari (Katie-Jane Garside)

This song is almost 20 minutes long.  I find it beautiful and terribly relaxing, and I have used it for meditating.  The vocals are meandering, repetitive, and hard to understand, so I don’t find that it interferes with what I’m trying to do.  The whole album, Lullabies in a Glass Wilderness, is kind of like that.  Back when I was traveling a lot, I would always have the album on my iPod for long flights when I knew I’d need to sleep because the album is quiet and subtle, for the most part, so I would put it on and pass out.  Maybe that’s why it works well for me with meditation – I expect it to relax me based on experience.  Or maybe it actually does that well.  Give it a try and see for yourself.  You can’t miss with KJG.  She is my forever girl-crush.

“13 Ghosts II” by Nine Inch Nails

I never really thought of NIN as romantic or sexy, but this song is both to me.  It sounds like it was pulled out of a slow sex scene in an indie film or something.

“I Love My Lawyer” by Ofelia K

I don’t love my actual lawyer.  I call him Killer Bob (if you’ve never seen Twin Peaks, don’t click that link if you’re also alone in a dark room) because he’s kind of mean and unendearing.  But as I’ve often said, I was not paying the man to be my friend; I was paying him to be an asshole, and he was good at it.  Highly recommend him for all your divorce needs.

This another of those stripped-down sounding pop songs that’s all the rage right now, but I kind of dig Ofelia K, and I’m way into this song.  It reminds me of that 31-year-old German I slept with when I was 20.  He was pretty and had it covered.  And now that I think about it, he wore a black car coat.  He didn’t look like he was mourning, though.  He looked like a model.  … I really need to take a trip back to Europe.  I play better to that crowd than I do to American guys.

“Pursuit of Happiness” – Kid Cudi cover by Lissie 

I don’t really like the Kid Cudi version that much, but Lissie hits it out of the park on the rock cover.  This song has been one of my anthems for a while now.  It’s incredibly easy to play on the guitar, too.

“Wolves (Live at St. Pancras Church)”
“A New Anhedonia (Live at St. Pancras Church)”
“My Dove, My Lamb (Live at St. Pancras Church)”
“Song for Zula” – Phosphorescent

I can’t say enough good about the Muchacho de Lujo album by Phosphorescent.  I really can’t.  I have been listening to it for months, and I’m sure I put “Ride On/Right On” on a different post.  That was the gateway drug.

Please, please, please: if you listen to no other song off of this post, please listen to the live version of “Wolves,” and listen to it all the way through.  If it doesn’t evoke some emotions in you and/or send shivers up your spine, I owe you a Coke.  I had someone actually come up and thank me for sending them the link to this song.  It’s that good.  I highly recommend listening in a quiet place where you can really tune in and get into it.

The whole album is fantastic, and I highly recommend actually buying the whole thing – deluxe edition, or you won’t get the St. Pancras concert versions.  They’re brilliant in studio, they’re brilliant live… I want to see Phosphorescent live so bad.  So bad.

 

I think I’ve amassed a good enough collection of stuff to keep you occupied for a few minutes, anyway.  That’s just a sampling of what I’ve got in rotation right now.  Excluding OAR.  I’m not putting any more OAR up here because literally every single one of my friends mocks me for my appreciation of those guys.  They don’t mock me for Rammstein or my secret love of awful trap rap and crappy (and excellent) techno.  They mock me for OAR.  I feel like they’re among the least of my musical offenses – Chief Keef is the musical crime equivalent of a drive-by – but whatever.  I’m going to see them in St. Louis next Friday, probably alone, and I’m fucking thrilled.  I am so excited, it’s kind of embarrassing.  … It’s probably better that I fly solo so that I can fangirl out and not have to listen to retellings of it amidst peals of laughter later.  I can hear it now:

“Marge got drunk and cried during that song about poker!”
“Only Marge would cry about losing a card game.”
“Okay, I was drunk, and I wasn’t crying.”
“You were crying.”
“… I was drunk.”
“Not that drunk.”
“Marge, you cried at a concert for aging frat boys.”
“Oh, fuck you guys!”

Whatever.  OAR fan 4 life.  Hope you guys find something new and enjoyable on the list!  Happy start of fall!

Somersize Redux: An Ode to My Most Popular Post

I’ve written about a lot of different topics over the years.  This started as a blog about life in Korea, but it’s sort of morphed into just whatever I want, since I’m no longer living in Korea (thank God).  I’ve done posts on libertarian topics, travel, divorce, makeup, and I think Divine even made it in there somewhere, but no single post has been as popular as the one I wrote about Somersizing.  I guess that tells you a lot about what sells, huh?

I first did the Somersize (Schwarzbein) Diet back in 2011-2012, and I lost a ton of weight doing it – about 130 lbs. or so, I think.  I stuck with it while I was pregnant with Brett and only gained about 25 pounds with her.  Of course, then we came back to the US, I got off of it, and I put on like, 50 lbs. apiece with the next two.  So, you know, gained almost all of it back.  Then the divorce got rolling, and yeah.  I knew I needed to get the weight off because I wasn’t feeling or looking good at all with those extra pounds on.

My aunt and uncle had been going to HMR again (the Howe family keeps that program in business, I swear), so I had them get me some of the shakes that I used to drop all the weight back in high school.  For better or for worse, I think losing all of my weight via a liquid diet was a one-time event for me.  I did it for a little while, and it got the ball rolling, but it’s not going to be something I can stick to for the long-term.  I’ll be blunt: liquid fasts suck.  They are appealing because they eliminate choice, and you’ll see major results overnight, but in my experience, they don’t do much of anything towards encouraging a permanent lifestyle change.  Once you’re done dropping the pounds, you’re left with the same bad habits that you started with.  This is the part where I say, “Spoiler!  I lost about 60-70 pounds on HMR and then left it behind.”

I quit HMR for the reasons listed above, on top of the fact that the shakes are expensive, and frankly I got sick of being hungry all the time.  Also, you can’t participate in anything when you’re doing a fast.  You don’t realize how much every single event ever centers around food until you can’t eat.  And let’s be honest: who wants to go through life not living it?  The reason I’ve gone through the bulk of my life looking bulky is because there are few things that make me happier than eating, so I’m not going to give that up.

So, surprise, surprise, I’m back to the low-carb thing.  Now, I will admit straight away that I’m not Somersizing.  I decided to give the Slow Carb Diet thing a try, partly because I think it’s fairly obvious that I’m on a Tim Ferriss kick, and also because I can still have caffeine and a cheat day once a week.

In case any of you needed a refresher on Somersizing, there are seven fairly basic rules that you follow during the weight loss phase:

  1. No funky foods: no wheat (especially bleached wheat), no sugar, no unpronounceable ingredients, caffeine, fat-having dairy, alcohol, starchy vegetables, etc.
  2. Eat fruit 30 minutes before  or 2 hours after anything else.
  3. Don’t mix fats & protein with carbs.
  4. Eat carbs with vegetables only (1 meal per day only)
  5. Eat fats and proteins with vegetables.
  6. Wait three hours between meals if you’re switching from carbs to protein.
  7. Eat at least three meals a day.  Do not skip meals.

I promise that Somersizing works.  I had a really easy time sticking with it, and the pounds melted off.  I felt great, and I never should have allowed myself to get off of it.  We got home, I was pregnant, and I let myself get enamored with things like eating bulk Mexican food and stuff like that again.  Also, it’s hard to control cravings sometimes when your hormones are out of control.  And, uh, I have a hard time keeping weight off.  I’m like Oprah that way.

The Slow Carb thing isn’t actually all that different from Somersize, but there are a few key differences.  Here are the official rules:

  1. Avoid “white” carbs.  This means no flour products, breaded stuff, dairy, potatoes of any sort, rice, etc.  Yes, cauliflower is okay.
  2. Eat the same meals over and over again.  I love this because I’m a lazy fuck and hate cooking.  I make my crack chicken and eat on that all week.  Recipe below!
  3. Don’t drink your calories.  No Starbucks, no regular soda, no booze.  A little red wine is okay, as is black coffee, tea, and diet soda (in moderation).  Don’t drink soda, guys.
  4. Don’t eat fruit.
  5. Take one cheat day per week and eat whatever the hell you want.  Faturday.

My favorite part of the whole thing is that you get one cheat day a week.  I have done “Faturday” every single week thus far, primarily because Saturday tends to be the most social day of the week.  Birthday parties, trips to the fair – all that stuff happens on Saturday, it seems like.  On your cheat day, you can do whatever you want, food-wise, except that you’re supposed to stick to the plan for breakfast (protein-heavy).

The cheat day really helps me because it feels like a reward, but it’s controlled and planned, which I like.  It actually prevents you from getting into that “reward syndrome,” where you think, “Oh, I’ve been so good for X amount of time.  I can reward myself now.”  If you’re me, you’ll find that the rewards come closer and closer together and in greater and greater amounts.  But if it’s planned once a week, well, that makes it controllable, at least for me.  I look forward to it, even though my conclusion has been the same every week: that was not worth it. I felt better without it.

Not stated in the start-up rules is that you’re supposed to have green vegetables and lentils or legumes with every meal.  I don’t like beans, so I don’t do that.  You can also have cottage cheese in moderation because there’s a lot of protein in it.  Avocados are another “moderate” food, and I believe you can have Parmesan cheese.

So now for the opinion portion on how they stack up against each other.  Honestly, I think they’re both great.  I love low-carb diets.  My body does not tolerate carbs and sugar well.  They just make me balloon, quite frankly.  And that sucks because I love pasta and bread.  But I also love steak and bacon, which is totally legal, so that’s a positive.  I feel the same way about dieting as I feel about everything else: you have to do what works best for you.

If you like to cook and need variety in your diet, you’ll definitely prefer Somersize.  Suzanne Somers has cookbooks and recipes out there will give you lots of great ideas for kick-ass meals that actually taste good.  That’s probably the single best thing about Somersizing: you will never feel deprived.  You may have to spend a little bit more time making food, but it’s doable, and you’ll be glad you did.

If you don’t care much about variety and actually kind of prefer to eat the same meals over and over again, at least during the week, the Slow Carb Diet is a good bet.  Also, if you find a cheat day to be a necessary, this is a winner.  I can’t really speak to how well it works to bulk you up if you’re into weight training because I don’t do it and don’t ever plan to.  I haven’t been doing it that long, but I’ve lost about 15 lbs. in three weeks, so again, I can promise that it works.  Because it’s more restrictive overall during the six “on days” of the week, I’m not sure how doable it is as a long-term lifestyle for me.  Time will tell.

I’ve gotten some questions and requests for suggestions about Somersize over the years, so I’m going to put some of those down here, for those that have an interest.  As an addendum, I don’t pretend to have all the answers.  My only real wisdom to pass on is that you have to do what works best for you, your bod, and your lifestyle, and you also have to do something that you can turn into a real, permanent lifestyle change.  Replacing bad habits with good ones is damned hard to do, but it is doable.

  1. Just in today: What’s your take on caffeine and alcohol?
    My take on caffeine is that I fucking need it.  I know Somersize doesn’t recommend it, but I personally don’t think it will slow your roll on its own.  That said, I think the delivery system needs to be black coffee or tea – no creamer or artificial sweeteners.  AVOID DIET SODA!Why am I so emphatic about the diet soda?  Well, for one thing, everyone knows aspartame causes cancer.  Cancer fucking sucks.  Also, and this may be TMI for some, but soda gives me digestive issues.  I have noticed, over the last 2-3 years, that I’ve started having those sorts of issues.  Never had them before in my life.  I thought it might resolve when I did HMR, and it didn’t, but I was still drinking diet soda.  I kicked it when I started the Four-Hour, and the issues resolved in less than a week.  I fell off the wagon at work this week because shit was rough, and I forgot my tea to get my caffeine fix.  Problems immediately returned when I got my snout into the Diet Dew.  Within two hours.Let me reiterate: AVOID DIET SODA!!

    As far as alcohol goes, I think you can probably get away with dry red wine on occasion without much consequence.  I would expect fruitier, sweeter wines to have more sugar, so I would give those a miss.  I almost never drink wine because it gives me splitting headaches, so I just wait until cheat day if I want bourbon or beer.  If you have the kind of social life where drinking is a daily thing, I would say stick to red wine.  I have no social life most of the time, so this isn’t an issue for me, and this scenario is just my opinion.

    2. Repeated at least twice: What are some good snack ideas?

    I am the worst person to ask about this because when I’ve got my shit together and am doing things right, I don’t snack.  If I’m on track, I’m busy, I’m active, I don’t have time, and I fill up at meals.  There’s no judgment in that statement, by the way.  I know that a lot of people need to snack between meals, either because they don’t eat big meals (like I do), because they have blood sugar issues, or whatever.  But for me, frankly, if I’m snacking, I’m probably off-track and having problems sticking to the plan.

    On Somersize, if I needed a snack, I ate fat-free yogurt and string cheese.  I kept both in the fridge at work.  Fruit can work okay, but you have to do it in moderation.  Something I like that works for either diet is to bring a microwavable plastic container and an egg or two or however many you need, and you can crack your eggs in the container and microwave them.  You can totally scramble eggs in the microwave.  It’s not a snack, but it works really well at work if you didn’t have time for breakfast or need a top-up during the day.

    I do still have this Somersize PDF that includes several good Somersize recipes, and I do believe there are some in there for snacky things.  I haven’t looked at it in a long time, but I found good recipes for Somersize.  Cooking with it really isn’t hard.

    Beyond raw vegetables or leftover meat, I feel like snacking would be hard on the Slow Carb.  I did make some peanut butter balls a couple of weeks ago.  They were definitely filling so they meet that requirement, but I need to play around with the proportions a little bit more.  I’m not 100% satisfied with them yet.  And also the cleaning lady’s crew freaking stole my last ones out of the fridge at work again.  (I was popping one for breakfast on the days I didn’t have time for my bacon, eggs, and veggies fry up.)  They’re kind of expensive to make, so I wasn’t too pleased about them going missing.  I’ll include the recipe at the end of the post, if anyone’s interested.

    3. Dessert?  Is it possible?

    Heh.  When I find a palatable Slow Carb dessert, I’ll post it, but I don’t know if such a creature exists.  I wait for cheat day.  There’s probably someone out there who came up with something, but as you all know, I’m not much of a cook and have no particular desire to become one.

    On Somersize, yes, there are great desserts.  When you’re in maintenance, you can totally have desserts made with whole-wheat flour.  Sugar-free pudding is a great option while you’re on the diet.  I used to make this cheesecake fluff stuff with cream cheese, stevia, and sugar-free pudding, I think.  I did that in Korea, and you can actually get cheesecake-flavored sugar-free pudding here, so that would probably work even better here.

    I like yogurt frozen with fruit in it.  I know you aren’t supposed to eat fruit with anything else, but if you’re splurging on some dessert to keep yourself from splurging on actual cake or something, I think you can probably get away with the exception.

    3.  Are there any artificial sweeteners that are okay?

    Suzanne Somers sells one called SomerSweet, or at least she used to.  I’ve never tried it.  Supposedly you can bake with it, and it’s pretty much like regular sugar. Can’t vouch for it, but I’ve heard good things.  It’s price-prohibitive, in my opinion.  I wouldn’t pay for it, but again, I’m not much in the kitchen.

    Stevia is okay for both.  I use it for the peanut butter balls.  I’m not that fond of the stuff though, and if you’re looking for something that can actually replace sugar, you’ll have to look elsewhere, since it can’t take the place of sugar as a dry ingredient in baking.

    4. Exercise?

    I’m going off of memory, so feel free to correct me if you know that I’m wrong, but I don’t think the Somersize books really recommended “strenuous” exercise – more like walk 30 minutes a day and do some yoga or something like that.  I wouldn’t say that she was against exercise, but she didn’t think it was crucial to weight loss, which it isn’t, but I want to expound on that in a minute.

    Slow Carb is, in my opinion, targeted at people who either want to become beast-like or who already are.  Think CrossFitters, big dudes who lift heavy weights in the Tool Shed, and the like.  Personally, I think of it as a “man” diet just because it seems like most people who are writing about it online are men trying to get bulk up, which is not something you will hear the average lady saying she’s keen to do.  I guess there might be CrossFit ladies looking to get “swole” or whatever it is that they say, but I think weight loss is still the goal for most women, even CrossFitters.

    I advocate exercise because HMR gave us a graph back in the day that really stuck with me over the years.  It showed the long-term (we’re talking in years) success rate amongst program participants, and the number one long-term predictor of success was how much exercise the person in question did every week.  They pushed for 2,000 calories of burn every week.  For people who are morbidly obese, that’s easy.  For fit people, it’s tough and requires a lot of time invested in moving your body – probably more than 30 minutes per day unless you’re a sprinter or something.

    I will say that I have known few people who could maintain their weight without exercise.  They are the exception.  Most people have to move a little bit.  Think of it as the population of straight vs. gay people.  There are some people who are 100% straight and some who are 100% gay, but they’re the minority.  Most of us fall somewhere else on the spectrum.  In the words of Margaret Cho imitating her Korean mother, “Eberbody little gay.”  (Her impersonations of her ajum-mom are spot-on.  I roll every time I hear them…  “And Daddy was shock!… Uh…Uh… Uh.”  Spot.  On.) It’s the same way with dieting.  Some people maintain strictly by exercise and some strictly by portion control and diet, but most of us fall somewhere in between.  Makes sense, yeah?

    The second reason I advocate exercise is because you will feel better, and the more active you are, the more active you want to be.  At least, that’s how I am.  And I am not one of those people who just loves exercise.  Honestly, I don’t know that many people – even some amazing athletes I’m acquainted with – who say that they love the pain.  They love the sense of accomplishment, and most of them are naturally competitive.

    For me, the equation is a bit different.  The only person I tend to be competitive with is myself.  I want to be able to do more with my kids.  I want to have the energy to run around at the park, play sports with them, and be crazy.  Do you have any idea how much energy it takes to haul three little girls to the state fair for the day on your own?  A lot.  But I have to have that kind of energy to make the most of the activities the girls and I do together.  I want my kids to be active and enjoy sports.  I never got encouragement in that direction growing up, and it would have been strongly to my benefit if I had.  I want to be happy with my fitness and the way I look.  I’d like to be able to have a marathon shag and not get tired at the halfway point.  I think it was Oscar Wilde who said that the physically fit can enjoy their vices.

    4. What do you do if you fall off the wagon?  How do you stay accountable?

    Call your sponsor.  No, seriously.  It helps most people to have a buddy.  It doesn’t have to be your best friend.  Actually, it’s probably better if it isn’t your best friend.  Sometimes they’ll be nice when it would be kinder to be cruel.  Find a friend who’s looking to get fit but who won’t tolerate your bullshit.

    I have a buddy at work who CrossFits.  I don’t endorse CrossFit because I feel like it will hurt you, if you give it long enough.  She’s been benched with injuries three times this year, and one of them required emergency surgery.  But when I was debating about the C25K routine, she offered to call me every day and get my fat ass out of bed so that I would work out.  Sister-girl is serious about fitness.  She’s also ridiculously nice, but she will not tolerate your stupid excuses.  I declined her offer because hey, I’m an adult, I can get my own fat ass out of bed.  And I did.

    This whole mentality is the thing that has spawned programs like HMR and Weight Watchers.  You go every week (like AA), you report your weight, and you’re held accountable to your peer group.  Nobody wants to fail publicly.  And if you do, you have people there who will help you get back on track.

    I personally don’t care about “group work.”  It has no noticeable effect on my performance, far as I can tell.  I’ve lost the same amounts of weight with and without group supervision, and I prefer not to have to listen to other people make excuses for themselves.  It is nice to hear what works for other people, but I can read that on the Internet.  I guess I’m not a team player.  Shocking, I know.

    My main deviation from the above mantra is that I have enlisted a buddy for my first 5k.  She’s blunt and won’t tolerate bullshit.  She doesn’t work out all summer and then starts running again in the fall when it cools off.  She’s been attempting to get her husband involved in some manner of fitness activity – he’s diabetic and has to watch it – but she hasn’t had much success so far.  I suggested that, in the spirit of encouraging fitness, we run a 5k together in the fall sometime, once I’m through the training program.  That way we’re both accountable to someone who won’t listen to crap excuses.  I think we’re doing the “Abe’s Trail Trek” in Petersburg in November.  It’s a trail run over the river and through the woods, and it looks really fun.  In case you were curious, I think I’m also going to run solo in one of the Halloween runs around here, if for no other reason than I think I’d like to do a flat pavement run before I do a trail run.

    Anyway.  If you know that you have a problem sticking to it on your own, get accountable.  Get a buddy, if there’s no group where you are.  Make sure they’ve got a little asshole in them.  Because you don’t want someone who will tell you what you want to hear – you want someone who will help you succeed.

Those are the big ones that seem to come up.  Even though I’m not doing it right now, I still heartily recommend Somersize as a long-term program because I honestly believe that it’s healthy and doable, as a lifestyle.  There is serious emphasis on shopping around the perimeter of the grocery store (you know, where the real food is) and making your own stuff.  Yes, it’s probably more expensive.  Yes, it takes a little more time to prepare.  There is no better investment of time and money than that which you’ll make in yourself.

I’m going to leave everyone with a parting thought from a mini-book I’ve been reading by Ray Dalio, who is an extremely successful investor.  It’s called “Principles,” and it’s available on his company’s site, Bridgewater.  I highly recommend checking it out.  It’s an extremely logical reality check in a somewhat grandfatherly tone.

One thing he had to say in it that really stuck with me was the idea of first- and second-order consequences.  First-order consequences deal with desires and the immediate gratification of said desire.  Second-order consequences are what happens next, and they are where you focus if you’re more goal-oriented.  I find that asking myself before I eat or before I make a decision to do or not do something, I ask myself if it’s more related to a first- or second-order consequence.  If you eat something and the first order consequence is that you’ll be happy because it tastes good and you just want it, ask yourself what the second-order consequence will be.  Will it be as good as the first?  Ideally, the first-order consequence should probably suck, and the second-order consequence will be good.  I’m not going to eat cake for breakfast, and the eggs I’m going to have may not taste as good to me, but I also won’t gain any weight when I avoid eating cake for breakfast.  Eventually, those positive second-order consequences pile up.

Try that intervention with yourself.  Sometimes just hitting the brakes and creating mindfulness in yourself is all it takes.  I’m finding that it works 90-95% of the time for me.  I mean, sometimes you’re just going to have some cookie cake on Faturday, and that’s cool.  You have to live, and cookie cake is delicious.

 

Peanut Butter Protein Balls – original recipe from http://www.eatteachlaughcraft.com

1 1/4 c. almond flour
3-4 tbs. all natural, unsweetened peanut butter (I’m more of a 4 kinda gal.)
2-3 tbs. melted coconut oil
12-15 drops liquid stevia
1-2 drops vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
chia seeds – as desired and optional

Mix the almond flour, chia seeds, and salt in one bowl.  Mix the oil, stevia, peanut butter, and vanilla until smooth.  Pour the peanut butter goo over the dry mix and combine thoroughly.  Form 12-14 balls and refrigerate overnight.

*They are not as good if they get a chance to warm up a little.  Eat them cold.  Just saying.

Marge’s Crack Chicken

~1 lb. chicken breast
1 jar salsa – make sure there’s no/very little sugar in it
1 packet of taco or fajita seasoning

Dump it all in the crockpot and cook it for about 6-8 hrs. – longer if you throw the chicken in frozen because you’re a lazy fuck like me.  It should pretty much just fall apart when it’s done.

I make it overnight on Sunday so it’s ready to go in my lunch box Monday morning.  I use it for lunch and dinner through Thursday but sometimes Friday, so by the time I run out, it’s time to make it again.  It’s delicious.  And also pretty amazing on cheat day with queso and chips.  You’re welcome.

Home Improvement

Good evening, America.  I’m writing to you tonight from the deepest, darkest depths of my soul… Heh, not really, but I am sitting in my half-lit basement with my kids, next to my good bed that my ex-husband inexplicably decided would be better in the basement, instead of in my room.  We are in the midst of having new flooring laid, and the upstairs is awash in pieces of flooring, power tools, and a sheen of dust.  Most of the furniture is in the garage, and the rest is piled up in my bedroom such that I can’t get to my bed without climbing over several things.

I am in hell.

I’ll state right now that the floors are nearly done, and they are gorgeous.  I hate carpeting with an intense passion, and the carpeting throughout the majority of the first floor was at least 15-20 years old.  It was craptacular when we moved in, and my kids took it from craptacular to downright disgusting.  Brett leaned over the chair and just barfed everywhere one night, and that was just one incident.  Once the divorce was finalized, my aunt told me literally the next day, “Okay, that’s over.  The carpet has to go now.”

It has been a literally two-month process that should have taken half that time, but it’s almost over.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not a locomotive. This is the last night of disorder and chaos…

We’re fortunate to have a full, finished basement with a spare bedroom, living room, bar area, and nice carpet.  The littles are sleeping in pack ‘n plays out in the living room, and I’m sharing the big bed with Brett.  I’m sure I’ve made mention of my general dislike for nocturnal closeness, but sharing a bed with Brett is like sharing a bed with an epileptic mid-seize.  She flings, she flails, she snores, and I woke up with her literally on top of me at 4:45 this morning.

That sort of brings me around to the overarching theme of this post, which is that I am losing my damn mind (again).  I have reached a place of zen with my morning routine.  Up at 4am, meditate for 20, visualize for 5-10, read and write for 20-30, then GST and run.  I would never have believed it possible if you had told me this six months ago, but my body now naturally wakes up between 3:45am and 4:30, so even if I have an alarm snafu (it’s happened once or twice), I still wake up and get the essentials in.  A lot of the time, I even have time left over to make myself some bacon and eggs for breakfast.  I am officially a morning person, and I fucking love it.  I am deeply and genuinely disturbed by the fact that I haven’t run in three days or had the space or alone time to meditate.  I’m starting to get batty.

You guys, she’s over there right now, alternating between snoring and opening one eye to watch me while I write this. Fuck.  And she’s lying sideways in the bed.  She’s fighting sleep so that she can stay awake and watch me stare at a glowing screen.  Go the fuck to sleep, Brett.

I value my alone time.  My alone time is when I make the magic happen.  I restore and rejuvenate.  I gather my strength.  I also spend that time studying trading, meditating, exercising, and generally taking care of myself mentally and physically.  The scoff rate is high amongst the people I deal with daily, but the results are so obvious to me that it seems ludicrous that anyone would scoff.  I have felt off for the last two days, and I am not loving it.  I had to sit through a six-hour update meeting yesterday, and I thought I was going to go insane by the end of it, I was so jittery, bored, and ruminating over what 1,934 other things I could be doing that would be more productive than sitting at a table and only taking notes when the grain marketing guy talks (marketing in this sense being related to when to sell your grain, buying and selling puts and call options, etc.).

And in case you were curious, I feel like being miserable over the absence of my morning routine, exercise, and meditation is a great thing.  That means there’s been some positive change.  I binned a writing project that was nothing but mental masturbatory nonsense, and the two times I’ve made any sort of attempt to re-engage have resulted in me saying to myself, five minutes later, “This isn’t even enjoyable anymore.  Go do something that will actually go somewhere.”  This is officially the only place where I mentally masturbate now.  It’s liberating, actually.

Sideways.  She is now sideways completely and taking up well over half the bed.  She is three.  This is nonsense.

Anyway, I have preliminary reviews to write.  The first is the Couch to 5k app thinger.  There are several of these available out there for your phone.  I’m using the original, and I don’t hate it.  Bear in mind, I’m a treadmill runner, so I don’t use the GPS feature to map my running routes or anything like that.  The C25K app uses a 9-week timeframe to get you fit enough to run in an actual race.  You can repeat days or weeks as needed.  I haven’t done that yet because even at the weight I’m at (way too fucking fat), with the shape I’m in (abysmal), I find the pace to be more than reasonable, at least thus far.  I believe there are apps out there that will supposedly get the job done in six weeks or eight weeks or whatever, but I feel like nine is perfectly fine for me.  Six weeks probably wouldn’t be realistic unless I could run every single day and push myself to make better times every day.  It could be done, but it would come at the expense of, oh, being able to walk upright or, uh, at all, and I doubt I’d feel like doing the GST thing, which brings me to my next partial review.

I will freely admit that I bought into the gymnastic strength training thing after listening to Tim Ferriss’ three-hour interview with Christopher Sommers.  It’s an expensive program, but it’s cheaper than a year of gym membership, and the early levels you can do in your basement, next to your treadmill and the pile of unfolded laundry from yesterday, and I’m all about anything where I don’t have to find time during the day.  GST is officially part of the routine, before and after running.

Um, it will kick your ass.  Or it will if you’re getting old (say, over 18), fat, and aren’t already a yogi or gymnast.  I’m just doing the first month’s worth of stretches, and it is introducing me to muscles, tendons, and probably ligaments that I didn’t know existed, most of them in my upper arms, shoulders, and upper-to-mid back.  Also my right knee.  Fuck.  What did I do to that whiny bastard?

But.  But.  I feel awesome when I’m done.  The majority of it seems like simple stuff, and most of it is very doable, even if you’re in poor shape.  It all hurts.  Or it will for most people, especially desk job workers like myself.  I am honestly astounded by how much better my shoulders and upper back feel.  I’ve only been doing it a couple of weeks, but after about day four, it started to feel like something I could and would do multiple times a day.  I enjoy it.  I don’t know if I’d call it “fun,” because it’s not like a party or something, but I feel good enough afterwards that I don’t mind the temporary pain.  And it’s painful.  But it seems to work.  I’ll be anxious to see what it looks like a year from now.  And no, for the record, I’m not expecting to look like one of those ripped fuckers who can do side levers or whatever.  Feeling good is the first goal.

Just to add a few extra sprinkles to the icing on the cupcake, I’ve been attempting this 21-day challenge to not say anything negative, engage in idle gossip, etc.  I started over a weekend, thinking that would be easier because I don’t see many people over the weekend.  The longest I’ve made it is 13 hours, and it was a damn struggle.  It would take a monumental effort to stay the course for the entire 21 days.  And funnily enough, it’s not when people are obviously gossiping and saying rude things that it’s hard to refrain.  For me, it’s when someone says something I think is dumb or does something I find irrational or ill-advised, and I mutter some remark under my breath. Or the road rage.  Holy hell.  I have really awful road rage.  Like it even matters around here.  Whether you go 40 or 25, you’re pretty much gonna get to work at the same time.

I will say, the failed 21-day challenge has served to make me more cognizant of what I’m saying and how I’m saying it.  It has also served as an excellent litmus test for who in my life encourages that sort of bad behavior.  The unfortunate answer is that most of the people in my life do.  The Bro-Co says there are three kinds of people: people who talk people, people who talk events, and people who talk ideas.  I prefer to be an ideas kind of person, but I’ve realized that the majority of people prefer to talk about other people.  I’m not saying that I’m better or smarter or anything like that.  I can sling it with the best of’em, and I have done more than my fair share.  But I would prefer, given the option, to talk ideas.  For better or for worse, I think those people are in shorter supply.

I am extremely fortunate to be able to say that, although I have relatively few people I would call true friends, the vast majority of those individuals are ideas people.  They’re all about having a philosophical conversation.  I have always preferred those types of people, and I’ve always felt that there was something inherently superior about wanting to be intellectual, but I could never exactly say why.  Now I think it’s because if you’re having a meeting of the minds with someone, your minds should necessarily be stretching a little bit, and that’s a wonderful thing.  Improvement should be the goal, right?  And you want to be around people who encourage improvement in you.

But for today, I’ll settle for home improvement.  The floors have to be done by 5pm tomorrow, and from the look of things now, they’ll be done before that.  One room and the quarter round left to go.  Beds are going to be the first thing going back in.  Kids are sleeping in their rooms, and I am reclaiming my bedroom as my own.  I am going to bask in the glory of being able to Swiffer and sweep my floors, and then I’m going to bask in the glory of having my basement back for workout purposes.  The floors look great, but I’ll be frank: home improvement is a pain in the ass, and the only further plans I have for any home projects are installing stall bars next to the treadmill in the basement so that I can eventually use them to get my stretch on.

I’m planning on entering a 5k for sometime around Halloween or into the early part of November with a coworker that tries to stay semi-fit and is wanting some accountability.  That gives me a couple of months to get this C25K training bit wrapped up, so stay tuned to find out if I can make that happen or not.  (I’m going to make it happen.)  If all goes well, I’ll probably move on to a 5k to 10k program.

… My three-year-old has her feet on my pillow.  This is why I prefer to sleep alone, folks.