Mowed, Jumped My Car, Ate A Lot, Watched A Movie, Shopped at Barnes & Noble and Blogged

How’s this for a Middle Class Guy Saturday?

I cranked out three blog posts, two of which had been in draft for a few days: the one about the American Community Survey that I had been stewing about for over a year now, and another about having read over 100 books this year.

If you have looked at any previous posts, you know that I am an Avid Reader (which was the original blog name that I intended to do for years before checking the availability of the domain) and want to share what I have learned from all of this reading so you may take in the most salient and valuable points of a book that I spend three or four days reading by reading a 1,000 word post in a few minutes.

The post on Kiplinger’s, I just sat and cranked out in less than an hour between meals and mowing.

Anyway, in between posts today, I managed to eat a lot of leftovers from a family party the day after Thanksgiving including bagels, casserole and salad.  I also drove to a local eatery to pick up a gigantic serving of nachos, which served as our dinner.

This is the order of nachos that served as a dinner for three of us tonight.
This is the order of nachos that served as a dinner for three of us tonight.

I read an article in the November 24th Thanksgiving Day edition of the Chicago Tribune, by Tim Johnson of the Chicago Botanic Garden, saying to keep mowing your lawn as long as grass is growing.  Johnson writes that with a rather mild weather forecast, the grass will keep growing and that mowing it will make a positive impact on lawn appearance and health.  He also wrote that mulching the leaves is good for the grass and saves a lot of time raking leaves, which I have already done to the tune of about 20 bags this year, which only got up about a third of the leaves.

By the way, my town charges $2.80 per yard waste sticker, so those 20 bags cost me nearly $60 in sticker cost to haul away on top of the $10 or so for the bags and the hours spent raking and bagging.

Last week, my wife and kids raked, and I bagged 14 bags of leaves to be hauled away.
Last week, my wife and kids raked, and I bagged 14 bags of leaves to be hauled away.

Reading the article made me at least think about mowing again, and the kicker was when I saw our kitty-corner neighbor mowing her lawn. Realizing that a Middle Class Gal (a hospital nurse married to a long-time grocery store clerk, with three kids) was mowing her equally large lawn on this nippy November day gave me the motivation to mow my own lawn one last time this season.  I did just mow the front, for appearance, and was too tired afterwards to do the back.  Perhaps next weekend will be warm enough to mow the back.

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About ten days ago, I left on the overhead light in my ancient Subaru while getting something out of the car at night.  I cannot recall what it was, but it was probably to get a book or magazine out of the back. Anyway, I readily admit to becoming more forgetful upon my fortieth birthday over half a decade ago, so this time I forgot to turn off the overhead light.

When my wife pointed out that the light was on the next evening at dusk, I went to turn it off and then tried to fire up the trusty old Subaru’s engine.  Just a little sputter, then nothing.  Great!  Another thing to deal with.  I tried again the next day, and just a few feeble clicks before silence ensued.

I spent the next ten or so days using my super beater Nissan while trying to ignore the inoperable vehicle parked in front of my house.  Remember, I am a Middle Class Guy who lives in a borderline Middle Class/Working Class neighborhood, so there have been many houses over the years with inoperable vehicles in their driveways, some covered and others on blocks without wheels.  I did not want to become one of the homeowners with an inoperable vehicle in front of it for the next few months or longer.

After an enjoyable Thanksgiving gathering at my (Upper Class) aunt and uncle’s home, and another family party at a higher-end restaurant the following day, Saturday was the time to get some minor things done around the home front.

Luckily for me, my wife wants me to remain alive and my two beater cars to survive until I replace one or both, since she corrected me in the way to jump a vehicle.  I was going to connect the negative side to the bad battery too, which apparently could do me and/or my cars’ engines harm.  She stopped me before I proceeded, having looked it up online like I should have.

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Anyway, it is no tremendous accomplishment, but we were able to get my old trusty Subaru fired up.  I took it for a nice drive around the neighborhood, and later took it to a local grocery and produce market with a redbox, to rent a movie for our “date.”

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Not being Netflix subscribers or premium cable channel subscribers, the red box is my wife’s and my movie outlet.

Besides reading a spate of books in the change your way of thinking/improve your life/become wealthy genre this year, I have continued reading dozens of books by my favorite contemporary (Daniel Silva/Anne Rice/Dan Brown/Steve Berry/Jonathan Franzen etc.) authors as well as some of my old favorites like John Le Carre, Peter Straub and Len Deighton.

With both of our kids out tonight, I thought it a good chance to have a movie date with my wife.  Finding a 2016 make of John Le Carre’s 2010 novel, Our Kind of Traitor, I wanted to see this.  During the holiday season, I watch many of my wife’s favorites like Holiday Inn, White Christmas, etc., even though I am very sick of them.

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By the way, even though I thoroughly enjoy John Le Carre books, you can skip this one if you are not into a cerebral, subtle story line about cultivating relationships with a Russian mob financier named Dima, who seeks asylum for his family when a new head of the Russian mob comes into power with less than great plans for Dima and his family.

I guess that you could classify this one as a Guy movie or even a Guy Who Loves Spy Novels and Movies movie.  I would give it three stars, my wife would probably give it zero.  I rated it two on the redbox website.

Following the movie, I did something that many if not all of us Middle Class Guys must do this time of year: shopped for holiday gifts.

Since signing up for Barnes & Noble “x” amount of years ago, I have been receiving e-mails from them daily.  They send but one out of my 100 or so e-mails per day received via my Yahoo! account and I delete it 99% of the time, but had not yet deleted one.

A few days ago, I recall clicking on one and seeing color Nook readers on sale for $49.  Having purchased my wife an old school black & white Nook many moons ago, likely over five years ago (maybe ten?  I do not know when they came out and do not feel like looking it up), I figured that it is time for an upgrade.

With our daughter having compiled a Christmas wish list, and our son having contributed some thoughts on jazz CDs that he has an interest in, I ordered six CDs (three for each of them) and a 7″ color Nook reader for a total of $116.17 on the Barnes & Noble website.

Dear Middle Class Guy,

Thank you for your order. Please see below for your Order Summary. We will send you a follow-up email once your items have shipped. If your order contains a pre-order, those items will not be available until their publication date(s).

If your order contains a digital pre-order, that content will not appear on your NOOK or NOOK Reading App until its publication date(s). Otherwise, all digital content on your order is ready for you to enjoy now.

If you ordered a NOOK magazine or newspaper subscription and qualify for a 14 day trial, we won’t charge you until the trial ends. Remember, you can always cancel anytime during your free trial period and owe nothing.

Ship To: Middle Class Guy
Decent House in a Lower- to Middle-Middle Class Neighborhood in the northwest suburbs in Illinois
Bill To: the Middle Class Guy
Shipping Method: Standard Delivery – Whatever’s Cheapest

Everything About Me and My Family is Now in the Giant Government Database

Various communications from the Census.
Various communications demanding that I fill out the American Community Survey.

Last year I was forced to fill out the American Community Survey.

I have been carrying around a copy of this blasted survey in my briefcase for over one year, anticipating this post, and figured that now would be a great time to voice my frustration about it now that I started this blog.

Also, I am sick of lugging around hundreds of pages of documents that I plan on blogging about, expired coupons, and financial papers that I am yet to file in my briefcase.

Ostensibly, the government claims that this data is “used to decide where to locate new highways, schools, hospitals and community centers: to show a large corporation that a town has the workforce the company needs; and in many other ways.”

According to a New York Times article by Catherine Rampell in 2012, “each year the Census Bureau polls a representative, randomized sample of about three million American households about demographics, habits, languages spoken, occupation, housing and various other categories. The resulting numbers are released without identifying individuals, and offer current demographic portraits of even the country’s tiniest communities.”

Also, reading the FAQ flyer that the Census Bureau sent to me three times (third try is the charm?) before I filled it out, “your response to this survey is required by law” and “Section blah blah blah imposes a penalty for not responding.”

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As I do with all surveys sent to me, at least the first time, I threw the documents straight into the recycle bin with a thought in my head like “F*** filling out the government’s G*d-damned survey.”

A few weeks later, I get another one with a letter urging me to fill it out, with the claim “Your Response is Required By Law” written boldly on it.

What?!  You mean that I can murder or maim, sell drugs on nearly any corner in Chicago that I want to, burglarize homes in my suburb with impunity and zero chance of arrest, but somehow I am going to get in trouble for not revealing everything about my family on some f-ing survey?!  F that!  I threw it in the recycle again, because I am big on recycling and would never throw that much paper in the garbage.

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Being the big government, I began getting more stern warnings by letter, along with a link to the form https://respond.census.gov/acs urging me to comply.

After three or four more of these, I halfheartedly went to fill out the form online, provided way too much and way too personal information, but stopped filling it out in disgust when the f-ing form wanted to know what time my children leave for school and what grades they are in.  The answer to that is none of their f-ing business.

How much schooling my wife and I had, how much we each earn, where we work, how long we commute, etc., is information that the government already has through the IRS.  I was not and am not comfortable providing a wealth of information about our children to the federal bureaucracy, staffed mostly by morons, for any summer intern there to peruse or for someone to use against us in the future somehow.

Do I sound paranoid to you or just reasonable?

Other questions require the respondent to tell the federal government about your race, the type of plumbing in your dwelling, if people in the dwelling access the Internet, the fuel most often used for heating in the dwelling, monthly rent, level of education, any “serious difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions,” issues climbing stairs, if an occupant of the dwelling has “difficulty dressing or bathing,” how many times they have been married, and how they get to work.

By the way, all four of us use the Internet daily and have our own Wi-Fi, as most other Middle Class families have, and we do have two toilets.

Anyway, I stopped filling the damned thing out online, and then got another stern letter basically demanding me to comply.

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I attempted to log on again, but had thrown out the postcard with the log on number on it, thus had to phone the Department of the Census to explain the issue to the schmuck who has to answer the phone for such questions about these things.  It was a young guy and he gave me a new code number to enter into the system in a day or so.

Image result for i'm from the government and i'm here to help

A day later, my new logon code worked and I started from scratch, revealing personal information about myself, my wife and my children. The paper form is 28 pages long, with each page having about 12 questions. Looking through it tonight, it is pissing me off again, seeing questions about how much we pay for utilities, what type of health insurance we have, and about any physical, mental, or emotional conditions we may have.

Seriously?!  You want someone to check a box stating that they have an emotional condition that causes difficulty in making decisions?!  Also asking how well each person speaks English?  Even though both my wife and I are college graduates and our two children are top students in highly rated schools, again I think it’s none of their f-ing business if none of us speaks a word of English.

Do you think the illegal immigrants who dwell in the massive apartment complex just a few hundred feet west of our house fill these forms out? No, they would rather demand that one of the few educated families in our working class neighborhood fill this damned thing out.

Googling the American Community Survey just now, I found a great article about it by Daniel Freedman in 2010 in the weekly Standard, in which he details the “Downright Orwellian” survey: “Even more invasive are the personal questions. The questionnaire asks how many people live with you and their relationship to you, along with their names, ages, gender, and race. Most creepy of all are the questions about your daily routine. The ACS wants to know where you work, what time you leave for work, how you get to work, how long it takes you to get to work, and how many people travel with you.”

His experience was worse than mine, with a ACS representative stalking him at his home, showing up unannounced, and threatening him with a $5,000 fine.  Government at its best.

Now there is no turning back.  I just read a few more articles about how the ACS has become a partisan issue, with Republicans basically wanting to repeal it for several of the reasons stated above.  I was not thinking Democrat or Republican when dealing with this survey, just thinking that this is definitely government overreach.

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Kiplinger’s Is A Keeper

A few of my Kiplinger's magazines that I recently went through.
A few of my Kiplinger’s magazines that I recently went through.

My late grandfather got me into investing.  He gave me $10,000 when I got my first “real job” just before turning 24, advised me on what to invest in (Vanguard mutual funds) and gifted me a subscription to Money magazine.

I just re-upped with Money magazine about a year ago after going on hiatus with it for about five years and still have money invested with Vanguard, including the Primecap fund (currently closed to new investors) and the Wellington fund, which has served very well as one half of my two children’s college savings accounts.

Image result for primecap fund

Anyway, my years of procrastination have changed the nature of many of my posts, those already done and hundreds or thousands more in the future.  About four years ago, after allowing my Money magazine subscription to lapse, due to its simplicity and hawking everything and anything under the sun, my original post title was going to be along the lines of “Kiplinger’s Outshines Money” or “Kiplinger’s Kicks Money’s Butt” or “Keep Kiplinger’s and Meh to Money” to be more alliterative.

Image result for money magazine

I cannot recall when it was that I began growing weary of Money magazine, but it must have been around Y2K, those years when my wife and I were struggling even more than now to get by, her just recently having become a stay-at-home-mom and me (barely) trying to eek out a living at a low-paying county job that required me to work with the criminal element and commute for an hour twice per day.  Those were the days when I warned my wife not to spend more than sixty dollars on groceries until Friday payday because we only had $62 in our joint account.

Who knows how one originally subscribes to a magazine?  Being the age that I am, I cannot even recall when I first subscribed to Kiplinger’s, but it must have been around that same time.  I cannot recall if I received an offer in the mail or bought a copy off of a shelf and filled out the subscription card but, however it happened, I have been a subscriber for about sixteen years.

Kiplinger’s headlines are just as racy as Money’s or any magazine with the goal of you purchasing it.  “How to Become a Millionaire,” “Retire Rich,” “Where to Invest in 2016,” “Best Investments for 2016” and so on and so forth.

More Kiplinger's that I had saved for saving and investing tips, and for blog post ideas.
More Kiplinger’s that I had saved for saving and investing tips, and for blog post ideas.

I find Kiplinger’s more informative and better written than Money.  I have not used the website much, but it seems as if there are at least two articles per issue that interest me and that I can relate to as a Middle Class Guy. There are less stories about where millionaires can invest and more about what stocks or funds might be of interest to those of us without “extra” tens or hundreds of thousands.  Also, things like the best banks to get savings accounts, ways to make money from the so-called “gig economy,” shopping cell phone plans, saving for college the right way, how to approach holiday spending without trying to pay it off the entire next year, etc.

While (finally) going through about 70 or so Kiplinger’s that I had stashed in two huge piles under one of my dressers, I tore out articles that I had saved the magazines for and ended up with at least one per magazine.

My wife was relieved that I got rid of a few of my piles (hoards) of papers, although I still have piles of many others (Atlantic Monthly, New Yorker, Planning, Real Simple, Better Homes & Gardens, Family Circle, Good Housekeeping, Fortune, Time, Woman’s Day, Travel & Leisure, HGTV, Popular Science and many more that I have either purchased as single copies or subscribed to for only a year).

More of the magazines from a pile under a dresser.
More of the magazines from a pile under a dresser.

By January 1, 2017, I hope to get rid of most, if not all, of these magazines piled under our two bedroom dressers and will probably end up with a few folders of torn out articles to inspire future posts or just for my own learning purposes.

By the way, I know that four of the magazines that I have subscribed to “for my wife” are woman-oriented, not for Middle Class Guys who are supposed to be more interested in cars and sports.  Speaking of which, I have subscribed to both Car & Driver and Sports Illustrated in the past, but neither interest me any more.  I read all of my Chicago-related sports news online or in my Sunday Chicago Tribune, and I gave up on Car & Driver in my mid-thirties, when I realized that I could not ever afford any car that I wanted to and was more destined to purchase ten-year-old vehicles with “under 100,000” miles on them.  I wanted a Porsche convertible so bad back then, it would kill me reading about cars like that every month.

Image result for man in porsche convertible
This is how I pictured myself driving to work or wherever else from April through November in the Chicago area.

Anyway, it is here in this anonymous, but won’t be anonymous forever, blog that I admit to enjoying Better Homes & Gardens more than my wife does.

I also admit here that, while I fully accept that there are gay men and I do not hold anything against them as long as they do not try to promote their lifestyle to me or my children, I do not mind reading one article in every issue or every other issue about when two men in a relationship travel together and “just saw this cute little cottage” in some Upper Class area like Nantucket or Hawaii, and had to have it.  I will read one story every once in a while about how the gay couple hired some great architect and re-did the entire house and garden (at a cost of millions) just the way they want it.

However, once there are two such articles in an issue, that is when I allow the subscription to lapse.  I can handle reading about one rich gay couple building up their dream home and garden per issue, but not two.

Back to Kiplinger’s.  I think that, as a fellow Middle Class Guy, you will find this magazine approachable and useful for ideas on how, why and what to invest in and ways of saving money on goods and services.  Sure, there are plenty of articles of how people made millions or billions off of new inventions, new companies and whatnot, but a vast majority of the articles are geared towards regular people with regular issues and regular goals, like you and I have.

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“I’m just an average man with an average life. I work from nine to five. Hey, Hell, I pay the price.” -Somebody’s Watching Me by Rockwell

 

 

 

 

I Have Read Over 100 Books This Year

Some of the many books that I have read since about June 2016.
32 out of the many books that I have read since spring 2016.

I read two to three books per week.  I have done so for quite a few years now, at least the last ten.

Please do not take this as bragging, I am just stating a fact.  I have read quite a few in what I call the better your life/make more money/change your way of thinking genre as well as many works of fiction.

I recall a quote by one of my favorite authors, Mario Puzo (author of the Godfather and many other enjoyable books), who wrote something along the lines of “reading is a luxury for the Middle Class” in one of his books. I cannot recall what book, but it hit home when I read it because I realized it to be true.

As I have written, most of my friends, relatives and colleagues fall into what would typically be described as the Middle Class, no matter who would be defining it, Pew Research, Yahoo! Finance, Kiplinger’s, CNN, Time, Wikipedia or whoever.  However, I do have friends, relatives and colleagues who definitely skew into the Upper Class, by my definition those making $250,000 and up.  I know that $250 K will not boost your family into upper class living in Manhattan or San Francisco, but I am not really talking about those places.

In the Midwest, $250 K goes a long way, as it should.

I am not saying that the high income individuals who I know do not read, but they definitely do not read to the extent that I do.  Most of them spend more time living life than reading about it, making money rather than reading about how to make money and traveling rather than reading travel magazines.  They tend to have more active social lives than I do. When you are traveling to Las Vegas with your friends for the weekend, you are not sitting for hours and reading like I do.  My boss plays golf on most nice weekends, a hobby that I have never had the time, money or inclination to take up.

Image result for man playing golf

On the flip side, you will not find a lot of so-called Lower Class Guys reading a lot.  I picture them watching a lot of TV, spending a lot of time at bars, working on their cars and cabinets and what-not, and perhaps not seeing the benefit of spending ten or twenty bucks on magazines and books, or visiting the local library.Image result for low class guy watching tv with beer

Does that seem like a rude assumption?  I have been to many a home with no books in sight, which makes me nervous and not quite trusting the people there.  Some families believe that the Bible is the only book needed. Having grown up the child of two writers and teachers, I am most comfortable surrounded by books and admit to judging people by the books that I see in their homes when I am in them.  I prefer to see piles of well paged-through books (like what I have in my own home) to neatly placed editions of books that appear to be for show.

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This resembles the ten or so shelves in my own home, although I also stack books in our closet, in my office, and in the trunks of my two junker vehicles.

While pondering starting a blog for nearly four years, I intended to mostly write about reading and perhaps start a website to rate books for authors of e-books on sites like Amazon and Goodreads.  I figured that, in addition to making a few bucks, I could get a lot of free books.

Since I began writing this short post a few days ago, I purchased 8 more books at a used book sale, total of $4, but I am still amazed at what one can learn by reading something written decades ago.  Technology has advanced astronomically since the 70’s or 80’s, but basic human nature has not, so I will take a well-written forty-year-old book any time over a poorly written one just published.  [Note: the book that I read over the past two evenings is The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck, M.D., Copyright 1978].

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Writing this on the Friday evening after Thanksgiving, a.k.a. Black Friday, I have spent the last two days surrounded by family including my siblings and their spouses and children, both in from out-of-state, and cousins whom I have not seen since last Thanksgiving.

The post that I meant to write, but did not, was going to be about avoiding political discourse over the Thanksgiving table.  As a subscriber to dozens of print publications and online publications, I read at least five articles suggesting to avoid the recent presidential election results at this annual family gathering.  Since I prepaid for this domain name for three years, I hope to be more up to speed next year and will post it next Thanksgiving.

I have been reading so many articles about Trump, the Democrats, Steve Bannon, the KKK, and so on, that it has stressed me out to a large degree and I have not been able to write anything, let alone the hundreds of posts that I want to write on the topic.  It is so overwhelming, that I do not even want to think about it.

I digress.  Anyway, I have been reading like mad lately and now have nearly 100 books cluttering our bedroom, and intend to write ten or more interesting things about each of them in 2017, and during the remainder of this year, in an effort to document their effect on my way of thinking, my future endeavor of becoming successful in my mid-forties (really late forties).

More of the books that I have read over the past five or so months.
32 more of the books that I have read over the past five or so months.

It is good to have goals, and one of mine for 2017 and beyond is to share what I have learned from those dozens upon dozens, hundreds upon hundreds, and thousands upon thousands of books, magazine articles, trade publications, blog posts, e-magazine articles, etc. with others.

I cannot yet say that my way of thinking has completely changed. Undoing four and a half decades of being taught by parents, other relatives, friends, teachers, neighbors, co-workers, bosses, writers, radio announcers and others who influence one’s way of thinking cannot be undone by reading 75 or so books over a six month period of time.  But, I have implemented about five or so of the hundreds of suggestions that I have read, and it has made a small difference in my life and way of thinking, however small that may be.

A few of the things that I have put into practice, and some of these were repeated in nearly every one of the “improve yourself” books that I read, include:

  1. Trying not to sit at my desk responding to emails instantly all day.  Even if it is one that I am compelled to reply to, I now let it sit for some time, perhaps a few hours, perhaps a day or two, at which time I send a shorter response than I used to, often just before I leave for the day, so I do not have to respond to another question or set of questions five minutes after my initial reply.  I have read this advice in at least five different books over the past two months, but the one that comes to mind first is The Power of Less by Leo Babauta, a book that outlines many ways to simplify your personal and work life.  I could easily detail a hundred things about this book, but will limit myself to a more workable number. Image result for the power of less by leo babauta
  2. I have begun to pay myself first.  Although my family’s bills run in the $8,000 to $10,000 range most months, I have gone months in the past without investing.  I am an avid investor for my income range over the years, but many months I would look at an overwhelming stack of bills and think, “I cannot afford to invest $500 or $1,000 or some other worthwhile amount while covering our basics, our children’s activities (and orthodontia), meals out, clothing, utilities, car repairs, etc. etc.”                                                                                                                            Turns out, you do not need to invest $1,000 or $500 to make an impact.  I now invest $250 per paycheck, “paying myself” for the first half hour of every work day (I make about $50 per hour before 25% of that is taken from deductions) or ten hours times $25 per paycheck.  I took this idea straight from the aptly titled book (for me) Start Late, Finish Rich: A No-Fail Plan for Achieving Financial Freedom at Any Age by David Bach.  Image result for start late finish richI realize, of course, that investing $6,500 per year into my own and my wife’s Roth IRAs combined will not make us rich.  However, if it continues to grow by some percentage over the next fifteen or so years, it will add up to the point where someday I may be able to post about us each having $100,000 or more in our IRA accounts, which should help us survive over the years, coupled with the pension that I am hoping to qualify for some day and perhaps even some social security funds, if it still exists and we are still among the living.
  3. Many of the books recommend expressing gratitude for what you have. Writing this on the Saturday following Thanksgiving, I realize that I spend much of my time dwelling on what I do not have, which is a lengthy list some of which is too personal to share even on an anonymously-written blog.  Instead, I am striving to recognize the good things that I have in my life, mainly my family, a roof over our heads, an almost-steady job with health insurance provided, a good wife for over twenty years, two children whom we love dearly, a wonderful little pet Morkie who I hesitate to even classify as a pet rather than another family member, automobiles that get us from point A to point B even though all three are junkers and require repairs (posts for another day).  We purchase all the food that we require, then some, usually spending over $1,000 per month on groceries.  Over all, we have plenty to be thankful for.
  4. I have been approaching (almost) every work day with a positive attitude. Is it hard to drag yourself to the same office that you have occupied, doing the same sort of thing that you have been doing for the past sixteen years on a dreary Monday morning in the northwest suburbs?  Hell yes!                                                                                                                                   Many of the books that I have read in this genre extol the virtues of maintaining a positive attitude, even in the face of conflict, stress, mismanagement and crisis.  I have been noted for maintaining a calm demeanor throughout my career, even in stressful situations, which is part of having a positive attitude, and also just having “been there and done that” and realizing that lives will not be saved or loss based on the decisions, replies and comments that I make at work.       Image result for positive attitudeI try not to let my highs get too high and my lows get too low.  Some people that I work with do the opposite, snap at others, withdraw and display their emotional side (granted these are women and not men, in general) when things are not going their way.  If something goes wrong with any of my female colleagues, they have to make sure everyone else knows about it.  As a steady, Middle Class Guy, I am good at keeping my emotions in check, whether accepting praise (and a raise would be even better) for a job well-done or being criticized in a public forum with reporters taking notes.    I call it being unflappable, which I am.                                                                                                                                               I have been in the workforce for over 23 years now, all in stressful positions dealing with the public, and I would not have been able to survive those years in those positions, or the nine more that I am aiming to complete, if I came to work with a negative attitude and let every little setback ruin my day and/or my outlook.
  5. I am trying to be more generous.  Almost every one of the books that I have read, with few exceptions, saves this nugget of wisdom for the last chapter.  After telling the reader how to think differently, become more productive, overcome common and uncommon obstacles and, ultimately, how to take control of your life and finances to become wealthier, most of these books remind you about the benefits of sharing with others.   Over the years, our family has donated hundreds of dollars worth of clothing, toys, household objects and (of course) books to local charitable organizations.  I always assign some minimal amount of value on the receipts, maybe $15 for ten articles of clothing or fifty cents per book, and use them as write-offs when filing our income taxes.                                                                                                                                                                 I have moved beyond that in the past few years, and will strive to be even more charitable this holiday season and throughout the year.  I hand out dollars to the guys panhandling by the side of the road, donate money (only $5 last week, but $5 more than I would have before) and canned goods to a local food pantry, and we sent a small check to a charity that helped our own family once, Ronald McDonald House, last year and I plan to do so again in the coming weeks assuming that they send us a letter requesting it again.                                                                                                                             Image result for power of giving                This time, I am going to be sure to tell our children that we are sending a check to Ronald McDonald House because much earlier this year, while I was explaining a family goal to be more charitable, our daughter said something along the lines of “we never give money, just old clothes.”  I corrected her, noting that I mailed a small check.  We have also sent checks to a hospital that treated on of our relatives who had passed away from cancer.                                                                                                                                                                                                                               My mother and my father-in-law both send numerous checks to numerous so-called charitable organizations, I do not even know exactly which ones besides Greenpeace for my mother.  Even though both of them have more money than we do, I am sure that we can send $100 without it putting a hurt on our budget.                                                                                                                                                                                                         Showing our daughter what we are sending should teach her a lesson, too, about being charitable even though there is a mortgage to pay, gifts to buy, utilities to pay, music, dancing and horse riding lessons to pay for, educations to pay for and save for, retirements to dream about and so forth.  I only wish that we could afford to give more, but someday with the money that I will reap through this blog and yet-to-be-written e-books, I hope to be able to.

 

 

 

I Am Going to Buy a Google Chromebook

Two weeks ago, I heard my daughter speaking deliberately a few nights in a row.  She was in our den, which is next to our combination living room/dining room, so I could hear her voice but not what she was saying.

Since we have a busy household, I thought nothing of it.  Many times, when I am walking around in pajama bottoms or just my boxers and no shirt, I walk by my daughter, only to hear giggling and then see her best friend looking at me through her Dell Chromebook or our iPad saying hello to me.

I have learned to be weary about walking around my house in my underwear because, between my two children, there is a decent chance that one of them is Facetiming with one of their friends.

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I entered our den, and was amazed to watch my daughter dictating sentences into her chromebook, which was transcribing her words perfectly.  I asked what she was doing, and she informed me that she was using Google voice to “write” a paper that was due the Monday before Thanksgiving.  I asked if I could try it, and was further amazed to see the app transliterate what I was saying verbatim.

This may have changed my life.

As of now, our family owns a Dell PC (which I am using now), a family-owned iPad, another iPad owned by our college-student son, a higher-end 6 MB Dell PC purchased for our son, with several upgrades allowing him to use music-writing apps for his music major courses, a Dell Laptop which I would like to use to write this, but it is so slow that I can barely tolerate turning it on at this point (ten or so minutes to log onto my Yahoo! account earlier today), and a Dell Chromebook provided to my daughter by her school three months ago at the beginning of the school year.

As I often write, or confess depending on your point of view, I have read over 100 books this year, a majority, perhaps 75% of which have been in what I have dubbed the improve your life/change your way of thinking/get rich genre.

One that I read a while ago, but have yet to write about, is called The Laptop Millionaire: How Anyone Can Escape the 9 to 5 and Make Money Online.

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I have referred to this book repeatedly while (1) taking it with a grain of salt; (2) not understanding every part of what he suggests; (3) not wanting to follow his advice, i.e., making YouTube videos, outsourcing creative work overseas, etc., and most important of all; (4) dreaming about making millions of dollars (or some much smaller percentage) while sitting on the beach with my laptop like the guy on the book cover.

I will further detail some motivational suggestions that I have gleaned from this book in a future post, but two intertwined suggestions that I took a particular interest in is (1) to create an e-book or multiple e-books on subjects that either you are an expert in or that you can gather information from experts or even, in the “Laptop Millionaire’s” case, farm out to low-paid writers in southeast Asia for $5 or $10 per segment, perhaps $30 or $40 for enough text to fill a whole “book,” and then sell each one online for $10 or more on Amazon (author keeps 70%).  He claims to make thousands of dollars per month via this strategy.

The light bulb really went off over my head while reading the chapter on e-books, in a section where the Laptop Millionaire details how he created audio courses via MP3 files.  He writes that the average typist can type about 50 words per minute, while the average person speaks at about 160 words per minute.  Not that I would ever do this, even though I Never Say Never, he wrote that “if you dictate for six hours on one day, you will dictate over 57,000 words in a single day.”

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For me, it is not just about the ability to crank out words faster, it is also about the ability to not necessarily be a “Laptop Millionaire,” but a “Chromebook Hundred Thousandaire.”  I would dictate sometimes during my 30-minute commute to and from work, occasionally during my lunch hour (perhaps by myself in my car?), downstairs in the basement while everyone else is asleep upstairs, perhaps in my backyard on a nice day even though neighbors and passersby may be curious and who knows where else.  Perhaps some day at the beach.

I have not yet purchased this miracle of modern technology, but intend to do so by the end of the year.  Remember, I am a Middle Class Guy.  Even though our family is in the habit of transacting $8,000 to $10,000 in an average month, I still want to get a good deal and want to purchase something that is very functional, convenient and (I hope) ultimately profitable.

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For now, I will use the family PC in the moments where my wife is not using it for Facebook or the games that she constantly plays on it and in the times where I, myself, am not using it to peruse my email, pay bills, read stuff about Trump that gets my blood boiling, and generally serf the Internet.

I know that the most popular thing to read and write about in many of these blogs is “how to make more money,” but I sincerely hope to someday report that I am making money online too.  Until that time, I am signing off as a Middle Class Guy.

 

Dr. John is Awesome!

A photo of Dr. John on his 76th birthday with Hugh Laurie.

My son and I attended a concert featuring Dr. John and Nicholas Payton at Symphony Center in Downtown Chicago on Friday night, November 18th.

It was Dr. John’s debut at Symphony Center, and I am very glad that we were able to attend.  I cannot say that I have been a member of his fan club for very long, knowing him only for “Right Place Wrong Time,” a song that I like a bit but would not list it among my 100 favorites and “Down in New Orleans,” a song that I love at the beginning of Disney’s The Princess and the Frog, a movie that I also must admit liking an awful lot despite being a Middle Class, Middle Aged Guy.

It was more about going downtown to Symphony Center with my son, who was eager for me to go there with him “in order to gain a little more culture,” as he so nicely put it.

The rest of the crowd at Symphony Center this past Friday night tended to the Upper Class, or at least Upper Middle Class, judging by the quality of the suits, dresses and jewelry on the other patrons.

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Symphony Center in Chicago is an amazing venue right on Michigan Avenue.

The tickets for the concert were not so outrageous at $234 for the two of us, considering that we had great box seats, and we spent another $27 on round-trip train fare to and from “Zone E” in the Metra system ($6.75 each way for each of us), another $1.50 to park in the Metra lot, and we spent another $23 for dinner at Cosi on Michigan Avenue before the concert.  One mini bottle of water at the concert for my son was another $2.  The people in front of us ordered four glasses of wine at $9 a pop, then handed the bartender two twenties and let her keep the change.  I tried not to gag while observing this.

Also, when I say “we,” I mean that I paid, being the father and the only one of us two with an income.

My son and I both ordered adobo chicken with avocado bowls at Cosi.
My son and I both ordered adobo chicken with avocado bowls at Cosi.

Below is the email from Symphony Center upon purchase of these tickets, with my personal information removed:

Thank you for your patronage!

———————————————————-
PATRON INFORMATION
Patron ID#:
———————————————————-
ORDER DETAILS:
Order #: 8219522
Ticket Total:                           $224.00
Fee:                                         $10.00
Grand Total:                           $234.00

Total Paid:                              $234.00
Anticipated Due/Payable:        $0.00

# of Tickets in this order = 2

———————————————————-
TICKET DETAILS:
———————————————————-

11/18/2016  8:00 PM     Orchestra Hall     Dr. John: The Spirit of Satch
1B-Box          S  –      2 tickets      $224.00

I am not reporting the price to complain, mind you.  I think that every dollar was well spent.  I only detailed it to illustrate why those struggling to make ends meet at an hourly job or with overwhelming difficulties that afflict those in the Lower Class or struggling to make it into or remain in the Middle Class would not typically attend a concert at Symphony Center. The entire evening ran us nearly $300, which I should have used to repair one of my cars, but that’s another post.

The concert was awesome!  Dr. John, turning 76 years of age today, needed assistance making it to the piano bench, and displayed difficulty and confusion when introducing songs and speaking to the audience.

In terms of singing and playing the piano, he could not have done it any better at the age of 35, 45, 55 or even 65 than he played it last Friday night at the age of 75.  After watching and listening to concerts for over four decades, I have never heard a better pianist in my life.  Along with Dr. John’s distinctive voice and New Orleans style, he is now among my favorite all-time performers.

You had to be there, because my writing cannot describe how cool it was as he played piano and sang “When the Saints Go Marching In” in a blues dirge, when he played and sang “Mack the Knife” and “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” among others.

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I should mention that the concert was a tribute to my son and my favorite all-time jazz guy, and most everyone else’s, Louis Armstrong.  Trumpeter Nicholas Payton was the special guest artist, although Dr. John’s style and virtuosity blew Nicholas away by miles.

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Nicholas Payton is good, but not yet great like Dr. John.

After playing for about one hour and forty minutes straight, the concert came to a close.  While my son and I experienced a lot of joy and excitement together over enjoying this historic and amazing concert, I felt saddened when it ended, feeling like I will never see Dr. John perform this well again.

I have attended many concerts in my time, as many of us Middle Class Guys have.  Perhaps some day I will list them out in another post, but I am sure that I could not remember half of them.

I vividly recall seeing the Grateful Dead a few times (while Jerry Garcia was with them), Pink Floyd (twice), the Who, the Cure, Depeche Mode, Jane’s Addiction, Ministry, Morrissey, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, R.E.M. and many, many others since the 80’s.

I just wanted to pay kudos to Dr. John on his 76th birthday because, out of all of the concerts that I have attended, including so-called piano virtuosos, I have never heard anybody play and sing like him, and probably never will again.

The Kind of House That I Want Costs $385 K

I have friends, relatives and colleagues living in everything from a cheap two bedroom apartment (friend who was foreclosed on and lost his house about three years ago) to a million-dollar-plus property (a successful uncle and his family).

I also have “friends” and other people who I know through my work, which primarily consists of working with existing and prospective business owners and real estate developers, who run an even wider gamut of housing from cheap apartments on Lake Street in Hanover Park or Streamwood for about $800 per month, to a few business people whom I have worked with who are multi-millionaires and live on estate properties in South Barrington, Barrington Hills, or north shore suburbs like Winnetka, Kenilworth and Lake Forest.

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A lovely home in Barrington, Illinois.
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A massive Barrington Hills estate.
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A friend who was foreclosed on lives like this in a Hanover Park apartment.

My family resides in a neighborhood that strives to remain Middle Class. We are a Middle Class family, for sure, but many of those around us struggle to make mortgage and utility payments, only about half of the working or trying to work adults in our neighborhood have attended college, about the same percentage send their children to college, and many are blue collar workers.

Landscaping trailers, security service trucks, utility trucks and the like abound in driveways in our neighborhood, as well as several taxi cabs. Our neighbors are the service technicians and contractors for companies rather than the owners or executives of those companies.

The neighborhood where my boss lives, in contrast, is populated by the owners and executives of those companies and he describes the additions and amenities that they add to their homes, tells me stories about their second or even third homes, friends and neighbors paying full freight for their childrens’ private college educations at Ivy League schools and Notre Dame, and the amazing places that they travel to.

I do not have anything against blue collar workers, but most of my other relatives and friends live in neighborhoods populated by lawyers, doctors, professors, financial people, educators, architects, small business owners and others who would be categorized as white collar professionals.

Those neighborhoods tend to be quieter than ours with better kept homes, nicer landscaping, better vehicles around, and more Labradors and Golden Retrievers than the favored pets of those in our neighborhood, pit bulls.

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Most of the pit bulls in our hood are behind fences, but at least two are generally allowed to roam around freely.

I have looked at houses in better neighborhoods, meaning more expensive, less crime and, most importantly, better neighbors, for nearly fifeen years since purchasing our modest home in our modest neighborhood.  Truth be told, I never thought that I would find myself raising a family and residing permanently in a lower Middle Class neighborhood.

Dreaming again recently of actually moving, I searched homes on Redfin.com, which allows one to search by school district, even high schools, which is important considering residents of the town that we live in and parts of two neighboring towns can attend one of four high schools depending on what neighborhood you live in.

 

1109 Beach Comber Dr

 

The above home is the type that I aspire to and is described as follows:

“Beautifully updated 4 bedroom / 2.1 bath single family home in the highly desirable [name of subdivision] subdivision of [name of northwest suburban town]! The best 10 of 10 schools in district [my son’s former and daughter’s current school district]. Located on a quiet side street only three minutes from the [nearby] X-Way.”

“Top floor has all four bedrooms, updated bathrooms, extra large 28 X 12 master bedroom and new carpet. The main floor has all new dark oak hardwood floors, bay windows, new 42 in cabinets in the eat-in kitchen, exclusive slate GE appliances, granite counters and new front loading W/ D in laundry room. The lower level is finished with a wet bar and new carpet. The large fenced in backyard includes a great kids play set and paved patio for entertaining! Includes an extended home warranty through January 2018.”

The asking price is $385K!  More than this Middle Class Guy can afford by over $100,000.  Our so-called master bedroom is 14 X 12, exactly half the size of this house, and our son’s bedroom is a mere 12 X 10 and I am ashamed to write that our daughter’s bedroom is under 100 square feet. In many towns, that would not make the minimum Building Code requirement for a bedroom, but it did in our Middle Class post-war suburb in 1961.

Here is another in a neighborhood that I like better than the above home, and this one is priced at a mere $369,900.

434 Redwood Ln
Read the compelling ad for this one: “Location, Location, Location! Quiet, tree-lined dead end street. Beautiful [name of neighborhood] tri-level with a sub-basement. Modern open floor plan with welcoming entry foyer. Formal living room has vaulted ceilings. Custom designed hardwood floors throughout the home. Bright kitchen features granite counters, large island with breakfast bar, all stainless steel Kitchen Aid appliances (including 2 drawer dishwasher), lots of updated cabinets and counter space, picture window, canned lighting and breakfast area.”
“Huge family room with Stone wood burning Fireplace. Newly Finished Basement is theater room with new porcelain wood-look tile floors and canned lighting. Large master bedroom with a view to the private yard. Upstairs hall bath w/ dual sinks. Other 3 bedrooms are generously sized. 6 panel doors w/ new hardware. New trim, freshly painted throughout. Updated electric outlets and light switches. Some newer windows. Furnace 3 years old. Roof + siding 2011. 2 1/2 car garage. Mature landscaping.”
I must ask you, Dear Reader, are these two above homes above and beyond what a Middle Class Guy should wish for?  Do you live in a home like this? Even better?  Perhaps you live in a trailer and aspire to a detached home. Perhaps you live in an apartment or a condominium and aspire to the same.  Perhaps you live in a house like this and cannot really afford it, or perhaps it is paid off and you are becoming an empty nester and are ready to sell the place and move to a condo in Boca Raton.
Anyway, I am a very persistent Middle Class Guy and, although this blog is yet to earn one red cent, I plan on making some money online whether via this blog, publishing e-books, starting a podcast, writing for others for small amounts via Fiverr and the like, but even though I am now closer to 50 than 40, I still hope and dream to move up to a nicer home.

Sometimes while perusing better homes than ours on Trulia.com or Redfin.com, I am reminded of a lyric for a song entitled “Cursed Male” by Porno for Pyros: “All the guys that really have the money are too old to have a good time with it.  Too old to turn the women on.  Too old to have a fast car and drive it.”  

In other words, I believe that some sunny day, it would not necessarily be a curse, but that I would finally have enough money to purchase a home like one of these two, but it would be too late for me to watch my children (one in college, one in 8th grade) grow up in a nicer house in a nicer neighborhood, which was the plan.  By that time, my wife and I would be more likely to seek out a one-story ranch home in the area due to the mobility problems that I already have, and are unlikely to improve with age.

I would like to move up to a nicer house next year or in 2018, but I admit that it is unlikely to happen.  But there is no law against a Middle Class, Middle Aged Guy dreaming.
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The Dems Need Epstein

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Theo Epstein took over the Cubs in 2011 after a 71-win season. This year, they won 103 games — and their first World Series in 108 years.

Check out the Cubs record since 2012 below:

Season Team League W L PCT GB Place Attendance
2016 Chicago Cubs National League 103 58 .640 1 3,232,420
2015 Chicago Cubs National League 97 65 .599 3.0 3 2,959,812
2014 Chicago Cubs National League 73 89 .451 17.0 2,652,113
2013 Chicago Cubs National League 66 96 .407 31.0 5 2,642,682
2012 Chicago Cubs National League 61 101 .377 36.0 5 2,882,756

The year that my late father, a lifelong Cubs fan, spent time hospitalized and in a nursing home battling a horrible form of cancer (aren’t they all horrible?) until his passing, the miserable Cubs lost game after game with a collection of bums, all the while the new regime, led by Theo Epstein, telling us that they were blowing up the Lovable Loser model, building from scratch, and aiming towards building a sustainable winning team.

I did not believe him.

Fast forward to 2016 and Theo was proven right.  His model did work.

Using saber metrics and analyzing statistical models to help determine who to draft, who to trade for, who to let go, and how and when to best utilize their talents, just won the first World Series since 1908 despite the manager’s efforts to hand it to the Indians.

Another way of looking at it is, he took a broken model that did not seem to be working or building a winning product (older, higher priced free agents) and rebuilt the club from within, by trades (Rizzo, Arrieta) and savvy drafting (Bryant, Schwarber).  They blew up the old, losing model filled with aging stars and built up a sustainable team.

This recently completed presidential election with results that apparently shocked many people and news organizations made me think about the Lovable Loser model that the Dems employed.

I have been speaking about the election results quite a bit with a variety of friends and relatives, and have come to the conclusion that the Dems’ tired, old, hopey and changey model has been officially played out.

Although the President-elect is quite long in the tooth, 70 years old, it was the losing candidate, a 69-year-old woman, who seemed to be the tired, same-old, same-old candidate offering more of the same.

The type of candidate that the Dems need to compete for a World Series title, I mean the next presidential election, needs to be young, brash, unafraid to speak his or her mind and on TV a lot.  I mean someone with their own TV show, preferably someone likable and as rich or richer than Trump.

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I would vote for Mark Cuban over Trump or the tired same-old.

I espoused my view Sunday evening at a family dinner and hit the point hard, that I think it has to be a non-politician celebrity with heavy television exposure, so voters can feel that they already know what the person is about.  Also, someone who is not as beholden to special interests or the vast Democratic machine that spoon feeds liberal talking points to you.

While working on this post, I just Googled “Democratic candidates for President 2020” and read the top article in the search, an article on TheHill.com by Ben Kasimar and started feeling sick while reading the names Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders as #1 and #2.  I would have voted for either one of them this past week, and I did vote for Bernie months ago in the primary, but are you kidding for 2020?!

Talk about tired out same-old, same-old, a 71-year-old (in 2021) politician or a guy who is 75 now.  Really?!  Neither one would do as well as Hillary just did, so the Dems should put those two out to pasture gracefully.  Do you see Theo Epstein bringing Alfonzo Soriano or Carlos Zambrano back in four years in order to compete?  Look these names up if you are unfamiliar with Cubs history before this season.

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The list goes on to name other political figures, men and women, Caucasian and African-American (Cory Booker), all decent politicians with a decent shot. Or, as I used to say about the Cubs teams prior to Epstein, just good enough to lose.

One name stands out as someone with a strong personality, not afraid to speak his mind, and a person whose acerbic wit I used to almost enjoy on Saturday Night Live back in the day, Al Franken.  The Hill’s article describes Franken as “A less common pick, the former Saturday Night Live cast member could be an interesting foil to the reality show superstar turned President Elect.”

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Franken as I think of him, not too funny on SNL but bold enough to do comedy on live TV.

Franken, 65, has sought to ditch the “funny man” reputation since he arrived in the Senate, but has started to open up a bit more recently as he stumped for Clinton and bashed Trump.  Some are buying into the early speculation, with the “Draft Al Franken 2020” super-PAC registered on Wednesday.

Even though he meets my TV criteria and is not afraid to step out of PC mode, I think that Franken, like the others, is just good enough to lose.

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Franken as a Minnesota senator.

Who should run in 2020?  I have heard it suggested that Michael Bloomberg should run, but doing a Google search of that turns up a dearth of negative things about the guy, with Trump calling him a coward to run this year and only able to get 10% of the vote.  Although I am sure that he would exceed 10%, I am almost as certain that he could not attain the magic number of electoral votes.

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Another list that I just viewed, “11 Democrats Who Could Defeat President Trump in 2020” in Mother Jones by Jeremy Schulman, lists all the usual (future losing) suspects including Tim Kaine, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar (seriously?!).

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Tim Kaine, good enough to barely lose in 2020.

Two on this list that pique interest are Tammy Duckworth, a wounded combat veteran whom I just voted for, for Senator in my district, and who won handily, and current First Lady Michelle Obama.  I seriously doubt that either of them could reach 270.

I am not sure who else is out there.  I do not follow politics very closely and am a Middle Class Guy who has been around a while and has heard empty promises for decades.  Most of the Illinois politicians prove to be corrupt or ineffective or, more commonly, both.

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Keep in mind, the above list are only ten politicians who have been stupid enough to get caught and convicted.  There are ten times as many who are smart enough to not get caught.

My suggestion is to hire or at least consult Theo Epstein.  He may be employed by a Trump supporter, but he is professional enough that if you hire him to analyze the data, he may be able to help pinpoint someone who can spend the next three years staying out of trouble enough to make a run at unseating the President-elect.

Remember what you are reading now from the Middle Class Guy.  They need someone independently wealthy (not wealthy through politics), someone with TV exposure to the masses, not just one particular state, someone 60 years of age or younger, preferably in his or her 40’s, who is not too hard on the eyes.  For heaven’s sake, not an 80-year-old who could not win his party’s nomination.  That is like expecting the Bears to win the Super Bowl this year.  Ain’t gonna happen!

To top it off, this candidate must not shrink back from Trump’s accusations, but throw them back at him twice as hard.  Threaten to prosecute him instead of getting threatened.  Dig up dirt on his business dealings instead of getting investigated by the FBI right before the election.  Put out some solid new ideas instead of regurgitating the same-old, tired party line that worked for JFK, Bill Clinton and Obama.  That stuff won’t cut it in ’20.  It can be the basis of the candidate’s platform, but do not pose it that way.  Pose it as brash and bold.  Remember, even the Millennials and young minority voters of 2016 will be four years older.

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Win back some of the blue collar working class white voters that feel abandoned by liberal, left-wing lifelong politicians who grow fat off of government contracts, high-priced dinners and coddling Wall Street. That shit ain’t gonna work!

That person is out there.  I am just a Middle Class Guy with a Middle Class Job and a Middle Class Family in a (lower) Middle Class Neighborhood in a Middle Class Town, but even I can see the obvious.  Can the Dems?  Maybe Theo should run!

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P.S. By the way, I am actually kidding about hiring Theo, but if anybody can turn a loser into a winner, it is him.

 

 

Biofreeze Works Better

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I have a chronic injury to my ankle.  Trust me, it’s chronic.  Relatives do not like when I say that, but I have serious doubts that it will ever be completely pain free and as strong as it once was again.

I have seen three different podiatrists for it, have gone through physical therapy three separate times, and still I wake up every morning to a sore ankle.

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I injured it over three years ago while tripping over a branch that I did not see on a tennis court, about fifteen feet behind the end line.  I tripped and rolled my ankle on it very badly while jumping off of my right foot to make a great return.  Incidentally, I had been playing tennis the best that I ever have just a minute before the injury.  In one split second, I can most likely never play that well or pain-free again.  Oh well, that’s how life is for us Middle Class Guys.

The last specialist who prescribed physical therapy told me that, if it did not greatly improve things, that surgery was the most viable option.  I can honestly report in this blog that I want to avoid that as long as I can, since I have been told that my right ankle would have to be in a boot or cast for up to three months, which halts my ability to drive.

Due to the busy suburban middle-class lifestyle that my family lives, it would basically be impossible for my wife to drive me to and pick me up from work for that long of a period of time.  If I do go that route, I would have the surgery first thing in the summer so at least she does not have to schlep our daughter to school every morning around the time that I am leaving for work.

A more upper-middle class relative of mine suffered a similar or possibly worse injury, chose one of the top surgeons in the Chicago area, one who has performed surgeries on numerous professional athletes, and is back nearly as good as new despite having been injured after I was.  It pays to have more moolah!

Over the past three years, I have tried this and that to deal with it.  I have taken so much Advil and Ibuprofen that it has caused my stomach to bleed a lot and now I have to go in for “a procedure” next month to see how bad things are in there.

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This is what I have to look forward to early in December.

I have started taking Tylenol over the past three or so weeks since completing a physical and being referred to a gastroenterologist, who told me that some problems that I am having can be caused or exacerbated by use of NSAIDs, so I should either stop using them altogether or only when I am in great pain.

I have gone for several massages at Massage Envy, a little pleasure that I deem too expensive at $80 for one hour for my normal Middle Class Guy lifestyle, but enjoy going via a gift card from my Mother for my past two birthdays.  I do not go a lot, maybe five times in the past two years.

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What I do most often is smear goo on my bad ankle, usually late at night, which for me is around 10:00 to 11:00 p.m., before retreating to bed to read for a bit or just try to go to sleep.  Notice that I said “try,” more on that in later posts.

After using Biofreeze, Icy Hot and a generic dollar-store version, the Biofreeze works best by a lot.  I used Ben-Gay constantly for my high school years being a long-distance runner in both cross-country and track, but have not used it with this latest injury.

I use Biofreeze, Icy Hot and a generic version.
I use Biofreeze, Icy Hot and a generic version.

I mostly use Biofreeze in sample sizes provided to me by a chiropractor friend who I am not a patient of, but hands out samples like candy.  Since I shop at Walgreen’s and do not care much for CVS, I never see Biofreeze for sale anywhere that I shop.

Currently out of samples (I should visit this friend soon at her place of business), I have been using Icy Hot the past two weeks or so, and I can barely feel it in comparison to the Biofreeze.  I did purchase an Icy Hot tube with Lidocaine yesterday at Jewel on my way home from work, along with several other items, and I am looking forward to trying it out.

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I do not want to have two Icy Hot tubes open in our already-crowded medicine cabinet, so I will be using the regular Icy Hot judiciously over the next few nights, using it up as quickly as I can so I can try this stuff out.

icy-hot

To be fair, Ben Gay is probably the market leader in this category, so I should give it a try again but, until then, I strongly recommend Biofreeze and tell you not to bother with Icy Hot if given the choice to use one or the other.

Still in Shock

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Hello Again from Your Middle Class Guy buddy.

I’ll spare you, kind reader, my list of excuses for not blogging for a while. I’m not sure how long.  Last time I did was from a hospital room with my son before Cubs World Series Game 7, a game that had my blood pressure shooting through the roof at a time when I was already experiencing a high level of anxiety.

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This is how I felt all of last week.

This past Tuesday, I held my nose and cast my ballot for somebody whom I basically hated, someone dishonest, corrupt, a life-long politician offering few new ideas and offering the sense of business as usual, a continuation of her husband’s long-ago regime and the current eight year regime.  I have little respect for this candidate, but considered the alternative when I cast my ballot.  I had considered voting for a fringe candidate, as I have done in the last two elections (I did vote for her husband the first time I could vote, and I voted for W twice after that).

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I deemed the alternative just a bit worse.  A shoot-from-the-hip, speak-whatever’s-on-your-mind, grab-whatever-hot-woman’s-body-parts-you-want-to, blame-everything-on-the-minorities-taking-white-people-jobs candidate.

As a Middle Class, Middle Aged Guy who has half of his family of the female persuasion, a mother, a sister, an aunt, too many great aunts to count (maybe about ten but all deceased now), two grandmothers when I was younger, a wife, a daughter, and even a woman who is a friend, I could not in good conscience vote for the ultimately winning candidate.

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I stayed up for hours, switching between CNN and WGN news (for local coverage) in disbelief, following the results in Wisconsin and Michigan particularly, two states where I have spent and will spend a considerable amount of time.

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I went to sleep before it was officially called, and my wife told me at about 6 a.m. the next morning that things would never be the same.

Here in the Chicago area and having a job where I interact with a lot of people, co-workers and business owners and potential business owners, I have heard a lot about the winning candidate.  I have friends and in-laws who voted for him and I respect their votes and the democratic process, so I am not criticizing you if you did cast your ballot for him, I’m just writing why I did not.

Two nights ago on the news, I witnessed a white man being beaten and taunted about Trump on one of the most Godforsaken blocks in the world, let alone Chicago.  That is what I would expect driving through Chiraq.  He should be glad that they did not kill him.

After that, I watched stories about protesters gathering around Trump tower in Chicago, a video of junior high students chanting “build the wall” while Hispanic children in the lunchroom cried, and another clip of students in Pennsylvania holding a Trump sign and chanting “white power.”

More of the same the next day, swastikas on walls, “no blacks allowed” sprayed on bathrooms, the KKK holding a victory rally…

Since that fateful night, I have had dozens upon dozens of newsletters sent to my in-box, both at home and at work.

One of the things that my future readers will learn about me is that I read voraciously and constantly.  I read a book or two per week, sometimes more, and I subscribe to at least three dozen publications in print and many more than that in digital format.  Really, it is too much to possibly read unless I spent five hours a day reading.

I would try to list a lot of them for you, but cannot by memory and don’t feel like looking it up, but the ones that come to mind first are Crain’s Chicago Business, a Vanguard newsletter, a T.Rowe Price newsletter, the Christian Science Monitor, the New Yorker, the Atlantic, Kiplinger’s, Money, Success Magazine, numerous local and national real estate and planning-related publications, and many more.  Much of what I read has a liberal bent to it, not because I am a liberal but because those are publications that I have subscribed to for many years.  Perhaps because my elders are liberal, since the New Yorker and The Atlantic are both gift subscriptions from my mother.

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The New Yorker, long a liberal magazine and one that I have read avidly for many a year, makes its feelings very obvious:

An American Tragedy

The electorate has, in its plurality, decided to live in Trump’s world of vanity, hate, arrogance, untruth, and recklessness.

BY DAVID REMNICK

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This online version of the New Yorker actually had about six similar articles outlining the end of the World as We Know It, all due to the election of Trump.

As Lonnie Shekhtman wrote in this past Thursday’s online version of The Christian Science Monitor, “Americans sent a clear message during Tuesday’s presidential election: They want radical change. They soon will get their wish. Though what that change will bring for the well being of Americans and the economy, no one can predict, given that Mr. Trump has an economic plan that’s not aligned with the plans of his party, and no history of government service to reference.”

The financial publications basically try to interpret what the election of Trump will mean to various aspects of the economy and investing, without the emotional and critical rhetoric of many other publications.

The blog that I would have done last Tuesday but, again, did not have the time due to my difficult work week, trying to help with my son’s health issues, helping around the house and, generally, trying to survive the week, would have been the two music quotes that had been ringing through my mind throughout the week.

I love music and have a wide variety in tastes, the topic of another upcoming post, thus the two quotes are from one song that every Middle Aged Guy knows, and the other would have only been known to a few who (like me) were into alternative music in the late 80’s and early 90’s, back when I was actually “cool.”

Sitting on a sofa on a Sunday afternoon.
Going to the candidates’ debate.
Laugh about it, shout about it
When you’ve got to choose
Every way you look at this you lose.

-Mrs. Robinson by Simon & Garfunkel

in the Tory or the labor camps, well, it’s the same
Republican or Democrat, well, it’s still the same to me
go to Lenin or Marx, it doesn’t matter
starve the people while the rich get fatter
can’t you see they got us where they want us?
can’t you see the enemy here is you?

Apathy by 1,000 Homo DJs (a side project by Ministry)

 The header or introduction to the post would have been either or both quotes, “Every way you look at this you lose” or “Republican or Democrat, it’s still the same to me.”

There you have it and I hope that President-elect Trump does what he can to help us Middle Class Guys, but I would not count on it.