Monday, September 29, 2008

Yes, Virginia, the Dow CAN Hit Zero

Rule Number One. The Dow can hit zero (and, if you haven't written any naked calls, it'll definitely stop there).

The Dow didn't actually hit zero today. But it sure looked like it was trying.

The bailout failed. Even my dingbat Republican Representative voted against it.

But here's whats important.

This is Reaganomics, in it's most grotesque form, coming home to roost. Reaganomics, aka "Voodoo Economics", turned the financing of our nation on it's head. Reagan railed against taxes, and especially railed against the Democrats who raised them.

What he proposed (and got) instead, was debt. Rather than taxing us to finance the government and to buy swell stuff from foreigners (like oil) he, instead, foisted off the bill to future generations.

Rather than being a Tax and Spend Democrat, he became a Borrow and Spend Republican. His cavalier disregard for future generations was sloughed off as "don't worry -- we'll be wealthy" and by freakishly Pollyanaish thinking on his part.

After him, rather than raise taxes, the Republicans kept cutting them -- and raising the debt ceiling to pay for all the shit we actually needed -- like an Army and a Navy and an Air Force and oil. Not to mention some piddling-assed social welfare programs which they blamed for everything and then slashed the f*ck out of.

Nobody has envisioned and carried out Ronnie Raygun's dream of a debt-ridden tomorrow (and tax-free today!) better than our current president, George W. SilverSpoonissoontobesentpackingbacktoTexas-ThankYewJeebus.

I think that Ronnie was kind of hoping that we'd all be dead by the time the bills came due.

Which just goes to show you -- never trust an out of work actor (or writer, or a faux Good 'Ol Boy who never worked a day in his life) -- especially when it comes time to pay the bills.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Big Five-Oh

As I tiptoed onto the scales, stark naked, at 4:55 a.m. this morning I wasn't looking for anything spectacular. But then I looked down.

229 pounds, it read in it's ominous red lcd display.

My God. I've lost 51 pounds since August 11th.

Then I had a glass of orange juice (pulpless, no sugar added) and checked my weight again. 230. Crap. Only 50 pounds.

I'm amazed.

I ordered new belts and a new Meltonian jacket from Orvis yesterday. While I was there I ordered up some brass luggage tags, engraved with my name and address, on the outside chance that I might want to travel again -- now that I'm trim and svelte and lovely to look at once again.

Listen, all joking aside, if there is anyone out there who drops in here now and then (we used to call those folks "lurkers" back on Compuserve in the middle ages of the 90's) who suffers from even mild obesity and also has Type II Diabetes and Sleep Apnea, don't even think twice about this -- find a bariatric surgeon in your health plan and schedule a consultation regarding Roux en Y gastric bypass with her/him NOW. Yes, your insurance company will make you jump through endless hoops to have it done, but just do it.

It will transform your life as much as it's transformed mine.

Babies, I've gone from being a sick old man to being a hot middle-aged guy (again). And it was worth every single thing I went through to get here.

On to politics and the election.

Apparently Sarah Palin is as stupid as she sounds. I've been watching interviews with her on YouTube and if the question is too uncomfortable she falls right back onto her talking points. And she manages to mangle those, too.

Do YOU really want this woman to be a heartbeat away from the Presidency? I don't.

Meanwhile, I see that Senator McCain, at the White House shouting match yesterday, singlehandedly caused the financial sector bailout to fall apart, which is totally okay by me. Nobody except God came and bailed me out when I got into trouble starting 14 years ago. And with God's help, I dug my own way out. As far as I'm concerned, all those big institutions can do exactly the same thing. So they'd better hit their knees and start asking heaven for some heavy duty assistance.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


I saw the Internist last Wednesday for my first post-operative physical. He clocked a 43 pound weight loss so far. The following were flags for concern on my blood work: Calcium maxed out -- quit taking calcium citrate supplement and get another blood test this week. PSA double what it should be, call urologist and do a go-see ASAP. Other than that, A-OK.

The next day, last Thursday, I saw the surgeon. He clocked a 45 pound loss. Pronounced that "another 20 pounds and you will be a success." Hell, I'm a success now! Gave me permission to leave the liquid diet and embark on solids again. Got the necessary cheat-sheets for what to eat and what to avoid... at least in the early stages.

Monday morning the long-missing cardiologist called ME at the office. Net-net, quit taking cholesterol reducing drugs and come and see him in December (which seems to be a very popular month for follow-up visits to doctors these days).

I am now officially cured of everything (well, Type II Diabetes and my cholesterol problem) and am completely off all meds except for a vitamin supplement and 2 Lyrica caps every evening (for the neuropathic pains in my feet.)

Left the office early in order to see Doctor Pee-Pee. He said (after I told him everything I'd been through in the last six weeks) "HELL, you may have picked up a mild urinary tract infection from the Foley catheter in the hospital, which would send your PSA through the roof. Here's scrip for another test. Get it done in late October and then we'll take another look at it."

Okay by me.

Got home early after seeing him. Weighed in. Lost another 2 pounds (47 total now). Closing in on 50.

Pulled over 20 pairs of too-large summer and winter pants out of the closet and began looking for consignment stores in the area where I can at least attempt to recoup some of my investment in them. If none of them pan out, off the pants go to the Salvation Army.

My Internist advised me, as he was looming over my nearly naked body last week, "Take it from somebody who's been there. GET RID OF YOUR FAT CLOTHES. It'll help you to avoid the temptation to 'just slip into a next larger size this week'." I took his advice to heart. BTW, my Internist is a hunk without an ounce of discernible fat on him. Too bad he's married.

Here's a snap I took of myself a week ago (at 5 weeks post surgery) ... when I'd only lost about 40 pounds.

The target remains elusive. I'd like to lose 2 more sizes, which would put me at about 190 pounds. But that was my college weight, when I had a metabolism. Realistically, I'm with the surgeon. 20 more pounds and I'll be a very happy camper.

More will be revealed. I'll try to get another picture of me this coming weekend, if the weather cooperates (4 days of rain are predicted starting Thursday... the remnants of something or other).

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

All Is Forgiven

I worked up the nerve to call Lehman Brothers today and actually got through to a human being. A human being who put me through to another human being in the Human Resources Department (or what's left of it).

That nice lady looked me up in the system and, indeed, there I was, in all of my


glory. She then gave me a magical 800 number (well, an 866 number) at Fidelity devoted solely to people like me who had worked at Lehman. I called the number and got a bright, young, lad.

He reiterated what the lady in HR had told me. But he added some stuff. First he fixed me up with on-line access to my retirement information. But then he told me that when I retire (assuming it's age 65) I'll collect:

$849.95 per month

for the rest of my life.

On top of my social security.

And 401-ks.


BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!! (Hey, it's about $600 more per month than I thought I was gonna get.)

So even though Lehman is in the crapper, and even though the unhappiest years of my life were spent on Wall Street, it wasn't a total loss.

That $850 a month will be some blood money I'll be happy to take.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fall of the House of Lehman

Disclosure: I worked at Lehman (variously named during my tenure: Shearson-American Express, Shearson-Lehman Brothers, Shearson-Lehman-Hutton and, just before I left, plain old Lehman Brothers) from December 1983 (just prior to Lehman being acquired by Shearson in the Spring of 1984) until January or February of 1992.

I was "supposed" to have been fully vested in their in-house pension fund after five years of continuous service. It remains to be seen if there's any pension fund left now that the house has collapsed.

We (by which I mean Shearson American Express) acquired Lehman in a fire sale brought about by internal fighting at the old firm. The place was not on the verge of collapse financially, but it was on the verge of collapse politically. Finally, they sold themselves to us. It was an uncomfortable marriage from the outset. It had actually been pushed on us by our corporate parent, the American Express Company, who wanted to RAPIDLY pump up piddling little Shearson into a world-class brokerage powerhouse. However, there was baggage.

One suitcase of which was and is Richard J. Fuld. He was the head of trading at Lehman at the time of the acquisition. Lehman was a fixed-income behemoth when we bought them.

As the years went by the Lehmanites exercised their power and eventually forced out all of the top equity people and replaced them with their own, hand-picked, asskissers. My department was eventually handed over to two people wholly incompetent to head Equity Trading. Eventually Mr. Fuld became co-chief executive and, finally, the sole chief executive of the firm.

One of the reasons I left the firm was because of the wholescale movement of funds (there's no other way to describe it) which occured every New Year's Day when the Lehman Brothers "secret partnerships" would, without notice, dip into the profits of each department of the firm and skim untold millions of dollars off the departmental P&L statements and onto the books of the SPs. These partnerships had, I guess, been "grandfathered" in as part of the deal during the acquistion in '84.

When I found out what was happening I asked one of the vice-treasurers what was going on with my departments (suddenly missing) $600,000. This was her response.

"Oh... that's Mr. Fuld's."

"Kiss my fucking ass" I thought. "Oh." I said.

I made up my mind, on the spot, to seek employment elsewhere. I did NOT want to have to sit in a witness box in a Chancery Courtroom in Delaware someday and answer questions posed by the shareholders of American Express as to where their profits were going.

Maybe the whole thing was legal. Maybe not. I don't know. I got out.

That was 16 years ago.

Do I blame Dick Fuld for the collapse of Lehman (again)? Nah. I remember something that Peter Cohen once said to me. "You don't run big corporations... they run you."

I'm sure nobody is more shell-shocked today at Lehman Brothers than Dick Fuld.

But I still want my piddling-assed pension.

Friday, September 12, 2008

40 - Finally

It's official. I've now lost 40 pounds since my surgery on August 11th.

Here's the skinny on all that. My nutritionist (perky Stacy) wants me to get back to my college weight, which was about 4 pounds. I was 24 when I went to college (Viet Nam, the Navy and several other hiccups occurred along the way) and I had a metabolism in those days. Hence, no matter what I poured down my throat (Burger King, Booze, Boy Butter) it didn't stick around. In fact, it didn't stick to anything, not even my ribs. Those were the good old days.

Nowdays, of course, I can LOOK at a piece of pecan pie and gain 5 pounds.

But those days are over. No more "pieces" of anything. From now on, it'll be "bites", if even that.

Still, I think that trying to get back to my college weight (okay, it was 190 pounds) might be a little unreasonable. I was kind of hoping to get back to my weight around age 30... ish. Say, 210 or 220. In which case I only have to lose another 20 or 30 pounds and I'll be done. But to get to 190 I'll have to drop another 50 pounds and that sounds way too much like a year-long project to me.

People ask me if I crave anything. No, I answer, because no matter what I ingest (and it's still mostly liquids) I fill up after two swallows. My new tummy only holds about 4 ounces of anything.

Well, that's not completely true. There is one thing I crave above all else. It's not prime rib or pork chops or baked potatoes or asparagus with hollandaise sauce.

It's popcorn.

Not microwave popcorn, either, but corn popped in a big pot on the stove and then smothered in melted "I Can't Believe JoyZeeBoy Thinks This Crap is Butter."

It's worse when I think about going to the movies and not being able to have a 10 pound bag of popcorn cooked in God-Only-Knows-What, dripping with crankcase leavings and washed down by a Bladder-Buster of my favorite beverage, 64 ounces of Diet Coke which is higher in caffeine to offset the loss of sugar -- wasn't that thoughtful of the Coca-Cola people?

So, you see, I don't really have any cravings.

At least not until I lose another 20 pounds. Or 50, if that Nazi Nutritionist of mine, Stacy, gets her way.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

So, what's new?

I'm back. Yeah, I know, whoop-di-goddamned-do.

I forgot to send my gut pix to the office, where I'm currently goofing off instead of working. So you'll have to wait for those.

The surgery didn't go horribly awry, although there were "complications." Enough complications for them to have shot me up with 4 units of blood, kept me in the hospital for two additional days, and to have filled me with bag after bag of saline solution.

When I was discharged on Friday August 15th I spent the first week at home just trying to void myself through whatever outlet was handy of the gallons of salt water they'd inflated me with.

I remember watching Michael Phelps (endlessly) while I was in the hospital. Every time I came out of yet another coma there he was, slithering through the water like a water snake. Swimmers have the oddest bodies.

Then, after I'd had a week to adjust to reality, the conventions started. Initially I was kind of surprised by Barack's choice of Joe Biden (from my home state of Delaware). But upon reflection he seemed the best choice if Senator Obama hoped to deflect Republican criticism of his LACK OF EXPERIENCE IN FOREIGN AFFAIRS, which seemed likely given the fact that the GOP had been doing just that for months.

Then, of course, the Gay Old Party turned right around and picked the most unqualified person, male or female, to have run for the vice presidency since Spiro Agnew (another state governor who eventually wound up in prison -- which, with any luck, started a trend.)

And that brings us up to date on external affairs.

Now, as to the surgery.

I have lost nearly 40 pounds in 4 weeks. I've had to have additional holes punched in some belts, and to have some inches of webbing removed from others. I'm not quite down to the next size in pants (although all my workmakes insist that I am). I can eat (if you call "drinking" "eating") about 4 ounces at a clip. For a real treat I've started having 2.5 ounces of tuna at lunch (1 6 oz. can of tuna packed in water mixed with 2 heaping tablespoons of low-fat mayo) this week.

I can button the collar buttons on my shirts again. The weight loss began, as it always does, with the face and the ass. While not exactly gaunt, my face is decidedly less "jolly" than it had been. My formerly well-padded behind no longer exists. It's actually painful to sit in the same position for any length of time. Our office ops manager is ordering a pillow for me to sit on.

My first day back at work was Monday of this week. By Tuesday morning my feet were killing me. I hadn't worn dress shoes in a month, only deck shoes. The streets of New York didn't help matters.

Despite the initial complications (and week of hourly trips to the can), I have no regrets. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Oh, and finally there's this.

My diabetes is resolved. I've been off all medicines since the day before my surgery. My blood sugar (which I continue to monitor daily) has dropped completely back to the "normal" range of 90-110.

I feel wonderful.