How turning a profit and boosting revenues turns out badly

Rogers came out with its quarterly earnings today.

I have 122.26993 Rogers B shares through the company share acquisition plan.

The "book value" -- which considers the average price paid for the shares -- is $5106.36.

At this moment, the shares are worth $4252.55. A difference of a little more than $850.

See, the shares fell today. Fell about 5%.

According to, "Rogers said it earned C$301 million, or 47 Canadian cents per share, in the three months ended June 30. That compares with a loss of C$56 million, or 9 Canadian cents, in the same period a year earlier. Adjusted net income rose to C$364 million, or 57 Canadian cents a share, from C$299 million, or 47 Canadian cents."

Sounds keen, huh? Earnings are way up, net income is up, profit is up. So why the heck would the shares fall like this?

I asked 680News money honey Leah Walker, and she summed it up: the results missed analysts' estimates.

Ah, of course. Forbes explains, "Analysts expected Rogers to earn 51 Canadian cents a share, according to Reuters Estimates. Earnings before one-time items were expected to be 53 Canadian cents a share."

So what do I think? I think all my non-RRSP savings are locked up in this stock! And I think I'll get a helluva bargain next time the ESAP purchase rolls around if the stock is still this low. And I think that when it goes up to about $50/share (it was $51 a year ago), I'm gonna cash a bunch out, take the profit, and diversify a bit.

I'm just not, y'know, smart enough to know how to do that efficiently right now. I know I can transfer some of my shares 'in kind' to the group RRSP program run by Manulife. That'd let me max out my RRSP for this year without actually shelling out cash. I know I can transfer shares to a brokerage account -- dunno if that includes online discount brokers.

I dunno ... any financial wizzes out there with 2 cents' worth of free advice?

Credit-hating film director suspects blogger is "a big ass"

You never know who'll be reading a blog ... or comments written on another blog.

Some time ago, I wrote a little bit about a documentary called In Debt We Trust:

Danny Schechter takes on the credit industry from the point of view that people who fall victim to crushing debt are hapless victims of an exploitative monster industry. While I don't disagree that Americans in particular have been buried by sometimes questionable practices of credit companies, I felt the film let the consumers off the hook too easily. Yes, people are sucked in by too-good-to-be-true offers which shouldn't be offered in the first place. Yes, people are sucked under by payday loans. But after all the reading I've been doing lately, the reality that spending less than you make is the key to staying afloat is virtually ignored. The film portrays slow death by debt as a virtual inevitability in American society.

I really did like the spooky prescience of the movie's portrayal of the housing bubble. It was made before the recent credit crunch, but predicted it precisely. It said sub-prime lending was the hot hot thing, but pointed out how ludicrous and ultimately doomed the whole scheme was.

All in all, I'd say pass on In Debt We Trust, unless you get a kick out of reinforcing a victim mentality.

Earlier this month, money movies became a topic of discussion on some personal finance blogs I read regularly. I commented on a post over at Canadian Capitalist, noting that I liked the film Maxed Out a lot more than In Debt We Trust.

Well, the film's director posted the comment right after mine:

The Big Ass Superstar may also be a big ass. As the director of In Debt We Trust, which warned of the subprime calamity ahead, I was of course disappointed by his put down but your readers might want to decide for yourselves by visit I also have a new book coming out on the origins of the crisis. It’s called PLUNDER

Golly. I understand how creators become attached to their creations and get defensive when people don't love 'em ... but ... gee, dude. I don't think I'm a target worthy of that kinda shot. And I'm certainly not the only one in the bunch noticing the lack of responsibility taken by the victims in the credit-is-evil genre.

I encourage anyone who's interested to check out Schechter's movie. Heck, make it a weekend -- see Maxed Out, too, and maybe some of the other financial flicks on the list. Let me know how you like 'em.

What I learned from my credit report

With the possibility of an attempt at home ownership coming up, I thought it prudent to order copies of my credit reports. I keep hearing that it's smart to check them regularly to make sure they're correct and ... well, good, I guess.

I sent off the required photocopies and forms to the major credit reporting agencies in Canada, Equifax and TransUnion.

Equifax got back to me within a couple of weeks. TransUnion has not. Last time I tried this, I sent one of them insufficient copies of my documentation, and got my info from one and a "sorry, can't help you" letter from the other. I'm hoping I didn't do the same thing this time.

So, here's what I learned from Equifax: Everything's fine.

My file was opened in the fall of 1994, which must've been when I got my first Mastercard.

They have my current address correct, and my previous two addresses. They have correct info about my employer.

The report shows credit inquiries from the car leasing company, two property management companies from when I was apartment-hunting here, and four inquiries from TD/GM Visa. Yeah, back from 1996 to 1998 I applied four times for a GM Visa. I got t-shirts and mugs and whatnot. I was turned down every time.

Other inquiries on my record show quick checks from Citi, Amex, Future Shop and Best Buy.

As for my credit history, everything's great.

The car lease, on which I'm a co-signor, is rated at I1, paid and up to date.

My Visa, MC and Amex accounts are all rated R1, paid and up to date. My Royal Bank line of credit is also rated R1.

There's no actual credit score in this report, but I imagine my score would be good, too. I'm not late with payments and I pay everything in full. I have a decent credit history going back 14 years.

Lookin' good. Now I can just hope those schmoes at TransUnion get me the other report so I can smile at that one too.

Subscribing to Big Ass Superstar

Hey! Loyal visitor!

Did you know that you don't have to remember to come here all the time to read my junk?

The technically gifted among you may have been able to figure this out before, but I've set it up to become a lot easier to subscribe.

A service called Feedburner has made it simple for me to offer a subscription feed of BigAssSuperstar articles and my Flickr photos.

I'm no expert, but once you're hooked up, you read this web site's content in a news reader, or through your My Yahoo, or any number of other software thingamajiggies.

So, get hooked up by clicking on the XML link in the sidebar, or just click these words here and follow along.

Surprising news about BNL Steven Page

I see hundreds -- thousands? -- of news stories every week. It's my job. And I'm rarely surprised by what I read and hear.

A bombing in Afghanistan? Sad, but not surprising.

A mother murdering her children? Tragic and disturbing, but not surprising.

Oil is up and the stock market is down? Expensive, but not surprising.

Barenaked Ladies frontman Steven Page arrested for cocaine possession? WTF?!

From a Canadian Press article:

... patrolling police noticed a suspicious car with its driver's side door left open and found a man and woman in a nearby apartment with a white capsule in front of them. Bleyle said the pair were later found to be in possession of cocaine.
"In the process of making the arrest, the girl he (Page) was with identified him as the lead singer for the group," Bleyle said from Manlius, just outside Syracuse.
"He subsequently said, 'Yes, I play the guitar and sing."'
Stephanie Ford, 25, was charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance, as well as unlawful possession of marijuana.

Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear.

Not the kind of conduct I'd have expected from Mr. Page. I wish I could sing like that dude. I wish I could write songs like he does. I'm a big fan. The only time I remember meeting him was at a news event at Exhibition Place, when he led reporters on a tour of the trees around the park, on the way to a new hydrogen-car refuelling depot on the grounds. He's a big eco-booster and vocal NDP backer.

Coke user? I never would've guessed.

What's with my favourite Canadian musicians getting in trouble in the USA? First Alex Lifeson scraps with a cop and gets a broken nose in Florida ... now Mr. BNL is busted for drug possession? Not a lot of news actually surprisesme any more, but this item sure does.

Latest on the wire is:
  • The group's online message board is filling up with lengthy submissions from people stunned by the allegations and wondering what's behind them.
  • Page was charged with possession of cocaine in the town of Fayetteville, N.Y., on July 11. Two women also face drug charges.He was released from custody after paying $10,000 bail.
  • The charge couldn't come at a worse time for the 38-year-old singer, who recently released a kids album with his band called `Snack Time,' and is scheduled to perform at a children's-themed event in Long Island, N.Y., next month.
  • Page had been scheduled to appear in Fayetteville court on Thursday but a court staffer says that has been adjourned to Aug. 26.

Getting more, paying less

As much as I simply adore the idea of having an HDTV, I'm perpetually putting off the purchase.

As mentioned several times here, I want the fun but I don't wanna pay the price. I could justify buying a new screen, but I couldn't justify paying a lot more for digital cable, HD cable, an HD cable box and perhaps the full overhaul and upgrade of Little Eddie Dingle, the Home Theatre PC which serves us plenty well on old-school low-def teevee.

But the esteemed author at I've Paid Twice For This Already writes about an experience this week that made it a lot more palatable:

Well, right now at least, switching to digital and HD service from our extended basic service, and keeping our other services, we are eligible for another 12 months of an introductory special, which is about $20 less than we currently pay right now. And it includes the HD box. After the twelve months is up, the price goes up to $7 more a month than we currently pay for extended basic. So upgrading now saves us $20 a month off our cable bill for the next 12 months.

Now, that would be cool. I dunno if the local cable provider here would do something like that, but it goes to show that making a phone call here and there can get you a bargain.

What I don't know about my money

I've been flummoxed over the past two or three pay periods by running out of cash in my chequing account.

I mean, I'm spending below my means. At least I *think* am.

Between my regular income and my side income, I'm definitely taking in more dough than I'm putting out. That, I'm pretty sure of.

But about a week after payday, I run out of money in my chequing account. I wondered how this could possibly be happening, so I printed out two months' worth of account activity, and Amanda brought her mad math sk!llz to the table to sort things out.

The biggest cash-money outlay is for those nasty nasty cigarettes. It's stupid and crappy, so let's just acknoweldge that and get it out of the way.

Transportation is the next big chunk, between taxis and bus tickets. That's reduced, though, since I now walk home from work almost every day.

I *was* spending $5 or more each day on chocolate milk, energy drinks and frequent cinnamon buns. But since a trip to Costco for super-cheap energy drinks, and my recent diet epiphany, my daily pocket cash outlay has dropped to roughly zero.

So, why so seemingly broke? Well, two big things.

First, I'm only clearing a few hundred dollars after expenses. My partner and I worked out the math to cover regular household expenses (rent, phone, cable, power, car, insurance) and irregular expenses (apartment insurance, registration, vacation, savings). That's the majority of my main paycheque now.

Second, there's a reason my take-home pay is so anemic. I'm still pushing 10% of my pay toward the company's stock plan. They're matching 33% of that, so that's a pretty decent instant rate of return. Couple that with the crummy stock performance lately, and I'm getting a good bang for my buck. Cheaper shares means more shares bought, so when the shares go up -- please, please go up -- that's more return.

Now, that's 10% of my gross (plus another third of that, so, effectively 13% for the price of 10). That may well be more than some experts recommend saving, but if I can afford it, it's smart.

But can I afford it?

Apparently. Month-to-month, my stash is growing. A snapshot of my net worth profile over at NetworthIQ illustrates.

What's going on is this .... I'm pushing too much money from my chequing account, where my income lands on arrival, into my savings accounts. My logic has been that the savings accounts are "high-interest" -- those e-savings accounts that give you a few per cent vs. the regular accounts which might as well give you none. So when I get a payday, I pay whatever bills are around, do quick mental scratch math about how much cash I'll need 'til the next payday, and shuffle the remainder off to savings.

But my guesstimates suck. I've been spending more than I figured I would, so I end up dipping back into some of the surplus I stashed in savings so I can have cash on hand. *Some* of the surplus. There's still a surplus. So I'm still winning. It's just making a mess of my bank brain, and making it tricky for anyone to decode my monthly statements and figure out what on earth I'm trying to accomplish with all these deposits, transfers and withdrawls.

Bottom line: the bottom line says things are coming out positive and my savings are growing. I'm just jumping through too many unncesssary hoops to accomplish it. Time to give up some of the shell-game tactics. And, yes, give up the smoking so I can have more money to play with.

Subtle self-sabotage or simple stupidity

Oh, this week was going so well. So well.

Last night I hand-washed my taekwondo uniform, carefully cleansing the loose white bottoms and new black t-shirt in separate loads. I set them out to dry, putting them in the best locations to be ready for morning.
Yesterday I transferred some money into my chequing account and withdrew enough so I'd be sure to have enough cash for cab fare to get to class.

This morning I got up a few minutes early, put my contact lenses in my backpack, carefully folded my uniform, got a towel from the closet and put it all in my gym bag. Zipped it all up and got it ready to go.

Then I set off for my day.

And about five minutes away from home, past the point of no return, deadline-wise, I realized I was missing something.

My gym bag.


Hacker's Diet links, articles and resources

That's just a few. Throw in a good calorie counter site like, or the epic and you're good to go. I've also heard good things about for food logging.

On the value of exercise

New reader holymotherofgod and others have pointed out the value of exercise, and I don't want my last post about the Hacker's Diet to mislead anyone about my attitude about exercise.

I'm all for it!

The "What, Me Exercise?" chapter in the Hacker's Diet explains -- and I can agree on some level -- that exercise alone won't solve a weight problem... or at the very least, you shouldn't be adopting exercise with the sole goal of getting thin without considering other things. A solid one-hour walk, non-stop, will burn barely more calories than a peanut butter sandwich. I'm not saying don't walk -- I'm saying cutting out the sandwich will have about the same impact on weight loss, and walking plus sandwich-not-eating gets double the bang.

So, why exercise? Here's what I understand, without having to look it all up to convince myself:
  • Resistance training builds muscle.
  • More muscle means more metabolic activity, so you can burn even more calories even when you're sleeping.
  • Resistance training builds strength. It's good to be strong so you can handle daily activities better: lifting heavy boxes of kitty litter, hauling furniture, getting your ass off the couch, etc.
  • Resistance training fosters a healthy skeleton. Put stress on your frame and your frame gets stronger in response. It's nice to head into old age with properly calcified bones!
  • Losing weight through dieting can sometimes be taxing on the muscles, as the body breaks down body tissue for energy. Regular training keeps the body in muscle-building, not muscle-eating mode. (Is that anabolic vs. catabolic, or am I just full of words I don't quite understand today?)
  • Vigorous exercise works your heart and lungs, making them work more efficiently. Hard things become easier, and easy things become, like, soooo easy. Going up stairs may still make your heart beat fast and your lungs huff and puff, but you'll recover more quickly.
  • Training your muscles regularly makes them more efficient. The blood will flow in and out of them more easily. They won't get as sore.
  • Muscles look good. It's good to look good. Good things are good. Good.
  • It's simply good to *do* something! Exercise often involves *doing* something. Maybe something social, maybe something solitary, but you're doing something!
  • People who exercise tend to live longer. Sure, you might drown while swimming or get hit by a car while jogging, or get divebombed by a crow while cycling, but those are exceptions.
  • A well-trained body will be more resistant to injury. And with more well-oxygenated blood flowing through your deliciously efficient circulatory system, you'll recover more quickly if you do get injured.

There's probably more to say, but I hope you get the point -- the point is, I get the point that exercise is important. Even if it's not the key to losing weight, the two surely go hand in hand. If you're trying to lose fat, one can assume that you're also trying to get healthier overall, and there's no arguing that exercise is important to overall health.

On that note, I gave my overall health an overall step-forward leading-leg roundhouse kick in the ass last night. I returned to taekwondo on the hottest night of the year so far. Thank heavens Master Yang was offering training t-shirts (black shirts with school logo -- nothing particularly athletic about them) for sale (at $18), because if I had have worn the full uniform, I probably would have gone into ... well, the opposite of hypothermia. Hyperthermia, I guess.

As it was, I felt like a 400-watt light bulb combined with a sprinkler. I don't remember ever sweating so much ever in my whole life. Whoa. Lots of fun -- lots of sweat. Heat. Exertion. Good stuff.

A little less conversation, a little more action

Thanks to everyone for the feedback over the weekend. jojo, sandra, lilsis, anonymous and everyone were able to zero in on my big nasty character flaw in this matter: planning everything to death, yet doing nothing concrete to solve the problem.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step -- but more often than not, I'm too busy fussing with my shoelaces and checking the weather.

I know well enough that worrying about a problem does nothing to solve it. Taking action does. It's good to learn enough so one can be reasonably sure that one is taking the right action, but sometimes doing *anything* useful is better than bogging oneself down with endless refinements of the perfect plan.

In the vernacular of my adopted homeland -- "get 'er done!" .... alternatively, "just giv'er!"

So, this weekend, I ramped up the enthusiasm by reading The Hacker's Diet.

Nothing revolutionary here in the theory -- in fact, it's a step backward from some of the more recent, medical-based diet books I've read in the past year or two. The author works on a very simple calories in-calories out model. Too many calories in -- you gain weight. Too few -- you lose weight. Assume that one pound of fat equals 3500 calories, and with a bit of math, you can figure out how many calories +/- per day you need to get to a given goal.

Where this plan catches my interest is in the self-correcting measurement and feedback system.

Daily weigh-ins plugged into a spreadsheet are calculated into a rolling weighted average -- a trend. The math shows, based on the trend, how many calories you're over or under. If you're gaining a pound a week, you can see instantly that you're eating 500 calories too much per day. So, to stabilize weight, eat less or burn 500 more to bring that to zero. To lose a pound a week, cut and/or burn 500 calories a day from the daily balance. It takes a ton of the guesswork out of the food.

The weighted rolling average smoothes out the inevitable daily ups and downs of water weight to give an accurate trending, taking most of the emotional sting out of the daily weigh-in. It becomes just data -- not a daily triumph or failure. The trend is what counts. Within a fairly short time, the trend will show if the diet and exercise are winning or losing. And by how much!

It's a canary in the fat-guy coal mine, too. If, after reaching the stable goal weight, the trend goes up, it's easy to see that an extra 200 calories a day might be the issue. Cut 400 to get back to the goal weight and resume living.

So! At this point, I'm still all talk, right? You wanna reach through the internet's tubes and pipes, grab me by the collar and shake me 'til I smarten up!? I don't blame you!

Actions being undertaken right frickin' now, immediately, pronto, stat:
  • Log sheets and a pen are now in the bathroom for daily weigh-ins & exercise notes.
  • I'm set up at the Hacker's Diet Online, which does all the math for me and eliminates the need for me to learn MS Excel ... it'd be a nice skill to have, but jeez, do I need another excuse?
  • Calculated my daily lunch calories -- that is, everything I bring to work with me, which is all the food I'll be eating between waking up and going home for dinner. First draft of math puts it at 710, but I'm going to round up to 800 in case I packed more than a single 1/3-cup serving of almonds.
  • Eliminated the muffin. Amanda was graciously baking healthyish muffins as a harm-reduction strategy to wean me from my daily cinnamon bun fixation. I've cut the buns down from daily to about once every two to three weeks, so I might as well cut the muffin now.
  • Muffin is essentially replaced by carrot and celery sticks. I prepared these in advance, so no excuses about not having them done.
  • Water water water water lots of water. I'm a diet-drink apologist, but I can buy into the notion that my body will be producing noxious byproducts as it breaks fat down into energy, and I'd rather have that out of me than in me. Also, it'll fill me up.
  • Eating to the point of satisfaction, not fullness. I tend to eat until I'm "ugh" full, not "mmm" satisfied. I've begun eating 'til I'm no longer hungry as opposed to eating until I'm decidedly stuffed ... this could be a tricky one.
  • Continue with the exercise, and then some: walking home 25-30 minutes each day is a good start. I'm embracing the truth that exercising to lose weight isn't the key. I should be exercising because it's generally good for my body. Even a full-out hour of exercise will only burn a few hundred calories; I should be able to cut more than that by food choices. The exercise will make my body better in ways beyond fat loss. There's more on the short-term horizon, but today's about today.
  • Embrace the discomfort: there's no getting around it. Losing fat is essentially a matter of sustained, controlled, gradual starvation. It's not going to be pleasant. That doesn't mean it has to be torture and endless hunger, but it's not going to a be a quick and easy fix. Accepting that is a key to getting on with it

So we'll call this day one. Day one of many. Get-rich-quick schemes don't work, and neither do get-skinny-quick schemes. I'm having to let go of faulty ideas: that I can get thin without substantially changing what I eat; that I can just wing it without measuring anything; that I can rely on others to make decisions for me; that the problem isn't really that bad.

If I were a diabetic, I'd feel no shame in measuring my blood sugar every day and adjusting my food accordingly.

I'm not ashamed of wearing glasses -- I can't willpower my way to better sight, so I resort to lenses to correct my vision.

Likewise, I can acknowledge that the perfect appetite-control/portion-assessment mechanism that some people are born with is missing or broken in me. There's no shame in turning to technology to measure my calories and inform me of exactly where I'm going off track.

Onward and downward, peeps!

Translatable obsessiveness, part 3

I was stumbling around some personal finance blogs and happened upon an enlightening post by Mr. Cheap at Quest For Four Pillars.

Two years ago today I was reading Kevin Smith's "Silent Bob Speaks" and in one passage he wrote about always feeling like his weight was something "he'd deal with later when it got really serious". This startled me a little, as I felt exactly the same way (although I didn't see myself as being quite as big as Mr. Smith).

So, Mr. Cheap read a book by John Walker called The Hacker's Diet. He applied the knowledge, lost weight, and has kept it off. And through doing so, he learned some parallels between personal finance and weight loss:

Things like the value to knowing as much as possible about your weight (or networth) and the true quality of the food you're eating (or your investments). There are different ways to make changes, such as exercise (or earning more income) and diet (spending less money). If you only make one type of change, its very easy to sabotage yourself by the other (e.g. exercising and eating more or getting a raise and increasing your lifestyle spending). Both processes benefit from measuring your on-going process and making improvements as you see the opportunity to do so. Both are also hardest when you first start them (the first 3 days of a diet or a budget are going to be the hardest, they both get easier as you go).

Is that my answer, or part of it? I started this little series of posts with the question of whether my ability to obsess and learn could be translated successfully to tackling my weight and smoking. And here's Mr. Cheap with direct observation of the similarities between weight loss and reforming personal finance.

I think I'll read this Hacker's Diet thing and see if it's got some truths I can glom onto.

And FYI, I dig Kevin Smith. We went to see him speak in Toronto a few years back, for a taping of what eventually became An Evening With Kevin Smith 2: Evening Harder. I felt like dude went a bit overboard with the self-deprecating fat jokes, largely 'cuz I could feel where he was coming from. Long show, but good show. Maybe I oughta read that book, too.

Translatable obsessiveness, part 2

Here are two thoughts about how the personality quirks I noted in part 1 may be standing in my way.

First, I'm about learning and knowing. I learn and learn and learn. I gather information and re-read the same stuff in endless permutations, jumping from basics to advanced to way-beyond-my-comprehension, back to advanced, back to basic and over and over until I either thoroughly get it and get it completely ... or I reach the ceiling of my comprehension and just let it be.

But I don't have a consistently great record for taking action with that knowledge. Sure, I knew a lot about computers -- but did I build a good web site? No, I build an okay web site and let it sit. Sure, I learned a lot about Scientology -- but did I do anything significant to stop them? No, I told everyone I knew the evils of Scientology and chatted with folks at the Toronto Org a few times. Sure, I read a ton about money management -- but did I get rich? No, not yet. I'm building a sizeable cache of shares and I have a decent retirement portfolio on the build, and I'll be in decent shape for wealth management in the years to come, but I'm not a big wheeler and dealer.

I learn a lot -- I know a lot -- I get really really smart -- but I don't always *do* stuff with it.

Second, I noted the transitive nature of my obsessions. Even when I dive in and start off strong with something, I have a tendency to let it trail off as time goes on. Even my taekwondo, which I've really enjoyed since starting a year and a half ago. I've only gone once since they moved the gym a few weeks ago. That's not cool.

That's not to say that I have a terrible track record when it comes to making stable, positive changes in my life. This isn't the forum to talk about all of 'em, but I've tackled several challenges head-on and stuck with them. Some of them have been difficult and without immediate visible gain. I know I have what it takes to do what's hard and what's right and make it go. Especially when other people are at stake.

So, that takes me back to where I was in the first post. I have the tools -- what's stopped me from applying them to smoking and fatness?

More to come.

Translatable obsessiveness, part 1

As alluded to in other posts in recent months, I may be on the cusp of shifting obsessions again.

My personality is such that I tackle a subject that interests me with intensity and passion, devouring and synthesizing information and theory in such a way that I annoy those close to me with my focus and excitement. I become a zealot. An evangelist. A nerd. Or as my sister recently observed in a comment on this blog, a little Asperger syndrome-y. I dig in and don't stop until I get saturated with the subject matter.

That doesn't mean I become a full-fledged expert on anything. That's the other part of my personality. Sure, my rabid consumption of all things Scientological (from the point of view that it's ridiculous and evil) brought my knowledge of the subject several orders of magnitude beyond what any casual observer might know -- but I never went out and picketed or took a course. I became an expert, but among experts, I'm sure I'd still be considered a poser or noob.

My most recent 'obsession' has been personal finance. Yeah, I've been reading PF blogs every day, reading books, watching TV shows and saving and investing more than I can probably even afford in an effort to apply the knowledge I've absorbed. Compared to an everyday broke schmoe, I'm probably some kind of 'expert'. But again, the experts would recognize that I couldn't explain how bonds work, that I don't have a discount brokerage account, that my non-registered stock holdings are completely undiversified, and that I have whole-life insurance instead of term. I've raised my level of expertise, but among experts, I'm a small-change chump.

It occurred to me a coupla months ago -- okay, if I'm able to be so gazelle-intense (to lift a phrase from pious debt-slaying evangelist Dave Ramsey) about any particular obsession ... why haven't I applied that kind of passion and determination to the two remaining blatant flaws in my lifestyle? Of course, those are my smoking and my weight.

If I'm so goddamned smart and clever and intelligent and passionate, why am I still an obese smoker? If I have the tools to make sweeping positive changes in so many areas of my life, rehabilitate my weak spots by gathering the best knowledge available and implementing it (even half-assedly) to produce significant benefits to my being ... why am I still puffing and pudgy? What the hell?

Do I have an answer?

Of course I don't!

If I had the answer, I wouldn't have a pack of cigarettes on my desk and a fat gut between the chair and the desk. There needs to be a paradigm shift. There needs to be a eureka moment. I need to hit a bottom, I suppose.

Perhaps I can manufacture a bottom. Not bottom like my butt, bottom like rock bottom. Like, "oh heavens, I spent so much on cigarettes that I cannot afford cable TV!" or "deary me, this tobacco has gummed up my heart, and if I smoke anymore I shall die forthwith!" or "good lord, I'm so fat that my girlfriend becomes dyspeptic upon sight of my girth!" ... I dunno.

I just gotta find some switch to go from talk-the-talk to walk-the-walk ... although I'm finding it's going to take more than walking to get this thing done.

More to come.

Today was my last day at work, and I'm okay with that

Today marks a weird spot on the calendar for me. It’s one of those landmarks that really doesn’t mean anything, other than to illustrate the...