Monday, January 31, 2011

Fat City

Got an email from somebody who wanted to know what that body percentage thing was all about–more specifically the fat part.


There are several ways for determining how much of your body is fat and not-fat. When people say "lean mass," that's not quite what they mean, because it includes stuff other than muscle–bones, organs, fluids, nervous and connective tissue, all like that. Not important here.

You can do pinch tests with calipers. There are tests in which you get dunked in water, electronic resistance measure, even MRIs, and you can buy a bathroom scale supposed to determine it if you stand on it barefoot. These vary as to accuracy. Again, the starting accuracy is less important than if it goes down or up.

The mirror test is still the best. You can't be fat and look lean. The abs are a rough measure you can use as a rule-of-thumb: Generally–not always, but generally–at fifteen percent body fat, you can't see 'em. At twelve percent, you can flex, and maybe see them a good overhead light, at least the top four and maybe the bottom pack. At ten percent, you can't miss them. At eight or nine percent, you don't need to flex them, you can see them whenever you look.

People who want to flash a six-pack (not a keg) do better to lose weight overall than to spend too much time working their abs. Doesn't matter how strong they are, if you are more than fifteen percent body fat, they won't show. Spot-reducing usually doesn't work in healthy people.

Ultra low body fat is not a measure of fitness per se. If you are anorexic or bulemic? Not so good. Too skinny can be as bad as too fat, despite the old adage than you can't be too rich or too thin. You can be at least one of those.

For the sake of an example, let's say that you weigh two hundred pounds and you have determined that your body fat percentage is, say, fifteen percent. What that means is that you have thirty pounds of fat and a hundred and seventy pounds of everything else. (There are formulas for separating out the everything else, but they don't concern us for the purpose of this discussion.)

Which means you can do ratios and determine how much you need to lose to get to what percentages. For this example: If you drop ten pounds and it's fat and not muscle, then you will weigh one-ninety, and twenty pounds of that will be fat. Divide it out, and you now carry a little over ten percent body fat.

If you stand in front of a mirror and flex your abs in the light, you will see them. Serious bodybuilders will try to come in at 6-8% body fat, and will look cut at those percentages. Below that, you start to look like a skinned chicken.

You can't get to zero and still walk around. A certain percentage is necessary for cushioning your organs, so a couple-three percent is the basement; you won't see this, it's not under the skin but usually in the thoracic cavity and in dribs and drabs in other spots.

There you you have the quick lesson in blubberology for the day ...

More Stories R Us

And another teaser ...

Steve Perry

“How old are you, kid?”
The naked demon–he called himself Larry–was, at eight feet, six inches taller than Roy, and had a dong that would scare a female rhino. FNG–a fucking new guy, and Roy was tasked with showing him the ropes.
Not that there were that many ropes to learn around here. You watched the gate. You let some in, you let some out. Not exactly designing and building thermonuclear bombs, was it?
“Almost half a million,” Larry said.
Roy shook his head. A baby. But even so, why he’d been sent to work the South Gate wasn’t right, he knew that. The kid looked too sharp–not that you were necessarily stupid if you got gate duty. Roy himself was no Einstein, but he knew which way the nova flared, thank-you-very-fucking-much. Better than stirring boiling yak turds, for damn sure. Way fucking better than doing A&R in Music. 
He still shuddered at that memory, save for that one tiny bright spot, about which he could never speak, and he’d worked to get this job. Not as good as driving the street-sweeper on the Chief’s private road or anything, but still, it was easy duty. 
Roy was four million, give or take a couple thousand years, and easy duty was something worth scheming to get.
“So ... who’d you piss off?”
“Excuse me?”
“You play poker?”
“Well, we’ll fix that. We love FNGs. What I’m saying here is, you don’t strike me as the kind of guy who would be shipped to work the gate kiosk, you hear what I’m sayin’?”
“I don’t understand. What do you mean?”
Roy nodded a little, leaned back in his chair. The chair creaked under his three hundred and fifty pounds. Okay, he could play it that way.
“You don’t look like a red-collar guy.”
“Why do you say that?”
Roy grinned. “I didn’t just fall off the fire truck yesterday, son. Your horns are expensive, understated diamond-clads. Your fangs? Diamond caps to match the horns. That watch on your wrist? That’s a Vacheron Costantin Tour de l’Ile, or the best copy I’ve ever seen. You didn’t get those talons on your toes from Lee’s Press-on Nails, somebody spent a lot of time and wore out some nice files shaping those. Everything about you screams ‘Money’ and ‘High Class.’ Guys like you work so far away that if a bomb went off there right now it would take a month for the sound to get here.”
There was a pause, eight or nine seconds, and finally the kid smiled and nodded. “You’re  smarter than you look.”
“Yeah, I get that a lot.”
Roy waited.
Finally, Larry said, “Let’s just say, I zigged when I should have zagged, and somebody higher up the chain of command decided I need to learn a little humility.”
“And they figured nobody is more humble than ole Roy, hey?”
“Not exactly.” He shrugged. “I’m guessing it’s not the first time you’ve dealt with this kind of thing.”
Roy grinned. “Right about that. Somebody is always pissing off somebody here. And even the mighty do fall low. I mean, the Chief surely knows that story.” 
Larry nodded.
“Forget it,” Roy said. “It’s history. You show up, do the job, we’ll get along fine. No totally clean slates in Hell, are there?”
“I appreciate that, Roy.”
“No problem. Well, there is one you need to know about. The old lady who lives next door? Mrs. Bentley? You might have occasion to deal with her, and there’s some stuff about her ... 
“First, get a kilt. She shows up, put it on. She doesn’t like naked dongs, and if she sees yours, you’ll be sorry–she’s tough, and she’s got a tongue like a razor.”
“A little old human lady?”
“Yeah–who grabbed one of the Chief’s favorite hellhounds when it got out and chased her cat. She collected like it was a puppy and locked it in her fucking basement.”
“You heard that story?”
“I’ve seen the hound around. He used to be a hellacious monster, couldn’t get within a block of him without him trying to chew your leg off. Something happened to him, he got really quiet.”
Roy filed that one away. Kid had seen The Chief’s hound?
“Yeah. Well, a couple other things about her ...”

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Little Philosophy

Up at the top of this blog there is this:


This is one of my philosophical touchstones, and on the face of it, simple. Do the best you can, you can't do any better; do less? Up to to you, but good karma might not accrue as well.

If it's worth doing, it's worth doing well. Take your best shot. Give it the old college try. Don't settle for less. Go big or go home. Swing for the rafters ...

I've always liked the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, those underground comic book characters from the sixties, whose lives revolved around weed, sex, and general hippie-ness. There is one story, starring Freewheelin' Frank, that, in particular, speaks to this topic:

Frank is walking down the street, minding his own business, when he is hassled by a couple of rednecks in a pickup truck. They call him names, and haw-haw! at him. 

Clever comeback, he thinks. Why can't I ever think up  a clever comeback?

Oh, well. I'll just have to be as clever as I can be, under the circumstances:

"Eat shit and die, motherfuckers!"

Lot of wisdom there ...

Saturday, January 29, 2011

White Death Revisited

Back in October of last year, I went in for my physical. Mostly everything was fine, but my bloodwork had a couple elevations -- total cholesterol was up ten points over the line, and the ratio of LDL to HDL was not where I wanted it–LDL is the "bad," stuff, HDL, the "good." And my triglycerides, which had been higher, were still elevated–not dangerously so, but enough to make me frown. 

So I did the research and came up with a conclusion–you can read the original post on White Death, herebut the short version is that mostly giving up sugar, and cutting back on alcohol and saturated fats, plus adding in some fish oil, was the way to fix this.

I don't eat much red meat anyhow, but I didn't give up chicken, turkey, fish, or shellfish, i.e., shrimp and crab.

I had intended to wait until the end of February to re-check it, figuring four months was a goodly amount of time to see a difference. I have a CardioChek machine, which is supposed to be + or - 5% accurate when compared to a lab's test. (Less important the exact accuracy than are the results with the same machine over time. A bathroom scale can be off a pound or two, but if you are losing or gaining weight and you use that scale, you will see a drop or rise in the numbers that likely maintain the ratio.)

My wife wanted to get a baseline on her blood, since she started a new diet, so we went ahead and did a check on total cholesterol and triglycerides. (I would have done the HLD/LDL breakout, but those strips were expired, and they won't run after the expiration date.)

A home blood test is considerably cheaper than having it done at the clinic, even if you factor in the one-time cost of the machine itself, which I've had for several years. Strips for the tests run about four and a half bucks each, and usually come in lots of three. 

So–can I get a drum roll here?–both my total cholesterol and triglycerides are down. 

Cholesterol not so much, but thirty points lower, and well inside the acceptable range even with the + or - margin of error. I'd like to drop it another few points, but moving the right way.

But cutting out White Death? My triglycerides went through the floor–down by more than a hundred and twenty points. 

I expected it to drop, but not so much so soon; I'll recheck it another day to be sure–you do these tests 12-hour fasting, by the by–but boy, howdy, am I pleased that giving up sweets paid off. If I'd skipped all that candy, cake, and pie and it hadn't dropped? I'd be pissed.

So, it's anecdotal, but at least in my case, fixing high triglycerides can be done by simple changes in diet. Plus my bodyfat is down. Win-win here.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Sneak Peak - New Roy

Eventually, the story will be up for e-sale somewhere–Dan has allowed he'd handle it, even though he won't make anything on it. This is why, when you are a short story writer, unless you are Harlan Ellison, you don't go looking for an agent. Ten or fifteen percent of not much is, well, really not much.

But, hereunder the first scene in the new adventures of Roy the Demon, of whom I am growing more fond all the time. Might be a series of stories here, cobbled into a collection, and sold to the movies or TV for big bucks. Someday.

Never know ...

The teaser is Rated-R for language. If you are offended by such–what are you doing here?

Steve Perry
Roy looked at his hand, then at the table. He had a hidden pair of jacks, and the flop gave him the third, so he’d made a set, hot damn!–but the turn card was a five, and there was a four and a six on the table. 
When the river card was flipped up, it was a fucking trey.
Three, four, five, six, right there, bold as fucking brass. 
There were half a dozen players: Larry, the swing shift supervisor in the Pit of Boiling Feces; Jeanette, who ran the Pitchfork-in-Ass Torment crew on Six; Billy Joe, from Legal; Solomon, who was in Actors, and Sweet Melissa, also on the South Gate, as was Roy. Melissa was sitting in for Mtumbo, who was visiting relatives in the recently-annexed Echo Park.
Fucking Texas Hold ‘em, and with that river card, somebody had maybe filled out a wheel, all they needed was a deuce or a seven, and that would turn his three jacks into a pile of old dog turds.
Roy concentrated on his cards, trying to change one of the jacks into a seven, but outside of a faint shimmer, nothing happened. Lot of cheaters in Hell, and the cards were proof against all but really big magic, which none of the demons at the table had.
Somebody opened the door to the casino, and a flash of bright orange strobed the poker room. Supposed to be a super-nova out there today, and it looked like it had arrived.
Jacks were always scary–lot of chips had gone down the toilet by betting they were good, even three of them, and with eight cards that would give somebody a straight, the smart move would be to muck the jacks and move on to the next hand. 
But: Nobody was showing a two or a seven, no pairs high enough to threaten him even if they made a set, and he didn’t see a flush building. No pairs on the board. Crap. What to do? 
Roy was just a gate keeper and no math whiz, but he knew there was a good chance that out of five players, somebody got the straight–eight fucking outs? 
He needed a minute.
Roy stood and stretched, all seven-and-a-half feet of him, then scratched at his naked crotch.
Jeanette shook her head.
“What?” Roy said.
“I think she’s impressed with your savoir-faire, Roy,” Sweet Melissa said. “You gonna bet or keep playing pocket pool there?”
Roy sat. Nobody was giving him a tell he could read, they were a pretty tight bunch–if after a few million years you couldn’t make a decent poker face, you were hopeless–but maybe nobody tagged the straight? Be a shame to lose the time–there were chips amounting to forty hours already on the table, and the pot could mount up to more than a hundred if somebody wanted to try a bluff to steal it. 
In the grand cosmic scheme of things, a week or two wasn’t squat against how long you’d be in Hell, but still, a week lying by a bubbling lake of lava under a warm sulphur breeze was way more fun than watching the gate–knowing that the ancient Mrs. Bentley from next door could show up at the kiosk at any moment to bitch about the hellhounds chasing her fucking cat Sylvester again. Last time that had happened, he’d had to sign a damned Contract to get Baskerville back–a little old lady had collected the fucking hellhound like it was nothing, which told you something right there–and while gate duty was better than stirring hot bubbling feces all day, there was nothing as good as somebody else having to sub for you and letting you do whatever you fucking pleased.
Still, the jacks could be good. He had to at least test the waters here.
“Eighty,” Roy said. He shoved chips into the pot. He was still ahead if he lost this hand. 
Solomon raised a furry eyebrow. “You got the seven or the deuce?”
Roy kept his face impassive. He gave Solomon a look. “Bet, and find out.”
Solomon held his gaze for a moment, then grinned. “Nah. Either one beats me.” He tossed his cards into the muck.
Larry and Billy Joe had already folded. Jeanette looked at her cards, shook her head. “I think you’re bluffing Roy, but I’m out.”
So it was just Roy and Sweet Melissa. Maybe she’d fold, too.
She gave him a smile that would freeze boiling tungsten. “I’m all in.”
Well, fuck me with a rusty crowbar!
If he covered her bet, it would put him all in, too, and since he was up in the rotation, he’d be working Melissa’s shift for at least a week, given how the minutes were parsed. It was arcane, how that went, but, hey, it was Hell–everything was arcane. Whaddya gonna do?
“I don’t think you have that straight,” Roy said.
Melissa could have been carved from stone for all her expression showed. Then she smiled again. “You don’t think much at all, Roy, we all know that.”
Three jacks. A good hand with six players, but a straight on the board, lacking one card on either end? It was a gamble.
Then again, if he had to cover her shift, no big deal–it would be the same job, right?
“I call,” Roy said. He laid down his jacks.
And of course, Sweet Melissa, the poxy bitch, flipped over the seven of spades. “My, my. Look at that.”
Oh, well. Roy shook his head. “Win some, lose some.”
Sweet Melissa smiled. “Did I mention that I’ve been transferred? My last shift on the gate was yesterday.”
Roy felt his belly roil, as if something alive and unhappy to be in his stomach decided it was going to claw its way out. “Transferred?”
“Yeah.” She waited a second. Two seconds. “To Music.”
“Motherfucker,” Roy said.
“Worse than that,” Melissa said. “I used to work that section, too, and I know.”

Satan's Pork Chops

In our quest for healthy-but-tasty vegetarian things, we have come across seitan, aka "wheat meat," which is made from wheat gluten, and spiced with this and that in an attempt to make it palatable.

Pronounced the same way as "Satan," far as I can tell, thus the clever title. However, I didn't take this as a good sign. 

My wife mixed some up. Kind of like falafel.

Sort of.

I confess I was more than a little dubious about this, but what the heck, anything tastes good fried and with enough ketchup, right?

Actually, this stuff does taste pretty good. Not so much itself, but since it takes on the flavors of whatever you mix it with, and it has a kind of chewy, minced-fish texture, we came up with some faux-fish sticks, rolled 'em in flour and corn meal, dropped them into the hot oil, and got something looked like, and pretty much tasted like, Mrs. Paul's best ...

Good enough so I'd eat it again.

Learn something new every day, if you keep the door to your mind open a crack ...


In the excitement of the new short story and song and all, I forgot to mention something that happened at the most recent jam session of the DFUs.

We were still setting up, adjusting chairs, tuning instruments, like that. Normally, once everybody is ready, we pick a song with which to start. The group has been playing for a while, long before I showed up, and they have a pretty good repertoire. If it's a song we mostly know, somebody counts it down, usually Ian, and we crank. If it's a new one, we pass out copies of the lyrics and chord progressions, decide on a key, and generally, whoever brought it sings the lead and we give it a go.

As we were finishing tuning, I started noodling with the chords for the old folk blues, "House of the Risin' Sun." Been around forever, that one, and it got to the top forty in the mid-sixties, with the version done by The Animals. It was one of the first songs I learned on the guitar, and the first using arpeggios, which is a sequential fingerpicking of the notes in the chords, usually a bass line, and trebles played both ascending and descending. Listen to the guitar player in the video.

So I'm just fooling around with this, warming up my fingers, when Ian comes in with his mandolin, picking out a lead. Sounded pretty good. 

After a couple chords, Lou and Jesse added their guitars, strumming rhythm.

Nancy and Casey, both on keyboards, jumped in, and of a moment, I started singing. We did a pretty decent rendition of it, and even managed to end it in unison. It wasn't in our shared repertoire, nor had we played it since I've been going. 

Good musicians do this all the time, of course, that's what a jam is, but I found this bit of spontaneous collaboration, no intent or direction, just cranking one up to be worth a big smile and a little amazement. Huh. Listen to that!

Way cool. 

This Month's Song

I haven't done a new blues song in a while, so, and I was writing a Roy the Demon story yesterday, so ...

Woke up Dead Blues (Am)
(Am) I woke up this mornin’, (Dm) turned out I was (Am) dead/
Yeah, I (Dm) woke up this mornin', turned out I was (Am) dead/
When (E7) you wake up not breathin’ (walk it down - E7,D#7,D7) it really screws with your (Am) head. (Am) (Dm) (Am) (Turnaround - bass line - D, D#, E)
The Reaper stood by my window, I heard him clear as a bell/
Yeah, The Reaper stood my my window, I heard him clear as a bell/
He said, We better get movin,’ cause it’s a long way to Hell.
You better pack some popcorn, he said with a smile/ 
Yeah, you better pack some popcorn, he said with a smile/
You gonna be hungry when we get there, and the food there is vile.
I’m a walkin’ dead man, right down to my shoes/
Yeah, I’m a walkin’ dead man, right down to my shoes/
I’m on my way to meet the Devil, I got the Woke up Dead Blues.
Repeat first verse, and out. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Stories R Us

So I got a draft. I'll re-read it and fiddle with it some, but I think I have the basics down on the second Roy the Demon short story, "A&R." I'll stick it up for like $.99, and probably, if Dan Moran will have it, offer there as an exclusive, at least for a couple weeks, before I port it to Smashwords and 

Least I can do, all the work Dan has been doing for me on the conversions. If you have in mind getting one of my books in e-form, check by FS& first, hey?

Roy the Demon - Another Wild Hair Story

A year and a half or so ago, I wrote a short story called "Neighbors," detailing the adventures of Roy the demon,  a guard on Hell's south gate. Roy is your typical seven-and-a-half-feet-tall red devil, horns, like that, beset by the little old lady who lives next door, and who comes off second best in the encounter.

It was strange, and, if I do say so myself, funny little story that ended with the line "Hell was little old ladies with cats."

Eventually, I stuck it up on, packaged with a couple other stories I wrote, and went on my merry way.

Yesterday, for some reason, Roy came up in my thoughts: I had an image of him playing Texas Hold 'Em at a table with some other demons. So, as I do when these things fall upon me from the aether, I wrote the scene. 

One scene led to another. For those of you not writers, the progression is not that difficult. You just keep wondering: And then what happened? And you write down what you think happens next, and eventually, you get to the end of the story.

I'm have an idea -- though I'm not certain -- where the tale is going to end up, but I already have Roy losing the hand of cards and having to work somebody's shift -- they play poker for time chits, in Hell.

Right now, he's doing the stint as an A&R (Arts and Repertoire) guy in the Music Section of Hell, and listening to some really, really bad musical acts. 

I'll let you know how it goes ...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Don't Bogart Those Weights My Friend ... *

* First the explanation of the title, for those of you who missed (or can't remember) the 60's. Or the 40s and 50's ...

Humphrey Bogart, the late tough-guy actor and star of several classic motion pictures, was a major cigarette smoker. Paid for it in lung cancer, which killed him. In some of his movies, he has a cigarette glued to a lip while he talks, fights, makes love, showers ... well, okay, I wax hyperbolic, but you get the idea. The coffin nail would just sit there and smoke, he wasn't even bothering to inhale.

In the 60's, when some amongst the hippie culture would sit and pass a reefer around for the communal getting-stoned evening, people would sometimes hold it without taking their toke. Probably because they were stoned and forgot, but the saying, Hey, Bogart, pass it! came to be. Little Feat wrote a song about it, or maybe it was the Dead or Country Joe. They all sang versions, and in it, turned the noun into a verb. 

Um. Anyway, that's what it means.

So today at the gym, which had all of six people there, including my wife and myself, there was this guy on the pec-deck machine. He was on it when we got there, and still on it when we left, and an irritant to the other five of us, if dirty looks are any indication.

Gym protocol generally says that if you are going to do multiple sets on a station, you look around now and then and if somebody is standing there waiting, or steps up and asks if they can jump in and do a set, you relinquish it, let them do a set, and then get back to it. 

Otherwise, you are an inconsiderate, selfish asshole. Good luck on finding a spotter when you start squats or benches.

Maybe this fellow was peripherally blind, that could be. Not totally, because he was watching himself in the mirror pretty good. 

I didn't push him. There are half a dozen ways to work your pectorals elsewhere, from the bench press to dumbbell flyes to a couple of bench press-style stations, freeweight and Smith Machine, and if none of those were there, you could do push-ups. (Though if I wanted to do push-ups, I'd stay home. I drive to the gym because they have stuff I don't have at home.) The pec-deck hits the muscles in a slightly different way, and you can get a good pump there without straining your back or triceps.

But it was not to be today. 

And the funny part -- and this seems to be the way of it -- was that the station hog perched there as if glued to the seat always seems to be the same guy: A pencil-neck who huffs and blows and grunts and makes a lot of noise as he strains to work a forty-pound stack, ogling himself in the mirror and then stretching between sets as if the amount of weight your ten-year-old could move was a steel block the size of a Volkswagen ...

It's sad, really. And irritating ...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

More on Jack LaLanne

Check out Dan Moran's appreciation of Jack, here. Good stuff.

I Got Your Back

If you live long enough, eventually you will almost certainly be among those who have back problems. When we went from four-legged to two-legged, if you believe in evolution, the back structure didn't get the memo and still lags behind.

Sooner or later, almost everybody pulls their low back, and sometimes, to the point of permanent, disabling injury. 

If you are more inclined to a creationist view -- which, by the by, is not incompatible with evolution, as long as you look at it the right way -- why God gave humans weak backs is beyond me. Ask Him.

Um. Anyway, the torso, the trunk around which we are built, can be strengthened. There are exercises to make your back muscles stronger, and while even the most powerful of them can still be strained, a strong back is better than not.

You can also compensate for the intrinsic weakness by developing the other trunk muscles, notably those in the front and sides, the rectus and transverse abdominis and obliques, like that.  A strong belly will help you keep from hurting your back if you learn how to do it. 

I don't think sit-up or crunches are the best way, but better than nothing. I like doing chins in an L-sit. And there are some others I like, including an old yoga exercise called rectus rolling. Hard to see this if your body fat is too high -- I think mine is probably a hair under 12% or so now, higher than I want -- I'd be happier at 9% or 10% -- but I can show this one even so.


The simple way you do this is to lean forward and press against your thighs with your hands. Suck your belly in and lean onto one hand, then switch the pressure to the other hand, and voila! you get the roll. Experts can do this without using their hands, but I'm not there yet. 

The Madness of SoCal

Woodland Hills House

Pushing three decades ago, my collaborator Reaves and his then-wife bought a house up in Woodland Hills, which was usually just outside the smog curtain that generally enshrouds Los Angeles. About fifteen miles due north of the Pacific Ocean, via Topanga Canyon, Woodlands Hills was an upscale community that seemed to be peopled by movie folk, retirees, and the occasional dope dealer.

Observe the house they lived in. It was a wood-framed place, apparently in the flight paths of local hawks; now and then, you'd hear a thump! and realize that a large bird had just smacked into the outside wall. 

In the hottest days of summer, the AC managed to keep it cool, but it had a not-unpleasant smell of baked wood. 

One winter when I was visiting, there was a dusting of snow. It happened at night, and the darkness was lit by flashbulbs as people hurried outside to snap pictures. Me, too.

The house sat upon a hollow concrete box that formed a kind of above-ground basement, teeming with black widow spiders. I got plastered at a party there once and for some reason, it seemed like a good idea to go to that spider-infested place and hang out. But that's another story ...

Um. Anyway, it was an artist's house, lots of stairs and windows and balconies looking out over the valley, and designed pretty much for a family without small children or dogs. Reaves tricked out the garage into a movie room, big screen TV, and there they were.

Within a couple years, they had the first of three children and a dog, the multiple stairs were less workable, and they eventually moved to the flats, to a hacienda-style place once owned by the champion swimmer and actor Buster Crabbe, which, when it was built, had the largest private swimming pool in the area. Movies were filmed there, including one of Elvis's. 

Yet another story.

I posted this just to show how crazy people can be. Southern California, the home of biblical disasters -- earthquakes, mudslides, forest fires. And here's this house, perched there like a raptor's aerie, waiting for the Big One ...

Brynne Chandler & Michael Reaves

The second picture, taken at the Woodland Hills house, I recall as being Reaves' fortieth birthday, though I might be wrong about that. That's him opening the package and grinning at some of the contents, his ex- in the b.g.

I remember buying him a bunch of stuff like Geritol and laxative and hemorrhoid cream and such as gag gifts. Funny then. Not as funny these days ... 

Monday, January 24, 2011


Out of curiosity, I logged onto Smashwords and took a gander at their Top 100 Books. Not that I have any there or even close, but I was curious as to what was moving, and wondering if I could figure out why. 

Turned out to be less work than I thought.

Free books are selling pretty well.

Of the top 100 books, eighty-four of them are free, and can be read online -- you don't even have to download 'em, you don't want. 

Of the others, most are $.99, a few in the $1.99-2.99 range. There's an oddball for $1.50, a couple at $4.99, and only one for more than ten bucks -- #100, a non-fiction book on having your baby through egg donation, list price for that one, $15.00.

The #1? Smashwords' own how-to book on submissions and formatting and such. Because pretty much everybody who wants to submit a book has to get it.

At, it's harder, because sales are broken up into assorted categories. The bestsellers are those that are e-versions of treeware bestsellers. 

Have a look at Champion of the Dead at its peak:

Looks pretty cool -- until you see the overall rank:

              #35,444 Paid in Kindle Store ...

Which, with millions of titles is not so bad, but what it means is if you sell fifteen or twenty copies, you make the sub-list. And if you sell a couple dozen copies all at once and sample the sales figures at just the right moment, you'll have a best-seller in that moment, because Amazon's numbers are time-linked. Come an hour, maybe even a minute from when you look, you're off the list, but for a brief and shining moment, you might be the sales leader. It's a good bragging point, but it doesn't mean a whole lot. 

Still, it is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick ...


Apropos Jack LaLanne and his long-time quest for health and fitness, a discussion about diet and exercise. I bring this up also because I just read another wildly popular diet and exercise book that makes me shake my head in wonder. (As a bonus, this one promises a fifteen-minute orgasm for your lady. Hey, that would be worth the cost all by itself, but it's a bait-and-switch -- the orgasm doesn't last fifteen minutes. It takes fifteen minutes to get there, and the favored position is left-handed. Sounds sinister to me.)

First, the extremes -- and why genetics surely plays a part in how healthy you are and how long you might live. 

I know a guy. He's morbidly obese -- he lugs around more than three hundred pounds, and I'm guessing his bodyfat percentage is 60%. Standing up exhausts him. Getting out of bed is probably the most exercise he gets on an average day, and that's a chore. I've known him for years, and he's always been this way -- that he is still alive has to be a testament to choosing your parents wisely, because everything about the man screams poor health.

He's a vegetarian. Has been most of his life.


Vegetables aren't a panacea and the only road to health, of course. If you eat a lot of fresh fruit and veggies, drink a gallon of water every day, exercise well and often, there's no guarantee it will get you to five score if nobody in your family ever made it past forty. It will ameliorate some of what you get born with -- genetics loads the gun, but as often as not, it's environment and action that pull the trigger. Avoiding known risk factors for what killed your family early might not be enough, but it shades the odds your way. I know people who have done it. 

You wouldn't think I'd need to say this, but apparently there are people who either don't know or don't believe this. 

If your father died of a heart attack at forty and you live on the couch, smoke, drink too much, and chow down on bacon-wrapped bacon burgers washed down with milkshakes? If the last vegetable you had was the impression of the pickle you took off the Triple Whopper with bacon and cheese? You got nine strikes against you. It's on you if the Reaper comes to the party early. You know it, I know it, and pretending otherwise is apt to be fatal. 

If you are the kind of vegetarian who eats a football-sized baked potato laden with a pound of butter, a quart of sour cream, piled high with melted cheese under a generous dusting of crushed potato chips? Might as well go for the prime rib and not bother.  

Despite what loons like Atkins say about all fat and meat and no carbs being good for you, it's not. Empty carbs, simple sugars? Yeah, leave 'em out. Beans? Legumes? Leafy green stuff? Nothing unhealthy about those, and our crappy eating habits are turning us into a nation of fatties and type-two diabetics at an epidemic rate.Two-thirds of us are too fat, and we are not getting skinnier. 

Extremes. Too skinny is bad. Too fat is bad. If you can look in the mirror and see your six-pack, probably you don't need to lose weight. If you got that way eating nothing but steaks and eggs and the Mickey D's cholesterol special, looking good isn't the same as being healthy.

Don't say I didn't warn you.