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Los Angeles, CA, United States


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving Thanks

It's been a busy month and it's been tough to find time to sit down and collect my thoughts and put pen to paper or in this case, keystroke to webpage.  However, I wanted to take time today to reflect on all the good things in life and look at the glass half full and give thanks.

I think it's appropriate to thank those most important in life.  For me, it's God, my wife, my family, and my friends.  Without either of them, life would be diminished greatly and there would be less of purpose to live.

So what am I thankful for (in no particular order):
  1. Health-Thank you Lord for giving me my health.  For 47 years, I'm glad I can still run, swing a golf club, only take a pill a day, and wake up every day to enjoy what life has in store for me. 
  2. Knowledge-Thank you Lord for the gift of knowledge.  I've been blessed with the revelation that learning and teaching are two of the greatest gifts one can experience.
  3. My beautiful wife-Lord, thank You bringing her into my life.  Without her, I'd be less of a man that I am today.  Continue to bless us and her with Your grace.
  4. My family-Blood is thicker than water and it's good to know I can count on them when the chips are down.
  5. My friends-you know who you are-another pillar of support providing counsel but more importantly an outlet to share thoughts and emotions.  I need them and I hope they need me.  As Barbara sings, "People who need people are the most wonderful people in the world."
Life truly isn't (at least for me) all about material things.  It's about living life well.  It's about trying to do the best I can in what I do.  It's about dealing with the daily trials and tribulations and being solution oriented rather than lamenting about the negative.  It's about being a man for others.  Life is about being the best person I can be and my hope is that those I encounter are a little better for it.

It's these things that I give thanks for on this day of Thanksgiving.

Thank you.  

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Cynicism...sometimes I feel like a bitch

Sometimes I catch myself about to criticize a comment and I have to bite my tongue.  You know that old saying, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."  I find myself biting my tongue all the time.  I think it's because I'm a better listener now than I was 2 years ago.  Consequently, I'm able to dissect a comment and process it quickly for sensibility.

For example, we were having a discussion about someone who unfortunately was recently diagnosed with cancer.   I wasn't sure if we were supposed to know considering that illness is quite a sensitive and delicate topic.  The sick person had confided with someone we know on the pros and cons of radiation therapy.  It almost sounded like a patient-doctor confidentiality situation only the person wasn't a doctor.  In any case, one of the group chimes in and says she's going to call the cancer-stricken friend.  I advised that it may be prudent to make sure it's public knowledge or she may be betraying confidentiality which could cause a strain on the relationship.  The reply was "No, it wouldn't.  Believe it or not, we were close and we still are."  That person proceeded to look up the number which wasn't on her cell phone.  She looked in the telephone address book with no luck.  I suggested that possibly it was under her married name of 25 years.  This person didn't even remember her married name.  I couldn't help but think how close was this person-really?

People say all kinds of bs and out of being politically correct or fear of hurting one's feelings, we sit there and smile and accept it.   Some days, I decide that I just don't feel like being pc and just want to be a bitch.  So I just call people on their stuff.  I don't like doing it but there are times when the cup runneth over with all the bs.  I've been painted int the corner and it's time to fight back.  Is that wrong?  I know I can be hurtful but I choose to be an a-hole.  Fortunately, the phase doesn't last long then I go back to my normal self and go about life one day at a time until the bs meter pegs at full and it's time to drain it out.  So to those of you that have experienced my biatch days, my apologies to you.  You just happened to be the straw that broke this camel's back and I fired back.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Celebrate Individuality

When I graduated from college, I was given a Gary Larson coffee cup with the cartoon above.  To this day I cherish that cup and it's been with me throughout that career.  The couple that gave it to me always picked out gifts that had some underlying message.  It was truly a gift where the thought actually counted.  I love this cup/cartoon because it's message is a reminder that in a society of conformity, it's important to break the mold and literally stand out.  It's not standing out for standing out's sake but rather, recognizing and celebrating one's individuality in a world where being brash and speaking one's true feelings is often stifled in a politically correct is the norm.

Last night, I went to get my hair cut (what little is left).  One of the stylists is a cross dresser.  I'm not sure if he's truly transgendered since I've seen this person dressed as a man and a woman.  In any case, I couldn't help but admire this person's courage to go out and literally tell the world, "I just gotta be me."  If he feels like wearing woman's clothes, then all the power to him.  He's got a bigger set of cajones than a lot of people I know.  He's living his life the way he wants to and if it makes him happier and feel better about himself, I'm all for it.

I believe that we're all here and alive not be just part of a mindless crowd jumping on every bandwagon that goes by but to be driving that bandwagon and leading others to celebrate life, enjoy life and to live life.  As much as the media and marketing folks in the world try to figure us out and try to pigeon-hole us into a certain demographic, it's our duty to be mindful that we're not a statistic or one of a crowd but rather, we are individuals with a our own thoughts, our feelings, our memories and experiences and our own decision-makers.

Being honest and having the courage to stand up and be counted and heard is not easy.  Standing out in a crowd is one way to bring a rash of criticism and judgment your way.  But just being you and standing up for what you believe in and for what is right is easier than living with the guilt of not doing nothing at all unless you're one of those mindless people that justify every action or non-action to favor your viewpoint.  We all know those type of sorry ass people who cannot be personally accountable for the actions or lack of action during a crisis and justify why they did what they did until they convince themselves they were right all along.

Hit the pause button when things are going hectic in your life, and bask in your individuality and those around you.  It's amazing how much more there is to see in others when you look at them as a living breathing individual rather than a part of group.  Celebrate and individuality and if necessary, stand up and sing out, "I gotta be me!! Oh, I just gotta be me!!"

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Hysteria, Histrionics, and Hyperbole

I've been on a bit of a hiatus from this blog because of my new job.  But I'm back and have some new things I want to get off my chest.

I was watching the news the other day about a CEO discussing his time spent on an advisory board for Obama on how to streamline the government.  He said, "Congress operates on the 3 H's-Hysteria, Histrionics and Hyperbole."  That comment has been stuck in my head for a while as I reflected upon the different management styles I've encountered at while working at different companies.

There is no doubt that the 3 H's occur at most if not all companies.  Why? Because there is always someone who invariably adopts this management style because it's his or her way of tell all the others, "Hey, look at me, I care."  More often than not, these are the people who create drama and are the centerpiece.  They will yell or speak louder during a discussion.  Their points will be self indulging without looking at the total picture and usually, there the first to criticize a decision if it runs counter to their opinion.  Instead of being solution-oriented and working through the issue, a 3H manager will focus on the cause looking for someone to throw under the bus.  And the funny thing is that these type of managers are convinced that they're doing the right thing.

Yeah, I've worked with quite a few and admittedly, I think I may have fallen into the 3H mode once or twice in my career.  But overall, I try to think of solution.  First, deal with the current problem, fix or mitigate the consequences then focus on the cause and determine if the process was flawed or was it a training issue.  Oh, the dreaded "training issue"- it's management-speak for saying someone really f'd up and the only explanation is that they weren't properly trained.  It's often used as a euphemism when someone has a brain fart. 

I think it's important to make a distinction between urgency and Hysteria/Histrionics/Hyperbole.  Urgency is that feeling that something needs to get done asap and people are in problem solving mode and willing to do what it takes to make the issue better.  The triple H method is to fly around blaming others, avoid any accountability, throw darts, and generally pull a Pontius Pilate and wash their hands of the mess. 

Rather than being respectful, a 3H manager will talk about your actions behind your back to anyone who would listen.  A 3H manager is the screamer and if he/she is in a superior position, watch out because this is a type of manager that will undress you with a verbal tirade in front of your peers and employees.  I know, I've been there.

Oftentimes, a 3H manager will mask their deficiencies behind all their rhetoric.  It's a good way to deflect their lack of understanding of business and the complexities of the processes. 

So if you're reading this and wondering where I'm going with it; honestly, I have no clue other than to reminisce about my experience with hysterical drama queen managers.   If you have to work with one, my deepest sympathies to you and your co-workers.  Just remember not to fall into the 3 H mode or you may lose all respect from your colleagues and more importantly, your self.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Hi y'all.  Yes, I know it's been awhile since I've blogged but the past couple of weeks have been spent adjusting to a new routine called work.  I've had some ideas for blogs but just haven't had the time to put thoughts to pen (or keyboard) lately. 

Have you ever felt like you just want to disconnect from mass media aka radio, tv and internet?  I've been feeling this way in the past couple of weeks.  Sometimes, I think the networks (radio & tv) treat the public like sponges just repeating and saturating our senses with crap they "think" we're interested to the point that we can't take it anymore.  It just makes me want to unplug from it all.

Take the release of the Iphone 4S as an example.  Do we really need to see a bunch of nerds lined up in the middle of the night waiting to be the first ones to get the iphone?  Don't these guys have something better to do?  If these guys were so smart, why didn't they just order the iphone over the internet and have it delivered the same day it was released instead of spending the night freezing on cold pavement. 

Then there's the Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Boston, Occupy LA.  WTF is that all about?  You got throngs of news reporters at these sites interviewing these grunge 21st century hippies who are just camping out to protest all injustice in the world without providing solutions or a focus on their agenda.  IMHO, it's just a way for some of the unemployed and those in the creative arts to just hang out, smoke some ganja, meet people and possibly hook up in their Coleman tents.  Former President Clinton is right when he says, get focused and provide an agenda.  Protesting against corporate bailouts, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the $5 debit card fee by BofA, and the evils of red meat is just a bit too broad for any politician to really pay attention.  The Occupy (name your city) is just another excuse for a party.  It's a poor man's Woodstock without the music.  Why the media thinks I care about it I have no idea?  Maybe it's the panache of these rebels without a cause that is so endearing.  It's the 21st century civil disobedience.  Would Henry David Thoreau approve?  I think not.

Moving on to another subject of saturation (SOS), the passing of Steve Jobs.  I'm not going to disparage the man because his life is a compelling story.  However, the media just filled the airwaves with tributes and interviews.  Even in death, Steve Jobs found a way get his company free advertising.  People must remember that no man is an island.  He didn't engineer all the great products at Apple.  It takes a synergy produced by a team of employees to create such innovative products.  Jobs knew that and rewarded his employees handsomely while basking in the glory of their efforts.  Jobs knew how to manipulate the media and create suspense and the media just played into his hands.  Consequently, the guy is revered to almost deity standards. 

And what bothers me the most is that there are American soldiers dying in the Middle East.  Do they get an in depth biography in the LA Times or local news?  There are people dying in the hundreds in East Africa as they struggle against famine but how often does this hit the news.  Tragedies occur daily and everywhere in the world and often in our backyard like the Seal Beach salon tragedy.  Where should we draw the line in honoring a victim's life while respecting the privacy of those grieving the deaths?  Another story will come along and the media's attention will focus their attention there and today's tragedy will become yesterday's fading memory. 

Maybe that's just the way of today's world of social networking and mass media.  But for me, I long for the days of yesteryear when the media wasn't so prevalent in our lives and every detail of some newsworthy topic wasn't broken down so much like a color analyst during a football broadcast.  I think it's time to unplug and disconnect.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Put Me in Coach, I'm ready to play......

Here's my beef of the day-Coaching bites!!!  Actually, it really doesn't.  I love coaching kids.  Even though I don't have my own kids, I've been given the opportunity to coach boys and girls in a couple of sports.  It's always been fun and rewarding for me personally-win or lose.  It's an opportunity for camaraderie with my fellow coaches and it's a chance to teach kids about the game and about sportsmanship.

So back to why coaching bites.  In a vacuum, coaching kids during practice and calling plays and letting them know what a great job they've done is all good, but when parents are brought into the equation, HOLY CRAP!!!

I wish someone would videotape the parents' behaviors on the sidelines rather than my 5th graders out on the field.  Some parents need to learn sportsmanship and respect the coaches and the referees.  This is my 3rd season coaching flag football.  Our coaching staff has been together all 3 seasons.  We won a championship last year and placed third the previous year so it's not like we don't know what we're doing.  But there always seems to be that buffoon who's at every practice making suggestions.  Dude, if you wanted to coach, why didn't you volunteer?  And at games, he's the loudest parent yelling at the refs and at us coaches with suggestions.  I'm not the head coach and I've tried to ignore the guy but I'm ready to pop off.  We coaches discussed what to do and our first tactic is to talk to him one on one and let him know that we appreciate the enthusiasm and support but we don't condone his behavior and if it continues, we will ask him to sit on the opponent's sideline and if that doesn't work, banish him from the games.  Yeah, it's that bad.

Our current team just isn't that good.  It's not their fault, all but one of the players is from 5th grade.  We play a 5th-6th grade division.  We have 3 athletically inclined boys and the others just don't have the coordination or the speed of 6th graders.  In addition, only one of the kids has ever played organized football.  Our deficiencies were obvious the first day of practice as kids are running patterns looking like fish out of the water.  Unfortunately for us, most of the teams we've played have a good blend of 5th and 6th graders. And as much as we'd like to win the championship, I think it would suffice if the kids steadily improved as the season progressed and that we remained competitive.  That's happening.

But then there are the parents.  Most of the parents are usually pretty cool.  They want their kid to learn the sport and get a decent amount of playing time.  Even the parents with the uncoordinated kids usually recognize the deficiencies and are usually pretty grateful their kids get as much PT as we give him.  Had this been 35 yrs ago, forget it..that kid would be lucky to be standing on the sideline with a uniform.  But there's always that parent who thinks he knows how to play and coach and lets everyone else know.  Just writing about it gets me riled up.  This dude is disrespecting the coaches, the refs, and setting a horrible example for the rest of the folks on the sideline.  Even his kid told him to shut up during a game.  Now it's our turn.

What happened to the days when parents go to games, clap for good plays, moan on bad plays, applaud after a kid regardless of the team makes a good play, and win or lose, always have a positive word for the players.  Yeah, I know it happens but I also know there are those parents who scream at their kid for not being aggressive enough or at the refs for a non call.  Maybe it's just the attitude of professional sports crossing over to youth athletics where everyone can be an armchair quarterback.  Even as coaches, any issues we have with the refs have to be funneled through 1 coach.  Refs won't stand for 2 or 3 of us screaming about the illegal block or the holding and they'll admonish us.  One warning is enough for us.

I know how easy it is to get caught up in the game and want your kid's team to win.  It's called being a fan.  But sometimes, enough is, well, enough.  Zip it, buffoon parent with good intentions.  Let the game play out.  Let the coaches and refs do their job.  Because in the end, what you say or do doesn't affect the outcome.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Love..part 3

Finally.  I've procrastinated for a couple of weeks writing the third part of my take on Eat, Pray, Love.  Why? Because as simple as love can be, relationships are exponentially more complex.  It's been difficult to verbalize all the thoughts swirling around my head.

I really had some issues with the movie regarding love.  But then I realized, the reason why love was so elusive for Liz was because one can't love another without loving oneself first.

It's funny how things work in life.  I was with a friend and two other people whom I just met.  We were driving back from San Juan Capistrano after a long day at a golf tournament and the issue turned marriage and love.  There were 3 men all over 45 and a young lady of 30.  We were trying to explain how marriage works and how to determine if your partner is "The One."  I also explained to them that I've been writing this blog and was having a tough go at finalizing my thoughts.  In the course of the conversation, one of the guys profoundly said, "Marriage is about being selfless and not selfish."  Bam!!! He nailed it.

Now going back to Eat, Pray, Love.  Liz walked away from a marriage and her next relationship because she basically wasn't feeling it.  It was a feeling inside of her that maybe there's more out there and that she wasn't happy with the way things were.  She loved her partners but she didn't LOVE her partners.  When the truth was, she really didn't LOVE herself.

Now the difficulty I had with this part was the fact that Liz was so typical of today's casual attitude about marriage.  Marriage is no longer viewed by many as a lifelong proposition.  It's just the next step in a relationship and when things go sour, it's time to move on with the excuse that "we deserve to be happy."  How often do we hear, "I want passion, I want to feel love, I want fireworks." when someone discusses their decade long marriage? How often do we hear as couples break up? "It's not you, it's me.  You deserve more than what I can give you."  Cop out, retreat, abandon ship....that's what I hear.

We all want passion in our lives, in our relationships and in the things we do.  Who doesn't?  But relationships and marriage are like rollercoasters with levels passion and being in love rising and falling as time goes on.  And like rollercoasters, it climbs to the peak then heads downward in a gut churning free fall.  Love is about ebb and flow and using the rollercoaster analogy again, both partners need to be cranking the gears in order for the relationship aka the rollercoaster to continue moving forward or gravity will pull it back to the low point.

Relationships and marriage are about compromise without acknowledgement.  How many times does a partner throw back at the other what sacrifice or compromise he or she made.  That's not compromise.  It's like giving to charity or doing something kind to those less fortunate.  All the good of the act is lost when someone has to remind others of what he or she did.  Ultimately, it comes down to selfish motivation.

Relationships are about being selfless and not selfish.   It's about accepting the other for who they are including the idiosyncrasies and faults and bad habits.  But it also assumes that both partners have similar value systems that align well.  Values are the core our our being. It's the little details and beliefs that are formulated as we grow up passed down by parents, religion and our own experience to determine what's right and what's wrong and to be honest about it and not compromise one characters.  If both partners don't share those same values, then the relationship is doomed.  Each partner in the relationship must be considerate of the other and have a willingness to suck it up, accept certain faults, and more importantly, be willing to discuss things with an open mind when conflict arises.

Communication is paramount to a successful relationship. We've heard this over and over ad nauseum probably to the point that we're desensitized.   It's a bitch to talk things out amongst partners sometimes because we all have the incessant need to be right-to have the last word.  It's human nature.  But communicating means listening as well as speaking.  It's keeping an open mind to other possibilities while also being solution oriented.  I know so many people that focus on the disagreement that they don't discuss the cause.  For example, I was watching the news the other day regarding social networking and how it's causing strife in marriages.  Husbands and wives are having arguments regarding each others' friends list.  Oh brother!!  So what if the wife has an ex boyfriend as a "friend."  Get real.  It's social networking, those two shared history at some point in their lives and there may be a bond we don't understand.  But it doesn't mean she's going to hop in bed with the guy or does it.? I know it happens but what does that say about the strength of the relationship?  As a partner, it's important to trust the other.  What harm is an email to ask how you're doing?  Now it can get ugly when sexual advances and innuendo are passed around.  But going back to the beginning of the topic, it's about communication.  It's important that one doesn't lie about having an ex on their social networking but if he/she knows it's a sensitive issue with their partner, it's good to advise them that you've friended someone.  If it's a huge issue, then discuss it and come to a decision.  My take is that unless there was some super bad history, then let it be.  It shows trust.  It also shows trust in a relationship to respect the others' privacy.  How often do we hear of partners reading emails?  Emails are private just like the conversations on the golf course with your bff or the happy hour with your closest friends or bunko night with girls.  We all talk about stuff that may be misconstrued if taken out of context.  It's called guy talk or girl talk.  Emails are the same thing.  Let it be.  Now if the relationship is going south and one has reason to believe the other is cheating that's another story but don't go conjuring up that belief just to snoop on the other's FB account or email.

No back to the topic of Eat, Pray, Love.  Liz couldn't love another until she loved herself.  Liz needed to discover who she was and resolve the guilt inside of her as well as opening her mind up to possibilities without having to try and control every aspect.  It's the desire to control even the things beyond our control that lead to dissatisfaction. Ketut, the Indonesian teacher, says it well:  "Do not look at the world through your head; look at it through your heart."  I think he's saying, feel life, do not try to rationalize it.

Ketut goes on to say:  Sometimes to lose balance for love is part of living a balanced life. Again, this wise sage is trying to get across that life isn't a steady boat ride.  Once must not shun their emotions in the search for balance but rather risk losing balance to achieve balance.
Life and love is not rationalization but a realization that we are always on a path of self discovery and success comes through selflessness rather than selfishness.

Friday, September 23, 2011

It ain't over until it's over

Just wanted to clarify that I'm not retiring from blogging.  Some folks may have misinterpreted my last post as being the end of my blog.  My message was that it's the end of a chapter in my life.

Sorry to disappoint you but this blog really is a selfish endeavor for me personally and as long as I can make the time, I will continue to write about stuff.  I'm sure working with new people will give me ample opportunity to sit back and throw darts and relate my observations here.

Thanks again for stopping by.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

El Fin..The End...

All good things must come to an end.  Yup, it's true. But that doesn't mean another good thing can't begin and enrich our lives.  As you may have noticed, my blogging has been stalled a little in recent weeks.  One of the reasons is obvious, no more ads on my blogsite.  Damn Google didn't appreciate all those clicks you guys were doing to help me out and banned me from AdSense.  The other reason my writing has slowed down is because I've been going through a series of interviews.  I received an offer recently and will begin shortly.  That's right, Tito is no longer unemployed and another statistic during these difficult economic times.  Mooching off my friends will be a distant memory.  No, I don't think so.  I kind of liked the generosity of friends and would love to continue being on the receiving end.  But in all seriousness, it's good to be back in the ranks of  the working stiffs.  I don't begin until October so I still have a little time to enjoy my self-imposed vacation that went from a 6 month sabbatical to a 2 1/2 year journey of self discovery, rekindling of relationships, and most importantly, a greater appreciation of life and balance.  Much of it due to my loving wife that supported me the whole way through and my family and my caring friends that continued to stroke my ego and never once disrespected my position as an unemployed homemaker (at least not to my face.)

I can delve into how f'd up I was when I resigned my position but it's not all that important in the whole scheme of things.  My friends who are closest to me know what I went through.  The important thing is that I made it through some dark times and the past couple of years have been very productive.  I was able to take a step back or rather step more slowly and realize that life has so much more to offer than going through the daily grind only to feel like that hamster at Petsmart on the wheel.  Yes, I've smelled the coffee and stopped to smell the roses.  I will continue to do that regardless of work.  I have come to peace with myself and have felt that I've been in a good place for a while.  Had I continued to work, I have no idea who or what I'd be but I can guarantee that I'd be nowhere close to the man I am today.  I have no regrets.

I've been and seen places that my old self would've denied because my conventional wisdom (aka work can't live w/o me or I can't afford that) would kick in.  I've accomplished things that I normally would have paid someone to do for me.  I've learned to use my hands and my tools.  No one is more ecstatic that me to finally use something in my toolbox I bought 12 years ago for the first time.  I got to cook and I made things I've always wanted to make.  Not all were successful but as my mom said the other day, my second batch was 100 times better than the first one.  I did a kitchen and bath remodel, built a shed from scratch, put in sprinklers, gardened and harvested my own fruits and even grew chiles from seeds.  I've taken classes and learned quite a bit about life's hurdles that may never be conquered and their consequences.  I've reconnected with old friends, made new friends, and lost some along the way. I've coached and even won a championship.  And I've begun to write again.

I think many of the things that bring me joy have to do with creating and learning, and teaching. It's those things that I did at previous jobs that I rarely did at home because life was consumed by work.  It was taking a break albeit a long one to realize that it's so much more fulfilling to create and enjoy the fruits of labor in my own castle.

Yup, working is going to put a small crimp in things but if all goes to plan, I will continue to do the things I love.  This time with some cash flow coming in.  So as I end this chapter in my life, a new one begins with a resolve to maintain balance and to continue to create both at work and at home.

Like in all books, I've got to acknowledge certain people as I close this one out.  First, my wife whose support, love, words of encouragement and most of all tolerance through these years have made me a better person. I love you with all my heart.

To my family especially my parents.  Thank you for all your support.

And to my friends, thank you for the friendship and support and the positive words of encouragement and for continuing to pump my ego.  Those of you that are closest to me and you know who you are-I can't express my gratitude enough,  Through thick or thin, you were always there.

And to God, even though I walked through the valley of the shadow of death,  I fear no evil as you are with me.  Thank you for all my blessings and give me strength and guidance to do your will.

So it all begins again.  Damn the torpedoes!!! Full Steam Ahead.

El Fin.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Character Counts

Sometimes, it's easy to bend the rules.  I recently had a situation where I did that.  I wasn't doing anything wrong or harmful but I was knowingly doing something without full approval.  Without going into too much detail, I do some volunteer work.  Volunteering is an opportunity to give back to the community and allows me to hopefully make someone's day better as well as my own.  Anyway, I did what I had to do.  No harm no foul and the people I was working with were better for it.  But I couldn't help shake that feeling at guilt. 

Why? Because more than ever, the idea that character counts has more meaning in my life than ever before.  I know I can justify what I did as doing it for the greater good and the end justifies the means.  It's not like I broke the law or hurt anything or anyone.  I just didn't follow the rules to the letter of the law.  Consequently, the same opportunity came up yesterday to volunteer and this time I balked.  I didn't want to get in trouble and more importantly, I didn't want to set a bad example.  As a volunteer, I'm often put in a position of authority (just my luck).  And as they say, with great power comes great responsibility.  That's why I felt guilty.  So what do I do?  I go into my solution-oriented mode.  I start making phone calls in an attempt to get approval for my actions.  Unfortunately, I kept missing the person in charge.  Don't you just hate that?  I left a message and it was delivered but the person was between meetings and couldn't respond.  Consequently, I pleaded my case and explained that I'm needed to the person on the phone.  Fortunately, she was able to give conditional approval with certain limitations which will not hinder what I'm trying to accomplish.  Whew...I felt a whole lot better.

If this was 10 years ago, I think guilt would never crossed my mind.  I have always been goal oriented and my mindset was that the end justifies the means.  Damn the torpedoes!  Full steam ahead!! was my motto.  But now, it's a different ball game.  It's more stop, think about what I'm doing, then decide the next step.  Life has gotten shorter so decisions have to be made with care.  I need to be considerate of others while looking at the whole picture then making the best decision based on what's right at that moment.  Not what's right in the long run.  Sometimes decisions can have some negative ramifications and can bite one in the ass.  I think had I not gotten tacit approval, I would have simply stayed home.  Pushing the envelope was always easier the toeing the line.  It was my nature.  Amazingly as I get older, I find myself adhering to the rules more often because it's the right thing to do.  It's the sentiment that I must stand on my rock. So as revel in my middle age,   I guess it's my take on that t-shirt with a twist-Old Guy's Rules. 

Monday, September 19, 2011


So what does pray mean?  I think Merriam Webster says it pretty succinctly :  to address God or a god with adoration, confession, supplication, or thanksgiving.  I believe in the power of prayer and often have to remind myself that prayer is not just asking for stuff but giving thanks for all that I have.   In Eat, Pray, Love, I think the Pray segment may have been the most powerful in terms of self realization and its message to me personally.  Recall the brash Texan, Richard, who nicknames Liz, "groceries."  Now here's a guy who seems to have it together and understands shit only to realize that he too is extremely vulnerable and fighting his own demons.  How many of us have our demons?  You know those things that continue to haunt us from the past.  Those crazy thoughts that put us into a funk.  The idea that we need to go find ourselves when our self is right in front of us.  Then there's those demons that we conjure up-the guilt of the past, lost love, the would've, should've could've's of our lives.  

Richard the Texan says it best:  "You're going to have to learn to select your thoughts the same way you select your clothes every day. Now that's a power that you can cultivate. You want to come here and you want to control your life so bad work on the mind, and I don't think you should be trying to control a thing because if you can't master your thoughts you are in trouble forever."  

A simple truth..master your thoughts first, then you can master your life.  How often do we let negatives control our lives, attitudes, and daily moods.  We let others control our emotions because we can't control our own.  Everyone I know has issues and will from time to time let those issues get the best of them which leads to comments said out of anger or frustration.  Sometimes, we're in a place of sensitivity so even the slightest comment can set us off into an emotional maelstrom because we're already on the ledge.  But think of the possibilities if we can master our thoughts and consequently our emotions.  Becoming your own master means having a deeper understanding and for that matter, a higher tolerance of others.  It's knowing that there are two sides to every story.  It's also knowing that it's okay if something or some action is illogical and inexplicable.  It's one of life's mysteries.  Deal with it.  Mastering one's thoughts means Accepting.

Richard goes on to say “If you could clear you all that space in your mind, you would have a doorway. And you know what the universe would do? Rush in.”  That's what happens when you learn to accept and to allow things to happen and to master your thoughts.

Praying for guidance and strength  and making the decision that life is about choosing will further one's ability to be their own master and commander of their life.  The possibilities are endless.  Would you rather choose a life of misery, resentment, guilt and regrets?  I think not.  Life is so much better when it's about giving, sharing, loving, and being happy.  All things that one can choose to do or be.  So please choose wisely.

This is part 2 of a 3 part series inspired by that chick flick, Eat, Pray, Love.  If you haven't seen it,  borrow it from a lady friend (who will keep it confidential if you're a guy and stick it in a brown bag so nobody busts you). Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Eat, Pray, Love - my take

I think in an earlier post, I admitted that I've watched a few chick flicks in the past.  It's not something that I go around bragging about but when I was a single guy, it gave me perspective and helped me try to understand the opposite sex-the operative word being "try."

So I'm watching another chick flick last night on cable.  Not my choice mind you.  I would have kept the channel on Two and Half men but the remote was not in my hands.  Consequently, I had to sit there and watch Eat, Pray, Love.  Yeah, a Julia Roberts film.  The redeeming factor was that it was not a Nora Ephron film  (she's the ultimate chick flicker).  I had seen parts of EPL while channel surfing but had not seen it from the beginning.  Admittedly, the film was pretty good plus it's rare that I can get the wife to sit there and watch any film for that length of time.

I'm not going to really delve too deeply into the film because most of you have seen it including the guys reading this blog (I know who you are ; P ).  But I found the film touching a nerve and a sensitive one at that. (Note:  I started writing and couldn't help but refer back to the movie in some depth so sorry, I fibbed a little.)

Liz decides after a failed divorce and being in a cougar relationship that wasn't going anywhere, it was time to take a leave of absence for a year.  She decides on Italy, India and Indonesia.  I think I missed why but it doesn't matter.  What I related to was the fact that she had the cojones to leave a job, a relationship and her material goods to embark on a journey of self discovery.  She picked Italy because she wanted to be wowed by food and basically achieve a food orgasm.  She did not want to worry about the weight gain and eating stuff that's healthy.  She wanted to taste life and remove dietary restrictions.  It was the start of opening up and freeing herself from the self-imposed restrictions in an effort to conform to society in the US.  Along the way, she meets some really cool people.

What I got from Eat portion of the movie was the following quote:

Luca Spaghetti (Giuseppe Gandini): "Americans. You work too hard, you get burned out. You come home and spend the whole weekend in your pajamas in front of the T.V."
Liz: "That's not far off, actually."
Luca Spaghetti: "But you don't know pleasure. You have to be told you've earned it.

What an awesome concept?  We know entertainment but we don't know pleasure.  We work hard and bust our ass during the week and for what? To stay in our pajamas, veg out, then get ourselves sick Sunday night worrying about work on Monday.  Where is the freaking pleasure in that.  I think Luca here was trying to say : Live in the moment.  I know I sound like a broken record, (is this term relevant in 2011), but I am constantly reminding myself and hence reminding you in my blog to Live in the Moment.  Liz's compulsion in the film is to control things around her without letting things be.  It's something I know  I do personally.  It's the idea that if we can control our environment, then things will be less chaotic.  But I've also learned in the past couple of years that life has a way of righting itself and control is only a perception.  Consequently, we get caught up in the trappings of daily life and we put restrictions on what we can or can't do and ultimately, deny our own pleasure. 

Sometimes the restrictions are self imposed and sometimes they're imposed by those closest to us.  I'm not saying go hog wild and lose all sense of value or morality nor am I saying cut off ties with those you love.  What I'm saying is make your choices and do what's best for you.  Those that love you will hopefully understand and hopefully you will understand that life really is about choice.  God put us here as sentient beings and differentiated us from animals by giving us the ability to choose.  It's this ability that decides whether you will be merely entertained or pleasured.  Be open to the possibilities of pleasure and recognize the denials and I can almost guarantee that enjoyment will be increased exponentially.   This means letting go of the past and not stressing over the future.  If you're working, enjoy your work and focus on that.  When you're done, be done.  If you're with family, then be with family-not distracted and irritated about the issue at work.  Focus on what's happening now.  Try it.  I'll know you like it.

This is part 1 of a 3 part series.  As I said earlier, this movie touched a nerve and I really liked how it was broken up into 3 segments.  Liz Gilbert the main character and author of the book sums up life in three simple words-Eat, Pray, Love.  

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Hating the Haters

I hate the term "hater."  Why?  Because it sounds stupid and it's an easy way to dismiss someone.  You know the saying, "Don't be a hater."  You may hear it from time to time when someone opines differently from the group.  It happens all the time when discussing favorite  sports teams and sports in general.  For example,   I'm not a big fan of hockey.  It just doesn't get me interested like other sports.  I don't hate hockey but I'm disinterested.  If I were to admit my disinterest, invariably some numb nut is going to say, "don't be a hater."  And when it comes to college rivalries, the phrase is often used if there is a disparaging remark made about the rival team.  Just because one isn't a fan doesn't make him a hater.

Let's break it down and dissect the term. First, hate is a horrible emotion.  To hate is to intensely dislike or detest.  It's a negative emotion that stirs up feelings within someone of disgust, dislike, and utter repugnance of something or someone exponentially.  The word Hate is an emotion I'd imagine a Nazi or a KKK member to feel often.  Hate is the opposite of love and love makes us do stupid things.  Imagine what hate can do.

Secondly, the phrase, "Don't be a hater" is a euphemism for "STFU, your opinion doesn't count."
It's this century's substitute for "That's not politically correct."   It's an easy way to dismiss someone.  I don't like it when someone calls me a hater.  It evokes an emotion in me like I was just rebuked.  I actually stop and think about my comment and actions and question whether it truly was hater.  Why?  Because the term is that powerful.  Hate is a powerful word in my vocabulary and it's just plain evil.  Maybe, I'm old fashioned and maybe a bit sensitive but it's how I feel.

In either case, the phrase also promotes group think and discounts individuality.   What's group think?  It an insidious monster lurking within any organization including management and any groups in society.  It exists in circles of friends, clubs, organizations of any sort.  It's a cancer that wikipedia describes as a mode of thinking that happens when the desire for harmony in a decision-making group overrides a realistic appraisal of alternatives.  Alternatives and individual opinions are overruled just because harmony is more important. It's the de-evolution of humanity to stifle different opinions and contrary thoughts.  It creates yes men and let's individuals hide behind a group decision instead of standing on their personal rock for what they consider right based on their value system.  Group think is the basis for code of silence we see so often when the shit hits the fan in an organization.  It also tries to defuse personal accountability for one's actions or a group's actions.  It's the foundation for looting and rioting. You know the term, "If you can't beat them, join them."  Group think becomes mob mentality.

I don't know where the phrase originated but in my mind when I hear it or read it, it stirs up an emotion of dislike. not hate but rather sadness because someone just got shot down because their opinion wasn't the same as the person who said, "don't be a hater."  I just hope that this saying becomes obsolete sooner than later.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ode to a Dead Friend

It's been nearly three years since you passed through your earthly existence, and not a day goes by that I don't think of one of your smart ass comments or stories.  From the Mahaney bus stories to City Fights, to the legendary and classic "This is not a Feast" story.  Or the "Dees is Incredible" story in Africa.  Good times and good memories. Your ability to tell a story and see the humor in life was remarkable.

It was your death that made me think and take a hard look and decide that there's more to life.  Your life and your death scared the hell out of me because our lives were so different;  they were so similar in so many ways. You listened and you cared.  When I sought advice, you gave it to me straight even if it's not what I was hoping to hear.

I know that you're in a better place and for that, I am grateful.   Memories of you live on inside of me and others close to you.  Thank you.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Revisiting 9/11

As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 draws near, I feel compelled to express my sentiments about that horrible day almost ten years ago.  First, I have to admit that I change channels quickly when there's a 9/11 tv special on.  For some reason, I don't want to relive the memories. I get an icky feeling when I think about it.  I don't think that I'm alone when I discuss the funk that day put me in for a long time. 

I was getting ready for work that morning with KTLA channel 5 news on.  I think it was Sharon Tay and  Emmett Miller that morning.  They were discussing the first plane hitting the World Trade Center when a second plane comes into the picture and bam-crashes right into the second tower.  None of the newscasters knew what was going on.  They assumed the first plane may have been an accident but the second on was no accident.  They didn't go out on a limb and use the word terrorist attack but I knew something was terribly wrong.  On the way to work, I was glued to the radio trying to get info.  At work, images were being published on the web.  I think I was in shock and awe that day.

I was in a funk for several months.  Bin Laden could not have wished for a better outcome from his plot of terror.  Our lives as we know it had changed.  And ten years later, the country continues to be in transition.  We invaded Afghanistan then Iraq, then back to Afghanistan with the lessons learned in Iraq.  Our country is suffering from the worst recession ever with 1 out of 8 people out of work.  Bin Laden is dead now but his legacy will continue for many years to come.  Evil incarnate as they say. 

And I still refuse to watch any 9/11 television memorials.  It's not that I don't want to honor the heroes and those that died on that day. It's not that I want to forget what happened and the heroics of those passengers on United Flt. 93.  I know the adage "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."  Trust me-I won't forget but it's my personal choice not to relive the anguish again ten years later.  I'm reminded almost daily of 9/11-the news of soldiers and civilians dying needlessly in Afghanistan and Iraq mostly from IED's.  When I travel, the long lines to get through security or having to transfer my liquids into travel size 3 oz bottles and into a 1 qt. baggie.  Then there's the heightened awareness when there is a Muslim in the area. 

9/11 changed our lives for sure and I want to believe that America will never forget and not allow a similar type of attack.  America cannot let down its guard.  I also believe that despite all the efforts, more attacks will happen if not on our soil against one of our embassies or companies overseas.  Unfortunately, there will be more horrific events to anguish over.  So forgive me if I pass on reliving this one.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

You Can Call me Al...no please don't

So I'm reading the following article on Yahoo and I'm appalled at the apparent prejudice, racism and narrow-minded thinking of some school administrators from Texas. 


In short, a reporter from Al Jazeera News, asks permission to film during a Texas High School football game.  It's part of a series of reports he wanted to do for his network 10 years after 9/11.  He basically gets shut out and denied and reports several comments made that infers the administrators based their decision to deny permission to film because Al Jazeera is a Arabic language news network.

Here's my take for what its worth.  Had this been CNN or BBC or 60 Minutes, the administrators would have opened their arms and shown some Texas hospitality.  Because Al Jazeera is based in the Middle East, they're guilty by association with terrorists.  Most people only know of Al Jazeera because Al Qaeda would drop off video and audio messages of Bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders.  Osama Bin Laden and his goons made Al Jazeera their personal network for getting out their message.  Not that this is negative,  any news organization would have jumped at the chance of being the first to release video or audio of the world's most wanted men.  Al Jazeera just happens to be the CNN of the Middle East.

If you read one of my previous posts about the state of news in our country, you'll know that I enjoy Al Jazeera's reporting.  It's good to hear a different perspective on the news.  So often our news is tainted with political slants to the left or right i.e. Fox News.  In any case, I'm saddened by these Texas high school administrators.  What's the message that they're sending to the kids they're trying to teach?  It's okay to be a racist?  The administrator on the high school website attempts to explain his side of the story.  Of course after a firestorm is created and the negative publicity angers the school district, he comes up with a lame excuse that other circumstances were stressing him out.  Okay Mr. Lee, why didn't you explain that to the journalist in the first place?  I think he would have been understanding.  If anything, you could have kept your comments to yourself particularly, "I think it's damn rotten what they did." 

In a world full of hate and mistrust, it's unfortunate that these stories reinforce that prejudice and racism exists and sadly, propagated by those entrusted to teach our children.  The administrator in his self righteousness never admits fault or apologizes for the misunderstanding.  With an opportunity to right the wrong and invite the journalist back to visit and do his filming, Mr. Lee opts to circle his wagons and end his excuse with a comment, "I am sitting here listening to the music from our annual "Fiesta Night" that celebrates the unification of the many cultures that make up our community."  Gosh, if listening to foreign music makes one a non-racist, let's all download foreign songs into our ipods and proclaim the world a better place.

Friday, September 2, 2011


There are times in life that the most simple things are the most beautiful and most meaningful.  When a few words mean a thousand times more than any speech.
When a simple prayer opens your eyes.

When a song captures a lifetime of emotions.

Stop. Breathe. Be aware. Praise. Be thankful. Smile.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I Wear My Sunglasses at....where???

Hi Y'all, I've been under the weather so posting hasn't been a priority.  Here's something I started writing a couple of weeks ago. Yeah, I know-it's a weaksauce article but what do you expect on a Thursday before a long weekend.  This will probably be my last post until after labor day so thanks again for stopping by and have a super weekend and be safe.  The 'ber months are upon us.

I go to the gym several times a week usually late AM or early afternoon, and it never fails, there is always someone wearing sunglasses indoors. No, it's not the senior citizen with those funky wraparounds they can put over their bifocals.  The people that wear sunglasses are normal people with no apparent physical disabilities.  Sometimes, I just want to go up to them and ask them, "what's the deal?"  This is LA, not Jersey Shore.  I know some entertainers have a look that includes the shades but at the gym?  And it's not just guys but women as well.  Is this a trend at its infancy and nobody let me in on it? Most of the shades aren't even of the sporty oakley genre but more like the aviator or wayfarer type.  Did someone remake that Corey Hart song and change the lyrics?  Do people actually think they look cool where shades under the fluorescent lights? I can see the occasional optometrist appointment where the eyes get dilated but I see this trend too often to believe all these people had appointments that day to check their eyes.

I wonder if during the peak hours of 5 to 8 if more peeps work out with their shades.  What are they trying to hide?  A black eye maybe or possibly they ran out of eyeliner and just covering up? Or did they go to the clinic and get some kush for their self diagnosed pain?    Hmmm. and why do 99% of the women t wear those big bug eye sunglasses?  I would think they'd get all fogged up once a sweat broke out.  Plus it hides 60% of the face so some not so attractive women look decent in those shades.
I guess sunglasses in the gym are a fashion statement...and a bad one at that.If not fashion, are these dark shades used to mask the wandering eyes at the gym.  Did they forget to take them off after they parked their car and said "what the heck, let's just workout with them on."  As you can probably tell, this issue kind of bugs me.

So today, I'm asking for your feedback.  Why do people wear their sunglasses at the gym?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

So What

So what is it like growing up being Chinese and Mexican?  This topic came up recently in conversation and my pat answer is "It's taking the best of both cultures and melding them together." WTF does that mean.  Hell if I know but it sure sounds good and gets people off my back with that question.

Think about the question.  Does it really make sense after all?  How would I know how it is to grow up Chinese and Mexican as opposed to WHAT?  I only have one perspective-MINE so honestly, I can't really give an answer.  Yes, it's possible to have a tortilla with butter as a snack then munching on some chow mein a minute later.  Is that what it's like growing up in a mixed ethnic and cultural home?  I don't know. 

I will tell you this that from a food perspective growing up, I think I've been blessed to have experienced both cultures.  I was exposed to frog legs, peking duck, crab, squab at an early age in addition to mole poblano, pippian, adobo, chicharonnes, and chile verde.  Breakfast  wasn't just cereal or ham & eggs but chorizo, juk (rice congee), huevos rancheros or machaca. There was oolong tea or champurrado or abuelitas hot chocolate.

Growing up bi-racial has its challenges.  There are the acceptance issues at school.  I still remember walking the halls of Hammel St. school and some kid yelling at me from the bottom of the stairwell, "Chinese, Japanese, Dirty Knees, Look at these!" as he points to his knees.  Another one of those WTF moments in my life.  What does he mean?  But I wasn't so naive to not understand that it was a racial slur.  I remember being "half-breed"  by classmates. Maybe that was homage to Cher's song of the same name.  I remember feeling the odd man out only because I was not really one race or the other.  But I also remember whenever I felt that way, I remembered that God put me here half breed and all for a reason so those ill feelings of not belonging dissipated quickly.

I really didn't know any Asians growing up as a kid except my family and my cousins on my dad's side.  Growing up in East Los Angeles, all my friends were Mexican-American.  Diversity was rare in the neighborhood.  My taste of other cultures was riding the RTD with mom to head to downtown for the month-end sales at May Co., Robinson's, Bullock's and Broadway.  High school was my first taste of diversity.  Learning and competition gave us all a common goal and made me realize, the differences are so slight between one guy to another.  It's amazing to be surrounded by other young men with similar values.  Yes, their cultural backgrounds are significantly different but the core and foundation are carved from the same rock.

I think it's that same very core that connects people despite their outward appearance and cultural backgrounds.  It's the fundamental values that gives friends that uncanny trait of empathy and sympathy.  I don't really know how to describe growing up bi-racial.  There are advantages no doubt of being able to relate to both cultures due to my exposure.  But I also believe that my formative years are similar to many of my friends.  Maybe that's why after so many years (some over 41 years), we can still call each other friends.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Soy Sauce Anyone?

Who doesn't love soy sauce aka shoyu?  Pair it with wasabi and sushi.  It's the main ingredient in Teriyaki sauce,  Non-Asians pour it straight on their white rice.  (If you're Asian and you do this, consider your Asian card revoked.)  Soy sauce and mayonnaise mixed together makes the best dip for steamed broccoli.  Soy sauce is almost as versatile as salt. 

But did you know that it works great on burns and mosquito bites.  Yep.  I was surprised too until I read it in the LA Times today.  Apparently a  reader was singing the praises of shoyu after she burned the tips of her fingers, she could see the blisters forming and soaked her fingers in soy sauce.  The next day, there were no blisters and just 2 red marks.  This same reader decided to try it with a mosquito bite.  Lo and behold, the bite didn't itch or swell up.

Imagine the potential for soy sauce.  I have visions of first aid kits filled with packets of Kikkoman.  If you're out camping, dad screams out,  "honey, I got stung by a bee.  Bring out the shoyu and while you're at it, can you marinade the chicken for the bbq!!"  Or you're watching TV and House is working a tough case and tells his team, "Thirteen is right, break out soy sauce 500 cc's in a saline drip, stat!!!"

Or you're at the movies and Edward just bites the young hottie in the neck.  Jacob comes to her rescue with a bottle of shoyu and pours it on her neck and the fang marks disappear. 

Then comes the backlash from the concerned public.   Too much soy sauce for medicinal purposes is really bad for your health.  There's estrogen in soy bean so soy sauce will cause man-boobs.  Instead of coming home with glitter and perfume on their clothes, husbands will have the smell of soy sauce.  How convenient to tell the wife or gf, I was out having sushi.

So what is soy sauce?  It's soy bean fermented with a mold to form a paste then water and salt are added.  Pretty simple stuff.  It's also has 10 times the antioxidants of a same serving as wine but sipping on soy sauce is kind of gross unless you really like salt.

I'm not sure where I'm headed with this discussion of soy sauce only to say that once again, the Chinese came up with another awesome invention that may one day be the stuff that replaces
DEET and burn cream.  Enjoy your soy!!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Social Responsibility

 I love cooking and I love cooking shows on TV.  When time permits, I will channel surf and invariably, the remote will stop on either Travel Channel, Cook Channel, Food Network, KCET, and Living Well Network.  Andrew Zimmern, Anthony Bourdain, Rick Bayless, Rachel Ray, and Alton Brown are household names here in the Huang home.

Some of you may have seen this post I shared on my FB page about Andrew Zimmern's pov regarding the furor ignited when Anthony Bourdain in a TV Guide interview criticized Paula Deen for “telling an already obese nation that it’s O.K. to eat food that is killing us.”  http://andrewzimmern.com/content/bourdain-deen-bruni-redzepi%E2%80%A6and-why-it-matters#.TlgEY9anrsA.facebook

So is Bourdain and Zimmern out to crucify every food show cook because they cook rich, fatty delicious food? In a way, the answer is yes.  Jamie Oliver's influence and campaign to bring healthy food back to schools and America have finally reached the Travel Channel and Food Network.  It's important to note that Bourdain and Zimmern are on Travel Channel and Paula Deen is on Food Network.  Both are owned by Scripps Networks Interactive.

So Bourdain and Zimmern feel that TV chefs whose shows are predicated on certain niche foods should warn against the evils of high caloric and fatty food-the very foundation upon Paula Deen and Sandra Lee among others-have built their career, popularity and wealth on.

The fact that the interview sparked controversy is indeed funny.  Andrew Zimmern is a slightly smaller version of Butterbean the boxer and Bourdain enjoys a smoke, a drink, a toke, and some very rich foods on his show.  Hypocrisy?  Possibly?  But who's to judge. Yes there shows are more travel related while Paula Deen is a cooking show.  It's so easy to be an armchair quarterback and blame Paula Deen for teaching the public how to cook delicious albeit fat food. Is Julia Child also to blame for the obesity of America?  But what is important about Bourdain's comments is that it sparked conversations and again brings the issue of of America's growth (not the economy) in waistline to the forefront.

I think that all these celebrity chefs have their place on TV and yes, it'd be nice if Paula Deen pushed a healthier menu on her show.  But blaming a cooking show chef for killing America;  that's a bit of a stretch and takes out the one major factor in the equation-the person eating the food.

Defending Paula Deen and other cooks is not my intent here.  But if Bourdain is going to target someone for the obesity of America, target the food processors of the world.  Target the soda companies or the frozen food companies.  Or target the overall business climate of the US.  That's what's killing the population.  Would convenient processed foods either canned, frozen or packaged "fresh," even be viable if you and I didn't have to work 10 hours a day then come home and cook.   Single moms and parents where both work full time have it tough.  Working all day then come home, clean, cook dinner, help with the homework then go to bed and do it all over again.  It's a full time job and hard to blame a parent for picking up a bucket or nuking a frozen dinner with disregard for the unhealthiness of the meal.  Some may argue that it doesn't take that long to cook a healthy meal and to make wise choices.  Busy parents will retort, "walk a mile in my shoes!"  Yes it takes effort and planning and time to plan out the meals.  But in today's world, marketeers have tried so hard to make it easy for busy people by providing quick and easy solutions.

And it's not happening just here but in up and coming third world countries.  In my travels, I've personally  seed the stark differences in size and girth between countries.  For example, Cambodia and Vietnam are considered much poorer than their neighbor, Thailand.  Infrastructure is much more developed in Thailand and it's a more industrial nation.  Consequently, there is more wealth there compared to Vietnam and Cambodia.  This wealth equates to hard targets for food processors.  Fast food chains and american food aren't lacking in Bangkok but head over to Saigon or Pnnom Penh and the difference in fast food presence is significant.  In Cambodia, we visited a mall and went to the food court.  Our driver was with us so we asked him what he'd like to eat.  He asked if he could try the fried chicken strips.  He never had them before.  We were startled.

Paula Deen nor any other chef on TV is to blame for the "growing" population.  But I hope that she takes this opportunity to respond to Bourdain's comments in a positive fashion and agree that families need to make healthy choices consistently and although her food is tasty, it's not something to be eaten daily.  Life is about choices. Pepsi's Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi has Pepsi buying companies that lean toward healthy alternatives.  She's smart because she knows there will be a backlash and she wants Pepsi in position.  She's also right when she says
“Let me first correct you on one thing: Doritos is not bad for you. Pepsi-Cola is not bad for you. Doritos is nothing but corn mashed up, fried a little bit with just very little oil and flavored in the most delectable way. And Pepsi-Cola was discovered in a pharmacy for a stomach ailment. So these are not bad-for-you products.
“I say to you that any product consumed in excess is bad for you — any product,  including Tropicana, including Quaker (two other brands in the Pepsico portfolio). Everything has to be eaten in moderation, and drunk in moderation.”
Unfortunately, her marketing people would shudder at the thought of putting warning labels on their unhealthy foods stating, "Eat smart and in moderation."

I'm with Jamie Oliver and I think the steps toward a healthier America is the removal of all junk food vending machines in schools.  Replace them with fruit and yogurt machines.  Secondly, school cafeterias need to provide portion control and healthier foods.  Get rid of mac 'n cheese and give healthier sides.  Third, educate the kids.  If we can have "Scared Straight" and DARE in school, why not have PHAT-Providing Healthier Alternative Treats or "Scared Thin." 
It's important that the training and education teach kids about the marketing ploys used by companies to influence buying habits.  I think these steps are a beginning toward a healthier America. 

Note to Andrew Z and Anthony B: It's about personal choice and accountability, not Paula Deen. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Angry Men do Stupid Things

Anger dwells only in the bosom of fools.
Albert Einstein 

If you recall an earlier post, I made reference to my neighbor who was evicted from his home due to foreclosure.  The saga continues as sometimes I'm too inquisitive for my own good.  This afternoon I was about to leave when I noticed the neighbor's front door open.  I walked over and called out his name but a realtor popped his head out from around the corner.  We introduced ourselves and he explained he was going to meet the new owners of the home. I'm not that clear on foreclosure proceedings but I did ask him if it was the lender or was it a person who bought the home from an auction.  He said he thought it was the lender so I'm expecting an Armenian mafia man and maybe a Spetsnaz bodyguard.

Before they arrived, I stepped into the house and immediately I could tell there was something wrong.  The beautiful cherry wood plank  flooring was thrashed with grooves and scratches all over.  The realtor explained that he was told the house should be in almost move-in condition.  He was shocked and had never seen this much blatant vandalism from a disgruntled former homeowner.

I walked the floorplan and I was also shocked.  All the light fixtures, switches, outlets were removed along with every doorknob.  The bathroom sinks and toilets were removed.  In one room was my neighbor's manifesto in bright red spray paint on the walls decrying the fact that he's a man of God and the lenders will go to hell, and they can't continue to take advantage of Hispanics.  It was surreal in a way and kind of like Helter Skelter with the graffiti.  This destruction was premeditated.

I went outside  to the back and the electrical panel was removed.  How he did that is beyond me.  My neighbor must have some MacGuyver in him.  In the pool was a car seat and a sofa partially submerged.  What else was in there is still a mystery since it's green with algae and too murky to see the bottom.  The realtor told me that the pool pump was gone along with the house's water heater.  I walked back into the kitchen to discover that the cabinets were there but missing the doors.  The granite counter tops were broken to allow them to take the sink and the faucet.  Everything was gutted.

The new owner finally arrived. It wasn't Tony Sopranian.  It was 2 gentlemen, one a senior citizen and I'm assuming his son around 55 yrs. old.  No mafia and no cold blooded killer.   Apparently the younger of the two came last Thursday with the police to forcibly evict my neighbor.  My neighbor had his son in his arms and begged for a couple of days to move out.  The new owner felt some sympathy and gave him until Saturday to move out.  Last Saturday, the owner got a call from my neighbor asking for 2 more days which he granted.  Then he walks into this debacle.

I don't know the whole story of what went down regarding the loan and efforts to have it modified, but I do know that gutting the house is uncool and frankly, vengeful and vindictive and spiteful.

I'm trying to understand why anyone would thrash their former home as they vacate to this extent. I can see some drywall damage and a few things broken, but the extent of the damage here was to make it difficult to flip the home without spending some serious bucks on repairs.  My neighbor was given ample notification ahead of time about the ramifications of defaulting and the milestone dates including when to vacate the premises.  In an act of defiance, he ignored everything and stuck his head in the sand praying it would all go away.  When the sheriff served the  eviction notice, the  alleged mafioso was there as well and out of sympathy gave additional time to move out.  A single act of kindness just screwed him for tens of thousands of dollars.

Why does anger make people so crazy they can't see straight?  Why do some people react differently when difficulties arise?  I know that emotions got the best of my neighbor.  He used the anger to keep him up all night taking things apart.  No wonder he needed the additional days.  He was too busy dismantling the basic necessities of the house.  Where is the pride and dignity that I'm sure his parents tried to teach him?
Bottom line, he chose to succumb to his anger.  In his mind, the vandalism was his coup de grace only this time, it's more of a flea bite on an elephant's ass. He's the one forced to live elsewhere.  In his mind, he's not at fault for this situation.  The lender screwed him.  Now the lender deserves getting screwed.

Again, I must put out the disclaimer that I don't know the whole story about the loan but regardless, vandalizing the home is pretty ballsy.  The lender was pissed but tried hard not to show it.  I think he was calculating what the cost was in his mind.  He did make the statement that he'd call the police to take a report.  The police did arrive 20 minutes later.

This is another example of lack of personal accountability and blaming others for negative consequences.  One can make a case that the attitude of entitlement played a role here.  The lender "should" have modified my loan.  The fact that he didn't bother to pay has no bearing on the eventual outcome in my neighbor's mind.

The signature on the loan document is insignificant all the way through the process until the police car rolls up your driveway.  At that point, Johnny Law gives the proverbial wake up call and reality sets in.  I'm trying to really understand what went through my neighbor's head.  Certainly a case can be made that I purchased these floors, fixtures and counter tops and I can do what I want to do with them.  It's my personal property so trashing it so no one can use them is my right. 

Am I too conservative to believe this kind of thinking is wrong? If this was a car that was about to get repo'd, would I sugar in the gas tank or slice open the upholstery?  It's my car since it's in my possession.  So what if I'm late, I'm entitled to forgiveness, right?  Somehow, I can't justify destruction or vandalism.

So I'll finish the way I started and wholeheartedly agree with Einstein:

Anger dwells only in the bosom of fools.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bad News...

How do you normally get the news? Me, it's a combo like most people-catch bits & pieces as I'm getting ready in the AM (I usually watch KTLA because it's a habit unlike some female friends that watch for glimpse of Henry DiCarlo.), listening to KNX1070 in the car, or quick bits when listening to a music channel on FM.  Then there's the internet, I like to pop open Yahoo or MSN and embarrassingly, TMZ.  Occasionally, WSJ or ABC News websites get opened. 

So today, I'm going to lament on the really poor news coverage provided by the most popular websites.  Why is it poor? Because network producers including websites and TV, just want to deliver the bullet pointed version of events.  I was going to say the Reader's Digest version but even that abbreviated style of reporting is gone unless you read the paper.  We just get the highlights.  We're like high level executives in a Fortune 500 company-just the summary and bullet points.  Somehow, when you move up the corporate ladder, time is so precious that one can't be bothered with the details but that's a different rant. 

We never get the full in depth, both sides point of view reporting of years gone by.  I understand the time constraints of television and how much more productive and busy we are today versus 20 years ago.  But sometimes I miss Walter Cronkite or Harry Reasoner or even Jerry Dunphy.  Guys like Anderson Cooper are good but there's just too much hype surrounding these guys like that video that went viral the other day of Cooper laughing and tearing up after a joke.  What happened to reporting the news instead of being the news.

I still love the newspaper even though I just get the weekend edition from Thursday to Sunday.  I don't read it cover to cover like some people but I do scan the articles and if one catches my eye, I'll read it.  The bad thing about the newspapers is that they're getting so small now and revenue is so down that they've cut reporters so in depth reporting is not as abundant as before.  But there are great reporters and photographers still working the papers.  Too bad Warren Buffett gave them a thumbs down as an investment and long term viable business.  I think it accelerated the progression to newspapers' current moribund state.

Now there are some other notable ways of getting quality news.  60 Minutes has always been IMHO tops for providing insight and in depth reporting on the topics they focus on.  I think that Newsweek and Time magazine still produce quality well-researched articles on news stories.  One such story recently was the Dominique Strauss-Kahn story.  http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2011/07/24/dsk-maid-tells-of-her-alleged-rape-by-strauss-kahn-exclusive.html 

This article breaks down the events as told by the maid and questions the veracity and timing. It makes a compelling case for the maid's rape allegations.  This is a perfect example of in depth reporting we don't get in our daily news.  Had I not read this article, I would have thought  1) the maid was super fugly because reports on TV and Internet said defense lawyers brought up the fact that she was from an African tribe and frankly not attractive enough for DSK.  She's not fugly at all.  2) The maid is a money hungry person looking to score big time just because she volunteered to take over that floor's duties when the normal employee was out that day.  If you were in the service industry, wouldn't you want to work the celebrity table or the suites? I would because it means bigger tips.  3) DSK has a history of alleged trysts that may have pushed the limits of sexual assault  had they occurred in the US.  This man is no saint and is protected by some heavy hitters.  The DA is considering dropping the case because they don't think they can win it because DSK's lawyers will create enough doubt to win his innocence.  And the sad part is that neither the DA nor DSK's attorneys deny that a sexual encounter occurred.  It's the classic "he said, she said" scenario, and the man with the power and money will use them indignantly to shun the justice system.  The DA won't prosecute if they don't think they have a decent chance of winning.  That's how the system works.

So getting back to bad news reporting, another thing that just kills me,  it really does,  (Gosh, I'm beginning to sound like Holden Caulfield) is the damn commercials every time you click on a news video.  15 seconds of my life is wasted anytime I want to see a news clip.  At least Youtube gives you the option of skipping after 5 seconds but every news website makes you watch a damn commercial.  If I want to see commercials, I'll turn on the television.  Then there's the websites that know it's a hot topic and they get you over the barrel with 30 seconds of commercials.  Rat bastards.

So if you're like me and want to get decent news coverage, buy a newspaper or a magazine (newsweek, time, us news & world report), or turn on the BBC or Al Jazeera.  You'll get a different perspective and a little more in depth coverage.  Compare coverages with CNN or Fox, you'll begin to appreciate how news reporting used to be.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


It's a sad day as I watch my neighbor pack up the last of his belongings to move to storage. His home is being foreclosed and he's been ordered to vacate.  It sucks because he really loved his home and made huge improvements while he lived there. And for what, for some stranger to come in and enjoy the fruits of his labor.

My neighbor admits he made a bad decision taking out a second mortgage.  According to him, he used some shady Armenian mafioso that his cousin recommended.  The rate was high and he didn't think it'd be a problem to pay it off.  This is just another example of the mortgage crisis hitting close to home.  How many so called friends and relatives have recommended someone they know to help refinance or get you a second?  And how many people sign the loan docs without really considering the consequences if they don't make the payments?  Oh, it's easy to blame the banks or the loan shark or even that cousin that "hooked" you up.  What it all boils down to is those cursive letters above all the lines where one needs to initial or sign.

Granted, it was ridiculous for lenders to give out money without so much as an income verification.  As long as there was equity in the home, money was available.  Mortgage brokers/agents got rich turning loans and making a cool percentage off the deal.  Wall Street got greedy too with their packaging of loans and selling it as a security.  All these bastards wanted a piece of the action and found a way to make even more money.  Mortgage securities were this decade's internet IPO.  And just like the internet boom of the 90's, it all exploded.  Maybe that's why they coined the term boom because just like a bomb, it just explodes and leaves a path of destruction.

There are those folks who knew they couldn't pay their mortgage and lived large off the equity borrowing every penny they could.  These are the people who consider a car to be an investment.  The same people who feel if they have money in the bank, it's meant to be spent.  These are the people who took advantage of the system only to file BK when the house of cards came crumbling down and they're forced to move out.  The are the people who usually take no personal accountability for the actions and blame the banks.

Then there's the hard working family who realized their dream of owning a house with every intent on paying it off only to get screwed because the lender didn't want to do a loan modification because the housing value went down and regardless of the US government pushing for loan modifications, lenders just gave lip service and foreclosed.

So why does my neighbor's foreclosure bother me?  It's not that he's leaving. He was cool but we weren't all that neighborly.  I think it's because the thought that one single decision can really jack things up.  I make decisions daily.  We all do as adults.  If it involves a significant purchase or an investment, the decision is made jointly between the wife and me.

But what about those decisions we make nonchalantly because we think it won't really matter.  What comes to mind are the dumb decisions I made as kid like driving under the influence.  Or what about the decisions when we missed out on a great experience because we said no to the invitation. Or the decision on what career path to take and what company to work for.  All decisions with consequences that could be life altering in some cases.

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not sitting here advocating indecision or second guessing past decisions.  What I guess I'm trying to verbalize is the idea that sometimes, what may seem as an insignificant decision may have dire consequences and can really jack things up with the possibility of having to pack up the belongings and start all over.....

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Taking a break today

Been busy with some stuff including interviewing with some very interesting and entrepreneurial companies so I'm taking a break so I can get over my writer's block.  I started 3 blogs entries today and neither were going anywhere (so what's different, right?).   So I'm going to veg out in front of the boob tube and relax.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to post here.  Have a great Tuesday!!!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Reality Check

Have you ever gone somewhere and experienced something beautiful and at the same time made you think. I had one of those experiences last night.  I saw the beauty of life and the purity of heart and unbridled joy as I was graciously invited to attend a charity event by my neighbor.  The theme was Luau and my neighbor was going to do a hula dance.

I was working outdoors all day and lost track of time.  I got done around 6:15 and her dance was at 7:00 pm.  I jumped in the shower, threw on my hawaiian shirt and flip flops and was out the door by 6:45.  Unfortunately, the event was just outside DTLA and not exactly freeway close.  As we were driving, my wife tells me that she forgot the tickets and to turn around.  I said no.  I'll talk us in and explain what happened.  For some reason, it was important for me to be there when my neighbor danced. Why? I'm not exactly sure.  Was it the excitement she exuded when she invited us and we agreed?  Was it the constant reminders this week like, "the event starts @ 6 and I'm dancing at 7" as I coming and going from my driveway.  I have no idea.

So we got there at 7:05.  Fortunately, they were having technical difficulties so we didn't miss anything.  The people at the ticket counter were totally cool as I explained that we forgot our tix and if they need verification, I told them that I can get my neighbor's family to vouch for us or send the tickets with our neighbor on Monday.  They said don't worry and let us in.  We walked in and saw our neighbor and her family and got hugs all around.  We were told then that our neighbor won't be dancing as they had too many participants.  The wife and I were disappointed but our neighbor seemed to take it well and it didn't bother her one bit.

My neighbor is a student at East Los Angeles Remarkable Citizens Association.  This organization provides services for developmentally disabled adults.  I have to admit, I'm a bit old school and political correctness is a bit foreign to me.  The other night I mentioned to some friends that I'm going to an event for the Mentally Retarded.  I was immediately corrected that term, "mentally retarded," is no longer used.  The pc term now used was "special needs."  Now that's a pretty broad based term so I googled, "proper term for mentally retarded."  Lots of websites popped up including Yahoo answers with lot's of different comments.  One site says the proper term is "special needs." Other sites listed, "developmentally disabled," "developmentally delayed," and "intellectually disabled."  Now it's getting a little confusing but the consensus was that mentally retarded or mentally handicapped were outdated terms.  Then I came upon an article in the Washington Post about President Obama signing into law a bill that mandates that federal statutes replace mental retardation with the term intellectual disability.
So if the prez says it's so, I'm with it so no more stupid comments from me quoting the movie Hangover or using mentally retarded.

So at the event last night, the DJ lost power so the staff improvised and brought our a boom box.  The instructor brought out the dancers and lined them up in formation.  You can see the excitement building up within them.  After getting them into position, the music started and the dancing began.  It was immediately apparent that some of the dancers knew what they were doing while others were just a tad bit off with their timing as they tried to copy the better dancers.  The moves were choreographed to classic hawaiian tunes like Tiny Bubbles and a song that I thought was from the C&H Sugar commercial.  They danced to about 5 different tunes and each dance was as different as the song.  The smiles, the joy, the unbridled excitement of performing was pervasive throughout the recital.  If there was ever a better example of purity of heart, I've yet to experience.  These intellectually disabled adults were into it.  It doesn't matter that one went left while the other went right. The folks were in the moment and loving it.

It was a thing of beauty.

Could the secret of life be as simple as living in the moment?  Could joy be attained by just doing it without the fear of not being perfect?  How much needless stress goes into wondering what others think and adjusting behavior or look just to impress or at least get by?  I'm not saying lose all sense of decorum and be free like they did in the 70's.  I'm just pondering how much time and thought is used up worrying about appearance and what others think that we forget to live in the moment?  Or how easy it is to be on the other side and talk smack about others instead of just accepting people for who they are and enjoying them.

It makes me wonder who really are the "intellectually disabled."

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Organically Built

I love watching movies and admittedly, I'll take in a chick flick every so often.  One of my fave chick flicks is Pretty Woman.  I know-that's so old you're teenage daughter never saw it (she didn't even the Fonz or Happy Days).  Remember that scene when Julia Roberts points out to Richard Gere that he just buys companies then sells parts of the them  for a profit and later Gere changes his mind during a negotitation  and decides to go into partnership because he'd rather build something than break something apart.  I kind of related to Gere in that movie.  No, it's not my rugged good looks, those beady little eyes or my american gigolo past.

Like Gere in Pretty Woman, it was just easier to buy than to build something.  I'm talking building something from scratch using real power tools, a shovel, a level, a hammer and some elbow grease.  Yeah, construction work that Bob Vila would be proud of.  It was so easy in the past to hire a handyman or contractor or buy something pre-built instead of doing it myself.  I took the easy way out using the excuse, I'm too busy or I don't want to give up my weekends.

Not working, I learned a lot about time management and realized, time is a commodity I do have and our social calendar isn't so busy so why not build something.  Which leads me to my current project, THE SHED.  Yes, I have been building a garden shed behind my garage.

Going into this project, I resisted the thought of building it.  The excuses came up like "It's going to cost more," or "I don't have the time." or "I don't know what the heck I'm doing."  Then came the justification not to build-putting hard numbers down on paper and pricing it out.  Bottom line-I convinced my self that saving a $200 and building it would be cheaper only because my time is valued at a lot less than it was when I was working.  Little did I know, the learning experience was invaluable.

So this piece is not going to detail the steps on how to build a shed.  You're bored shitless already, and I want you to finish reading this blog.  Rather,  I want to discuss the journey.  Ah, there's that word "Journey."  We hear it  all the time at church, at seminars, in the shelf-help books (not a typo) and on TV with Dr. Phil.  The journey is about being open to possibilities and taking each step at a time and reveling in the satisfaction of doing it on your own.

So how does this relate to shed building?  I want to preface that I'm not on this journey alone.  I have a friend who also wanted to create with a lot more knowledge of construction than me so we embarked on the project together.   So this journey begins with the planning phase, the foundation, the framing, and the final touches.  Note, we only sketched this thing together.  We are not working off blueprints or an actual instruction manual.

Now you're thinking, didn't he just say he wasn't going into detail on how to build a shed?  You're right. but it's my blog and I can write if I want to.

So the journey is broken into phases and like life, there are so many parallels.  During the planning, a vision is created along with the design with discussion about the fundamental things we want included in the shed. 

Once the bill of materials is created and purchased, it's time to lay down the foundation. The foundation is the hardest part of the process as it takes time and effort to ensure things are level.  Doing this right makes everything later a lot easier.

The framing process is straight forward and actually fun as the shape of the shed gets closer to the original vision.  The roof goes up and the final touches like paint, trim, and shelving are done.

So what's the big deal about building a shed?  First, it's creating something from nothing.  Taking pieces of wood, some nails and some sweat and putting something together that is useful.  The final product is greater than the sum of its parts.   Secondly, there is a satisfaction every step of the way.  We work on this every Saturday and every Saturday evening, we stand around and admire our handiwork.  There's a certain pride and a sense of accomplishment as we get closer to completion. And finally, we make adjustments along the way.  Our vision changes as we see opportunities to improve upon our original plan. 

So how is this a journey?  The parallels to life are so obvious. As a sparkle in our parents' eyes, they made plans and had a vision for us.  They gave us a foundation-a moral code, their values, their traditions.  They watched us grow (the framing) as we became educated.  Our parents put the final touches on us by giving us advice and words of encouragement and love.
We became sheds to stand alone and make ourselves useful.  We are greater than the sum of our parts.  And the cycle continues as our parents built their sheds, we move forward to build our sheds.  Enjoy the journey.

Some days, I like to go out back and push and lean on that shed, sit back and admire the craftsmanship and for a brief moment  bask in the glory that I built that.