Review of Penn Jillette’s Diet Book

You’d have to be a moron to take dieting or health advice from Penn Jillette. That’s how Penn Jillette bookends his book, Presto! How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear and Other Magical Tales.  Jillette starts the book saying he’s not a doctor or scientist and that you shouldn’t take his word on anything health related.  Then he spends the rest of the book telling you why everything he says has merit before he ends the book saying you’d be an idiot to take his advice.

Why does anyone read a book?  Sometimes to be informed. Sometimes to be entertained. Usually non-fiction like Jillette’s book is for information, and an author like Stephen King is read for entertainment.  I found Jillette’s book to be entertaining and sometimes informational.

As the title of Jillette’s book makes clear, he tells the story of how he lost 100 pounds and how he kept it off.  It’s a great story.  If Jillette sometimes seems a little whack, it’s not surprising he’d try a diet that is a little whack.  I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that he starts off the diet by eating only potatoes for the first two weeks. Nothing else. Whereas some people might consult a medical doctor or read a diet book, Jillette follows the dieting advice given him by his friend he calls CrayRay (Crazy Ray aka Ray Cronise).

Who is CrayRay, Jillette’s diet guru?  He’s a former NASA scientist.  Jillette puts CrayRay on a pedestal.  He helped Penn lose 100 pounds, so I probably would too if he helped me lose 100 pounds too.  But, I do find some of Jillette’s claims questionable.

Jillette tries to be cute and writes that the difference between CrayRay’s diet and other diet’s is that CrayRay’s diet is “sciencey”. I’ve read a lot of diet books and I didn’t find anything in Jillette’s explanation to be more “sciencey”.  In fact, I’d probably classify the word “sciencey” to describe something that is like science, but not science itself. How I’d classify his descriptions would not be science, but rather anecdotal evidence and theories.  Jillette writes as if other diets are not “sciencey”.  Look at how many diet books are written by guys that have MD or PhD.  There are tons.

I won’t say that Jillette or CrayRay are wrong.  How could I? I just object to the description of his diet as being more “sciencey”.

The problem of many diet books, whether they are written by Jillette or MDs is that they are too “sciencey” and not enough science.

They all make appeals to “science”. But, I ask you, if one doctor basically says “high fat and high protein is of the devil, you should eat a high carb diet”, and another physician says, “carbs are of the devil, eat a keto diet”, who should you believe?  They both can’t be correct, can they?  However, that is the situation we find ourselves in today.  A guy like Neal Barnard says everyone should eat a low fat diet, and stick primarily to whole grains, fruits, and vegetables–a diet that is high carb.  Another doctor like Michael Eades says that you should eat a keto diet (high fat, low carb).  Both doctors have theories, data, recommendations, etc. Both point at the other guy and say, “if you eat that guy’s diet, you will be killing yourself.”

The fact is that people following both diets lose weight. Both diets seem to improve health.  It’s maddening. At least to me.

In the end, after eating all those potatoes, Jillette ended up on basically a vegan diet.  He calls himself a vegan (but not for ethical reasons). I think he chuckles to himself while he wrote that calling himself a vegan, because he’s not really one. No more than once a month, like for a birthday, Jillette takes a day off from the diet and eats a steak or a burger. Imagine vegans going berserk as Jillette calls himself a vegan and then sits down in Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and eats a filet mignon.

What are other weird things about CrayRay’s weight loss regimen? No exercise–at least until you arrive at your target weight. Sitting on the couch and sleeping instead of exercising. Being cold. Fasting–16 hours a day.  The fasting is like how some keto diet advocates recommend.

In the end, I don’t know whether to recommend the diet, but I can recommend the book. I found it enjoyable. If you follow it, you are probably as likely to lose weight on it as any other diet book. Lots of Penn’s friends have lost on the CrayRay regimen.

I recommend the book because I enjoyed the stories Penn weaved in and out of his weight loss journey. The stories are great and entertaining–like how he learned to eat fire.  There are many others like it.  I’ll issue a few warnings.  He must use the f-word a pjillion times. I worked on an Air Force base with test pilots, so I don’t mind coarse speech. But, Jillette has a lot of it.   He also reminds me a little of Trump because he knows how to throw red meat to his base.  Whereas Trump might talk about “the Wall” or “fake news”, Penn can’t help himself and throw red meat to his atheist friends and go after Christians.  I can brush it off. I don’t care what atheists think about Christianity because usually it’s directed toward evangelicals and i have some of the same complaints.  But, if you have a thin skin, just be warned.

Jillette is a good writer. But, I’ll end my review with how Penn bookends his book. You’d have to be an idiot to take seriously a book review by an engineer. But, if you read his book, you just might like it.

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What I think of church names…

Driving through town, I see interesting church names.  Some of them crack me up…

Believer’s Church — ok, so everyone who doesn’t go there is not a “believer”?

Real Church — so, if you don’t go there you’re not real?

Guts Church — so, if you don’t go there you don’t have any guts? (Or, you just don’t want to be around biker types and a pastor who screams and a heavy metal praise band?)

Anthem Church — is this a church dedicated to Ayn Rand? I wouldn’t be surprised if a fundagelical church in the Bible Belt did that.

Audacity Chruch — what, is this named after “The Audacity of Hope” by Obama?

Cowboy Church — but I don’t have a horse! (As a side-note, at the last middling snow storm, they cancelled.  They evidently never heard of the phrase “cowboy up!” Our parish was open that day.)

Will Rogers United Methodist Church — I thought churches were supposed to be named after holy persons?

_______ Bible Church — we are a little bit better than you because we follow the bible. (Or, do you worship it?)

St. Antony Orthodox Christian Church — my church.  Part of the overall Orthodox church.  And, yes, if you aren’t a part of the Orthodox church, you’re not orthodox. I’ll own it.

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They dangled the carrot again and hope it’s not shame on me…

I worked as a software engineer at a small software company for 18 years.  We created a major analytics and data mining product.  The founders were professors from the local university.  I enjoyed the work even though sometimes the owners didn’t seem to have a vision and changed directions for reasons that are still obscure.

The first few years I worked, the company had no retirement plan.  I was young and stupid and didn’t realize how necessary it is to invest early in a retirement plan to be sure that your money has time to amortize.  Well, when they finally offered a Simple IRA plan (sort of like a 401k), they matched 3%.  It has been my experience that with 401k plans, the matching percentage is usually about 5%.  I had an acceptable salary, but knew I could make more money working for Microsoft or a different company.  However, the owner of the company after a few years started pushing the idea of an IPO and that “we would all share in the rewards.”  I heard that idea pushed for at least 12 years.  After the first 5 years (yes, I’m slow), I began to think it was a bunch of BS.  However, it didn’t stop the owner from repeating the idea year after year.  At some point, the economy tanked in 2008 and nobody was really hiring in my city, and on top of that my tanking marriage finally died.  It was difficult to change jobs.

In 2014, the economy started to really improve and the owner sold the company to the software division of a major PC manufacturer.  Not quite an IPO, but an IPO is really just a sale of a part of the company.  As it turned out, we found out from documents submitted to the SEC that the company was sold for $73 million.  How much did the employees “share in the rewards?” Well, zero of course.  The owner used the money to gas up his private jet and flew off into the sunset.

When we were taken over by the major PC manufacturer, we did get raises that were long overdue and received annual bonuses.  It was an improvement–something that was long overdue. At one point, with the original owners, salaries were frozen for 5 years, but because of the economy and promised IPO, people hung on.

However, big PC manufacturer know how to sell PCs, but they don’t necessarily know a lot about software.  After two years, they decided to buy a large cloud provider for something like $50+ BILLION…  For the purchase, they needed to liquidate assets and decided to sell off their software division for something around $10 BILLION.  We were bought by a Silicon Valley private equity firm after 2.5 years with the big PC manufacturer.  The venture capitalists assured us everything would be fine, but soon after they started trimming personnel.

Our little software company/division was just a small part of the $10 billion dollar software company.  In reality, they didn’t know what to do with us and our tiny analytics division was the odd man out from the enterprise management software of the rest of the company.  Some of us got the feeling they were going to try and sell us since the big brass seemed to lose interest in our product and the direction of our division.  We were making business plans very independently of the rest of the company.  At some point, they cut some engineers and beefed up the sales department.  I got a real bad feeling, did  a little research, and then figured that for sure we were on the market.

In early June, it was announced that we were bought by a middleware and analytics company from Silicon Valley which is private and owned by another Silicon Valley venture capital firm.  This was the 3rd turnover in about 3 years after 18 years of stability with the original owners.

In July, there was another major bloodletting of personnel.  My boss decided to relocate to Dallas and thought it was time to move on.  Another engineer took a new position with an oil and gas company.  So, one engineer was fired and 3 others were transferred to other positions.  If my boss and the other guy hadn’t moved on, then there would have been 3 persons fired.  And, we learned today if they hadn’t figured away to transfer 3 engineers into other positions in the new company, then 3 more people would have been fired.  That was the development department.  But, in the QA department, 4 people were let go.

About 3 years ago were were about 50 people in our office.  Now, we are about 30 people–maybe 10 of them software engineers like me. We have millions of lines of code.  I don’t know how we will be able to develop new features and maintain the old code.

Well, now… What do I mean about dangling the carrot again and hoping it is not shame on me?

The chief of engineering came and visited us to assure us today that everything was ok.  The company is doing great, and he hinted that in a few years we could be ripe for an IPO.  Where have I heard that before?  Only for a dozen years with the original owner… I can’t help but get excited about counting the money from an IPO, but then I think of what an idiot I was to believe the first owner.  Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me. I hope it’s not shame on me.

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My Thoughts on Trump’s Attack on Syria

  1. I won’t say whether it was wise or not. Honestly, time will tell.

    But questions to ask are…

    1) On what Intel did he base making the attacks? He said our intelligence agencies are crap and corrupt. Did he watch Hannity and decide? Sure, people were gassed we think. But, how do we know Assad did it?

    2) As for Assad, my Patriarch thinks he is the lesser of the other evils, so I go with him. The devil you know… There aren’t any good guys over there to support. When the revolution broke out, the “good guys” (not ISIS) were looting churches with big smiles on their faces.

    3) Trump gave the Russians a heads up of 60-90 minutes. I don’t necessarily object to that and it could help avoid escalation. But, Why were Russian troops on a base that supposedly had chemical weapons on it?

    4) Did Trump or any of his family or cronies buy long on Raytheon stock? It went up. They produce the Tomahawks. The Navy will have to buy some more to replace them.

    5) What’s Trump going to shoot this weekend? Sub 100? Sub 90?

    $60 million isn’t too much–the same cost as just a few weekends for the taxpayers to pay for him to be at Mar-a-Lago…

    6) Are we saying Assad can kill as many of his people as he wants as long as he doesn’t use chemical weapons?

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I don’t care about abortion…

…at least politically.  I agree with the Orthodox Church that it is a grave sin and is worthy of ex-communication, and I would never try to contract one for somebody or have one myself–especially since I am a male.  Isn’t that convenient?

I say I don’t care, because honestly, I’m like other pro-lifers.  Most pro-lifers even if they say they care, really don’t.  It’s just words to them…even if they march in pro-life rallies or stand outside abortion clinics.  If they really gave a shit, I’d expect them to be gaunt from fasting or trying to burn the clinics down.  Think of our response to the World Trade Center bombing.  We started an entire war over it with a country (Iraq) that had nothing to do with it  because 18 Saudi citizens and their leader based in Afghanistan carried out an attack on us.  Just as many babies are aborted every week in the USA as were killed in the WTC bombing, but no comparable response is mounted.  Why is that?

People just don’t care.  In their hearts, people know/believe that killing the unborn is different than killing the born.  Who has had time to emotionally bond with a fetus that is killed by the morning after pill?  Nobody.  Even the scriptures give different penalties for killing a fully grown human and for killing the unborn–see Exodus 21:22.

In general, I think nothing will be done about abortion.  I don’t believe pro-life politicians really care all that much.  I think they are more interested in holding onto voting blocks.  As long as the promise of Roe vs. Wade being overturned is held out as a carrot on a stick, the stupid mule voters will keep chasing the carrot.  It’s good for votes and it is good for business–all the “ministries” dedicated to wiping out Roe vs. Wade.  I wonder how much money is raked in annually by these folks?  The fat ministers on TV certainly are not fasting themselves to overturn Roe vs. Wade.  Just look at those fat bastards.

And, the thing is, even if Roe vs. Wade is overturned, it will just turn it over to the states.  It will slow down abortions, but it won’t stop someone from driving to California, NY, or Canada to have an abortion.

The thing is, and you wouldn’t know this watching Fox News or listing to right wing talk radio, but were there fewer abortions under Reagan or under Obama?  Reagan, right?  Nope, Obama.  See Guttmacher.  Less abortions under Clinton too than under Reagan.  In fact abortions have been declining for a long time.  Are Clinton or Obama responsible for lowering the abortions as compared to Reagan? Maybe, maybe not.  More funding for birth control education, and mandating insurance plans covering birth control (Obamacare) may prevent fewer unwanted pregnancies. If you have fewer unintended pregnancies, you’ll probably have fewer abortions.

When Roe vs. Wade was first overturned, there probably was a window where something permanent could have been done about abortion.  I would think a constitutional amendment might have been possible.  A constitutional amendment is a high bar, but back in the day, even Joe Biden probably would have been for it. But now, that moment seems to have passed.

I tend to vote more Democrat now because I’ve given up on abortion.  I look at the good I can accomplish with my vote, and helping feed the poor and provide them healthcare is better than a wasted vote on a pro-life candidate that won’t be successful.  I think it’s better to do the good I can do, than to waste my time on good that will never happen.  If two candidates were equal except on life, I’d vote for the pro-life candidate.  I see that even if the Republicans were actually successful and abortions were made illegal, then the Republicans, in general,  would be happy for the surviving babies to die of hunger or to not be educated or not be given healthcare.  Of course there are some Republicans with a heart, but they don’t generally get elected and they don’t have a voice on the airwaves.  To be truly pro-life is to be more than anti-abortion.  It should also mean to be pro fixing hunger, pro health, and pro education.  Those that claim to be pro-life are all too often against giving aid to people, against helping them with healthcare, and are always trying to figure ways on cutting education.

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God Bless President Trump

I didn’t vote for the guy.  It is unlikely I will change my mind for the next election, but you never can tell.

However…

He is the President of the United States.  Our liturgical prayers at my church this coming Sunday will be the same as they were last weekend.  We will pray the line (several times):

PRIEST: For the President of the United States and all civil authorities, and for the Armed Forces everywhere, let us pray to the Lord.

CHOIR: Lord, have mercy.

I hope he has a successful presidency. I hope it is marked by peace, civil rest, economic growth, and better lives for average Americans and the poor.  I will put off judgement on what others predict his policies will do and instead look at what they actually accomplish.  I do reserve the right to crack jokes, but I will likewise not be an alarmist like those who accused the former president of so much nonsense.

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Trump’s Nominees

As might be imagined, I don’t like a bunch of Trump’s nominees.  Some of them are OK.  For example, General Mattis for Secretary of Defense.  I have no problem of his appointment and of waiving his restriction.  Same with Kushner.  I don’t even know enough about him, but he is just being given an advisor job.  Sure, it skirts or even is nepotism…IDK.  If I was Trump, I’d just give him the job unpaid and there wouldn’t be the conflict.

However, some of Trump’s other picks are certainly right wing wet dreams.  I would phrase his picks as answers to this question, “How could I best destroy this branch of government?”

Betsy DeVos, Department of Education. Conservatives hate public education, or at least the Department of Education.  So who does Trump nominate? An avid foe of the department.  She and her children have never attended a public school or university.  What I am certain of is that she will try to get vouchers for private schools passed or done through executive power.  Basically, vouchers are tax breaks for rich people.  It’s mostly rich people who send their kids to school.  Yes, some are middle class, but it is people who have enough disposable income to send their children to private schools.

I confess that I sent my kids to private school.  My ex was a religious nut and was mortally afraid of public schools for no good reason.  There were plenty of public school teachers in her Sunday School class to quell her worries, but you can’t reason with crazy.  My kids’ former school is always sending me pleas for donations and to help get vouchers for the school.  I think that particular school, and others like it, should never have vouchers.  Why?  Because they discriminate against people–based on religion.  Many religious schools do not discriminate.  Catholics will accept evangelicals or muslims in their schools.  But, my kids’ evangelical school would accept neither catholics or anyone whose parent was not a fundamentalist evangelical christian.  I don’t think my tax dollars should be used to perpetuate discrimination.  The desire to discriminate against blacks was the reason the Moral Majority was founded.

Rick Perry, Department of Energy.  Here’s a guy who said he wanted to eliminate the entire department.  The main job of the DoE is to regulate, maintain, and store nuclear stockpiles.  In general, usually a guy with a PhD in Physics is the person that runs the department.  So, what are the credentials of Perry?  Educationally, he has a BS degree in Animal Science with a GPA of 2.something.  Go read his transcript.  He got a D in a class called “Meats”.  Maybe he can hire the right people to do the thinking for him.

Scott Pruitt, Environmental Protection Agency.  This one is sort of the scariest to me.  Pruitt is a tool of the oil and gas industry.  He will never decide in the favor or our health over polluting by the energy industry.  His record as Attorney General for Oklahoma is pretty clear:  he hates the agency and is bought by big oil and natural gas.

Ben Carson, Department of Housing and Urban Development.  Besides Trump saying that Carson is pathological, Carson just doesn’t seem to me to be the person capable of running anything.  He may be a brain surgeon, but I wouldn’t trust him for anything besides that.

Jeff Sessions, Attorney General.  He was denied to be a federal judge by Republicans more than 30 years ago because of alleged discrimination.  Now, he wants to be AG.  I worry.  However, I think some of the testimony is BS.  They have letters from famous civil rights figures, but not much in way of direct testimony.  Any testimony either way should be able to be cross examined.  That is the way it is supposed to work.  I think the fact that he is Republican and that there are fewer decent Republicans means that he will be confirmed in the nomination.

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What I know about Mexicans, #2

Without the Mexicans in this country, we’d starve.

I don’t live in a border state, but a border state to a border state.The border of Mexico is a 700 mile drive from my house.  Yet, if I go into nearly any restaurant in this town, I will see Mexicans (and other Hispanics) as cooks, bus boys, and waiters.  Heck, even in Pei Wei, the majority of the cooks are Mexicans.  In the Braum’s by my office, it’s all Mexicans except for the the black woman manager and one white girl.  The McDonald’s by my house and the one near my office?  Mostly Mexicans.

So, you don’t go out to eat?  Who do you think picks the fruits and vegetables in your produce section.  It’s mostly Mexicans.  You like wine?  Who picks the grapes?  Mexicans.  You like juice?  Thank Mexicans.  I could go on.

Don’t believe me?  Listen to Anthony Bourdain.

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What I know about Mexicans #1

I married a Mexican woman in February of 2016.  When I say Lourdes, my wife, is Mexican, I mean she was born in Mexico and lived in Mexico until we were married. Not like the Indiana born judge that Trump called an unfair “Mexican”. Lourdes has a 17 year old daughter, Ingrid, and a 26 year old son, Guillermo.  Ingrid immigrated with Lourdes when she immigrated and Guillermo had to remain in Mexico.

Lourdes was middle class for a Mexican, but poor for an American.  She was a paralegal for the federal court in Nuevo Laredo and only had to take occasional side jobs to pay the bills.  Lourdes raised both of her children with no child support paid by her ex-husband.  She has a house (800 sq ft, one bathroom) that we are still making the mortgage payments on.  She was able to hustle and get Ingrid  a scholarship to a private school.  Ingrid who only attended Spanish speaking schools in Mexico is getting nearly all A’s here in the US–the exception, a high B in biology, but an A in English with regular old American kids.

Guillermo is attending university in Mexico for industrial engineering and has an internship with Kia in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon.  Guillermo’s rent is 3800 pesos–$190 USD.  I don’t know what the internship pays.  I don’t think it is a lot and I did not ask.  Besides the internship he also Ubers.  I can’t imagine he can make much money at it since gasoline in Mexico is over $3.50 USD per gallon.  It used to be cheaper and they are now having riots and protests in Mexico over it.

Lourdes, Ingrid, and I travelled  to Mexico after Navidad (Christmas) for Nuevo Año (New Year’s).  I asked Guillermo how much employers pay at somewhere like McDonald’s in Mexico.  He said he has friends in Mexico who work there, and for 48 hours a week, they bring home something like 800-900 pesos…or $40-$45 USD.  If rent is 3800 peso, then a job at McDonald’s is not going to cut it.  It takes both people working generally and some with two jobs and not just one.  The other thing is that food is cheaper in Mexico, but not that cheap.  It’s half price on some things, maybe a little cheaper on local produce, but meat is not a great deal.  If you try to buy McDonald’s, it is going to be 60% of the US price–but the wages for the worker is a net of less than $1 per hour.

When I travel to Mexico, I see how blessed my life in the US is.

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Economic Progress Under Obama, #4

This is strictly anecdotal…

I have been an engineer for 30 years, and I have been writing software professionally for 20+ years.  When Bill Clinton was president, especially in his second term, I had headhunters bothering me like crazy.  They were constantly asking me if I wanted a new job.  Under Bush, it was rather anemic.  I did have one decent inquiry from Microsoft around 2006 or so, but other than that, there wasn’t much action.  I would say that it continued that way under Obama for the first 6 years of his term with only occasional inquiries.  Over the past two years it has picked up gradually and increasingly.  In the last 6 months, it has picked up quite a bit.  In the last two months, I have to shake them off with a stick.  Some of it may  be that I updated my Monster profile, IDK.  I just know that the economy is humming much better now than it did under the end of the Bush years.

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