Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Weight Control: Beware of Crotalaria

To lose weight you are going to have to change your behavior. I know it sucks, but I’m here to help you. Before we begin, let’s dispel a myth right now. Cold turkey strategies do not work. Let’s dispel a second myth: If you have enough willpower you can do anything. Seven millennia of evidence show that human beings do not have enough willpower to even reach for the remote and turn off the TV. The best we can do is to have a behavior change plan consisting of well-informed, achievable small goals that you can track and feel good about. The well-informed part is crucial, because so many people give up bread for salads but shower their vegetables with enough dressing to drown a prisoner in Guantanamo. Aim for slightly smaller portions. Find alternatives to lard that do not derive from animals fed toxins or exposed to environmental, bacterial, or fungal contaminants, mycotoxins, aflatoxins, ochratoxins, endophyte alkaloids (especially Neotyphodium coenophialum), phomopsin, sporidesmin, cyanogens (watch out for dhurrin and linamarin), gossypol (disclaimer: not a Gallup Poll subsidiary), and crotalaria (even animal scrotoplasty won’t help with this one).

I know this list contains many threats, but you don’t have to memorize it. You can cut and paste it into your smart phone’s notepad and every time you go shopping you can ask the guy lining up the tomatoes in the produce section to find organic foods free of environmental, bacterial, or fungal contaminants, mycotoxins, aflatoxins, ochratoxins, phomopsin, sporidesmin, and spermicides. He will be more than happy to escort you to the nearest sanatorium where you won’t have to worry about any of this.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Social Skills

There are two interaction skills essential for your well-being: expressing yourself and empathizing. Achieving high levels of dexterity in self-expression and empathy is not as easy as it sounds. Conveying your feelings and thoughts with accuracy in succinct form is a rare art. I know so many people who get totally lost in details before they get to the point! And guess what? The more they associate with each other, the longer they all take to get to the frigging point! I know a few people who can take 45 minutes to tell you something that most human beings can communicate via twitter. As I listen to them politely and begin to feel the equivalent of a piranha attack in my whole body I can’t help but think:

·         I wonder if I can pretend that I’m having a heart attack

·         Where is the nearest sanatorium?

·         And you wonder why you are lonely?

I know that I should appreciate diversity and empathize with these long-winded people and all that, but for the love of God, can somebody please tell them to get to the frigging point? Don’t they know that the fastest route to a destination is a straight line? I don’t need to hear details about people I don’t know and events I don’t care about unless they are going to make me rich or involve adulation.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


People think that without alternatives they will be able to overcome cravings. Impossible! Look at me. I replaced chocolate with delicacies such as carob coated rye crackers that taste like UPS packing cardboard. I also replaced meat with a chewy substance that resembles regurgitated fungus. Instead of coffee I drink chicory. For energy I take a B 12 pill. For fun, I eat shredded wheat. And when I go completely crazy I pour agave on tempeh and decorate it with wheat grass and sauerkraut. You see, there are alternatives. Granted it takes time and creativity, but if you go to the nearest health food store, you will meet a lot of friendly people who used to live in a sanatorium and are dying to have some human contact.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Financial Colonoscopy

A big part of the American dream is to own a big mortgage, and a little piece of a home. If owning one home in America is a good thing, owning two must be awesome. So my wife and I bought our first, and then our second home in Miami. We have a lovely house in Coral Gables, next to the University of Miami where I work, and a condo in Hollywood Beach. The two poor immigrants were now part of the American dream.

Then we started thinking that our perfectly fine 1200 square feet condo in Hollywood was not good enough for us. So we, the embodiment of rationality, thriftiness, prudence, and frugality, acquired on an impulse a third home, and a third mortgage. Ora and I saw a unit for sale in the same building of our condo, and we fell in love with it. All of a sudden the view from our condo, which had mesmerized us for the last two years, was not spectacular enough. All of a sudden the place was not big enough to accommodate our son and his wife.

Our congenial mortgage broker, who had helped us with previous loans, told us that we would have no problem getting a third mortgage. “For you, no problem” she said. Reassured, we proceeded to put an offer at full price, and then some, to make sure that we got this particular unit. In a moment’s notice, rationality went out the window. But what a window that was! With unobstructed views of the Atlantic Ocean and the intra-costal, we fell in love with the place the way suckers fall prey to whatever the Property Bothers sell them on TV.

The process began simply enough, requesting salary statements, W2 forms, printouts of bank accounts; the usual stuff of mortgage applications. Then the mortgage company had to look into the financials of the condo association and our credit score going back to the destruction of the second temple. After an interminable series of emails, phone calls, faxes, texts, scans, pdf files and more emails, phone calls, texts, and scans, we were told that the building did not pass certain Fannie Mae Freddie Mac mortgage certificate of estoppel reserves escrow HUD deed warranty of good behavior, and that the mortgage company would be able to give us only 70% of the value of the house. That was the first time we heard about such possibility. I started getting a little more worried.

Every time I looked at the computer there was another email from the mortgage company requesting twenty more documents going back years about every financial transaction that I had ever done or considered doing. At that point, I thought that the inquisition would have been a breeze.

Because Ora and I were so rational, controlled, measured, and prudent, we made our offer unconditional to make sure that we got THIS unit and that NOBODY ELSE did. So, we could not get out of the deal on account of not getting a mortgage. Well, perhaps the inspection could save us, but it happened so early in the process that the mortgage company had not yet initiated its inquisition. So, in summary, we were stuck and we were being screwed by a mortgage company that kept blaming Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and JP Morgan and Countrywide and the Democratic Party for putting in place so many requirements for a second home mortgage. And every day the mortgage broker would contact us to let us know that there is a NEW law that they did not know about that pretty much required that they conduct a financial colonoscopy of our entire family.

All I could think about at this stage was Kafka. We were in the midst of a Kafkaesque play, and there was no way out. I dreaded going to the computer to read the new requirements and the emails going back and forth between the various mortgage company employees, our lawyer, and us about estoppels, escrows, underwriting, insurance, inspections, appraisals, taxes, condo fees, reconciliation fees, flood insurance, HUD warranty deeds, reserves, transfers of money, new printouts of bank accounts, and new salary stubs. Whatever I had submitted last month was no longer valid, so it was a Sisyphean financial bolder all over again.

Ora kept reinforcing me and praising my patience and organizational skills for being able to produce the Amazonian quantity of paperwork required. As I tried to cope with the tsunami of requests I asked myself, “and why do we need this headache?” At that moment I realized that we had just become full-fledged Americans.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Denmark to Face Sanctions

Carnivores, who make up 98% of the world population, suddenly realized they eat animals. It was not until February 2014 when the Copenhagen Zoo killed a giraffe and fed it to the lions that carnivores made the connection between killing animals and their steak dinner. “Come to think of it, I never made the connection” said Jeff O’Brian from Tuscaloosa. “I want to thank CNN for bringing this to my attention. I’m done eating animals, from now on I’m only eating chicken” he said.

In barbecue picnics around the world demonstrators protested the killing of Marius the giraffe. “Pass me the bacon,” said Theresa Kluless, as she held a placard denouncing the Danish government in Nashville.

In China, students were discussing the horrible tragedy as they were sipping shark fin soup in ivory bowls in Beijing. In Japan, mothers in a park were aghast. “It is unacceptable to kill a cute giraffe and feed it to the lions,” said one in Tokyo as she offered her child a dolphin sushi.

Meanwhile, the Beef Association of America published a full page ad in papers across the country denouncing the killing of Marius. “Giraffes are cute animals. They deserve protection from humans.” Similar condemnation came from the Chicken Growers Association: “In America we treat animals humanly. We would never dream of showing them on TV before we kill them. It is very stressful to the animals.” 

Of the 6.86 billion meat eaters around the world, 3 promised to become vegetarians in solidarity with Marius. For veggie people, this is very encouraging news. At this rate, it would take only 2.078999 billion years and 3.44521 billion slaughtered giraffes for the entire world to become vegetarian. For others, this whole vegetarian thing is moving way too fast. Cattle growers are afraid that some other zoo in Denmark will by mistake kill a cow on TV and lead 3 more people to lead a vegetarian lifestyle. Diplomatic efforts are under way to remove all cows from Denmark and hide them in an undisclosed location. Our sources tell us that it will be either Guantanamo or the new Trump Golf Course in Doral. “Both places have plenty of grass,” said our contact in condition of anonymity.  

In a top secret operation, code named “vaca loca,” NAVY SEALS will airlift Denmark’s 475,000 cows in 6 Apache helicopters and drop them at the undisclosed location. “We are a little worried about the Holstein. We know that the Red Dane and the Jersey are pretty docile though.” The whole operation is expected to last 18 minutes. “Based on our experience with Bin Laden, it should be smooth. We don’t expect any enemy fire from the Danes. To tell you the truth, I don’t even know if they have an army” said a Pentagon official. To make sure that all goes well, the operation will take place while the Danish televise the killing of the next giraffe. “Everybody will be glued to their TV sets at that time,” predicted our source. 

As rumors spread about “vaca loca,” the Fur Trade Association is already upset that the navy is using the politically incorrect name SEALS as operatives. “With all this animal love fest going on, the name seals will invoke seal slaughter, and before you know it, we will have a bunch of seal lovers protesting all over the place about fur coats.”

Given the pernicious global repercussions of Danish barbarism, the UN is considering sanctions against Denmark. The Security Council is considering a number of actions to bring Denmark in line with the ethical standards of the international community:

1.      Banning herring for 12 months.

2.      Disallowing the use of bicycles to go to work.

3.      Removing the philosophical essays of Soren Kierkegaard from libraries around the world.

4.      Replacing Tuborg with Miller Lite at restaurants around the Copenhagen zoo.

5.      Stripping Hans Christian Andersen of his Danish citizenship.

6.      Turning soccer fields into rehabilitation grounds for wounded giraffes.

7.      Military invasion.

Efforts are also under way to block incendiary websites such as the animal kill counter. The website claims that in the time it takes you to read this piece approximately 350,000 marine animals, 185,000 chickens, 10,000 ducks, 5,600 pigs, 4,000 rabbits, 3,500 turkeys, 2,800 geese, 1,750 geese, 2,800 sheep, 2,000 goats, 1,650 cows and calves, 105 dogs, 27 horses, 20 donkeys and mules and 14 camels would be slaughtered by the meat, egg, and dairy industry. May Marius and all these animals rest in peace.













Thursday, February 13, 2014


I hate clichés. They are a lazy person’s way to have, and end, a conversation. There are so many problems with clichés. Take for example some popular ones on health and wellness:

·         A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety (Aesop – Fables): Is the crust whole wheat? Is it gluten-free? Was the banquet vegan, lacto-ovo, kosher, halal, low-purine, high-fiber, or just your mainstream artery-clogging, cholesterol-enhancing, BMI-busting, cardiac-arresting fare? Details please.

·         Early to bed, early to rise, makes a person healthy, wealthy, and wise: This quote does not tell you anything useful, such as when exactly to go to bed, what time zone we are talking about, how do you define wealthy and how to account for inflation since Ben Franklin coined the phrase. We scientists need more specifics than generalities.

·         I believe God allows us to make U-turns in life (Mormon website): Does that rule apply across all states? I don’t think God visited Miami lately. If I tried to make some U-turns in Miami I’d get killed.

·         The man who doesn’t relax and hoot a few hoots voluntarily, now and then, is in great danger of hooting hoots standing on his head for the edification of the pathologist and trained nurse a little later on (Elbert Hubbard). I know Mr. Hubbard was a great American philosopher, writer, artist and all that, but frankly, I don’t give a hoot.

And then there are people who are not satisfied with existing clichés but invent their own. A relative’s friend recently passed away. The deceased weighed 418 lbs, smoked like a chimney, never exercised in his life, invented Type A personality, ate like there was no tomorrow, and one night, surprise surprise, dropped dead at a young age. Talking to my relative about the untimely dead of his friend he said: “it’s all luck in life.”

When I make the stupid mistake of talking to people about health and the importance of proper nutrition, physical activity, and sleep, they often tell me “we all die in the end.” Alternatively, they tell me that “you have to enjoy life” or “it won’t kill you to go wild once in a while.” The latter is usually accompanied by some story about a distant relative who ate seven eggs for breakfast, butter-roasted pig with a two gallon regular coke for lunch, and French fries with melted provolone and a bucket of whole milk ice cream for dinner, and lived to be 102. At this point in my writing many readers begin to feel defensive, so let me drop the subject right now because “better a carnivore reader in hand than a thousand in a vegan market.”

Friday, January 31, 2014

MSNBC and Obamacare to blame for Atlanta storm

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal offered a long list of excuses for his failed response to warnings of a major approaching storm. First he blamed the National Weather Service. Then he blamed his wife for not waking him up when the storm was upgraded from catastrophic to horrendous. He finally settled on Obamacare. “Obamacare is having a much more negative impact on our country than we anticipated,” he said.

Meanwhile, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who was being honored as Georgian of the Year when snow started falling, kept blaming MSNBC for showing pictures of the highways, and not of Atlanta proper, which, he claimed, was up and running again after only 30 hours and tens of thousands of motorists freezing their butts for 12 hours in their cars! “If they hadn’t shown misleading pictures of people stranded in highways, instead of the city, none of this would have happened” claimed the new Georgian of the Year.