My Dinner With Ikea

J/K.  I didn’t actually eat there, although I noticed that every menu item helpfully had the calorie count, from the Americanized Chicken Fingers to more native Swedish meatballs and Salmon (mm…Sjorapport!).  Actually, I had hoped to have shed this mortal coil without actually ever entering an Ikea, but man plans, God laughs.  My daughter, getting ready to move into a new apartment, wanted an Ikea dresser, and the fact that we already had a dresser sitting in the garage for her (made from Wal-Mart’s finest particleboard) did not tempt her in the least.  Instead, she wanted to spend whatever meager funds she had on a new dresser. So off we went.

After crossing the desert (Interstate traffic during rush hour) we eventually made it to this false temple of consumerism. Frankly, my initial impression was, “what’s the big deal?”  It looked like a Costco, warehouse ceilings and all.  But as we wandered through the various home furnishing displaces, I recognized Ikea for what it really was, Service Merchandise.

Service Merchandise was a retail store that existed until 2002 (it now exists as a web only business).  It was much like any comparable department store of its day, Sears, JC Penny’s, or Zayre, but it had a gimmick. Instead of filling up a cart with their useless crap, you actually took a ticket, went to a service desk to pay for your items, and the boxed item would come out on a conveyer belt from the warehouse, like a baggage carousel.  I have childhood memories of shopping this way and found it annoying.  But at least the right boxes were delivered to you.  The Swedes had figured out a way to dumb down even that process.

In the display room area of Ikea, you didn’t even get tags with the numerical code of the item; you had to write those down yourself.  Then you went to the warehouse area, and wandered through it until you actually came across the correct shelving and boxes.  Service Merchandise was way ahead of its time compared to Ikea. But…it wasn’t hip to shop at Service Merchandise; the opposite in fact.  Ikea on the other hand, seems to have some sort of cool factor.  For the life of me, I can’t figure out why, but cool isn’t something you figure out, you either get it or you don’t, and when it comes to Ikea, I’m clearly in the latter category.

One interesting thing I noticed was about the people who shopped there.  There were a pretty high number of women wearing hajibs. In spite of that, I rated the Head Chop Threat Level Matrix to be low.  I don’t think it topped a 2.  After all, Sweden is practically a colony of the Caliphate, so I imagine that they want to safeguard their new possessions.

To me, the real disappointment about Ikea is that the furniture is not particularly attractive or interesting looking.  I just wouldn’t care to have it in my house.  Hopefully, I won’t have to repeat my visit there, and if I can accomplish that modest goal, then I’ve had a life well lived.

Zero Carb Day

Just as an experiment, I wanted to try to go an entire day without having a single carbohydrate.  For a one day experiment, I wasn’t really interested in the weight loss aspect of low to no carb dieting.  I was more interested in what I would eat and how would I feel?bacon

Coffee:  When it comes to coffee, I’m not that manly, I prefer lots of cream and flavor in my coffee, but even the no fat/no sugar creamers have carbs.  So what to do?  I came up with a pretty good alternative by using heavy cream.  That’s fairly high in the calories department but its zero carbs.  In addition, for flavoring I came across a coffee creamer called Walden Farms Flavored Coffee Creamer.  This is zero carbs, zero calories, zero everything.  It made a pretty good substitute for my usual fancy coffee creamer mix. And for a dollop of whipped cream, Land O’ Lakes Sugar Free Heavy Cream is a zero carb whip cream.  It’s the only one I’ve found in the stores although there could be others.

Breakfast:  This was the easiest; a simple breakfast of bacon and eggs.  With bacon, you really can’t go wrong.  However odd though it may seem, there are some varieties of eggs that do have carbohydrates (usually one carb per egg).  So be sure and check your egg container to see what the specific nutritional specifics are for your egg carton.

Lunch:  Again I kept it simple; a hamburger patty with a slice of cheese on top.  Like with the eggs, you need check the cheeses to find a zero carb one.  Although they are mostly a low carb food item, I discovered only a few have no carbs at all.  So again, you have to check.

Dinner:  Too much beef makes Jack a stuffed boy, so I decided to go with fish for dinner.  Tilapia is a nice zero carb fish, and with some olive oil and garlic salt, a tasty one too.  Of course, I put garlic salt on everything so what do I know?

Snack:  No evening is complete without a snack in front of the TV. But when it comes to snacking, the pickings are rather slim for a zero carb alternative. In fact, the only thing I could find was pork rinds.  Now lucky me I’m a fan of pork rinds so it was no sacrifice at all, but I’ve heard that some of the more primitive (non Southern) parts of the country may find it in short supply.  Eh sorry.  I guess you can order it on Amazon.

I monitored my glucose levels during the day, going from 103 after my first cup of zero carb coffee to 104 before dinner to 97 about 2 hours after dinner.  So I imagine if you’re diabetic going a day without carbs might be a good way to get your sugar under control if you have a problem with a swinging glucose levels.  However I’m not a doctor or diabetic so what do I know?  I’m just going by my own experience.

The problem with a zero carb lifestyle is that it’s just not sustainable for very long.  I was full the entire day and never had a bit of hunger or craving for something sweet, but the limited amount of food available that is zero carbohydrates makes this difficult to sustain.  I’m not even sure it would be healthy to sustain, but it can’t hurt to set aside carbs for a day.

As for my original question, how would I feel, I have to say that I felt fine.  No extra exhaustion or fatigue from denying my body those precious carbohydrates.  And although weight loss wasn’t a goal, I lost 2 1/2 pounds in a day.

 

 

 

When you can’t see PTSD

Before I retired from the Army Reserves, my last unit was a small detachment where we worked special projects.  So drill for us was spent behind a computer, researching and working on various work products. Although I was a newly promoted Sergeant First Class, I was selected as detachment NCO.  I wasn’t the senior NCO in the unit however. There was another SFC who had date of rank on me by several years.  However when he was asked to be the Detachment NCO, he turned it down flat.  Generally, that just isn’t done.  The senior person is supposed to be preparing, and willing to take over when personnel leave, but he was having none of it.  So when I was asked to assume those responsibilities (I accepted of course-although it was less of an ask and more a matter of being told) it wasn’t because I was just so great that the unit leadership thought I was a perfect choice, it was because the person who should have done it just flatly refused.

But being asked to take over as senior Non Commissioned Officer for the detachment was merely a formality.  The truth is he was supposed to take the job, and it was confounding to the unit leadership that he out and out refused.  I didn’t get it either, and I had asked him.  He just waved me off on that one; he didn’t seem to have a clear reason or couldn’t seem to articulate it. This wasn’t the first time that Sergeant Ed (that’s what I’ll call him) had troubles with the unit leadership.  Months prior he had gotten in a shouting match with a Major over…nothing.  He had just lost his temper for no reason.

That should have been a clue for me, but I totally missed it.

Sergeant Ed had been deployed to Iraq and had been back for about two years at that point.  He didn’t enjoy his deployment.  Not being sarcastic here but some guys do.  They like the adventure, the camaraderie, and the extra combat pay.  And the younger you are, the less cognizant of danger you are.  That’s why young guys traditionally make the best soldiers.  Sergeant Ed wasn’t a young guy when he was deployed though.  He was in his fifties; an unimaginably ancient age to be deployed in a combat zone for the active services, but strictly routine for Guard and Reserve.

What’s worse, he was deployed in an entirely different Military Occupational Specialty than the one he had been working in for the past couple years.  That wasn’t as uncommon as it should have been.  Something similar happened to me.  I was deployed in my original MOS, not the one I had been working in the previous decade.  At least in my case it was a field that was fairly close to the one I had been working in, so the transition for me wasn’t as extreme.

So he was supposed to be a supervisor (he had the rank) and be an expert in, a field he hadn’t worked in about 15 years.  In a combat zone, with people he hadn’t worked with before.

No pressure.

None the less, that was all in the past, and I didn’t connect it with his performance in the unit.  Until one day…

We were at work one day, each at our workstations working on our various aspects of our project, when he turned to me and asked what I thought was a really off the wall question.

“Say when you’re online, do you ever look at…”

Now here I was preparing myself for some description of some off the wall aspect of pornography.  I steeled myself for the description of some fetish that I really didn’t want to hear about.

“…car crash scenes?”

“Huh?  No.  What?”

That threw me.  I have seen car crash photos online.  Years ago there was a troll on a forum I used to go to that would either post or misidentify links to auto accidents.  But I sure wouldn’t go searching for them.  Who would?

He then proceeded to tell me how he would wake up in the middle of the night and search for gruesome car crashes online.  He couldn’t explain exactly why he did it, but he described it as a compulsion, a compulsion that had its roots in his deployment to Iraq.

And that’s when the story came out.

He had gone on sick call; something minor, and while sitting in the waiting room there was a large explosion outside on the street.  An bomb had gone off, killing several people.  That part sounds like just a news report, but he was in the waiting room of that medical detachment when the stretchers came into the facility.  These were stretchers full of body parts; arms, legs…other parts.  All the while he was helpless to do anything.

That morning became the defining moment of his deployment.  It was the trigger to his post traumatic stress disorder, and I had worked with the guy for two years and didn’t have a clue.

Oh I had sat through the Army briefings on PTSD, and thought I would be able to detect the symptoms in a fellow soldier, but I didn’t.  Instead, I judged him, just like the rest of my detachment command judged him.  We didn’t have a clue even though the clues in his behavior were sprinkled all around us.

But I think what really threw me was his age.  I just didn’t expect an adult in his fifties to be traumatized that way.  For some reason, it made more sense to me that a guy in his twenties would be more affected.  But when you are in your fifties?  It was nonsensical prejudice and maybe it’s one that isn’t emphasized enough.  But it was a difficult lesson to learn.

At least he was taken care of properly by the VA.  Although there are a million and one terrible VA stories, there are even more that were successful.  In this case, he got the help he needed. But my regret, is that I didn’t support him in the way that he needed, when he really needed it.

 

My Lean Cuisine Low Carb Resolution

I have been “dieting” for a few years with some measure of success although I tend to lose the same weight over again.  I suppose I could claim that I lost a hundred pounds last year, but it was within the same 10 to 12 pound range.  Still, I managed to leave 2014 8 pounds lighter than when I entered it.

For the past few years I’ve been on some variation of a low fat diet, and it worked, just like any other diet, as long as you maintain it.  In terms of pure weight loss, I imagine all diets are pretty equal when it comes to losing the weight.  Maintaining the weight is another matter. But as virtually all diet gurus will say, you have to change your lifestyle.  I think on this regard, I’ve successfully accomplished that.

My cheat for that is that I’ve established a spreadsheet and I log in everything I eat based on fat grams or for this year, grams of carbohydrates.  Logging your meals establishes a discipline both to monitor your food intake, and it lets you know exactly where you are going wrong.  I do allow cheat days, when I don’t log at all, and that’s when the oopsies occur, but normally, the simple act of tracking keeps me on the straight and narrow food wise.

This year, I’ve decided to switch things around and try low carb.   What constitutes “low carb” probably can be anything from 150 carbohydrate grams per day all the way down to 25 grams.  For real weight loss, you probably have to keep it down to 50 grams a day but 150 grams is probably fine for most people.  I still have a few pounds to go to reach my goal weight, so for right now I’ll try to keep it down to less than 50 grams per day.

Since the beginning of the year is the time when everyone hops on the resolution bandwagon, the grocery stores are thick with sales for their “healthy” frozen foods.  This week, for whatever reason, it’s Lean Cuisine.  Lean Cuisine entrees’ are fairly decent all purpose meals for dieting and can be used in a wide variety of diets.  It even has Weight Watcher points on the box for those who follow Weight Watchers.   But when it comes to carbohydrates and sugars, you have to eyeball the each package and check the “Nutrition Facts” label. Lean Cuisine

To save myself some time I decided to go ahead and pre check the Lean Cuisine entrees ahead of time so I’m not some shlub standing in front of the frozen food section with the door open too long.  I made an arbitrary call to keep my meal selections to ones that were 30 grams of carbohydrates or less.  That way I could eat one of these meals a day and still be able to utilize other low carb items for breakfast and dinner without going over the 50 gram limit.

 

Lean Cuisine Meals under 30 grams of carbohydrates:

Baked Chicken                                30 grams

Beef Pot Roast                                 25 grams

Chicken Carbonara                         29 grams

Chicken Marsala                              23 grams

Chicken with Basil Cream Sauce 28 grams

Glazed Chicken                               26 grams

Grilled Chicken Caesar                  30 grams

Herb Roasted Chicken                   20 grams

Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes    25 grams

Roasted Turkey & Vegetables       18 grams

Salisbury Steak                                23 grams

Shrimp Alfredo                                 29 grams

Steak Tips Portabello                      14 grams

Grilled Chicken Primavera             30 grams

Rosemary Chicken                          29 grams

Stuffed Cabbage                             28 grams

 

More of a Snack but still…

Broccoli Cheddar Dip with Pita Bread                29 grams

Cheese and Tomato Snack Pizza                        23 grams

Fajita Style Spring Rolls                                        20 grams

Garden Vegetable Dip with Pita Bread               29 grams

Garlic Chicken Spring Rolls                                  24 grams

Pepperoni Snack Pizza                                         0 grams (?)

Spinach & Artichoke Snack Pizza                       24 grams

Spinach Artichoke Dip with Pita Bread              29 grams

Thai Style Chicken Spring Rolls                          23 grams

 

Having a full list ahead of time should save some time at the grocery store and it’s a pretty handy reference.  We’ll see how it goes.

 

 

Trolling Feminists

I was being entertained the other day by a buddy of mine who for no discernible reason started trolling one of his feminist Facebook friends.  Now that’s more of a game that I like to play, although usually not on Facebook and usually not with friends.  And it was especially surprising since this particular friend is a very non confrontational sort who more often plays the peacemaker rather than the instigator.   He’s more than once tried to mediate disagreements between friends with a joke or distracting comment. But social media makes jerks of us all, and I guess basic humanity prevented him from being assimilated longer than most.  But the lure of being a smart ass pulls us all in eventually.

The set up is this:  His feminist friend posted a slightly bawdy joke.  As jokes go, it’s it’s mildly amusing to a guy, but to women, for whom the threshold of humor is much lower, it’s Hee-lar-e-us.  If you want the full story, go here.  The gist of it as that an old codger begins signing his credit card with a penis illustration.   Hilarity ensues when the card reader at Wal-Mart doesn’t recognize the penis as his signature and management is called in.  Funny right?  Well not to a feminist; at least usually.  In fact if my friend had posted this joke, he likely would have been subject to quite a bit of written finger wagging from busy body feminists.  But he got the upper hand and by lefty standards, the moral high ground by posting a critique of said joke:

Smart Ass Friend:  “Not funny, what if the cashier had been a victim of sexual assault? Being subjected to the drawing could have been a triggering event for her PTSD. Not to mention the stomping on her civil rights if she was Lesbian or Transgendered, this kind of humor is perpetuated by the hegemonic phallocentric patriarchy that has committed all the evil in the world. I bet you Ted Nugent would have found this hilarious…I’m disappointed in you.”

Extra points for the use of your typical “Wymyn’s Studies” terminology, that’s used nowhere else and serves no useful descriptive purpose.  Therefore feminists love to use it.  So that was all it took to set his feminist friend (although probably by now his former friend) on a tear of foul language, and threats.  After that, all my friend had to do to egg on another tirade of butthurt was to toss in a few lines about a living wage, challenging hetronormative behaviors, gender binaries, and of course the “-isms.”  Leftists in general and feminists in particular love those; racism sexism capitalism, classism and so on.  The thing is, you don’t even have to use them in a coherent sentence, just list them.

The thread proceeds in a predictable manner, screaming incoherence from the feminist, and the arrival of a white knight to defend milady’s honor.  A white knight seems to be an accessory that every feminist needs since she’s incapable of using man tools like “logic” and “reason” herself.  She needs a big strong man to heft those.  Hey, you can’t fight the cisgendered, transphobic patriarchy without a fella can ya?  Am I right gals?

Of course, as dominate as it is in our culture, feminism is a stupid ideology.  It’s the idea that there are no differences between men and women other than genitalia, and now that trans-you-name-it is replacing homosexuality as the next civil rights frontier, genitalia are less and less important to one’s identity.  Even though the stupidity of feminism has become so obvious that now only 23% of women call themselves feminists, it’s still left a damaging mark on our culture.

Oddly enough, the same poll shows that 16% of men call themselves feminists too.

Lest anyone get the idea this is just some misogynic rant, I do support equal rights for women, and love and respect women.  My marriage isn’t about me bossing my wife around and tossing my shirts at her to make sure they get ironed.  It’s an equal partnership, meaning she bosses me around.

And my shirts never get ironed.

Arrogance of Trust

The news that Edward Snowden had somehow managed to persuade 20 to 25 of his fellow colleagues at the NSA to give up their passwords and login information has probably shocked IT professionals and corporate security types.  “What kind of slipshod IT security is the NSA running?”  Could the smartest guys in the room really be so dumb and trusting?  As Reuters reports:

Snowden may have persuaded between 20 and 25 fellow workers at the NSA regional operations center in Hawaii to give him their logins and passwords by telling them they were needed for him to do his job as a computer systems administrator, a second source said.

This may seem incredible to those involved in information assurance that a system administrator, who had only been at the job a few months, could talk that many people out of their passwords.  Don’t these people have any information security training?  Every company IT department  teaches its employees to never share their password information.  Didn’t these guys have any training?

Headquarters of the NSA at Fort Meade, Marylan...

Headquarters of the NSA at Fort Meade, Maryland. Español: Instalaciones generales de la NSA en Fort Meade, Maryland. Русский: Штаб-квартира АНБ, Форт-Мид, Мэриленд, США (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It turns out they do.  The Department of Defense, which the National Security Agency falls under, has extensive computer security training.  But that only begs the question further.  Snowden was so new at his base in Hawaii that he probably didn’t have any long term personal relationships to play on in order to trick people out of their passwords.  But I don’t think he needed to trick anyone.  And I think I know why.

I should preface this by saying this is just my personal opinion, but I think the popular idea of intelligence agencies and organizations, at least American ones, as a font of constant paranoia, looking over your shoulder at all times, and a lack of trust between co-workers, as depicted in movies and popular culture (think the Bourne movies) is totally opposite of the real situation.  I think the security problem in US intelligence organizations, which Snowden exploited, is that everyone trusts each other too much.

Security Clearances for Top Secret and above levels cost thousands of dollars and can take months to complete.  Once you have a security clearance, it’s not only a marketable item, but it’s sort of a short hand as to what kind of character you have.  Although it actually means you’ve mostly stayed out of trouble and have not screwed up too much, it’s taken as a certificate of approval that this person is trustworthy and of good character.  So if you work in a classified facility, surrounded by cleared people, some of them may strike you as crazy, or unpleasant, but not thieves, not crooks, and not traitors.  Why?  It’s nothing they did, it’s simply from the fact that they are working there; they’ve been vetted.

Once you are on the inside, you are part of special limited clique, in which everyone on the inside of the vault door holds secret knowledge that those on the other side of the vault door don’t know, and can’t know.  It’s like being part of Skull and Bones, only instead of knowing secret arcane nonsense; you know real things about the world that matter.  That dividing line between those on the inside of the door and those on the outside is huge.

One of the first things they teach you in Basic Training and Boot Camp is to keep you locker and money locked up and secure at all times. Even the camaraderie of military service isn’t enough to be sure your buddy won’t grab your wallet in an act of desperation. But like Singapore, if you decide to leave your wallet on your desk at work in your secured facility, you can mostly be assured that it will still be there, undisturbed, when you come back from break.  Having many roommates in the past with security clearances, I never worried for a second about leaving money or valuables around out in the open. I may have worried if they would clean up the kitchen after fixing dinner, or vanishing for days on end, but I never worried that they would steal from me.  I granted them an automatic level of trust that most keep within close family members.

And maybe that’s the problem.  In spite of all the security, and in spite of all the rules and security procedures, it doesn’t mean a thing unless people can operate with even a normal level of caution.  In my corporate environment I would never turn over my password to anyone, system administrator or otherwise.  But if I was back in the classified world, inside that insular level of trust, I can’t be sure how I would react.  And the fact that I would even question that is the problem.

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Dental Hygienists: It’s Not Just Woman’s Work

I have a regular Dentist, and a Periodontist.  So twice a year I go for a cleaning at my regular dentist, and twice a year I go for a cleaning at my Periodontist’s office.  The difference is that at the Periodontist’s, it’s not called a cleaning, it’s called periodontal maintenance, which for me means I get my dental insurance to pay for 4 cleanings a year instead of 2.  So when it comes to regular dental hygiene, I’m a frequent flyer.

But I’m still capable of being shocked, as I was today while sitting in the waiting room waiting for my periodontal maintenance, I was called into the treatment room…

…by a man.

Yes, my dental hygienist was a dude.  I don’t, in all my years, ever recall seeing a male dental hygienist.  There is obviously no practical reason why there shouldn’t be male hygienists and in fact they apparently have been out there for a while. According to the New York Times, 90% of dental hygienists are women so while women are the overwhelming majority; men are making an impact in the field.

You go guys, keep breaking that glass ceiling.

Now, my hygienist, or maybe I should say, mangienist, was a total professional and as far as I could tell from a patient perspective, did a great job.  However I admit being uncomfortable with the fact that he was a guy, and I say that with the total awareness that any uncomfortable feelings are totally irrational.  It shouldn’t matter if my dental hygienist is male or female; I should just be interested in a quality cleaning by a well training professional who makes me comfortable with the process.

But I wasn’t comfortable.

I’m not the only one.  A recent survey of dentists showed that 30% would not hire a male dental hygienist, even if he was the most qualified.  That does sound unfair but they’re probably worried about patients being uncomfortable with one.  I’m used to my dental hygienist being a female so I fall in that category.

Interestingly, the fact that a woman is a dental hygienist seems to make her hotter than what her normal sexual market value would be.  It’s an occupation that’s worth at least a 1 to 1.5 bump on the standard 10 point hotness scale. I’m guessing because the actual practice of teeth cleaning seems intimate. She’s in your mouth; she’s leaning over you and invading your personal space in a major way.  Your hand, innocently holding onto the arm of the chair, brushes against her as she moves around.  You didn’t move; she did.  Did she brush against you on purpose?

Often after a dental cleaning you’re ready for a cigarette.

With a guy hygienist, that entire experience is thrown off, and reduced to merely a transactional dental service, like buying toothpaste only more time consuming and inconvenient.  Actually it’s worse, because your entire typical expectations of having your teeth cleaned by a woman are inverted.  Suddenly intimacy becomes intrusion. And where do I put my hands?  Not on the arms of the patient’s chair.  In fact, I was originally going to name this post, “Help!  There’s a Man in my Mouth!”  However thinking about the possible Google searches that would be misdirected towards me, I decided against it.

Now I know this is ridiculous. My dentists and dental specialists for the last 20 years or so have all been men, and I’ve never felt any awkwardness or discomfort based on that.  So there is no logical reason I shouldn’t be able to adapt to a simple cleaning being done by a man.  But it is an end of an era; an era in which I could be titillated by regular oral maintenance.

And yes, I flossed.