You Mean “Unwise”

Some old codger offers advice to some wannabe mercenaries, and I can’t argue with a single thing he says. Sample:

“You’ve got no idea what road you are starting down. Romance and idealism wears off really fast when you’re lying in a pool of your own blood trying to stuff your intestines back into your torn abdomen.”

It’s the thing which sometimes keeps me awake at night: not that I’m the guy on the ground, but that I might be the cause of it.

Manual Labor

I have often advised young men to get a trade before going off to college — and more especially so if they are unclear as to what career they choose to follow. There’s no point in getting into debt when a well-intentioned degree in, say, Languages does not result in decent job prospects, and even worse when you realize that your career preference is not really congruent with your degree — a youthful desire to become a recording engineer transforms into a real desire to become a doctor when maturity comes into play. (And note that I’m not even talking about worthless degrees in nonsense such as Post-Modernist Poetry or African-American Studies.)

In fact, I’d counsel young men to join the Armed Forces if they still haven’t made their mind up about their career by age 19. (My good friend Doc Russia is a case study in this scenario: shiftless yoot at 18, USMC for a few years, med school and now a respected doctor.) The military has a wonderful way of crystallizing one’s thought process and compelling maturity.

Now comes this little snippet from Over Here:

Electricians are earning as much as £3,000 a week as they cash in on a chronic shortage of skilled workers across the country.
That amounts to £156,000 a year – around six times the average wage and more than the £150,000 earned by the Prime Minister.
Plumbers and bricklayers are also benefiting, with wages rising by as much as 10 per cent in the past 12 months.
Plumbers can earn as much as £2,000 a week, while brickies can bring home £1,125 – more than £50,000 a year.

Of course, this should come as no surprise. I recall some years back when Reader Mark C., at that time an executive at a large corporation in the oil exploration / development business (think: Bechtel, Asea Brown Boveri, those kinds of companies) was bemoaning the fact that he was unable to find enough warm bodies to train as welders and oilfield technicians, even when after a two-year apprenticeship, newly-minted workers would have an internationally-portable skill set that could command a starting annual wage of over $75,000 — for a 21-year-old.

The same is true for carpenters (rough, finished or cabinet-makers), electricians (light- or heavy current) and many other such trades. All you need to do is look at the progress made by that Jason guy on the Holmes on Homes TV show — a raw, inexperienced kid with nothing but a strong back and willingness to learn; three years later a qualified construction project manager who could start his own business and make a small (or even large) fortune. Don’t even get me started on the pro electricians, plumbers and such who featured on the show: even for Canucks, they must each have made a fortune, and were worth every penny. (As I recall, Holmes used a young Polish plumber, an immigrant who could barely speak English, on his earlier shows; by the end of the third season, this same kid had his own business with lots of other kids now working for him, and spoke perfect English.)

Compared to that, a drama major or Womyn’s Studies professor look quite insignificant — which they should be.

I’ve said before that my late father always told me to work with my brain and not my hands. Considering that he started off as a welder / boilermaker and ended up as the owner of a civil engineering company, it was the worst advice I’d ever got. (He went to night school at the Tech while working his day job, and eventually graduated with a civil engineering degree. Not bad for a farm boy.) He always told me to get a degree — any degree — because I could always fall back on that if my chosen career as a professional musician didn’t work out. What he should have said was, “Do a trade apprenticeship — any trade — and you can always fall back on that if you decide that being a lawyer sucks.”

I often wonder what would have happened had I done a few years’ carpentry right after leaving school. Whatever I’d finally become, I’m pretty sure that there would have been far fewer periods of abject poverty in my life.

Oh, Now They’re Good For You

Longtime Readers will recall that I don’t actually believe any medical studies anymore, because it seems that their advice changes weekly, and almost always contradicts their previous advice. After all the frenzied warnings about saturated fats, therefore, I find this article to be just the latest in a long line of articles telling us that this, finally, cross-my-heart pinkie-swear, is the definitive list of things to eat and to avoid.

Only this time, I’m going to half-believe them — and I hasten to add, my belief applies only to me — because I tend to listen to my body (not all the time, but mostly) when I start to crave certain types of food for no reason. When I realized that I had a blood pressure problem, I started taking Diovan just like the doctor told me to, because high blood pressure is a known killer of men. At the same time, however, I started to notice that I was hungry for certain foods in which I’d hitherto never much shown much interest — and surprise, surprise, almost all of them are on the list in the above article:

Oily fish – Don’t let the high calorie content of the likes of salmon and mackerel fool you, they are rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids
Avocado – These fruits are rich in oleic acid, a fat that reduces blood pressure
Full-fat yoghurt – Containing probiotic bacteria which supports your digestive health, be sure to buy natural, full-fat yoghurt with no added sugar
Nuts – A handful of almonds a day can lower LDL (the bad cholesterol) and assist with blood sugar control
Butter – Rich in Vitamins A and D as well as fatty acids, butter can increase good cholesterol. Opt for unprocessed, organic varieties.

I’ve always eaten butter and never margarine, because margarine tastes like shit and I could not bring myself to believe that the body has a system to process something that is 100% manufactured. But other than butter, I’ve found myself eating more and more of the others — and by that I mean eating them regularly, not in large quantities.

Whereas before I’d never eaten avocado, after my trip to Chile (where they use it like butter) I came home and now eat an avo at least once a week.

Cashew nuts were on sale at Sam’s Club for a ridiculously low price some time ago: I bought a 5-lb container of the stuff, and now eat a large handful almost every day of the week. (I have a bag next to my writing chair right now, as a matter of fact.)

I mentioned a while ago that I am hopelessly addicted to Noosa yogurt, and I’ve been trying desperately to find an alternative Over Here, without success. I do eat another brand (Noosa isn’t available here, apparently), and while the “Scottish raspberry” stuff is tasty, I don’t crave it like I do the Australian-formula yogurt.

My love of fish — albeit in fish ‘n chips format — is too well documented to bear repeating here. Suffice it to say that I most often find myself not eating much of the batter, but all of the fish. Thanks to my gastric band, I can only eat but a couple of chips anyway.

And I’ve always preferred red meat to processed meat; since I came Over Here, I haven’t eaten hamburger or anything like it even once. Mr. Free Market is a dab hand with the Weber — he doesn’t let the staff near it — and red meat is therefore de rigueur as a meal choice, as is Mrs. FM’s baked salmon by way of her Aga oven.

I leave it to others to judge the value of a Full English Breakfast such as I consumed on Sunday morning:

Okay, maybe the chipolata sausages are processed meat, but I don’t care because they were delicious, and both they and the bacon were baked, not fried. And the fried bread was made with beef fat, not vegetable oil. I could have eaten six slices… but thank goodness for the gastric band. (Thanks to the latter, by the way, it takes me close to half an hour to eat a plate of food like this one, and most of the time I can’t finish it anyway.)

I know, the eggs were scrambled and not fried, but they tasted wonderful. And eggs, unlike the doomsayers wailed, are really good for you — which you’d know if you’d already read the linked article above.

As I said, this is how I feel about food, for me. Your own situation may cause your opinion to vary, and it probably should. So if you want to wolf down an American-style adaptation of the Full English, be my guest.

But that will probably kill ya.

Well-Suited

From Reader Jason R. comes this intriguing question:

You have spoken at length about how to spend money on watches and etcetera. I have been champing at the bit to ask you, sir, if you hit the Powerball: where does one buy the finest of suits?

Now that is an interesting question. Right off the bat, I don’t want to hear from people who are only going to wear jeans and wife-beater t-shirts for the rest of their lives, nor do I wish to hear about how suits are an outdated institution blah blah blah. Mr. R. wants to hear about suits, and I will address that issue with two options, bearing in mind that with Powerball winnings, cost is not an issue; but style and quality are.

Golden Rule: forget off-the-peg / ready-to-wear, unless you have to wear a suit in the next month or so. It’s to a tailor you’ll be going.

Option 1:  Go to a style capital, and have the suits made (you’ll need at least four, along with dinner attire — a tuxedo, in the American idiom). Your choices will include:

Milan, if you have the figure to wear Italian designs — i.e. not fat like me. Milan sets so many fashion trends, it’s silly to go anywhere else, if you want to be fashionable.  By the way, Italian suits are so well made that you might be able to find something off-the-peg which will work, but I’d still go to Caraceni first. Be aware that Italian suit designs go out of fashion more quickly than the “classic” designs; if you want something of that nature, you’ll need to go to

London (Savile Row or Jermyn Street) for the British cut: timeless and almost immediately recognizable — but you’ll need to find something to do in London for a couple weeks, because those Brit tailors are slow. One caveat: Brits don’t do summer suits that well, simply because they don’t need them that much; the Italians do, so you may do well to split your trips, as it were.

New York will be fine, if you’re okay with American-style suits (the eponymous TV show Suits is coincidentally an excellent example of the look). Barney’s used to be the place to go, but I’m not sure if that’s true anymore. (My NY Readers may be able to help.)

Option 2: go to Hong Kong, and have a dozen suits made for the same price as four would cost you in any of the above cities. Seriously: anyone who knows anything about buying good suits either goes or has gone to Hong Kong. They will have all the latest fashion patterns, and all the different cloth weights and types on display; picking out the fabric(s) will take you almost as long as it takes them to make the suit. You’ll only need about three days to get a dozen suits. Hankow Road will give you Willie Cheng or Sam’s (the celebrity tailor). Mr. FM, who has all his suits made in HK, cautions against getting your shirts made there because for some reason, HK tailors never give you a long enough tail — which means your shirt is always coming out. Stick with the guys in Jermyn Street.

Addendum: you’ll need shoes. Forget American formal shoes like Johnston & Murphy, unless you want to look like the parvenus lawyers in Suits. (I’m not dissing J&M, by the way: I own two pairs, and love them. But if you want to match your exquisite suits with equally-exquisite shoes…)

Once again, Milan will be your friend — nobody makes stylish shoes quite like the Italians. However, if you really want to follow the example of Sterling Archer (and you should), you should have your shoes made for you by a cordwainer (old fart’s term for shoemaker). If you don’t want to go to Milan and visit Stivelaria Savoia, or you’d prefer a more classical style of shoe, I would like to suggest a place somewhat off the beaten track: Vienna, and the place to go there is Ludwig Reiter. (Warning: if you follow that link and read about “welting”, you may never buy shoes off the shelf again.)

If you’d prefer a more British style, then John Lobb in London will give you whatever you need. I’ve been there, could never afford their prices (see below). I love their description of how shoes are made.

All bespoke shoemakers will measure your foot and make a wooden last of it; then, whenever you need new shoes, you just call them and they’ll make you a new pair, or several new pairs, according to your style selection. The initial consultation and measurement will take ages, but subsequent pairs will be made quite quickly. In most cases, you’ll be allocated an individual within the company who will be responsible for all your shoes thereafter.

You’ll need an assist from Powerball, by the way: Savoia, Lobb and Reiter shoes can cost anywhere from $2,000 – $8,000 a pair. But they’ll last forever, and never go out of fashion. I have a copy of Reiter half-boots which cost close to $800; I’m still wearing them, twelve years later, and they still look wonderful. (Those are available in Vienna’s Kärtnerstrasse — a very bad place to shop if you have no impulse control.)

Now… where did I put that EuroMillions ticket?

…And Speaking Of Wankers

It now appears that what we men have always thought was one of life’s necessities, in fact really is necessary. I speak here of frequent orgasms, as evidenced by this study (from Harvard, no less) which concludes as follows:

“We found that men reporting higher compared to lower ejaculatory frequency in adulthood were less likely to be subsequently diagnosed with prostate cancer.”

So there you have it: have orgasms, or die. The “suggested” frequency is twenty-one (21) orgasms per month. (Yeah, I know: “I’m not going to cut my wanking in half just to satisfy some Harvard tools.”) For the innumerate, that’s two every three days. And apparently they should be regularly spaced, so locking yourself in your bedroom over the weekend and bringing up your average by going on a two-day wank-a-thon won’t suffice. Wank-a-thons can also cause the condition known as Wanker’s Claw:

As with all things, moderation is better.

Therefore, the next time you’re overcome with lust after seeing a new picture of, say, Monica Bellucci:

…and yer wife / girlfriend isn’t interested in helping you save your life, you can reach for the Kleenex with no guilt whatsoever. (Incidentally, Ms. Bellucci’s latest movie is entitled On The Milky Road [sic]. If that isn’t a sign right there…)

I should point out, however, that this study was drawn from reported as opposed to (ahem) observed behavior, and as we all know that when it comes to talking about their sex lives, people lie like Clintons, even to researchers; so there should be a little caution attached to these findings.

You’ll also want to vary your technique a tad, or else you’ll end up with the dreaded Wanker’s Imbalance:

Still, if you want the plausible results to form part of your excuse when yer Missus catches you in flagrante delicto, they are:

Past research by the same university suggests that emptying the prostate of cancer-causing substances and infections may have some benefit. Ejaculation may also help to reduce prostate inflammation, which is a known cause of the cancer.

Caution should also be exercised if you enlist the services of a mistress or random pick-up at the pub to keep you healthy. For some reason, I suspect that wives are not going to be fooled by the excuse.

Dr. Kim also points out that the plea of, “If we don’t have sex tonight, I’m going to die!” is likely to be met with the usual sympathetic response:

And of course next month’s study from Harvard is doubtless going to find that frequent orgasms for men can cause blindness, just like yer mother told you.

You have been warned.

So Much For That Theory

As any fule kno, I have long advised people not to believe any of the so-called “scientific” studies out there, because when you get down to it, they’re all done with an agenda and are therefore untrustworthy. The worst, of course, are all those “medical” papers which tell you that doing X will cause you to die horribly from Y, because nowadays doctors are a bunch of insufferable busybodies who, like Democrats, know just what’s best for you and can’t wait to tell you all the ways they do.

There was one study a while ago, however, which gave me a little hope: I don’t remember the exact study or even the data, but it showed that a glass of red wine with dinner (not as dinner) was actually good for one’s health. Needless to say, I was overjoyed because as I often say, a meal without wine is… breakfast.

Of course, that study (which was published by some Italian doctors, perhaps a warning sign) has since been summarily debunked. Red wine, apparently, is now worse for you than chewable morphine, sharing a needle with Milo Yiannopoulos, or mainlining Drano. (That’s not what this new study says, of course; I’m making it all up, probably just like they’re doing.)

Screw that. As some smart guy (Joe Jackson, not one of the Jackson Five) once wrote: everything gives you cancer. And he’s probably right, in that just about anything taken to excess will bugger up your health. Sheesh, drinking two gallons of water at a gulp [sic] will kill you; however, I’ve drunk close to two gallons of red wine in an evening (back in the 1970s, uh-huh) and all I got was shit-faced drunk and a two-day hangover. And lost, when I tried to drive home.

Here’s my take on all of it. Eat and drink whatever you want. Just don’t overdo it, and do a modicum of exercise. (I’ve taken to walking a couple of miles a day, and I haven’t felt this good in years. Also, I’ve lost 20lbs since November last year.) Go ahead: eat that Twinkie. Just eat one occasionally, and not the whole frigging box in one go, and you’ll be okay. Ditto wine, cheese, bacon, chocolate, and all the stuff that’s supposed to kill you.

And if you lack the willpower to eat just a little instead of it all? Well, it will kill you. But I’m not going to chide you, because for so many years I had no willpower either, and it was going to kill me. So there ya go.

From Reader Old Texan comes this beauty, which I’ve called “Heart Attack Jenga”:

Go on; you know you want to.


Update: Apparently, chocolate works for men’s hearts (6 days per week!). If this is true, when I die they’ll have to beat my heart to death with a stick. But be warned: next week some other guy will discover that chocolate gives you incurable syphilis, or something.