Thursday, September 11, 2008

The DoD Reappears

The DoD apologizes for the disappearing act; sadly, we don't have any stories from our time-off to regale you with, although we highly recommend to any one who has not had the time or inclination to catch the new Batman flick, which scores a notch above your typical summer blockbuster film. Christian Bale is hands down the best Caped Crusader and don't just shrug off all the good things you've probably heard/read about Heath Ledger's performance. Yes, he's dead; yes, people tend to overplay that whole posthumous thing and yes, Batman isn't exactly a flattering career "piece de resistance" to have as an actor (I haven't seen Brokeback, so it doesn't count), but Heath's Joker was frighteningly good. Also worth noting , the DoD eagerly awaited the release of what we hoped would be this summer's comedy blockbuster, Pineapple Express ( Admittedly, before heading into the theater, my gut was telling me that this was a prime candidate for a letdown. Thankfully, the characters in the film overshadowed any and all potentially disappointing aspects of the movie and as such, we left entertained, despite some ridiculous plot twists. It's a must see, I believe...and at the least, the movie has succeeded in introducing us to a previously unknown artist by way of its soundtrack theme song, Paper Planes by M.I.A.:

Moving on...while we again apologize for being unable to pass along any true highlights from the last couple of weeks, one shouldn't conclude that we lack anything else to talk about in this post. On the contrary, we had a handful of what I would characterize as "Seinfeld-ian" streams of consciousness about the minutiae of everyday life, which we thought we'd share. Today's topic was spurred by a recent mid-day meal at our local burrito purveyor during which we asked ourselves the following question: "Why is it that when you order a Diet Coke/Diet Pepsi/DietRC/or Diet Shasta Cola it's inevitably accompanied by a lemon wedge (even without request), yet an order placed for a regular, non-diet cola does not come dressed with a similar slice of zest?" The lemon is a nice, refreshing addition to the diet cola experience and, in our view, would have a similarly positive impact on traditional cola drinks as well. Somehow this practice seems to have embedded itself into our a dining culture and it strikes as being a bit unfair to straight up Coke drinkers and begs the question of why such an obvious inequity exists in the treatment of Diet vs. Regular cola drinkers. We were able to come up with two viable answers to the question posed, but feel free to chime in if you have other suggestions:

1) Flavor Masking: artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, etc) in diet cola formulations do produce a noticeable aftertaste, which is absent in the non-diet offerings. The addition of a touch of lemon, it's argued, somewhat offsets this aftertaste and makes for a more palatable overall flavor. Armed with this commonly held belief (and likely sick of hearing patrons requests for a lemon in their diet cola,) restaurateurs have taken it upon themselves to add a wedge of lemony zest to all diet orders, regardless of its request. However, we aver that this places an unfair, additional hurdle for traditional cola drinkers to clear in order to receive equal treatment and an equally satisfying drinking experience. That's a foul in my book.

2) Order Differentiation: adding a lemon helps the server distinguish between the unimaginably confusing situation that arises when a table places an order that has both diet and non-diet requests. The lemon, in essence, acts as tagging mechanism to help your server differentiate the beverage selections. This strikes us nothing more than a patch work solution and reeks of laziness - laziness that again results in bias against the non-diet cola drinking establishment. Stick a straw in one, take the top of the straw off one...whatever...there are clearly ways to avoid this confusion that wouldn't result in an inherent handicap against high-fructose corn syrup lovers.

In the process of digesting all this and becoming modestly enraged by the blatant and seemingly pervasive bias in our society, we were alerted to an interesting scientific study that shakes the core of our thesis and suggests, in fact, that the true loser is actually the diet cola drinking community. It turns out that those lemons are, well, rather unsanitary, according to a recently released study. Below, I recreate this seminal paper, in almost it's entirety - I've cut some of the scientific stuff out, and left you the reader with the bare bone conclusions the authors` reported. In my opinion, these results should give one pause bef0re co mingling lemon wedges in to any beverage. Lemon wedges are the modern day Trojan horse - they look harmless on the outside, but inside they may carry legions of microbes readying their stealth like attack on cold beverages and their drinkers.

Microbial flora on restaurant beverage lemon slices

Author:Loving, Anne LaGrange; P John
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2007
Publication:Journal of Environmental Health


Possible Origins of the Microbial Contaminants

It is not possible to definitively identify the origins of the microorganisms. While the Enterobacteriaceae and nonfermentative Gramnegative bacilli could have come from the fingertips of a restaurant employee via human fecal or raw-meat or poultry contamination, they might have contaminated the lemons before they even arrived at the restaurant. The Gram-positive cocci and Corynebacterium isolates may have been introduced onto the lemons from the skin or oral flora of anyone who handled them, before or after they arrived in the restaurant. The Bacillus species are ubiquitous and could have had numerous sources, including airborne spores landing on the fruit or on the knife used to cut the lemon.

There are three possible origins for the various yeasts that were isolated. Some yeasts commonly colonize lemons and other foods, and are classified by the food industry as "food spoilage yeasts" (Adegoke, Iwahashi, Komatsu, Obuchi, & Iwahashi, 2000). Some distributors add yeasts to lemons and other fruits in order to retard the growth of other, destructive fungi (Cheah et al., 1994; Cheah et al., 1995; Droby, Chalutz, & Wilson, 1991). Finally, the yeasts could have originated from oral, fecal, or vaginal secretions contaminating the fingertips of a restaurant employee or another food handler.

Diseases Caused by the Microbes Found on the Lemon Samples

The microbes found on the lemon samples in our investigation all have the potential to cause infectious diseases at various body sites, although the likelihood was not determined in this study. An extensive search of the literature yielded no reported outbreaks or illnesses attributed to lemon slices in beverages. Establishment of an infection would depend upon the number of microbes introduced; this investigation did not include a quantitative determination of the numbers of microorganisms on the lemons. Other factors that would contribute to the establishment of an infection would include whether the organisms were resistant to multiple antibiotics, the general health and age of the individual, the status of the immune system, and the integrity of the mucous membranes of the lips and mouth.


Although lemons have known antimicrobial properties, the results of our study indicate that a wide variety of microorganisms may survive on the flesh and the rind of a sliced lemon. Restaurant patrons should be aware that lemon slices added to beverages may include potentially pathogenic microbes. Further investigations could determine the source of these microorganisms, establish the actual threat (if any) posed by their presence on the rim of a beverage, and develop possible means for preventing the contamination of the lemons. It could also be worthwhile to study contamination on other beverage garnishes, such as olives, limes, celery, and cherries, and to investigate whether alcoholic beverages have an effect not seen with water and soda.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

We're Still Alive; Top 5 Headlines from Weekend

Well, we're back...the DoD's trip to Vegas required a couple days to decompress, detox and mostly just catch up on some sleep. I've had some requests for a weekend recap, but I'm invoking the "What Happens in Vegas...Stays in Vegas" cliche for an easy out on those inquiries. Instead, I offer a modest compromise and will provide a Top 5 Headlines from the trip - of course, these "headlines" will probably only make sense to those of us that were in least some of us. With that said, here goes...

Top 5 Headlines from this weekend's Vegas Gazette:

1. Front Page: "Great White Shark Feasts on Unsuspecting Wet Republic Prey"

2. Entertainment Section: "Critics Weigh in on Vegas Debuts: Praise 'Hammer & Hummer', But Pan 'Snow n' Rain"

3. Dining Section: "Dinner at Nine Steakhouse a '10' and We Had a Better Table Than Jamie Foxx"

4. Gossip Section: "Patrick Ewing's Diet for Success: Dinner Rolls...and Lots of Them"

5. Sports Section: "Room 22608 Gets Smacked Around in Saturday Night Triple Header"

That's a wrap on Vegas and all we have for now...tune back in tomorrow.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The DoD Opines on Election '08

One housekeeping item before we delve into the meat of today's post. Be forewarned, this may very well be the last blog entry for the DoD...why? The DoD's editorial staff will be heading to Sin City this weekend guessed it...a bachelor party. And lord knows what's in store for us in the desert. I've been to Vegas on several occasions, although I've limited myself to only one trip a year (at most) because that's really all that my body can handle. That said, this is one of those meaningful bachelor parties; one of those two or three bachelor parties you attend in your life time that is less about the debauchery and more about the person you are celebrating. This one's for you, Nza...and I hope you have a great time.

Ok...on to the issue at hand. You've probably noticed that most of my posts are of a comedic bent, both in topic and commentary, but this one is at least going to attempt to address a "real" issue - the upcoming election. Specifically, an article and associated poll published on Wednesday in the NY Times, entitled "Poll Finds Obama Isn't Closing Divide on Race." ( The premise of the article is that there is a clear divide between voters based on race. Wow...that's shocking...right? Before we get right in to it, let me just say that I'm looking at this clearly from a numbers standpoint and my own personal preference (or lack thereof) for either candidate was not (at least intentionally) intended to color the comments that follow...

With that are my thoughts:
This article frankly doesn't reveal anything that most people not living under a rock shouldn't already be aware of - black voters heavily favor Obama, white voters, not as much. Specifically, 83% of blacks have a favorable view of Obama, while only 31% of whites share the same view. On the flip side, 5% of blacks have a favorable view of McCain, vs. 35% of whites. There's no denying it...that's a big difference and the article effectively decides to use those disparate approval ratings to suggest there is a large racial divide not only in this election, but in this country as well. Ummmmh....I don't see anything novel in that thesis. Rather, I think the author actually failed to focus on what was truly interesting in the statistics...and that is, while more blacks like Obama than whites, there doesn't seem to be whole lot of support for McCain from white voters either. Those statistics I cited above illustrate that larger point, I think, quite well. Let's look again:

Do you View Obama: Favorably, Not Favorable, Undecided, Don't Know Enough
Blacks: 83% favorable, 2% Not Favorable, 9% Undecided, 5% Don't Know Enough
Whites: 31% Favorable, 37% Not Favorable, 26% Undecided, 5% Don't Know Enough

- Takeaway...there is a clear racial line here, which is to be expected...but don't overlook the White undecided vote...which is huge. The Favorable, Unfavorable White Voters won't likely change their stance...whether their reasoning being policy driven or race...but a lot of white folks just don't know what they are doing yet and frankly, unless something ridiculous comes out before November, I'm gonna hazard a guess that a good chunk of those folks will end voting for Obama. Maybe not the majority, but don't give up on us white folks just yet.

The McCain stats I find even more interesting:

Do you View McCain: Favorably, Not Favorable, Undecided, Don't Know Enough
lacks: 5% favorable, 57% Not Favorable, 25% Undecided, 14% Don't Know Enough
Whites: 35% Favorable, 28% Not Favorable, 27% Undecided, 4% Don't Know Enough

- Takeaway...of course black voters are going to heavily tilt towards Obama (and therefore against McCain). It's nothing personal just happen to be facing an opponent unlike any we've seen before...he's black...and while I'm not a proponent of voting based purely on skin tone, I don't blame black America...this is a seminal event in Black American History. More important though, Senator McCain, is your white voter base...which only 35% sees you in a favorable light...FYI...31% of whites view Obama favorably...statistically, that's a dead heat. So when I take this all in, I'm looking past this notion of racial rift in America because this comes as no surprise to me; we know there is a divide...and it's not just racial; it's economic and it's religious. There always has been and realistically, always will be, to some extent. Perhaps the author's intent was the magnitude, but they picked the wrong issue to poll to gauge that rift...this is the most polarizing issue imaginable. What did you expect? I think the real takeaway from this poll should be a wakeup call to the McCain campaign...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Taking Stock of Things...Part I

I'm not sure how many of you out there have been involuntarily unemployed during your professional lives - I'm guessing the majority of you have not. I come to that conclusion using a simple algorithm that essentially takes into account the fact that I know most of the people that read this blog...and can count only a handful of you that currently are, or at some point were in a similar predicament.

In one of my previous posts ( I provided a typical day in the life of a Man of Leisure, but that post provided very little was a single day's account and is the equivalent of looking at things as if they occurred in a vacuum, which of course, they do not. To get a real feel for need to string a bunch of those days together and then endure the emotional roller coaster ride that you strap yourself into 24/7. I'm not going to use today's post to bitch and moan...because that's just not my style and not very entertaining. What I thought I'd do...and I'm not sure yet where this is going to end up (funny, sad, stupid, who cares?) sit down and take stock of things. It should come as little surprise that one's view of their self-worth comes into question during these times and so what I aim to do is make a list, I guess, of my personal pluses and minuses....basically, for you financially inclined...a balance sheet of MJB Inc's assets and liabilities. That sounds fun...right? So, I've asked four friends to make they view my positive attributes and shortcomings. Now, you'll have to just take my word on this...but I chose a cross section of friends that I thought would provide a continuum of responses. Of course, there is likely to be bias in their answers (I mean, they are friends) but I have a feeling you and, more important, I will get a fairly rounded picture

These ended up being pretty long and required some background information so I'm going to break this up into a couple of posts. Or not...but definitely going with this one because I think it's funny....

Here is Friend #1 - I provided some footnotes/asterisks for the items requiring explanation. Just an FYI on Friend #1...he's the guy that, while walking down the street, we'd pass an attractive girl and I would often comment..."Is that too much to ask for?" and he would respond..."For a guy like you...Yes."

Friend 1

  1. Devastatingly Handsome
  2. Witty
  3. Snappy dresser (was wearing aviators 2 yrs before coming back in style)
  4. Generous (killing the stereotype) *1
  5. Spendthrift (killing the stereotype) *1
  6. Bookends *2
  7. "lil' Tuna" *3
  8. Would never make a move without Larry and Stan*4
  9. Built a fort out of sofa cushions with Jennifer Connelly*5
  10. Best damn blogger whose life closely resembles that of George Costanza I know
*1: I'm a Jew...

*2: The "Bookends" refer to a rare stretch of a good fortune with (2) women during a vacation...think of bookends as one at the at the end...not together...sorry...

*3 A hideous nickname given to me by a very old, crotchety and frankly, downright rude secretary at a previous job. For some reason...she liked me....and I was her lil' tuna.

*4 A reference to the movie Mr. Mom...essentially, it represents loyalty. Michael Keaton's character (Jack) is offered a promotion, but his two friends (Larry and Stan) have to be fired...Jack says something along the lines of "I won't make a move without Larry and Stan." All three are subsequently fired...

*5 Jennifer Connelly was my babysitter. 'nuff said.

  1. Failure to identify one's own shortcomings (listed below)
  2. Fun sized
  3. Tall forehead (hair migration from head to palms)
  4. Apple fanboy (out of necessity due to excessive malware at most frequently visited sites)*
  5. JGG
  6. Breath smells of Government cheese
  7. What's with all the CRVs
  8. Has an inappropriately strong passion for the 'The Karate Kid'
These pretty much all (except #1) need a quick comment so:
2. I'm short
3. I'm balding; hair migrating to palms I believe refers to excessive manual stimulation...
4. I own a Mac now...they don't get viruses (see manual stimulation reference above)...I mean...c'mon, how huge is that?
5. Jolly Green Giant (JGG): unsuccessful and unnecessarily heart wrenching relationship (infatuation) with a very tall girl. 5'10, I believe. It did not end well.
6. Unemployed
7. My parents own the same car, different colors...and have had two sets of them.
8. Love the Karate Kid...funniest (unintentionally) movie ever.

I've read this post over a couple of times and: 1) know that I find it funny and fairly representative, 2) know that a select few readers out there will undoubtedly also be entertained, but 3) I'm unsure whether the rest of you will enjoy/hate/or be completely there's some doubt about whether it should go up. So, if you are reading this last paragraph, well, then I guess that means I just said f' it and posted it anyway...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Re: Comment from Reader on Previous Post

I'm posting this entry in response to the comment...better yet, the inaugural comment, received here at the DoD on my previous post. We encourage comments from our reader(s). They make good fodder for conversation, but really they just make me feel good about myself. So keep them coming , although in the future, please try to leave my identity anonymous (i.e. don't use my name.) I believe my anonymity projects a "man of mystery" aura, which we all agree adds to the appeal of the blog and of course, me. Or not.

So, for those of you who missed the comment, here it is:
Anonymous said...

I see that no one has commented on your blog, so here is your first "poke." Any hopes of bringing back the "Summer of Mat?"

MJB Responds:
  1. Thank you, Anonymous, for both your comment and your interest in the Diary of the Downsized. I hope life is treating you well and that the electric shock treatments for your stuttering condition have begun to take hold.
  2. Regarding your inquiry on the status of the "Summer of Mat," I have to say, I hadn't given it much thought with all the comings and goings the last several months. But, now that you mention it, I'll consult with my Cabinet (I have a solid's pine, I believe) and we'll toss the idea around. I like the idea, personally, so don't be surprised if you hear more about it in the not too distant future.
  3. I don't have a point #3, but I've been taught that any list must have at least three items, and preferably a total number that is odd, rather than even. This latter point I do not understand, but that's apparently what they teach consultants at McKinsey and I've been unable (and unwilling to expend the energy) to come up with a good counter-argument to date, so I submit to the will of McKinsey on this one.
I suspect the majority of this blog's readership is unfamiliar with the "Summer of Mat" so let me try to explain. Essentially, it's a celebration, or actually I think it's better described as a pronouncement of the beginning of a celebration, which, coincidentally, tends to coincide with the coming of the summer season. As the title suggests, the focal point of the event is this Mat character, but don't take that to mean that it's an entirely selfish endeavor. I mean, the end game is certainly selfish - Mat reveling in good times...think something thematically similar to the below, but with a different cast.

You'll notice that everyone is enjoying themselves so in theory, Mat's good times are not explicitly designed to be at the expense of others. There is also a party thrown to mark the start of the "Summer of Mat," but in reality, every day that follows is a party, so think of it as a holiday like Hanukkah. You get a present every day; most days the presents are modest and are often overlooked as presents at all, but every so often Hanukkah Harry drops you a big present, which leaves you in a state of wonderment and delight. So that's really the big picture idea behind the "Summer of Mat." The daily, behind the scenes machinations that keep the wheels turning on this magical mystery bus tour are best left for future posts, but I suggest you start getting your bags packed, because I just found the keys to the bus and all she needs are a few twists and turns under the hood before we are ready to roll. Oh, and don't worry, she runs on 100%, Eco-friendly, nuclear gas guzzling here. And I'm looking into the possibility of installing a catalytic midget converter as a power source for the engine. I'll let you know how that goes. (see below post for background on the midget commentary...)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Things Unemployment Has Introduced Me To: Part I - Facebook

To start, I apologize for the dearth of postings the last several days. But, I promise more is to come....for better or for worse.

So, in that vein, over the next several days, I'll be posting a series of entries that will focus on a variety of things that, now being unemployed, I've found the time to be introduced to or experience de novo. Today, our topic is the social networking phenomenon, Facebook. Fair warning...I attended a Hemingway seminar today to pick up some tips on how to emulate one of history's literary giants. Needless to say, my endless shortcomings as a writer are a significant rate limiting factor, so the best I could do to honor Ernest's legacy is to write this post in a state of which he was so can fill in the blanks. Oh, on a completely unrelated sidebar, I had drinks next to Steve Guttenberg of Police Academy fame this afternoon. He didn't look good...nor did I, of course, but that's not my job...oh wait...I don't have one of those...

For you younger generation, here is Steve in his glory days:
And here is Steve today:

Ok...I'm back on track, while I was working, I had heard of Facebook, but never really understood the draw and frankly, like most things, I scoffed at both its purpose and those that were on it. Well...I'm on it now...and yet I still scoff at its existence. So this of course begs the question: what's the attraction? Well, I think I've got the answer and it has nothing to do with social networking. Social networking is just marketing talk...something people in corporate board rooms use to pitch ideas to venture investors or justify IPO/M&A valuations. Social networking is just how we Facebookians rationalize the inexplicable amount or better said, waste, of time we spend on that site. Come know that all too easy catch phrase "networking" doesn't keep you on a site for five consecutive hours "poking" people or playing ConnectFour with someone in Uzbekistan.

No, the recipe for Facebook's success is quite simple, in my view, and boils down to three key ingredients: one cup of voyeurism, two tablespoons of narcissism and at least six grams of some sort of newfangled form WiFied crack cocaine.

Let's take the last ingredient, first...there is an ethereal sort of tractor beam effect that comes over when you sit down in front of your computer...much like crack, you get a sort of very immediate high as you inhale the countless friend requests that have been sent your way or accepted, or notifications that you are "Hot or Not" from some random person. It's a buzz...and it keeps you coming back to that profile page like it's your dealer peddling some rock.

Now, moving on to voyeurism...there's no denying this. The fact that you know you can stare at the profile of some dude or chick that you either dated, dumped, cheated on, wished that you dated or wished that you dumped and they have no idea you are stalking them has great appeal. In fact, I believe it's the most evolved form of stalking/voyeurism in the known universe.

Finally...narcissism absolutely plays a role. Of course you want to make sure you have the best pictures, the most pictures, and the best and most pictures with the coolest people possible so that you can feel better about yourself. I have a perfect example of how this works and it comes from personal experience. If you follow this logic, except in reverse, I think you see there is no denying this thesis: I have but one picture of myself on my Facebook page, no one has tagged me, no one writes on my wall and...and therefore not coincidentally, I'm not a big fan of myself these days. In simpler terms - I have the least the amount of pictures with the uncoolest people in the world and I am a loser. Just take that logic tree, turn it around, and my point is undeniably true. More pictures, more happy. Less pictures, less cool and less happy. Simple as that...

And there you have my take on Facebook. See you all on Monday, with Part II of this series...


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Getting a Little More Personal: Me and Danielle

This is going to be a fairly short entry, but what it lacks in length, I believe it makes up for in sincerity. As you may know, in my last post, I introduced our uninitiated readers to some of the most sacred components of the Men of Leisure Society...dare I say, they are our Holy Sacrament. Today, I'll shift gears a bit and draw back the curtain on a more personal level.

I think the most appropriate place to begin is to tell you just a little (I don't want to embarrass her nor does she need any more stalkers) about the lady in my life because she's proven, without fail, to always be there with a comforting embrace in these recently difficult times. This post is a thank you of sorts, to her. She has and will continue to be my foundation . She is as solid as the tallest stack of bricks, strong from top to bottom and has shown herself able to protect me during these stormy days. She can be both warm when I'm feeling my coldest and yet with what seems like just a flip of button, can provide a cool hand when I get a bit hot-headed. She's truly a remarkable woman....and her name is...Danielle. Danielle, all I can say, is thank you...

Here she on the pictures to absorb her full effect...


Sunday, July 6, 2008

Men of Leisure Manual...C'mon...You Know You Want One

Becoming a full fledged member of the Men of Leisure Society is actually a rather simple process...the only prerequisite is loss of employment. How that comes about is rather inconsequential - your position may have been "eliminated" or you may have been terminated for "cause" or hell, perhaps you got caught ordering Seamless Web meals on other colleagues' accounts one too many times...whether it be downsizing, poor performance or a hearty appetite that brought you to the precipice, rest assured the Men of Leisure Society will be there...don't get me wrong, we won't try to talk you down from the ledge or even provide a safety net below if you do jump...we really kind just want to see if you bounce when you take the plunge; oh, and we'll be taking bets.

That said, if you are able to get your wits about you and decide to at least see if the whole unemployment thing suits you, we'll hand you a crisp new uniform (details on the uniform are still not being made public...we will have an unveiling party in short order) and our Men of Leisure Society Manual, which contains among other things, suggestions on activities one can enjoy, guilt free, even on food stamps and unemployment checks.

Today, we are offering a rare opportunity for the general public - we are pulling back the veil of secrecy on our Society's most guarded possession, known simply as...The Manual. The Manual, as you surely have noted in awe below, is nothing less than a work of art, both in its exterior beauty as well as the brilliant prose contained within. There is a significant amount of symbolic importance to each of the items on and surrounding this magnificent tome.

First, you'll observe the six gold plated rapiers in the background - in eras past, these were used by Men of Leisure to subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) suggest to the King's tax collectors that they should come back another day, for money was a bit "tight" at the moment. Today, the rapiers are still very much an integral part of a Man of Leisure's life, however their use is a touch less noble...they make great letter openers for those unemployment checks, paper shredders for those job rejection letters and they cut that government wheel of cheese like a hot rapier through butter. We do however, dissuade members from bringing them along to job interviews...yes, they very well may project that powerful, go-getter type image prospective employers seek in a candidate, but that employer is more likely a Medieval Times ( than an investment bank or law firm. Trust us; we speak from experience. (Oh...fair warning...might want to check your volume if you click on that link.)

Next, you'll note the treasure chest to the left of The Manual. Hate to break it to you, but if you are a member of the Society, there ain't no treasure in there...for example, that's where I keep my loose change and every so often I plan a field trip over to the Commerce Bank down the street to use their handy coin machine counter. I highly recommend this activity...not only does it typically result in some extra (and unexpected) scratch to live on, but you get free lollipops, too.

Finally, we have the tome itself, which, as I gaze upon this very minute, is emitting an unmistakable glow. Perhaps it's the knowledge that lies within...perhaps the genuine leather binding, 22k gold accented ornamental cover and thread sewn (not glued) pages cannot fully contain its luminescence. Eh...then again, maybe it's sitting on top of my ringing blackberry....damn's the blackberry...and I've gotta take this call. It's my mom and she's undoubtedly going to interrogate me about what I've done all, I hate that conversation...

Until next time,

Thursday, July 3, 2008

I'm Happy to be Independent...and So Should You

I just want to wish everyone a great 4th of've all worked very hard and deserve a couple days off. Just wanted to give everyone fair warning - especially my friend Tiny, who lives, drinks and breathes the "Diary of the Downsized" that we here at the DoD blog will probably taking some time off, too... but worry not, we'll be back just in time to brighten your Monday morning. I also want to give a shout out to my main man, Frza - congrats man...we'll miss you.

Finally, in anticipation of the long weekend, but more out of fear of not having any of you come back to join our party here on the DoD blog, I thought I'd leave you with some teasers for next week's postings, which include: some tips and advice from the Men of Leisure Manual, a post on how unemployment has introduced me to new things in my life and we'll also pull back the curtains a little on this blogger's personal life and tell you about my one special lady...and of course, we'll see what else pops in my head or what life throws at me and pass that along for your reading enjoyment....


Reading the "Diary of the Downsized" and the "JSB" Provides 150% of Your Recommended Daily Intake of High Quality Blogging

If, after consuming the daily meal that is the "Diary of the Downside" you still find yourself jonesing for more, then I highly recommend you turn to the JSB (formally known as JeremysSpecialBlog) to help sate your blogosphere appetite.

Read the JSB on a regular basis and there's no doubt in my mind that you'll marvel at the incredibly diverse range of topics covered (both obscure and topical) and how each is crafted with such a rare mix of wit, intellectual stimulus while also possessing an endearing sort of "wackiness" all at the same time. He also has a video blog of himself every so often....I mean, how can you top that? I know many of you are already avid fans of his site, but I also know that many of you are not, but I'm supremely confident you will soon be....


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Even Jehovah is Witnessing the Impact of Rising Fuel Costs

I got this letter in the mail today and honestly, I think it's so funny that I could post it with no text or any commentary whatsoever. It very nearly speaks for itself. But of course, I won't do that, because it inspired so much potential material for the blog that I couldn't resist. The picture is small so I recommend clicking on it and reading it in a larger format. I cropped out the letterhead and signature of the sender; I'm not sure why, but it seems like what a responsible person would do.

So now I'm assuming you've opened up the image and now know that it's a mailing from a local Jehovah's Witness. I'll get to the actual content of the letter in my next post (too much to cover in just one entry), which is pure comedy and quite ironic for me, as you might imagine (or if not, I'll explain in full tomorrow.)

O.K....I'm not sure where you, my loyal reader (I'm assuming there's at least of one you, and if not, I'll just count myself) grew up, but where I was raised, Jehovah's Witnesses would, almost every Sunday, drive up our hill (it's actually a hill and a treacherous one at that) and knock on our door. I thought that was their M.O...physically reaching out to members of the community in an attempt to spread the word of the lord and provide us salvation. But apparently, much like corporate America, I think this mailing is a clear signal of the the frail state of our economy. Ladies and gentleman, things are so bad and fuel prices so outrageous that even Jehovah inc. is in cost cutting mode and if you think about their business model, their biggest expenses are bible manufacturing and must be so expensive for team Jehovah to drive around and accost people face-to-face that management decided to trade in their gas guzzling, god carrying sets of wheels for $0.41 stamps (or is it $0.42..? I'm so out of touch.) It's really a sound business decision and I think I can finally say that I've found at least one benefit of this economic downturn and I hope they keep their god-mobiles in dry dock for good.

As I wrote this post, it brought back memories of my childhood and my family's Sundays with Jehovah. In particular, how my family would deal with Jehovahs that visited our house. Now, several different scenarios were possible when they showed up on our porch and whichever "defensive scheme" we called was really up to my Dad and what kind of mood he was in...the first defensive play in our play book was the Freeze and it involved everyone essentially hiding in different rooms in the house so as to be out of their line of sight...this defensive package was successful for its simplicity; the only hole really was how persistent the visiting team typically required at least 5 minutes of absolute silence. The Jehovahs in my 'hood were a patient bunch. Scheme #2 was called Tribe and it consisted of me answering the door wearing a yarmulke (or tea cozy) and my tallit (see image to the left,) thereby displaying my heebness in all its glory. This was a rare play call, primarily because I hated wearing that get up and it didn't
seem to phase the Witnesses...I liken this play to what they call a purpose pitch in baseball. You throw one at the batter inside and under his chin, close enough to move him back off the plate, while still not making contact. It's also referred to as a brush back. You throw that pitch not to get the batter out, but to send a message...that's what the Tribe didn't get them off our porch or out of lives...but it sent a message. The final play in our defensive arsenal was the "Dad is in a Bad Mood So If you Don't Get off Our Porch I'm Gonna Open the Door and Sic our Dog on You" play. That one worked every time...and was my personal favorite.

Tomorrow, I think I'll provide some more thoughts on this mailing, unless something better comes up. That's enough posting for one day...MJB

Quick Middle East Peace Follow Up

It occurred to me this morning, while heavily sedated in the dentist's chair, that if the key to quelling the violence in the Middle East is keeping people off the street, another potential solution exists or one that in fact may be synergistic with the air conditioner theory. Mind you, my first thought was perhaps something noble like setting up a Baghdad Boys and Girls Club or a Gaza 4H club - however we need look no further than our own streets to conclude that not only do these well intentioned programs fail to succeed; they may in fact, exacerbate the problem by concentrating large numbers of future felons in to one area and even provide potential, albeit rudimentary, weaponry such as bats, basketballs, t-shirts, etc that facilitate future felonious activities. Clearly, this is not acceptable.

Now...the dentist is yanking on my tooth, but my gums are holding on like a fat kid to the last cookie in the jar...and my thought process shifts from organized youth groups as the answer to something else...something that, again, will keep people then occurred to me that the answer might be some sort of gaming platform...Xboxes for instance can people locked indoors for 20 hours straight...but there are too many violent games like Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, which could very well prove to be excellent training for current and future Mujahideen. In fact, these games so accurately simulate war, particularly from a strategic standpoint that we might again be doing more harm than good. So no about a Wii? harmless right? Wrong...the swinging motion of the Wii for baseball or tennis can improve muscle reaction and muscle memory for movements essential for accurate grenade or fire bomb tossing. So Wii is out...then it occurred to me that most of the younger generation in the Middle East has probably missed out on the incredible evolution of gaming over the past twenty years...Pong, or Donkey Kong or Frogger would probably blow their let's send them some Coleco Visions, Ataris....maybe some Commodore 64s...there is no tractor beam stronger than a game of Mario Brothers played in the comfort of a well cooled room.

I think we have our answer now...though one more thing must be would be naive to assume the infrastructures, namely power generation capacity, of these countries would be capable of sustaining such a massive drain of electricity...surely it would take large amounts of money and time to build out the necessary power plants, power lines, etc to support all this. This is a huge issue...however....I have the solution people...and it's compact (a mere 127 cm in height) yet has massive, yet presently untapped, power generation guessed it...midgets. Midgets are the final piece to the puzzle...A/C + Atari + Midgets = Middle East Peace....(for those of you that missed yesterday's entry (


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Hey Middle East...Chill Out

I'm assuming that if you are reading today's post, then you were probably able to stomach my first couple of entries. If you've made it this far, I'm flattered...and that even goes for those folks who mistook my "Diary of the Downsized" for a blog with a similar name receiving quite a bit of notoriety of late, "Diary of Downsized Dawn," which I believe is a tell all account of one midget's struggle to achieve the ultimate goal in life...winning an AVN award for best actress in the little people category. I've seen her work, she's quite talented - her acting prowess clearly shines above the rest of her film's cast, the seven dwarfs included. Oh, and be sure not to confuse midgets with dwarfs...there is a difference and this site ( will not only clear up any confusion you have between the two (in simplest terms, a midget is a dwarf, though dwarf may not be a midget) but also details how little people could very well be the solution for our ongoing energy crisis. (P.S. I don't think I can emphasize enough how much you need to click on the link above. It's disturbing, yet pure's right up my alley, I guess you would say.)

Ok, moving on to the real purpose of this post...the Middle East

For quite some time now, perhaps 6 or 7 years (and there are probably a few of you out there that can verify this) I've been a leading proponent of a radical, yet truly simple solution to the clearly senseless ethnic, religious, and civil strife in the Middle East. In order to provide a solution to any problem, one must first understand the problem itself - while this type of logic shouldn't strike anyone as being a revelation it is, I would argue, often an infinitely more challenging endeavor than devising the solution.

With this in's my abridged, top down analysis as we wall street-types (employed or not) like to call it:

1. What is the Problem? seemingly unending conflict in the Middle East, or put another words, a WWE (or WWF to keep old school) royal rumble match with Israel essentially taking on everyone else, but with the U.S. standing ringside, poised to strike anyone who wanders to close to the ropes with a folding steel chair. Let's be clear though...the Middle East and the region of Palestine/Isreal have been at the center of brutal wars that go back well before the formation of Israel in 1948. This is the cradle of civilization's where we first crawled out of the Nile, walked on two feet, created art and culture and belief systems and not too long after that it's where mankind created war (and I do not mean war or killing in a Darwinian sense where it's survival of the fittest). War therefore is, and perhaps this is going to come out as being extremely offensive to some, a large part of the region's history and its inhabitants. There are countless examples of this - from the Akkadians in the 24th century B.C. to Alexander the Great to the Holy Crusades to modern times which has witnessed the Syrian and Jordanian conflict, Iran vs. Iraq, Iraq vs. Kuwait and of course, Israel vs. just about everyone.

2. Solution: Bottom-line here is, these are angry people who really don't like each other. And don't be fooled...if Israel didn't exist, the area would still be absolutely war crazy. History has shown us this. So elimination of Israel is not the right answer. What you need to be asking yourself is why are these people so angry...and how do you fix that? Well, let me put this in the proper context and use myself as an example to which you can perhaps relate. The Middle East is hot, real HOT. To make matters worse it's a desert so there is a lot of sand, making it essentially a very large beach, with very hot sand, yet no water. I don't know about you, but I don't do well in 100 degree weather, nor do I enjoy finding sand stuck to random parts of my body and fact, these things make me quite ornery. So there's the whole heat factor, which of course leads to the sweating factor (not good in my book) and of course that ultimately leads to the dreaded chaffing factor...and chaffing really gets me upset. We are in fact, as I write, in the very beginnings of our summer and I've already found myself so completely distraught by the idea of going outside and having to deal with such oppressive weather, that I avoid the outside at nearly all costs. And I don't even have to contend with sand storms, which I can only imagine as being thoroughly unappealing. solution is staying inside, but the real key is, staying inside + air conditioning. And I think it's the latter that is our solution for peace (or at least cooler heads) in the Middle East. Get these people A.C. and get it to them ASAP. You can't make rational decisions in the midst of such tortuous environmental conditions.

Send the ACs to the entire region; to all people...leaders of terrorist cells plotting their next waves of mayhem might be less angry if they had a cool breeze of a Goldstar A/C
wisping across their brow...or better yet, perhaps soldiers, jihadists and potential suicide bombers may think twice about leaving their house if it were cooled to nice 65 degrees...and if there is no one outside, there is no one to fight the war.

3. Does the Solution Make Economic Sense: Yes...and let me show you why...the above model A/C runs for $189.95 and puts out 10,000 BTUs, which easily accommodates a cooling area of 5-600 sq feet. That's the size of a typical NY studio/1BR so there's no doubt that should work in a typical mid-eastern home. Now what about cost? my calculations...if you buy one Goldstar A/C (like above) for every person in the Middle East (every person mind you, not just every household) it would cost in the neighborhood of $394 bln (excluding shipping and handling)...and guess what folks...the Iraq war has cost, by some estimates, $530+ bln to date

There ya have it...air tight logic for my thesis...


Monday, June 30, 2008

Punxsutawney Phil

I thought I'd start off this post by giving you, the reader, a rare glimpse inside a typical day in the life of a man of leisure. It is, to borrow a line from a fellow member of this exclusive, unemployment check collecting Groundhog Day. I'm sure many of you currently employed folks remember back to the days of summer breaks or maybe even a lucky few of you were able to finagle that 10 day vacation 5 years ago some point during that furlough...errr time off, you started to lose track of things...little the day of the week, for instance or your work computer log in/password. It's really quite natural, if you come to think of it - unless if you have something specific planned, there really is no reason to know what day it is. I'd argue that knowing the day of the week is actually superfluous information, particularly in the age of DVRs when you are assured to watch, at your leisure, whatever shows you want whenever you want.

However, while I will vigorously argue that losing track of days, weeks or even months is quite minor and nothing to be scared of, there is one major untoward effect of this condition - weekends lose all their splendor. The relief of leaving work on a Friday afternoon is a feeling that is truly unparalleled and, sadly, it's a feeling of euphoria that men of leisure quickly lose. Now some will argue that every day is your weekend, but I would respectfully, no, in fact, disrespectfully, disagree with that logic. It's just the not same feel going out on a random Monday's not the same's not the same packs of guys and girls looking to, in one way or another, unwind after a hard week's work. It's actually a rather depressing scene. I don't want to be Norm from Cheers...I don't want to be that guy that literally stands outside the bar until it opens at 12 pm and proceeds to take up shop on his corner stool for the next 9 hours. I've tried that doesn't suit me.

Which brings me to Punxsutawney Phil - every day really becomes Groundhog day in this life of leisure, no matter how much you try to keep yourself busy. I think few people realize the amount of dead time there is during the day. Let me give you a perfect example - a typical day for me would be as follows:

Wake up: 7 am. (Fair warning, that internal clock you've had running if you've worked more than 5+ years keeps on ticking.)

Get up: there's usually a bathroom trip involved and some brief internet surfing to catch up on all things going on that you are, of course, no longer a part of.

Realization: the realization mode usually sets in about 8's the realization that there's really no good reason to be up so the only sensible thing to do is crawl back into bed. One caveat though: investing in high quality window shades/curtains is essential, particularly during the summer months. Nothing starts a day off worse than returning for the second phase of your sleep only to be thwarted by the blinding high beams of the summer sun.

Hunger: hunger pangs tend to set in about 10-11 am, often necessitating immediate action. That's when Seamless Web comes to the rescue. I'm not a morning person so the ability to avoid almost all human contact while receiving vital nourishment in a less than 20 minutes is, without exaggeration, the work of angels.

Setting a goal: after breakfast I've begun to get into the habit of setting at least one goal to accomplish during the day. Do laundry, buy toilet paper, see a movie...something along these lines...i'm a big proponent of setting expectation bars low enough that one can trip over them, but whatever the goal may be, however ambitious it may seem, it becomes my version of work...sort of the methadone treatment to prevent complete withdrawal symptoms. The need to feel productive does not disappear, this i have learned, the engine that drives that productivity may only be in first gear, but it's still there.

By this time, it's typically goal is usually squarely in site, but you can't just run out and knock that errand, etc off list right away. No...that would be imprudent. This is typically when a couch nap is scheduled, particularly given the lack of anything worth watching on TV. That said, I do find shows like the Price is Right of Jerry Springer the perfect ambient noise to help lull me back into a much needed and well earned power nap. Now, this nap is a tricky one as it is often influenced by how late you stayed up to watch Samuel L Jackson kill some snakes on a plane. I'll get to that later, of course, but it's not uncommon to have that nap turn into a mini sleep, with the clock now likely in the 3-4 pm range, which is perfect timing to accomplish your prespecified goals and also get your daily allowance of contact with other human beings.

Goal Accomplished, Rewards are in Order: rewarding oneself in the life of leisure usually involves either food or alcohol; some members of the club often combine both, though I tend to stick to one or the other....I'm a little guy...I can't do what the big guys do.

6 pm on: usually good enough programming on or internet surfing available to pass the next several hours. The real problems begin after 10 or 11, when it becomes abundantly clear that the two naps you've taken have completely thrown off your sleep schedule and you finally resign yourself to the fact that sleep won't come before 3 am, if you are lucky. On a bad day, you can see the sun rises early folks...5:20 ish...let's just say the whole seeing the sunrise is cool phenomenon loses its luster. Quickly.

There you have it folks. I've kept it fairly general but string about 5 or 6 of these together and you're well on your way to an honorary membership in the life of leisure club....


In our next post, we tackle the Middle East Issue and our pathway to peace...

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Diary of the Downsized: An Introduction

Diary of the Downsized: An Introduction


The question "Why?" is the opening day topic of this, my first entry in the "Diary of the Downsized." In short, what I'm hoping to accomplish in the drivel that follows is fairly straightforward - explain WHY I've decided to start keeping this journal. A more ambitious goal would also include trying to convince you WHY you should even care and, god forbid, care enough to actually read this thing with any regularity...I have no delusions of grandeur on the latter; mind you, I don't expect anyone would care....some of my friends may get a kick out of it, my mother might care or at least feign Dad...ehhh...that's iffy, but I don't blame him or anyone for that matter - there are a lot more important things in life to focus on, but, as you will soon find out, I've got a lot of time on my hands these days and as the saying goes, idle hands are the devil's workshop so why not put those hands to work, no? I should note that I very much prefer the slightly darker slant to that saying: the devil's hands are happy hands...saw that on a movie poster a long time ago and got a kick out of it....but i digress.

So, WHY am I doing this? I'm really just looking to kill time in the day and if, by some chance, I can kill some time in your day, well then, all the better, though that would probably suggest you need some type of pharmaceutical intervention...a nice IV push of an anti-psychotic will straighten you out, no doubt.

So I think I've addressed WHY I'm doing this and now it's really a matter of convincing you to care, or if not care, at least laugh at, with, or near me. Let me take a few steps back and start off by providing some context and background. First...who am I? I'm a 31 year old single guy living in Manhattan (not with my parents though, so I've got that going for me.) I can be glued to the T.V. all day watching sports or, if the gods see fit to reward me, nothing beats the Karate Kid; or I can be fully engrossed in a book for hours on end, with my couch being the only common link those completely disparate activities share. I could also be called a workaholic, but I've managed to overcome that condition - as of approximately four months ago, I found myself gainfully unemployed. Shed no tears for me though, I'm one (or was one) of those stereotypical Wall Street douche bags that was summarily tossed to the curb in the first of several rounds of recent corporate cutbacks. My loss of employment is not a seismic event; there is no net loss for society. I fully understand this.

So what's my motivation? What am I going to write about? This is still unclear - I'd like to have some structure, some general theme but this is still a work in progress. What is clear though is that life without a job leaves a lot of time to fill and gives me the opportunity to listen (and sometimes talk back to) the voices in my head...they are entertaining voices and I see this blog, in part, as a way to give them some air time. So be prepared for some completely ridiculous trains of thought that I will, for better or for worse, share with whomever chooses to subject themselves to this journal...You'll also have to put up with rants and raves on sports...this is inevitable, so be forewarned. Politics, but more precisely, politicians will get ample vetting in this blog as well. I hope to also throw in, when I see fit, some photos I've taken or will take and believe you me...a simple photo = more than 1000 words. Funny words and perhaps some images and words that move you...but I wouldn't hold my breath on that one.

So that's it in a nutshell. Those are my marching orders, for now at least. All things are subject to change...which allows me to conclude this Blog Preface, of sorts, with a favorite joke from a favorite movie which goes something along the lines of a....bartender asking a patron: "how do you make god laugh?" The man on stool shrugs...and .the barkeep responds..."make a plan...make a plan."

...In the next entry...My Life is Groundhog day