Scaffolding and seasons

Like the finger pointing to the moon

Me: We should have a chat at some point soon.
Him: That sounds serious
Me: (shrugging) It’s not to me, but it might be to you.

In Enter the Dragon, Bruce Lee said, “It is like the finger pointing to the moon…”

He was paraphrasing the Shurangama Sutra, where the Buddha noted that, if someone points to the moon, don’t just look at the finger, because you’ll either:

      1. Miss the moon, or
      2. Think the finger is the moon

Got into an argument with someone recently and I said something in passing over the length of argument.

Found out from someone else that he mistook the passing remark as the crux of the argument. He mistook the finger for the moon.

Me: Wait, what…?! (rolling eyes) Oh for f___’s sake…THAT was his takeaway?

At some point, it’s meaningless trying to communicate to some people because you’re speaking English and they’re speaking Martian.

 

The boy’s birthday is coming up and I’ve been looking at all the people I’ve collected since he was born and everything went to hell.

Some people I’ve met have changed the path of my life, others have merely come and gone from my Venn Diagram, although I’m grateful for the experience, good or ill.

Boy: (in front of Grey’s Papaya on 72nd) The scaffolding. It’s gone. It looks different.
Me: Yes. Scaffolding is only supposed to be there a little while and then you take it down.
Him: Why?
Me: The building needed help for a while. And now it’s ok again.

Some people in your life are permanent while others are only seasons.

Figuring which ones are which, that’s the difficult part, I guess.

Location: earlier this morning, listening to the boy read to his class
Mood: nostalgic
Music: They say people in your life are seasons

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PSA: How to apologize

So, this is chivalry

It’s no great secret to say that a lotta people hated my old coach.

He knew it as well when he couldn’t figure out who, of his former students, tried to shut down his business.

Him: Was it you?
Me: I’m a lawyer. If I wanted you shut down, you’d be shut down. Plus, I’d want you to know it was me. (pause) You know both these things I’ve just said are true.

Wasn’t me because I was too busy trying not to kill myself and raise my son.

As I write these words, I’m amazed he thought he anything mattered enough to me to even bother. I think I was still sleeping with a bottle of rum next to me those days.

Plus, I never reached hate so much as pity and disappointment.

But I realized recently exactly what it was about him that bothered people on a visceral level while my son was watching Daniel Tiger: I don’t think that he ever learned how to properly apologize.

An apology consists of three steps:

      1. The words: “I’m sorry.”
      2. Some manifestation of contrition: “I feel awful about what I did; there’s no excuse.”
      3. And then some overt act to try make things right again.

Whenever he did anything untoward, he would either blame the other person, not mention it, or – and this was the best we could hope for – perhaps offer to buy us a lunch (step 3).

Don’t recall Steps 1 and 2 ever happening. Spoke to a few other former students and they agreed with me.

The last time we spoke, I asked him how he could be ok with so many people hating him – enough that someone was willing to ruin his life and business. He said he was fine with it.

That blew my mind.

Don’t mind being ignored – I wished for that as a kid. But to be hated so deeply by so many people who have known you for years shows a level of sociopathy that I don’t want anything to do with.

Who wants to be friends with someone that’s so ok with being hated?

Then again, I didn’t leave so much as I was asked to leave. In a very teenage sorta way:

Me: Wait, are you kicking me out?
Him: I’m not kicking you out, I just don’t think this is the gym for you.
Me: So, you’re kicking me out.
Him: No, I just don’t think this is the gym for you.
Me: So, I can come when one of the other instructors are here?
Him: No. It’s not a good fit.

You see, he told the Gymgirl/Mouse that if she dated anyone in the gym, he would kick the male out. If nothing else, he follows through.

This is despite the fact that she was a full-grown 28 year-old adult with brothers and a living father (which I only mention because it seems he thinks a male must be part of a female’s decision-making process). No matter, he knew best and he would make decisions on her personal life for her and she had no say.

It’s a special form of sexism that I, as a womanizer and a feminist, found repulsive. He called it chivalry.

I’ve always believed you don’t treat someone differently because they were or weren’t born with a particular organ.

You certainly don’t make decisions about their personal life if you’re being paid monthly to provide a service.

Mentioned this to my cousin, another former student, the other day.

Her: Wait, he said that? That’s so gross. I hate that.
Me: You and me both.

He never apologized to Mouse, or me, or anyone else for his poor behaviour. I wonder if it bothers him in the least.

Then again, we think he’s a sociopath so probably not.

I’m always surprised how many people have opinions on how two other consenting adults live their lives.

Oh well, not my circus, not my monkeys…

Here’s a picture of us just because I’m being petty. And she looks pretty in it.

Location: earlier today, another gym with three other former students
Mood: annoyed
Music: Burn all them bridges down, to the ground, cos I won’t be coming this way again.

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You’re in luck

I’m someone

CPK: The world is full of lonely people, it seems.
Me: So true; even/especially here in the big city.

Do you know that there are almost no alleys left in NYC?

You wouldn’t get that from TV and movies but it turns out that NYC has so few that production companies keep filming the same one – Cortlandt Alley – over and over again.

Just happened to walk by it the other day while I was getting my clothes tailored – more on that later (thanks, Mike!).

My point is that that’s the thing; rare things don’t really seem that rare until you try to look for them.

The kicker is that I actually live right next door to an alley that was used in another famous movie. But that’s my little secret.

Speaking of secrets, people seem to tell me a lotta secrets. Think it’s because – even before becoming a lawyer – I was known as someone that could keep them.

RN: You can’t tell anyone about this.
Me: I’ll put it in the vault.

And like the alleys, you think that people that can keep secrets are all over the place but this doesn’t seem to be the case. Cause I seem to field rando calls alla time from all sorts of people because they don’t have anyone else to tell them to.

Him: I needed to talk to someone.
Me: You’re in luck. I’m someone.

That kinda bums me out, that I’m all they’ve got.

So people call me to unburden themselves and I usually offer them some unsolicited advice, even though I know I shouldn’t.

Cause what do I know?

But I get it. We all need someone, or something, to tell our secrets to. Cause secrets are lonely things.

Life’s lonely enough as it is.

Me: You’re kinda my best friend. So I tell you things…
Her: Ditto.

On a related matter, my brother spends his free time talking to suicidal people and volunteering in dangerous foreign places.

I worry that he might be drawn into the abyss himself but he wants to help them. I can’t fault him for that. He’s a good soul and I”m proud of him.

Thank goodness for the good souls, yeah?

Location: the vault in my head
Mood: curious
Music: No chemical could recreate our chemistry

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Coffee makers, airplanes, and the people I know

The difference between knowledge and wisdom

Gymgirl: Shoot, I just realized I can’t bring a water bottle on the plane with me.
Me: Why don’t you have the water they give you?
Her: Do you know where that comes from?
Me: Well, at least have the coffee.
Her: It’s the same water.
Me: Actually, I have an interesting story about that…
Her: Can you tell me later? I’ve a ton to do.

Amazingly, the Gymgirl went on another trip recently. This time to Colorado to see her bestie for some skiing.

Did you know that airplane coffee makers are the reason behind a lot of plane delays? Like, a LOT of plane delays.

The reason is more complex than you might think but – for the sake of brevity – it’s like that Brown M&Ms story I told you about years ago:

It’s not so much the coffee maker but what the coffee maker represents.

Why isn’t the coffee maker working?

  • Is it electrical? If so, it’s on the same electrical circuit as the plane and you definitely don’t want a plane in the air with a faulty electrical circuit anywhere.
  • Is it water? That means no water for bathrooms, of course, but water is also linked to the cooling systems, amongst other things. Another major issue if you’re in the air.
  • Did someone forget something important, like the coffee itself? If so, what else did they forget?

It goes on. Like I said, it’s not the coffee maker, it’s what the coffee maker represents.

In some way, I look at life that way. I always wonder what something means. It’s part of why I never get a good night’s sleep.

A girl I dated once brought a book over that didn’t seem like her speed.

When I asked her why she had it, she said it was for a “co-worker,” but she had just left work. Why wouldn’t she just give it to the co-worker at work?

Here, I had a bit of knowledge: The girl had a book that seemed out of place. But knowledge, by itself, is meaningless because there’s a vast difference between knowledge and wisdom.

On Facebook, I’m still friends with a number of Trump supporters for various reasons who are given a set of data on a regular basis. Yet they somehow draw precisely the wrong conclusion each and every time.

Because they see data and think that equates to understanding. But the two are very different.

Anywho, it turns out that that the girl I was seeing was cheating on me  – she actually got that book for her ex and was planning on meeting him, for the third time, it turns out.

As for the current state of politics, I realize that I’m more irritated than anything else.

I’m irritated because, like I said, people tell you what they’re all about if you listen, and what they’re all about isn’t what I thought.

Location: dunno, but it feels like Antarctica here
Mood: freezing
Music: If I take you and your word, then I’m empty handed

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Rolling Stones gather no Confirmation Bias

Everyone believes very easily whatever he fears or desires

Buskers at 50th St Subway Station NYC
While I enjoy Kanye West as an artist, as a human being, he seems like a lout.

So when a posting came up on Facebook that said that he did another douchebag thing, I shared it only to find out later it wasn’t true.

The thing is, I assume he’s a douchebag so when I read something that proves it, I immediately believe it.

What irritated me most about that was that I should’ve known better.

One of the few things I remember from my first year in Prof. Maas‘ Psych 101 Class – waaaaaay back in 1990 – was the idea of confirmation bias, which essentially echoes poet Jean De la Fontaine idea that Everyone believes very easily whatever he fears or desires.

So when the Rolling Stone article about the UVA rape case was found to be completely false over the weekend, I thought of Prof. Maas and De la Fontaine again.

Rolling Stone and the authors wanted to believe that colleges are a hotbed of rape and misbehavior and found evidence to prove their position.

Only they didn’t. Instead, they just made it harder for genuine rape cases to be believed.

I see it every single day on Facebook. People that have evidence that aspartame and tilapia will kill you, Obama is a secret Muslim, and that jet fuel cannot melt steel.

It’s a daily thing – and something I perpetuated myself with Kayne West, because I wanted to believe he’s a douchebag and found evidence to support this, even when I didn’t.

Beliefs are dangerous things and they cloud judgement, even from those that should know better.

Still, it’s better to appreciate this with the smaller, insignificant things, than to realize it with bigger, more meaningful things. Just ask Rolling Stone magazine.

 

Location: in midtown later at midday for some afternoon cognac
Mood: hopeful
Music: People around gotta find something to say now

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Kill what you eat

If you’re willing to eat meat, you should be willing to kill it

Me: The best part of a chicken is the back.
Him: (disgusted) I’m not eating that.
Me: More for me.

My parents grew up in a time and place where they’ve each had to kill something to eat, my mother in particular.

When I was little kid, I went to Taiwan to see her mother, my grandma, who showed me how to properly kill a chicken. I saw this chicken walking around one moment and decapitated the next. She then proceeded to butcher it in the alley behind the house, careful not to nick any of the intestines.

Her: You’ll wreck it, otherwise. Do it wrong and you’ll get poop everywhere.
Me: Poop?
Her: Poop. Everywhere.

She did all this while smoking a cigarette, which is neither here nor there – just comically funny to me.

In any case, I saw the above video a few days ago; a friend put it up. It bothers me. People who have no problem buying sausage and a visceral reaction to seeing a pig being “slaughtered” for that sausage.

That strikes me as wrong.

If you’re gonna eat something, you should be able to accept that you’re about to eat something that was once a living, breathing animal.

It part of the reason why I find just tossing away food of any type, particularly meat, troubling.

That was once a living thing. Living things should be treated with respect.

Halal Gyro food in NYC

Location: last night, 7PM, watching the game at a buddy’s
Mood: sore
Music: Gonna hunt you like an, an, an, an, an, animal

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We were given treasure

People don’t realize what they have

Vases in a Window Display

I have a problem with people’s ingratitude.

That’s probably why I get so irritated with people who’ve never lived in NYC in the 70s-90s and miss the “gritter days.”

It’s easy for them to miss something they romanticize in their heads.

Me? I look at the ability to walk down the street and not be concerned about getting shanked a gift.

Speaking of gifts, after 9/11, people around the world sent their condolences and … stuff. Nations flew their flags at half-mast, dignitaries cried. What one might expect.

But a small tribe of Masai warriors in remote Kenya also heard about 9/11. Most had not even seen a plane before and couldn’t fathom buildings that tall. But they understood the magnitude of what had happened.

And so these incredibly poor people – “poor” in our economic understanding of the word – sent the United States 14 cows.

For the Masai people, cows are everything. They are, in fact, the single symbol of wealth as their entire culture revolves around cattle.

In any case, these 14 cows were accepted by the US but cared for in Africa – along with a reverse donation from the US of scholarships for the children there.

They’re still there, now numbering 35 or so.

I can only assume that the American ambassador that was given these animals realized that he was given treasure. Things that these people had worked for their whole lives.

Wonder what would’ve happened if the Ambassador didn’t realize what he’d been given and instead thought he was just being given a random buncha dirty animals.

It bothers me when people are given treasure and do nothing but complain about how it’s not good enough.

A 30 year-old man here in NYC just allegedly killed his father because he wanted more allowance.

People don’t see what they have – often through sheer dumb luck – they only see what they think the don’t have.

They possess treasure but no understanding that they do.

Exhibit at a Museum in NYC

I wrote this entry before I turned on news today.

Gunmen broke into an office building in Paris and executed a number of people including a wounded police officer.

It’s a scary world we live in today.

Location: in front of a large cuppa joe
Mood: sad
Music: I guess we thought that’s just what humans do

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Does Mark Wahlberg deserve to be pardoned?

Mark Wahlberg owes a debt

Mark Wahlberg pardon opinion
When Mark Wahlberg was 16, he randomly walked up two men on two separate occasions and assaulted them with a weapon – according to reports, in the second incident, he left Hoa Trinh permanently blind in one eye.

Wahlberg now wants a pardon from Massachusetts; a copy of his petition can be found here.

Essentially, he’s saying that he’s still being punished for his actions as a child and feels it’s time for the punishment to stop. In his petition, he feels he’s paid his debt to society.

And an article today tracked down Hoa Trinh who said that Mark Wahlberg did not, in fact, blind him.

In light of all this, let’s discuss the whole rationale for punishment. What’s the point of punishment in the first place?

There are essentially four reasons:

Prevention

We want stop criminals from hurting other people. The idea is that a would-be criminal balances the opportunity-cost of what he’s about to do.

Would you assault another man purely because he’s a different race than you and – AFAYK – blind him knowing that you might spend your life in jail?

Arguably not.

Would you do it, knowing that you will go to jail for 45 days, get out, become a famous rapper selling your own brand of teeth grills, movie star, multi-millionaire?

Arguably so.

To pardon Mark Wahlberg would achieve precisely the opposite of what this theory aims to accomplish.

Under the theory of prevention, Mark Wahlberg should not be pardoned.

Protection

We want to stop criminals from hurting other people. The idea here is that if a criminal is in jail, or otherwise incapacitated, he has no means of hurting others.

Mark Wahlberg is now a multi-millionaire. At this point, it is doubtful he would assault anyone else, lest he risk losing everything in a lawsuit.

This theory of punishment is essentially inapplicable to Mark Wahlberg. He serves as no current danger to anyone.

Under the theory of protection, he should be pardoned.

Retribution

We want criminals to “pay” for their crimes to society as a whole. Essentially, the theory is that if you hurt one of us, you hurt us all.

  • I am not Vietnamese. In that sense, Hoa Trinh is not my people. In that sense, Hoa Trinh is probably not one of your people.
  • I am Asian. In that sense, Hoa Trinh is my people. However, in that sense, Hoa Trinh is probably not one of your people.
  • I am an American. Hoa Trinh is an American. In that sense, Hoa Trinh is my people. Moreover, in that sense, Hoa Trinh is probably one of your people.

Mark Wahlberg spent 45 days in jail for assaulting two men for no reason. 45 days for blinding someone is too little punishment, but if Hoa Trinh was not actually blinded, then that is probably sufficient deterrent.

Under the theory of retribution, Mark Wahlberg should be pardoned.

Restoration

We want criminals to “pay for their crimes to their victims. Essentially, we want the criminals to put the world back as it was before their actions.

If a criminal steals a dozen eggs, he should replace those dozen eggs.

Despite having access to monies and resources you and I could only dream of, Mark Wahlberg stated publicly that, while he knows the right thing to do would be to find Hoa Trinh and somehow try to make things right for the man again, he has not done so.

You have to go and ask for forgiveness and it wasn’t until I really started doing good and doing right by other people, as well as myself, that I really started to feel that guilt go away. So I don’t have a problem going to sleep at night. I feel good when I wake up in the morning.

While it is great for him that he feels good when he wakes up in the morning, as far as he was aware, Hoa Trinh was still blind due to his actions.

With that in mind, Mark Wahlberg made no attempt to make Hoa Trish whole again, and is uninterested in doing so. And why should he be? He sleeps soundly at night.

Under the theory of restoration, Mark Wahlberg should not be pardoned.

It seems pretty split down the middle. Except his request for a pardon is one essentially one based on one thing alone: because he deserves it.

This is not a basis for freedom from punishment. But he can tip the balance in his favor.

If Mark Wahlberg wants to be pardoned, he should meet up with Hoa Trinh – who has requested to meet him – and do something to make amends.

This would fulfill the Restoration theory.

Pay for Trinh’s kid’s college fund, pay off his mortgage, etc. Even if it’s just saying: “Holy crap, I was a stupid kid. I’m so sorry” it would go a long way here.

Otherwise, there’s a still an outstanding debt that Wahlberg owes Trinh.

Mark Wahlberg has to pay that debt.

Either by holding on to the stigma of what he did as a stupid kid or meeting up with Trinh as a man and asking for the debt to be forgiven.

But debts have to be paid, one way or the other. That’s the nature of a debt.

Location: staring at the Friday clock
Mood: offended
Music: searching for good times but just wait and see

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The worst day I’ve had in a while

Google will replace a cracked Nexus 5 screen for free

Cracked Nexus 5 Screen

Was out in Brooklyn meeting a client in the summer heat two days ago. Got mixed up and ended up being 20 minutes late – and I’m rarely late. Not a good start to a rough meeting.

Grabbed a bus to avoid walking in the heat and, when it lurched, heard a crack in my back pocket. My less-than-six-months-old Google Nexus 5 just bit the dust.

Then I got home and got confirmation that I lost my biggest and oldest client; they hired an in-house counsel. All-in-all, a rough day.

But then I saw more headlines for ISIS and the poor fella that they killed.

And my friend – who works for a non-profit – told me that he just received an email.

It seems that, because of the ebola epidemic, prices for food and other staple items are skyrocketing. The people he works with in Sierra Leone  – who are a very, very proud people – were asking for a slight and temporary stipend to be able to afford food to feed their family.

How much were they asking for?

$20 extra. For the month.

Suddenly, I felt really ridiculous about my worst day.

It got even more ridiculous as I found out that, 17 hours prior to my cracking my Nexus phone, Reddit just released that Google Play would replace any cracked Nexus phone purchased through them for free.

20 minutes after I called Google, got an email that a new phone would be shipped to me free of charge in a week.

I’ve said a few times now that all emotional pain comes when your expectation of reality doesn’t match reality.

I’ve also said that I’ve got no complaints. I’ve got my people, my pad, my poison, and my person.

Couldn’t really wish for much more.

Google Red Nexus 5 replacement

While writing this, UPS came by with my replacement phone. In less than 24 hours. Amazing.

———–

The following are charities that work in Ebola-afflicted countries and all have three or four stars from Charity Navigator. Skip your morning coffee, send them a fivver, and feel good about the rest of your day.

Location: NYC, where there’s no ebola
Mood: so grateful
Music: Hold on, hold on, we’ve got the lights dear
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It’s not just a piece of paper

Marriage is not just a piece of paper

Couple on boat on lake with balloons

Wife: Do you know what I want?
Me: World peace?
Her: No, nachos!

Some time ago, a buddy told me that he was (finally) getting married after living with his girlfriend for almost a decade.

When I asked him why, he reminded me that he had just come back from a vacation in Europe. Turns out he was involved in an argument with a local peddler.

Somehow, things spiraled from there and he ended up getting arrested.

But while locked up, his girlfriend wasn’t allowed to even visit him as she wasn’t a relative. She also wasn’t able to go back to the hotel to get his passport that day because she couldn’t prove she had a right to be in the room as he booked it with his hotel miles.

Only after the a day of waiting was she finally able to get in, get their passports, and clear up the matter.

Whenever someone says that “Marriage is just a piece of paper” I shake my head with disbelief. They’re only focusing on the emotional part of it – which I also don’t believe is true – and not on any of the legal and societal aspects.

Recently, just heard about another friend going through something similar here.

Marriage is a lot more than just a piece of paper. Even if you don’t think so, the rest of the world does.

Me: Look at it this way, now you two need a court order to break up.
Him: Is that a good thing?
Me: (laughing) It is in my case.

Location: start of a new work week
Mood: relaxed
Music: All on my own I don’t think that I’d have fared so well
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