Friday, June 29, 2012

Being fat, slow, and dangerous

I had a conversation with a friend yesterday... We haven't known each other for too long; online for a couple years, and only actually physically met about a month ago (he wasn't living nearby until a few months ago).

Anyway, I was helping him move, focusing on what I could do best, while preserving my knees: I was picking up the heavy stuff, moving it through the door and over a 4 foot high wall, and handing it out to two other guys.

After watching me pick up a 300lb dresser, and lift it over the wall, and other similar things, for three hours... He said something like "damn man, you're a beast. Seriously, only an idiot would screw with you".

Well... yeah.

I'm fat, and I'm slow... but I'm still dangerous.

I started off writing this as a comment to a post Caleb wrote, which was itself prompted by a forum post "Why are so many competition shooters so fat?". After writing half my comment, I realized that I needed to expand it out a bit to say what I wanted to say.

A little over 15 years ago, my weight varied from 265-285lbs, I hovered from 10-13% bodyfat, and I worked out most every day. I also shot at least once a week, if not every day or every other day (depending on the week, and what job I was on at the time etc...). At least 4 hours a week, and at least 500 rounds of handgun a week... and often as much as 8 hours a week and 1500 rounds of handgun. I was competing in every IDPA match I could make it to, as well as any other kind of match I could get to in any way, at any time.


I was actively involved in both eastern and western martial arts (particularly jiu jitsu) from the time I was 5 years old (and an SCA sword and board hardsuit fighter from 16), until my health and injuries got too bad to do so.

I have also been a fanatical powerlifter, from the time I was 13. I LOVE working out. I LOVE lifting weights. I even love riding the exercise bike (recumbent bikes... and used to love riding the real thing, until the knees and weight added up to make a conventional bicycle too painful for me to ride for long).

I'm a vet, and after I went reserve, I spent a lot of time doing physical security work. Bouncer, event security, principle protection etc.. as well as training in self defense, and security work.

So... I used to be one of those fit guys who you saw at the range, who knew what I was doing, and was as "dangerous" as I looked so to speak. I was never a top tier competitive shooter, because I didn't want to be. It's not that I don't like winning... It's that I wasn't "playing the same game" as the other shooters. My mindset at the time was that I didn't want to develop "gamer" reflexes. I shot my stages like I was clearing an engagement area, not like someone trying to win a stage. I looked at IDPA as a great way to practice unknown range and position shooting, target transitions, and taking purposeful action under stress.
Note: I still do. In fact, I think it's even better INDIVIDUAL training when done on a consistent basis, than force on force shoothouse, simunition, airsoft, or paintball training. 
The shoothouse is extremely valuable periodically, but the team dynamic, and extremely high intensity fast moving, fast changing nature of force on force; makes focusing on particular aspects of your own individual performance, and making the small iterative improvements so important to becoming truly expert at something, more difficult. 
For team training, there is no substitute for shoothouse work (though individual focused training is also extremely valuable of course). Competing in IDPA on a weekly basis (or even twice or three times weekly, as you can get in some areas like Arizona), with another pratice session for the week, and then a shoothouse session every couple months; is, I personally believe, a better balance of environments and methodologies for developing individual expertise in defensive shooting. 
And I admit, I was actually pretty arrogant about that at the time. I took pride in being "tactically sound", and not being a "gamer" etc...

That was before I met Rob Leatham, Jerry Miculek, Matt Burkett, etc... Yeah, I don't care how "tactically unsound" their "game" is, I wouldn't want to be on the other end of their muzzles under any circumstances...

Anyway, I digress (as I so often do).


I don't have any pictures from that time period anymore, but this is what I looked like in early 2000, after I had started gaining weight a bit, but was still mostly fit (I think I was 305lbs there maybe?):



By 10 years ago, I had slipped a bit. I was still working out 3-5 times a week most of the time, and when I could (unfortunately only every month or two) I was still shooting as much as I could; but my knees were already pretty badly hurt (weightlifting, wrestling, football, jumping, various injuries), I was doing a lot of international travel  (I was living in Ireland at the time), and my weight would cycle from 295-325, and up to 18% bodyfat. At one point, when my knees were hurt pretty bad and I stopped working out for a couple months, I even got up to 345, and 23% bodyfat, though I pretty quickly went back down as soon as my knees were healed enough.

BUT...

I was also still very active in the martial arts, I was still fighting in the SCA, I was still doing physical security work, and I was playing semi-pro football on the weekends.

Here's a pic of me with the team, after winning our national championship game. I'm the big bastard in the middle if you don't recognize me:


When I moved back to the U.S. from Ireland Christmas 2003, I weighed 325, and I was unhappy with that weight, so I spent the time and effort on diet and exercise, and got back down to 295...

...and then went back to 100% travel jobs for the next two years, working out whenever I could (and shooting at least 500 rounds and usually more like 1000-1500 every weekend I was back in AZ, or in a state or country wasn't a total pain in the ass). So my weight stayed on that 295-325 yo-yo, and my fitness slowly went down.

These are all me from 2004 and you can start to see the weight coming on:



Then, all of a sudden... it seems like almost overnight to me...  I went from a BIG, fit guy, who worked out a lot to a FAT guy.

Two bad knees, two bad ankles, a bad back (all of which I had BEFORE I got fat, and certainly aided in the process of) and endocrine cancer (though we didn't know that until last year) did it.

I gained about 220 lbs in less than five years, while reducing my caloric intake, and until the injuries prevented it, increasing my exercise levels.

Eventually, I hit just under 500lbs:


I lost more than half that gain in the last year, through proper medication. No change in the diet, no change in exercise, just proper medication.


See... some fat guys... yeah, we're fat; but we're not fat, useless, pathetic slobs. Some of us are strong, and experienced, and well trained, and got fat not because we were sad, lazy, gluttonous etc... but because things in our life changed, and our bodies (or our habits and our brains) didn't adapt appropriately.

And some of us, are still surprisingly good at what we do, and surprisingly capable.

I can't run for shit anymore, but I can walk until the knees give out, no problem (good days and bad. Some days I can barely walk, some days I can do three hours around Costco, Safeway, and Home depot). Stairs kill me, but it's not the cardio, it's the knee and back pain. I ride 10 miles a day on my exercise bike on a pretty challenging program. I do 45 minutes of heavy circuit free weights every other day (and by heavy I mean nothing lighter than 200lbs, except the curls); and the healthier I get the more I'm ramping that up (eventually I hope to be back to working out every day, rotating focus groups on a 3 or 4 day cycle).

I never stopped shooting (though I did shoot a lot less)... and I DID lose the ability to run away, so good shooting became an even higher priority; and I focused almost exclusively on rapid A zone hits at 15 yards or under, and on target transitions (I do need to train MUCH more on presentation from concealment, and reloads).

Several of you have seen me shoot. Unless I'm actively sick (which I have been a lot unfortunately) I'm a damn good shot, and pretty damn quick at it. What I'm not, is particularly mobile... even without the extra weight, my knees are just shot.

So I'm not a competitive shooter anymore (though I plan on getting back to it as I get healthier), but I can still shoot.

And as far as underestimating folks who are fat... well... Some of us know better.

For those of you who know me... Who have seen me pick up and carry a beer keg on each arm, hauled multiple cases of ammo over each shoulder, picked up 200lb shooting tables to carry them to the truck... or those who have received a bear hug from me...

I got fat... I didn't get weak (though I got "weaker"; but when you started as strong as I did... well, for me "weaker" means I bench less than my bodyweight instead of 1.5x and deadlift 1.5-2x my bodyweight, instead of well over 2x, and at my bodyweight that still means I'm stronger than most "fit" men... I'm just only able to sustain that for a few minutes at a time instead of hours), and I for damn didn't lose my brains, my experience, or the fact that I'm an evil bastard who fights dirty, because that's how you win.

So... the point of all that is, yeah, I'm fat. I call myself a gigantic fatass in fact, because I have no problem admitting that's what I have become.

BUT...

For those of you who know me... got a question for you?

Would you want to face me either in an unarmed fight, or in a gunfight?

If so, would your plan be to hit once, and then run like hell?

I got fat, and I got slow... but I never stopped being dangerous.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Got my first "Gunwalker" Robocall, begging for money, almost certainly a scam

Wow, this was disgustingly crass.

It opened with the statement "Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry is DEAD because attorney general Eric Holder deliberately sold guns to mexican drug cartels", and degenerated into an anti-obama screed from there.

Then, they asked me to commit to covering "part of the cost of sending 1000 faxes to every member of the house and senate", for "just $18".

Of course, they never identified themselves as to organization etc...

Wow.

There's a hell of a scam for you.

Just for your edification, the phone number the call came from showed up in caller ID as "wireless caller" at 202-738-5634, which reverses to a Verizon cell phone in DC (and when dialed gives "all circuits are busy now", from multiple different phone lines, different providers etc...).

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Hey... Finally, someone else in the gunblog world is as anal as I am

And I mean that in a GOOD way.

Lucky Gunner has decided to actually directly blog, rather than just dipping their toes in other folks blogs and comments etc...

And they picked a hell of an issue to start with: the difference between 5.56 and .223

Most folks just write that one off to "eh, they're mostly the same, but you probably don't want to fire 5.56 in a .223 chamber, just in case" and leave it at that.

I've explained the issue in greater detail, about pressures, lede etc... but then you go down the rabbit hole of what lede is, and throat geometry, and why that's important; and about the differences between pressure, and impulse, and time spiking, and pressure spiking, and obturation, and timing cycles of gas guns and...

It gets complicated. It needs thousands of words and testing data, and charts and graphs and....

Oh wait, somebody did that other than me... YAY!

Seriously, it's a great piece, and I hope they write many more just as good.

Learned Helplessness and Operant Conditioning

This deserves its own post.

I'm going to state something very harsh and controversial here.

My entire generation, Generation Y, is fucked up.

Every generation before us fucked us up, and we fucked ourselves up.

I can state this with complete certainty for one simple reason: I know exactly how it happened.

A little background though, because it's necessary.

I am the very bleeding edge of Gen Y. My husband is a Gen Xer and not much older than I am. All 3 of my brothers are Gen X, they are 7, 8, and 10 years older than I am. My brothers and I stayed in the same school system for our educations and the same school district. I attended the same high school as two of my brothers.

We grew up in Mesa, AZ while Mesa grew so rapidly it became the fastest-growing city in the US. The elementary school my brothers attended (and I attended for exactly one year) was less than 10 years old when they attended. I never attended a school that was older than 10, ever. I went to 3 different elementary schools without ever moving because every time a new school was built the boundary line would change. I attended 2 elementaries in brand new buildings on brand new grounds.

Mesa grew so fast that the school district had no choice but to hire teachers straight out of the teaching colleges. Some more experienced teachers were around, sure, but they needed to fill the teaching slots somehow.

My youngest brother Tim is 7 years older than I am. He attended high school between 1989 and 1992. I attended the same high school from 1996 to 1999.

We only ever had one teacher in common, Dr. Bernstein. Dr. Bernstein retired from the school system my sophomore year out of disgust. The only other favorite teacher I had retired the next year for the same reason.

The walls in my childhood home were covered with plaques and trophies and certificates that my brothers had earned. By the time I got there, even doing the same activities (we were all band kids), nobody did plaques or trophies anymore. Hell, nobody did competitions anymore. Conservatives often talk about the "participation trophy" culture like it's new. There was an in-between stage where no one got anything or any recognition whatsoever.

But I digress. Point is, in the space of 7 years everything changed. My mother, til the day she died, just could not understand how it happened that she kept me in the same district and the same high school as my brothers and they got a much better education.

It's simple. The teachers, the administration, and the culture of the school system.

Due to the circumstances of the district I grew up in, and my age, I'm the leading edge of the generation where personal accomplishments were politically incorrect and competition was banned. These ideas filtered in with the new teachers; for this reason rapidly growing districts and the inner cities (where only young teachers without seniority could be found to work) were the first to undergo the transformation.

Wouldn't want to make the not-as-smart kids feel bad about themselves, would you? And you're so smart, you have a high IQ so we'll make it clear you "owe" it to society to use it in a way that benefits society. Oh, and we'll ban any kind of competition that makes it clear that hard work and perseverance will make a difference.

Educational Precept #1: what you have is what you're born with which is all you can possibly have. You can not make yourself smarter, or make yourself learn better, or improve your mental faculties in any way. If you attempt to do so, we will make it clear you're hurting someone else.

Then we'll put you in classrooms for 7 hours a day, surrounded by peers "at your level" (i.e. dumb kids with dumb kids, normals with normals, honors with honors). Then since you're not allowed to have personal accomplishments outside of grades (which are highly variable) we'll take away the carrot of winning or possibly winning or even recognition and replace it with a stick. The stick of what will happen if you don't follow the rules, or make the teacher happy.

Educational Precept #2: the goal is to turn out productive, obedient laborers for the system who listen when they're told what their position is and how they're to serve society. We do this by diminishing the individual and replacing their personal aims and goals and replacing them with the society's goals. If you step out of line, we'll make it clear how selfish you are.

Oh wait, there's another phrase that encapsulates these two precepts very well:
From each according to their abilities...


Now we just need to convince them that everyone deserves according to their needs... but they hadn't gotten that far with my cohort. I've heard they've made great strides towards that end since then.

So where does learned helplessness come in?
In the learned helplessness experiment an animal is repeatedly hurt by an adverse stimulus which it cannot escape.
Eventually the animal will stop trying to avoid the pain and behave as if it is utterly helpless to change the situation.
Finally, when opportunities to escape are presented, this learned helplessness prevents any action. The only coping mechanism the animal uses is to be stoical and put up with the discomfort, not expending energy getting worked up about the adverse stimulus.
So take a bunch of children. Tell them they MUST be in a place or else bad things happen and they MUST show up every day. Tell them they MUST obey the teacher or else bad things happen. Then teach them that they are powerless over their own intelligence and own abilities and the only rewards they can possibly get are from being a good little cog in the system.

Then put them in the real world and be utterly shocked that they don't take control over their own lives.

Gen Y, Generation "Why Bother", Boomerang Generation, Peter Pan Generation (because we won't grow up)... think those might have anything to do with the operant conditioning we were forced through as kids? When you're told that you have no control over yourself or your situation and that the big teacher in the sky doles out what is fair and what you deserve... why in the hell would you try at all?

The entitlement mentality that so many decry? What did you expect when every one of us was taught that if we just followed the rules good things would happen? That someone out there would take care of our needs if we just did what we were told?

That Obama would pay our mortgage? After all, if they behave they'll be taken care of.

They're following the rules. Where's the good stuff they were promised? They made a deal with the educational system and that's how life is supposed to work.

The deal doesn't exist, but no one taught them it doesn't exist.

No one taught them how much power they have over themselves. In fact, 2 decades of their lives were spent telling them how little power they have as individuals and that only as a group can they make a change.

Occupy Wall Street anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

But I did say that it's not only the fault of the generations that made the school system and left us there to be conditioned and experimented on.

It's also our generation's fault for BELIEVING the BULLSHIT we were fed.

Impressionable? Yes, all kids are impressionable. Yes, we're hard-wired to believe our elders.

That doesn't mean we can't fix ourselves, that we can't learn better and teach ourselves better. We all have that ability as long as we live.

All we need is to see that we do have control over our beliefs and we can change how we interact with the world. We already know this in small ways.

If you've ever tut-tutted over a young man obsessed with video games take a second and look at their scores. They're not obsessed with the games. They're obsessed with being able to see the direct consequences of the time and attention they've put into the game. They're obsessed with the feeling of accomplishment, of getting better and doing better.

This is the cure what ails Gen Y. Directs actions = direct, measurable consequences. But that's incredibly difficult to do without conscious though.

What would be awesome though, and incredibly helpful, is if everyone who's so busy bitching about entitled children would take one person and give them a chance to do what they never could as a child.

Take one young person and teach them that their efforts + their work = their accomplishment and their victory.

Take one young person hurting for money, hand them a lawn-mower or a hammer, and get some useful work out of them. Pay them directly. Find something to praise about the work, and find something that can be improved. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

We met a young man and his girlfriend this weekend purely by chance. Our trailer was stored next to their trailer home (our neighbor owns the storage and trailer park). Both his parents are out of work but this young man is DESPERATE for something to do that holds meaning and gives him a sense of self. His girlfriend is just as bad off as she's currently living with him and his parents (separate rooms though, she's proud to say). They kept trying to help us with moving our trailer.

They're coming over this weekend to help me with the yard. They need to work and feel as if they've done something useful.

There's so many kids (and I say kids, even though I'm 31, because most haven't had a chance to grow up) that are so desperate for meaning and sense of accomplishment and personal power.

Give them a chance. Impart what you know to be true, that each person has control over their situation. Let them make their own real, visual proof, then reward them.

Let them own the fruits of their labor and feel that power. Re-condition them with reality. That's the best, and only, way to break the hold of learned helplessness


Mel

Monday, June 25, 2012

I Fucked Up Royally and Don't Know How to Get Out

It's no secret that the last 2 years have been an absolute hell for us.

The short and sweet timeline:
May 2010 my father nearly got killed in a car/motorscooter accident.
September 2010 a local judge sent our kids to Canada.
November 2010 Chris had a major health scare.
January 2011 Chris's brother Rob passed on. That was also the month we found the cancer. Oh, and the first time we were contacted by the IRS.
July 2011 Chris found out he would be laid off from his job that he'd held for 5 years.
August 2011 my grandfather passed on as well.
November 2011 Chris was officially laid off.
February 2012 Chris's mother passed on after a long battle with multiple cancers.

During this entire time we've been dealing with Chris's wildly inconsistent health issues, my health issues, IRS, money troubles, stress, dealing with legal issues surrounding the kids, business ventures that didn't pan out, etc. We've made multiple attempts at making life better but we seem to always get kicked in the nuts again. Now it turns out that Chris's promised bonus and stock options from the last job will not be given to him as agreed and my dad told me last week my grandmother has slipped into severe dementia.

On the other hand we're still alive, we're still together, and we don't give up easy (or at all really).

In fact once we get out of this situation I will be getting two new tattoos. One of Dory from Finding Nemo and the phrase "just keep swimming" and a modified version of the Ranger's Prayer.

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for I am the baddest bitch in this motherfucking valley."
That's the philosophy that drags me out of bed every morning. That and a whole lotta faith.

As is often true though, I had to tell you that in order to tell you this.

I am mentally and emotionally ill. Not institutionalized-level, or not-safe-with-weapons level. More like "struggles with anxiety and depression on a daily, nay hourly basis" level.

I limped along and struggled along for a VERY long time. I have ADHD as well, and the trio of ADHD, depression, and anxiety is not in any way easy to deal with. But I managed somehow.

Turns out life occasionally gives you a shit sandwich so big that no amount of working around a problem will help. Once your life hits a certain point it's either sink or swim, mustang up or give up.

Like I said before, I don't give up.

I'd already spent years going through all of what was available to me for help. Therapy, self-help books, groups... none of it worked. And none of it was going to work until I made one discovery and one simple decision.

Yes, some of my issues are congenital and genetic and structural. Most of them aren't. Most of them are my doing.

Most therapy will tell you that the people around you influence you and your parents did a lot and and and... yes that's true. They all contributed. But I accepted what they told me. I let them influence me. Doesn't matter that I was a kid and under control and very easily influenced. I still internalized it. I have control over my mind and my emotions.

That's the discovery. I control my brain, mind, and emotions.

And damnit, if I can unconsciously fuck my mind, brain, and emotions up this badly, I can sure as hell un-fuck it all.

And there's the decision. I call it the Un-Fucking Project.

* * *

The Un-Fucking Project is an answer to a prayer, a cry in the wilderness as it were. I knew in order to be healthy I'd need to change almost every way in which I think, in which my mind works and my emotions work.

There's no map for this, no guidebook. Nobody can tell you how to be mentally and emotionally healthy.

Oh, they try. Millions of dollars in therapy sinkholes, and the therapy does work somewhat. But it doesn't address the core issue. Psychiatry as a whole has an unhealthy obsession with "normal", painting "normal" as the goal.

I don't want to be normal. I can't even define normal. Normal is a nebulous concept.

I decided normal isn't the goal, healthy and useful and under my control is the goal. This completely changes the dynamic; using "normal" as the goal means constantly comparing against someone else. "Healthy, useful, and under my control" means measuring my own progress against where I was before and analyzing based on whether or not what I'm doing is working better in my own life.

I could go on an on about the influences that brought me to this understanding, but it's a rather long list. Suffice it to say that I looked at how I was handling myself, looked at where I wanted to be, noted the HUGE gap with no concept of how to get there, and screamed for help.

Prayers get answered in the oddest ways and are never answered in the way in which you expect.

My prayers for help with my own mental state were answered with a complete stranger who introduced me to a way of thinking and analyzing and changing my own beliefs and ideas. Once I started applying what he'd taught me the world opened up and it was like putting on a pair of prescription glasses for the first time after being used to near blindness. The world looked full of detail and possibility.

I also saw every way in which I'd fucked up my life and the lives of those around me.

Un-Fucking is not for cowards it seems.

Fortunately I'd also been given the tools to not sink into despair, or guilt, or any other method of bringing the past along for the ride. Without those tools I would be sunk.

That's when I decided I needed to write this, that I needed to share this experience. I can't be the only one out there who struggles with a plethora of self-limiting thoughts and emotions and behaviors. Hell, since I determined part of the problem I had was dealing with the effects of a culture of learned helplessness I KNOW FOR A FACT I'm not the only one out there.

But that's for later. How I learned to remake my brain in the way I wanted it is a long and intense story and the tools I'm using deserve much more time and attention.

So here's the summary so far: Mel + really bad life events + mentally and emotional illness = must change how Mel deals. 

* * *

Chris protected me from the fallout of my mental and emotional illness.

That's what he does. Among our friends I call it "White Knight Syndrome". He likes to protect, likes to help.

He also enabled me for a long, long time and thus delayed my hitting bottom. It wasn't enabling in the traditional "alcoholic/addict" sense, it was more like "Oh shit... She spent the rent money... Ok, well the rent has to be paid. I better go make some money or sell something and make sure it gets paid". 

Part of how I expressed the illness was financial. If we had money, I'd spend it. Food, clothing, furniture, always necessities. But always gone. Much of the time I didn't even notice it happening; it was a deep-seated compulsion. Sometimes I fed it only off of savings. Sometimes payday loans and pawns were involved. Always convinced that if I didn't do "something" the money would disappear and we wouldn't be able to eat. Seriously. Not just convinced, absolutely mortally certain that if I didn't spend all the money we had on food, or clothes, or whatever, that we were all going to die.

That's what panic disorder is. You don't think. Your fight or flight instinct is all screwed up and it completely controls you, sometimes for hours at a time. You think that you are thinking, and reasoning, but really you aren't, you're just reacting, and overreacting and panicking. Sometimes you don't even really remember exactly what you did afterwards.

NOTE from Chris: Anyone who would misinterpret that statement as an indicator of serious mental illness, or that my wife is a danger to herself and others, you need to re-read what was written, and then go educate yourself about anxiety and panic disorders . It's reactions like that which make it impossible for people who have problems like this to admit it and deal with it. You are validating their greatest fear, which is that they will be destroyed by those they admit their problem to. 
Second lookup what others have to say about anxiety disorder or panic disorder and you'll find they say similar things. It's not like a fugue state, or a psychotic break, or a blackout. You don't do things to hurt yourself or others. But you do get fixated on things, compulsive about things which you feel will "make you safe" etc... They feel... and feel isn't strong enough a word here... that i they don't do that thing, that they WILL die.  
When they say things like "I didn't really remember exactly what I did afterwards", it's not like an alcoholic blackout, it's like when you get really angry and get into a fistfight as a kid, and you're not really sure how you got to that point. Or when you get carried away with a fun time, or a lover, or an argument, or ANY OTHER STRONG EMOTION; because that's what it is. At the time, you don't think that "hey, my emotions are running the show here, maybe I ought to stop and take time out to think rationally about this", because... your emotions are running the show. It's only afterwards that you can look back and say "Oh boy, I was an idiot there, and not thinking".   
What it means, is that people who have this problem have the exact same emotions and reactions as everyone else, it's just that sometimes they have them stronger and it hits them harder.  
What it absolutely does NOT mean, is that she (or anyone else who suffers panic attacks) is unsafe to carry a firearm.  

Chris took away my credit cards. He took away my bank account access. He limited my spending to just cash that he gave me. It didn't matter, I would find a way to make sure that whatever money we had would always be gone within a month or two. At first it was hoarding things, but then I found a way to make sure we never had any money. I found debt. I found online payday loans. I found pawnshops. I would take the money meant for paying the bills, and I would fill the deep freezer with food, then when the bills came due I would take out a payday loan or pawn something to pay for them, then when the payday loan came due or the pawn came due I would repeat the cycle getting deeper and deeper into a hole.

I was so ashamed, so scared that. I don't know what I was scared of, I only knew I felt like I would die if anyone found out. Especially if Chris found out. So I hid it from him. I lied to him. 

Fortunately or unfortunately, once the legal and medical bills started coming in I stopped doing that because there wasn't any cushion, any extra money. All extra went to legal and medical bills.

But the moment any money came in that wasn't assigned to the necessities of life, I made sure it disappeared.

You have to understand, I wasn't going out and buying diamond rings and fancy dinners, and living beyond our means. It wasn't anything like that. It was my mental and emotional illness in control, and me buying $1500 worth of frozen food. Or driving to Spokane or Coeur D'alene 10 days in a row to shop for "necessities" and "emergency supplies" and things like that.

Every few months, I would stop being able to hide it. Someone would come to shut the power off, and Chris would find out. Or Chris would run a credit check on us, and see collection notices on bills that were supposed to have been paid. Or my personal bank account would be so overdrawn that the bank would take money from our household account to cover it.

Then he would go and find a way to pay the bills again. And take the money and the cards and the checkbooks away from me again.

Eventually I didn't have to do it anymore, because there was always something unpaid. Always something growing interest and penalties and fees. Always more legal bills. Always more medical bills.

And it wasn't just money. I would do the same thing with our other problems too. I would get all the mail for a week, and just put it in a box unopened, pretending that if I didn't read it, it wasn't a problem. I would hide legal notices, bills, collection letters. I kept acting like if I ignored everything wrong it would just go away. Because I was terrified that if anyone knew what was wrong, I would die. Not figuratively die, not be upset or uncomfortable, I absolutely and completely and certain knew with all my being that I would literally die.

And then Chris got really sick, and I had to take care of everything else because it was all he could do to work. He had no energy, no focus, no time. Just enough to work to pay the bills. And I had to take care of the bills and the shopping and the house, and as soon as we had money again, I would start doing it again.

After Chris was laid off, and we got our severance (at least what was left of it after the IRS), he paid off a bunch of the debt and bills and collections. But then we had no money coming in for 8 months.

Now, he's been working again the last two months, but he's working 12 or 13 hours a day, and again he has no time and no energy for anything other than working to pay the bills. So I have to take care of everything again. And I've been screwing it up again. 

Chris has been protecting me from the fallout. Like I said, he does that. He loves me and he protects me.

I hid how bad it was from Chris, so he made plans and decisions based on what he knew, and then surprise, here's $8000 in past due bills, or here's an electric bill and a car payment not paid for two months each.

Unfortunately that's left us absolutely fucked, in a deep hole, with Chris making barely enough to cover the bills, and us completely fucked over by the loss of his bonus and stocks. We're currently 2 months behind on almost everything and NO cushion with which to pay down the debt that I racked up. And make no mistake, it's the debt that's killing us.

The money is coming in, but I got us so far behind, it isn't coming in fast enough enough to dig out of the hole. If it weren't for us being so far behind we'd be OK. It's not the new bills that are the problem, we make enough to cover the bills and be OK. It's the things I didn't pay, or paid late, or had fees on or, I think you get the picture.

The bonus and stock were supposed to get us out of the hole. It was supposed to be more than enough to cover all the outstanding debt (except the car and the truck) and give us a little emergency fund. Only we found out in May that Chris's previous employer screwed it up (some paperwork was filed wrong on their part, and something we were told when Chris was laid off was changed a few months later and we weren't notified, and by the time we found out it was too late to fix it), and we would be getting nothing.

I was counting on that money, to fix my mistakes. To let us start back up from level ground instead of deep in a hole.

NOTE from Chris: For anyone who choose to take this time to celebrate our difficulties, or say "I told you so", or any other such thing,  or for those assuming that we are somehow living beyond our means, or even making bad financial decisions. Suggesting that I am being irresponsible by owning a Cadillac (which I paid less than the price of a used accord for, is utterly reliable, gets 26mpg, and after depreciation still have about $6k net positive equity in), and a "big shiny black truck" (which I paid half book for and in which I have about $10k net positive equity in), suggesting that we should drive $500 beaters (which are unreliable and maintenance hogs), and that we should declare bankruptcy and move to a shithole appartment (which by the way don't take three large dogs, and would cost MORE than we currently pay where we live - the advantage of living in the middle of nowhere- Oh and then there's the several thousand dollar upfront cost of moving)... and are clearly passing moral judgement on the fact that my wife has a mental and emotional issue with money... 
Perhaps you should re-read what has been written here, and what I have written in the past about our financial situation. 
As of right now, we are about $4,000 behind on bills. We also have a pawn ($800, on a $2500 item), and a payday loan of $280 to pay off.  
As of right now, including the various payments on the outstanding balances, payments on back bills etc... I'm taking home almost exactly what we're putting out. That would be because I took a 45% pay cut, because with my health I couldn't deal with a 100% travel job anymore (otherwise we'd be making more than we were making before I got laid off).

Oh and that would also be, because our truck loan was sold on to a servicer with a universal default clause in the contract (which we didn't have a chance to deal with by the way. It was either accept the terms or cash out the loan, and by the time we even got the notice we were sold, it was too late to cash the loan out), and when my wifes problems got us into a default on a small medical bill, the loan servicer jacked out interest rate up into "penalty rate", DOUBLING the interest (and basically doubling the payment). I would have refinanced immediately, but right at that time, I got laid off, and with no permanent full time income, I couldn't. Now that I'm working again, once we're caught up and I get six months at the new job (four months from now), I will be refinancing the truck with my credit union, dropping several hundred a month from our monthly bills (they've already said they can do that for us). 
Once we can catch up, and stop incurring more fees, interest, etc... on the hole we're in, we're going to be a few hundred net positive a month. If I can get the truck refinanced and the car  and/or trailer paid off in the next few months (we owe about the same balance on each, at about the same interest rate, but the car payment is more than double the trailer payment) we'll be something more like $1000 a month net positive.

Once I can spend some time on the gunsmithing work (which by the by, I now have a several month at least backlog on, and am merely waiting for paperwork to be finished up, processed, and cleared) we're going to be just fine. 
And of course, that is all before Mel finds another job. Even at $10 an hour, that's still another $1200 or so a month net positive after taxes etc... 
The problem is getting out of the current hole, and making it to the points above.
I have paid all my personal unsecured debt except to one person, who gave us a long term interest free loan, to help with the child custody case. Anyone who has asked for their money back on the cookbook, we have given it back. The bonus and stock sale was going to wipe ALL that debt, and not getting them, as we were contractually promised, is why we are where we are. I could sue to recover that money, but that would cost more than the expected return by far, take years, and probably ruin my professional reputation and career. 
We have about $5k in credit card debt at a reasonable interest rate (6.6%). We have the car, the truck, and the trailer, to pay off; at a total of about $28k outstanding. Right now, all three have a combined resale value of about $50k (and I have a motorcycle worth about $5k on top of it, that I paid cash for).  
The only other major outstanding liability we have is doing a print run of cookbooks, which will cost approximately $2,000. The cookbook has been completed in terms of content for years now (though we are still working on new photos. The old photos weren't great quality, and most of them were lost when our old NAS box died, and the backup turned out to be corrupt). The bonus and stock were going to cover that too. That's why in December I said we would have it out by the end of April.
Our problem isn't bad decisions, or immoral choices, or living beyond our means. Our problem is we had to take a huge pay cut, got screwed over by the IRS, and my wife has an illness that screws up how she deals with money.
I got us in this position. When times were flush I made sure we never held on to anything. Now we're selling pretty much everything we have to make ends meet.

I don't know what to do. I fucked it all up, and I'm fixing my shit so I never do it again, but I don't know how to fix the financial spot we're in. I have lots of ideas for the long term, but in the short term we might lose everything. There's $2000 between us and possibly losing the car and truck and therefore our transportation. Chris says he might have to sell the motorcycle. Since it's the only thing keeping him sane while we sort through everything, I REALLY don't want to sell it. The only guns we have left are the personal protection armory which is at this point really, really small. If I sell my personal carry guns Chris will kill me (not literally of course, but close enough).

I don't know what to do. I'm at a complete loss.

Does anyone out there have any ideas?

Mel
EDIT from Chris: 
I want to be clear about three things here.  
First, I overreacted to a comment earlier, and responded to it angrily, rather than in an explanatory mode. I apologize, as that is not useful; however I have a real problem with the presumption that some people seem to make about money issues, and about emotional illnesses. I edited my responses inline with the post above, to perhaps explain the situation better.  
Second, I have nothing to do with this post, except in that I love and support my wife, and am doing everything I can to help her get better; while at the same time doing everything I can to keep our family going.  
Last week, after several days of very bad emotional wrangling, I told her that she wasn't going to be able to move on past her shame spiral if she constantly had it hanging over her head; and that the only way she'd be able to do so was to admit it publicly. She decided that I was right. This was that public admission. I wasn't exactly expecting that last part frankly, but it's what she wanted to say and how she wanted to say it. 
Second, we are NOT asking for money from our readers, even obliquely. Every time we mention our problems here, people send us money. We are NOT asking for money. This isn't begging for money, it's my wife making a public confession of her problem, so she can try to get control of it. 
Even if I were going to ask for money, we still haven't finished the new print version of the cookbook, and I wouldn't dare until we did. I still have promises outstanding that I need to keep before I can ever even think of asking for help.

This is not a matter of losing our children, or our house, or even the cars. If it were about the kids, then yes, pride or circumstances be damned, I'd be begging. But it's not. This is a problem we got ourselves into, no matter the circumstances, and will get ourselves out of. 
Yes, it is a matter of selling a bunch of "stuff", but we have stuff to sell. We are going to get raped on selling it, but that's our problem to deal with. 

EDIT from Mel: 
There's been some misunderstanding about the true problem here.

The problem isn't money or spending or spending addiction. It's what fuels the behavior that's the problem.

Fear and anxiety are the crux of the problem. I grew up with no money with parents who had/have issues of their own. In order to rationalize their issues they taught us that money is evil and that wanting more than is necessary to eat and keep a roof over our heads was inherently evil and sinful. In many ways my father still feels that way. When you think money is evil you do everything you can to avoid having any. When you believe that being wealthy is inherently wrong and evil (and believe everything that's done to become wealthy is inherently wrong and evil) you do everything in your power to avoid keeping money. Doesn't matter if consciously you know better, it's the internalized fear that counts.

Add to that being starved by my ex-husband, and then the fear turns into "I must spend every penny on necessities or I will die." That last bit is very important. Or I will die. The moment your life is in danger, real or otherwise, you do whatever is necessary to protect it. If that means taking all cash and turning it into food and sundries, that's what you do.

My compulsive fear is literally, that people who have money are evil, and they will come to kill us if we have money, therefore I MUST make us poor, because if I make us poor we won't be evil anymore and they won't come to kill us.

So it doesn't matter how much we spend, or don't spend, or what we spend it on; the compulsion is I HAVE TO GET RID OF ALL THE MONEY NOW OR WE WILL DIE.

So it's not the spending that's the problem. The fear is the problem.

Those aren't the only fears I forced myself to root out and destroy. One of the other major fears involves social fear and fear of vulnerability.

If I show myself as vulnerable and as who I am, I will be cast out and I will die.


That's the fear. It's deep, it's very primal, but it's also very learned. It's not something I was born with.

Part of posting about what I'm struggling with is taking that fear and facing it head-on and proving it to be wrong. I will not die. If I'm cast out, it's only by people I don't give a damn about.

Everything I'm doing is about facing fear and proving that every single bit of mental and emotionally programming I've internalized and done to myself is utterly false.

So in short, it's not about money. That's just one of the ways in which the true issues are expressed. I don't need to hit bottom on money. I don't need to destroy my life. I don't need to get rid of my car, or my truck, or anything else because the problem isn't money.


The bottom I had to hit, and I did hit, came down to a choice. Either I control myself and my mind and my emotions, or I don't. Either I keep buying into every piece of bullshit that I was raised with, educated in, and internalized myself, or I don't. It's not one part of my life I'm grappling with, it's EVERYTHING CONCERNING WHO I AM.

So I face the fears, one by one, and prove that everything I thought I knew was wrong. I'm beating the crap out of the learned helplessness I'd been conditioned to believe as the utter truth.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

In the Mailbox today...

Marco Rubios new bio/memoir "An American Son"



Full disclosure, his publisher sent me a review copy (as they did to a number of conservative and libertarian bloggers). I'll be reading it and posting a review shortly. The book will be publicly available starting tomorrow, and can be pre-ordered from Amazon now (links below).

For those who don't know, Rubio is the junior senator from Florida, and former speaker of the Florida house (a post he held after only 6 years in the statehouse, having been elected at the age of 29, and elected speaker at only 35). One of the youngest senators at only 41, Rubio is the son of cuban immigrants, a devout catholic, and a solid conservative of the tea party persuasion.

For my own tastes... Rubio is great on economics, generally great on business, great on foreign policy, good on guns (not quite great, but a B+ is good enough for a senator), not so great on personal freedom.

My one big issue with Rubio is that he's VERY socially conservative, and largely religiously based in that regard. As a philosophical libertarian who happens to be a Republican... I'm not thrilled with folks who think the government should be involved in these areas at all, never mind supporting extension of the governments current reach. Also, specifically, he supports constitutional amendments on social and moral issues... something I STRONGLY oppose.

Other than that though... hey, I like the guy.

Rubio was elected by a 20 point margin of victory over his nearest competitor... and that's a hell of a story...

His nearest competitor was then sitting Republican governor Charlie Crist; who Rubio first beat in the states Republican primary, largely as a result of Tea Party voters.

Rather than drop out however, Crist decided to run as an independent against Rubio in the general election. This was largely taken poorly by both Tea Party oriented voters, and the majority of the states Republican base. Crist's strategy was to use his popularity among independents, and centrist republicans and democrats, plus his seeming rebellion against the party and particularly "against the radical right and the Tea Party", to build a "moderate" coalition for victory.

That strategy backfired BADLY.

Rubio earned 48.9% of the vote, to Crist's 29.7%... with the democratic competitor Kendrick Meek, coming in a distant third with 20.2% (basically he was a sacrificial lamb, and only the hardcore dems voted for him, with about half the democrats voting for Crist).

This made Rubio the poster boy for the "Tea Party Revolution" of 2010 that the media played up so much, and for a time made him the target of speculation about him pulling a Republican version of the Obama play, and running for president in 2012.

Rubio was very clear that he had no intention of seeking either the presidential or vice presidential nomination in 2012... However, Romneys problems with the conservative and libertarian portions of the Republican and independent electorate, have got speculation among the media running high that Rubio will be chosen as Romneys running mate.

My personal opinion, is that Rubio doesn't want to be vice president in 2012; he wants to be president in 2016 or 2020 (and he'll be much more "electable" then, simply by getting to look more like what the electorate expects a president to look like... i.e. "Older than 41")... but it's a lot easier to get to the big chair from the little chair, than it is from the senate floor, and somehow, I don't think he'll say no if he's asked. \

As to what this book, being released now, might mean?

I stand behind my previous statement.


At any rate, look for a review in this space in the next few days. In the meantime, here's the links to buy the book, and for Rubios tour events:

Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/American-Son-Senator-Marco-Rubio/dp/1595230947

Barnes & Noble:
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/an-american-son-senator-marco-rubio/1108857608

Rubio's book tour:
http://www.facebook.com/AnAmericanSon/events

Rubios Twitter feed:
http://twitter.com/marcorubio

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Random Musical Aside...

I'm a long time Dream Theater fan; having loved them since I was a teenager in Boston (where they were founded, out of Berklee College of Music; and when they were mostly traveling back and forth between Boston and NYC for gigs), and having posted about them several times before (here's a post with some of their music linked: http://anarchangel.blogspot.com/2007/07/change-of-seasons.html )

Well... a couple years back, Dream Theaters founding drummer, Mike Portnoy, decided he needed a break from touring with the band for a year or two; maybe do some side projects, take a couple months vacation... you know, pretend to have a life for a bit (and importantly, to rebuild his life after beginning recovery from decades of alcoholism).

Unfortunately, the rest of the band disagreed, and decided they were going to go on without Mike (and yeah, there's a LOT of bad feelings about that; within the band, within the rest of the metal community - Mike has a LOT of friends, and frankly... James LaBrie, who seems to have been the major driver of the decision to go on without Portnoy, is generally thought of... poorly -  and among fans).

Even more unfortunately, the band, and their music, has definitely suffered for their decision to move on without Portnoy (which, I should be clear, is not the fault of their excellent replacement drummer, Mike Mangini... also a Boston boy coincidentally). Their recent album without Portnoy is possibly their worst reviewed, and is definitely their worst selling album in many years.

On the other side of things though, Mike Portnoy has never been happier; and he's been making some great music with his friends, both guesting on others work, and participating in several new bands.

One of those bands, is another metal supergroup (I think Portnoys third or fourth supergroup) called "Adrenaline Mob"...

... and I have got to tell you, they SERIOUSLY kick ass... or better, I have to SHOW you:





Honestly, based on their first album, I think these guys are one of the best new straight ahead hard rock slash straight metal band of the last five or ten years.

There have been better bands in some of the subgenres of metal certainly... these guys are really just straightforward classic hard rock and metal, in the vein of Disturbed, Hellyeah, Avenged Sevenfold, etc... (the two singles I embedded above are both very radio friendly, some of their stuff is harder, more metal; some is more hard rock, even edging in to hard alt).... and there is absolutely nothing wrong with at.

Overheard in our household part howevermany...

Chris: (trying a new coffee blend, from a local "fair trade" and "organic" coffee importer and roaster) Damn... that's some really great coffee.

Mel: Yeah... every time I walk in there I'm completely surrounded by dirty hippies... but they ARE very good at what they do.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Kitty Update

I spent all of this morning dealing with our unexpected guest.

Craigslist ad and local animal shelter found ads are now written and posted. Checked craigslist, the local animal shelter lost and found board, the local newspapers, the local cheapie classifieds, every local bulletin board I know of (which is a fair number)...

Nada.

Stopped at the local vet (local being a whole mile away) and while they didn't know of any lost kitties they said if I brought him in they'd scan him for a microchip.

So I took all of the spare cash I had plus all of the change I'd found while cleaning the house, went to Walmart, turned in the coin at the Coinstar (payday's not until Friday), and went shopping for cat supplies.

Can someone explain to me why a cat carrier is so expensive now? $17? Really?

However, I think I did pretty well for only having $32 to spend:

Cat carrier, dry food, wet food, food dish, catnip, and doggie treats for encouraging good puppy behavior around the kitty.

Took everything home, assembled the carrier, and loaded kitty up for the trip to the vet. No fighting, no hissing, no biting, no scratching. He didn't want to go into the carrier but he didn't fight me either.

Calmest damn cat I've ever seen.

The vet is only a mile away but halfway up our residential road I had to stop the truck for a bit. Someone needed to cross the road:

A juvenile whitetail. In the middle of the day. Sauntered right in front of a 3/4 ton diesel truck, fully expecting me to stop. Then kept walking, calm and as unhurried as could be, right down to the water.

Pretty common for our neighborhood actually.

So I got the kitty to the vet and the assistant scanned him for a microchip. Nada once again. However since it wasn't busy she also took time to call the vet in to look at him.

The vet looked him over, pronounced him healthy and somewhere around 2-3 years old, gave him a dewormer, and treated what little ear mites he had.

For free.

She also gave me a newly expired bottle of the ear mite solution mixed with a little invermectin with strict instructions to treat his ears every day for a week, and every two days for two weeks after.

For free. Because he's a stray and I'm trying to find his family.

We're never going to another vet ever again.

I'm not very happy about the lack of luck finding his family though. I hope Og is wrong and he's not a drop-off case. He's way too good of a kitty to be abandoned.

Mel

An Unexpected House Guest

So... for the last few hours, we been having some heavy duty microbursts and thundercrackers... Like, shake the house to the foundations type thunderstorms, and "oh my god, I'm breathing water" level rain.

About an hour ago, in between two particularly nasty ones, I started hearing something... a repeating plaintive wail coming from the porch, out by the door... and look who we found:




He was somewhat bedraggled, a little scared by the thunder, and VERY hungry.

What we have here is what I'd guess to be a just barely mature tom, grey and black tiger tabby, neutered, with trimmed (or at least relatively short) claws. He's pretty clean, not well groomed (very shaggy, and in need of serious brushing), but has no matting, no mites, no fleas, and no ticks.

He also had no collar, and no marks in his fur indicating he wore one regularly; though a loose collar would both be easy to lose or work off, and leave no marks.

He's very skinny under that fur, and I'd guess he's a couple weeks underfed (and the small game here is plentiful, so if he'd been hunting, he wouldn't be underfed).

Funnily, he's perfectly fine around our three big and inquisitive dogs... and he has to be the most even tempered, least skittish cat I've ever seen in my life. He had no problem whatsoever being immediately picked up by a stranger; in fact he started purring right quick, and kept purring when passed from Mel to me. He didn't hiss at the dogs even when they stuck their noses right in at him... and he went back to purring immediately after the dogs left him alone (Zoe is still being a bit of a pain on that score, but Wash and Jayne are just fine... In fact, Wash, our resident puppycat, seems to like our visitor very much).

So clearly, this is a well socialized, well cared for cat, that someone is probably missing...

We haven't seen any posters around, and no-one local posted anything on craigslist... but we'll put some up tomorrow, check the local free paper and pay paper, call local animal control etc...

And NO, we are NOT keeping him... We've got three dogs already, and that is quite enough thank you... Besides, he almost certainly has someone else who loves him and misses him.

In the meantime... he's just purring his furry little head off.

Presented without comment

It's a Miracle




NickelSans – DORK TOWER 13.06.12

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Wow, Olympia is Even More Stupid Than I Thought

This Friday is payday. I'm heading into Spokane with Chris, dropping him off at work, then running the necessary errands. Last week Washington state's Initiative 1183 transferring the sale of liquor from state-run stores to private entities went into effect. I'm currently out of gin and pissed off at Idaho State Liquor's lack of options.

So obviously Costco and I will be intersecting sometime this Friday. After all, they carry most of my preferred gins, including Dry Fly (a local distiller out of Spokane).

I'd heard that BevMo will be opening a store in Spokane but there's no mention anywhere on their website. Oh well.

However, searching for the new private liquor stores in Spokane led me here:
On the other hand, there were bottles galore of whiskey and tequila and vodka and all at positively amazing prices. 
“Man, oh, Manischewitz!” I exclaimed. “Becoming an alcoholic has never been more affordable.” 
Dan, a really friendly Costco employee I’ve known for years, noticed my hysterical giggling. 
Rather than call a security guard, however, he took a moment to patiently explain what was going on. 
The posted prices don’t reflect all the taxes and fees. 
Those, he told me, would be added on once customers got to the checkout registers. 
You know, things like sales tax and a 10 percent tax on gross receipts. 
And some sort of sore loser’s payback fee. 
And don’t forget the mandatory contribution to the Washington Senate’s Solid Gold Urinal Maintenance Fund. 
Now I hadn't looked too closely at Initiative 1183, mostly because I don't actually LIVE in Washington State. But this whole added taxes thing intrigued me, and that's what Google is for:

Washington voters approved Initiative 1183 last fall, taking the state out of the liquor business for the first time since Prohibition. The measure allows stores larger than 10,000 square feet and smaller stores in some areas to sell liquor. 
Supporters touted the measure as a free-market reform that would give consumers more choices and lower prices. Those in favor included warehouse giant Costco Wholesale Corp., one of many big-box stores that can negotiate volume discounts for some products or sell their own labels more cheaply. 
However, the initiative also imposed an additional 10 percent distributor fee and 17 percent retail fee on spirits to reimburse the state for millions of dollars in lost revenue. The result was higher prices for consumers at many retail outlets.
And out of Oregon:
At the Rainier Liquor Store in Rainier, Ore., just across the Columbia River from Longview, owner Traci Brumbles says business has jumped 20 percent. 
She told The Daily News (http://is.gd/HIXtz7 ) the hidden taxes that show up at cash registers in Washington — a 20.5 percent sales tax and $3.77 per liter tax — give her store a price advantage. 
Hmmm. Where's the particular language from the Initiative?


Turns out the legislature actually didn't mess with the language (I cross-checked fully). The initiative is full of strikethroughs and irritations; this is the Code as it stands:


RCW 82.08.150Tax on certain sales of intoxicating liquors — Additional taxes for specific purposes — Collection.
(1) There is levied and collected a tax upon each retail sale of spirits in the original package at the rate of fifteen percent of the selling price.
     (2) There is levied and collected a tax upon each sale of spirits in the original package at the rate of ten percent of the selling price on sales by a spirits distributor licensee or other licensee acting as a spirits distributor pursuant to Title 66 RCW to restaurant spirits retailers.
     (3) There is levied and collected an additional tax upon each sale of spirits in the original package by a spirits distributor licensee or other licensee acting as a spirits distributor pursuant to Title 66 RCW to a restaurant spirits retailer and upon each retail sale of spirits in the original package by a licensee of the board at the rate of one dollar and seventy-two cents per liter. 
     (4) An additional tax is imposed equal to fourteen percent multiplied by the taxes payable under subsections (1), (2), and (3) of this section.
     (5) An additional tax is imposed upon each sale of spirits in the original package by a spirits distributor licensee or other licensee acting as a spirits distributor pursuant to Title 66 RCW to a restaurant spirits retailer and upon each retail sale of spirits in the original package by a licensee of the board at the rate of seven cents per liter. All revenues collected during any month from this additional tax must be deposited in the state general fund by the twenty-fifth day of the following month.
     (6)(a) An additional tax is imposed upon retail sale of spirits in the original package at the rate of three and four-tenths percent of the selling price.
     (b) An additional tax is imposed upon retail sale of spirits in the original package to a restaurant spirits retailer at the rate of two and three-tenths percent of the selling price.
     (c) An additional tax is imposed upon each sale of spirits in the original package by a spirits distributor licensee or other licensee acting as a spirits distributor pursuant to Title 66 RCW to a restaurant spirits retailer and upon each retail sale of spirits in the original package by a licensee of the board at the rate of forty-one cents per liter.
     (d) All revenues collected during any month from additional taxes under this subsection must be deposited in the state general fund by the twenty-fifth day of the following month.
     (7)(a) An additional tax is imposed upon each retail sale of spirits in the original package at the rate of one dollar and thirty-three cents per liter. 
     (b) All revenues collected during any month from additional taxes under this subsection must be deposited by the twenty-fifth day of the following month into the general fund.
     (8) The tax imposed in RCW 82.08.020 does not apply to sales of spirits in the original package.
     (9) The taxes imposed in this section must be paid by the buyer to the seller, and each seller must collect from the buyer the full amount of the tax payable in respect to each taxable sale under this section. The taxes required by this section to be collected by the seller must be stated separately from the selling price, and for purposes of determining the tax due from the buyer to the seller, it is conclusively presumed that the selling price quoted in any price list does not include the taxes imposed by this section. Sellers must report and return all taxes imposed in this section in accordance with rules adopted by the department.
     (10) As used in this section, the terms, "spirits" and "package" have the same meaning as provided in chapter 66.04 RCW.



Retail I've marked in red, restaurants in blue, both retail and restaurants in orange, and why its collected at the cashier in bold.

Retail (assuming 1 liter for ease of calculation): 15% + (14% of 15%) + 3.4% + $0.41 + $1.33
So on a 1 liter bottle of rum or vodka retailing at $20 (just a random number) the additional taxes would be $3.00 + $0.42 + $0.68 + $0.41 + $1.33 = $5.84, or 29.2%

Restaurants also get screwed. Their tax on a 1 liter: 10% + $1.72 + (14% of (10% + $1.72)) + $0.07 + 2.3% + $0.41
So on the same 1 liter bottle at $20 (yes I know they probably don't play retail, just play along) the additional taxes paid on the restaurant would be $2.00 + $1.72 + $0.52 + $0.07 + $0.46 + $0.41 = $5.18 or 25.9%


Wow.

Now keep in mind, this is what the state-run liquor stores were ALREADY CHARGING. The only change the initiative instituted on the tax scheme was transferring the collecting of the taxes from the responsibility of state-run liquor stores to the responsibility of privately-run liquor stores.

Buyers in Washington were already paying these taxes on their liquor, they just weren't paying much attention. When the taxes are added at the cashier, people suddenly start paying attention.

The absolute genius I think of the initiative as it was written was that while placating the whiners with "the government will collect just as much tax as it did before" it's proponents managed to let the populace believe they would be paying less for liquor.

Not so, as it turns out.

It did, however, make the average liquor buyer in Washington actually pay attention to what Olympia had passed in the first place.

If the legislators in Olympia had any sense whatsoever (they don't of course) they wouldn't have let the taxes on liquor get this high to begin with. They'd also have struck part 9 from the books before any kind of liquor privatization had passed.

So now they've saddled retailers being forced by law to make a distinction between what the retailer is charging and what Olympia is taking in the form of taxes.

So a quick quiz for the Democrats holding the state house by 56-42, and the state senate by 27-22.

An initiative passed by the voters just went into effect. Liquor sales are now run by private companies instead of the state. What will happen in the first week?

A. Nothing. Nobody will do anything.
B. Maybe a few people will buy liquor, but not everyone.
C. Every cash-strapped 20-something in the state will run to Costco and buy liquor.

If you guessed C, you would be correct.

Your average 22-year-old male just tried to buy liquor at Costco. Giddy over the new prices, he walks up to the cashier and his bill is now 25% higher than the calculation he'd made. The clerk explains that it's the tax on liquor imposed by the state. What do you think he does?

A. Submits willingly to the financial reaming. After all, the state knows what's best.
B. Grumbles but accepts the price and promptly forgets what's going on.
C. Whips out his iPhone and asks Siri "what the fuck" and finds out how much tax is on a bottle of liquor. Decides it's the governments's fault. Develops a sudden distaste for the entire group of incumbents.

If you guessed C, you're right again!

Extra credit: it's June in a year divisible by 4. The above has just happened. There's 5 months til the election and the primaries have already taken place. You are the incumbent. What do you think happens on Election Day 2012?

A. No one will mention a word of this and my loyal electorate keeps me in office.
B. The challenger makes attack ads and a facebook page, but my loyal young and idealistic demographic only watches approved network news and never touches the internet so I'm safe.
C. All of the conservatives and libertarians in the Northwest grab some popcorn and watch the Democratic majority go down in flames as a whole new generation of libertarians uses Google and votes.

Hmm, I wonder....

Mel


Friday, June 08, 2012

Frustration...

Management: "Users are having massive problems"

Security: "okay, lets figure out why"

Figures out four separate things that are DEFINITELY causing problems, reports these four separate things.

Management: "So it's this one problem then"

Security AND Applications AND Desktop: "no, it's these four interrelated problems, and it only becomes visible when three of them are present."

Management: "OK, so it's this other problem then, we should remove that software"

Everyone Else: "No, it's not this other problem and removing the software isn't the solution. We HAVE a solution for this other problem"

Management: "Ok well... lets do what I said anyway"

Security: "That doesn't solve the real problem"

Management: "I don't beleve there is a "real" problem... it's just these things we have an easy solution for"

PROVES, beyond reasonable or unreasonable doubt, that there IS a real problem, that we know what it is, how to detect it, and how we have to deal with it.

Management: "Ok... I believe you... how do we fix it"

Security: "This is how we fix it. it is difficult and painful and will only MOSTLY fix the problem"

Management: "We can't do that"

Security: "Then we will keep having the problem"

Management: "So tell me what we can do to fix the problem"

Security: "I did... there isn't anything else we can do to fix the problem"

Management: "I don't believe you, get an outside expert"

Gets outside expert

Outside expert says the problem is the EXACT SAME THING as Security said.

Management: "So how do we fix it"

Outside expert says the EXACT SAME THING as Security said.

Security refrains from saying "I told you so", and instead says: "So, this is the problem, these are the issues it's related to, this is who it's impacting, this is how and why, these are the risks, these are the seven things we can do that can help it, this is the user impact of that, and this is the cost".

Management:"We can't do that... and you absolutely cannot say that in front of MANGEMENTS MANAGEMENT... I don't believe you, we aren't really having the problem you say we're having"

PROVES the problem AGAIN, with even more evidence

Lather, rinse, repeat

That has been my last three weeks

UPDATE:

I should note, that this is a gross oversimplification; and that "Management" in this case isn't actually senior management, and it isn't everyone... it's some of the managers and leads of some of the other groups we interface with.

Over the past few weeks, I have had to prove, over and over again, that I know what I'm talking about, that it really is a problem, and that we really do need to fix it.. and I've explained at least a dozen times now the nature of the problem, and what our mitigation options are.

By the time I wrote this last Friday I was pretty damned irritated, and EXTREMELY frustrated and tired. I have been working 10-12 hour days plus 3 hours of commute, every day for more than three weeks, having to prove everything I say, every step along the way, for every new person that got involved etc... etc...

By Friday, I had pretty much had it up to... wherever...

I actually ended up raising my voice in frustration earlier in the day (I apologized right after) with someone who was being particularly obstinate in insisting that I was wrong, and that my proof was invalid.

I don't even know what sr. management has been told at this point. I'm pretty sure that if they get good information to make a decision from, they'll make a good decision... it's getting there that has been the problem.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

One legged man, please report to ass kicking contest

Seriously, seriously frikken busy right now.

90 minute drive to work, followed by 9-10 hours of serious semi-futility, with no time even for lunch, followed by a 90 minute drive home... repeat 5 times a week for the last 4 weeks... and that doesn't include the work I'm doing at/from home after I get home, or on the weekends.

Yeah... need to work less... I know.

Too damn much to do, too little time to do it in, no actual goals, no defined mission, no defined priorities...

Right, situation normal, all fucked up.

Not quite fucked up beyond all recognition... not quite...

Battling botnets and rootkits right now; thus the "10 hours a day of semi-futility". Very not fun.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Don't Apologize for Your Opinions

One thing that always bothers me, is when intelligent, thoughtful people; feel it is necessary to apologize for their ideas and opinions... or for even having ideas and opinions at all (much less opinions contrary to those around them, or which are unpopular).

You don't have to apologize for your views to anyone, for any reason. They are yours (or at least, they should be... if they aren't... if you're just repeating things you've been told, or you don't really understand or believe what you're saying... well, you've got a different problem entirely).

Right or wrong, you have the right to an opinion (I don't have to listen to you, but I can't tell you you can't have them); and unless you are violating others rights in doing so, you have the right to express those views openly, and to act on them appropriately.

The first freedom, is freedom of conscience. Without freedom of conscience, we are not men.

However, having and expressing views, carries an element of responsibility and duty with it.

First you must understand, you have the right to your own opinions, but not your own facts. If facts contradict your opinions, facts win, no matter what you think or what you want; and whether you recognize it or not. Reality is a harsh mistress, and it doesn't respect your ideas, your opinions, your preferences, or your feelings... Reality respects only fact.

Before you express them publicly, you must always understand your own views as deeply and comprehensively as possible; including both the first principles which are their foundation, and the implications and consequences of them (as well as understanding that there will always be unforseen and unintended effects and consequences, to any action or decision).

You should always be prepared to defend your views; with both this understanding of them, and with examples from reality, when challenged. If you are unable to do this, you risk discrediting your views even if they are entirely and provably correct, simply because you were unable to effectively defend them (this is a very common problem unfortunately).

Finally, you must accept that your views may be wrong; and if proven (by either reasoning or reality) to be incorrect, incomplete, or improperly understood; you must be able to re-examine, and revise, or even replace them.

If you are incapable of this, emotionally or intellectually, you need not apologize for your views... but you certainly should not inflict them on others.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

The Elements of Competence

There are three elements to competence:

  1. Talent

    Talent is natural, and inherent. It can be enhanced, or wasted, but it can't be created from nothing... though sometimes talents in one area can transfer, at least somewhat, to a closely related area. Talent can, to some extent, compensate for a lack of skill.

  2. Skill

    Skill is learned, through training and instruction. Skill can be taught from nothing, though without any natural ability, it will be much harder to do so. As with talent, skill in one area, can, at least somewhat, transfer to a closely related area. Skill can, to some extent, compensate for a lack of talent.

  3. Experience

    Experience is earned, through the application of skill and talent, over time, and through trial and tribulation. Experience in one area is often applicable to many other areas. Experience can sometimes compensate for a lack of skill or talent, but NOTHING can compensate for a lack of experience. 

UPDATE: Several commenters have suggested additional elements such as charisma, luck, hard work etc... While these are certainly important, they are not elements of competence... They are however elements of success... as is competence in fact.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Time Passes

A friends daughter just finished 7th grade today... I can remember long worried rants from him while she was an infant.

My "little" sister Tricia (actually my stepsister since she was 12) Turned 27 the other day.

Most of the "kids" I went to high school with (many of whom I have known since they were 5 years old; having attended high school in the same town I attended kindegarten) have kids of their own, some of them in high school themselves now... in fact, a couple of them even graduated this year (I finished high school 19 years ago).

Time passes.