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Archive for November, 2010

Mission accomplished!

Ok, so after an evening where my bowels protested heavily with something I ate, aim feeling much better today. I was still somewhat queasy this morning, so all I had for breakfast was tea and toast. Not a great deal of nutrition but that wasn’t what I was going for.

We went out to visit the ruins of Xunantunich, which are somewhat similar to Chichen Itza, but smaller and with far fewer tourists. Or maybe we get there before tourists arrive… My girlfriend somehow manages to convince me to get up early so we can go out and do stuff.

It’s very warm and humid down here and I find myself feeling sluggish. Whereas last year in Peru at high altitudes I found myself out of breath, I was never all that tired. Here, at around 2pm I am ready for a nap. Anyhow, after hiking around I felt good enough to eat a normal lunch at a rotary club fundraiser where they served spaghetti. At that point was operating at 65% to 75% capacity. After my afternoon nap I am nearly back to normal.

The one confirmation I have is that whenever I get sick, as I pass the worst of it I get a weird rash on my stomach. No doctor can explain this. However I know from history that it means that my body is winning the battle against the disease. Well, today I have that big rash around my belly button. I guess it is not a rash as it is not itchy, nor does it hurt. It’s just warm. And red. Well, I have the red mark so I guess it means I am on the mend. Whew!

On to tomorrow!

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Oi. I am here in Belize and it’s really warm. That type of heat tends to make me feel sluggish during the day and want to do stuff in the cool of the day.

However, today (the second day I am here) I caught something that is giving my stomach fits. I tried to be careful this time and brought plenty of stomach medication, but the initial rush (no pun intended) still sucks. We got knack from a day of wandering around and saw some ruins… And upon my return I had to go to the bathroom. Over the next two hours I had to go four more times. Various parts of my body are sore for a couple of reasons.

How much stuff do I even have in me to force me to go so often? Well, here’s my current goal – go 1 hour without having to go to the bathroom. My body needs a rest. Seriously.

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Heard at the airport

Snippet of a conversation at the airport today.

My girlfriend: I’m going to Starbucks. Do you want anything?

Me: Some yellow cake.

My girlfriend: That’s what you want?

Me: Yes, you know, that lemon cake.

My girlfriend: What if they don’t have it?

Me: Get me something without raisins. I don’t like them. Nuts are fine.

My girlfriend: They have that banana bread with nuts. Oh, but you don’t like nuts… Oh, wait, that’s me!

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Off to Belize

I’m off to Belize and Guatemala for a couple of weeks with my girlfriend.  Hopefully things go alright while we are down there.  The only thing I am concerned about is the plane hitting some turbulence, going down and then getting stuck on an island filled with polar bears and weird underground hatches.

I’ll let you all know if that happens.

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Technology fail

One of the supposed advantages of working for Microsoft is the ability to work from home when required.

Well, as it turns out, that only works when technology is there to support you.  And from time to time, technology fails.  And Microsoft is no different.

  1. Since this past Saturday, I have been unable to check my work email.  The guys who run the mail servers were either doing something or other, or something or other occurred, and as a result a very large percentage of their user base has been unable to check their work email accounts.  I can’t, either.  So, I am in a position where I can not check any of my email from work and thus all communication from that avenue is gone.  I have had to work around this by requesting that mail goes to my personal email account.
  2. One of the fall backs for email is instant messaging.  At Microsoft we have something called Office Communicator (or rather, I am still using it because I haven’t upgraded to the newest version of the latest software because I don’t trust new technology).  I was using it yesterday and this morning when all of a sudden, it stopped working.  It logged me out and refuses to log me back in.  So now I am in a situation where I cannot get any instant messages from work colleagues.
  3. I could go into the office and use my work PC and see if it works better for that, too.  But no, Microsoft controls the weather and caused a huge dump of snowfall on the city of Redmond and the streets are a bit too icy for me to make it in.  So I cannot get to the office, either.
  4. The back up plan is to connect to the network using a remote login, called VPN (virtual private network).  This is something that I have used in the past, I plug in a special card, click an application on my desktop, wait 5 minutes for it to login successfully and access the internal network that way.  Well, that is not working either for some reason of which I am unable to explain (authentication failure? Expired certificates? Huh?).  So I can’t even get to my network remotely.

So you see, four different layers of redundancy have all failed.  I’m stuck at home with no way of getting in and all of the ways that I am supposed to do it have let me down.  What a perfect storm of things going wrong.

Well, I can take a hint when I see it.  I guess today is going to be a very non-productive day.

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Today in Seattle, it snowed.  It was also snowing yesterday.  It’s not a particularly heavy snow, but by no means is it light.

Snow in Seattle is an interesting thing.  It’s not so much that all drivers don’t know how to drive in snow (many of them do), but rather, the roads are hilly out here.  Slippery roads and hills make it difficult to navigate.  Even now as I write this, I can hear people trying to get up the hill where I live and they are spinning their tires hard.  The reason that they are spinning is because they mistakenly believe that they can go slowly up the hill and nothing will happen.  By contrast, when I got home, as I pulled on to the hill I ensured that I got a steady head of steam to carry me up the hill by momentum so that I wouldn’t fall back down.  I’ve fallen back down before, it sucks.  But physics is my friend; many other drivers… not so much.

Using that as the backdrop, when native Seattle-ites started celebrating the snow yesterday, I kind of rolled my eyes.  “Oooh, look at that!  It’s snow!  How wonderful! How magical!  Tra-la-la la-laaaah!  Let us all go out from our gum drop houses on lollipop lane and frolic down by the chocolate rivers in this beautiful goodness of snow!”

People have a very romanticized notion of snow.  The reality is that snow piles up on the roads and causes huge traffic back ups.  Many of my friends that were excited about the snow are now complaining/tweeting that their commute back home is taking over and hour and they are still only half way to their destination.  As long as the snow continues to fall, things will remain as is.  Seattle is not equipped to handle snowy weather.  We don’t have a lot of snow plows and the inclines on the roads makes navigation more difficult than in flat Winnipeg.  The reality is that unless you are equipped to deal with it, snow is a major inconvenience.  It costs cities a lot of money to manage each year.  And the locals aren’t really all that thrilled when it falls (except for the snowmobile enthusiasts and skiers).  Most are just happy when it melts in the spring.

Seriously, to the people who are thrilled about the snow, you can’t go sledding in it over here.  It doesn’t fall thick enough.  It’s also too wet.  And you need better hills.  It also kind of glops down, it’s not the light fluffy snow you see in Winnipeg, or on TV (that stuff is fake).  Luckily, most residents here don’t have to shovel it, and shoveling snow is actually tough on your back (I assume it’d be murder on my hip… but I’m not actually sure).  And as to your complaining about your commute – what exactly did you expect?  Snow is not romantic, it’s a weather condition that is celebrated on TV with music and lighting.  But in real life, that’s not the way it works.

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Learning from my errors

This past Tuesday, I made two trades on a bet that the market was going to go down.  I bought a put option on F5 Networks (FFIV) and the Bear fund on small cap stocks.  When the market goes down, both of those positions would have made money.  I based that upon the fact that I believe the market had staged a false breakout two weeks ago and had reversed using a very strong signal in technical analysis.  My second bear fund trade is an index that tracks the inverse of the market.  I believed that it was in a good position to make money.  My other trade was based upon the belief that the stock had run up too far, too fast and was breaking down.  I had other indicators to support this theory.

Unfortunately, two days later, the market rallied hard the other way and forced me out of both of my positions.  I ended up taking a big hit on my options position and a small hit on my bear fund position.  Even today, the market bounced at its 50-day moving average and may be setting me up for a big move down.by staging a false rally before breaking down some more.

And then again, maybe it’s not.

I used up all of the spare funds in my account by buying two stocks that I should have bought a long time ago.  One option position I took a major loss on back in June is Acme Packet Inc, a telecommunications equipment maker.  This is a stock that survived the summer correction with zero loss and has continued to rally.  I had been waiting for a long time to get into it, and on Thursday I did so.  That was a lucky piece of timing because today, the stock moved up very large – 8.8% today.  I ended up making back a good portion of my losses and so I feel good about that.  This was one stock that beat me up (a lot like my girlfriend does) and I learned from that.  I watched the stock for months and it is a very powerful one.  I discovered that I shouldn’t bet against it.

The other stock I bought is Netflix.  If you don’t know what it is, Netflix is a streaming media company that lets you view TV and movies on your computer.  More and more people are abandoning cable and instead getting Netflix which lets you view stuff on demand.  I originally discovered Netflix back in January when it was around $50/share.  I didn’t buy it then and have been kicking myself since that time because it’s now trading at $170.  It, too, got through the market correction with nary a scratch on it.  It’s a very powerful stock and the company is growing rapidly.  I’ve been waiting for a good buy point and this one is experiencing a flattening consolidation pattern.  Hopefully it continues to rally.

Let me get one thing straight, though – I have not given up my lazy portfolio investing.  I am still doing that.  Trading is restricted to 15% of my total portfolio.  Options trading should be maybe 5-10% at the most because every time I buy them I get my posterior handed to me.

With any luck, these stocks that I own (also have Baidu) will hold up.  My technical analysis skills say that this is just a bounce and that lower prices are ahead.  However, I have no capital to take advantage of that unless I buy on margin.  On the other hand, we are in the strongest time period of the year historically (November – January) and we are entering into the 3rd year of a presidential cycle (historically the best year on the market).  So while I think that the market should go down, my goal is to make money no matter what I think it should do.  The market acts the way it acts without any input from me.

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Spontaneous existence

When it comes to spirituality, I try to reconcile those articles of faith with science.  Things that are incompatible with science I tend to dismiss as interpretational in nature but not based in reality.  For example, in my creation vs evolution post a few months back, I asserted that the biblical creation story is not a historical reality but instead is a combination of part myth and part theological. It explains the nature of the world (why things are the way they are) but should not be taken as literal truth.  If we were to go by it, we would believe that the world is only about 7000 years old when in fact we know it is about 4.5 billion years old.

One of things I am doing right now is watching some videos on relationships by a Christian speaker.  He is actually quite funny to watch and I am picking up some good points.  One of the more sensitive topics that he touches on is sexuality, why men and women act the way they do.  He disclaims it all by saying that not everyone fits into the mould, that sometimes men possess traits more commonly associated with women, and vice versa.  He gets that, it’s not a hard and fast rule.  But, he says, for the most part what he is saying generally holds true for most people. 

One example he goes into is sexuality and why men and women act the way they do.  He says that by and large, men are more interested in sex than women.  This is not always true, but it is usually true.  He later comes back to the topic and claims that to men, sex is important but in order to get there in their relationships with women, they first have to get through to the women’s heart (i.e., be an emotional support system and do the things that women commonly associate with romance).  By contrast, for women, they may want to win their man’s heart but the way to do that is through sex.  This is simply the way that people are built and by-and-large this holds true.  Based upon what I know of our culture, I would agree with this.

What I disagree with is where the speaker asserts why this is the case.  His point is that God created men and women this way for a reason – that reason is for bonding.  If women only cared about sex and not the emotional aspect of the relationship, then men would skip over that part and go straight to sex.  There would be no emotional connection nor bonding. Thus, God set it up this way on purpose in order to create family relationships with emotional ties.

I don’t think that this is the case.  When it comes to the reasons why humans act the way they do, it is not because of “spontaneous existence.”  What I mean by this is that one day, God decided to start from scratch and specially intended to create men with a high interest in sex, and specially intended to create women with a high interest in building an emotional connection prior to permitting sex.  God could have created people any way they want, but like a computer programmer writing code and first doing a flowchart, He set it up this way intentionally.  One day humans didn’t exist, and the next day they did and he set them up to act the way they do straight from the beginning because He knows best.

However, we know from science that humans did not spontaneously come into existence.  About 8 million years ago, we split off from a common ancestors.  Chimpanzees went one way, and various human ancestors including homo erectus and Australopithecus went another (recently, Ardipithecus Ramidus, or Ardi, was discovered and is the oldest human fossil remains we have ever found).  We descended from those.  And during all that time, our early ancestors were engaging in sexual behavior.  Indeed, sex goes back many millions of years even before that.

During that time, there was none of this emotional bonding that the speaker spoke about.  Instead, to our early ancestors, their limbic brains were wiring and getting them to survive.  Life has a basic drive for survival.  Because humans cannot live forever, we propagate the species by engaging in sexual relationships which create children, and this process repeats.  One of the reasons we find certain types of people attractive is because it is driven by evolution – young women are healthier are more likely to survive child-bearing which is why men find them attractive.  Wealthy men are attractive to women because they have resources and are likely to be able to provide for offspring.  Furthermore, a nurturing mate who sticks around (builds an emotional connection – which didn’t exist millions of years ago) is more likely to stick around and help raise offspring and thus continue to keep the species alive.  These desirable traits in others get wedged into our limbic brains.  They got there because we needed them in order to survive as a species.  We didn’t rely upon emotional bonding.

Yet eventually, one day along our evolutionary path, we became self-aware.  Our neo-cortexes evolved and it was only at that time we were starting to put more meaning and attachment into sexual behavior.  But the traits and desires that were burned into our limbic brains did not go away.  Why are men attracted to young women?  Because we are programmed by nature to look for mates that more likely to produce offspring.  Why do women find rich men attractive?  Because if they bear the cost of offspring, they want to ensure that their mate will have sufficient resources to keep her and her children alive.  And if they stick around, that’s even better.  Thus, women respond to “romantic” things because it suggests that their men will help raise the kids because they are caring, not selfish.  Men and women are not shallow when they have strong desires for certain aspects, they are doing what nature programmed them to do out of biological necessity (natural selection).  We do not make these decisions on a conscious level.

Now, this speaker is more or less right in his general assertions when it comes to how both sexes respond to relationships and the emphases they place on certain things.  But to argue that this is because of “special existence” is an error, in my view.

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I signaled. Stop honking.

It’s a good thing Shaun Warkentin wasn’t in the car with me the other day.  He may have had a heart attack, going by how much difficulty he has controlling his anger…

I was driving to a friend of mine’s place this past Sunday.  It was about 7:30 at night and I had just come from the gym.  I was pretty hungry, having worked up a sweat.  Now, the lane I was driving down was two lanes in each direction, and it was a divided highway.  I was in the curb lane but had my eyes on the look out for a Subway restaurant.

I was driving when I spotted one up in the distance.  It wasn’t too far away but I was going to have to make a left turn in order to make it there.  I looked in my mirrors and saw a car not too far behind me in the outside lane.  We were both going about 35 mph.  I did the math and figured that I probably wouldn’t be able to change lanes quickly enough to get to the turning lane in order to make the tight turn due to how close this car was and I didn’t want to cut him off.  I was going to have to U-turn up ahead.

However, I didn’t want to waste too much time.  After all, we were going 35-40 mph or so.  I realized that the guy behind me was fairly close to me and doing a quick lane change would be kind of a jerk thing to do.  So, I ensured that I had enough room to change lanes.  It would be tight, but doable.  I turned on my turn signal and left it on for 5 seconds.  5 seconds!  That’s a long time, just count it off to yourself.  That’s long enough for anyone as “close” as I was that I was changing lanes.  It was clearly obvious.

I waited for the 5 seconds and then proceeded to change lanes.  And then this guy starts honking at me! 

What!?!?

Dude, I gave you plenty of warning, and there was certainly room enough between us for me to go in front of him.  I most certainly did not cut him off.  I made sure that I avoided cutting him off.  Yet this guy still decides to honk at me.

I said to myself “Dude, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to you.  Come on!”  I swerved back into my own lane, rolled my eyes and then slowed down and let him pass me before changing lanes again.

I’m still rolling my eyes at this.  Whatever.

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Update on my hip

Well, today I had a follow up appointment with my doctor about my hips.

Now, as we all know, my left hip totally sucks.  Well, I shouldn’t say “totally”, it’s the inside of the hip that hurts the most.  The outside of the right hip doesn’t feel very good either, so I went and complained about that one, too.  I had some x-rays done and asked my doctor what the deal was.  I brought along some 4 year old x-rays taken the day after my near death experience in Fiji for comparisons sake.  Here’s the prognosis:

  • I have diminished joint space in both of my hips and it has gotten worse over time.  I have early symptoms of osteoarthritis.  Well, that just totally sucks.
  • I am at risk for another femoral acetabular impingement in my right hip.  The left hip isn’t looking so good either.
  • There is a treatment, not a cure, called Visco supplementation.  This is where they inject fluid into your joints.  It protects the joints and allows you greater range of motion.  It’s a fairly new treatment.
  • I would have to get something like this done once or twice per year for the next 20 years until I turn 50 or so, and then get a hip replacement.
  • The problem is that it was only approved by the FDA for use on the knee in 2001 (or 2004).  It is not approved for use on the hips.  Because of this, my insurance would most likely not pay for it. It costs about $1300, or so my doctor says (for both hips).  Most likely it would be even more because she is probably underestimating it.  Guess who would end up paying for it?

Now, normally I do not swear on this blog, and if I do I put asterisks into it.  But quite frankly, after all I have been through on these hips – two surgeries, several thousands of dollars, chiropractic, massage, physical therapy and chronic pain for nearly 4 years at only the age of 31, I think I am entitled to say the following phrase:

Fuck.

I am going to write my insurance company and ask them if they will pay for it.  After they write me back telling me they won’t, I will have to look at other options.  I guess I could pay for the treatment myself, and also look into surgery again since my left hip does feel a bit better.

But sheesh, this is really starting to get annoying.  No wait, it’s beyond that.  It started getting annoying 2 years ago.

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My quandary

The other day, I was headed down into Seattle to do a bunch of errands.  I had to pick something up from a store down at Pike Place Market, although along the way I had to swing my my (hopeless) condo and be there in time for a chimney inspection (huh?).

Just before I headed out, my girlfriend said to me “Don’t forget to get me some soap!”  For you see, my girlfriend is a soap-a-holic.  She likes all these types of fancy, scented soaps that smell nice.  Me?  I could care less, soap is used to clean your hands or the rest of your body.  Indeed, so long as you smell fresh and wash away dirt and/or bacteria, I’m good with it.  Oh, I guess it should not be a “harsh” soap because if it is rough on your skin it can dry it out and that can hurt if it is done on your face.  But overall, I’m not too picky.  Clearly, you can contrast my preference (or should I say non-preference) for boring old soap compared to my girlfriend’s preference for fancy, schmancy soap.

“What?” I said just as I was leaving.

“Some soap from the soap store!”  For you see, down Pike Place Market there is a store that has all sorts of fancy soaps in it that smell nice, not to mention street vendors that are selling it.  When she goes in there, I think my girlfriend has a mini heart attack each time due to so much stimulation of her olfactory nerves.

I tried to think fast.  I wasn’t completely on board with going so far out of my way for a product that served limited purpose.  After all, to me, soap is soap (more or less).  “You mean live Dove, or Ivory?”  Those are the only two brands that I know.

“No!” she exclaimed.  “From the soap store!”  Blast!  That’s exactly what she was referring to.  “If you don’t come back with soap, I’ll beat you up!”  My girlfriend is not above resorting to threats of physical violence.  I mumbled something or other and left my place and prepared to head downtown.

While down there, I wandered into the store and started walking around.  I began to enter into a mental quandary.  If I did a good job and figured out what kind of soap she likes, then I would be rewarded with a pat on the head, kind of like a dog.  However, by doing so I would set a precedent such that every time I announced that I was going downtown, she would insist I pop by the soap store and get her something.  But on the other hand, if I got her something that she wasn’t too keen on, she would still likely pat me on the head and give me an A for effort but insist that it was no longer necessary to get her soap in the future (a lot like me making eggs).  I figured that I had a 50/50 shot at getting something less than adequate anyhow; as I entered the store I realized that I didn’t really know what she did or did not like.  We did this once before and she had me smell a few certain soaps.  “How do you like this one?  How do you like that one?”  I was like “Oh, it’s good.  Ah, that one’s nice.’”  Truth be told, to me, they all smell more or less alike.  Small variations are not really detectable by me.  It’s kind of like asking a color blind person if they think a rainbow is pretty.

Anyhow, I started wandering by some soaps and saw some of the labels.  Lavender.  Does my girlfriend like lavender?  Think, man, think.  Think!  Think!  Think!  At the time I thought the answer was no and avoided purchasing it, although I found out later that she actually does like it (but somehow I think that if I had purchased it, she would have changed her mind on it – make up your mind, woman!).

To make a long story short, I ended up smelling a bunch of soaps and took a wild guess.  I went by the color and assumed that since it looked kind of like the color pink and smelled alright, my girlfriend would like it.  I bought it, took it home and it turns out that I was correct!

Sometimes the flip of a coin does work out.

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Odd sounds

Around my place, myself an my girlfriend are prone to having odd and/or interesting conversations.

The other day I decided to make myself some eggs for breakfast.  I decided that I was going to fry them.  I did this because I had a physical therapy session later that morning and I figured I needed some protein. 

I fried the eggs, put the pan in the sink, put some dishwashing soap in the pan, filled it with water and departed.  I did this so that the pan would not have egg all stuck to it.

My girlfriend decided that this is the incorrect way to wash a pan.  Apparently, I am supposed to put in some olive oil into the pan such that it will prevent sticking in advance.  Now, normally I might agree and put something like olive oil or butter in the pan and melt it in order to prevent stickage, but admittedly I took a short cut.  However, I attempted to compensate for the shortcut by putting soap and water in the pan in an attempt to let it rise out and prevent any serious difficulties.

My girlfriend would have none of it when she later arrived at my place and discovered said situation.  She claims that not putting the oil in the pan ahead of time makes it far too difficult to clean (a point that I dispute with my clever soap/water trick).  Furthermore, she claims that I am now banned from making eggs!  Even in my own apartment!  What the heck!

Whatever.  I can make my own eggs.

However, I keep this in mind for my next post…

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Victory is mine!

This past weekend, I went to my third installment of the annual murder mystery party.  Those of you who are my long term readers will know that there is a theme to the event,  this year’s was old Hollywood, and everyone is given a character to play.  Each character has certain goals to achieve during the course of the evening and in the process you are supposed to figure out who the murderer is of one of the characters earlier in the night.  Two years ago I was a shaman of an island.  Last year I was a crooked, gambling doctor.  This year, I was a mentalist.  My character’s goals were the following:

  1. Get myself booked on a TV show.
  2. Become a spiritual advisor to a rich and famous Hollywood star.
  3. Get an agent.
  4. Help out my friend, another character player, any way I could.

So, essentially, what I have to do is go around and talk to the other characters – agents, producers, actors, etc, and try to swing a deal.  I do this all in character of my own, in my case, a mentalist.  Yes, I know, playing such a character was a complete and total stretch for me, I don’t know how I accomplished it.

Indeed, I brought along a few mentalism effects including my bending spoons, hypnotized spoon, and floating dollar bill (well, that last one is more magic than mentalism).  But I also grew out a goatee for two weeks beforehand in preparation for the movie.  My goal, of course, was to look like my favorite mentalist – Derren Brown.

image image

Gee, we look like twins (look through the glasses).

But after the party was over, when I got home I shaved it off.  I did not like that goatee at all.  I found that it got in the way; it was kind of pokey and felt kind of “sticky” around the edges of my mouth.  I was looking forward to removing it, even if it did make me look pretty cool.  I considered speaking with an English accent as well but thought better of it.  My accent totally sucks.

As I was saying, while at the party every character has their own goals, and mine are above.  One of my special powers was the ability to hypnotize people by getting them to look into my eyes or have them stare at my watch.  Once hypnotized they would say or do anything I told them but would stop being under my spell after 10 minutes.  My character was not supposed to do anything nasty, and so I didn’t.

Now here’s the thing: my character accomplished his goals in the first 20 minutes.  The first person I spoke with was an agent and we swung a deal.  I spoke with a TV producer and got a commitment for a TV deal or a part in a movie (gee, if only it were that easy in real life).  I even had a couple of Hollywood types entertain the notion of me becoming their spiritual advisor, although of goals 1 & 2, they were not and AND but actually an OR.  I also managed to secure my good buddy character a role in a movie, although that came later.  I provided assistance to him the entire game (except at the end).

Having accomplished my goals, I started to wonder what to do.  Well, I decided to go about trying to solve the murder.  I had already made a list of notes of people who might have had a motive before the game began.  Then, during the game, I used my other abilities to get people to reveal secrets about themselves and then use that information to draw some conclusions.  And in the end, after the game completed, everyone put in their votes for who they thought the killer was.

I scrutinized who I thought the killer might be, and I narrowed it down to two characters.  One character I spoke with for about 5 minutes and got nothing useful other than that he seemed incompetent, and the other character I never even spoke with at all.  As it turned out, I was missing some important information about both characters but I didn’t find that out until after the game.  I wasn’t sure who it was, but I guessed that the odds were 2/3 to 1/3 that one lady was responsible for the death of the main character.  I discovered that the murder victim was having an affair with two people – a famous producer and an up-and-coming actress (who I never spoke with).  I figured that the up-and-coming actress got mad at her beloved about the other women and conspired to kill the guy.  She was the only one I could think of with a clear motive.  Ergo, I put her name down (the mafia doing it for the money didn’t make sense; they need him alive to collect the debts).  Other characters did not have a clear motive, or when I asked them their secret it ruled them out.  It was really a process of elimination and a guess.

When time came to reveal the killer, I got it right!  Booyah!  Not only that, but I was the only person to get it right out of everyone at the party!  As it turns out, I got the motive right but there were details that I had missed; it turns out that didn’t matter.  What does matter is that I was right and I was the only one to get it right.

I felt pretty good about that.

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Last Tuesday, we had midterm elections in the United States. Every two years, all 435 members of Congress are up for re-election, and approximately 1/3 of the Senate seats are up for re-election. This means that congressmen spend a lot of time getting elected and much less time actually legislating.

The results were pretty much what everyone was forecasting – the Democrats lost the House, losing nearly 70 seats and while they lost ground in the Senate, they still narrowly retained control. There are a lot of explanations for why the Democrats lost so badly this time around, but it depends on who you ask.

Some of my more Liberal friends blame everything on Fox News. “That lying, right wing news organization!” they growl. “They lie and distort the facts!”. According to them, if it weren’t for Fox, them Democrats would have a perpetual majority. At least that is the natural conclusion of their anti-Fox bias.

What they they fail to realize is that there was an anti-incumbent bias this year. My friends all claim that the Republicans are (100%?) responsible for the economic crisis we are in. It is all because of them that we are in this mess and it is taking Obama time to fix the mess. Unfortunately, the Democrats paid the price for the Republicans mess.

I don’t agree with this assessment. In my view, Obama wasn’t president when the comic crisis hit, but he was a senator. Furthermore he comes from the same establishment that made the crisis possible – the political class. Economic crises don’t hit because of what private citizens do or don’t do, they hit because of decisions made by the political class (and the Federal Reserve counts as the political class). The fact is that the government is made up of politicians and Obama is a politicians. A lot of power is concentrated in Washington, and because of that, that power can be bought by special interests. When you concentrate more and more power in the political class, it makes the political class more and more susceptible to doling out favors. It also makes it possible for crises to hit, regardless of the political party. Politics is about power, and politicians really don’t have the power to change that.

I don’t think that Fox News has the power to swing an election. Elections are decided by Independent voters, and Independent do not watch Fox News. The Republican base might, but they do not have enough votes to swing the election on their own. What happened was that Independents swung against the political class in a protest against the expanding scope of the federal government. Independents prefer divided power in government because it prevents either party from pushing through their agenda. It’s a repudiation of lop sided government, not necessarily an endorsement one way or the other. It’s not Fox, Americans are more nuanced than that. My Liberal friends need to realize that not everyone agrees with their agenda. They want brakes put on the centralization of unchecked power. It doesn’t mean they like Republicans or are listening to Glenn Beck.

BTW, at this point, I would probably lean towards voting for Obama in2012 ifI could vote. Divided power is good.

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What is it about appliances?  They are supposed to be simple so people like me can use them.

Case 1: My washing machine has been doing something very annoying recently – it has been putting “rust” stains on my clothes.  Not all my clothes, mind you.  Just my favorite ones.  What do I mean by rust stains?  Well, I put clothes in there and when they come out, there are color streaks that are rusty in color either on the sleeves, neckline, or elsewhere (pretty much anywhere).  This can be either the inside of the clothes or the outside.  Several of my shirts have been ruined by this.

I asked the management of the leasing company to take a look at this, and it turns out that I have to wash out the washing machine with bleach.  Fair enough.  I have never done this before so how difficult can it be?

As it turns out it is very difficult.  I read the instructions on the Clorox Bleach Cleaner that I picked up from the store, and it says to pour the contents into the bleach dispenser.  Simple enough.  The only problem is that I have no idea where the bleach dispenser is on my washing machine.  Absolutely no idea whatsoever.

I tried searching online for some clues, but found none.  I look at the washing machine; there is the tumbler in the middle, but around the washing machine there is nothing else.  Nothing.  There is no little container, no slot, no compartment… it’s all smooth.  Dismayed, I thought that maybe the tumbler has a slot or something that comes off.  Well, I can twist the top but it isn’t coming off at all, it’s attached firmly to it.  It is not coming off, ergo, I cannot dispense any bleach.  So I am basically left in the situation where I am supposed to put something in the bleach dispenser but have no idea where the so called bleach dispenser is located.  I tried searching online for help but it was completely useless.  All I could find was that there is supposed to be a triangle thing in the bottom right hand corner of the washer.  Well, that most definitely does not exist on my washer, that’s for darn sure.

Case 2: I got new windshield wipers from the auto-store the other week.  I still haven’t installed them.  Why?  Because I couldn’t figure out the instructions.

On the back of the wipers, there are pictorial instructions on how to replace the wipers.  Either unsnap a clip or release a pin in the middle.  Well, my wipers do not have a snap at the base of the wipers.  There’s a pin in the middle, but it is firmly attached to the wiper and does not unscrew.  I looked at the wiper instructions and on the wipers themselves and there was certainly no mapping between my wipers and how it was supposed to work to switch them out.

The user manual was no help.  There wasn’t anything in there on how to remove them whatsoever.  I tried searching online and all I found were generic instructions.  Thanks.

 

These things sure seem like they should be simple to change out.  There’s a lot of things that I can figure out.  But these things – windshield wipers and bleach – make no sense to me.

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So this isn’t good.

Today, I had a health check up.  It’s something done by Microsoft where they take your weight and height, a small blood sample and measure your cholesterol and glucose levels.  The result?  I am not in very good shape.

There are three things that show that I am not doing so well.  First, they measured my percentage of body fat.  I had to hold onto a little device that fired an electrical signal through my arms and then calculated the percentage of body fat I had.  The result was 21.8%.

Body Fat Percentage

According to the levels they recommend, this puts me into the borderline high category.  Or to put it another way, borderline fat.  I was very surprised.  I never considered myself fat, not by any stretch of the imagination.  Yet here we are.

image

I did some searching on the web, and I don’t think I am actually fat.  I think I just have a lack of muscle mass in my upper body since the electrical signal travels between my arms, excluding my lower body.  I think that if they included my lower body, which I have been targeting, it would have been a different story.  What this means is that I have to start lifting weights.  Great.

Blood Pressure

They also measured my blood pressure.  I can’t remember the last time it was done but I think it was before my last surgery in January.  At the time, I was 114 over 74.  That’s pretty good, it is in the target zone.  However, this time, I was not.  This time I was 136 over 81.  That was after the second measurement.  The first measurement was 144 over 81.

That’s having high blood pressure.  The first stage puts me in Stage 1 Hypertension.  The second reading put me in Pre-Hypertension, but not far away from Stage 1.  Having high blood pressure means that I am stressed.  I usually consider myself Mr. Mellow.  What’s driving it up?  I certainly am no more stressed now than I was before my surgery; after all, it’s the same job I am doing.  Although on the other hand, that condo of mine is driving me crazy!

Cholesterol

Next up, they measured my HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) but not my LDL (bad cholesterol).  In order to measure your LDLs, you have to fast for 9-12 hours ahead of time.  Since I had a bowl of cereal in the morning, I disqualified myself.  The truth is I forgot about my meeting.  Dang it!  Having low HDL means you are at greater risk of a heart attack or heart disease. 

According to the measurements and the chart, I am at high risk for HDL:

image

I saw this and said “Aw, crap.  So I’m fat, with high blood pressure, and am at risk for a heart attack.  Well, isn’t that grand?

The Good News

Okay, so the news wasn’t all bad.  My waist line is fine, my Body Mass Index is fine, my total cholesterol is perfectly fine (141 vs Desirable which is 200), and my glucose level is great (90 vs Normal which 139). 

But I was still stunned (stunned!) by my body fat percentage.  And my blood pressure.  My cholesterol… not so much.  Apparently I eat too many processed foods and need to cut back on my sodium.  Luckily I never put salt on any of my foods but man do I enjoy salty foods like Ritz crackers!

I guess I need to consider adjusting my lifestyle so I can live until I’m 100.

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One of the common interests that both my girlfriend and myself have is traveling.  While I have more international traveling experience, she has more domestic traveling experience.  Although, at her age, I had traveled to less countries than she currently has.  So relatively speaking, I guess you could say she has more traveling experience than I do.  But I wouldn’t actually ever admit that.  Not ever.

Anyhow, I managed to convince her to go to both Belize and Guatemala instead of only Belize.  That was cut back from three countries, but two countries is still pretty good.  My style is to hit up a lot of places during a trip; I frequently can’t wait to get back from vacation so I can actually relax because I am constantly on the go.

The next plan that I had was to do a trip to south east Asia.  You see, being in the Antispam industry and having a good degree of visibility due to have a blog that I update frequently, people tend to know who I am.  This past year I have had the opportunity to get to know some guys at another vendor and the company is based out of Singapore (but none of the guys I know are of Singaporian, or even Chinese, descent).  Anyhow, we get along well and they have invited me a few times to come to Singapore and stay in their corporate house.  The advice they gave me was to use Singapore as a launch pad for visiting other countries.  Spend a couple of days in Singapore and then see the rest of the region.  The city/country is centrally located and so it makes perfect sense to do this.

Now, my new lifelong dream is to see Angkor Wat, a temple complex in Cambodia and the largest ancient temple complex in the world.  How it survived the horror of the Khmer Rouge I will never know, but survive it did.  I really wanted to see it.  But, my girlfriend did not.  In her view, she’s already seen a lot of ruins (such as Tikal in Guatemala) and wasn’t too thrilled about seeing more.

But I still wanted to go.  Angkor Wat is the most amazing complex in the world.  We had to go.  Yet somehow, I had to convince my girlfriend.  And that’s when I embarked on a sneaky, clever little plan.

I explained my predicament to my “Singapore guys.”  I told them that I wanted to convince my girlfriend to go to Angkor Wat.  So, the next time they passed through Seattle, I said that we should go out for dinner; normally we go out for lunch so this would be a switch.  They had a meeting at my company anyhow, but we are friends independent of this meeting.  Anyhow, one of the guys had his cell phone and preloaded them with pictures of his trip to Angkor Wat.  Over dinner, we started talking about a possible trip to Singapore.  Then, he asked if we were going to Angkor, and before my girlfriend could answer he brought out his phone and started showing pictures of it.  The pix were amazing.  He started telling stories of how great it was and by the end of the evening, we managed to convince her to go to this totally awesome place.  She suspected that I had set this up.  I didn’t admit it at the time, but I am admitting it now!  I totally set up this encounter to convince her to go – bringing her along to dinner as well as ensuring that my friends had pictures of Angkor Wat.  How could she resist?

But I wasn’t done there.  The next part of the plan was to convince another friend of mine to come along.  He is interested, and one day we were the three of us chatting about this trip and he mentioned “Man, if we go I really want to go to Angkor Wat!”  Gee, what a coincidence!  Once again, my girlfriend accused me of seeding the line and once again I didn’t admit it.  But it’s true, that’s what I did!

I still wasn’t finished.  This part of the plan did not work out.  I tried to get my brother to post on her Facebook wall that he heard that we were going to Singapore and that if we do, we should definitely take in Angkor Wat.  However, he completely weaseled out of doing this and so this part of my plan did not work out.  Had it, it would have been a trifecta of manipulation.  But in a good way, of course.  Angkor Wat is an amazing place.

However, my plan worked perhaps too well.  My goal was to go to south east Asia for two weeks and take in Singapore, Malaysia and Angkor Wat.  However, while my girlfriend now wants to go, she wants to go for three weeks!  Uh, I hadn’t planned on that.  I think that my plan worked too well.  What am I made of, vacation time?  Sheesh.

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What I should have said

This past Saturday, I had another magic performance for a group of kids at a birthday party.  The age range of these kids was 8 and 9.  There was a mix of boys and girls, and there was about 15 of them.

Some performers do not like performing for kids, but I didn’t really have a problem with them.  However, this past show was more difficult.

There was one kid in the audience, like usual, who doesn’t seem to understand that almost every time he speaks up and claims to know how a trick is done (It’s in his sleeve!  It’s in his other hand!  It’s a magnet!) he is wrong.  The humiliation of being proven wrong when I show something is impossible only lasts for a couple of minutes and then he is at it again.

Truth be told, I expect that in a crowd there will always be at least one kid like this.  In fact, it’s more unusual when there isn’t a kid like this.  But at this last party, one kid was being particularly annoying because he was loud and ruining it for the other kids, even though they were telling him to be quiet.

Here’s how I should have handled the situation.

“Hey, kid,” I said, “what’s your name?”

“Adam!” he replied.

“Hey, Adam, stand up.”  He did so.  “Adam, I have something for you.”

“For me?”

“Yes,” I answer, “it’s a present.”

“A present?  What is it?”

“It’s a big box of shut the hell up!”

That would be kind of awesome.

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