Changing Everything

Missed me?

Sorry about that.

Sorta.

I usually like to take a week off from writing at the beginning of summer vacation, just to feel like a kid again. That . . . and now that I have a nine-year-old hounding my every move, I have to reconsider my life choices.

Actually, the only real change is that I have to book computer time with his publicist, and the 1:00pm naps are now out of the question.

So that's my usual M.O.

(Which stand for Modus Operandi)

(Which translates into Way of Doing Things)

But this June has been remarkably different. 

See . . . tomorrow afternoon I will be signing a publishing contract for my first novel.

That was a really fun sentence to write.

I'm gonna write it again.

Tomorrow afternoon I will be signing a BOOK CONTRACT!

Let that sink in. Let the joy bubble up. Take a breath. Now consider the possibilities.

So far, the best response, was from my step-son who immediately asked if we were gonna be rich. The answer to the question is a certifiable "No" but only because he was referring to financial richness and not something more esoteric like emotional or life-richness.

If peace/love, friends/family, passion/purpose, were monotizable, I'd already be a member of the 1%.

I'd probably be the 1% of the 1%.

So a book contract is cool, but it's sauteed mushrooms on the filet minion of life.

It does however . . .  change everything.

And by "Everything" I really just mean "Me"

See, up until I got the notice, I had a very different idea of what the next year was going to look like. I had plans within plans, projects to finish, projects to start, projects to do away with.

In fact . . . this blog . . . which I've been writing for three years now . . . was (sadly to say) going to go bye-bye.

I wasn't going to stop my daily writing, but I was planning on focusing it in a different direction and have it serve a different purpose. Still funny and irreverent, but less "Wait . . . Dad?" focused and more pop-culture focused and I was planning on finishing it with my second novel, a father-son adventure, and then see what other parts of the world are ready for my exploration.

I finished that novel, by the way.

It's good.

Or . . . at least my wife read it in two days . . . and is happy with it.

Which . . . let's be honest . . . is the highest praise I'll probably ever need.

So I was planning on heading into the unknown and spent the month of May gearing up in one direction, and now, ooops, hooray . . . I'm heading in a different one all together.

The beauty of it all is that I'll have an entire marketing department peddling my product . . . the sad thing is is that I will not be able to write so many marketing jokes.

That was a deep well to mine.

And now, since there will be people reading my work who I haven't met, I have to reconstruct my voice so that it remains as edgy as ever, but you know, doesn't give away my location or where my children go to school.

Ha ha. You thought I was going to have to be nicer.

Not a chance.

So "Wait . . . Dad?" will indeed be dying out, but will be replaced with something identical that doesn't give you a description of what my son looks like.

Safety first.

And of course your next question will be "When can I go to Barnes and Noble and buy a copy?"

The straight skinny on that . . . I have no idea.

Here's what I do know. Starting this week I will be talking shop with a real life editor, who a few weeks from now will send me a copy of my book that is covered in red ink and filled with comments like "You can't end a sentence a preposition!", "You've spelled this character's name three different ways!" and "I hope you're kidding about this chapter." and "Please tell me you're not trying to invent new ways to use the F-Word."

Which will lower my spirits, but not my resolve.

I also have to have a cover design. Which I will try myself (because I'm infuriating) then I will try to go on the cheap and find a highschool kid with at least a little experience with Photoshop, and then I'll have to suck it up and pay a professional for something that's nice, but that I won't be entirely satisfied with.

On or before September 20th, 2015, I will be contractually obligated to deliver the final proof.

Then, my publisher has up to 18 months in which to publish the book, or cancel the contract.

So at the latest, you can get your own copy in the spring of 2017, right about the same time as Bernie Sanders is giving his innaugural address.

It's gonna be a long 2016.


Headspace Frugality



So my wife was talking to me this morning, which is almost always a bad idea.

I was scraping egg crust from the a cast iron pan and my eyes were open which is just about all I can handle at one time, so I was aware of her speaking, but I was only vaguely aware that she was speaking to me, and there was something going on about clothes. The subject of fashion is a leading indicator that no matter the importance, my personal involvement is going to be near absolute zero.

But her tone adjusted slightly . . . pivoted really . . . to the "I need your input/attention/bigstrongarmstoopenthepicklejar" kind of tone, and I had to immediately recalibrate my focus so as to try and figure out a way not to make her start from the beginning.

". . . your good shorts." she said.

"I um what?" I said back.

"You can wear your good shorts to the party on Sunday."

"Oh, yeah, of course . . . wait . . . what good shorts? I . . . really . . . honestly . . . have no idea that I had those . . . and if I do . . . I have no idea which ones they are."

She . . . because she is magic and impossibly forgiving . . . didn't miss a beat . . . went into the closet and pulled out my good shorts to show me.

She wasn't disappointed in me at all, for it was 7:36am and we were talking about clothes. She just wanted to make sure that I don't wear those particular shorts between now and Sunday.

She knows my strengths and weaknesses and is for some reason okay with them.

We sat down to a nice breakfast of coffee and frittatas while the nine year old made a valiant attempt to spoon three bites of cream of wheat into his mouth.

The 'cream of wheat' thing came upon us suddenly a few weeks ago. For some reason he was really desperate to try it because the kid down the street says it's great (another reason why children shouldn't have friends), and despite my remarks to the contrary (for I loathe the tasteless paste) I gave in and got him a box.

The experiment was what I call a "A Two-Thirds Success"

See . . . for some reason . . . he is absolutely keen on trying things. He's pretty much game for anything and his ratio of things that he likes to things that he doesn't, is actually so high I don't even measure it any longer.

He won't eat stuff with onions.

That's about it.

The second measure of success is whether he'll ask for it again. And that has about a fifty fifty ratio.

For instance, he won't eat fried eggs, but he will gobble down scrambled eggs.

That's not that weird.

But he didn't eat any of the eggs I made him yesterday, so when he asked for scrambled eggs this morning, I told him no and that he can have pancakes and then he asked if he could have cream of wheat instead.

But he wanted to limit the quantity.

Quantity is the final measure of success. Any quantity of 200 or more calories is the goal. Any less and I might as well be feeding a squirrel.

He got close with the hot cereal this morning. Which is a valiant effort as far as I'm concerned, but it was weird watching someone nibble small spoonfuls of the gelatinous goo.

My childhood mornings were spent trying to gobble it so quickly that it never touched my tongue.

Different Strokes.

Anyway, I stopped watching him eat because it was grossing me out, and the subject turned back to to clothing and something something something about a blouse.

The tone pivoted again.

"You know . . . that really nice button up blouse I've got."

"Oh . . . right . . . yeah . . . no . . . no . . . I still have no idea what you're talking about."

"The mint green blouse!"

That one popped my awareness. I actually do know that blouse, because, and this is really funny, because I only know two things about fashion:

Comfortability.

And what my wife looks really sexy in.

That sounds so guy-ish, but it's really all I got the headspace for. And I, unfortunately, do not do a very good impression of a gay best friend.

I am, in absolutely no way, interested or excited about new clothes.

I am also very specific about what I think looks good. Form fitting (to show it off), tapered waist (to elongate the torso), spring colors (to brighten everyone's day).

If I'm being asked on my opinion about anything that doesn't meet those three requirements, I have only one question:

Is it comfortable?

Cause if it is, then screw everything else.

I haven't wavered in fifteen years.

Not a jot.

Yet every season the racks are just filled with drab, lazy earth tones, and blouses that flair out from just under the boob line like mini waist high moo-moos.

It's like every girl in the world wants to feel tall and thin, and yet clothes are still designed to make them look short and dumpy.

But not the mint green one that she was asking about. That one's totally sexy.

Which is why it caught my attention, and eventually leads us to the point of this story.

See, there's only a limited amount of brain you have and it unfortunately gets even more limited as you go along. Hopefully, each day you get to add a little more to your repertoire without breaking the bank. So to speak.

Today I learned that it is possible to concentrate on more than just scraping egg crust off a cast iron pan while keeping my eyes open. I learned the exact amount of cream of wheat my son is going to eat and to make sure to include a few slices of bacon or fruit next time. I learned which of my shorts are the good shorts and I learned that my wife is going to be home late because she needs to find a pair of capris pants to go with her sexy mint green blouse. I also learned, after a quick Google search, that the flared blouses that make girls look short and dumpy are called Peasant Blouses and variations.

I did not learn if she needed the capris for dinner with friends on Friday, or for the family gathering on Sunday. I did not learn which shirt I'm supposed to wear with my good shorts. I did not learn why girls buy pleasant blouses.

Cause there's only so much room up there.

And there's always tomorrow.


HTT: How To Solar

During my traditional breakfast with the BBC, two eggs, a cup of coffee, my iPad, and my thumb, I came across this headline:

"Moon shot" call for clean energy"

My first thought was: What exactly is a Moon Shot? followed by my second thought which was: OMG someone's gonna try and put solar cells on the moon.

I hadn't read the article yet and my mind was already racing to understand why some one would want to put solar cells on the moon. Especially when the state of Nevada is so much closer.

Reading further . . . as one should do when posed with such a question . . . I got a better gist of what was being said. Apparently, a group of scientists and deep thinkers out in EuropeLand have decided that the best way to promote and profligate renewable energy his to have a dramatic world-wide call for solar and wind power, similar to John F. Kennedy's call to "put a man on the moon"

As far as I know, no European has reached the Sea of Tranquility, and I'm pretty sure that's an exclusive claim for those who bleed read white and blue. If fact . . . we don't even have that technology anymore. The blue-prints for the Saturn rockets were destroyed when NASA was cleaning out it's garage to make room for the Space Shuttle Program.

No lie.

Anyway, the "Moon Shot" call has it's own name: Global Apollo.

Apollo, for those of you who don't know, is the Greek God of Art and Knowledge and well . . . Plague.

In fact, in order to more successfully incorporate the hedonistic hordes, the Christian Church adopted images of Apollo (The sun of Zeus) and rechristened them as images of Jesus (The son of God).

This is why you've grown up thinking Jesus was a blond haired, blue eyed, white man.

No lie.

Now . . . for those of you who know me as a person . . . you will not be shocked to find out that I am a starch proponent of Solar Energy. I love the stuff.  Can't get enough of it. Every time I see a solar array (even the ugly ones) I get filled with personal glee.

If Greenpeace was standing outside of my Trader Joes trying to get me to sign a petition to promote Solar Energy, not only would I stop and talk, but I might even buy those poor starving kids some pre-packed sushi and toss in some extra packets of wasabi.

Unfortunately for Greenpeace . . . pandas are neither tasty . . . nor can they run my air conditioner in July.

My solar panels can do that.

And it's flat out amaze balls.

The 100 square feet of photovoltaic cells nestled cleanly among my concrete roof tiles give me virtually 3/4's of my energy for free.

Free.

No lie.

I will also readily admit that I lucked out. When purchasing a home my wife and I won a lottery for new homes in a solar development. So I never really had to put my money where my mouth is.

The cost of adding a solar array to an existing home is in the neighborhood of $20,000. (Not including all the cool tax ride offs) and even though it would cut a homeowner's energy bill by a sizable portion, it won't quite pay for itself for about ten years.

However . . . the cost of incorporating the exact same array in a newly built structure (home/office/Nordstrom Rack) is less than $5,000.

How can that be?

Well, at that point, all you're paying for is the price of the components (the cells and the converter) and you can even subtract the cost of the roofing tiles that the cells are replacing. Nifty Huh?

Now . . . when you add that $5,000 to the residential or commercial mortgage, plus the tax ride-off . . . you're basically printing money on day one.

Day One.

So if you follow the math . . . and if you can't, go back and read again . . . to update the existing infrastructure is more than four times the cost of building it from the start. But to build new, virtually free, if not cost cutting.

And . . . what is the only thing that holds back innovation?

Cost.

Reading the "Moon Shot" article it was clear that the group was concerned about cost. How do we reduce the cost of renewable energy to compete with oil and coal?

The answer will not be found at the G8 summit, like they're hoping.

C'mon, Europeans, you're smarter than that.

There are too main problems with the component cost of solar energy. There isn't enough demand, so they are not being mass produced in a way that would lower costs, and two, there's too much cloud cover in London for customers to get the benefit that I do out here in sunny sunny California.

If you can get high demand, supply will catch up, which will reduce cost, and with reduced cost, even greater demand.

But how do you get that initial high demand?

It's simple . . . but you have to swallow some of your fear of big government and heavy handed regulation.

Basically . . . we need to create legislation that requires solar panels for all new buildings out here in the sunny wild west.

You get the state legislatures of California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, New Mexico, and yes . . . even Texas, to adopt a solar policy, you will have just created a market for 1.5 million customers per year.

(Not to mention the job creation for a growing industry, which will in turn create higher demand for single family housing . . . etc, etc.)

Again, the Libertarian in me cringes at the thought, so I feel you. But we already regulate the hell out of building permits and inspections, the cost to the consumer will be negative (they'll literally be saving money on day one, remember) and the only really big group that will suffer are the executives of PG&E.

Unless they catch wind of the whole scheme and use their resources to become a leader in manufacturing the solar equipment.

Someone might want to send them a letter.

There is literally not a single loser in the whole ecosystem.

Except maybe the pandas.

Sorry pandas.

You shoulda been tastier.


Silver Bullets

So I just read an article in a weight lifting magazine that says if you plan to add carbohydrates to your diet, you're much better off with white rice than brown rice.

Really.

White rice good . . . brown rice bad.

I mean . . . I always knew that from an emotional standpoint but it was nice to see it laid out scientifically.

Now I warn you, never believe 97% of the things you read on the internet, but the guy made a good point. (Of course it was a guy)

See, nutritionists have been touting brown rice both for it's fiber and for it's vegetable protein, not to mention that it must be better for you because it is unprocessed. Which . . . like . . . duh . . . fiber/protein/virginal . . . of course it must be better.

But wait . . . there's less.

Cause if you want fiber, it's much better to get it from dark leafy cruciferous stuff like broccoli spinach and kale. And if you want protein it's much better to get it from animal, unless you're not into that sort of thing, then it's much better to get it from beans which have much higher quantities and are more easily absorbed. As for processing, it's not like brown rice goes through the same process to become white rice, as a potato goes through to become a Pringle. The shell just gets squeezed off. Big whoop.

The biggest difference (the only measurable difference) is that your body doesn't digest the brown rice very well.

In conclusion, white rice is better.

In the Post Script, it's only better if you are needing to add calories to your diet because you're an athlete or a body builder. The rest of us are stuck with kale.

But seriously . . . how hard is it to get real information? Is it even remotely possible to get experts to agree on anything other than the blazingly obvious?

I kid you not, I just read an article the contradicted itself in less than three paragraphs.

The article was on the pancreas and thyroid and how they determine metabolic rate.  Basically the article made a big stink between the two different types of metabolisms, Anabolism (to build and store), and Catabolism (to burn, baby, burn), and then proceeded to put them back together.

Jerk.

Right now, you're probably asking yourself, what the hell is this guy talking about?

Why am I reading this?

And the answer is where I get down to my point.

The point is is that when you get right down to it . . . there are no silver bullets.

Nothing really works.

(On and emotional/physical/work/life balance sorta way . . . my toaster oven works just fine.)

Even the metaphor of the silver bullet is ambiguous. I mean are we talking about killing werewolves or are we talking about the coolness of The Lone Ranger?

Probably the werewolves. But why them? Why not vampires and stinky garlic? Hell . . . why not Theseus and the Minotaur? Life is so much more like a labyrinth than Tonto's wild west.

Anyway . . .

The reason I was reading these articles in the first place is that I wanted to do two simple things this summer.

I wanna knock down that tire I got going around my middle, and I wanna put some meat on my son's bones.

Neither of those should be really difficult. The Blazingly Obvious Experts all agree that it's a simple question of calorie intake.

Less for me.

More for him.

Okay? Isn't that the way to go?

Sure . . . but you also have to remember that a bowl of strawberries isn't the same as a bowl of chocolate cake.

Okay . . . so now we're typecasting calories and you really shouldn't be eating cake in a bowl. But so far so good.

Okay except that your metabolic response to calories might differ.

I eat the strawberries and my body says "Mmmm Good. Let's pump some insulin and see if we can't figure out a way to save that glucose for later." Anabolism.

My son eats the strawberries and it's like pouring gasoline on a grease fire. You could put your hand on his chest after a wholesome meal and be concerned that he literally just swallowed Ginger Baker with a full drum kit and a three pound bag of uncut cocaine. Catabolic.

So . . . conceptually . . . I need to increase my catabolic rate, decrease my anabolic rate, and figure out how to do the exact opposite to my nine year old.

Only, the best way to increase the catabolic rate is to develop muscle mass and the best way to do that is to increase the anabolic rate to help build those muscles.

It gets worse and I'm gonna stop there, because we just hit the point where no one agrees, and we've only just tapped the nipple of the boob of the endocrine system. We haven't even got to the digestive or GOD FORBID, the nervous system.

The minotaur is easy.

It's the labyrinth that's gonna kill you.

I can see why it's perfectly logical to give up.

Let it all just play out with as little interference as possible. Eat, sleep, hustle for money and sex if such things are important to you, binge watch The Wire on HBOGo if they're not.

I'm on Episode 8.

But I'm not happy about it.

But I am shaved, and showered, and spent all morning researching and writing, in a few minutes I'm gonna go for a walk, and after that I'm gonna make myself a salad. In the afternoon I will write rehearse and then cook up a meal that will consist of chicken, broccoli, and kidney beans.

I'm still not convinced about the white rice.

But it's there if I change my mind.






The Five Tacos

My son hit me up with a question yesterday morning that kinda threw me.

Halfway through his pancakes he looked up and said "Dad . . . what's for dinner?"

The reason it threw me is two-fold. One, he's never asked me about a meal ahead of time, though he is very quick to criticize the meal that is being served, and two, as my dad will remember, I used to ask that question of him almost every morning.

It's possible some of my genetic code is finally creeping in.

I don't know why I was so concerned about the evening menu before I'd finished my bagel.

I don't remember ever having much part in the final decision making. But I do remember asking the question.

Just about every day.

My answer was a lame one:

"I don't know . . . something with ground beef."

It had been grilled chicken the night before, and grilled salmon the night before that, so to even everything out, this night was either going to be pork roast . . . or ground beef. And I'd already gotten the meat out of the freezer.

He didn't respond . . . or I couldn't hear his quiet little murmur . . . but the silence hung for a while until it was finally broken by my wife's suggestion that we have tacos.

That was a pretty good suggestion. We hadn't had tacos in a long time.

We used to have tacos a lot. Almost once a week.

Like, my favorite step-son story is one night when we were having tacos I cut up a bunch of carrot sticks and put them in the center of the table.

His jaw dropped and he looked angry and confused.

"What're these?" he screamed.

"Vegetables." I said.

"What? THERE'S NO VEGETABLES ON TACO NIGHT!!!!!!!"

I never made vegetables on taco night again.

But the point being . . . we used to have a taco night.

We don't anymore.

I don't know why . . . everybody loves tacos . . . and they're easy make . . . and they're so good.

The problem with tacos, aside from always having two or three shells left over that get stale, is a problem of quantity.

Proportion is a big thing to me.

No one is allowed to go hungry . . . no one is allowed to throw away food.

It's a creation of my own sense of Zen.

There are two foods that I can never quite get proportions correct. The first, obviously, is pasta.

No one but my mother-in-law knows how to correctly distribute pasta. I'm okay with that now. There are great mysteries in life that are much better if they're not explained.

But I should be able to successfully negotiate the amount of tacos for three people.

Let us start with the basics: What makes a taco?

Meat: Of which I've already proportioned 1.25lbs. Which seems to be the perfect ratio for all ground beef dishes (hamburgers, meat-balls, burrito-bowls etc.) If there is any left over, it goes straight into the eggs the next morning.

Cheese: Extra sharp cheddar in block form. The pre-shredded stuff, well I know a lot of people who swear by it, but I think it tastes like nothing, and if it tastes like nothing, why put it on stuff.

Color I guess.

Lettuce: Romaine or Ice burg. No fancy schmancy substitutes as we will later learn.

Extras: Onions, tomatoes, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, hot sauce, for this particular night I quickly pickled up some jalapeños.

It's a recipe I made up myself: 3/4 cup water, 1/4 White Vinegar, tbsp salt, tbsp sugar, a clove of garlic, 2-3 large jalapeños sliced up. Boil the water, vinegar, salt, sugar, and garlic. Add the jalapeño slices, cooked until the bright green becomes a muted olive color.

Whammo.

You've got freshly pickled jalapeños in about ten minutes.

I call it: Quickled Jalapeños.

Patent pending.

And they're balls out ten times better than the stuff you get at the supermarket.

Okay . . . last but not least . . . the shells.

The purist will tell you to get corn tortillas, fry em with oil, add the bend in the last minute.

The super ultra-orthodox purists will also insist on making your own tortillas.

I haven't had a full time job in 18 months, and I still don't have that kinda time.

Pre-made shells are the way to go.

Each box comes in a pack of 12 shells. If there are three of you that means each of you gets four tacos. Or if one of you is nine, who will not be able to eat more than two, then he gets two and the rest of you split the other ten.

That's five tacos each.

But tacos aren't like hot dogs. There are no quantitative rules of consumption.

With hotdogs, one is never enough, and two is too much. This is why people get married. To have another person eat that extra half a hotdog.

It's in Leviticus.

But tacos change from night to night, day to day, year after year, drive thru to drive thru. Like, I could put ten Taco Bell tacos down in less than a quarter of an hour and still wish I'd ordered that extra thing of nachos.

That's not too gross. A taco bell taco is 156 calories, so ten of them doesn't even meet my 2,000 needs.

But at a fancy restaurant, I can usually gobble down three. There's rice and beans to think about.

Homemade tacos are another animal.

You can't precisely prep, but you can maintain a certain buffet style flexibility, and then you have to track your progress throughout the meal.

The First Taco:
This one you inhale. Two bites, all gone. You don't feel any different, in fact now that the salt has hit your lips, you're slightly more hungry than you were before.

The Second Taco:
This one you don't actually inhale, and this is where the cheese is starting to melt and the heat from the jalapeños are kicking in and you've kicked out your elbows and are ready to dig in.

The Third Taco:
This is the gourmet taco. This is the one you've prepped with all the trimmings. This is the one you take your time with. You chew around the edges to get all of the different combination of flavors, your hunger starts to feel satiated and you feel more like a delicate consumer rather than a trash compactor.

When you're finished with the third taco, it's time to take stock. How much of each of the ingredients are left? Do you need to shred more cheese? Do you need to cut more lettuce?

In this particular case, I . . . for whatever reason . . . thought that the purple leafed romaine would be just fine. After months of eating kale, everything else is so tasteless, but I was plainly informed that it tasted funny and my son was loathe to take another bite. Thank goodness the lettuce was on top and it was an easy fix.

So we don't need any more lettuce.

The Fourth Taco:
The question here is . . . will there be a Fifth Taco? If the answer is yes, then you have to restrain yourself from loading up everything into the shell. If the answer is no, it's time to squeeze that processed shell to near the breaking point. Do not let the shredded cheese or the Quickled Jalapeños go to waste.

Patent pending.

Also . . . do not ask your life partner which taco they are on.

The answer will only make you feel disgusted with them or disgusted with yourself.

The Fifth Taco:
There really shouldn't ever be a Fifth Taco. It's not healthy. It's probably not even all that sanitary since you've been eating with your hands. And you're not really hungry anymore.

I mean, you're kinda hungry, like after an entire bottle of wine you're kinda sober, but you really shouldn't be driving anywhere.

And because your gluttony has sorta grossed you out already, you're gonna feel some pressure to inhale the Fifth Taco like you inhaled the First one.

You know what . . . don't.

Chill out. Take a sip of beer and make eye contact with the rest of your family.

Chew.

You might not even feel all that obligated to finish it. And if you don't wanna . . . then don't . . . you won't be breaking any rules.

And if you do finish it . . . good for you . . . celebrate by taking a nice walk around the neighborhood.

Check the mail.

Do some deep knee bends.

Post Script: Last night I didn't go for the Fifth Taco. I hit a perfect equilibrium halfway through the Fourth and reminded myself that there is just enough meat, shell, and lettuce left for a nice taco salad which I will be eating for lunch today.




TBT: Water Water Everywhere

Today was the day of the first break-in at the Watergate Hotel.

It's also the day the McDougalls were convicted of fraud in the Whitewater scandal.

That's like a Throw Back Thursday Two-Fur.

I'm loving these little history lessons cause it makes me go back and relearn a pieces of a history that I'd either all but forgotten or never really understood in the first place. For instance, I know the word Watergate, and that it had something to do with Nixon doing bad stuff, lying or whatever, and that there were missing tapes, and a Deep Throat, and that the jig was up as soon as Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman got involved, but that's about it.

I also knew the word Whitewater, which had something to do with the Clintons being . . . well . . . the Clintons.

Like . . . you know something shady went down, but you really can't put your finger on it.

Don't feel bad. Kenneth Starr couldn't put his finger on it either.

That's all I'm gonna say about where Kenny puts his finger.

And whole thing was overshadowed by where Bill puts his cigars.

So on this day, 1972, a couple of guys break into a hotel room, which happens to be the headquarters of the Democratic National Campaign, take some blurry photos, and install some listening devices.

Okay . . . that's bad.

But the funny part, is those particular listening devices don't work and need to be reinstalled, confirming what my dad always says about "Never going cheap on three things: Alcohol, Electronics, and Women."

Tricky Dick and Slippery Bill should really take my dad's advice.

Anyway, its funny because they broke in again a few weeks later and got caught.

And, seriously, they got caught with cashier's checks from Nixon's reelection campaign fund.

Oops.

Word to the wise, if you're gonna do stuff like that, take your $25,000 check to the bank first.

It's just common sense.

And speaking of $25,000, that just happens to be Bill Clinton's yearly salary (as Attorney General of Arkansas) when he and his wife and their pals, John and Susan Mcdougall invest in a little creekside property called Whitewater.

It actually was a pretty good investment, seeing as how there were tons of white people migrating out of MotorCity Land, and heading south to NASCAR country.

How could you go wrong selling water front vacation homes to to displaced white people who don't want to pay high property taxes?

Deregulation is the answer to that question my friends, deregulation, and a whole lotta fraud.

Okay, so this is gonna get tricky, but stick with it, I promise I'll make this fun for everyone.

Lets start with my second favorite movie "It's A Wonderful Life."

Remember how Jimmy Stewart got stuck running the boring old Building and Loan?

That sucked.

Banking sucked.

But Building and Loans (which eventually became Saving and Loans) were pretty much the back bone of the post WWII America. The greatest economic expansion ever seen by any country that didn't have 'Empire' as it's last name.

But it was like super boring.

Basically, a Savings and Loan (S&L for short) would loan people money to buy houses, for which they would collect a modest interest rate, and then they would open savings accounts, for which they would pay even more modest interest rates and use the difference to pay for ZuZu's cough medicine.

(That was an It's A Wonderful Life reference . . . try to keep up.)

Anyway, it's literally the financial version of watching paint dry.

And it was really hard. There were so many rules. Like, they couldn't invest in commercial real estate, and they had to get all kinds of approvals for things, and there were actual people paid to make sure that the S&Ls weren't selling properties back and forth to jack up the prices and cash in on commissions.

But the 70's was like totally the "Hey man, let's chill out" decade.

Let's give small business owner Jimmy Stewart a leg up. Maybe give him chance for him to insulate that drafty old house of his.

So we chilled with the regulations a bit. Thanks Carter.

And okay, so yeah, there were a few bad apples. The kind of people that would sell properties back and forth jacking up the prices and cashing in on the commissions. But you know . . . things happen.

Now if you don't know what that last paragraph means, it's actually not that complicated:

Say I buy a house for $10,000.

Cool. I gotta house.

But instead of paying my first mortgage payment, I sell it to my brother for $15,000.

That's cool. I give my agent $1,000 and keep the remaining $4,000.

Except my brother is now paying $15,000 for a house that's really only worth $10,000.

And I feel bad about that cause I'm a good brother.

So the next month, before he makes his first payment, I buy it back from him for $20,000.

His agent is also my agent, so he gets another $1,000 and my brother gets $4,000 for all his trouble.

Now for a while I can use my $4,000 to pay the mortgage payments on a $20,000 dollar house that's really only worth $10,000, so in a year or two I run out of money and my brother agrees to buy the place for $25,000.

Now banking becomes exciting! My agent is making $1,000 a month and my brother and i are each making $4,000 every two months.

And so on and so on.

And, even better, if everybody does it, well, then all the values of all our houses go up.

Woo . . . freakin . . . hoo!

Unfortunately, we call that rapid inflation.

Which is bad.

So to slow that down, the Money People decide to increase interest rates.

The modest interest rates that the S&L's were charging go up, as do the more modest interest rates that they are paying out, and hopefully ZuZu's cough gets better.

Except, because people and corporations are cheap bastards, now everyone wants to save and nobody wants to buy, and the S&L's income is far less than it's payment obligations and after a few years . . . whammo!

Everything drops like a rock and the S&Ls fold. Costing the taxpayers billions.

Ooops.

Okay, so back to the creekside property called Whitewater (see, I told you this would be fun). The Clintons and the McDougall's buy the place assuming that property values are gonna rise and they can supplement Bill's meager $25,000 income by selling the land off bit by bit.

Unfortunately, they sorta missed that window between relaxation and increased rates, and ended up losing their investment.

Or did they?

See the McDougalls weren't quitters. And they happened to own a few S&Ls. But even though regulations were relaxed, it wasn't like the government totally repealed the entire Glass-Steagal Act.

That wouldn't happen for another fifteen years. Thanks Bill.

John McDougall couldn't actually borrow more than $600,000 from his own S&L, so he kinda sorta funneled money from his "friends" to make it all look legal as he traded properties back forth to himself.

It only gets sticky because the Clintons were "friends" and Hilary was the lawyer would handled those contracts.

Her part was essentially sorta kinda legal. But John's wasn't.

So he went to jail.

But don't worry . . . Bill pardoned him on his last day in office . . . so everybody wins.

Now the moral of the story might be that there are cheaters everywhere. But if that in anyway surprises you, I'm actually astonished you were able to read this far without visual aids.

Nope, the parallel between these stories is that the guilty parties weren't the perpetrators. The Clintons weren't actively defrauding the financial institutions any more than Nixon donned a ski mask and broke into a hotel.

But when the light shined down, they shredded papers and burned evidence, erased tapes, and back pedaled away from the truth for years, in the Clinton's case, decades.

Yet, if you follow the trajectory you'll notice that Watergate lead to Nixon's complete downfall, while Whitewater got smoothed over and essentially forgotten about.

See, we're getting much better at hiding our frauds and the people paid to pay attention are getting worse at finding them. And it doesn't mean the end of all civilization, though it's hard to ignore the Doomsayers, I just think it's important to go back and look once in a while. A reminder of the past so that we're not collectively doing the same stupid stuff all the time.

Throw Back Thursday shouldn't just be all about mullets and denim jackets.

It's your civic duty.







Sex and Cilantro

So I had a very serious post slated for today.

In light of the Duggar scandal, I was going to make some poor tasting jokes about sexual deviance in repressed cultures. I even had a note pad full of my scribblings on essays from Freud to Kinsey, the histories of the Babylonians to Fundamentalist Muslims, and I even found this wonderful post from the Center for Morality in Public Life making the case that society crumbles when people concern themselves with sex for pleasure instead of procreation.

Lot of Roman references.

Love them Romans.

Anyway it was all going to boil down to the fact that it's getting time to have "The Talk" with my own son. The Victorian in you is probably thinking he's way too young for "The Talk", but I'm sorry to tell you my friends, it's the internet age, and he's already being exposed to dirty words and naked girls by the kid down the street.

I can't tell you how much bad information comes from the kid down the street. He's the kind of kid that will be the first on the block to tell everyone the truth about Santa Clause, that there are worms in Big Macs, that you can catch Ebola from climbing trees, and that cops can shoot you whenever they want. He also knows all the bad words.

Thankfully, and I have no idea how I did this, but I raised a kid who is not only suspicious of the kid down the street, but he's also pretty fearless when it comes to asking me to clarify things.

He's already heard me utter most of the bad words anyway.

The Talk is going to go pretty easy.

I'm actually more worried about his mom.

(That's a joke. Her and I have The Talk all the time.)

Actually . . . not ALL the time . . . wait . . . why am I telling you this?

Anyway, it was going to be a good post. Funny, a little ruthless, some cringe worthy comments, and a few of those dirty quips that make you fell embarrassed because you laughed out loud in a public space and can't explain to the person sitting next to you.

But I was having a hard time getting going. Part of it was anger. Part of it was disgust. Part of it (and this is going to sound weird) but part of it was sheer disappointment.

Why do religious people have to be such a f$#@ing nightmare?

Seriously, can't we have one god fearing person, claiming to be a good role model, who isn't a total shit storm?

You got the Dali Lama and some might say the current Pope, but his pre-Pope stance on homosexuality keeps him out of the running.

Martin Luther King maybe. Unless you were married to him and weren't immune to the clap.

A case could be made for Jesus himself, but just imagine the scandal if Josh Duggar ran into a jewish temple screaming at everyone and overturning furniture.

No lie . . . it's in the bible.

The problem is what a psychologist would call "Cognitive Dissonance"

Holding two competing thoughts in your head at the same time.

"How to claim moral superiority when the Supreme Being is clearly a sociopath."

I may have just written the title of my next book.

It's that dissonance that leads to repression that leads to an explosion of deviance. Unless you're a writer for the Center for Morality in Public Life, to which my response would be: "Pick up a f@#$ing newspaper!"

Endquote.

Anyway, pissed and frustrated I did the only thing one can do when one is pissed and frustrated, I went into the kitchen and opened the fridge door and stood there for a while.

I wasn't hungry, I just needed some 'me' time and I'd already used the commode.

Inside the fridge is a bag of basil and cilantro that I got from my mom's herb garden.

Thanks Mom.

The basil, both green a purple varieties, I turned into the most amazing pesto sauce a few days ago.

Pesto is pretty easy. Basil, Garlic, Parmesan Cheese, Pine Nuts, Salt, Olive oil . . . puree. Although I adjust that recipe based on whim and the availability of Pine nuts.

This one, I substituted pine nuts with sesame seeds (you get the salt without that piney aftertaste) and I also used my handy dandy Garlic salt grinder from Trader Joes instead of the fresh garlic cloves.

When you use fresh garlic there's a spicy acidity that I personally love, but it can overpower the simple dish. I went with the dry stuff, which made my wife roll her eyes at me, but was later forgiven because the subtlety of the dish was off the hook.

She's not as enthusiastic about experimentation as I am . . . but she's just as hungry.

So now I've got this cilantro.

Cilantro is a whacky herb.

It's pretty easy to grow, although, speaking of sexual deviance, it doesn't live very long, and unlike Onan of the old testament, it has to drop it's seed on the ground quickly if it wants to survive.

Onan dropped his seed on the ground because he didn't want to impregnate his dead brother's widow.

Poor Onan.

And that is why you can't masterbate.

Poor you.

But the wackiness of cilantro doesn't end there.

In order to get all it's herbalicious goodness, you gotta clip it while it's still very young, which Freud says could be dangerous.

But once you've got it . . . what do you do with it?

Salsa.

Guacamole.

That's pretty much it.

And you can't really serve it up for parties because it turns out that a good portion of the population has certain receptors that make the fresh herb taste like soapy bitterness. It's actually genetic. The gene that inhibits the enjoyment of cilantro is OR6A2.

You could turn a homosexual straight easier than getting an OR6A2 carrier to go to Chipotle.

It's as if god intended some people to like it and some people to not.

But there's hope.

Because . . . internet.

All I had to do was to type in Cilantro and Recipes and I was flooded with hundreds of different options. All shapes. All sizes. Different types of meats. Different types of non-meats.

If you know what I'm saying.

Most of the recipes were for salsa or guacamole, and salsa-guacamole, and guacamole-salsa, and one might think that the definition of a cilantro dish is between one salsa and one guacamole, but there were lots of other ideas too.

Some of which didn't sound all that good to me, and some were just variations of mixing cilantro and butter, and some were . . . well . . . deviations I didn't necessarily want to participate in, but I don't think anyone was harmed. As long as it was consensual, everyone can have a good time.

There's no cognitive dissonance there. Especially if no one can see you click.

The internet can be a wacky place for choice and taste, but it's a godsend for the curious, and a much better place for information than the kid down the street.

Now the recipes I will be trying out this week include a Cilantro Pesto, a Cilantro Lemon Sauce, and for myself alone, a Cilantro Ginger Hummus.

Love my hummus like I love them Romans.

I will report back next week.

I'm not sure if my son is going to like any of these dishes. He may or may not be an OR6A2 carrier, which is fine by me.

And since it's food we're talking about and not repressed sexual urges, I would feel perfectly comfortable experimenting on my sister.

But I'll probably be experimenting on my wife first.

Not because I'm the moral majority.

I'm just a damn good role model. Even if I don't know how that happened.