Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s CEO, was about to take the stage at the InterContinental Hotel. I had a ticket and had planned to attend, but I was still at my desk, staring at my computer screen, fighting my way through a meaningless quiz. I needed to get 7 out of 10 correct to get past this roadblock. The questions weren’t difficult. I eventually scored 10 out of 10. The problem was that the quiz was embedded into an animated soccer game. Slowly the question loaded. Quickly I answered. And then the animation, think circa 1994, showed a goal being scored and the goalie reacting. And then, and only then, did the process begin anew for the next question.
Somewhere a six year old is missing a quiz game.
July, August, and September are devoted to my annual recertifications. Medicare requires an online class that takes about five hours to complete. Each section of the class has periodic quizzes and a test at the end. There is a 50 question final exam. This is followed by a 2 hour class and test for each insurer. I tend to represent 3 -4 companies each year. And once I’m done with Medicare the whole process starts all over for the federal exchange.
The insurers’ classes rehash the basics of Medicare, the basic rules, and the highlights of their products. Some companies respect our time. Some, like our soccer people, pretend that they are the only company selling these products. They aren’t.
There are lots of ways to waste time in my business. (Lots. I’m posting this while I’m on a webinar!) I attended a product rollout class yesterday morning. The insurer had the best of intentions, a comfortable meeting room, and useful materials. Unfortunately, the meeting was hijacked by two guys known more for their rants than their talents. I don’t know whether they were running a latte shy or if it was the 5 to 1 ration of women to men, but these guys and their grandstanding added over 30 minutes to a meeting that was already scheduled for two long hours.
These annoyances aren’t unique to my business. Scott Adams has mined the horrors of the cubicle farm in Dilbert, his comic strip, for 26 years. But I can only share with you my challenges and my new found success at animated soccer.
Jackie Mason noted that Jews view the world differently. You can clink here to listen to him in the background while you read this post. Non-Jews return from Europe with pictures of buildings. Jews come back with pictures of cake. This observation was from almost 30 years ago, long before food porn and Instagram.
Sally and I took a cruise in 2008. There were several memorable moments, but one thing gets mentioned more often than anything else – lobster macaroni and cheese. Sally was served this decadent side dish one evening and it made quite an impression. I don’t recall the evening. I don’t think I even tasted it. But lobster mac and cheese might be the only reason Sally would go on another cruise.
I’m not making lobster anything since I keep Kosher at home. Macaroni and cheese is also not part of a low carb diet. Up for a challenge and dedicated to resolve any unfulfilled needs, I decided to surprise Sally last night. Here is my version of a Kosher low carb seafood mac and cheese.
Shirataki Macaroni and Cheese
1 Package Tofu Shirataki Macaroni
1 Cup, loosely packed Fake crab meat
1 Cup Shredded cheddar cheese
¼ Cup Parmesan cheese
¼ Cup 2% Milk
1 T Almond meal
2 T Roasted red pepper strips
¼ t Garlic salt
¼ t Parsley
Butter to grease pan
- Preheat oven to 350
- Butter a glass 8×8 baking dish
- Shirataki must be rinsed thoroughly in warm water. Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil and cook the noodles for 2 minutes. Drain, return to the pot, and place it back on the stove. Low setting.
- Stir in the rest of the ingredients and mix well.
- Pour into the baking dish and cook for 20 minutes.
Plate and serve with a tossed salad.
How did it turn out? We don’t have a Holland America or Royal Caribbean brochure in the house.
It was the spring of 2003 and our country was rushing to war. Our elected leaders, such as our Vice-President, Dick Cheney, were anxious to invade Iraq. The Sunday morning talk shows had Mr. Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell explain why we had to invade Iraq. The key was Iraqi development of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). The British and other allies were ready to invade. The French weren’t. The French had doubts about WMD and whether this particular fight at this particular time made sense. Incensed, Mr. Cheney’s Republican allies in the U. S. House of Representatives pushed through a meaningful bill. Under the leadership of Bob Ney (R-OH), French fries were renamed Freedom fries in the three House office building cafeterias.
Freedom fries were a nice touch. It made the easily self-righteous on one side feel like they had taken a meaningful stand. Of course, the other side simply snickered and viewed this as further proof that they occupied the intellectual high ground. I remember telling Jeff, my business partner, how much I envied the certainty of both sides. The anti-war protestors KNEW that this invasion was a foolish waste of lives and treasure. Cheney, et al, KNEW that the Iraqis would welcome us with open arms as we rid the world of the danger of Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction. I didn’t have the luxury of certainty. The invasion and the elimination of Iran’s natural enemy didn’t make sense to me, but I didn’t have access to the information Cheney, Powell, and Rumsfeld received.
I didn’t know.
Try that. No one will hear you. Say it out loud. I DON’T KNOW.
We all seem to have an opinion on every issue, as if we know. But we don’t know. There are a few areas where each of us actually do know, where we are expert, but they are few and far between. And in our current political climate we choose sides based on our predetermined alliances with little regard to actual facts.
I have been asked about the Iran Deal. As the resident Jewish guy in some of my circles, it is assumed that I am against the deal because Netanyahu is against the deal. In other settings I have been asked to defend myself and the deal because I am the known Democrat. And the truth is I DON’T KNOW.
It is easy to ignore most of the “experts” and elected officials on this issue. We all know who was going to endorse the deal sight unseen and who was going to vilify it. And we also know that if the President were a Republican the endorsers and critics would be just as vociferous, just reversed. They just aren’t credible anymore. And me, I DON’T KNOW.
I wasn’t always this cynical. It took the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to get me to this point. Let’s be clear, much of the official Republican opposition is total BS. Huge portions of the law are directly descended from Republican proposals. And various Republican leaders from Newt Gingrich to Mitt Romney would have supported a Republican president (preferably them) pushing through this law. The leadership gets this. Obamacare is simply a rallying point and a fundraising bonanza. But the base isn’t in on the joke.
But this is my area. So when I read the proposals from Congressman Paul Ryan, or Senator Orrin Hatch, or the latest fluff from Governor Scott Walker, I know what I’m looking at. Since Representative Marcia Fudge’s office told me that she was still undecided while she was trying to stage a press conference announcing her support of the PPACA, I’m not going to wonder about her future positions on the issues. Their votes, yeah or nay, are already counted. I can use this as a litmus test. If a politician persists in bullshitting and grandstanding on healthcare, why should I believe that they can be trusted on other issues?
So when presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson states that Obamacare is the worst thing that has happened to this country since slavery, I tune out quickly. There is a reasonable limit to the cynical exploitation of the ignorant.
We enter the political season with our eyes wide open. If your Facebook posts are cluttered with negative, over-the-top references to the Obamas and this week’s unflattering Hillary picture, don’t be surprised if you don’t convert anyone to your particular politics. You’ve already borrowed the pictures from the people who agree with you and have been dismissed by those who don’t. If you are still describing Dick Cheney as Darth Vader and quote from memory Molly Ivins’ book Shrub, then you need to remember what John Lennon said on the subject.
Our country faces some serious issues and finding the right team to lead us is going to be quite a challenge. The answer on Iran. I DON’T KNOW. The questions as to who should be our next president? I REALLY DON’T KNOW.
I don’t want to go back to where I once was. Doesn’t that describe the alcoholic who knows exactly how long he has maintained sobriety? And that applies to the former smoker who remembers his last cigarette. And it certainly applies to me. I remember when Dr. Kent told me that I was too heavy and every step I took to drop about 25% of my weight.
I don’t know the struggles of the alcoholic. I quit cigarettes on January 1, 1985. Never went back. And I choose, every day, to not go back, to not be overweight again.
There is no guarantee that the diet process I developed would work for anyone other than me. Might. Might not. I have fielded numerous requests for my low-carb recipes. My most ardent followers have Type 2 Diabetes. They have been told to cut out white flour, sugar, and unnecessary carbohydrates. That would be my diet.
Even the most disciplined amongst us would prefer to not be tempted. You don’t offer an ex-smoker a cig. One should not pester a non-drinker to join you for a beer. And me? I confess that I spend way too much time fending off pasta and breaded chicken.
I went to a restaurant Friday afternoon. The broiled fish came with French fries. I asked the server what I could have instead of the potatoes. He proceeded to offer me red skins, hash browns, or a baked potato. Then rice. He finally remembered that I could have more vegies.
My client, laughing through the entire exchange, remarked after the server left that “He thought that you didn’t want THOSE potatoes”.
It is a constant struggle, a lot of effort, and requires total commitment. It takes discipline. And I realize that you may not want to hear, again, why your regular lunch companion will not be joining you for a glass of wine or the lasagna special. And if it helps, I apologize.
But I don’t want to go back to where I once was.
For those of you following along at home, which appears to be the safest place to be, minor traffic violations now appear to be punishable by death. I watched the video of the last moments of Samuel DuBose’s life. The camera was conveniently located on the shooter, a University of Cincinnati police officer who had stopped DuBose, age 43, because his car lacked a front license plate.
I asked Sally if the dealership had mounted her front plate. She had driven the last three months without it. With that resolved I found time to get to the Toyota dealership. I’ve been driving my new Avalon without a front plate since June 5th. Not anymore. I’m writing this from the dealership’s waiting room.
How have we come to this? Or worse, has anything really changed? Are we just finally seeing a more complete picture of our society?
I watched the Sandra Bland arrest. That could have been me. Really. I can be sarcastic. I can be edgy. I wear both my heart and my contempt on my sleeve. And I might not have been able to hide my disgust of the officer’s tactics. There are days when I am just not in the mood for chicken-shit power games.
My immediate reaction while watching the Sandra Bland video was shock. Then relief. After all, I don’t expect to ever pass through Waller County, Texas. I’m not booking flights to Alabama. I’m not running to Mississippi.
DuBose was killed in Cincinnati.
Too close to home. And yes, I am the guy in the picture. And if you see MIDDLE AGED WHITE GUY, cool. But as a Jew of Ashkenazi heritage, I have always identified as Other. And there has never been a shortage of television preachers, politicians, and even my childhood teachers to reinforce that perspective. And Other is Other. I realize that I can pass as part of the majority. I just have to keep very quiet.
The police officer (I won’t name him) who shot Samuel DuBose was wearing a camera. The camera didn’t stop him from shooting DuBose. The camera didn’t prevent him from falsifying his report. The camera didn’t make him a better cop or a better human being. No, the camera limited him to only one victim.
Dash-cam cameras and policy body-mounted cameras won’t solve every problem or bring back the dead, but they are an important step. We need to protect the police from false claims and we need to protect the citizenry, all of us, from abuses of power and fatal errors.
Fixing a taillight shouldn’t be a matter of life or death.
Let’s get this out of the way. Who is qualified to discuss marriage? Is it someone like me who has tripped down the aisle numerous times? Do we seek input from people who have never been married due to religious commitments or because they have yet to find suitable mates? Are we waiting to hear from those who are married but rue the day they met their mates? Or are the only experts, the only people with standing, those couples who met in their youth and now have decades of wedded bliss with nary a disagreement?
The answer is all of the above, even those who’ve never married, since we have all had the opportunity to participate and observe the institution of marriage.
Marriage, legal and religious, means different things to different people. Don’t assume that your definition or mine would be universally accepted.
I have a number of Pastors, Rabbis, and Ministers for clients. Many are self-employed and I take care of their health insurance. One of the perks of my job is attending the weddings of their children. These weddings are officiated by my clients, the father of the bride or groom.
One of those couples visited my office a month or two after the ceremony to discuss their health policy. As we were doing the paperwork I suddenly realized that they might, or might not, be legally married. The religious part had been beautifully performed, but neither the bride nor groom knew whether the civil paperwork had been filed. A quick phone call verified that they were legally married, too. They hadn’t given it any thought until that moment. And they probably won’t think about it again until they file their taxes.
Legal marriage was an afterthought.
Two neighbor ladies were scandalized. They were discussing a recent mixed marriage. I was a young child, invisible, as they went on and on about the couple who defied G-d and convention by going to downtown Columbus to get married. Their sin? One was Catholic and the other Lutheran. I didn’t understand. From my perspective Christian was Christian. It would be years before I truly grasped the difference between the various sects of Christianity. The ladies, and more importantly the couple, completely understood those differences.
They could be married legally, but not in the eyes of their churches.
I’m sure that we can think of countless couples who can be married only one way or another. Gender-neutral marriage is just another potential union that may only satisfy one of the two authorities. Two authorities- Church and State.
Marriage has the possibility of serving two masters. Religions are free to enforce their rules to determine who may or may not marry. Satisfying those requirements assure standing within a particular community. Governments are also free to establish who or who may not marry. Satisfying those legal requirements allow the couple legal standing within the community at-large with rights that can not be met any other way.
This is not to minimize religion, but religion is not universal. Some of us are Catholic, some Jewish. Some of us are Muslim, some Baptist. And a surprising number of us are atheists, agnostics, or unsure. But we are all American. And American trumps all. The Supreme Court decision doesn’t make gender-neutral marriage OK with a church or synagogue. This decision affirms what is legal.
Your church is free to decide whether a couple – man/man, woman/woman, or even Baptist/atheist – is bound for eternal damnation. That is your choice and the couple might even care about your thoughts on the matter. But it is up to the government to protect the rights of its citizens. And those property rights, those rights of next of kin, and those rights to be recognized as THE Partner, belong to the government.
Friday affirmed reality. Not my reality. A national reality. Though I won’t ever be a groom at a Catholic, a gender-neutral, or even a Buddhist wedding, I respect them all. And I’ve got a tux. I’m looking forward to your invitation.
Dave, I had blood in my urine, but the doctor ordered a colonoscopy.
My PSA, a debatable test, is elevated and now I’m about to become some doctor’s science experiment.
Dave, they basically treat me like I’ve got cancer and I have to prove that I don’t.
The three client have several things in common:
- They are all men
- They are between the ages of 55 – 65
- This is their first real contact modern medicine
It has been over 30 years since I left Prudential. Officially, I am no longer a sales manager and trainer, but I still mentor and coach a number of agents. Last week an agent, two years in the business, asked me to help him. He has yet to find his niche and his employer is only interested in applications. I told him that there ae two things to remember:
- Our job is to solve problems.
- Most of our clients look like us.
When I was a young agent, most of my clients were in their twenties and thirties and I hoped to be introduced to their parents. Now most of my clients are in their fifties and sixties and I hope to be introduced to their children.
And that brings me back to those three guys. I’ve spent thirty-six years listening to women discuss fibroid-this and cyst-that, buy guy issues have been few and far between. That is all changing.
Blood pressure pills and cholesterol medications are so commonplace that few of my clients fight the initial diagnosis. And that stint on the high school JV football team, 35 years ago, gets the blame for the need of a knee replacement, not the 35 extra pounds they are now carrying. But Type 2 Diabetes, prostate issues, and blocked arteries are the male wake up call to middle age and mortality.
Worse, the message is often delivered callously and with little regard to this being the patient’s first exposure to the medical industry. I am used to hearing female clients tell me that their doctors don’t ask questions, don’t listen to them, and don’t encourage them to voice their concerns. I’m now hearing the same complaints from the guys.
The doctors, especially primary care physicians, will tell you that the fault lies with the hospital administrators who limit the time the doctor has with each patient. The other villain is the new electronic coding that forces the doctors to focus on their computer screens and the little boxes they need to check.
My message is the same to both my male and female clients – Stop the assembly line and threaten to get off.
Force the doctor to focus on YOU. Ask questions. Lots of questions. And most of all, remember that we aren’t machines and they aren’t master repairmen. We are all human beings. We have feelings, weaknesses, and strengths. We need to give the medical providers their due. And they need to give us respect.
Cleanliness is next to godliness? Did Moses appear before Pharaoh with a rod or a mop? Can my Christian friends confirm that Jesus turned the water into Clorox? Did the Children of Israel wander the desert for forty years in search of the land of milk, honey, and 24 hour laundromats? I think not.
The line “cleanliness is next to godliness” does not appear in the Bible. Sure there are plenty of places in Leviticus that detail how someone can become unclean, based on what you eat, touch, or discharge, but the stated goal is to return to a state of clean.
Look instead at Genesis. Day 1 G-d creates the heavens and the earth. Day 2. Day 3. Day 4. Everything is orderly and on schedule. In fact, He is so organized He can take the seventh day off and rest. Timeliness is next to godliness.
And being late is a sin.
The salesman mentioned that I would receive a survey. He wanted to make sure that I saw the email, opened it, and answered it the right way (all superlatives). I met the salesman’s boss. He let me know that a survey was coming. He verified my email. Did I know that it was important that I took the survey and gave them top marks? OY. I hate these silly surveys.
I received a letter from the business a week later. The envelope contained a thank you letter and a printed copy of the forthcoming survey. All of the questions had been helpfully answered just in case I had forgotten how wonderful the buying experience had been. They felt compelled to remind me how well I had been treated.
The survey finally arrived by email on Friday. I would have deleted it had I not promised the salesman, the only truly positive part of this whole process, my participation.
I dutifully checked the boxes. There was no point in providing a nuanced opinion or an honest answer. These are Pass/Fail, all or nothing tests. The business is judged a failure if all of the answers aren’t off the charts positive. But, the survey was incredibly long and I started to read the questions. I was supposed to check that I strongly agreed with a series of statements. Did I strongly agree that I love the item I purchased? Officially? Yes. And I was coerced into confirming that I now feel better about myself because I had made this transaction.
They’re screwing with us.
Knowing that these surveys are total BS, the companies are now extracting embarrassing answers from us. We are being punished for being nice.
I’m glad that my business doesn’t engage in this foolishness. Can you imagine purchasing a life insurance policy and getting a survey? “Tell us, Mrs. Jones, do you love Prudential?” Hell, I’ve been doing this for thirty-seven years and I don’t love the insurers.
And what happens if you change policies? Would the insurance company call you?
Hello, Mrs. Miller? This is Bupendra Smith with Intrusive Life. How are you today?
Fine. How can I help you?
We’ve just been alerted that you have lapsed your policy.
I no longer need it.
Mrs. Miller, you told us that you loved your policy. Your policy with Intrusive Life made you feel better about yourself. It completed you. Do those words mean nothing to you?
I think that I am done with surveys. I’ll threaten to answer honestly if anyone ever insists that I complete another.
This blog serves many purposes for me. As per my daughter Jennifer, it is first and foremost my opportunity to vent. I also see it as a chance to open conversations about politics, religion, and relationships. Some of those conversations take place in the comment section and on Facebook. Some of the most interesting exchanges take place in private messages and emails. But I still view the recipes as one of the most creative aspects of Again? Really? There are a surprising number of people struggling with Type II Diabetes or weight issues. Finding new and tasty low carb meals is a key to long term success.
These recipes take a lot of time and effort. It starts with a dinner that I would like to recreate as Kosher Low Carb. I then research recipes online, regular and low carb, and print five or six. I study the recipes for similarities and contradictions. That normally gives me enough of a foundation to create my own concoction. I carefully measure all of the ingredients and write down everything.
Last night was to be a new dinner night. I had all of the ingredients and I was ready to create. Sally was working late and would be home by 9:45. As all of you know, timing is everything. And in the case of chicken, the difference between moist, perfectly cooked and flavorlessly dry. It was not to be. Due to a late customer and other issues beyond her control, she didn’t walk in the door until 10:20. And yes, even though I grew up in retail and know better, I still took it personally. The good news is that this dish is idiot proof / time proof / delicious. In my case I took the chicken out of the oven, let it sit on top of the counter, and put it back into the now cooling oven for the last 15 minutes prior to serving it.
Low Carb Coconut Chicken
1 lb. Boneless Chicken Breast
½ C Unsweetened Flaked Coconut
½ C Almond Meal
½ t Garlic Powder
½ t Dried Parsley
½ t Smoked Paprika
- Line large baking sheet with parchment paper
- Rinse chicken breasts, trim excess fat, pat dry with paper towels
- Cover breasts with waxed paper and pound to uniform thickness
- Slice into 1/2″ strips
- Beat egg and place into glass pie dish
- Dump the dry ingredients into a one gallon Ziploc bag
- Dip all of the chicken into the egg and then place into the bag. Shake well.
- Place the chicken on to the baking sheet and place into the refrigerator for an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 400
- Bake 40 minutes
I served this with humus and cauliflower. And I felt better once I realized that the wait hadn’t ruined the dish.
As noted previously, my favorite traditional magazine is Esquire. I learn something new from each edition. I am always entertained. The current issue has Scott Raab interviewing astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson. At one point they were discussing Dr. Tyson’s previous interest in the New York Knicks, but that was a long time ago when the Knicks were a much better team.
SR: The Knicks haven’t managed to rekindle your interest?
NDT: No, and even if they were winning, I don’t know that they would. It was just a moment in time. But I like extreme excellence in anything. I thoroughly enjoyed Michael Jordan. Who didn’t?
SR: I didn’t, but only because I was a Cleveland fan. I’ve since come to recognize his greatness. Back then, I took it personally.
NDT: If you have a cosmic perspective, you don’t take anything personally.