No Magic Pill

Knowledge + effort + time = success

Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Still alive

Posted by Ben on Saturday, July 18, 2009

Hey, folks, apologies for the massive hiatus, but a lot of stuff has been going on behind the scenes around these parts that have pulled me away from this particular blog. However, part of that “stuff” has been:

—Continued study toward Level 2 of the Youth Fitness Specialist certification.
—Business-side development in preparation for officially rolling out my services.
—Poking around for individual prospective clients, just to gauge some interest and extend special “guineau pig” offers.
—The beginnings of some networking that, should it come to fruition, could set the business—and me—up for a good, long while.

I will be back with a vengeance once things get up and running, which will take this blog in a somewhat different direction in that it’ll focus more on kid-friendly fundamental movement and how to get adults involved as well. Whether it will be right here on this page or part of a different blog/website has yet to be determined, but of course, I’ll make it well-known around here when it does happen.

Hope everyone is doing well, again my apologies, and thanks for bearing with me! In the meantime, the blogs I usually reference are still going strong, so send your eyes and brains in those directions. Be well!


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Quick update

Posted by Ben on Friday, June 19, 2009

Greetings and salutations, folks. Just wanted to give a heads-up on what’s been going on here lately (read: this is why I haven’t been and likely won’t be posting much for a bit).

1. I completed the YFS1 certification from the IYCA a couple weeks ago and have since been working on YFS2. Higher level means more in-depth study, and while I’m borderline giddy at the authors included in the textbook, it’s still a lot of reading, and I’d like to be done with this certification level by the end of July.

2. At the same time, I’m learning how to form and run a business, mostly the “form” part, so that’s a lot of reading and planning as well, right now mostly planning to plan the plan. When I start to take on clients, I want everything to be self-sufficient, self-explanatory, and self-perpetuating (read: I want to run the training sessions and not have to worry too much with the business side of things).

3. I’m so far behind on my blog and article reading that it’d be funny if it were funny, but I’ve had my nose stuck in so many other books that I’m doing well just to keep up with my daily comics. I apologize for not even keeping up with my “Recent Clicks” section, which has languished over the past week or more. I’m hopeful of getting caught up on that over the weekend.

So, not that there was much worth reading here at it was, and I know I’ve said before how I was tailing off the posting only to turn around and whip out a couple in quick succession, but I’m pretty sure posts will be sparse for a bit. However, once things are up and running with the biz, I’ll actually have some, oh I dunno, informed, semi-niche writing to pass along (shocking, I know).

On the bright side, I HAVE resumed regular training of my own, so go me :)

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One week left…

Posted by Ben on Saturday, June 6, 2009

…until the head potentially gets shaved. I say “potentially” since, the economy being what it is, donations are pretty low at this point, but hey, one guy already did the deed; I may just get to keep MY hair :) However, if you’re so inclined, consider helping out the Komen Foundation while also seeing the hilarity/horror of me without a head of hair.

EDIT (06/07/2009): Apparently, the Komen site doesn’t like Opera: I went on the site on IE this morning and, lo and behold, the donation figures popped up. Non-IE h8rz! Anywho, I based my assumption of the donations on the number of donors (three), but those donors have really stepped up ($175)! C’mon, we can break $250 before the week is out!

(I know the goal is $1000, but I really had no clue what to expect, so I just tossed out a number. Frankly, I’m happy with anything.)

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Charlotte area welcomes new youth fitness specialist

Posted by Ben on Friday, June 5, 2009

Me. I got my congratulatory email this morning (so much for written letters, though I prefer the speed of email) letting me know that I’d passed the IYCA Youth Fitness Specialist (level 1) exam and that my certificate and other paperwork would arrive in 4-6 weeks, so I’m free and clear to start legitimately promoting my credentials and, oh I dunno, actually training people. Check out my newly updated Services page.

I’ve already talked to a local charter school that seemed pretty receptive to at least a consultancy relationship for their physical education program, but that’s very tentative right now. In the meantime, I’m reading The E-Myth Revisited (highly recommended several times), going through the resources provided on the IYCA’s members-only website, and looking to get the materials for the next certification level, so I’m not envisioning starting up something tomorrow, perhaps by the middle or end of summer at the earliest.

Anywho, back to your regular programming…

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Speaking of shaving…

Posted by Ben on Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I mention the following since getting a haircut (and now a shave) is one of the single most relaxing things I can think of, so I’m counting is as regeneration :)

My recent move took me even farther from the already-tad-too-long drive I used to make to get my haircuts, and while twenty minutes was a stretch, an hour is completely out of the question, so I ventured down the street from the “new” place to a barber shop that advertises ten-dollar haircuts. This is usually a bad thing since anything at or under ten bucks these days is probably not the best when it comes to haircuts—I usually paid $15-20 for what I thought was a decent job—but I was willing to take the chance since I’m shaving it all off in a few weeks anyway.

I walked into the Matthews Barber Shop on Monroe Road this morningi and stepped back into the more traditional barber shops of my earliest days. Four barber chairs facing a dozen waiting chairs, a middle-aged East Asian man at work (the only difference from my past, which was more Floyd-from-Mayberry), and his wife, who spoke a half-dozen words of English and ended up doing my cut and shave. Ten minutes later, I had my clippers-only haircut. Another fifteen minutes later, I had my first-ever barber shop shave. I know there are places like Roosters in town, but for twenty bucks (the shave was another ten) plus tip, I really don’t need or want much else, and being five minutes down the road doesn’t hurt, either. In all likelihood, they have a new regular customer. Just need to tell the lady to skip the aftershave—I smell like Brut now *ugh*

I forgot to mention last time that one effect of my recent move is less time online for me. Before, my commute was just walking downstairs, so my laptop stayed on, meaning I was on it more often than not. Now, between all the packing and unpacking of my computer gear and the continuing stream of projects on the house, my laptop almost never gets powered on when I’m not at work, so blog posts may slow down a bit overall, but I’m still here; in fact, my pending IYCA certification and (hopeful) subsequent related work may actually start to dominate the content here, but there will continue to be content. As for all my backlogged links, I’m still throwing them out in my “Recent Clicks” section, so if their inclusion here is a little sparse, I’m still getting my reading done.

Coming semi-soon (maybe): the joys of grilling (in honor of having officially broken in the new grill last night).

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Sleep, shoes, and shaving: an update

Posted by Ben on Thursday, May 21, 2009

I was going to feel badly about having been away for so long, but between most of that away time being spent at the beach engaging in all manner of debauchery and the fact that no fewer than a half-dozen other blogs I follow also posted recent “sorry that it’s been awhile” posts, I don’t feel quite so badly. Just a little. Maybe.

Anyway, a couple updates and housekeeping notes:

—I’m approaching a full month of no training, mostly due to the move and subsequent setup and general housework. I’m getting antsy, so training is set to resume in the next few days. There’s also a mini-challenge for the summer (Memorial Day to Labor Day) that I’m debating entering. I haven’t done a challenge in a long time, and considering the slight malaise I’m in right now, this could be a great jump-start for me, not to mention I’m hopefully only a few weeks away from installing a climbing rope and some playground rings.

—My IYCA materials are being submitted tomorrow. Bring on the post-name letters! (pending passing, of course)

—I’m shaving my head on Saturday, June 13. You might have a say-so in what happens. Details here (and to the right).

—I wore my “dress” shoes—really a matte black pair of low-cut, thick-soled Timberlands—to a graduation ceremony last week. Within ten minutes of walking around, both my Achilles and calves hurt in a not-good way, as if something were about to cramp or pop. I took them off and walked around for a bit. No pain. Stay away from the shoes!

—I spent a couple nights of vacation in a bed with disastrous results (read: walking zombie and odd hip and knee pains that had exactly nothing to do with the amount and types of food and drink I was consuming). I then spend a couple nights on the floor that was essentially concrete topped with outdoor, low-pile carpeting. No pain or movement problems, even in my deconditioned state right now. Stay away from the mattresses!

So, apologies for the hiatus. I have a TON of articles in my RSS reader to go over, so at least I have some fodder for more writing in the semi-near future. Maybe.

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Dealing with ouchies

Posted by Ben on Saturday, May 2, 2009

In a recent not-post post, I mentioned something about an injury. I haven’t worked out in about two weeks as every waking moment not spent at work since then has been devoted to moving except for a few hours when I was (a) trying not to pass out and (b) getting stitches. Monday before last, the first day of the move, was reserved for getting all the bigger-than-the-pickup-bed stuff moved in a rented truck, and that went off without a hitch. At the end of the day, though, I caught my hand on one of the dog crates and tore a lovely gash in my right palm, about an inch-and-a-half long and deep enough that the subcutaneous fat cells were clearly visible and teasing at escaping the wound, and the blood goes without saying (I’ll spare you the pictures). Fortunately, I didn’t cut into any muscle or other major connective tissues, and I managed to make it two days before breaking down and going to the hospital for stitches (free thanks to some connections, but still, second to my vasovagal response is my white-coat syndrome—I seriously get very mild panic attacks from just being in a hospital, which makes zero sense to me, just like nearly passing out from seeing blood leaving my body, but I digress). I can finally grip at full intensity with no pain again, and the wound site is almost completely healed up, so by the time I get back to training (hopefully in another week or so), all should be ready to go. I just need to figure out which tree branch is getting the climbing rope :)

Acute versus chronic injury

I’ve dealt semi-extensively with both types, and I mainly want to deal with acute injuries in this post since those are the sudden, unexpected ones that throw training into total chaos. Chronic issues arise gradually, sometimes imperceptibly enough that you think it’s an acute issue when it really isn’t, and usually in the form of most joint and ligament aches and pains—these get resolved through balanced training, some p/rehab work, and other corrective protocols. Acute injuries make everything else come to a halt so you can first deal with the immediate problem (first aid, see a doctor, etc) and then figure out how it affects your livelihood (where on your body is it, how severe, how long for recovery, what else will be affected).


After all medical care has been rendered, the first consideration is if you can you get around on your own two feet, and if so, how well? It’s pretty cool to see how, say, an upper torso or arm injury can inhibit your natural walking gait since you’ll try to remain upright and rigid to minimize movement and therefore alter your stride. I’ll give you two injury examples from my own experience: first, my recent stress fracture in my left foot made simple walking fairly painful, but I was able to hobble around well enough and deal with compensatory imbalances with SMR and removing any exercise that put pressure on the forefoot, meaning no running or jumping of any kind. It was painful and is still annoying but not debilitating and easily worked around in training. Second, a torn right hamstring put me on my duff for a couple weeks, and then it took a couple months of physical therapy to get back to walking without a hitch in my giddyup, and that says nothing about the lost strength and deformed musculature that is only recently returning to a (good) balanced nature, two years later. Obviously, if you have trouble simply making it to the fridge and back or maybe just breathing deeply (from injury, not corpulence), there just isn’t a whole lot you can do. That’s not to say there’s nothing you can do (try isometric contractions for time), but you’ll obviously be severely limited.

What can you do without increasing risks of contamination, infection, etc?

You just experienced physical trauma. Your body must deal with it. Give it a chance to do so, especially immediately after the event. Also, are you in a simple, breathable wrap that you can change as needed, or are you in a brace or cast of some sort? Think about your personal hygiene here. One thing that would’ve kept me from doing a major workout of any kind with my hand injury before it fully closed up was sweat. Granted, I did sweat a bit while moving (I changed the dressing once or twice a day), but nothing like I do during workouts, and with the additional, intensive movements, there was a greater chance of getting sweat, dirt, and whatever else in the wound, not to mention biological resources being diverted to other parts of the body instead of focusing more on the healing process. Plus, there was simply a decent risk of re-opening the wound with inadvertent pressure or striking on the hand. It’s just not worth it.

Had I been free to work out this whole time instead of moving, there would’ve been no pull-ups, no push-ups, no rowing, no kettlebell swings, nothing that involved the hands (let’s just say loading and unloading trucks was interesting for a few days). I would’ve been limited to lower-body and core work, which is perfectly fine with me, but different injuries require different training modifications. If my injury was more severe and long-lived, I was fully prepared to eventually do a 400-meter walking lunge, more squats, lots of planks and bridges, and whatever else I could do, which was a lot considering the location and nature of my injury, but only when the wound finally closed up. Patience, grasshopper.

What can you do without pain and without prolonging the injury?

This is something every athlete and fitness enthusiast deals with: returning to action too soon. Pain is not an accurate measure of what you should be doing or can do in the first place. Again looking at my two examples: with the stress fracture, I could still do a lot, just no running or jumping, and any attempts to do so have been so have been rudimentary to a point of near-infancy (baby steps anyone?). With the hamstring issue, after the initial couple days of continuous throbbing, the pain subsided somewhat when I was sedentary, but any kind of movement brought it back. Later, simple knee flexion and extension didn’t hurt, but walking did. Eventually, that got better, too, but my strength and balance weren’t fully recovered, so I was at a greater risk of (re)injury until I developed more bilateral balance between my legs. My point is to not rush right back into things the first day you feel better. If you think your fitness progress is slow when you’re healthy, progress coming back from an injury is comparatively molasses running uphill in January, but just suck it up and deal with it unless you want to remain in pain at best or on your keister at worst. Focus on rehab and regeneration as intensely as a normal workout, and you’ll recover that much more quickly. Plus, if it’s a muscle strain, enjoy the warm, massage-like tinglies of your physical therapist’s ultrasound treatment :)

What’d I miss? Lots. Light up the comments.

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Back and still breathing

Posted by Ben on Thursday, April 30, 2009

I’m alive and moved, for the most part. It took right at a week to get the vast majority of stuff loaded, driven, and unloaded from one place to the other, but with the exception of all my books and a couple odds and ends (nothing that needs moving immediately, just sometime over the next few weeks), everything is in the “new” place, albeit in mind-numbing disarray; however, enough progress has been made that it’s not a complete stress-out (read: I now have fresh undies as needed rather than resorting to some air and Febreeze). All told, I’ll still take a week-plus move in a few dozen trips rather than one massive load in one or two days anytime. Sleep has been short in quantity, and I’ve been so wiped out most nights that I just fell into bed instead of sleeping on the floor, so my sleep has lacked in quality as well (more just passing out than sleeping). I finally made it back to the floor the other night, which of course is great, but my body is having to get readjusted again. It’s slightly remarkable just how much worse I feel in general from sleeping in a bed compared to sleeping on the floor.

Also, I did my first mass group motorcycle ride this past Saturday. It was a great idea in theory, and it was a worthwhile charity group, but I seriously live in an insulated world (the basis for a future post here) in that I’ve only ridden with at most one other bike before, but I know how to ride in groups thanks to the Riders Edge course from Harley Davidson. I’ve always been under the impression that motorcycle riders are more intelligent, watchful, defensive, and generally safer than other vehicle drivers simply because there is much less room for error with a motorcycle, and I admit that I’m borderline paranoid when I ride (which has made me a much better car driver as well), but I learned that many (most?) bikers are just as clueless and ignorant as people in cars on the road. It didn’t help that nearly half of the ride were walk-up registrants, so our law enforcement escort was seriously understaffed, which led to one of the officers losing to an SUV as he tried to get ahead of the ride to block off an intersection (reportedly serious leg injuries but nothing life-threatening). Just too many people for too few escorts. Plus, one of the ride went down on an interstate for some unknown reason, whether it was a medical condition or simple dehydration. I’m all for riding for a cause, but I’ll almost certainly not be doing a mass ride again. Too much stress, too much stupidity, too much cattle herd mentality.

That said, I don’t have a meaty post for you right now, but I’m well into that post on dealing with injuries—I just need more time to get it together since it’s threatening to reach serial post status. Don’t get your hopes up, though—there’s nothing groundbreaking or even scientific about it, just more anecdotal rambling like before, but hopefully I can make some headway on it for the next few days at work (the only time I have to write since home time is spent containing the chaos) and at least get part of it published. Besides, I really want to share the gore and good times from my most recent random tweak :)

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No real blog this week

Posted by Ben on Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Moving doesn’t lend itself well to much except for stress, keeping track of the coffee maker, a gauge on how well your training is serving you in everyday life, and (possibly) unrelated injury. As such, I won’t be doing any targeted writing this week unless I somehow find some time at work to do so, but when I return (hopefully next week), I’ll try to have some stuff on how to train around, with, and through different injuries since I’m now dealing with one that has ended all upper-body work for me for awhile. Nothing serious in the overall picture, but enough that I’m going to be limited to squats, lunges, and core work for a few weeks at least. Yes, that’s called a teaser. Yes, I know you love me.

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Enter Sandman

Posted by Ben on Saturday, April 11, 2009

From the beginning of this blog, I’ve maintained an active disdain for traditional footwear, whether it’s sneakers, loafers, flip-flops, or (especially) high-heels. I’ve offered my own anecdotal experiences as well as links to various stories and articles trying to explain in every conceivable manner why 99.9% of shoes out there just plain suck and put your long-term health and mobility at serious risk. I will continue to fight that fight as long and as well as I can, but it’s time to take up an additional cause for the sake of our well-being, a cause I’ve long held suspicions about and experimented with yet continued to ignore for some reason, but some recent additional experience has finally gotten me over the hump, and I’m embarking on another lifestyle tweak to improve my posture, my performance, and my sleep.

I’ve spent the past few nights sleeping at the foot of my bed on the hardwood floor with nothing for padding except my sleeping bag. No, I’m not in trouble, at least not that I know of, nor am I hobo-ing around crashing at friends’ places (though with the way I’m banking vacation time at work, I might go for a week or four on a LOOOOONG Harley ride sometime this summer/autumn; check your calendars). This is nothing new for me—I went to college, after all—and without fail, every time I’ve slept on a very hard surface, I’ve experienced deeper and more restful sleep, less soreness or stiffness (in general as well as after exercise), fewer back and hip and shoulder issues (this latest round of sleeping on the floor has, so far, all but fully relaxed some rather painful trigger points in my shoulders without additional self-therapy), and a general readiness to wake up and move immediately rather than needing upwards of a half-hour to fully get my bearings, both physically and mentally. In fact, while I’m not ready to fully ascribe this development to my sleep changes, I’ve been dealing with what I thought was a stress fracture in my left foot for a couple months now, and after a few nights on the floor, there is significantly less pain in the area, much less than I’ve felt since the initial injury. I’ll report more after giving this thing more time to shake out.

Well, you might say, I just need to get a firmer mattress. Let me assure you that I have one of the firmest mattresses I’ve ever slept on, yet my sleep had become increasingly fitful (I’m talking over the course of several months, not just recently). Well, you might say, you should try some kind of stiff memory foam that’ll support you better. Okay, are you going to spend the hundreds or thousands of dollars to set me up? Besides, foam forms to your body’s weight as well as shape, and since most of our weight is—well, should be around our hips (meaning musculature, not fat), foam ends up sagging as much as a regular mattress. Well, you might say, maybe you need one of those adjustable air- or water-filled beds? I’ll iterate the cost comment and add the question: have you ever slept on an air mattress, especially for several nights in a row? There’s practically no way to keep those things from sagging during each night, let alone over the long term. Well, you might say, you just need a firmer bedding surface. Um, I have one. It’s called the floor, which is cheaper/free and better suited for our bodies. But, but, but how can you NOT sleep on a mattress, you ask? Well, aside from the potential toxins within, the question really should be: how have humans slept on mattresses for so long without countless cases and reports of neck pain, back pain, knee and hip pain, insomnia, excess ingestion of sleep aids, excess ingestion of stimulants—oh, wait, that’s already happening at a skyrocketing rate.

When it comes to all things “primal,” as many or most people would probably classify sleeping on the floor, a cruise around Mark’s Daily Apple is generally a good starting (and usually stopping) point; however, aside from a few articles on ideas for getting better sleep (all focused on diet, exercise, and a couple lifestyle tweaks) and one article that briefly mentioned the chemical hazards of mattresses, I was somewhat surprised that I didn’t find anything about bedding (that’s not to say it’s not there, but I just didn’t find it; hopefully Mark can set me straight if something’s been written about it). In pulling out to a wider Google search, I ran across an article by Patrick Clark—who that is, I have no clue—that hit on a lot of ideas I’ve mused over for years but never fully put together. (Note: the Bruce Bower article link in the Clark story is broken; the article can be found here.)

Bottom line: America, and most of the world that uses Westernized sleep habits (read: mattresses, artificial lighting, stimulants, etc), suffers from all manner of sleep disorders and subsequent physical and mental ailments that, for some reason, just don’t seem to improve; in fact, as our society as advanced, so to speak, our sleep has regressed, and don’t you know that there is a HYOOGE financial incentive to keep it that way. Every time you see an article with tips and tricks to getting better sleep, invariably it focuses on every thing in the world—from food to feng shui—except the surface on which you sleep, and isn’t that one of, if not the, most influential element of sleep? Of course it is; otherwise, how could all these bedding companies be charging—and getting—hundreds and thousands of dollars PER BED and seeing their bottom lines remain healthy? People are desperate for sleep, which is blamed for everything from bodily pains and poor test scores to hypertension and even death; yet for all the money and technology poured into sleep, we’re getting less of it. Yes, there are extenuating issues to address, such as diet and exercise, yet I’m willing to bet that even the most puritan of health nuts suffers from stretches of sleeplessness.

Of course, I can’t say any of this definitively since, as the Clark article mentions, “embarrassingly” few studies have been done when it comes to sleeping surfaces, and most anything supportive of non-mattressed sleeping is anecdotal—in my own experiences, I’ve slept on hardwood floors, low- and medium-pile carpet, and even asphalt (buffetted by thin wooden slats used to separate layers of bricks formed into cubes—I worked in a brickyard during the summer preceding my senior year of high school), all with great results, yet I went back to mattresses because, well, that’s just where you sleep, right? I mean, why WOULDN’T you sleep on a mattress? It’d just be weird not to. In fact, I mentioned this development on Twitter, in my training log, and to a co-worker, and all provided the expected responses: oh, you just need to try/change this, that, or the other; what kind of mattress/box springs/linens are you using?; doesn’t it hurt to try to sleep like that?; how do you sleep being that uncomfortable? Folks, I’m here to tell you, to preach, to pound, to proclaim, to proselytize about mattresses the same way I do about shoes—actually, think about the parallels. Both shoes and mattresses (and even food products, to a large extent) are ubiquitous and considered normal in our society. Both claim (rightfully so) vast technological attributes. Both continue research, development, and marketing to further develop those technologies under the guise of improving support and overall health (yet, oddly, this never seems to happen; otherwise, these companies would go out of business). Both command mind-bogglingly vast industrial complexes and financial structures that benefit from car maker-like product development (read: regular, predictable “new” models touted as superior to last week/month/year, so toss out what they swore was the end product of their efforts for this latest end product). Anyone starting to see some problems here? I sure as hell am.

This next step to weirdness isn’t a big deal for me since I already get a lot of comments on my Vibrams (speaking of which, I just ordered my “summer” pair a few minutes ago), but what if you want to try this out for yourself and wonder what other people might think? If you read my recent serial post on gymless fitness, the same mental hurdles must be addressed, but if you want a quick-and-dirty answer to people who ask, simply say that it’s where/how YOU sleep, not them, that they can think what they want, but they don’t have to do it unless they want to. Just because something isn’t “normal” doesn’t mean it isn’t ideal (I’ll refrain from saying “right”). Enjoy getting better sleep, having more energy, having fewer aches and pains, thinking more clearly, and generally living a more fulfilling life. Show those who poo-poo mattress-less sleep just how much better YOUR life is. A bold claim? Sure, but I’m not trying to sell you anything, though if I readily find the parts to a Japanese-style futon, I’ll be sure to pass along the source in case you want to go in that direction.

P.S. I couldn’t let a post with this title go by without its namesake.

P.P.S. ABC Financial, my former gym’s financial company, can kiss my pearly white, hairy ass. I just found out that they’re sending collection letters and making collection calls (to the wrong number) claiming that my account with them is past due (no shit, it’s cancelled and just paid the second of two termination payments, meaning it’s closed). This is the third billing issue I’ve had with them, each due to error on their part, yet I still have to deal with their crap. I swear, I think Comcast is running this outfit. At any rate, I have the emails we exchanged making this last transaction crystal clear, so I sent them a nastily-worded email demanding a cease-and-desist and included the text, senders, and dates of those emails as well as a thinly-veiled threat of filing a formal complaint with the BBB. I’m sure that part won’t do any good, but seriously, if you can help it at all, never get involved with ABC Financial. Mmmm… Sandman… dirt naps… yeah, that’s the good stuff.

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