Thursday, May 31, 2007

Forcing someone to accept you as a customer

In a world where State Farm can be sued for refusing to underwrite people it deems too risky, where a man can sue after being fired for visiting sex chat rooms at work, this even greater absurdity had to happen sooner or later: eHarmony is being sued for not providing matchmaking services to homosexuals.

"Gay rights" has always been a red herring. Always, without exception. If a homosexual is physically attacked, there's no need to call it a "hate crime," because laws already punish the attackers, regardless of their motive. If a company refuses to hire a gay or lesbian person, it's not an issue of the would-be employee's "rights," but the employer's right to property.

The fundamental right to property is about disposing of it in any way you damn well please, without infringing upon the life, liberty and property of others. This must necessarily include not using it in ways you don't wish to, regardless of others. But in today's world where government disregards the individual's rights in favor of what the majority (or a powerful rent-seeking minority group) demand, the true rights are ignored. As the agent of evil, government provides the means for others to "entitle" themselves to your property: legislative, so they have the force of bad law; judicial, to uphold the bad laws or effectively make laws by their rulings; and executive, the threat of force (fines and/or imprisonment) that gives teeth to the first two.

The slippery slope began with the minimum wage, which is forcing a property owner to pay you more than he/she is willing. Then it continued to things like requiring companies to offer health insurance to domestic partners, which is hardly "discrimination," but simply the company owners deciding how to dispose of their property as they see fit. If a company won't offer the wage you want, well, you are not being forced to work there. If a company hired you but won't extend insurance benefits to your "domestic partner," you are not being forced to work there.

And if a company won't offer you the goods and/or services you want, then you are free to shop elsewhere, or start up your own business.

I've been busy for the last good while now. I came back Tuesday night from a trip back to Sonoma to visit my best friend, a vacation I needed rather badly. These days I'm working longer hours and thinking more specifically about the next several months. There are a lot of things to plan and consider, and I won't divulge too much detail here, but I'll say that in a few months, it will be time to look for a ring.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Chuck Schumer: biggest Congressional hypocrite of all time?

Schumer is such a goddamn putz. As reported today in the New York Post:

May 7, 2007 -- Sen. Charles Schumer yesterday called for a federal investigation into why large oil companies have been unable to keep pace with consumer demand for gasoline.

Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he was specifically concerned because problems at aging refineries have been instrumental in hiking gas prices, which may be on the verge of setting records.

The senator said he would be asking the Government Accountability Office to look into whether oil companies are purposely underinvesting to keep the market tight.
Hypocrite? Moron? Or as one of my friends suggested, "satanic rectal spawn"?

If Schumer wants to know the fundamental problem with American refineries, he need not look anywhere but a mirror. The New York Times reported two years ago that "Over the last quarter-century, the number of refineries in the United States dropped to 149, less than half the number in 1981." Worse, the United States hasn't seen a new refinery built since 1976. Every time a company would like to build one, they can't get past the hurdles that Congress, and state and local governments too, made to satisfy the tree-huggers. The blame falls mainly on Democrats, but also on "environmentally minded" Republicans who'll court any vote to win elections.

Schumer has never run a business, although one shouldn't need to in order to comprehend common sense, free market principles. Suppliers are perfectly capable of determining the natural balance of reinvesting profits and output on their own, without any need for government to "encourage" them with subsidies or state-funded studies, and certainly without government hindering them. The U.S. could import far more crude than it presently can, but refineries' capacity is a bottleneck. Well, if only oil companies could build more refineries, it's true that they'd resultingly make even higher profits, but don't forget that they'd supplying more gasoline at lower prices.

Schumer can't see any of this, whether willfully or because of ideological blindness. Under capitalism, everybody wins -- except schmucks like Schumer, whose political livelihood is based on blaming these "evil capitalists" that in fact make our lives better. He could push for legislation to allow oil companies to build more refineries, or drill in ANWR, which would cause prices to start falling now merely on the promise of increased future supplies. Most people don't see the big picture that if gas prices fell to perhaps half of current levels, their lives would be improved far more than taxing some oil CEO of, what, $10 million, then redistributing it among 300 million people? I personally don't care how much the Big Oil executives are paid. They earn every penny, as far as I'm concerned, by leading these companies that provide a critical resource that people are willing to buy via peaceful commerce.

However, when it comes to getting people to vote for you, truth just doesn't compete with creating fear, including the fear that somebody just might have more than you. So Schumer will continue to harp on "income inequality" and oil companies' supposedly obscene profits, notwithstanding that, as my friend Josh Hendrickson pointed out a while back, oil companies' profits are hardly the highest compared to other industries, when you look at the percentages.

And if Schumer is correct that oil companies are purposely "underinvesting" in refineries, then why are there entrepreneurs trying to build new ones? Or is that a lie, just like one of my friends claims that Canadians coming here for medical procedures is just a right-wing lie?

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

"Body by Jenny": eight weeks later, 20 pounds lighter

My friend Jackie Passey wrote a controversial post a while back that "Being fat is a choice." It's true for most cases: there's the occasional person who has a medical condition, but most people who are overweight can do something about it, even if they do have genuinely slow metabolisms. I've been beefy all my life, and I put on some weight after finishing my degree a few years ago. At one point I was 25 pounds over my college weight, and 16 pounds over when my friend Jenny encouraged me to do something about it. My excuse was that it's difficult for me to cut back on calories, because I have such a big appetite, and the diet jitters after two weeks force me to return to my big eating habits. Well, my friend laid out a plan, somewhat like the second stage of the South Beach Diet, and it's worked wonders. Lord Boner will probably agree that people at the office have noticed how much better I look.

It's now been a full eight weeks, and I've dropped 20.5 pounds (digital scale accurate to 1/2 pound). There might be a pound or two variation depending on water retention, but let's go by what is tangible: I've lost three inches off my waist, and my jacket size has gone from a size 48 to a 46. At my ideal weight, I probably have another two or three inches on my waist, but probably no more from my chest since it's pretty big. There's still more to go, but I should look terrific by October, when a ladyfriend and I are planning to go on a tropical vacation.

So what am I doing? No tricks, no ephedra, no hoodia. I'm just eating right and exercising. I mostly eat the same thing every day, and just as much food by volume as I ate before, just better food. The very fact of eating better boosts the body's metabolism, because it's getting all the necessary nutrients to process food efficiently. Also, you can gradually reduce portions over weeks, even months, to where your stomach will shrink and be satiated with less food.

Breakfast: omelette made with two egg whites, one egg beater, and chopped broccoli, red pepper and tomatoes. Two slices of whole wheat toast with strawberry jam. Dannon "Lite and Fit" yogurt. One piece of fruit. This is not pick and choose. I'm eating all this almost every day for breakfast, and still losing weight. It's important to eat a good breakfast because your body fasted throughout the night, and you don't want to feel like you must binge at lunch and dinner.

On weekends, I typically have a tuna sandwich with a 1-pound bag of mixed vegetables. Breakfast doesn't have to be breakfast food. It just has to be a healthy, low-fat source of the carbs and proteins to start your day. I use only light mayo that is otherwise disgusting, but it's only 10 or 20 calories per tablespoon. Also, eat only whole wheat or whole grain bread. Pepperidge Farm makes a loaf that's just 45 calories per slice.

Lunch: grilled chicken salads. I get mine at a deli that offers unlimited toppings, so I have them load it up with cucumber, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, peas, avocado, shredded carrot, chickpeas (great protein source). Dressing is always balsamic vinaigrette.

On weekends, I like a tuna sandwich (again, light mayo, and whole wheat or whole grain bread), complemented with either a half-cup of brown rice (no more white rice!) or a bowl of vegetables. Preferably vegetables.

Afternoon snack: no more chocolates. Another cup of Dannon Lite and Fit, and a piece of fruit.

Dinner: a half-cup of brown rice or mixed vegetables, and a tuna or salmon steak. Sometimes I'll have a chicken breast, but regardless of the meat, fry it in a pan using just Pam spray. Dessert can be a 30-calorie fudgesicle or 60-calorie fruit pops.

Exercise: Cardio for 20 minutes at a time, three times a week. I'm mainly using my Gazelle Freestyle that had collected dust for a few years. I also bought a pair of Nike Air Turbulence running shoes for going around the neighborhood, and new weights (discs, dumbbells and a curling bar).

Before, I ate red meat 10 times a week, and full servings of vegetables perhaps just a few times a week. Now I rarely eat red meat and eat vegetables all the time. As you can see, I eat a lot of mixed vegetables. Green Giant's 1-pound, 5-serving bags are microwaveable (the vegetables steam in the bag in just 5 minutes), and each serving is just 50 calories. You'll be hard-pressed to find 250 more filling calories anywhere. Alternatively you can have fresh vegetables, even a medium sweet potato.

Some days I do feel deprived, because I no longer eat chocolate, ice cream or cheesecake. Oh yes, and I've also given up alcohol (possibly forever, we'll see). However, I can enjoy these things in moderation once I've reached my goal weight. For now I'm cutting out all unnecessary calories.