Walking, Water and Weighing

Since we are the most obese country in the world per the World Health Organization, I was seeking some alliteration to serve as a reminder of three things we each could do. Walking, Water and Weighing. Each of these things would not be difficult to do, but could make a difference.

Walking to better health has been discussed for years. As a former jogger with an up and down history of such, I have resorted to walking and hiking. It is far easier on the joints and can accomplish  many of the same benefits – weight loss, cardio-vascular work, better digestion and improved psyche by being outdoors. And, when you miss walking for a few days, it is much easier to pick back up than jogging.

Drinking more water is the one of the best diet techniques around. I am not advocating drinking water all the time, but try to drink at least a couple of glasses a day. In addition to zero calories, drinking water helps flush out your kidneys and lessens the risk of kidney stones. Plus, staying hydrated is beneficial to good health. Lastly, if you are on a budget, drinking water in restaurants and fast food places is a big saver.

Finally, know your numbers, a key one of which is weight. Weighing once a week is good to know your progress and will encourage you to get that extra walk in or avoid more fried food, bread or desserts the next week. Yet, weighing is a metaphor for knowing your blood pressure and cholesterol counts. These are two examples that can be treated with prescription drugs and better regimen.

I recognize these three things are not earth shattering revelations. But, they are three habits that can easily be implemented and will provide some benefit. Please check with your doctor, if you feel you must, and start slow with the walking.

 

 

 

 

Something interesting is going on

Several of my well respected blogging friends have done a lion’s share of work around the need to audit the 2016 Presidential election results. There have been countless concerns expressed in academia that the very surprising result should be verified. Plus, there has been enough noise around hacking threats following the alleged Russian involvement in the email hacking, that verification is essential.

Well, thanks to Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, there will be a review of the election results in three key battleground states that surprisingly went to Donald Trump, the President-elect – Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Hillary Clinton’s campaign has notified the states that she will have legal representation during the process given its importance.

This news does not sit well with the President-elect, nor does the news that he has lost the popular election by over 2 million votes. He has claimed that the general election result includes millions of undocumented aliens offering no evidence. One of the conservative websites that is long on wind, but short on substance, has said something similar, so in Trump’s mind it must be true if it is on the internet. But, this claim has been noted as unproven.

Yet, what is interesting is Trump is now claiming that there is voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California, again without evidence. Why would he do that? The simplest explanation is distraction, a technique which he used throughout the campaign. If a news items looks, feels or could be bad, distract the audience with a sleight of hand. In other words, if there are problems here, then they should look over there and why isn’t anyone reporting on it, as if it is a conspiracy?

If he feels there is a problem in those three states, he can file a claim to have the votes recounted. To me, he fears there maybe some bad news in the three states in which Stein has raised an issue, where the vote differences are less than 120,000 votes in total. I would welcome any recounts, where concerns exist.

I am not here to say there is definitely a problem, but I do feel the results should be audited. My reason is the Russians have influenced other elections and went to great trouble to hack two separate email systems releasing the emails to the public through WikiLeaks. And, per a news report from several security experts on PBS Newshour a few months ago, they firmly believe the Russians would alter some emails, as well before release.

These security analysts also reported that some entity has been probing various voting machines over the past many months, mostly unsuccessfully. Yet, while one source could not change every machine, due to the distributive nature of the process, an entity could affect select voting machines. So, my thesis is why would the Russians be satisfied with just hacking and changing emails?

Will this change the outcome of the election? I don’t know. But, I do think the American people are owed a clean and fair election, regardless of the outcome. So, I support an audit, as should any candidate. Yet, I do think it is interesting that the so-called winner is using his distraction techniques at this juncture, as if he suspects something is amiss himself. To be frank, nothing seems to surprise me about this election, as everything has been surprising. This could be just one more thing.

 

 

Movies I must admit I like

People who read my posts or comments know I like to quote movie lines. They also know I have written several posts about favorite movies or movie quotes.

Taking a different approach, I want to mention a few movies I should not like as the plot is very thin, but I do.

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure – This movie is about as stupid as they come, but I cannot help liking it. It mixes interesting historical characters in a silly setting with the classic advice from two non-studious high schoolers, “Be excellent to one another and party on dude,” words even Abraham Lincoln repeated.

The Inlaws – Starring Peter Falk and Alan Arkin this movie will leave you in stitches with some of its inane scenes mixed around an unbelievable espionage story. Richard Libertini, who passed away earlier this year, plays a hilarious over-the-top dictator. The funniest part involves the proper way to evade bullet fire, even after you successfully do so – “serpentine!”

Zombieland – My boys wanted to see this comedy movie about zombies starring Woody Harrelson and Emma Stone. Seeing everyone was turning into zombies, they referred to each by where they were from. Harrelson’s character was Tallahassee, eg. The best scenes are during an extended cameo by Bill Murray, who pretended to be a zombie.

50 First Dates – Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore star in a second movie that qualifies for this list along with The Wedding Singer. Sandler must make Barrymore fall in love with him each day, as her short term memory goes away each night. Dan Akyroyd, Sean Astin and Rob Schneider add additional color with their characters.

The Wedding Singer – Sandler and Barrymore star in this one as well, which immortalizes a Spandau Ballet song and makes Billy Idol a hero in the end. Sandler, the wedding singer, falls in love with the bride-to-be Barrymore, who is maltreated by her jerky groom-to-be. Seeing the hip-hop granny in the credits is worth the wait.

Major League – Tom Berenger plays a washed up catcher, Charlie Sheen a wild pitcher who can’t see very well, and Wesley Snipes, plays a base stealing wizard who can’t hit, who all make the team so that they finish dead last. With that failure the new owner can move the team to Miami (the movie was made before a franchise was placed there). It has a predictable plot, but the characters make it fun. Baseball announcer, Bob Uecker, is a key addition to the movie with calls like “Ball Twelve,” after Sheen walks three batters in a row.

So, I Married an Axe Murderer – Mike Myers and Nancy Travis star in this movie about a couple falling in love and getting married. The groom finds out the bride’s previous husbands have left her mysteriously. Charles Grodin does a deadpan cameo where he refuses to yield his car to a police officer, Anthony LaPaglia, in chase. Myers also plays several relatives of Scottish descent which add to the hilarity.

There are too many to choose from, so I left off several questionable favorites. Many romantic comedies don’t dive too deep on plot, so you have to sit back and enjoy the hilarity, no matter how inane.

What are some of your favorite movies that you don’t like to brag about? Any reactions to my list above?

 

 

 

The best way to save

I could not think of a better day to state the obvious way to save money. Don’t spend it. There, now it is out in the open.

Being a retired old fart on a fixed income, I have learned that I don’t need the latest and greatest thing, if what I have is working just fine. I also don’t value my worth by what I own.

Yes, my IPhone is four years old, the same age as my laptop. They are working fine for my purposes. Yes, I am driving the same car for over nine years and will keep it longer, as will my wife with hers. And, no I don’t want to sell my house, even though I get requests from realtors monthly to do so. Nor do I need another credit card.

I recognize people want our money. They will market consistently, often aggressively, and sometimes fraudulently to get me to buy something. Yet, we can choose not to give it to them.

So, on this Black Friday, choose not to spend. If you must, consider this option. Move Christmas back a week and buy after Christmas when retailers are looking to unload inventory.

Shop wisely, or not at all. Happy holidays.

Let’s give thanks

My favorite holiday is upon us, one that brings families and friends together. We have a crowd of twenty-two joining our feast and fellowship this year, which is more than ever.

Especially nice will be seeing some new faces with our niece and two of our children each inviting a friend. It brings my wife and me joy to see them feel comfortable enough to invite a friend.

We will also be meeting the son of one of our nephews for the first time. They live in California and he has not had the opportunity to bring him east until now.

Of course, we are excited to have everyone here. My daughter asked how long ago did we start this tradition. When my grandmother passed away, going to her home for Thansgiving passed away with her. So, we remember her by making her cornbread dressing and continuing her  tradition.

Please enjoy your Thanksgiving and travel safely if you must. Hug everyone a little longer this year and share plenty of stories.

Life lessons from an astronaut

The other day, I saw Miles O’Brien of PBS Newshour interview astronaut Mike Massimino about his new book Spaceman: An Astronaut’s Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe.” What was moving about this interview is Massimino tells the story in his book how becoming an astronaut was not easy for him.

He notes he had to apply to be an astronaut four times before being given the opportunity. When O’Brien asked him what he would be doing had he not become an astronaut, he said “applying for a fifth time.” Here is a man who is still afraid of heights and cannot swim very well, yet he became one of the very few people who have ever flown in space. He saw Neil Armstrong walk on the moon and decided that is what he wanted to be and did not let his shortcomings stand in the way.

He also notes he had struggles all through training, which he highlights in the book. Here is his response to O’Brien about his question on dealing with his setbacks.

“I think you’re right, yes. It’s not a question of being the best at something or things coming easy to you, but it’s being a person that can work with others and not give up. And, for me, that was part of it too.

At every step of the way, when I had trouble, there were people that came in, in my life that helped me. It’s important to go seek help when you need it, and to give help when other people need it. And that is really more important than coming in with a gigantic brain into the astronaut program.”

To me, there is no better life lesson than what Massimino says in these two paragraphs. Just because someone is not the best at something or that things do not come easy to him (or her), does not mean he (or she) cannot be successful or achieve a goal. The second paragraph is telling as well. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The only price is to pay it forward and help others.

A link to the entire interview follows: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/setbacks-failures-shaped-improbable-astronaut/

Big Issue #2 – Confronting Climate Change

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Information highway has many roadblocks and exits

We have so much information literally at our fingertips. Search mechanisms can yield answers to so many questions. It is a virtual information highway. Yet, two major problems exist that provide roadblocks or exits to the information highway.

First, answers are often not that simple and depend on the questions being asked. Many problems are complex and need context, as the answer afforded by the results of searches you might click on, can steer you in the wrong direction. Any time you look for a medical solution, you must be careful not to over-diagnose symptoms. If you have ever had children, the croup is one scary looking illness. Yet, it is not as bad as it looks, and a few simple solutions can remedy the problem.

Second, all answers and sources do not have the same level of veracity. Unfortunately, there are information sources whose modus operandi is to mislead. There are groups of entrepreneurs who will craft official looking websites whose main intent is to obfuscate the truth or get a candidate elected. Then, there are portrayed media sources who, on their best day, offer a spin doctored version of the news or mask editorial opinion as news. On their worst day, they can misinform as well as anyone.

Unfortunately, the duty falls on the reader, watcher or searcher, to ascertain the veracity of the information and its source. The groups who make a living at bending the truth, do it very well, so it is hard to know you are being duped or not told the whole story. Now, we have candidates and a President-elect who tell you to doubt the media, saying they are biased. This is often done to mask that the media actually may be on to something.

The main stream media has a key bias and that is toward conflict. Conflict sells. I find they often give too much credibility to an argument and portray it as 50/50 with side-by-side arguments. Climate change deniers have been given too great a voice these days, as the scientists who know the issues have agreed it is a problem and is man-influenced. Yet, you can find websites that will tell you it is a hoax and have even influenced our President-elect.

The main stream media also has a bias toward entertainment and can be conflicted with funding sources for commercials or their owners. As a result, issues may not be discussed at all or covered in a shallow form. While our President-elect claims the media was against him, from my vantage point, they enabled his success by covering his events and controversial statements and not his business history and plans.

So, we must be diligent and dutiful to confirm sources. We must read and listen with curiosity, but remain skeptical of sources. We must ask questions – why, what, when, how and how much or long? If you do a search, look at the source. If you read routed information on Facebook, again look at the source of the underlying document. An overly biased person may also be a lightning rod that the information being routed lacks veracity. And, watch reputable news sources and not politically biased ones.

Democracy demands an informed electorate. We just elected a President who lied about 3/4 of the time on the campaign trail and says he will represent people he has taken advantage of throughout his business career. It boggles the mind that this man was not vetted more. And, as a President, we will need to hold him accountable. We must recognize the roadblocks and exits to seeking the truth. It won’t be easy.

 

 

 

 

Big Issue #1 – Dealing with our Debt

A topic that was discussed very little during the campaign and debates is our ticking time bomb problem of US debt. At almost $20 trillion and growing, it deserves its ranking as Big Issue #1 as it will impact everything we do as interest cost becomes an even greater part of our annual budget.

Let’s start with a few quick numbers in our 2015-16 fiscal year for context:

Current Debt = $19.8 trillion
Annual Revenue = $3.267 trillion
Annual Expenses = $3.854 trillion
Annual Deficit = $0.587 trillion
Annual Interest Cost = $0.284 trillion

Note, the annual interest cost is included in the expenses. If we did not spend one cent outside of paying the interest cost, it would take almost seven years to pay down the debt. But, we do have major and minor expenses, so it will take a concerted effort that will need to include some revenue increases, as cost cutting will not get us there unless we are prepared to make significant cuts to defense and major programs like Social Security and Medicare, the top three cost items.

What is troubling is our President Elect’s economic and tax plan has been measured by two non-partisan groups – The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and The Tax Foundation – to increase our debt by $5.3 trillion over the next ten years. Quite simply, we cannot afford to do that.

So, we must be smart about what we do it or we will make the problem much worse. The President Elect has said we will make it up in an expanded economy, but several  economic modeling firms, such as UK based Oxford Economics and US based Moody Analytics, project his plans as creating from malaise to recession in our economy.

We are at the point where we must set campaign rhetoric aside and govern off real data and analytics. There are things we can do to decrease the debt. Two non-partisan organizations – The Concord Coalition (www.concordcoalition.org) and Fix the Debt (www.fixthedebt.org) – have good exercises where you can value the impact of certain changes on the expense side and revenue side.

It should be noted, like Corporations, there are areas where we need to increase spending such as on infrastructure investment, while we make cuts in others. Also, as we are an aging country that is the most obese country in the world per the World Health Organization, there will be upward cost pressures on health related programs.

This is not an easy exercise, but one we must do. Cutting revenue through less taxes is an easy thing to promise during the campaign season, but we are at the point where we must make tough decisions and decreasing revenue is one we probably should avoid. And, the longer we wait, it will become even tougher to solve this problem.

Not voting diminishes your right to protest

In the days following the Brexit vote, many young adults took to the streets in protest. They said if we had known this might occur, we would have voted. On his comedy news show “Last Week Tonight,” John Oliver chastised his former countrymen. This is how it works. You don’t get a do over.

Fast forward to the US Presidential election. Young adults have taken to the streets in protest over Donald Trump’s victory. Following Oliver’s cue, this is why we have votes.

So, if any protestors did not vote, go home. Your abstinence from the voting process was a vote for the negative outcome you are now protesting.

If you made a protest vote for a third party candidate or wrote in a name, your vote may make you feel better, but likely got Trump elected. Everyone who voted for Jill Stein, I want you to tell me how you feel when Trump makes due on a promise and tears up the Paris Climate Change Accord and guts the EPA.

Most of Stein’s votes likely came from frustrated Democrats and Independents who wanted Bernie. I understand, but allowing Trump to get elected is an insult to Bernie who seeks the truth. Bernie heavily influenced the Democrat platform,

I am disappointed in this outcome and worry about our country and planet. I will support our new President and pray he has success. But, I will be doing my part to civilly and rationally push back when he is taking us down a wrong path. That is how it works. We vote and we advocate.