Core belief 4: There’s no such thing as willpower

There’s only varying degrees of what you actually want

Just wrote two large checks to the government. It’s because, those that live in an eat-what-you-kill life here in the US, have to send in what they think are going to be the taxes every three months.

It’s a bit annoying and sometimes stressful because (a) you have to make educated guesses and (b) you have to be ready to write those checks.

Mentioned this to a buddy the other day and he said that I must have a lot of willpower to not spend the money. Likewise, when I mentioned to someone else that I was once super fat, she too remarked that I must have a lot of willpower

So, I figured now was a good time to present another core belief of mine to you: There’s no such thing as willpower.

It doesn’t exist.

What does exist are value judgments as to the relative worth of things.

For example, when I was a fat kid – whether I realized it or not – I was making a choice of choosing the pleasure of chocolate cake over the discomfort of being teased; the pleasure of sitting on a couch watching television versus the discomfort of exercise.

In other words, I was getting something out of being fat that was worth more to me than not being fat.

It was only when I went to junior high school, where there was a pretty girl named Eve, that it flipped. Suddenly, it being fat wasn’t worth the cost to me.

Isn’t it always about a girl?

In any case, had a co-worker of mine, years ago, who just complained about the work he did all the time.

He was offered a promotion and he declined, saying that he was worried no one else could do the job as well as he could. Everyone else thought this was so noble, but I realized that he was getting something out of his current job that was worth more than the higher title, more than the additional income, more than the additional responsibilities.

He liked to complain.

He was getting more out of being able to complain than he would have gotten out of all the other things.

Should note that I never did summon the courage to ask Eve out. Just as well.

There are few people who can actually put up with my idiosyncrasies.

Me: (dropping something) CRASH!
Her: I’m really worried about your ability, as a rational person, to hold onto things.


Core belief 3: You are what you decide to be
Core belief 2: You’re not who you could be because of the lies you tell yourself<
Core belief 1: I’ll judge you for what you do but never for what you are

Location: the start of a new week in an old chair
Mood: sore
Music: like a dream, make me feel crazy
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From the Archives: Doing well in school and speaking a foreign language

Two older posts about academia for this holiday weekend

Since it’s the start of a new school year and Labor Day Weekend, I thought I’d take a cue from Jocelyn Eikenburg in Speaking of China and pull out some stuff from the ole archives.

Public Service Announcement
I had a specific way to take notes in college, which I think helped me out greatly. It might help you. This is what I did.


How to learn a foreign language as an adult
Learning a foreign language as an adult is different than how you do it as a child. Here’s how I try to do it – with advice my wrassln coach gave me.

Workmen fixing an escalator in a metro station in Washington DC


Back to the usual nuthin on Wednesday.

Location: my very clean apartment room
Mood: impatient
Music: Du fric en masse que tu caches dans tes gants
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More than the applause of the multitude

The respect of those you respect is worth more than the applause of the multitude

I write mainly because I have things in my head that I need to put somewhere.

But the reason I write publicly is because of three people: Mrs. Meltzer, Dr. Shapiro, and Stewart O’Nan.

The first two were my grade school and high school English teachers. They thought I was good but considering that my classmates weren’t exactly Hemingway, this was flattering but only so much so.

Stewart O’Nan was my college English teacher and he said I was good also – not great, but good. That meant a little more. But it wasn’t until I saw him on talk shows and read book reviews from him it became a source of pride for me.

Stewart O'Nan Read
Stewart O’Nan (Photo credit: Literary Gal)

I’d tell everyone. Like I’m telling you now.

Perhaps he said it to all his students. I like to think he just said it to me.

This fellow named Arnold Glasow once said that The respect of those you respect is worth more than the applause of the multitude.

Man, isn’t that the truth?

On a related note, my wrasslin coach Rene Dreifuss invented and perfected a move called The Rat Guard. It’s the go-to move in our gym.

And this absolutely brilliant and eccentric coach named Eddie Bravo actually made note of it – and my coach – recently on his podcast. Eddie Bravo’s a guy that changed everything about the game of fighting and mixed-martial arts. In fact, in my coach’s video below, which he did years ago, he specifically mentions him by name.

I’ve won a number of awards in my life and have done many things of which I am proud.

But the throwaway line O’Nan said to me as he hurriedly grabbed his stuff and ran out the door 22 years ago at the close of the year, is perhaps one of my most cherished.

It works in reverse too, doesn’t it?

Everyone may say that you’re the best at this or great at that, but if the one person that you value more than all the others says something unkind, the rest falls on deaf ears.

When parents say something to a child that’s cruel, it cuts the deepest.

That’s when you remind yourself that someone else’s opinion of you is none of your business.

Signal versus noise; it’s always signal versus noise.

Location: back from the gym
Mood: proud
Music: there’s certain things in life you cannot change
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Everyone has their thing

Here’s what I think of the royal baby being born

Town Crier for William and Kate's baby

I don’t like football. Considering that – amongst other things – a professional player gets between 900 to 1,500 blows to the head in a single season it strikes me as the closest modern analogy to gladiator battles.

Of course, I love MMA/UFC matches and I make excuses for it all the time: the amount of blows are different, the ability for someone to defend himself properly is different, the fact that a participant is encouraged to “give up” when in danger add to the safety, etc.

But I realize that, while it makes sense to me, it makes little sense to someone else.

For that reason, while I don’t like football, I wouldn’t go online and bash it just to bash it. Everyone’s got their thing, yeah?

Which brings me to this royal baby business.

My Facebook feed is exploding with people that are just angered by how much coverage it’s receiving. Almost none of them realize how much money this kid is going to inject into the British economy – up to $400 million according to some estimates.

Now, I don’t get it. Not even a little. BUT I don’t begrudge anyone their joy. If someone finds joy in watching grown men hurl themselves at each other while chasing a leather ball or cheering the birth of a singularly lucky (lucky) child, so be it.

Also, I realize that people have their fates tied up to odd things.

Like that dude in the picture above – for all I know, this is his shining moment, the greatest thing he’s ever done: Announce the birth of the next king in a funny hat. I don’t know, nor do I really care that much.

But someone does and that’s all fine and good. I’ll turn the channel just like I do when football is on.

We all have our weird things and we should let others have their weird thing too.

Speaking of weird things, I believe I’m due for some more chili for a midday snack.

Location: off to the gym
Mood: praying for rain
Music: Is there room for one more son
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Why are Poison Dart Frogs posionous in the first place?

We become what we consume

Poison dart frogs are well known for their bri...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The most poisonous thing on the planet is a frog; more specifically, it’s the Golden Poison Frog with enough venom to kill between 10-20 humans or two elephants.

But the interesting thing with the Golden Poison Frog – or any poison frog for that matter – is that they aren’t inherently poisonous. They become poisonous from the specific things they eat; if you took baby frogs and fed them things that didn’t have the poison, they wouldn’t be poisonous.

They become poisonous because of what they consume.

On a related note, I’ve come to realize that I know people that consume a steady diet of outrage, and because of that they’re outraged all the time. Or perhaps it’s reversed and they’re outraged all the time and then consume a steady diet of more outrage.

Still others have a steady diet of stupidity, and they’re stupid all the time. And it goes on.

Young, broken people grow up to be old, broken people and after a while you can tell who’s going to end up which.

And I’m finding out that they’re every bit as poisonous to me as those frogs. So I keep my distance.

After all, a frog in a well knows nothing of the ocean and I like to know of oceans.

Conversely, however, I’m also finding that I have more optimistic, worldly, and ambitious people in my life than I might have otherwise expected. And these people consume those things that make them more optimistic, more worldly, and more ambitious.

These people I don’t keep at a distance.

Finally, I’ve been dreaming of the other side again. Just this past weekend, had a dream I lived in Gibraltar.

I’ll tell you about it someday.

Location: the start of a NYC heat wave
Mood: relaxed
Music: again, and again, I think I will break but I mend
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The difference between Knowledge and Wisdom

Understanding what it really means/Seeing the grey

10th Avenue in Manhattan, NYC

Worked pretty much this entire weekend. Beat tired.

Life was simpler when you’re young. There was ever only black and white, good and evil, heroes and villains.

As you get older you realize there’s a lot of grey. Unless you never grow up. If you never grow up, then the world remains black and white. You don’t see the grey. Or all of the luck, stupid luck, and stupid involved in life.

If you see the grey, you see that there’s a lot of stupid involved in life.

Have you ever noticed that it’s the least educated, least traveled, least read of the people you know that have conspiracy theories? Because they have no background on which to base a logical conclusion, they make their own out of bits and pieces of trivia and fact.

They can’t discern the difference between knowledge and wisdom.

There’s this example in one of Malcolm Gladwell’s books where a writing teacher says to a buncha students that the election is the next day.

They’re to write about what it means.

And most of the kids write about the democratic process, the history of nation, the candidates, etc. Information, data, knowledge.

But one student understands what this really means. It means: No school tomorrow.

That’s wisdom. Understanding what things mean.

There’re people with the ability to see the grey and everyone else.

Stranger: How do they know they got the right guy? I mean, besides the shootout, the cop they shot, and the pictures, what evidence do they have these guys did anything?
Me: That’s true, besides the shootout, the cop they shot, the pictures – and the chase, the video, the ATM pics, the multiple eye-witnesses – besides those things, I suppose you’re right, they don’t have anything.

Location: in front of more papers
Mood: weary
Music: giving the academy a rain check
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The greatest trick the devil ever pulled

On evil: Nothing is ever anyone’s fault

Incandescent light bulb

The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. And like that, poof. He’s gone.
Verbal Kint, The Usual Suspects (film)

The insomnia’s been pretty bad lately. I should just stop wasting your time and my time and just write, “insomnia” and move on.


Being awake at night, thought about Boston, Newtown, and Aurora and the nature of evil. Something about the dark turns one’s thoughts dark, I suppose.

People wonder if there is evil even actually exists.

I believe it does.

People are always surprised by that. They think I’m naive, but I submit that I think you’re naive if you don’t.

I think some people are evil not because of how they were brought up, or what happened to them. Theyr’e just twisted with no other explanation for it. Not biology, not upbringing, not society.

Nothing happened to me, Officer Starling. I happened. You can’t reduce me to a set of influences. You have given up good and evil for behaviorism, Officer Starling. You’ve got everybody in moral dignity pants – nothing is ever anybody’s fault. Look at me, Officer Starling. Can you stand to say I’m evil?
Hannibal Lecter, The Silence of the Lambs (novel)

Put a little less eloquently, some people are just born ______-up.

Don’t believe it when people try and convince you that there’s no such thing as evil. It’s there. And the sad thing is that you don’t need to go far to see it.

As I wrote the above, I got a news alert on my computer that five people were dead in a shooting. This just happened.

Which just makes me wonder if evil is a self-destruct sequence for our kind. Then again, all this is just my opinion. What do you think?

Me: Do you know why I hate things like the Disney films?
Him: No, why?
Me: Because the monsters all look like monsters. But Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, Mao – these guys were just normal, plain-looking dudes. No one would have looked at them and thought, “Monster.” But that’s what they were. (later) Thanks for not choking me until I passed out.
Him: (laughing) Anytime, man.

Location: about to run to Chelsea
Mood: pensive
Music: I saw Satan laughing with delight the day the music died
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I’m all for marriage, gay or otherwise

Marriage is not just a piece of paper because we’re not teenagers

Black and white dinner setting

I wrote the below a long time ago to a friend who told me she loved her boyfriend but wouldn’t marry him because marriage was “just a piece of paper.”


Let’s put aside all these teenage ideas of love and romance and talk about this like realistic adults, ok?

This fella named Pericles once said, Just because you do not take an interest in politics, doesn’t mean that politics won’t take an interest in you.

Hold that thought.

Yes, you can live without a piece of paper that says you’re married. But you’re gonna need a lot more papers without that marriage license.

  • Have a bank account together? You’ll need a piece of paper that says you have access to all monies in each of those accounts.
  • Have a car? You’ll need a piece of paper that says you’re allowed to drive it.
  • You live in his house? You’ll need a piece of paper that says you’re allowed to stay in it if something happens to him.
  • He’s in an accident? You’ll need a piece of paper that says you’re allowed to see him.

You see where I’m going with this, yeah?

We’re talking thousands of different documents – and you’ll also need to predict the future.

Can you predict that you two will be on vacation one day, you’ll both be riding motorcycles, a mudslide comes, kills him, and your passports are in your hotel room lockbox that only he knows the combo for and he put the room on his credit card, so you cannot say goodbye to him at all?

That’s an actual case!

So, without that license – that “piece of paper” you so casually dismiss – each time you two do anything together, you’ll need a different piece of paper.

You also need those papers notarized because the mom/dad/brother/former kid will fight you on it. You need to go to court to prove it’s real. This happens constantly.

Google “stieg larsson girlfriend.” Constantly.

I’m working on something where my client has spent $60,000 to disprove a SINGLE signature on a single doc.

Another true example (and why I’m for gay marriage) an insurance company disallowed a man from collecting the $1 million for insurance for his mate for cancer treatment. He went to court and eventually won – but his mate died in that time.

He didn’t have the right to get the legal grace of marriage. You do.

Look, if you don’t want to get married because of the cost, or because you don’t really love him, or whatever, say that. But don’t say it’s because you don’t need a piece of paper that says you two love each other. We’re not teenagers.

Just because you do not take an interest in politics, the government, doesn’t mean that politics the government won’t take an interest in you.

My legal $0.02,



They broke up not that long ago

I wrote once that attraction is not a choice. Integrity forces me to say that it’s not a qualified statement: Attraction is not a choice for straight people only.

As for me, I find marriage comforting. It’s nice to know that someone is on your side.

Life is hard enough without someone on your side. Everyone needs someone on their side.

Me: (to wife) Can you help me with something?
Her: Sure.

Location: getting dressed to see my pop (again)
Mood: hopeful
Music: You’ve got your home of the brave and I’ve got my land of the free
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Goldfish are limited to the size of their bowl

Your surroundings determine your growth

The title of this post is a bit misleading; it’s only partly true that it’s the size of a bowl that limits the size of a goldfish. It’s more accurate to say that:

A goldfish in a small bowl, that’s fed just a little bit, will grow slowly and most likely die as a small goldfish. A lot has to do with the nitrate concentration of the bowl whereby the smaller the bowl, the higher the relative concentration. Read up on Water Softener Reviews for some useful knowledge on keeping that water perfect.

But for the sake of not boring you more than I normally do, let’s just say it’s (a) the size of the bowl, (b) the type of fish, and (c) how much crap that fish ingests.

I have an interesting cross section of friends. One group is made up of my college friends, the other is made up of my business/legal friends, the other is made up by my fencing/wrasslin/fighting friends.

If there is a plus with being almost 40, it’s that I can choose exactly what to do with my time, and with whom I spend it. I get to choose my bowl, if you will.

Another thing I do is try to minimize the amount of crap I take in, both literally and figuratively. Literally, I try to eat well and minimize my intake of processed foods whenever possible. Gyros not withstanding. Pureprovender helps me out with this.

Figuratively, try to minimize my intake of crap beliefs whenever possible too. I’m regularly surprised who I find on one end of a spectrum or another.

The hopelessly liberal that believe that every person of wealth is evil (type of fish) and the intransigent conservative that ignores environment (size of bowl).

The feverishly religious is as difficult to stand as the ardently atheist. The list goes on.

I recognize my own prejudices but, because of social media, have to put up all these shrill – unsourced – beliefs.

Luckily, I can block them out but I set up a reminder for myself to check in with them every so often. But it’s ever the same. They’re in their same bowls, ingesting the same nitrogen. A frog in a well knows nothing of the ocean.

It’s disappointing but living your own life is hard enough so I just let be and swim away.

As for me, I seek bigger bowls whenever possible.

Mood: upbeat
Music: I’m just a normal boy that sank when I fell overboard
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If you don’t know history, you don’t know anything

These are two people who don’t know the definition of “Great”

Hitler, I am beginning to feel, is a very great man, like an inspired religious leader…not scheming, not selfish, not greedy for power, but a mystic, a visionary who really wants the best for his country….

— Charles Lindbergh on meeting Adolf Hitler (1936)

He’s a great guy.

— Dennis Rodman on meeting Kim Jong Un (2013)


Imagine for a moment that you remembered everything you ever learned. Ever high school lesson, every cooking recipe, everything. You would probably be the smartest person on earth.

But the opposite is also true; if you don’t learn anything from the past, you may end up the dumbest person on earth.

While we’re all stupid on different subjects, the universally stupid seem to be those people that refuse to learn anything about history. Because history is nuthin if not repetitive.

Michael Crichton once said that, If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree.

Unfortunately, if Facebook has taught me anything, it’s that people have zero sense of history. Yet they’re part of a greater collective, a greater tree of stupid.

This worries me.

Then again, I can hardly count myself amongst the truly smart.

Her: Didn’t you just say those chips were making you feel sick?
Me: Yes.
Her: They why are you continuing to eat them?!
Me: (mouthful of chips) I’m not.


My buddy Ji just started a blog too so here’s a little plug for him – Better Pickled.

And while I’m at it, please check out artist Dana Burns, who left NYC to be an artist in France and posts in both English and French! Grenobloise

Mood: busy
Music: He’s so simple minded he can’t drive his module
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