Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Oh so true and annoying...

By the time I get to Phoenix...

Well... Chandler actually...

I'm heading down to our Chandler offices for the first full, in person, meeting for our new, now fully reorganized, uber-architecture group.

We architects used to all be in one group; matrixed out to the various lines of business, with shared management responsibility etc... etc...

Unfortunately, this resulted in diffuse goals and objectives, and diffuse accountability; such that no-one could really be held accountable, there was no transparency etc...

About three years ago, we reorganized for "direct accountability" so that each of the lines of business had their own architecture group aligned to them. We had our own management, and were separate form our lines of business, but out goals and incentives were aligned with the line of business.

Which worked great from a service delivery perspective; but in the larger view served to fragment our infrastructure and information governance and practices even further.

It just got too expensive.

In the meantime we had two other reorganizations and a major merger.

Now, we've reorganized again, as one big architecture group again; but this time instead of matrixing us out to the individual business lines, we will be operating on a consultancy model. Our management will be central, our tasking will be central, and our incentive structure and objectives will be central.

In theory, this will be the right compromise between diffuse incentives with little accountability, and direct alignment with the individual groups at the expense of the enterprise.

In theory.

We've been busy pulling this off ever since last August; and now we're mostly done,  it's finally time to all meet up in person.

Yay.

Actually I'm happy to meet up in person; since as of today I have only actually physically met ONE of the people on the team I've worked with the last almost four years, nevermind the rest of my newly reorganized team.

So, we're having our meeting in Chandler on the 19th and 20th. I'm flying in on the 18th in the afternoon/evening, and leaving on the 21st in the morning.

Thankfully, because I am disabled, with limited range of motion in my knees, corporate policy allows me to travel business or first class, on direct flights; and to rent a full size car, van, or SUV (already booked, just waiting for the expenses to be signed off).

Even better, the time zones and scheduling are working with me not against me, so I get to have half a normal day on each day, with a full nights sleep, and with plenty of time to get to and from airports etc...

So, it should be a pretty relaxed trip.

I'm going to take the opportunity to meet up with friends, visit my mom in her new assisted living facility, and get in some face time with my team mates.

Still have to put up with the joys of traveling in todays air travel quagmire, but at least its first class. You're still in a cattle car, but at least it's a more comfy cattle car and the food sucks less.

Happy 1911 day


100 years ago on this day, March 29th, 1911; the United States Army officially adopted the J. Browning self loading pistol design of 1910, manufactured by Colt's firearms (with changes and specifications as amended by the Army ordnance board); as the Automatic Pistol, Caliber .45, model of 1911.

And history was forever changed.

Over the past 100 years, the m1911, in all it's variants from all the many manufacturers producing them; has sold more than any other centerfire automatic pistol by far.... With at least 5 million sold.

There were 2 million 1911s made by military contract manufacturers for WW2 alone.

Including all variants and all manufacturers, the number is most likely far, far more than 5 million. I'd wager it's more like 10 million sold, given that we know (from excise tax records compiled by the ATF) we manufacture about 150,000 1911 variants every year in the U.S. alone, and have (or more) every year since the mid 80s (when the current 1911 boom began).
Really, no other single design even comes close... in fact, even at the lower estimates, the 1911 has probably sold more than the entire centerfire auto product line of any other manufacturer... or even any two manufacturers. 
(That's if we limit it to centerfire automatic pistols only. Otherwise S&W would have the 1911 beat with revolvers; and Ruger with .22s.  The Ruger Mark1/2/3 etc... .22 is by far the highest selling rimfire auto pistol; at around 3 million sold. Combine that with Rugers .22 revolvers and you've probably got over 5 million). 
Glock has sold about 3 million pistols of every model and variant world wide. S&W has sold around 12 million handguns, but less than 1/4 of those have been automatics (and at least a hundred thousand of them have been 1911s). Ruger has sold about 10 million handguns, but less than 1/4 of those are centerfire automatics. SIG and Berretta have both sold about 3 million handguns each.  HK has sold about a half million handguns (that's a very rough estimate based on internet sources, since they don't publish figures, and don't have the large military contracts that other manufacturers do, to allow for better estimates). Walther and other manufacturers made about a million p38s for WW2 (surprisingly, I dont think even 200,000 Lugers were made from 1908 til today).  Browning has sold about 2 million centerfire auto pistols, about half of which are hi-powers, and the majority of those to foreign militaries. 
Something like 7 million new guns are sold in the united states every year; about 1/8th of which are centerfire handguns (fully half are .22s; and about 3/4 overall are long guns), and about 3/4 of those automatics. So, out of about 660,000 total centerfire auto pistols sold every year, about 150,000, or one out of every 4.4, is a 1911. 
The 1911, has been issued to more soldiers, and been used to kill more of our nations enemies, than any other sidearm.

Although I have no hard numbers on the topic, I feel safe in saying it has defended more civilian lives, than any other hand gun... or at the very least any other automatic (the K frame smith might beat it).

Also, and there is absolutely no doubt about the numbers here: variants of the 1911 have won more competitions and championships than all other handguns COMBINED.

Is it a perfect weapon? No of course, there's no such thing; but it's a damn fine one.

The 1911 simply has the best trigger of any auto pistol, period. No other single action trigger can be made better than a well worked 1911 trigger; no matter how expert the smith (though 1950s S&W revolvers worked by a master can come close). It still has among the best, if not the best, feel in the hand and general ergonomics of any auto pistol.

The 1911 platform provides you a useful defensive handgun from the subcompact to the longslide size,  slimline short grip, or a full size doublestack holding up to 20 rounds; and it does it all looking great (ok, some of those doublestackers can be kinda funny lookin...).

Personally... the 1911 is my first choice for both a combat and a competition handgun (that is, for me personally. If choosing for a large military or police organization, I would choose differently, because the 1911 is for people who train a lot with their handguns. With lower standards of weapon handling, marksmanship, and weapon maintenance, the 1911 is a suboptimal choice). I carry one most every day; and most of the serious gunnies I know make the same choice (at least part time anyway).

I believe I've put more rounds downrange, by far, with 1911s than any other handgun; including .22s... (and I only make the handgun only qualification because of the number of machine gun rounds I've fired. If we're excluding full auto I'm pretty sure that includes rifles as well). 1911s, still make up the majority of my handgun shooting today.

The thought that a firearm designed 100 years ago, can still be the best selling handgun in the United States (and excluding military sales, the world), every single year... that's absolutely mind blowing.

So, happy 1911 day, and heres an unfortunately short selection of my writings on 1911s (short because for some reason most of my posts about 1911s aren't tagged properly):

http://anarchangel.blogspot.com/search/label/1911

Yup, pretty much

Dilbert.com

Monday, March 28, 2011

Wow... that was quick

Well, the endocrinologists office called me around 8am this morning, to schedule my MRI. They could have scheduled it tomorrow, but that was bad for me, so now it's going to be Friday.

I guess they're really taking this seriously... FINALLY.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

You know what's worse than when a Doctor calls you on a Sunday evening?

When he calls you on Saturday morning before 9am.

The doc got some of my blood tests back, and felt that he should talk to me immediately.

At this point, he's entirely certain I've got something else wrong with me (besides, you know, the potato sized tumor in my neck), he's just not sure what.

There's definitely something wrong with my pituitary function, that much is clear. I'm exhibiting pituitary insufficiency in several indicator hormones.

Possibly multiendocrine neoplasia, with or without paraneoplastic syndrome; possibly just pituitary lesions, tumors, or microtumors.

Also, he strongly suspects I may have an atypical presentation of Cushings (which prior doctors had ruled out based on less comprehensive testing); as while my overall cortisol level is only slightly elevated, my cortisol suppression seems to be insufficient.

This may indicate an adrenal disfunction, another form of pituitary disfunction, or possibly some kind of disfunction in my hypothalmus; which strengthens the case for paraneoplastic syndrome, and/or multiendocrine neoplasia.

I've got more test results coming back on Monday or Tuesday, and the doc wants me in for a head and neck MRI as soon as they can schedule it (sometime during the week most likely).

So, yaknow... yay and stuff...

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Anybody watch the Red Sox massacre the Twins tonight?

If so, you saw my stepmother.

Around the fifth inning, they brought out the RCN contest winner, who got to have lunch with Red Sox hall of famer Jim Rice (who coincidentally, I got to meet as a little kid... around '87 or so. My brother had a bunch of signed stuff from him).

As it happens, my stepmother Caroline does PR for RCN, and was the handler for the contest. She was with the contest winner for her interview with NESN.

Of course, from my dads perspective, the coolest bit was he got to have a two hour lunch with Jim Rice.

Last year, she got to meet Rutina Wesley and Joe Manganiello from "True Blood" (Tara and Alcide); which I think was much cooler for her than Jim Rice. My dad was at that event too, and I'm pretty sure he's more psyched about Rice (though he said that in person, Rutina was one of the most beautiful women he'd ever met).

Caroline by the way, is a total saint for putting up with my dad; and he's the first to acknowledge that.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

In a NOFX kinda mood


Now... there have been plenty of leftist, socialist, and anarchist (or pseudo socialist and pseudo anarchist anyway) punk bands... where's the great libertarian punk?

It seems to be a natural fit... much more so than the populist pseudosocialist/anarcho-syndicalist/anti-capitalist ideology of so many punk bands (who are mostly trying to ape the Clash and the British class struggle bands of the 70s and 80s, and not really understanding what it is they purport to believe in... but that's another story entirely).

And no, I don't count the Misfits and the Ramones just because they each had one conservative member, or DYS.

I'm talking about the politics and social and economic philosophies of Hayek and Friedman and Rand and von Mises and Rothbard and Spooner etc... etc... Libertarians, not conservatives.

I grew up with Boston hardcore, alternative, and alt-punk (literally... it was growing up as I was), and it was my home music scene basically 'til I left Boston (liberally mixed with classic rock, hard rock, and heavy metal... Places like Axis, Avalon, the Middle East, The Channel, the Rat... which was basically the Boston music scene as a whole through the 80s and 90s).

The politics of it were basically working class Boston politics; which means blue-collar irish catholic i.e. relatively conservative social values, with economic populism. Yes, it was mostly a rejection of the strong pseudosocialism of the NYC and LA bands (to the point where if an LA band showed up in Boston they would generally get their asses beat) but it's not the same thing.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Health update: More docs today

This time two appointments in one day: my primary care physician, and a different more specialized endocrinologist.

Had to see my PCP because the furosemide has mostly stopped working. We've had to keep upping the dosage, and now there are days where it just doesn't do anything at all.

So, he's going to keep me on my current dosage of Furosemide, and add 2mg bumex (bumetanide) as a supplemental, to see if that keeps the edema under control.

In good news, controlling for the fluctuations in water retention, I've lost 9 pounds in 10 days.

The endocrinologist is a guy who specializes in unusual cases, ideopathic causes (stuff that happens where they can't figure out why), occulted causes etc... Basically he's the guy they send the weird endo problems to.

He agrees, something more is going on here. He's having me do another full series of blood tests, including some different tests this time. The thought is it might be paraneoplastic syndrome, some kind of pituitary lesion/tumor/malfunction, or Cushings (which I was checked for previously, but because of my other issues it may have been masked by something).

Right now he's trying to find an open MRI for me to get my head and neck scanned (there are a few in the area, he just wasn't sure if any were affiliated with his clinic). My SHOULDERS don't fit in a normal MRI, never mind the rest of me.

The most important thing though, is that I'm finally with a team that gets it. They get that I went from being "big" to being "fat" for no apparent reason. They get that I'm fat because I'm sick, I'm not sick because I'm fat.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Another aspect of the constant DC vs. Marvel holy wars

Ok, I'm going to warn you right now, this one is for hardcore geeks only. Hardcore comic geeks in particular. I'm going to be using terms, and speaking in a context and frame of reference that is going to pass right on by anyone other than a comic book geek.

That said, I'll try to keep it understandable for anyone not a deep geek on this topic (believe me, when you get into the details of this, you are only barely speaking english).

Okay, forging onward.

So, yesterday, in another forum I frequent, someone asked about the measurements of the character Power Girl... a notably pneumatic character, even more physically unrealistic than most comic book characters, and as the years go by her art gets less and less connected to anything resembling a human woman; and even though she is a core DC universe character, she's really rather boring, and generally poorly written.

There aren't a lot of Power Girl fans, excepting those who just like the big boobed art basically.

The thing is though... that situation isn't unusual for DC... and it is for Marvel. I'm not a mainstream DC universe fan. Their core continuity mostly bores me, and there's a very significant reason why (which we'll talk about in a minute). I am a mainstream Marvel fan, and their core continuity doesn't bore me.

On the other hand, DC has published many of my favorite books... as alternative comics, mini series, specials, short runs, and graphic novels.

Contrasting, Marvel really hasn't done much out of the core continuity that made much of an impression at all.

The whole thread got me thinking about DC and Marvel, and how they handle their mainline continuity and core books, vs. their side imprints, alts shortruns, minis, and GNs.

To my mind, DC has been an absolute master at the non-core books; but they've really done nothing particularly interesting with their core. In fact, whenever they wanted to do anything interesting, in order for it to be GOOD, it had to be handled as an alt, a mini or a GN. Dark Knight being the canonical example.

But with Vertigo and other alt and non core work, DC really did some amazing things.

Basically the entire catalogs of Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Warren Ellis, James Robinson, Garth Ennis, Frank Miller, Tony Harris under DC were great. Almost all the Vertigo books were great...

Transmet, Preacher, Watchmen, Dark Knight, Hellblazer, Hitman, Sandman, Starman... these are all among my favorite comics ever... In fact among my favorite storytelling of any format.

On the other side of things, Marvel has done much worse with non-core; but has done a lot better with their core books.

Marvel just has more interesting, and better written characters and storylines in their core books, but can't seem to do the same with their non-core.

Aside from the multiple continuity issue, and canon timeline/continuity holes problem (which both majors have but are much worse at Marvel); they just seem to write their core books better than DC. More importantly, they seem to care about, understand, manage, and write about their core characters better than DC.

Look at what Vertigo put out, vs. what Icon put out... Icon basically has Marc Millar, and that's it (of course Vertigo is pretty much dead now, but it had a great run). CrossGen and Epic never really worked (though neither did DC's Helix). Edge was a 1 year farce. Razorline same thing...

Now, looking at the cool stuff DC did with Vertigo, alts, minis etc... did they do anything comparable in the core except the several reboots, gimics, and stunts in Batman and Superman? And they manage their core characters really badly.

Even superman and Batman have been really really bad for extended periods of time; never mind Flash, Green Lantern, or god help us, Aquaman. Bad in a way that Marvel would never allow for their core characters (except Spiderman, who hasn't been properly managed since the mid 80s, because they can't let themselves accept the Whedon paradox e.g. "when Buffy is unhappy, the show is good. When Buffy is happy, the show isn't good").

Marvel on the other hand did some really great things in the core: god loves man kills, the entire weapon x arc, most of the phoenix saga, demon in a bottle, Silver centurion, Armor Wars, Frank Millers time on Dare Devil, etc... etc....

Most critically, Marvel continues to manage their core characters (other than the aforementioned multiple continuity/timeline issues) very well... other than Spiderman anyway (really, make up your damn minds. Is he a pussy or not. Does he get pussy or not).

Some have said it's because DC let their great writers and artists run free with characters of their own creation; and to an extent that's true, especially with the graphic novels (Watchmen being the canonical example). However, when those exact same artists and writers worked for Marvel, they worked within the comparatively rigid structure of the core continuity and core characters, and still produced really excellent work.

So, any ideas as to why that is? Or does anyone want to prove my core assertion wrong?

Comin'atcha straight from the top of 1999....



Actually, there was a lot of great music releases in '99... this certainly wasn't some of it, but I heard it in passing and felt a little nostalgic.

Of course there was a lot of BAD music released in '99 too. Never mind Sturgeons law, '99 saw the debuts of Britney Spears, Westlife, Christina Aguilera (who, to be fair, is actually a great singer... she just choses to sing crap), Jessica Simpson, Jennifer Lopez, Lil Wayne, Linkin Park, and Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit actually hitting the charts (they debuted in '97, but didnt chart til '99 with their cover of "Faith"), plus "Mambo no 5", "livin la vida loca", Mobys "play", and the Will Smith album "Willenium"...

Oh and Dusty SPringfield, Al Hirt, Rick Danko, and Curtis Mayfield all died.

Yeah...

It was the year napster went mainstream, for good and ill.

But, it WAS a really great year for underground hip-hop, and for metal (Black LAbel Society, DragonForce and Avenged Sevenfold not the least of which); so I can't complain too much.

To erase the memory of the crap finnish electrodance hiphop I opened with, how about my favorite cut from what is generally considered the best album of the year, Santanas "Supernatural":

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Idaho, a year ago today



It's been a long week, and we're going to write a big post about the last year and about moving to Idaho in general next Monday; but I wanted to commemorate the anniversary of us becoming Idahoans.

Yaknow... there are days...

Friday, March 18, 2011

Holy Crap... When did that happen... damn I'm getting old...

Henry Rollins turned 50 a month ago...

The words "Oh SHIT", really just don't cover it...

Uhhh... this is double plus ungood:

"RSA, the security division of Hopkinton-based EMC Corp., issued an “urgent message” to customers that its systems were hit by “an extremely sophisticated cyber attack.”

The message from RSA Executive Chairman Arthur Coviello was posted this afternoon on the company’s Web site and disclosed by EMC in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

“We took a variety of aggressive measures against the threat to protect our business and our customers, including further hardening of our IT infrastructure,” Coviello wrote. “We also immediately began an extensive investigation of the attack and are working closely with the appropriate authorities.”

He added that the hack “resulted in certain information being extracted” from RSA’s systems, relating to the company’s SecurID “two-factor authentication” products, which businesses and governments use to protect sensitive data on their computer networks.

“While at this time we are confident that the information extracted does not enable a successful direct attack on any of our RSA SecurID customers, this information could potentially be used to reduce the effectiveness of a current two-factor authentication implementation as part of a broader attack,” Coviello said. “We are very actively communicating this situation to RSA customers and providing immediate steps for them to take to strengthen their SecurID implementations.”
And then this...

http://securosis.com/blog/rsa-breached-secureid-affected

You've gotta understand, SecureID is THE authentication solution for probably 80% of all high security remote access systems out there.

If SecureID is compromised, even in a way that's technically easy to fix (like replacing keys, which can be sent out via a physical media patch; but for security reasons can't be distributed electronically), you're talking about literally hundreds of thousands of man hours to fix it, plus the couple of days of vulnerability before the media can be shipped and the keys can be updated, plus all the lost work hours and productivity fixing and debugging the access issues that are sure to show up.

Many companies (including mine... and almost every other company I know of for that matter), depend on SecureID for remote access, which is how a large percentage of their workforces get their jobs done.

I literally could not work without my SecureID token working; and it would take weeks to get an alternate solution in place, other than having to piggyback a terminal in a local office.

Any kind of systemic SecureID hiccup is a HUGE deal. Even minor problems in one company can often cost that company millions of dollars in lost productivity.

If it's a worse compromise than that... if for example, it requires a trade in of all SecureID authentication devices... and that's millions (I've got one, and I'd wager a large fraction of my readers do too), the issue could take months to resolve. The cost, loss of productivity, and loss of reputation, may put the RSA division of EMC out of business.

And of course, those are the BEST case scenarios...

While it would be nice to think that every organization security minded enough to use SecureID, would be secure minded enough to keep up with security patching and compromises, and would have a procedure in place to disable remote access... Reality says otherwise. There would likely be thousands and thousands of organizations running vulnerable for months, or even "forever". That could be billions in damage, lost privacy... tens of billions...

Let's hope the nature and extent of the compromise can be ABSOLUTELY PROVEN (to a standard of audit-ability by the NSA, which is even harder than you think it is), to be minor, non systemic, and present no end user risk. Otherwise, this is a Chinese fire drill of epic proportions.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A little clothing advice...

So, about two years ago, I wrote a piece of career advice for techies, geeks, etc...

Over the past couple years, it's become one of my most linked pieces, and I still occasionally get emails about it from folks, thanking me, or asking for more specific advice etc...

Part of my advice, was that everyone, geek or not, should have a proper wardrobe of business attire appropriate to their situation; and at least a couple of GOOD suits.

A couple days ago, someone asked me specifically about business attire, what a "good" suit meant, and how to buy one.

As it happens, I have a fair number of good suits; and as I'm a very large man, I had to learn how to go the extra mile to get a good one.

 I was a consultant working in Manhattan, San Francisco, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong etc... If you didn't have the wardrobe, you couldn't get in the door; or if you did you didn't get a C level to listen to you.

In that environment, business casual didn't cut it; nor did just an "acceptable" or "ok" suit; I needed GOOD suits.

It's just another uniform. Another set of expectations, that are basically arbitrary; but if you want to play their game, you play by their rules... because that's where the money is.

Of course, I haven't worn any of them for five years, except at funerals and weddings. Now, I work full time from home, my general work attire is jeans and a t-shirt, or sweats.

I don't think of dressing well as some burden though, and neither should you. A man shouldn't be more concerned for his clothing than doing his job well; but he should absolutely take pride in dressing well.

I really enjoy wearing nice clothes, dressing well, and looking good; and if you buy the right clothes, you should too.

... Funny thing though...

I've given this advice a number of times, and you'd be surprised how much resistance I get. Sometimes resentment, sometimes just dismissal... sometimes actual anger; with some folks insisting, vocally and vociferously, that this whole idea is pretentious, or pompous, or obsolete.

Well, as much as some might like to believe that, it simply is not true; at least not in western culture, in 2011.

I want to highlight this very important principle:
Some situations simply require dressing well. Not only that, but dressing well and APPROPRIATELY, is both a duty, and a privilege, accorded gentlemen. 
To be a man, you need to know how to wear a suit. In the broader sense, you need to understand what is appropriate to wear, when; and how to select and wear it properly... it's just that simple.
So, down to business...

If you can buy off the rack, you can get an ACCEPTABLE suit, from a decent maker, for $500-$700 at a discounter, on sale. The top end of suits that Mens Wearhouse sell, run around $600, and are acceptable.

...But you shouldn't.

Or rather, you should make a decision. Do you want an acceptable suit, a decent suit, or a GOOD suit?

For some reason, there's a dividing line between acceptable suits, and decent suits, at about the $799 line (and we're going to talk about the details of decent suits in a bit). Less than that, you don't get a particularly good fabric, or particularly good workmanship. More than that, and generally, you do.

The dividing line between a decent suit and a good suit, generally seems to be between $900 and $1200; depending on the retailer, the fabric, the season etc...

A guy my size, if you want a GOOD suit, it generally has to be custom made (or semi custom, and well tailored a la Brooks Brothers), and that starts around $1200 and goes up over $5,000.

If you CAN buy off the rack, no matter how much you spend, buy your suits a bit too big, and always have them tailored down to you; they'll fit 100 times better, and you'll look 1000 times better.

Shirts...

Same thing for good shirts. You can buy a decent, all cotton (though not good cotton) off the rack shirt for $40 to $70 at a discounter, but they run $70 to $300 custom made (though if you buy 5 or 10 custom shirts at once, you can often get them considerably cheaper; perhaps as little as $50 for a simple design in an inexpensive fabric).

If you can buy off the rack, buy them big and have them tailored down.

Look for cuff and collar detail, buttonhole detail, hem detail, quality stitching, a good fabric (I like silk, pima cotton, or sea island cotton - which are genetically the same, just grown in different places - . Sadly, Egyptian cotton has lost much of the meaning it once had), and well sewn buttons with a solid feel to them.

I personally like plain weave poplin, twill (I especially like herringbone twill in dark solids), or royal oxford (very nice in a light or medium blue with white cuffs and collars).

I'm very conservative about patterns, but a little more agressive with color. I like either a finely patterned or finely striped white or off white; a medium to light blue solid or fine pattern with white collars and cuffs; or dark solid colors (particularly dark reds, blues, grays, and greens). I don't care for larger stripes or patterns, or anything with contrasting color patterns.

Again this is a matter of preference, but you can't go wrong with what I've chosen, because they can go with almost anything, and will look good, without looking garish.

Also, I prefer a one button cuff or french cuff, a solid yoke double side pleat (I have very broad shoulders) and a long tail (I'm very tall), a pointed no button breast pocket, and a single button longpoint collar (I hate button down points, and they shouldn't be worn with suits; and I prefer narrower ties and tie knots).

Really it's a matter of what looks good and feels good for your body type. If you're tall and skinny, a long point collar can make you look skeletal for example; and a short point spread collar may be a better choice.

Shoes...

You need good shoes. Really, you do. And you need to spend the money for decent shoes, or you're going to be very unhappy all day long... and possibly forever.

At least I can buy normal size shoes (I'm a 12-1/2, so I usually have to buy 13), so good shoes and dress boots only run from $300 to $700 usually; and I can buy straight from the shops, I don't need them custom made (which would run from $300 to around $2000).

And yes, you really do need to pay about $300 or more for good dress shoes or dress boots; at least at "normal" pricing (you can get huge discounts at times).

Any mens dress shoes that sell for more than about $89 and less than say $279 before discounting, almost certainly won't be worth the money.

For less than $90 you wont get anything particularly good either, but from $60 to $90 you can get shoes that wont actually hurt your foot, or fall apart when worn twice a week; and they're cheap enough you don't care that much (you should never wear a single pair of dress shoes more than twice a week, because the leather needs time to recover from your sweat, oils, environmental moisture etc...). Just don't expect them to last more than two years, be particularly comfortable, or look particularly good.

Cheap shoes are uncomfortable, they will fall apart, and most importantly, they will actually injure your feet, knees, and back; by providing improper support, and encouraging poor posture and gait.

Let me put in a whole hearted recommendation for GOOD shoes, and especially good custom shoes. You can't ever go wrong taking care of your feet properly. Feet and knees, when they go bad, they never heal properly.

The best part is, dress shoes don't have to be uncomfortable. Properly made and well fitted, even the most formal shoes can be both comfortable and supportive. Also, properly made shoes can last your entire lifetime. A $90 pair of shoes will have to be thrown away in a couple of years; but well made shoes can be resoled for around $60 whenever necessary, and last as long as you are willing to take care of them.

Buying an Alden, or a John Lobb, or even spending a few couple hundred bucks to get the Korean cobbler in the hole in the wall in koreatown (and yes, if you look around, you WILL still find cobblers who make custom shoes, and their prices are actually very reasonable) to make you a custom pair of shoes; is worth ten times that in comfort and support for your feet.

Ties...

Ties... I hate'em. Corporate nooses etc... But they are required.

Ties are all over the place in both price and quality, so the best advice I can give you, is never buy anything but good quality silk; and preferably in a conservative pattern (express yourself with bold color if you want, but not with wild patterns. Too much chance they'll clash with whatever else you're wearing).

A typical mid range to high end silk piece will run from $100 to $700. I generally prefer not to wear them if I don't have to, but I've got a dozen decent ties, and so should you.

Money money money...

This can get expensive... no kidding. You can easily spend $5,000 on just one days worth of business wear.

The folks out there who made fun of the sex and the city gals for wearing $700 shoes, thinking that was ridiculously expensive and frivolous, obviously never priced mens business and formal wear.

On the other hand, you don't always need to spend a fortune.

For all of the businesswear essentials I mentioned above,  if you wait for the right time and you're the right size (common enough to stock, but uncommon enough to not sell within a few months), you can get very good stuff as much as 90% off the normal price (not MSRP, which is much higher).

I've never been able to get a suit or shirt this way (my size being what it is), but I've managed to snag some really great shoes and boots (most fine shoe retailers will stock a few 13s, sometimes - rarely - 12-1/2s; but there isn't much demand for shoes above size 12). I've grabbed deals down to $70 from $700.

The wardrobe...

Ok, so what exactly do you need? Obviously it's not just suits.

What you need overall, if you're working every day in a professional businesswear required environment; is probably 20 decent shirts, maybe 10 good suits (I prefer to buy my suits with 2 pairs of pants), 10 good ties, 5 pairs of undress pants (semi-casual slacks, flannels, kakhis etc...) two or three sportcoats or blazers, and five good pairs of dress shoes or dress low boots, with five matching belts.

You can get away with less, but if you do, you'll be dry cleaning things far too often. That will both cost you a fortune in cleaning fees, and it will wear out your clothes much faster.

Basically, you should never wear the same suit twice in a week, and try for two weeks if you can.

If you're lucky, the weather co-operates, and you buy your suits with two pairs of trousers, you can get four wearings between cleanings (two for each pair of trousers); and so long as you don't wrinkle the suit too badly (thus the weather needing to co-operate), twice even with one pair of trousers.

That will let you go a full working month without the cleaners if you have 5 suits with two pairs of trousers each, or 10 suits with one pair each; and casual Fridays.

If you're only going to wear a suit rarely though, I wouldn't wear the same suit more than once a month; because people will remember the last couple times they saw you in a suit, and you don't want to duplicate. Also, don't fall into the habit of wearing the same suit on the same day.

With that rule in mind, if you only need to wear a suit once a week, you can get away with four suits total; so long as you clean and care for them properly.  Even if you only need a suit once a month though, I recommend you at least buy four or five good suits, in a couple different colors and patterns.

I think every man needs at least one solid black suit, one solid charcoal gray suit, one solid dark navy suit, one discretely patterned or striped navy, or medium gray suit; and one lighter colored suit, generally patterned or striped, in either light gray, beige, tan, or taupe. Herringbone patterning looks very good with light gray, nailhead patterning looks particularly good with tan, beige and taupe.

You can experiment with other colors and patterns (I have "lighter than navy" blue and dark green suits for example; and several suits in various shades of gray navy or black with stripes or patterns), and buy suits for particular occasions (white suits for summer semi-formal parties for example; or black tie and white tie formal wear); but not before you fill in the basics.

This gives you the full spectrum of formality across your business attire; and with proper shirt and tie pairings lets you always wear something appropriate even when you haven't picked up from the cleaners. A solid black or dark navy suit, with a plain white shirt, and appropriate tie and shoes; can even substitute for real formalwear in a pinch.

As far as the old "if you're only going to have one" question goes... don't. You're a man, you need more than one suit.

At the very least, you need a black suit, a charcoal gray suit, and a navy suit (all solids)... and really, add a pinstripe gray or navy suit to that to at least make four, if you can't swing five.

AS to which to buy first, if you have to stagger your purchases... Ok that's legitimate... Buy the charcoal suit first, it's the most versatile; unless you are specifically buying a suit for a wedding, funeral, or formal event; in which case, buy the black.

Also, you need two decent watches; a bracelet model, and a SIMPLE leather strap model. You don't have to spend a fortune, just something that looks good, and is of acceptable quality. Invictas mens dress watches would be a typical example.

Oh and while they aren't absolutely necessary; I personally think everyone should have at least a couple french cuffed shirts, with cufflinks; and some tiepins.

That's really what I consider the minimum wardrobe of business attire, when you work in a setting where good business attire is required; not only by dress code, but simply to be taken seriously.

That said, you don't need it all at once. You can probably start with half of that (so long as you don't wear the same suit more than once a week) and build up over time. You'll just be hitting the cleaners more often while you do.

Bespoke...

The only pic I have of me in a suit is... damn, about seven years old now:



That's a Fioravanti suit (custom made; but in that photo not properly pressed), a Brioni silk shirt; and you can't see it but I'm wearing a Breitling Navitimer, and John Lobb low dress boots. In that pic I'm probably wearing $15,000 (I commissioned two Fioravantis, for $10,000, and at the time that was a steal. They can run up to $25,000 a piece).

If I remember correctly, I was on my way out to Ruths Chris in midtown Manhattan.

It may be incongruous to think of me that way; but you have to remember I AM a senior technical executive at a national bank, and I didn't get there by accident.

Yes, I wear jeans and a golf shirt 90% of the time, but not always. When I took that picture, I was working every day with the CISO of a fortune 50 pharmaceutical company in midtown.

I've still got that suit actually, and the shoes. A good suit like that, never goes out of style. Of course the gut has expanded somewhat since then (like 140lbs), but I'll eventually get back down, and good shoes can last a lifetime (if you take care of them properly).

I'm sure that some of you reading this look at those numbers and think "that's insane", but it's part of the job.

You wouldn't think anything of a professional mechanic having $20,000 worth of personal hand tools and rollaways would you (never mind the big stuff, like lifts, analyzers etc...)? Well, it's the same thing in big business.

As I said above, it's all about what's appropriate, when, and where.

In the silicon valley, or Arizona, you wear dockers and golf shirts; and if you wear an expensive suit, they don't trust you. In New York, Boston, New Jersey, or Chicago, you wear $5,000 worth of suit and shoes, or they don't take you seriously. In San Francisco, it depends on the company.

At ANY bank or insurance company, no matter where it is, if you're meeting with someone above "manager"; unless you're going to crawl around on the floor afterwards, you're wearing a suit.

When a fortune 500 companys CTO/CIO/CSO is personally signing off on paying you $75 to $750 an hour (the broad range for high end technical consultants. "Business" consultants often charge far more) to implement a $20 million dollar project, he wants you to look like a guy they pay $300,000 to $1.5 million a year (i.e. like him... and it is almost always him).

I don't play golf, which is a severe handicap (sorry for the pun) in that world; but I know my alcohol like the best of them (a big plus), I sail (generally a plus), I know fine shotguns (generally a plus), and I know how to dress and act the part (required, not just a plus).

Now... For the politically incorrect part...

What exactly is a good suit, and how do you get a good custom suit, without paying as much as a small car?

Two ways to go for custom that won't kill you on cost: Find a local tailor who can make a good suit; or send out overseas.

If you're going local, the best advice I can give you, is to go with the little asians. Otherwise you're looking at $2500 per suit minimum.

I mean you can go into any number of boutiques in NYC, LA, San Francisco etc... and get a spectacular bespoke suit made for you; and they'll pull the pretty woman routine on you if you want... but you're going to lay out $2500 minimum and probably a lot more.
Though... If you live near one, please; go to Brooks Brothers, and get a real, great, classic American suit from them. You don't need full custom, just a properly cut and fitted piece of good material, and you won't be paying all that much more for it than off the rack from Macys or Nordstrom.   
Is it the worlds best suit? of course not. But it's a very good suit, and it's a long American tradition. 
Brooks Brothers is the oldest mens clothier in America, founded and continuously operating since 1818. Brooks Brothers absolutely defines American male business attire (though of course, most of their clothing is made overseas).   
Every American man with a business wardrobe should own a Brooks Brothers suit. If you're only  going to own one suit, it should either be custom, or Brooks Brothers.
Your best bet in getting a custom suit,  is to pick your fabric first.

Find a suiting fabric or three you REALLY LIKE, in an 90 to 120 twist/fineness. Though 80-140 are suitable for suiting, you probably want to keep it to between 90 and 120;

To my mind, you really only want worsted wool, cashmere/wool blends, or silk/wool blends (usually 10-12oz weight; though you can go as light as 8oz for a summer suit, or as heavy as 14oz for a winter suit), for a general wear suit.

I don't recommend going with linen, any synthetic, wools other than worsted (no tweeds or flannels please), or pure silks or cashmeres (which are ungodly expensive, don't hold up well to cleaning, and actually make a worse looking suit).

You can look at various fabrics, threadcounts, and weights, at any gentlmans clothier. In general, the finer the threadcount, the more expensive the fabric; but also the less wear it can take, and the more it will rumple.

When you've found the fabrics you like, get some large samples (buy a half yard of each, not just a small swatch); so you can see how they drape and crease, and so your tailer can get a good feel for the fabric.

Buying suiting fabric can be a hassle if you aren't in the trade. You're going to have to hunt around, and probably order from online; or find a co-operative tailor o specialty fabric shop (not Joannes).

Once you've got a fabric picked out, go to a gentlemans clothier, or clothing resale/consignment shop; and find a suit cut and style you really like (even if it's not in your size or desired fabric). The important part is the style, and the cut, and that you can afford to use it as just a pattern and not a suit.

If you DO find a suit that is both cut well, and mostly fits properly or just a bit large, even better. Have it retailored for you so its fits perfectly, and use IT as a pattern.

If you don't know suit cuts well enough to understand how a cut will look on you when you upsize it to yourself, that's when you should really lay out the cash that first time to get a serious suit from a well known, good mens outfitter (again, Brooks Brothers is in every major city).

Personally, I think the Italians do the best job of suiting big men, and the English the best at suiting thin men; and of course, Brooks Brothers takes the designs of both, and puts an American slant on them.

Of course, if you already have a really nice, well cut, good fitting suit; you can use it as a pattern for your tailor to copy (or maybe even improve on).

Then, and ONLY then, go looking for a tailor. You really need to know what you want, before you talk with them.

Find a Korean, Vietnamese, Singaporean, Thai, or Chinese (from Hong Kong, Shanghai, or Taiwan only) tailor... or if by some miracle you can find a Scottish, English, Italian, or Spanish tailor still plying their trade; and I mean a real tailor, suiter, or gentlemans outfitter, who makes actual custom clothing.

Indian tailors who learned in the English tradition can be great... or not. I've had mixed experiences. IF they were trained in English style, they generally understand how a suit should be tailored, but they may have an odd view of what looks good and right (Indians generally prefer narrower collars, and slightly longer sleeves for example).

You might also find Czech, Pole, Turkish, Iranian, or Armenian tailors around who know suits; but they're even rarer in the U.S. than those I mention above.

Now, how to "size up" a tailor (pun intended): Find one who can tell you your measurements without the tape... but who gets out the tape anyway, because for a full custom suit, there are over 20 measurements they need to take.

If you're lucky, they already make custom mens suits.

You probably won't be that lucky.

Most of them don't do suits anymore in the U.S. but they'll often do custom traditional dresses (often for little girls, weddings, dance recitals etc...) . They probably DID suits back in their original home, but the market for it is poor here.

So if you see they make really well made dresses (look at the seam stitching, the cleanness of the seams and lines, the cleanness of the cuts inside, and the quality of the lining attachment and finishing), that's a strong indicator they are at least a good tailor (doesn't mean they can make a suit).

Then talk to the guy (or gal... seems to be about equally distributed among the Asians. The other nationalities are almost all men) for a while. Now if he is anything like any Asian tailor I've ever dealt with, he will tell you he can, and has, done absolutely everything, and can do it all for you, in a week, for almost no money at all.

That's not the point.

What you're looking for is how comfortable they are with what you want. If they have suggestions. If they seem to be able to really talk the talk. If they can tell you what's wrong with the suit you've got, and why it isn't cut properly for you or fit properly. If they lament the fall of the mans suit, and how nobody does good work anymore. How they spit on the young generation etc...

Seriously, a good tailor... they tend to be a bit eccentric, and sometimes a bit ornery... They tend to be traditionalists, and craftsmen. Like any other craftsmen, they are bound to see most of what passes for quality in their trade as crap.

Now, this part is important if they don't already make suits: See if they make good shirts already, or have them try to make you one if they don't.

If they can make a good shirt, that doesn't necessarily mean they can definitely make you a good suit, but it's a good indicator; and if they CAN'T make a good shirt, they definitely can't make a good suit.

Some tailors will want a suit to work from. They may actually take it apart to copy the pattern. Some tailors will just want to look at the suit, or even just of pictures, because they have their own process and technique. Some may have their own cuts and patterns already; but make sure they show you a suit similar in size and cut to what you want before you go with their pre-existing designs.

If the tailor wants to take the suit apart to copy it for you, he can either put it back together afterwards, or not; your choice. If he doesn't have to put the thing back together, he will better be able to copy the suit, and it will cost you less money.

Any good tailor should be able to take any decent quality suit you own however, and non destructively copy it. That only applies to decent quality suits though. Cheaper suits won't be able to be reassembled... and may not even survive the disassembly processes to make a good pattern from.

A GREAT tailor can copy a suit just from a couple of photographs. If you find one, keep them, and pray they are training their replacement so that when they die, you don't have to go looking for someone else.

When dealing with western European tailors, generally, you can show them the fabric samples you like and talk about fabrics with them, but it is not 100% necessary to actually buy the fabric and bring it to them. In fact, they may have better fabrics on hand for you.

Though it can sometimes save you money to buy the fabrics yourself, often it will actually be MORE expensive, because you aren't in the trade. Fine mens suiting fabrics are NOT CHEAP. Also, if you buy the fabric yourself, you can guarantee that the tailor is going to charge you more for labor.

They will tell you how much fabric you need to buy based on the cut and measurements. Oh and remember, if you want pattern matched seams in a patterned fabric (where the patterns line up with each other at seam edges... and yes, you want that) you need 50% more fabric. Personally, I prefer solids anyway, and just tend to avoid most patterned fabrics.

With Asian tailors, unless they actually have the fabric you want on hand in sufficient quantities (unless they are a reputable clothier out of Singapore or Hong Kong ) ALWAYS buy and bring them the specific fabric you want.

ALWAYS.

Again, it's a cultural thing. Call me racist if you want, but anyone who has spent any time dealing in south or east Asia knows exactly what I'm talking about.

As to how much it will cost?

Well, that's entirely up to how much time the tailor takes, what fabric you choose, and how many suits you buy at once (it's best to buy one first, to test the guys out; then buy four or five at once so he can maximize his efficiency).

At todays fabric and labor costs, don't expect to get out of it for less than around $700 a suit... and that's not going to be a very expensive fabric (doesn't mean it won't be an OK fabric), from a tailor with a low hourly rate.

On the other side of things, don't expect to pay more than $2500 unless it's the finest fabric, using an original design from that tailor; who already has a lot of experience in making fine suits, and has solid clientelle, and it's a special style with a complicated and labor intensive technique required.

Just so you understand the elements here, the last suit I had made, more than five years ago; the primary fabric alone (the tailor usually buys the interfacing and lining) was $600.

Now, as I said, the "other" way, is to send your suit order overseas; usually to Singapore or Hong Kong.

There are companies that have fitting shops, or traveling fitters, who can fit you up and send the order out for you. There are also web sites that can show you what you need to do, and you can submit your own measurements.

A great website, with examples of what REAL workmanship looks like is here:

http://www.atailoredsuit.com/mens-suit-detail.html

Also, their fitting guide is extremely useful, as is all the general info, and details, about suits and shirts on the site.

http://soniccart.com/suit/bespoke/completemeasurementguide.asp

What companies like these do, is they outsource the work to tailors in Asia, who still know how to make a good suit. In the process, they save you a fair bit of money.

You can also travel to Hong Kong or Singapore, and get fitted and order while you're there. I have friends who go once a year just to buy some suits. What they save on the suits more than pays for the airfare and hotel.

I've done this before myself; but not in over 10 years. I don't know the current market conditions over there personally.

Prior and immediately after the turnover, there were definitely gentlemans outfitters in Hong Kong that knew what they were doing. At the time, you could get proper fabric in Hong Kong; and you could trust the tailors there to make your garments from the fabric you chose, without substitution.

In Singapore this was also true, and I presume has remained so.

Anywhere else in east asia (excepting Japan of course, but only a masochist who wanted to go broke would use a Japanese tailor); I don't expect a tailor to actually use the fabric I pick out unless I give them the fabric, keep a sample, and tell them that I will not pay if the item doesn't match the fabric.

If you don't, they will make an absolutely beautifully cut and sewn suit, out of the cheapest polyester fabric they can find that looks something like the worsted wool you picked out; and swear up and down that it's exactly what you asked for, and of course attempt to charge you the price for the worsted wool.

It's a cultural thing like I said above.

I don't expect many people reading this here will get the opportunity, but there are also some spectacular tailors in Syria, Lebanon, and Turkey, many of them ethnic Armenians (the ones who haven't moved to London or Milan anyway).

There used to be a bunch in Iran, but they all pretty much left after the Ayatollahs took over. Most of them seem to live in London now.

There used to be a lot of good tailors in Poland and the Czech republic as well, and they're a lot easier to get to; but last time I was over there I couldn't find anyone. Doesn't mean they aren't there anymore, but you'll need to do your research first.

Of course, you should do your research on all of this anyway.

And of course you want to guarantee a good result, you can always go to the traditional mens suiting hotspots; London, Edinburgh, Milan (and as I mentioned above most of them have boutiques in NYC, LA, San Francisco, Chicago, and Miami...) and you'll get a spectacular suit, but you're going to pay for it.

Oh and don't forget the shirts. If you're ordering suits, they've already got your measurements; and they'll usually give you a package discount if you order a suit and two shirts, and a bigger discount if you order two suits and five shirts.

Why bother?

How about, because you're a grown man; and when a man wears a suit, it should be a good suit, well made, and well fitted.

Do you need another reason?

UPDATE:

Unsurprisingly, this post got some negative reactions; as I figured it would... even said it would up above.

To those of you saying "this is ridiculous", remember this is CAREER advice.

If you work in the world where suits are required, they are just as important as a good set of tools to a mechanic; and just as expensive.

Let me tell you right now, in that world, a wardrobe of good suits will get you further than a masters degree from any school outside the top ten.

Yes, that's silly, and shallow, but that's the way it is. If you don't like it, so what, that's the world we live in. Your only choices are to deal with it, or not work in that world.

Reality is a bitch that way.

Knowing how to play golf, and having a decent set of clubs; another career enhancer worth as much as a non top-10 masters.

Again, silly, stupid, shallow, yes... also TRUE. Get over it.

For those of you pissed off that I'm saying you need three suits, yeah, get over it.

If your life never requires you to wear a suit, fine, don't buy one. But I don't know many grown men over 30, who have an actual life, with friends and relatives etc... that NEVER need to wear a suit (even if it is only once or twice a year).

So, when you do buy a suit, don't buy a cheap one. Cheap suits are uncomfortable, poorly made, fall apart with few wearings, and make you look bad. Good suits make you look good, they feel good to wear, and they last forever.

And yes, a $500 suit is a cheap suit (unless it's a good suit marked down to $500, which as I said, you can find with a little effort, if you're the right size, and wait for the right time). Even a $700 suit is probably a cheap suit.

How many times have you heard someone use "cheap suit" as an insult, or part of a dismissive comment etc...

What's your own impression when you see someone in an obviously cheap, ill fitting suit.

Hell, you're better off not wearing a suit, even where a suit is required by social convention, than wearing a cheap suit.

You don't need to spend $2500. That was the whole point of the post. You DO need to spend $800 to $1200. Brooks Brothers suits start at $900, and you get a really decent suit for that money. Remember, cheap suits die quickly, good suits last forever.

If you need to wear a suit more than once or twice a year, you need more than one suit. Three will do. Spend $900 to $1200 instead of $500 to $700 on each and you will be MUCH better off.

If you think you can get by with one suit, fine... but what happens when you have to go to a weeding, a job interview, and a funeral all in the space of two weeks. Are you going to wear the same suit to all three?

Well... you CAN do that if you want; but it's likely that two of those events are going to have common guests, and frankly, that's going to make you look like an ass.

What if you have to go to court, for more than one day. Are you going to wear the same suit each day? What happens when you need it cleaned?

What about a job interview, and a followup interview, or two followup interviews? Are you going to wear the same suit to all three? Because people WILL remember that, and it will be taken negatively.

Until the western world decides that men no longer need to wear suits to formal and semi-formal occasions, and business events, you have to have suits, and you really should have at least three.

That's life, get over it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Re-enacting scenes from my childhood

Growing up, I was always 2-6 inches taller, 50-100 lbs heavier, and a lot stronger than the other kids my age.... plus I got into Jiu Jitsu at age 5.

So, this looked very familiar to me... in fact I had EXACTLY this happen when I was 13, and I did exactly the same thing to the kid, only harder (he ended up in the hospital):



No-one was ever stupid enough to try to bully me; but there were a lot of little punks who thought they would prove something by starting a fight.

They certainly proved something... just not what they were hoping to prove.

update: Youtube pulled the vid so I'm sourcing it from LiveLeak now.

Whoa... Spock is totally tripping balls...


That would be the original cast (minus the Shat who was on the outs with all of them at the time) of Star Trek, at the dedication of the first space shuttle test mule, the Enterprise (October 16th, 1976, 10 years and one month after the premier of Star Trek).

For those NOT total geeks, starting second from the left those are DeForest Kelly (McCoy), George Takei (Sulu), James Doohan (Scotty), Nichelle Nichols (Uhura), Leonard Nimoy (Spock), Gene Roddenberry (the creator of Trek), and on the far right, Walter Koenig (Chekov. I presume the two guys I didn't name are NASA officials)

To boldly go where no man has gone before... Sadly, the last shuttle mission is scheduled to be next month (there is a potential mission for June, but as of now, it's canceled).

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Do you want to know the secret to starving without being hungry?

Pickles.

Actually, pickles and cucumbers . They're mostly water, and what isn't water is mostly vegetable fiber.

They're crisp, light, refreshing, and they wake up the palette.

Now, I love pickles anyway, but 4 days in to a diet that has me eating less than a third of my required daily calories (and having lost about 1.5lbs over and above the water weight thing), they are a godsend.

See, pickled cucumbers (so long as they're the no sugar added type) only have about 5 calories an ounce (raw cucumbers are more like 4 calories an ounce).

Others recommend celery, and certainly it has it's points (4 calories per ounce, lots of fiber); but I just don't like the stuff.

No... I'm on the pickles, protein, and tea diet.

Rather, I'm not on any particular diet at all, excepting "restricted calorie" and "high protein"; it just works out that way.

I'm not atkinsing, or deliberately going for a low carb diet. I just need so much protein, that to get it within the calorie limits I'm under, I need to make the vast majority of my calories protein.

Pure proteins run something like 91 calories per ounce (3.2 calories per gram, 28.34 grams per ounce), vs carbs at l14 calories per (4 calories per gram), and pure fats at 255 calories per ounce.

Of course, since nothing in this world is laboratory pure, actual calorie counts run a little different.

Lean meat (trimmed to 0 visible surface fat) runs from about 30 calories to about 60 calories per ounce raw weight. By lean meat, I mean the lean component of the separable lean and fat, deboned, with all fat trimmed off. All animal protein has some intramusucular fat that can't easily be separated out.

Ground meat can have a large proportion of fat mixed in with it; as much as 30% in some commercial grinds, as little as 10% in others. Most hamburger is mixed 80/20 (resulting in about 72 calories per ounce), most sausage is mixed 70/30 (resulting in about 85 calories per ounce).

Shrimp and lobster are at the bottom of lean meat calories, with around 30 calories per ounce. Tuna and other similar fish are just above that at about 31-33 calories per ounce. Chicken and turkey breast just above that at 35 or so. Pork tenderloin is just above that at 39 or so. Choice Beef tenderloin is above that at 45 or so (beef sirloin strip is right around 49. Prime beef is about 10% more calories).

All the fattier cuts of common proteins, like shoulders, thighs etc... are up over 45 calories per ounce, because they have more intramuscular fat; but most are under 55. About the highest calorie lean meat, would be a full fat pork butt, at about 58 calories per raw ounce trimmed to 0 separable fat.

I can't think of any lean meat that's over 60 calories per ounce raw, except wagyu beef, which has so much intramuscular fat (Wagyu run about 20-25% fat, which is about twice as much as prime beef) it runs between 80 and 90 calories per ounce depending on cut.

Eating the separable fat of course makes a huge difference. If you eat prime a ribeye with the full fat on it, you're eating about 100 calories per ounce.

Also of course, the way you cook things makes a difference. Grilling and pan searing fully trimmed lean meat, with a very small amount of fat either in the pan or brushed on the meat, and any surface fat patted or drained after cooking; and you often end up losing a fair bit of their fat without getting dry (if done properly anyway), such that the cooked piece of meat can actually end up with less calories than the raw.

Hamburger, and wagyu beef are both prime examples of this (no pun intended). When cooked over a high heat grill to medium rare or medium (respectively... never cook wagyu past medium rare), they both lose a lot of their fat; perhaps as much as 10% of the total weight of the cut (another 10% of the weight might be lost in evaporated moisture).

A 4oz 80/20 hamburger would have about .8oz of fat (200 calories per), and 3.2oz of pure lean, raw (about 40 calories per), making for something like 290 calories. If you grill that burger to medium, you're probably going to lose .4 ounces of fat, and the patty is going to end up at 210 calories (and around .4 ounces of water for a cooked weight of 3.2 ounces, or about 65 calories per ounce, about 7 calories per ounce less than raw).

On the other hand, if you cook meat with the fat on it, but trim it off afterward, or if you cook the meat in fatty liquids (stewed or braised with fat left in for example);  the meat will have some of that fat permeating it, and may actually be more caloric than raw.

Various long braised meats used in mexican cooking for example, where the lean meat might only have 45 calories per ounce; but once braised for a few hours in a fatty broth, the end product might be 55 calories an ounce.

Either way, you're not going to find any cooked meat (even the fattiest wagyu, hamburger, sausage, or meat stewed in fatty liquid) that runs more than about 90 calories per ounce, no matter how it's prepared; and the vast majority of lean meat is going to end up at under 60 calories per ounce cooked (again, presuming you eat only lean, and intramuscular or melted fat, and not the separable fat).

Carbs are MUCH higher calorie per ounce in the real world. By contrast to beef, white flour runs about 105 calories per ounce. Pasta and rice also both run about 105 calories per ounce (uncooked). Typical white bread, because there's a fair bit of water in it, has about 80 calories per ounce (100-120 calories in a typical slice). Granulated sugar runs about 110 calories per ounce.

Yes, 1 ounce of flour, has almost as many calories as 1 ounce of sugar. Every piece of bread you eat might as well be a tablespoon of sugar.

To put it another way, two pieces of dry white toast, have almost as many calories as a 6oz filet mignon.

And of course, dietary fats are by far the most calorie dense; with butter running right around 200 calories per ounce (give or take a couple calories depending on the exact butter), and most oils around 240-250 calories per ounce.

Using the same comparison, two and a half tablespoons of butter (about 1/3 a "stick") has about the same calories as that 6oz filet; and a full stick of butter, about the same as a 16 ounce ribeye.

So obviously, in terms of bulk, you get a lot more "full" for your calorie with proteins, as compared to straight up grains, or fats.

Of course, you get even more full per calorie with green vegetables (which are mostly water and fiber and run almost universally between 4 and 15 calories per ounce), potatoes (mostly water and starch, about 20 calories per ounce raw, mashies with whole milk and butter about 32 calories per ounce. Even steak fries deep fried in peanut oil are only 40 calories an ounce), and leguminous beans cooked in water (most run 80-125 calories raw, but usually about 1/4 to 1/3 that cooked. they absorb a LOT of water).

So as I said, while I'm not deliberately Atkinsing, I end up with a very high protein, low carb diet; just by optimizing for protein and fullness.

So far, my meals have consisted of a fair sized hunk of lean protein (4-6 ounces per meal), a few bites of carbs (mostly roast potatoes), maybe a little broth, maybe some beans, some cucumbers or pickles, some fruit etc... Also I've had a couple of eggs, and a little bit of cheese.

I haven't had any bread, rice, or pasta this week at all; and I've made up for some of the bulk with pickles and cucmbers, apples, and oranges (which do have a fair bit of sugar, but also a lot of fiber, water, and raw bulk).

Also I've only had a little bit (well... in comparison to my usual intake) of coffee or tea, with a little milk, and splenda; some diet soda, some drink mixes with splenda, and some water.

When I'm feeling a little empty, I'll have a cup of broth (typically around 1.2 to 2 calories per ounce), or a couple of pickles, or some tea or coffee; and then I'm fine for a couple hours.

And really, I haven't been all that hungry.

When I'll get REALLY hungry, is after about a week and a half, when my body earnestly kicks into famine mode. It'll be sending me "starving to death" signals pretty constantly for about six weeks, until it readjusts to the lower intake level.

Those weeks are going to suck.

Remember my post last week about Sheen...

... Where I posited that although Sheen is clearly both mentally ill, and a coke addict; that his current behavior was in fact deliberate?

I believe my quote was:
"There are times when he seems absolutely unhinged; especially in the last year or so... extra especially in the last month or so... but somehow he always comes out about where he wants to be."

and...
"Sheen could just quit, but if he does, his contract doesn't get paid off and he forfeits million in future earnings, plus owing the studio and production company, whatever his contract penalty for quitting is (probably half what he would have made per episode, for however many episodes he no-shows for).

If they fire him, while he is still willing to, and capable of performing; then they have to pay off the penalty clause of his contract (which is probably half what he would have made per episode, maybe even all. Big stars often get 100% pay guarantees, but Sheen is so unstable only an idiot would have agreed to that provision)."
Yeah... well, since then he has in fact been fired, the show has been cancelled, and Sheen will receive a huge payoff (as will the rest of the cast, and the crew will be paid through the end of the season).

Now, to top it all off, Sheen produces what I can only assume is a gigantic "Fuck you, you did exactly what I wanted you to do" to Warner Brothers and Chuck Lorre, in this:

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Guess what I didn't get this year...

Dilbert.com

I wasn't expecting a raise actually, I moved cost of living zones, and I am well above the comp midpoint of my grade. I talked with HR about this when I moved, and they basically made it clear I wasn't getting a merit or COLA for 3-4 years.

However, my now former manager (since October I've been officially under someone else) who was my manager for less than a year, came from another group that worked in a completely different area, never really understood what I did, barely communicated with me all year (from October on, I think I talked directly with him about my job twice... maybe 3 times, before my performance review), didn't set any goals objectives or metrics for me or for performance measurement; pretty much deliberately spiked my bonus.

You may also remember, this is the guy who took the promotion my manager and managers manger, were planning on giving me; when he lost his previous position in the late 2009 re-org, and his former boss, got put over my bosses boss (yeah, I know, byzantine. Big business is big business). She needed a slot for him, so she pushed me out, and put him in.

I didn't and don't, hold it against him; and I don't think he held it against me... but he never really knew what I did, what to do with me, or how to deal with me; and I think that was a factor.

...Anyway...

Our performance reviews consist of narrative comments, plus numeric ratings on a 1-5 integer scale. I've been working there for five years, and up til now, I've never received less than a 4 in any rating.

On my performance ratings this cycle, he initially gave me a 4 (all goals met some goals exceeded) in the grade for my core job responsibilities, a 3 (all goals met) for the two other most important categories. Unfortunately, he also gave me a 2 (some but not all goals met) in one of the ancillary categories, and a 1 (no goals met) in the least important category; both related to paperwork and administrative items, and neither justified.

Admittedly, I had some personal and medical problems in 2010, and it definitely impacted my performance negatively, which I acknowledged freely... but not THAT negatively.

I reviewed it with him, and by the literal definition, he was justified in giving me a 2 in one category (the literal definition is "some but not all goals met", which was true... excepting that we never actually set any official performance goals for me for 2010... but I didn't successfully complete all the reporting and paperwork assignments he gave me so I concede the point).

Technically yes, that is the exact definition of a 2 according to the handbook; but the customary usage is that a 2 indicates very poor performance, and a 3 indicates acceptable performance.

The reasoning there, is HR policies concerning the numeric ratings. Two consecutive performance reviews with any 2s at all in them, and you get put on a "turnaround plan".  Also, critically, any 2s in a review, no matter how high your other ratings are; you get no merit increase, no bonus, and no stock options. You could have 5s in every other category, 22 points total and an average rating of 4.4, and you'd still be SOL.

Basically, a 3 is acceptable performance in a category, and a 2 is unacceptable performance in a category; but any 2s at all in a review, and you are in effect saying unacceptable performance overall.

So, naturally, because of these policies, a good and reasonable manager only puts 2s in your review if they find your overall performance unacceptable.

On the other hand, it's also very easy for a manager to spike a good employee, by putting a 2 in an "unimportant" category.  They know it means you get screwed, but they can point to the review and say "well, these were very good, it was just a slight issue here in this relatively unimportant bit".

The 1 rating was not at all justified (a 1 is "no goals met"), and was based on the fact that somehow he didn't know the results of a major project that took 30% of my time last year; even though I reported to him about it regularly (but even then should have been a 2 not a 1; because some goals were met).

After our discussion, he said he would fix those categories to reflect acceptable performance.

I argued with him that even then, the overall review presented a worse picture of my performance than was actually correct; especially in light of the fact that I actually received several awards during the year for exceptional performance (those awards came from senior management, or the management of other groups).

Basically, the problem was that I did very well working and communicating with everyone else, and a poor job working and communicating with him... which again, I freely acknowledge.

...and he agreed, saying that he would modify the review to reflect our discussion.

I took that to mean I would receive a 3 in those categories we discussed, for an overall 3.4 rating.

So, last week, I received the updated review that he filed with HR.

It turns out, he modified the narrative text to be much more positive (though still with some negative points), and upped the rating...

...So I ended up with TWO 2s instead, for an overall 2.8 rating.

Ratings are rounded down, so 2.8 becomes 2, which is "unacceptable performance".

I asked him about it, and basically he said he left the 2s, because he felt that I prioritized work assigned by senior management, over work that he assigned, and thus didn't successfully complete all the tasks he assigned me (and technically, by definition, that resulted in 2s)

Which is technically true...

... but, that's the way it was SUPPOSED to be.

This guy was never supposed to be my boss for technical functions, only for administrative. The way the structure was supposed to work, is that he was supposed to be the admin/finance/hr guy, and I was to take technical direction and assignments from senior management, and work directly with my business partners and vendors; and to be the technical lead and mentor for the group.

That's what a chief architect does (and why I got a 4 in my core competency rating).

...Unfortunately, he didn't see it that way.

Thus, I received an overall performance rating of 2.8; or what could be thought of as a 70% in a system where 4 is equivalent to 100% and 5 is equivalent to 125%.

Frankly, based on how numerical ratings are generally assigned, I believe I should have received a 3.4; or an 85 if you will... basically a B instead of a C-.

The upshot of all that is, no bonus, and no stock options for me this year.

Now, for those of you who say "so what, it's a bonus, why should you get a bonus if you weren't exceptional"; particularly, why should you get a bonus for 85% work not 100%...

...that would be true in other industries, but this industry is different.

In the financial sector, you take a lower base salary, in exchange for great benefits, long vacations, and a significant element of "bonus" pay.

In terms of job responsibilities, I'm effectively the chief architect and consulting manager for a 500 person IT consulting company, servicing the Fortune 50. If that were my actual position, I'd be making about 20-30% more than I do (plus substantial bonuses and stock).

If I were still consulting, I'd be grossing 50-60% more than I do, maybe more (though you keep a lot less of it).

In fact, I took a 20% pay cut when I quit consulting (and thats only because my manager brought me in at one grade higher, and over the midpoint otherwise it would have been a 30% cut), and signed on with the company full time (though the bonus, vacation, and benefits, and the associated improvement to my quality of life, more than made up the difference); and I've been promoted three times since then, with responsibility for four times as much as I had when I started.

Were I still consulting, this gig would be something like $120 an hour on W2, $140 on 1099 personal, or $160 inclusive corp to corp (presuming no travel and no outstanding expenses); and that's even with todays recession suppressed rates.

Presuming the same number of vacation and holiday days (1800 billable hours), and adjusting for the higher costs of taxes and benefits (corp to corp, it works out to about 20% higher tax rate overall, and about $25,000 worth of benefits); that would be like earning a conventional gross salary of around $205k.

So yeah, in this industry, they pay us a LOT less than we could otherwise earn.

In this business, the target "bonus" is not really considered an optional extra for exceptional performance; it's what you get when you and the company both perform to targets. You get a higher percentage bonus for exceptional personal performance, and a higher percentage when the company performs exceptionally well.

My "target" bonus is 15%, and as the name says, getting 100% of that 15% is predicated on meeting targets. Those targets are: a personal performance rating of 4, the division meeting 100% of performance goals, and the company meeting 100% of its performance goals.

The bonus is then modified up or down, based on my performance, the divisions performance, and the overall performance of the company. No bonus is granted if personal performance is less than 3; or if either division or company performance are less than 80%

The company performance is calculated first, then division performance. This sets the base bonus amount. The target performance for the company is 100%; you get 20% less for 80%, 10% less or 90%, 10% more for 110%, 20% more for 120% and 50% more for 125% or more. The same for division targets.

Finally the adjustment for personal performance is applied. The target for personal performance is 4; you get 20% less for 3.0 to 4.0, 20% more for 4.1 to 4.9, and 50% more for 5.0.

So, theoretically, in a year where I received one; I could get anywhere from a 7.7% to a 50.6% bonus.

In addition, in years where we meet 100% of goals or more, they grant stock options; pegged to the bonus amounts.

Finally, in years where we exceed our goals by more than 10%, they've also given a restricted exercise grant of a few hundred shares (which can't be sold for three years); and a profit participation grant of company stock into your 401k; again both amounts also pegged to bonus amounts.

The company had a record year. We exceeded our goals for the year by over 20% My division exceeded it's goals by over 20%

Even if I only got a 3, instead of a 2.8, I'd still be eligible for a bonus (well... if I'd had no 2s, which because I also had a 4 would average me out to 3.4).

So for those two points or .2 points or .6 points (depending on how you look at it), if this years bonuses and stock were roughly similar to last years; I'm out something between $25k and $30k in cash (pre tax), another $8k or $9k in stock options, $2500 or so for the 401k, and something like $15k for the stock grants.

Stings...

If it was just screwaround money, I'd be a lot more sanguine about it; but it's not. I'm looking at $16,000 in legal and medical bills due in the next two months, and that was how i was going to pay them.

Well... at least I've got a job.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

What I'll be doing for the next week or so


It's already downloaded, the game unlocks at midnight.

As if my insomnia weren't bad enough...

Monday, March 07, 2011

One of the smartest things I've ever read

From Scott Adams blog:
"Now I would like to speak directly to my male readers who feel unjustly treated by the widespread suppression of men's rights:

Get over it, you bunch of pussies.

The reality is that women are treated differently by society for exactly the same reason that children and the mentally handicapped are treated differently. It's just easier this way for everyone. You don't argue with a four-year old about why he shouldn't eat candy for dinner. You don't punch a mentally handicapped guy even if he punches you first. And you don't argue when a women tells you she's only making 80 cents to your dollar. It's the path of least resistance. You save your energy for more important battles.

How many times do we men suppress our natural instincts for sex and aggression just to get something better in the long run? It's called a strategy. Sometimes you sacrifice a pawn to nail the queen. If you're still crying about your pawn when you're having your way with the queen, there's something wrong with you and it isn't men's rights.

Fairness is an illusion. It's unobtainable in the real world."

There's more to it than that, he acknowledges the genuine issues, and you need to read the whole thing. Unfortunately, he seems to have pulled the post because of extreme reaction (on both sides) to it.

Gee there's a shock...

Normally I wouldn't do this, but since he chose to pull it down, and since it's necessary to read the whole post to understand the context, I'm going to repost the test in it's entirety.

From Scott Adams blog:
"The topic my readers most want me to address is something called men's rights. (See previous post.) This is a surprisingly good topic. It's dangerous. It's relevant. It isn't overdone. And apparently you care.

Let's start with the laundry list.

According to my readers, examples of unfair treatment of men include many elements of the legal system, the military draft in some cases, the lower life expectancies of men, the higher suicide rates for men, circumcision, and the growing number of government agencies that are primarily for women.

You might add to this list the entire area of manners. We take for granted that men should hold doors for women, and women should be served first in restaurants. Can you even imagine that situation in reverse?

Generally speaking, society discourages male behavior whereas female behavior is celebrated. Exceptions are the fields of sports, humor, and war. Men are allowed to do what they want in those areas.

Add to our list of inequities the fact that women have overtaken men in college attendance. If the situation were reversed it would be considered a national emergency.

How about the higher rates for car insurance that young men pay compared to young women? Statistics support this inequity, but I don't think anyone believes the situation would be legal if women were charged more for car insurance, no matter what the statistics said.

Women will counter with their own list of wrongs, starting with the well-known statistic that women earn only 80 cents on the dollar, on average, compared to what men earn for the same jobs. My readers will argue that if any two groups of people act differently, on average, one group is likely to get better results. On average, men negotiate pay differently and approach risk differently than women.

Women will point out that few females are in top management jobs. Men will argue that if you ask a sample group of young men and young women if they would be willing to take the personal sacrifices needed to someday achieve such power, men are far more likely to say yes. In my personal non-scientific polling, men are about ten times more likely than women to trade family time for the highest level of career success.

Now I would like to speak directly to my male readers who feel unjustly treated by the widespread suppression of men's rights:

Get over it, you bunch of pussies.

The reality is that women are treated differently by society for exactly the same reason that children and the mentally handicapped are treated differently. It's just easier this way for everyone. You don't argue with a four-year old about why he shouldn't eat candy for dinner. You don't punch a mentally handicapped guy even if he punches you first. And you don't argue when a women tells you she's only making 80 cents to your dollar. It's the path of least resistance. You save your energy for more important battles.

How many times do we men suppress our natural instincts for sex and aggression just to get something better in the long run? It's called a strategy. Sometimes you sacrifice a pawn to nail the queen. If you're still crying about your pawn when you're having your way with the queen, there's something wrong with you and it isn't men's rights.

Fairness is an illusion. It's unobtainable in the real world. I'm happy that I can open jars with my bare hands. I like being able to lift heavy objects. And I don't mind that women get served first in restaurants because I don't like staring at food that I can't yet eat.
If you're feeling unfairly treated because women outlive men, try visiting an Assisted Living facility and see how delighted the old ladies are about the extra ten years of pushing the walker around. It makes dying look like a bargain.

I don't like the fact that the legal system treats men more harshly than women. But part of being male is the automatic feeling of team. If someone on the team screws up, we all take the hit. Don't kid yourself that men haven't earned some harsh treatment from the legal system. On the plus side, if I'm trapped in a burning car someday, a man will be the one pulling me out. That's the team I want to be on.

I realize I might take some heat for lumping women, children and the mentally handicapped in the same group. So I want to be perfectly clear. I'm not saying women are similar to either group. I'm saying that a man's best strategy for dealing with each group is disturbingly similar. If he's smart, he takes the path of least resistance most of the time, which involves considering the emotional realities of other people. A man only digs in for a good fight on the few issues that matter to him, and for which he has some chance of winning. This is a strategy that men are uniquely suited for because, on average, we genuinely don't care about 90% of what is happening around us.

I just did a little test to see if I knew what pajama bottoms I was wearing without looking. I failed.