Last post of 2016

I set a goal of 5 posts a week for 2017 so I thought I’d give a try to this one before the new year clicks in. The Angina Monologues are sort of an outsider’s view of the plant based whole food movement, particularly as it is expressed by Dr. McDougall, Dr. Esselstyn, Jeff Novick, and others who are enthusiastic about preventative medicine. I don’t speak for any of those people, but I have enormous interest in their message and will try to promote my understanding of that message. One of my favorite ways to do that is to try various recipes of people who cook PBWF. This new year I am trying one such site which I am happy to pass along to you.

Our New Year tradition is to make salads. My mom used to make them. In my very young and foolish days I would have them with cold cuts on Nee Years Eve. I still had a lot of young health to waste. As I enter the last third of my life I no longer have any such illusions. So now I modify the recipes so they are as far from the toxins as I can get them. They are still not as clean as some less processed meals, but they are not too bad. The real issue for me with these salads is the substitute for mayonnaise. Most use some sort of blended tofu concoction. This year though, I ended up at Clean Food Dirty Girl. She has an interesting take on the potato salad dressing here. It is pretty high in fat as it uses a lot of cashews, but we sometimes eat at Gracious Madre which has several offerings with a cashew cream that is probably 95% cashews or more. By that standard Molly Patrick ( the Clean Food Dirty Girl from the website) provides a reasonably non toxic alternative to the canned vegan mayos. We had been using Nayonaise, which seems to be puréed tofu, but it is very expensive and has the high calorie load of tofu. The spices in the salad dressing give it an interesting (as in, “Very good,”) flavor and I’m thinking of swapping out some of the cashews with potato to get lower calorie density at a similar consistency. I do the same thing with TerriNC‘s phenomenal nooch sauce which is a staple in our house. You’ll find that near the top of my healthy vegan food lists which I’ll post here if I ever get off my lazy ass and figure out how to post here on the Monologues. WordPress and I are still in the first date phase of our relationship. I’ll get better as you go along.

In the meantime have a healthy plant based NYE. Let’s achieve the lives to which we aspire  in 2017.

Big Blue and HRNet

Big Blue laid me off in May.  It was after five years of my second stint there.  I wasn’t surprised by it, and the lay off didn’t bother me that much, at least for about the first month.

It was the third time Big Blue had laid me off.  The first time was about 22 years prior.  They offered me a job afterwards.  I know; it’s weird, the plan is to lay everybody off and them offer jobs to the people they wanted to keep in the first place.  Now this sounds like it violates labor laws and leaves Big Blue open to a lot of liability.  So they nominally come up with the excuse that they were reengineering their operations and some of their workforce had skills that matched the needs of the new operations, so they were able to offer them positions in that organization.

This was not new to me.  I returned to finish my degree at San Jose State while working full time in the Semiconductor industry.  At that time I was a first line supervisor. I remember receiving an ad fro a parody of a management textbook.  One of the chapters was entitled, “How to Get Rid of Employees Without Actually Firing Them.”  I laughed when I read it.  It was an insightful comment about how bad managers and bad organizations operate.  It’s funnier when you are not actually living it.

The truth is I liked Big Blue.  I had fond memories of the people I worked with in the early nineties, many of whom remain friends to this day.  I was thrilled when I had the opportunity to return in a contract role in 2010.  And even in the second tenure, the place had many wonderful people.  I sat next to a lady who was about young enough to be my granddaughter.  She seemed to aspire to becoming the Emily Post of flatulence.  Once, when she remarked on the proper age to genteelly pass gas in public, I noted that I could be considered a prodigy in that field.  She was exceptionally honest with an excellent work ethic.  And she was not remarkable in terms of many of the Big Blue workforce.  Any employer with the most rudimentary skills for handling people could have created an exceptional environment for its employees from this workforce.  I had recently made up my mind that I could remain at Big Blue until my retirement, which I estimated to occur about ten years in the future.  Of course, not long after I took an FTE position there, it became apparent that those rudimentary skills were not supposed to be fostered.  The Human Resources department, which was staffed with the same high caliber people who I found in the rest of the company, was replaced with HRNet, a sort of facebook clickbait webpage that was supposed to substitute for the human being that I was tacitly led to believe would represent me in dealing with the company’s regulations.  I used to use the tagline, “HRNet; taking the human out of Human Resources since 2011.”

Mark Covello

December 20, 2016

Pacifica, California



I know. It almost sounds like an oxymoron (or, perhaps, “oligmoron,” might be more appropriate). I started off a post that I titled, “Obamacare,” yesterday, but I couldn’t get the wording right. So this morning I am blogging from my iPhone trying to get something out. I’ve   slowly been learning the ins & outs of WordPress, but I don’t have any formalized content. As I’ve explained elsewhere, I sort of think of this as a self-funded Herb Caen-ish encore career. I guess this sort of activity feels a bit like that. I’m thrilled to know I can blog from bed.

Yesterday, in the unpublished post, I was remarking that the news I heard left me  the impression that Trump was going to make good on  his campaign promise to raze Obamacare.

I wanted to comment about Obamacare as it is a main focus of the Angina Monologues. In the most postmodern of actions this, “Progressive,” president was reviled by conservatives for passing what might be one of the most retrogressive laws in the nation’s history. The ACA exists for exactly one purpose; to keep healthcare in the private sector. And, in doing so,  he freed the health insurance industry from any sort of oversight. The insurance companies could determine exactly how health care would be doled out without the interference of any pesky regulations.  When conservatives criticize it they tend to characterize it as a government handout, but anyone who has sought coverage on the exchanges knows it is anything but that. The costs are not being borne by the taxpayers. They are borne by the people purchasing the insurance. That fact is reinforced by the number of large insurers who have left the exchanges as they started to realize  the consequences  of treating symptoms rather than diseases. That’s the lesson of the big 2 diseases of our day, Type II diabetes and heart disease; You can treat the symptoms until you’re blue in the face, but if you don’t address the disease, itself, the disease will always win.

That is the lesson I would like this blog to teach; that to succeed over heart disease you must address the disease, itself, and the only way to address the disease is to revise the lifestyle that created it.  As I figure out how to develop the site I hope the Anigina Monologues will grow into a sanctuary for people who are undertaking the difficult task of addressing that disease. ( In the meantime do what I do and use The McDougall Plan for your sanctuary.)  Everyone seems to be against us; the food industry, the medical industry, the pharmaceutical industry.  But, the truth is that they all have the best of intentions.  As Doctor McDougall has said, “It’s nothing personal.”  They’re all just trying to make a living.  And in the process they are enabling us to kill ourselves.

I didn’t think we were the type of people who would give in to an oligarchy, but, if the oligarchs are going to try to use us by getting rid of the laws that empower them, I say, “Bring it on !”

Mark Covello

December 17, 2016

Pacifica, California

site owner avatar

The End of Modern

This blog/website is a gift my wife gave me for Christmas 2016.  This is my first attempt at a blog post.  It may turn out that I have no talent for this as I have learned over the course of this year that there are a number of things I always assumed I was good at that I have no talent for.  If so, over time it will just fade away.  Now I am using it as a substitute for my journals.  I have been persistently, if not obsessively, journalling  since before I left my small college in Maine in 1978.  I may quote from those journals from time to time in these posts.  Strangely, this process seems to be a deconstruction of my own life. That can lead to an unfocused exploration, but the act of writing down that examination provides at least some editorialization which can help focus those thoughts.  I am starting this blog with no desire but to use it for the purpose of clarifying my own thoughts.  In itself that may lead to what reads as a pulp novel and may garner some attention, but I am not yet trying to find a way to make a living from this hobby.

I’ve worked in the San Francisco market as a statistical programmer for about 30 years. Once I was at the San Francisco Examiner building  on Fifth and Mission to purchase an historical copy of the Chronicle.  As I entered the building I immediately thought of how Herb Caen would go to work each weekday in that building and managed to make a celebrated life by generating nothing more than his daily musings about life.  I longed to have lived that life.  In those days it was possible to get a sponsor to bankroll you to do that.  There were many such columnists around the country; Art Buchwald in DC, Mike Royko in Chicago,… In the newspaper business, being awarded a column like that was a great honor.  But, of course, it is an honor that is bestowed after years of service, dedication and diligence to the newspaper industry, years I never spent.  So here I am buying that honor with money earned from years programming for companies fighting to hold market share against each other.  That’s the problem with markets; nobody wins unless somebody else loses.  The point is; if there is no interest in this blog it will come to an end.  But it is amazing how cheap it is to start.  For about $100 I have the domain and three years of access to it.  I’m pretty sure being Herb Caen’s sugar daddy cost the Chron a lot more.

I want these posts to be about the broadest ideas that pass through my head.  I think they will gravitate towards preventative medicine and Public Health policy because those are the topics to which  I am most drawn.  My dad died when he was 54.  I am turning 60 next month and I am still able to jog several miles and recover quickly. I spend a lot of time wondering why that is.  On the brightest days I resolve to continue my dedication to the  Plant Based Whole Food lifestyle that I believe has sustained me.  On the darker days I feel he was the luckier of us.

I’m afraid my broadest idea is on the darker side.  Anyone who has been peripherally associated with computers is aware of an event that is called the, “Singularity.”  It’s a term stolen from science fiction that postulates the time at which computers will have as much functional power as the human brain, and it is estimated to occur in 2030 and is sometimes thought of as apocryphal.  Movies have dealt with the theme from Blade Runner to Her to Ex Machina.  These speculate what the world will be like when machines attain some level of consciousness, and, in some sense they also deal with what happens to humanity as a result.  My life spans a good deal of the twentieth century.  It was a century that was generally concerned with Modernism and the modernist movement.  That movement began with James Joyce.  The last play I acted in was a production of Our Town at Colby.  Thornton Wilder’s plays are also analyses on modernism.  The Skin of Our Teeth was once accused of being a wholesale theft of Finnegan’s Wake.  After reading Wilder’s  preface to Our Town, I developed the idea that modernism was concerned reconciling the singular experience of life  with the universal aspect.  he put it like this:

Every action which has ever taken place – every thought, every emotion- has taken place only once, at one moment in time and place.  “I love you,” “I rejoice,” “I suffer,” have been said and felt many billions of times, and never twice the same.  Every person who ever lived has lived an unbroken succession of unique occasions.”

And it’s that paradox that most modern art has tried to address and reconcile.  In the late twentieth century a rejection of the idea of universal concepts began.  All life geared towards putting the singular aspects of the individual in perspective.  Suddenly it was not possible to separate a person’s thoughts and actions from the experiences and history that precipitated them.   This was a new way of looking at humanity.  If we could be reduced to a series of responses to stimuli, then we were really very little more than very complex biochemical machines.  When I was back at Colby there were discussions in the dorm rooms at night about whether man was just an animal or if there was something extraordinary about him.  The implication was that the human species had been touched by some entity like a god that set it on its course to do remarkable things.  Today the discussion seems to be whether man is an animal or just a complicated machine.  The modernists would argue that the noblest actions would try to reconcile those opposing viewpoints.  I’m afraid there may be no modernists left.  I’m pretty sure there will be some space dedicated to that paradox if and when this blog continues.

Mark Covello
Monday, December 12, 2016
Pacifica, California