Painting oneself into a corner

The new Old World Order


This whole Ukraine/Russia world event is interesting to me as someone that grew up in the 70s and 80s.

As a kid, the “commies” were the bad guys. They were what we taunted each other with in the playground, what adults discussed in hushed tones

The Berlin Wall fell and then the Soviet Union followed.

Suddenly, these guys that we’ve been hating all this time just up and disappeared. But on the flip side, we’re still the same. We’re still the Americans. We still have the Republicans and Democrats (for better or worse). And that rhetoric is still there.

For the Russians, there’s an element of their own success at painting us out to be their enemy. Decades of it, plus the fact that the West triumphed in the Cold War, plus our own self-inflicted stupidity and arrogance, means that it’s easy for us to remain their boogeyman while they’re no longer ours.

They’re victims of their own propaganda success.

As for me, I try as much as I can to be even-keeled. Because I never know when the situation may change. On a related note, spoke to an old friend the other day and was reminded why we stopped speaking in the first place.

He’s 42 and still angry, still suspicious, still sure that conspiracies abound. He’s 42 but really still 18.

At 18 his convictions were hills from which he looked; at 42 they’re caves where he hides. The world’s changed around him but he hasn’t.

RedditFor the  Reddit Ask Me Anything this Thursday, I dropped the the price for The Men Made of Stone to $0.99 and A Great First Date to $2.99, so pick up a copy!

Here are some details about the novel.

Location: the weekend, the local diner getting a Cobb Salad
Mood: good
Music: everybody’s gotta get there somehow
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Dating advice from someone that doesn’t look like you?

Doing a Reddit AMA for The Men Made of Stone

Me: I never even thought of that.
Him: Well, why would you have?

After I put up that video on A Great First Date, something interesting happened: My sales essentially froze.

Now I first thought this was perhaps due to something I said or some way I came off, but my very talented marketing friend said simply, “I don’t think people expected you to be Chinese.”

It never occurred to me that might be an issue. But then I realized that all my popular dating posts had no mention of my ethnicity nor a picture of me; there was no reason for it.

JK Rowling was never actually called “JK” in her life. She made up that name because her publishers weren’t sure anyone would buy a book about a boy wizard from a woman.

That may have been a good move on their part. We’ll never know.

In hindsight, perhaps I should have written it under a pseudonym. But I suppose we’ll never know that either.

Being Asian has never been a problem or plus for me as an adult, it was just a fact of my life. No more or less.

Suppose time will tell how this all plays out.

On a related matter, I’m actually going to be doing an AMA on Reddit Books (/r/books) on the other book I wrote, called The Men Made of Stone, which is completely different from A Great First Date. It’s a full length novel on Asian gangs in NYC during the 1990s.

People that read that book first and then read the dating book are probably a bit surprised, and vice-versa.

In any case, I’ll tell you more about it as we get closer to the date – which is supposed to be March 27th at 5PM EST. So stop by and ask me anything!

And thanks to the guys at Flow Athletics for encouraging me to go do the AMA.

Location: yesterday, home, waiting for a sofa
Mood: chagrined
Music: no, I’ll never give up and I’ll never look back
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Winning a Bronze makes you happier than winning a Silver

How you look at your life depends on how you look at others

Took a moment to watch the Olympics this past weekend and it reminded me of a story from NPR.

If you look at the picture carefully, you’ll see that the gold medalist in the middle is beaming, the bronze medalist on the left is slightly smiling, and the silver medalist on the right is barely smiling at all.

Researchers went through picture after picture after picture of other Olympic winners and saw the same thing.

It’s obvious why the gold winner is so psyched – she won. But the other two?

Well, it turns out that the silver winner is almost always unhappy because she compares herself to the gold winner.

If only I …ran faster, longer, better, that would have been me up there with the gold.

In other words, she compares upward, ignoring all below her and only seeing the one person above her. But the bronze winner always compares downward.

I made it! I can’t believe I beat all those other people and just made it.

Two scenarios, again.

On that note, I try to remind myself regularly that I’ve won the lottery in life. Some days are easier than others. But I keep hoping.

As for you, when you watch the Olympics this week, watch the winners faces and you’ll see the above repeatedly.

After all, you can’t un-notice something you’ve noticed.

And I’ve noticed I’m late to start my work week.

Hope it’s better than last.
Image (c)Julian Finney/Getty Images

Location: 6AM, in front of yet more @#$@#$ snow
Mood: anxious
Music: alright, the nights settling, settling in your bones
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Gradually, then suddenly

Hemingway summed up the human existence in three words


Went to the doctor’s again this weekend. Not for me but it was just as stressful.

The thing with life is that you expect everything to happen to someone else. Injuries, disease, general misfortune, etc., these are things that happen to other people and not you.

And when it actually does happen to you, you think, What the … ?

Ernest Hemingway had a character in The Sun Also Rises that was asked how he became bankrupt.

“Gradually, then suddenly,” he replied.

And that’s why Hemingway was a brilliant writer. Because in three words, he summed up the totality of human existence.

You live your quiet, banal, little life when suddenly:

Or whatever personal little hell you have to deal with.  And you have to drop everything to deal with it.

And there’s not much else to do but deal with it. Some days you deal with it better than others.

Him: How’re doing?
Me: Well, I broke down crying like a 10-year-old girl on the 7 train the other day; which I don’t recommend. Because of a whole other list of craziness, I haven’t had a drink for 45 days and won’t be able to until next week – when I’m gonna drink the CRAP outta my rum stash. And my insomnia is kicking up so I slept one hour last night. But besides that, not too bad. You?

However, there’s hope.

Because joy also inevitably comes.

And it comes just as unexpectedly and just as suddenly. And so I wait for it.

For the time being, without my rum, but still…

———-

Did get a tiny piece of good news last week, which is that a Facebook Fan site I created for A Great First Date hit over 1,000 likes in less than ten days.

Take a look and maybe hit that LIKE button yourself.


Location: an hour ago, in front of a large needle
Mood: anxious
Music: Someday all this mess will make me laugh, I can’t wait, I can’t wait, I can’t wait
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Political Post: What people say and actually do, are two very different things.

If you’re young and conservative you have no heart. If you’re old and you’re liberal, you have no brain.


There’s a quote that’s been floated around for decades, usually attributed to Winston Churchill, that goes something like, If you’re young and conservative you have no heart. If you’re old and you’re liberal, you have no brain.

That’s a bit draconian but as I get older, I’m personally becoming a bit more liberal, mainly because I realize how much dumb luck is really involved in our lives.

But that’s another post for another time.

The other thing I’m realizing is this: It’s always the younger people that are demanding all these social programs because “it’s the right thing to do.”

They march. They protest. They lament what will happen if something is or isn’t done. No fracking, no pink slime, etc.

My theory: They do this because they’re not the ones that have to pay for it. Someone else will.

As you probably know, I’m pro-Obamacare.

Interestingly, for the first time I can remember, the young have a direct ability to – literally and figuratively – put their money where their mouth is.

They have the ability to change the world, and help people, they just have to bear some cost of it.

And the latest news is showing that the exact the opposite is going on. They’re all for Obamacare, but only if someone else pays for it.

It’s like that old “bell the cat” trope where the mice have a genius idea to put a bell on a cat to keep from being killed, but which mouse will do it?

The conservatives are being proven right here.

I’d like Obamacare to succeed. But it looks like it will struggle for exactly the same reason other social programs like Medicaid and Social Security is struggling.

Because what people say and what people actually do, are two very different things.

 

Location: desk, finishing some projects
Mood: cynical
Music: I will change if I must. Slow it down and bring it home, I will adjust
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How many times have you called 911?

Last night was something new


How many times have you called 911 in your life?

I’ve done it twice. The first was a when I was in my office in Times Square and I saw sparks and smoke on a construction site where the Ernst & Young building is now. That turned out to be nothing.

The second time was last night. Just after midnight, heard a woman screaming, “Call 911!” and then just general screaming.

Because of how the acoustics work in our apartment, I ran out to my living room thinking it was my wife but it was someone just outside my door on the street.

Went outside and there was a woman whose face was covered – just covered – in bright red blood. I ran back inside and called 911 on my cell phone.

I’d like to pause for a second to note that I was transferred to the local NYC 911 dispatch pretty quickly; good to know that the system works.

With them on the phone, I dashed back out and saw that a small crowd had gathered.

The injured woman was lying on the wet ground and someone had balled up a towel under her head for a pillow. A man, wearing only boxers and a jacket draped around his shoulder, was applying pressure to what looked like her left eye. Two women were leaning over and comforting her, as was a tenant of my building.

She had stopped screaming and instead murmured, “You’re all so nice.”

After I got off the phone with 911, a young lady came up to me and said she called also. We figured out that an icicle from the neighboring building had dropped off and either hit her eye or cut into her scalp while walking the dog.

For years, I’ve been telling people to be careful about the icicles that grow next door. First time I ever saw someone hit by one.

After the ambulance took her away, got into bed to try to get some sleep.

Hope she’s ok. What a way to start off the new year.

On the plus side, it’s nice to know that there are some good souls in the world.

On the street where I live, anyway.

Wife: That was scary.
Me: It was. But it’s nice to know that people want to help.

Location: computer, back at work
Mood: tired
Music: When the storm cut you to the bone, there was always shelter
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People who are willing to sacrifice their rights for safety, deserve neither

Another thing with an air of truth

Spent Sunday actually relaxing cause I finished almost all of my projects for the year – and by “relaxing” I mean fixing stuff around the house.

Also read a lot of Facebook.

Two friends separately, and coincidentally, paraphrased a Benjamin Franklin quote; one while talking about NYC random bag searches, the other about US gun owner rights.

But it’s one of those commonly referred to quotes that have the air of truth but no real truth to them at all – at least depending on how it’s paraphrased.

Both quoted it as saying: People who are willing to sacrifice their rights for safety, deserve neither.

But that’s not what Franklin said. What he actually said in a book called, Memoirs of the life & writings of Benjamin Franklin, was:

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

The following words are often and conveniently left out:

  • Essential – are guns essential? I’ve lived 40 years with only firing one less than a handful of times. In other words, does everyone need to own guns like the way everyone needs a voice in government. I doubt it.
  • Little temporary – is the ability to not get blown up in a bus a little temporary safety? I’d hope not.

Franklin was saying quite the opposite of what my two friends and many people use his quote for.

He wasn’t saying that every right was equal, he was saying that essential rights – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – were not worth exchanges of small temporary safety.

A bag search is not that. Sane gun laws are not that. They are both the opposite of that.

Sorry, every once in a while I have to be a lawyer and lawyers aren’t allowed to be inexact.

Like that quote that goes, First kill all the lawyers…, what a quote actually means, often means the opposite of what they think it means.

Here are more quotes that have the air of truth to them but either have no real truth to them at all or are misquoted/misunderstood:

Location: desk, being a lawyer
Mood: nerdy
Music: don’t mind the traffic cops or the TSA Long as I’m with you I’m having a good day
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The Moon Festival 2013, the Walnut family, and the revolving door

Good souls are a comfort in the world


Growing up with my parents, there was a revolving door of house guests. Not really sure why.

I’m guessing it’s partly because my parents were immigrants and probably couch-surfed for a while when they first came here and remembered what that was like. Or maybe because sometimes people are just nice for no reason.

A brother and sister stayed with us a while, apparently. I don’t remember them well – as I said, revolving door. For years afterward, their parents would send us a huge box of walnuts once a year from their backyard. Then they moved, ergo, no more walnut tree, ergo, no more boxes.

But I still called them the Walnut family.

In any case, went home to see the rents yesterday. Was a spur-of-the-moment type of thing because my mom took the day off from work and a project I had finished up early.

When I got there, my mom said it was the Moon Festival this week and showed me a cake she got from the Walnut family.

She hadn’t heard from them in years and immediately rang them to thank them. It was then she heard that the mother had just died. Breast cancer.

F____ breast cancer.

The father said that one of the last things the mother said was, Send the Lo’s a cake this year. They were so nice to the kids.

Then my mother started to cry.

Her: I wish I knew. I would have done something for her.
Me: You were nice to her kids. That’s a lot. After all these years, she remembered it. So I think that’s a comfort, knowing that there are good souls in the world.
Her: She was a nice woman. And now (the husband’s) he’s by himself. It’s so unfair.
Me: (patting her on the shoulder) It really is.

Location: yesterday, the family garden
Mood: somber
Music: you come to me on a summer breeze, keep me warm
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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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