Pula and Ren: The Motto of Botswana is “Rain”

And what’s your life’s motto?

Chinese Character Ren - Perseverance

In my room hangs a painting of a Chinese character that my father drew.

It’s composed of two smaller characters. The top part is the character for blade. The bottom is heart. There’s no precise English translation but most translate it as perseverance or resilient but that’s not exactly right.

It tells a story, at least to me: Even with a blade in your heart, you must persevere. You must survive.

The flip side of the story says that it will take a knife in the heart to stop you.

In Africa, there’s a country called Botswana where they’ve suffered centuries of drought and desertification. And they have a single word motto, “Pula” – which means, “Rain.”

It sums up what permeates their lives and their thinking. I suppose that’s what mottos are supposed to do.

If that’s the case, then this character from my father is my motto.

It is our fate for Life to beat us one day but I’ll still scuffle and struggle until I’m breathless and weak.

It’ll take a knife in my heart to stop me. Even then, I’ll try to survive the blow.

Location: last night, wide awake in bed
Mood: resilient
Music: I’d be a fool to surrender when I know I can be a contender
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Your most valuable asset

Folk you, compound interest

Dive 75 in UWS Manhattan

The past few weeks have been a series of 15-hour days. Was supposed to go to see Alton Brown – who was in my neighborhood for a show –  some college buddies, and a few other events but ended up working through them all.

No fun.

There’s this story that Einstein was asked what the most powerful force in the universe was and he quipped, Compound interest.

Regardless of whether or not he really said it, I often tell it in tandem with a Brian Tracy quote: Your most valuable asset is your earning ability. It’s your ability to apply your knowledge and skills in a timely fashion in order to get the results for which others will pay.

I’ve reached a point in my life where people randomly call me and say they say they want to hire me for this or that.

Because I have less time left for compound interest, I invariably say yes.

A few days later, a check arrives in the mail from people I’ve never met. And then I get to work. This happens more often as the year comes to a close.

Now, when it comes to feast or famine, I’d much rather have feast. Just wish it was a little more evenly spaced-out.

At least I have a few minutes each day for thoughtful discourse with the wife:

Me: I’m surprised at how much you like country music.
Her: It’s not country music, it’s folk music! There’s a difference.
Me: Folk you!
Her: (laughing) I can’t even be mad at you for that.

 

Location: my desk
Mood: tired
Music: as long as you are with me, there’s no place I’d rather be
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Thanks for the quiet weekends

Veterans Day Weekend 2014

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

It was a quiet weekend here in the big city; tomorrow is Veteran’s Day in America so a lot of people – myself included – took today off from work.

Didn’t do all that much; went and saw my mom and then took a trip out to my wife’s family as well.

And I baked cookies – a lotta cookies.

A quiet weekend and I’m grateful for the men and women that do what they must so the rest of us can have quiet weekends.

Hope you had the same.

Location: the burbs
Mood: sympathetic
Music: To distant shore with the gifts they were given
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Die knowing something

Die knowing something. You are not here long.

Walker Evans - Dead End - 1973

There was this photographer named Walker Evans who took some pretty famous pictures – you might recognize some of his work.

All of these pics are his.

Walker Evans - Damaged

He always walked around New York snapping shots but with much worse equipment and much better results.

Walker Evans - Brooklyn Bridge - 1928

He once said, Die knowing something. You are not here long.

Walker Evans - Man with accordion in Subway

Always thought that to be sage advice.

I suppose we all wish we had more time. However much we’re given, never feels like much.

Walker Evans - Girl on Fulton St - 1929

There’s so much I realize I don’t know and I would like to.

Walker Evans - Pelham Bay Park

There just never seems to be enough time.

Location: heading to post office
Mood: worried
Music: i’ll keep waiting and some day, darling you’ll come to me
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And for dessert

I’m a sucker for unhealthy food

Barbershop in Downtown NYC

One of the most difficult things about what I do is that I have to give an estimate of how much a project will cost.

The last thing you want to do is say something will cost $1,000 and then have to revise that figure up to, say, $3,000. As a rule of thumb, I almost never revise my estimates.

Having said that, I radically under-bid on some projects and spent far too much time over the last two weeks buried in work. This weekend was two back-to-back 16-hour days.

Before that, though, did manage to sneak out for a haircut and meet up with my buddy Cuba to get some really bad-for-you fast food.

White Castle in NYC

Cuba probably walks around with a single-digit bodyfat index – something I wish I could boast but can’t.

Yet he and a small group of my friends, all of whom I would classify as athletes, have a soft-spot for junk food once in a while.

Now, I try to have fish at least once a week, veggies or fruit with every meal, a copious amount of water and fiber throughout the day, etc.

But every so often, I give in to temptation and order, say, 10 White Castle burgers, 20 Chicken Rings, a sack of fries and two Diet Cokes to split with a buddy.

It’s the Diet Coke makes it all ok.

And for dessert?

Me: What’re your thoughts regarding pizza for dessert?
Him: It’s a good thought. Let’s do it.

Running to the gym right now.

2 Bros Pizza

Location: behind tons and tons of paper
Mood: overworked.
Music: We drink away the days with a take-away pizza
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What does religion mean?

Arguing your religion

Cathedral in Spain

While I’ve been pretty busy lately, I’ve not been so busy to avoid getting embroiled in religious arguments – online and off.

And I’ve gotten into no less than three just in the past 24 hours – mainly due to Pope Francis supporting evolution, which the Church as done since at least 1950.

Oddly, all three arguments have been with atheists. The thing is that they don’t understand the basic definition of the word, “religion.”

Is religion a belief in god?

No, because that would mean that religions like Taoism and Buddhism, which have no god, are not religions. Yet they are.

Religion is “an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence.”

It’s how we organize the world for ourselves.

The reason why you get so annoyed with all those gun enthusiasts, staunch vegetarians, rabid animals righters, virulent Liberals/Conservatives, etc. is because you’re tired of having their religion shoved down your throat.

It’s how they see the world and they want – badly for some reason – for you to see it the same way.

In any case, atheists see the world and our role in it sans god. And that is absolutely fine with me.

But just like you probably don’t want to be harangued at the airport by (American) Christian fundamentalists, I don’t want want to asked to explain how I see the world as it relates to me while eating a late-night gyro.

Logically, there’s zero difference in those that utilize peer pressure and shame to put down a religion as there is to build one up. The core point is the same: see the world as I see it, or you are dammed/wrong/stupid, descended from apes, etc.

It’s this weird militant atheism that people seem to have that I find the most peculiar – like furiously sleeping. As if how I see the world affects them.

Some people just wanna eat a gyro in peace and I say, let them.

Him: You don’t really believe in god do you?
Me: Why does what I do in my head matter so much to you?

Location: work
Mood: wishing for a breakfast gyro
Music: can’t stop can’t stop, I’m still looking now
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King for a day

The Men Made of Stone Hit Number 1

The Men Made of Stone Vigilante Justice

Because of my work lifestyle, some weeks are quiet while others are ridonk busy. Last week was the latter.

Earlier in the week, my buddy Gilson Oliveira from Resilience Marketing gave me a ring and said he wanted to try a few things to market The Men Made of Stone; I said yes, since most of his ideas are pretty brilliant.

He said that Friday and Saturday would be interesting. Didn’t have too much time to really think about it.

Friday, I was up in the Bronx and then White Plains for clients and then stuck on the highway during rush hour. It wasn’t until late that night when I had a chance to check my personal emails.

And I was floored.

The Men Made of Stone Ranking

My book was the number one Noir Crime ebook – beating out Lawrence Block’s A Walk Among the Tombstones - as well as the number two Vigilante Justice book – not even ebook, just book.

It was all pretty amazing. Now the question is: What to do next?

Been fleshing out some more fiction in my head but I switched over to non-fiction, specifically dating, for a while with A Great First Date and A Great Online Dating Profile, only because there’s a ton of information for those topics I can cull from this blog.

Of course, I could also write about what I actually do professionally, which is what Gilson recommends.

I suppose writers just have to write. What the next thing will be, I’m not sure. Not yet, anyway.

Me: That’s amazing, you’re like a magician. How do you do it?
Him: (laughing) Well, it’s a good book. And if I’m a magician, you know I can’t tell you.

Location: the office, shortly
Mood: busy, busy, busy
Music: I’ve heard it said or maybe read
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Asian-ish

The Story of Sessue Hayakawa Pt. 1

When I was in college back, quite literally before the last turn of the century, I wrote my college thesis on The Hidden Asian in Film.

Did you ever notice that there were no Asians in any of the original Star Wars trilogy?

But the Asian influences were everywhere:

  • The Emperor / The Emperor
  • The Shogun’s helmet / Darth Vader’s shogun helmet
  • Martial arts / Martial arts
  • The force / Qi
  • Yin-Yang / Dark-Light Side of the Force
  • Jedi knights / Shaolin warrior monks

In fact, the story of the original Star Wars “borrowed” heavily from the Japanese film Hidden Fortress but Lucas didn’t think any actual Japanese merited any screen time.

And that’s pretty much how films and television treated Asians for years – Asian-ish. Even characters like Fu Manchu and Charlie Chan were Asian-like – caricatures played by Caucasian actors.

But there was this fella named Sessue Hayakawa, who is not the fella pictured above but was the first sex symbol of Hollywood – ever. He pre-dated Rudolph Valentino by several years.

And his story goes just a little bit in explaining why there’s always been an Asian influence in Hollywood and television but few actual Asians.

For that part of the story, I’m going to head over to my friend Jocelyn’s website: Speaking of China for part 2 of this entry.

Location: yesterday, with a pot of coffee
Mood: ready for the week
Music: My oh my oh my what a wonder, my oh my oh my what a wonder
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Zebras cannot be tamed because they live with lions

Environment isn’t everything, but it’s a lot

Zebras appear strikingly patterned to humans, ...
Zebras appear strikingly patterned to humans, but not to lions. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a kid, I wondered why no one ever rode around on a zebra. After all, they’re just a type of horse, right?

Well, it turns out that they cannot be tamed. They’re just too ornery and wild. Which, of course, begs the question, Why are they so ornery and wild?

The reason is because they live where lions live. And, over thousands of years, they’ve adapted to dealing with them.

For example, when they kick, they don’t randomly kick like a horse with one leg, instead, they balance on their front legs, aim, and then kick – with both legs.

While I didn’t have the most pleasant childhood here in NYC, it wasn’t all bad. At this age, I think that, overall, it’s been a net positive that I grew up in this particular corner of the world.

It’s made me anti-fragile.

And people don’t really understand why I spend my free time swinging sticks at people or being smashed by sweaty dudes. Suppose I do it to keep me that way.

Zebras don’t look like much. But you can only kill them, capture them, or let them be; they can’t be controlled. They won’t be submitted.

You gotta respect that.

The Men Made of Stone

On a different note entirely, I dropped the price of The Men Made of Stone to $0.99 on Amazon for the rest of this week because I’m trying out a few things with them.

If you enjoy my writing here, give it a go!

Location: in rainy NYC
Mood: rainy
Music: didn’t even stopped to see that, that It was breaking me
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Got rid of two bookshelves

Traveling and shredding

FujiRAWlg-00018

Wife: Now that it’s cooled down, maybe we should go somewhere.
Me: I liked you better when the summer sapped your will to live.

Last week, was all over the place again.

On Tuesday, headed to Inwood for a client meeting but they gave me the wrong address (!?) so I had to cab it out to The Bronx.

Then off to Queens, Long Island, back to Manhattan, out to New Jersey, and then a series of nondescript motels for the rest of the week. Pretty exhausting.

Did have a chance to see my parents, the in-laws, and some fish tacos at a Cheesecake Factory, though. So not a complete washout.

This week is just more work.

Fish Tacos at the Cheesecake Factory

Been trying to minimize the amount of paper/books I have so I’ve either been:

  1. buying ebook versions of my favorites and donating the physical versions to the guy that sells books on the sidewalks OR
  2.  heading over to Kinkos, cutting the spine off of them, and then scanning them into my computer to read on my tablet.

Must have done this for over 100 books in the past week.

Insomnia does have its (limited) benefits.

Her: Nice, you got rid of a whole bookshelf!
Me: (pointing to corner) Two. I got rid of two bookshelves.

Bookshelf

Location: back home, for now
Mood: busy
Music: Finally I’m where I want to be, I didn’t think this life was gonna be for me
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The musings of an insomnia-plagued writer in the city that never sleeps.

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