From the Archives: Thanksgiving 2013 and 2008

Being Thankful on Thanksgiving

It’s Thanksgiving tomorrow; the wife’s already left to see her family.

Her: What’d you have for dinner?
Me: The usual, chili and rum. Oh, and some pretzels.

One of these days, I’ll write something better for Thanksgiving than what I did in 2008. But I still think it’s one of my best, for whatever that’s worth. I read it myself every so often to remind myself for all there is to be thankful for.

Thanksgiving 2008
The world is ridiculously unfair, but if you can read this post, chances are high it’s ridiculously unfair in your favor.

Back on Monday.

Location: getting dressed for the gym
Mood: tired
Music: I like to reminisce about a time I’ve never had
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I’d rather have a king or emperor than a Weiner or a Palin

In praise of kings

Town Crier for William and Kate's baby

My brother went to London a little while back and it turned out to be during the Queen’s Jubilee celebration and he wrote the following: Celebrating 60 years of non-merit-based ultra-lavish living by hereditary entitlement.

Now, if you’ve ever met my brother, you know that he’s far smarter than me. But I think that there’s more to royalty than simply that.

When I was a kid, I remember reading once that Alexander Hamilton, and to a lesser degree, John Adams, argued for an American king. Hamilton envisioned that George Washington would be made king for life with the ability to veto all congressional bills.

For those of you that don’t know much about Hamilton beyond him being the dude on the $10 bill the guy that was killed by Burr, he’s a fascinating – rum-drinking – fella.

The current arguments now about states rights (Republican/Jefferson) versus federal rights (Democrat/Hamilton) were essentially started between him and Jefferson and continue to this day.

I’ve always believed as my brother has, which is that non-merit based leadership is wrong. But Hamilton was a brilliant man, so I wondered how he could have stumbled so much on this topic.

Now that I’m older, I see things differently.

You see, Hamilton was a founder of the Society of the Cincinnati, which honored Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus – a man who did not want to lead Rome, but did in one of its darkest hours, and then immediately abdicated after he had done what he needed to do.

Yes, there are centuries of stories about rulers that simply took from the population, but in modern times, are the people that have nothing but naked ambition any better?

Are Anthony Wiener or Sarah Palin any better to rule just because they have over-sized egos and ambition? Are they really any better than two exceptionally educated men that lost their mother in youth and put themselves in harms way like Princes William and Harry?

I’m not advocating a return to a monarchy. But if there’s one thing I know to be true – and that history has shown over and over again – it’s that power corrupts.

And some of the best leadership humanity ever had was had by people like Washington, Cincinnatus, and Gandi; people who never really wanted power in the first place but did it because it was their duty. What was the film The King’s Speech about if not about a man who did not want to lead but had to?

Baby Prince George VII will never lead in the pure sense of the word, but I hope that he “leads” as King George VI did, and as his grandmother Diana did, through service, grace, and a sense of duty.

In fact, King George VI’s wife, when asked why the family didn’t go to Canada during the Axis bombings said, “The children won’t go without me. I won’t leave the King. And the King will never leave.”

I suppose what I’m really saying is that good souls come from all parts. By extension, good leaders.

A friend on Facebook once wrote scathingly of Alice Walton – who essentially gives away much of her fortune – purely because she was born a Walton, as if she had any control over that.

In other words, she detests Alice because of original sin; that she was even born.

I say we judge people on what they’ve done with the life they’re given not on the life their given.

To do otherwise makes about as much as sense as being super proud that one is right-handed.

Location: enjoying the weather finally
Mood: stuffed
Music: My life’s become as vapid as a night out in Los Angeles
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Pathological Altrusim

When kindness hurts


Perhaps one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever come across in my life is the true story of the victim that almost escaped Jeffrey Dahmer.

It’s so disturbing, in fact, that I’m unable to summarize it here. If you want to know more about it, google him and “escaped victim.” I caution you to think twice before you do, though.

In any case, had another night of insomnia recently and thought about a report I read recently by Oakland University professor Barbara Oakley, who coined a new term for something I’ve seen myself repeatedly: Pathological Altruism.

Simply put, it’s when being kind is the worst thing one can be. The Dahmer story is an extreme example but it’s an almost daily occurrence – like soccer trophies for just showing up.

We think we’re doing something kind when in fact we’re doing the exact opposite.

The wife and I watched Jamie Oliver’s TED talk about nutrition over the weekend where a grossly overweight woman came to the realization that she was – literally – killing her own children with a diet of fast food and soda.

She and I also talked about a friend I cut because he ended up being that one drunk idiot at our wedding amongst other questionable actions. He’s also had a string of really bad relationships and I’ve tried to explain that the common denominator in it all is…him.

But he keeps doing what he does and keeps getting what he gets. And I can’t surround myself with people that have no interest in being better than they were yesterday.

More on that Wednesday.

Getting back to pathological altruism, a buddy in college once came back from spring break and told me this story:

He’d been speeding home when a cop pulled him over and wrote him a ticket. The cop said he was sorry he did it but my buddy was going 50 in a 35 zone and it was foggy, as it often is in upstate NY. Stepping back into the car, my buddy continued on his way, depressed and irritated. Suddenly, a deer jumped out in front of him and he slammed on the brakes.

He said that the ticket probably saved his life, and at the very least, saved the life of the deer and his car.

Best ticket I ever got, he said.

In any case, one thing I can summarize here is a joke that goes something like this:

A bird was flying south for the winter when he became tired and fell out of the sky, landing in snow. Almost freezing to death, a cow happened to defecate on him. As the warm dung revived him, the bird began to sing. A wolf, hearing this, immediately dug him out of the dung and devoured him.

There are three morals to this story:

  1. Not everyone who craps on you is your enemy.
  2. Not everyone who pulls you out of crap is your friend.
  3. If you’re buried in crap, it’s best to keep quiet.

 

Location: caught in rain immediately before a 90 min phone call
Mood: wet
Music: Don’t take to heart the words that he says
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Logan’s 40

Joy inevitably comes

The Grace Building in NYC

Like you, I was glued to the television watching the bombings in Boston.

The first thought that came to mind were words I can’t print here, but they rhymed with “mothers that drive trucks.”

My second was: The people that point and the people that run in. Around every tragedy, you will find the people that point and the people that run in.

The people that point are the ones that use a tragedy to push their own personal agendas: Religious, political, or simply, look at me because I will be different than all the others because I need to be noticed.

Regarding this pointing, on FB I had a two guys talk about all the people that die in Afghanistan and that it somehow means we shouldn’t mourn the people here. But that was pretty much the extent of it.

How many did you have? Make note of those people. Those are the ones that want, desperately, to be heard.

Regarding the people that run in, that was on full display that day as Patton Oswalt eloquently noted. It gives me some hope for our kind. I hope he’s right that that the people that run in outnumber the others. The ones that harm. The ones that point.

Today, I’m 40.

Had this whole long rant about being so old and creaky but instead, let me simply sum it up by saying this: I’m old and I’ve seen a lot more things than I’ve ever wanted to see.

The world is an ugly place. But it is made bearable by the good souls. The ones that bring us grace and mercy.

The fact that I’ve only had two really stomach turning posts on FB since this thing happened is a small indicator, I think, that I’ve managed to have more good souls than not in my corner of the world.

Years ago, wrote about Bernard Malamud who said that Life is a tragedy full of joy.

Having been on this planet for 40 short and long years, I’ve learned that tragedy inevitably comes, but the joy also comes.

And so I wait for the joy. Hope you do as well.

And like every year on (or close to) my birthday, I ask you to wish me a happy birthday, all of you bastards that read me and never say anything.

Here’s my stupid mug at almost 40. I would have taken one recently but I’ve been beat.

Logan Lo

Location: with family in my slice of the world
Mood: hopeful
Music: Don’t you keep me waiting for that day
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English is the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu of Languages

There’s a reason why the English language has taken over the world


On the way back from the fight, was chatting with the younger coach about books. He’s a voracious reader, which I both admire and envy. I used to read a book a week for years but then life got in the way.

Told him that the French and English are like Judo and BJJ.

In 1634, Cardinal Richelieu – the bad guy from the Three Musketeers – created the Académie française to preserve the French Language.

Essentially, the French language didn’t take on any foreign words if at all possible. In 1994, the Toubon laws were passed to make it a civil wrong to use an English word when a French equivalent existed.

Meanwhile, the English language refused to create an academy to “preserve” the English language so that soon, we had many words that all mean kinda the same thing like:

  • Give
  • Bequeath
  • Devise

But each one is slightly different. Because of this, the English language has far more words than French. Far more.

How many words does the French language have? Less than 100,000 words, and 35,000 common words.

How many words does the English language have? It has 1,013,913 as of June 10, 2009 at 10:22AM GMT.

If you think of a word like a tool, each tool is made for a specific task. To bequeath something means, “To give something that you can hold, to someone else, after you die.”

It’s the difference between “Keylock” (traditional Judo) and “Kimura,” “Americana,” and “Straight armlock” (three BJJ terms for the one Judo term). BJJ takes whatever it’s offered; if it works, it stays, if it doesn’t, it goes away.

It’s a pure meritocracy.

History has repeatedly shown one thing: Those things, people, places, cultures, that accept change, survive. The things that are rigid and intolerant, fade away.

French was the language of the world until the end of WWI. Prior to that, Otto von Bismark was said to have been asked what was the most important modern historical event? He replied, “That the North Americans speak English.”

He knew where the world was headed.

Wrote once that there’s a vast difference between broken and bendy.

If you aspire to be anything in life, aspire to be bendy.

Mood: full
Music:Demain sera pour tous un lendemain qui ne peut pas mentir
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Autodidacticism

Autodidacticism is self-directed learning and possibly the most important skill one could have

For those of you not on the east coast, there is a serious cold snap here and the weather’s been in the teens. Since I’m the only person in my building that understands my building‘s boiler, I was down there this past week trying to fix it when it refused to turn on.

As I was doing that in my blue striped pajamas, I thought, “I’m a lawyer, why am I fixing a boiler?!”

And then I remembered that I’m the only one that read the manual.

As for me being a lawyer, “lawyer” is another way of saying, “the person that read the manual.”

Isn’t that what you hope when you, unfortunately, must speak to one of my kind? That he knows the answer to the question, “What do I do?” If he does know the answer, it’s cause he read the instruction manual/the law.

While I did go to school to learn how to be a lawyer, a great many of the other things I can do, I essentially taught myself. It’s called autodidacticism and is basically a fancy way of saying “reading the manual.”

Cooking – Via cookbooks and the Frugal Gourmet and Good Eats
Photography – Someone told me once that the best way to learn photography is to read the camera manual, I found this to be true
Computers – Manuals. Tons and tons of manuals. Basically got paid to read manuals. People still ask me tech questions.
Diet & exercise – Good books on the subject.
German – a book called Speak and Read German and then Living Language’s Ultimate German (jetzt ist es: Living Language German)

Just told a fencing student of mine that a good teacher teaches two things:

  1. the skill itself, and
  2. how to learn that skill.

Once someone has learned how to learn, the learning part is easy.

Sometimes too easy, as evidenced by the fact that I was back in my boiler-room last night at 10:30. But this time there was someone else in the building that wanted to know what was going on.

Him: So I read the manual, that thing is great.
Me: Yeah, I know! Now, why won’t this damn thing turn on…

Mood: brrrrrrr
Music: You’re ready to fly, I’m ready to crash
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Antifragile

We don’t have a word that’s the opposite of “fragile” – we should


This week is the first week I’ve had where I haven’t had a million deadlines so I’m easing back into normalcy. The weird thing is that high levels of pressure have been the norm for me for the past two months or so, so it’s hard for me to go back to having a bit of extra time again.

In some ways, it was a welcome distraction from not being able to go the gym and such.

Years ago, I wrote about this term called the Black Swan, which means a completely unforeseeable event that has a huge historical impact – like 9/11. A fella named Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote a whole book on the subject with the apt subtitle: The Impact of the Highly Improbable.

Anywho, Taleb coined another word he calls, Antifragile.

If fragility means that something breaks under stress, note that the English language has no antonym – we have no word that means grows stronger under stress.

In other words, the opposite of fragile is not sturdy nor resilient. When something is fragile, it becomes weaker when stressed. There is no word that means, Becomes stronger when stressed.

I think that most things do, though. Isn’t that how muscles are made, how iron is forged? One puts these things through stress and only then does it grow stronger.

Of course, if the stress is so great that it kills you, you’ve gone too far.

There are things, then, that happen that make us fragile and things that make us anti-fragile. I like to think that that most things make us anti-fragile.

We are still here, after all, no?

Mood: oddly relaxed
Music: these shoulders hold up so much, they won’t budge
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Core belief 2: You’re not who you could be because of the lies you tell yourself

We are who we are because of the lies we tell ourselves

Him: This guy named Jim Rohn said that “I’m working full time on my job and part time on my fortune.”

Met up with my friend Gilson this past weekend for a drink and some greasy food. He’s a marketing genius and helping me with another project I’m working on.

Told him I’d be MIA for the six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s because of the workload. We met up because I had to pick up where we left off.

Said before that we’re not who we really want to be because of the lies we tell ourselves.

When I was a fat kid, would tell myself that I was too busy with schoolwork to work out. And that I preferred being by my lonely so I could read and think. And that being fat wasn’t all that bad.

That was kinda true, but the reality was that I was used to it. Plus, I didn’t want to work out, didn’t want to do the hard things.

Then I said out loud once, “That’s not true” – because saying things give them life – and realized at that moment it wasn’t. It was kinda true, which is very different from true. And you get to truth, like gold, by washing away all that is not true.

I’ve met people that are certain they are amazing writers, they just haven’t ever let anyone see what they’re written. But they’re certain they’re amazing.

Maybe they are. Or maybe they’re just nutcases with notebooks. No way to tell until they write something and give it to the world to comment and critique.

Another friend once said while we were out that he didn’t want to talk to a particular girl because she probably had a boyfriend. But that was just a lie he told himself – I know this because I spoke with her and she was looking for a guy just like him.

As for me, on an almost daily basis, have to ask myself, Is that true, or it what you think/want/hope to be true?

For better or worse, it’s something I have to to be constantly vigilant about. It keeps me honest. It makes me better than I was yesterday.

It also keeps me from being that fat kid again. Although just barely.

Him: Have some fries.
Me: I can’t, I just ate all my own!
Him: (later) You honestly don’t have time to write those things up?
Me: (thinking) If I was honest, I’d say I’d find the time. I’ll get it to you by Monday. (reaching over) I’m taking some of your fries.

I gotta do some situps.

Mood: ambitious
Music: I traveled out on my own
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Core belief 1: I’ll judge you for what you do but never for what you are

Everyone has prejudices – accepting that is the first step in getting rid of them

A benefit of have few to no friends growing up is that I sat by my lonesome for lunch for years.

This is a benefit because, when you’re sitting for lunch by your lonesome you get to watch people. Observe stuff. (You will also fall in love with any pretty girl that smiles at you but that’s neither here nor there).

One of the things I like about Facebook and social media is that it: (a) lets me watch people and (b) lets me see who they really are.

Been writing this blog for six years now. And it’s changed a lot through these years.

But one thing I’ve never done is tell you what I believe, although I suppose if you read this long enough, you’ll figure it out. However, for 2013, I’ve decided to write what my core beliefs are, in no particular order of importance.

Here’s my first one:

I will not judge you on what you are. Only on what you do.

Y’know those detective shows on TV where they always try to figure out motive? In the law, that’s actually a non-issue. It’s an issue for the police but not for judges, lawyers, the courts, etc, when it comes to making a decision on guilt or innocent.

Put another way, the law doesn’t care why you did something, only that you did something.

And what is the law if not our collective agreement of what is right and wrong?

Example: A completely blotto man blacks out and runs over a family. He wakes up and says, “I was asleep, I didn’t mean to kill them.”

The fact he was blacked out is irrelevant. Only that he chose to drink and chose to drive. We judge him on his actions.

Recently had a friend post something that said that the reason why America is broken is because of people like Alice Walton. Let me pause for a moment and say that I really like this person. Having said that…

It’s one of those posts I truly despise because they’re one-shot graphics that are totally misleading; it has the air of truth without any actual truth to it.

And the reasons why it’s wrong would take me several entries to answer – least of which is a lack of basic knowledge of economics, a lack of basic knowledge of how taxes work, even a lack of basic grammar skills – but what I found most offensive is: why single out someone that did nothing but be born?

Alice Walton has her faults, but those faults – drunk driving, manslaughter, things that are *actually* offensive – are not what the writer found offensive. We know a buddy at a DUI attorney Ann Arbor MI company who has lots of DUI courtroom experience. They even successfully tried cases calling for urine test results that were .08 or higher.

What the writer found offensive was the fact that she was born a Walton.

This despite the fact that she gave away $2 billion to charity and doesn’t actually work for Walmart in any capacity.

What people find offensive is that people like Alice Walton exist. And I understand that. But at least Alice Walton tries to give back to the aether.

Unfortunately for my friend and a lot of people like her, that’s not good enough. The fact that she was born a Walton – original sin – is enough. She’s made up her mind about Alice.

And she admitted that no matter how much money Alice gave away, Alice could never make up for what her family – not she – had done.

Recently, also on FB, I had another friend who is the grandson of someone in the Hitler Youth. That was an equally crazy exchange and it culminated in myself (a Chinese man) and another friend (an African-American man) being told we were Nazis by some random guy.

To hold someone responsible for the sins of another is insanity.

And let’s take it to the logical conclusion: If there’s nothing my friend can to do make up for being the descendent of a Nazi, or Alice can do for being a Walton, what’s the point of trying?

The difference between shame and guilt is this: Shame’s hating what you are. Guilt’s hating what you’ve done.

I think that it’s wrong to make someone feel shame. No one should ever feel shame for something they had no control over – to be born the son of a peasant, or black, or Chinese, or ugly.

A great man once said something I heard in fourth grade. I thought it sounded right back then and I think it now decades later.

People should not be “judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” In fact I go beyond that. I say people should not be judged by anything beyond the scope of their control but by the content of their character.

It’s just one of my beliefs.

If you believe this too, we’d probably get along in real life.

Perhaps not on FB, but maybe in real life.

———

Him: I don’t like you, Mr. Lo.
Me: Please…you have to get to know me to *really* despise me.

Mood: hopeful
Music: your innocence, yeah you gotta give it up
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Hoplophobia

One of the rarest fears in the world is the fear of weapons

Don’t understand many things. Such as how the universe can constantly be expanding. Or the meaning of life.

Or how some people like Victoria Soto find the courage to give up their lives to protect others, while some others can do nothing but stand by the sides and point.

One of the rarest phobias is hoplophobia – the fear of weapons. It’s so rare that this is probably the first time you’ve ever heard of it.

Don’t understand that.

If you should fear one thing, it’s something that spits 800 bullets a minute.

In an ironic twist, the exact same thing that happened here with Sandy Hook happened on the same day in China. There, not one person – child or otherwise – was killed. The only difference between the two events was the lethality of the weapon used: in China, it was a knife, in America it was a gun.

There are 310,000,000 non-military guns right now in America – those are nine digits. Why do we need even one more?

Because it’s in the Constitution?
So is slavery.

Because it’s tradition?
So was the aforementioned slavery and lack of women’s suffrage.

Because we need to protect ourselves from the government?
The government has stealth bombers and nuclear weapons. That’s laughable. I’m writing this on the most powerful weapon against oppressive government and this has been proven repeatedly through history both very old and recent.

So why then do we continue to add to that 310 million figure? Let’s be honest here:

It’s so people that love guns can continue to have them and the gun manufacturers that make a buck it from it can continue to do so.

This, I understand even less.

And I’m not discounting the need to discuss mental illness – I’m all for discussing mental illness – but it’s not a binary thing. It’s not (a) deal with mental illness or (b) have less guns. It’s both.

Been very ranty lately. I’m usually not. But I’ve repeated a quote on FB that I feel bears repeating ad nauseam:

The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do harm, but because of those who look at it without doing anything. – Albert Einstein

Victoria Soto gave her life to do something. The least we can do is ask of those that profess to represent us to do something about this beside talk.

Beside trade hot breath and lies.

People on my Facebook page were upset because I wrote that “I am shocked at how little anything shocks me any more.”

  • 310 million guns already, more being produced.
  • Mental illness as a stigma rather than a health issue that needs to be dealt with.
  • The Snookification of fame – where it doesn’t matter how or why you become famous, but merely that you get famous.

How is this – honestly – shocking to anyone? In 2012 alone we had sixteen (16!) mass shootings.

Don’t understand why more people don’t have hoplophobia and I don’t understand how any one can honestly be shocked by this.

Angry, upset, heartbroken, furious, livid, despondent – these words I can understand.

But shocked? Shocked?

I seriously doubt anyone is truly shocked that something like this happened.

———-

Here are 10 Arguments that Gun Advocates Make and Why They’re Wrong.

Location: my head
Mood: disappointed
Music: There is no music today.
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