Why I Hated Episode 1 of House of Cards, Season 2 — HUGE SPOILER ALERT

Last year at this time, I enjoyed the full glory of my looming empty nest by binging on the first season of House of Cards in one setting.  My wife at a conference, my teenage daughters occupied with teenage occupations, I laid down in bed with my trusty mutt, Apple, to catch the first six hours of the 12 episode program.  I started at 6 PM, with the hope that this early bird could make it to midnight.

By the time the new day arrived, I turned off the TV to catch some shuteye before finishing the show in the morning.  But I couldn’t fall asleep  Not even close.  The show had so mesmerized and enchanted me that I had to turn on a few more episodes to get the show out of my system.  Again, after episode nine, I tried to sleep.  No luck — I endured the true House of Cards all-nighter, finally coming up for air around 7 AM.

The show was terrific.  Not Breaking Bad or The Sopranos terrific, but it certainly made my second-tier of all-time favorite shows — on a par with The West Wing and Homeland and Mad Men.  Certainly, it wasn’t perfect — as someone who’s been immersed in the political life for decades, I found several elements implausible — and my fellow RP Jeff Smith did a brilliant job here outlining what was true and what rang false about Season One.

But it was less the politics that was hypnotizing, and more the brilliant, albeit over-cynical view of interpersonal dynamics.  I loved the business partnership marriage of the lead characters, the Underwoods (played brilliantly by Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright Penn), particularly how the program showed a deep love and respect underneath their highly unusual hyper-ambitious pairing.

But the most powerful dynamic of Season One came from the extraordinarily tense and exhilarating relationship between Spacey’s Francis Underwood and the reporter Zoe Barnes, played by Kate Mara.  Their interactions were at times creepy and deeply disturbing, and other times filled with passionate, revelatory moments of shedding masks and dripping true emotion.  Their interaction literally kept me up all night.

So when my dog and I reached the end of the first episode of Season Two, and — HUGE SPOILER ALERT, I REALLY MEAN IT — Francis pushes Zoe to her death in front of a speeding subway car, I was disturbed — but in a bad way this time.

The murder was completely implausible — it was unnecessary to protect Francis’ reputation, and it was way, way too risky for such a careful politician.  His murder of Congressman Russo in Season One was carefully managed, meticulously avoiding any fingerprints.  It was a complete fluke that this time he didn’t get caught — for such a rash, impulsive action.

Worse, it killed off the best narrative element and the most watchable character.  I’ve suffered through 4 episodes so far, and frankly I’m bored.  The politics are still there (a lot less interesting, I’m afraid), but without the Zoe/Francis interplay, the sexy tension that was so vital in Season One has completely disappeared.

Unless Zoe’s demise was necessary for practical, contractual reasons — Was Kata Mara too busy on another project? Was she asking for too much money? — I think this was a very unwise decision on the part of House of Cards producers.  It certainly was shocking — but shock for shock value is emotionally empty.  Unlike the well-reviewed killing off of major characters in say Game of Thrones or Downton Abbey, Zoe’s death serves no purpose other than its shock.  And at least through four episodes, it’s left a narrative gap that has not be adequately filled.

Jonathan Miller: Recent Tweets

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Diet Updates

1549541_10153819657710515_36638498_nInto week 5 of diet/fitness regime and down 13 lbs and 2″ in waist.

Without even holding in my stomach.

Very much.


So what do you do when you are on a diet (and really committed to it) and are craving your favorite sandwich at Steak & Shake, a Frisco Melt, just as you are approaching a Steak & Shake restaurant?

And look up the calorie count and find out it has 1173 calories?

You suck it up. Feel the pain. And keep on driving.

And realize a piece of you just died.


Julie Rath: Valentine’s Day Ideas

Today’s article is courtesy of the queen of romantic planning, Sarah Pease, The Proposal Planner (TM). Whether she’s taking over the flight deck of the Intrepid for an epic proposal, or organizing the perfect picnic in Central Park, Sarah knows what’s what when it comes to making romance happen.

For some, Valentine’s Day is the most romantic day of the year filled with love, red roses and candlelit dinners.  For others, it’s a commercialized, manufactured holiday rife with cheesy teddy bears, silk boxer shorts and exorbitantly priced prix fixe menus.  Regardless of your opinion, it’s a great excuse for organizing a fun date with your loved one (even if it’s just your most-loved friend!).  Here are five of my favorite ideas for Valentine’s Day:

1) For the Wallet-Conscious: Create your own wine tasting.  With a little research done online or with your local wine shop, select 2 reds and 2 whites and pair them with cheeses or chocolates.  Using a scarf from your closet, conduct an official blind tasting by candlelight.  Not only will you expand your knowledge of wines, but you’ll also enjoy the flirty part of blindfolding each other!  Budget not an issue?  Hire a sommelier to do a private tasting!

2) Starry Night: Research the hours at your local planetarium or night-sky observatory and arrange to have a private tour.  Whether you’re strapped into an IMAX seat watching the latest space-themed movie, or gazing at real stars in other galaxies, you’ll be in a romantic mood under all those stars.

3) Love is all Around: Plan an entire evening around love. Meet your sweetheart at the Museum of Sex near the Flatiron Building – who says a museum can’t be fun? Once you’ve explored all the newest exhibits, head to your favorite cocktail bar to sip on the cocktails she loves.  From there, treat her to her guilty-pleasure food – is it cheesy biscuits from Red Lobster?  Coconut Invasion cake from Asia de Cuba?  Tonight is the night to indulge.  End the evening by sharing three reasons why you love each other.

4) Futuristic Love:  Want to know what the universe has in store for you?  Do a psychic reading together!  Make an appointment or stop in to see what the crystal ball or tarot cards say.  If you really want to tempt fate, try a few different fortune tellers to see if their predictions overlap.

5) Ice Skating and Hot Chocolate:  Strap on your skates and join the crowds for a lively spin around the ice rink.  If you’re in New York, you can blend in with the tourists in Central Park, Rockefeller Center or Bryant Park, or discover some of the smaller rinks around the city.  Reward all of your activity with a cab ride to City Bakery and test out the “drinkable chocolate” of the day. Got a sweet tooth? Plan to come back every other day for the rest of their Hot Chocolate Festival which runs the entire month of February. That way you can try a new flavor every night.

Many thanks to Sarah for sharing her fantastic ideas. For more info on Sarah, check out her website.sarah-pease-the-proposal-planner

And now that you’ve got the best date ever planned, read here for what to wear.

-Content provided by Rath & Co. Men’s Style Consulting. Read more: http://rathandco.com/tastehunter/page/3/#ixzz2rY7GQOqa

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Colonel Sanders

I fully support YUM and think they are a great company and corporate citizen. But the other night I was parked across from a KFC restaurant and for several moments couldn’t stop staring at the logo rendering of Colonel Sanders.

It just wasn’t the way I remember the Colonel looking. I’m no Colonel Sanders expert and only met him a handful of times…But something about this logo image bothered me. This man pictured in the logo looked pleasant, harmless, bland, and a little metrosexual. Frankly, he looks more like a Walmart greeter (no offense to Walmart greeters) than one of the century’s great restauranteurs and entrepreneurs.

1796461_10153814955580515_195611752_nAnd the Colonel often mumbled to himself while deep in thought about his exacting standards about whatever he was doing…..and never would have said something like “Today tastes so good.”

Colonel Sanders, as I recall him, was kind-hearted and generous but could be gruff at times, too. He always seemed like a proud and determined man, He was in many ways an artist. A perfectionist who demanded from others what he gave.

And he seemed to enjoy life. Seemed to suck out the marrow, in his own way, as Thoreau wrote.

jyb_musingsWhen it was time for me to leave the parking lot the other night, I pulled away slowly and stared again at the image of the Colonel on the KFC logo.

And decided if the new made-up image of the Colonel could meet the real Colonel, there’s a good chance the real Colonel may have taken a swing at him –and told him to get that silly grin off his face and for he and his apron to back in the kitchen. And probably given up on him ever looking as dignified as the man who came up with the 11 secret herbs and spices and left his unmistakable imprint–including his unique and distinctive appearance — on the world.

Josh Bowen: 10 Ways to Reduce Body Fat


It had become apparent to me. It didn’t take long at all. More often than not, clients came to me to lose body fat. Seems simple, correct? Not so fast. I could suggest everyone eat organic grilled chicken, raw green vegetables and do loads of cardio but that would be futile and a waste of time. So to help my clients and help loads of other revolutioners  I compiled a list of 10 Ways to Lose Body Fat. Here we go:

1. Reduce Sugar

I refer to my two favorite books on this topic; “Sugar Shock” and “7 Principles of Fat Burning” when suggesting and advising clients on reducing their sugar intake. In order to lose body fat we have to turn our “fat burning” hormones on and the “fat storing” hormones off. Reducing the amount of processed sugar reduces the peaks and valleys of insulin secretion. This increases the effect of growth hormone, which decreases body fat. Choosing food with more fiber or nutrient dense foods like vegetables, help keep insulin levels low and fat burning hormones high. Also, you can refer back to a previous blog where I explore sugar and its detrimental effects on the human body http://wp.me/p2T52x-61

2. Consume Healthy Fats

Fat!!! Won’t fat make me fat? As I explain in this blog post here, essential fats do not contribute to increasing body fat. On the contrary the help the body reduce the amount of body we have. Other properties such as; decreasing inflammation and improving the cardiovascular system are all benefits of consuming healthy fats.

3. Reduce Wheat, Soy and Dairy

In my new book, The 12 Steps to Fitness Freedom, I discuss the facts about wheat, soy and dairy. In most cases, these three will trigger an inflammatory response in the tissue causing the body to hold onto body fat. Soy and dairy, specifically, have been found to increase estrogen in both men and women (refer back to the 7 Principles of Fat Burning for more information). Here is a great article discussing milk and why we shouldn’t drink it.

4. Drink a Minimum of 64oz of Water

Water has zero calories and is a necessity to life. Drink it.

5. Manage Stress

Stress kills. Stress also adds body fat. The higher one’s stress, the higher your stress hormone, cortisol is. The more cortisol, the more body fat. Try massage, working out, relaxation techniques or change you attitude or situation. Either way, reduce the amount of stress on yourself to a tolerable level.

6. Increase Green Leafy Greens

Vegetables are essential in the fat burning process. They typically are low in calories and high in nutrients. Nutrients that pack a punch for burning body fat. Broccoli, kale, spinach and asparagus are all great sources of vitamins and minerals your body needs to thrive and reduce unwanted body fat.

7. Eat Complete Proteins at Every Meal

Protein helps repair and ultimately build muscle. Muscle boosts your metabolism. Eating protein helps burn body fat. The concept of complete vs. incomplete protein is some foods have a complete amino acid (building blocks of muscle) and others don’t. Beef, chicken, turkey, fish and eggs are all considered complete. Grains, nuts, seeds, beans are all considered incomplete proteins.

8. Lift Heavy Things

Resistance training boost the metabolism in the short term by increasing fat burning hormones testosterone and growth hormone and in the long term by increasing muscle, devouring unwanted body fat. Lift heavy things.

9. Fresh Lemon in Warm Water

Because lemon is an alkaline food, drinking it with warm water can help with the body’s pH levels. Also, it can help aid in digestion and waste reduction, allowing the body to rid itself of food that has not been deposited into the colon. This also helps with the skin to create a radiant glow.

10. Love the Body You Have While Working for the Body You Want

As difficult as it is, we must accept what is. Unfortunately, none of our bodies will change over night. There is a period of waiting. However, while we wait we must learn to love ourselves for who we are and not who we are not. Love yourself and your body, while you are working towards the one you want.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Combatting Upsellers

At age 50 I am able, by and large, to order meals and shop like a “big boy” without always forgetting to add two or three additional items.

In fact, I always finish my orders with “And that will do it. Thank you.” to discourage any attempts to upsell me. But it never works. My full, well-considered and complete decision– made by a grown man–is ignored and always challenged as not well thought out and missing at least a side order of fries or the days special or a stick of chapstick at the checkout counter or an extra warranty in case what I am buying doesn’t work.

To combat this assault on my judgment, I am going to start ordering or bringing to the check out counter two or three extra items. After my order has been taken or charges rung up, and just at the moment I am about to be upsold, I am going to say, “You know, after some reflection, I don’t think I need the extra calories in those fries, please take that off my order.” Then after pausing add, “Tell you what, I really shouldn’t get that apple turnover either. It is unhealthy and they usually are cold anyway.” And keep going until the poor person at the register gives up on me for an upsell.

jyb_musingsSame at retail stores. I will bring an extra two or three items to check out and then “down sell” myself. “You know, I won’t ever use these socks, let’s take that off my purchase, please.” And “Let me pass on the sun glasses, too. I don’t know what I was thinking. I guess like most adults I just can’t competently shop for myself” –and then laugh self-deprecatingly while looking confused and helpless.

I want to adopt this practice until I am even for all the attempts to upsell me. Which will take me about 15 years. Actually, only about 13 years. Well, I am going to say just 10 years. Let’s actually just make it just 8 years.

And, no, I don’t need an 8 year warranty with that decision.

Get the idea?

Lauren Mayer: If I Told You Once, I’ve Told You a Million Times — Don’t Exaggerate!

My father loved to give advice in pithy brief sound-bites, like “Neither a borrower or a lender be,” “If you break your leg, don’t come running to me,” and “Moderation in all things, including moderation.”  One of our favorites was when he helped us do story problems in math, and we could count on him to say RTFQ (for “Read the F-ing Question”).    And of course, he frequently admonished us to stick to the facts and refrain from exaggerating, particularly when it came to why we couldn’t help with the dishes (“I have 9 hours of homework!”) or what a fight was about (“she’s been bugging me for 3 days straight!”)

Adults are supposed to be role models for kids, so one would assume that grownups with a public platform would be very careful about exaggerating (particularly since the internet makes it way too easy to blow holes in tall tales).  But in the latest media frenzy, another of my dad’s aphorisms would come in handy, which is the PT Barnum quote, “Nobody ever lost a dollar by underestimating the taste of the American public.”   That’s right, Fox News has joined in the latest ludicrous attack on Girl Scouts.

In case you missed it, the Girl Scouts national office recently tweeted a link to an article about nominees for Woman Of The Year,” and the long list of accomplished women included Wendy Davis and Kathleen Sibelius.  Conservative news-ish site Breitbart seized on the story, which prompted pro-life groups to erupt in outrage, leading Fox News ancor Megyn Kelly to convene a panel on why the Girl Scouts would endorse known abortionist Wendy Davis.  Before you could say “Trefoil Shortbread,” conservative organizations had launched “Cookie-cott 2014,” a national boycott based on the idea that cookie sales would fund an evil agenda to turn every girl into a lesbian vegan homicidal atheist.

Okay, I’m exaggerating too – but just a little. (And exaggeration in the service of humor is at least more entertaining!)  This tempest in a cookie-box has prompted some ridiculous accusations and hysterical over-reactions, which just make the boycotters look silly.   Fortunately the backlash may even increase cookie sales – I know I’m buying a few extra boxes (although I don’t need much excuse – disclaimer, I was a Girl Scout for 5 years and have always struggled with my Thin Mints addiction!)


John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Flossing

Find yourself in a hole? Then keep digging. Or flossing.

That is often my philosophy and never serves me well…but I keep doing it anyway.

Today I was trying to floss after lunch with a new dental floss, Oral-B. I didn’t floss for the last 35 years even though I would tell my dentist I was flossing “some” every time he would ask “Have you been flossing, John?” —but now I am flossing.

But this new Oral-B floss broke off between two of my teeth–and part of the floss actually got stuck between my two teeth. And then kept breaking every time I tried to “floss out the floss” that was now stuck between my teeth.

My first brilliant idea was to double-over the floss to fortify it. That seemed like it might work but after much careful and strenuous effort, the “doubled-over” floss broke, too, leaving yet a larger piece of dental floss now stuck between the same two teeth.

jyb_musingsBut I hadn’t finished digging yet.

Before I took up flossing with real dental floss, I found packets of sugar (or packets of a sugar substitute) worked well as a flossing mechanism. So I picked up a packet of Splenda nearby to try to wedge out the two pieces of dental floss now stuck between my teeth.

And now have two pieces of dental floss and a corner of a packet of Splenda stuck between my teeth.

I think I will fish out the piece of a Splenda packet and leave the floss for when I go to the dentist next time –and just wait patiently for him to ask me the inevitable “Have you been flossing, John?”

I’ll be ready! And won’t have to say a word.

Erica & Matt Chua: Thailand

Thailand needs no introduction.  It is one of the most visited places in Asia because it offers a well-preserved culture, some of the most delicious food on earth and stunningly beautiful beaches to boot.  Being a tourist mecca it offers well-established, comfortable and affordable transportation.  The downside of being a tourist mecca, is that affordable areas are loud and crowded.  While it is true that you can find better beaches, trekking and culture elsewhere in Asia, nowhere is it more accessible, affordable or tasty as Thailand.  Thailand should be the first stop on anyone’s Southeast Asian itinerary.


DON’T MISSBangkok, it is one of Asia’s great cities with some of the world’s best food and has many historic sights within the city limits.
MUST SEEAndaman (such as Koh Phi Phi) and Gulf of Thailand Islands (such as Koh Samui, Koh Pha-ngan)Muay Thai boxingChattachuk Marketplay with tigers at the Tiger Temple (Kanchanaburi), world’s most interesting temple(Chiang Rai)and the ancient temples of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya
MUST TASTEEverything sold by street vendors, especially the freshly made fruit juices.




TRIP PLANNING: The beaches/islands can be enjoyed in as little as a weekbut plan on two weeks if you want to island hop. The north (Chiang MaiChiang Rai and Pai) can take 1-2 weeks depending on the trekkingcooking classes andmuay thai you want to see. Bangkok is worth 3-4 days itself, including the Chattachuk Market and Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall…then again, you may want to stay a week to enjoy some of the world’s best cheap food! GETTING AROUND: Buses and mini-vans. Get used to traveling at uncomfortable speeds in a full mini-van.

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Erica & Matt Chua: Thailand

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