What a Year...

I’ve promised/planned so many blogs that I haven’t delivered on in the last few months.  Still, I’ve got to AT LEAST do one to wrap up the year of 2016, so I’m going to try to cram in all of the ones I’ve been meaning to do, Cliff’s Notes style, before getting to the meat of my New Year’s post…

The Grand Experiment (Results):

Remember when I said I was going to try out a few dating apps, to see what they’re like?  Yeah, I did that.  My opinion of them at the end?.... Meh... 

Match cost money, and yet I didn’t get much activity on it.  I would get a match here and there, but not very many that truly caught my eye.  Those that did really catch my eye, I would send them a message or something and then would never hear back from them (typically).  After a while, and when talking to a couple of my matches, it became apparent that Match.com’s algorithms give your profile more attention in the last couple of days of your paid membership.  Then you get even more push after your membership expires.
Since I let my membership expire, I have had twice as many matches reach out to me as I did when I was paying… Though since I’m not paying, I don’t have access to see those matches or the ability to respond to them.  It’s a trap.

As for Bumble… I got really few matches on that app.  Also, most of the few that I did get, wouldn’t say a word.  As a reminder, Bumble is the app where the woman HAS to make the first move.  When you both swipe right, she’s the only one that can send the first message.  I only had two actually send me a message, and one of them ended up being a friend, who borrowed someone’s phone and messaged me for her.  I don’t know why I got so little communication on Bumble… Maybe people just aren’t using it that much, maybe my profile/pictures suck, or maybe some of the women on there are realizing how difficult it can be to make the first move…

And finally, Tinder.  I talked to and even met a handful of people through this that are fun and interesting.  I went on a few dates.  They were fun, but not particularly worth following up on.  It’s a surprisingly nice way to meet random people who may share some interests or a sense of humor with you.  But for actually dating? Not for me.

Again, maybe it’s just the matches that I’m getting, or maybe it’s my profile not being as “swipe-able” as the other guys on there, or maybe I’m just not giving it and the women I meet enough of a chance.  But overall, it’s a fun social tool, not a successful dating strategy, at least not in my eyes.

So to summarize: Tinder is the only one worth anything, but even that is not great for dating.  So, as a result of all this, some days I think “I’m ready to start legitimately dating again and take this seriously.”  It’s an uplifting feeling, it’s nice.

Then other days, I remember all the games and BS rules that come along with dating in our modern society and I think, “F*** that.  Not worth the headache.” 

In other words, I’m right back where I was at this time last year!  If I stumble across someone that really interests me, then I’ll ask her out.  Otherwise, forget it.

A Quick Update (Parts 3 & 4):
I have been working a ton lately.  Traveling some, going to after work events, and having long meetings resulting in long hours… It’s been good, I love the new job, even though at times it eats into my social life.  I’ve met some new people, had some fun nights, and my friends all seem to think that I have Don Draper’s job. 

When I was planning out these two blog posts earlier, I had a lot more to say about work.  It’s been moving so fast though, that I’ve forgotten what I was going to say.  So instead here’s a variety of pictures from work.

My office...

My tiny zen garden...

The conference in Vegas 1...

The conference in Vegas 2...

The conference in Vegas 3...

The conference in Vegas 4...

End of the conference...

Don Draper 1...

Don Draper 2...

As for the house… it’s ok.  But I’m really not crazy about it.  I know I told the landlord that I would be looking to live there a long time, but I just don’t like the house enough, and I still really want to buy my own house.  So prepare yourselves to hear more about that house search in 2017. 

For those wondering about Levi and wanting an update on the old man… He’s still doing great!  He has a tumor the size of a grapefruit in his throat, and a bunch of harmless, fatty tumors all over his chest and belly.  Also, it feels like there may be some more, not-so-harmless tumors in his chest.  Despite all that, he has the energy of a puppy, and nothing seems to be slowing him down.  He’s the Benjamin Button of dogs.

For an update on my dating life, see above.

Unnamed Post-Election Blog:

Shounak and I had talked about doing a ton of post-election blogs in an attempt to calm what few people we could and hopefully have some small impact on our world.  But then life happened and I got too busy to write, and frankly lost the drive for a while there. 

So I do still have some things that I want to say and share on this topic, and I will, soon.  But for now, allow me to remind my readers of a little something…

If the election didn’t go your way:  It’s not the end of the world.  Don’t panic, don’t give in to the catastrophic mindset that has fallen over our society and that is perpetuated by 24/7 media.  Stand up for what you believe in, in a peaceful and respectful way, even if you aren’t treated with respect in turn.  Screaming at each other, fighting, and continuing to grow the divides in our society won’t accomplish anything worthwhile.  Show respect, and make an effort to understand “the other side”, because respect and understanding are the only things that will bridge these gaps.

If the election did go your way:  Congrats.  But don’t stop now, there is still work to be done.  Just because things went your way this time, doesn’t mean that there isn’t still a massive divide in this country, and it doesn’t mean that everything will magically be great again.  So…   Stand up for what you believe in, in a peaceful and respectful way, even if you aren’t treated with respect in turn.  Screaming at each other, fighting, and continuing to grow the divides in our society won’t accomplish anything worthwhile.  Show respect, and make an effort to understand “the other side”, because respect and understanding are the only things that will bridge these gaps.

We are not all as different as we are led to believe.  So stop and listen to your fellow citizens, for we must strive to find a way to respect each other and to unify once again.
That should do it for the summaries, time to get into the real New Years blog…

Every year around this time, I write a blog with the purpose of summarizing the year behind us, and looking forward to the one ahead.  As I begin that process, and look back at 2016, I see a few bright spots that were simply wonderful… and they are surrounded by the rest of the year, which resembled a dumpster full of crap sandwiches that spontaneously combusted due to a high level of methane.

2016 began, at least for me, with such incredibly high hopes and so much promise.  The year began on so many optimistic notes (365 days ago), and yet it so quickly turned to ash.  Still, I don’t want to harp on my personal life, this blog is meant to be a look at the year for all of us…

This year we lost: David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, Allen Rickman, Leonard Cohen, and Carrie Fisher (to name only a very few). 

This year contained the most violent mass shooting in US history, and that was only one of over 340 mass shootings nationwide this year.

Multiple police brutality cases and subsequent riots took the already large divide between minorities and police, and cut it open like Jack Nicholson with an axe. 

On top of all this was the incredibly drawn out and much too long 2016 election.  It was the most demeaning and pathetic excuse for civil discourse in recent memory, and it took almost the entire year to get through it all.  Now that we have gotten through it, we are in uncharted waters… No matter what you think about the results, it’s undeniable that the country is left in a very tumultuous and unsure place. 

All of this combined to create one of the most divided (by race, location, religion, political affiliation, gender, or sexual orientation) societies in our country’s history.  And I’m not even touching on things that happened in the rest of the world, because at some point we all must stop staring at the flaming dumpster of 2016, and look forward to whatever 2017 holds.

On that note, a hope…

In the next year, I hope that you rise. 

If you’ve been knocked down, pick yourself up… there will be people there to help, whose shoulders you can stand on.

Help up those around you, let them stand on your shoulders… because when we all stand together, we are giants.

If you wish to be heard, raise your voice… but raise it in song, not anger, because the world needs more beauty and less hate.

Give a voice to the voiceless, fill the silence with song… because harmony can’t be achieved alone.

If you feel alone and afraid, stand up to your fears… because the only way to push back the darkness is to shine bright.

Be a light for those around you… because the only way we can be the shining city on the hill is if we each make the effort to shine.

If an opportunity is passing you by, reach out and grab it… you never know how high it will take you until you try.

If you can provide opportunities for others, do so… opportunities are like kites, they’re more beautiful when they fill the sky, and with enough of them, you may be able to fly.

If your goals seem unattainable, keep climbing toward them… there will always be a new horizon, but with each one you reach, you grow a little more.

Make a trail for a path that hasn’t been taken, so others can follow in your footsteps… whoever follows you, may someday lead you somewhere new.

The next year will be filled with challenges, both large and small, for each and every one of us… I hope that we can each rise to the occasion, for together we can be stronger than we ever were alone.

And finally, I will leave you with this, in honor of Leonard Cohen and the challenges we can overcome…


The Perils of Multi-Tasking

Multi-Tasking: Doing many things to achieve nothing

Friends who stopped texting me every time they eat Indian food + Teresa,

If you find yourself home on Friday night because you have Ebola, are still recovering from the fallout of globalization, or you realize youre not 22, you can treat yourself to an hour of Shark Tank. The premise of this show revolves around decent and hard-working individuals who present their start-up ideas and then proceed to get mercilessly bitch slapped by five billionaires who use the show as a replacement for therapy (i.e. Adam Smiths wet dream). 

The one common theme you hear from all five investors is the creed of multitasking. Marc Cuban, a judge on the show and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, claims, “I work 20 hours a day and Im usually doing three things at the same time.” The head Grinch on the show, Mr. Wonderful, proudly stated in one episode, “You have to work very fast, give up every other hobby you have, juggle thirty things at once, and then maybe you might make it.” The notion that multi-tasking is the key ingredient in success isn’t confined merely to the egalitarian class. In a survey by the Washington Post in July 2014, over 78% of Americans believe that if they arent taking on multiple tasks at once they will lose their job. Another report put out by the Harvard Business Review last summer noted that out of 300,000 job postings put up in 2015, an astonishing 82% demanded prospective employees excel at multi-tasking.

Even with the new push for mindfulness (our main subject for my next blog), Americans are more enamored with multi-tasking. Speed evangelicals argue that a swifter and more hands-full approach to life leads to more time, better productivity, and greater prosperity. However, evidence shows that all three of these notions couldn’t be further from the truth. There are two prime examples that prove meticulous planning over multi-tasking proves to be a superior method.

Even in todays digital and app-service age, working professionals are finding it harder to allocate time to all the endeavors they value. In a CNBC Europe survey taken in March 2015, only 4% of millennials, in the world, felt they have experienced a day where they accomplished completing all the tasks they wanted (tasks included beanie shopping, beach selfie Instagramming, and wearing ones Amnesty International sweatshirt they bought at Whole Foods).

Correspondents on the financial network suggested the quick fix solution is juggling more things at once. But wellness researchers disagree. MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller argues “our brains are not wired to multitask well…when people think theyre multitasking, theyre actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, theres a cognitive cost.”

Ariana Huffington, the first deportee under a Donald Trump administration, believes that trying to work on multiple projects at once increases error and leads to a counter-psychological effect that elevates a humans desire to achieve more in the current time period.

In her books, “Thrive” and “Sleep Revolution” the former Greek blogger chronicles numerous examples in the investment banking industry where young professionals are pushed to take on more tasks, adopt “volunteer” initiatives, and handle requests from multiple managers. After the 2008 financial crisis, numerous reports highlighted many investment bankers missing simple mathematical errors, forgetting to place risk-averse trades, missing client meetings, and being too tired to provide employer feedback. Since the Reagan “greed is good” era in the early 80’s, the number of suicides in high pressure jobs (banking, hospital care, police work) has skyrocketed by 256%.

The perils of multi-tasking are not simply confined to the finance industry. Recent reports out of Silicon Valley are proving even the smartest IT professionals are getting crushed by an over-load of work. TechCrunch reports more than 38% of support services at start-ups are hiring more workers and eliminating the on-call component of ones job. Zenefits, a once promising start-up in SF, folded after poor management decisions. For starters, Zenefitis boasted that their managers were skilled professionals who were jacks-of-all trades (except for the skill of running a profitable business #boomroasted) and oversaw a number of departments.

In 2014, I had the opportunity to interview with this company. Back then Zenefits had a staff of over 200 people, but there was no receptionist to meet me and show me to my interview. After 30 minutes, two people rushed in to ask me questions and apologized because they had just learned they were on the interviewing committee.

The common pushback from those who defend a busier lifestyle argue it leads to a more productive society. But does it?

Now there many methods and metrics to measure productivity. However, there is only one word to call someone who mentions the word productivity in a conversation and that word is “douchebag”. Every year, Forbes magazine ranks the productivity levels of 180 countries. In the past ten years, America has never been ranked as the most productive nation in the world.

But this shouldn’tt be a surprise. Behavioral psychologist Daniel Kahneman notes that the human brain shuts down if they are in same arena for more than seven hours. Despite the illusion of our workforce duties being more dynamic, we know this to be false. It should be no surprise that the monotony of an average blue AND white collar job leads to an eventual decline in cognitive thinking.

While many multi-tasker enthusiasts acknowledge the mental trade-offs of juggling a number of projects, they forcefully argue that this burden bears its fruit in economic gains. This is another unfounded myth. Again, there are a number of metrics to measure economic success. For this blog we will focus on the quantitative calculation of a worker in the developed world and the lead sectors that lubricate the global economy.

The OECD (Organization for Economic Co-Operation Development), ranks the financial output of the standard worker in the developed world. If youre gotten this far in the blog, it will come as no surprise that the OECDs statistical ranking places the United States at 18th. Despite US laborers working more hours than any other industrialized nation, we still are less economically productive than four nations who cap their work weeks at 35 hours.

Even if you qualify that as an objective measure we can still point to the two aforementioned sectors, finance and technology, as an economic reason NOT to engage in excessive multi-tasking. Since 2008, finance and technology have been the only industries in America that have grown in number of employees and capital allocation. Both of these industries have been developed by former McKinsey and Bain consultants who pride themselves in engaging in the multi-tasking arena. However, both of these have succumbed to the short-sighted thinking of corporate strategic consulting.

While these two industries were the growth darlings in the early 10s, gains in tech and finance are starting to slowly erode. In the past five years, The Economist points out that the number of hedge funds have dropped by nearly 54% and the number of tech companies have swindled from 7,200 to 4,500. Twitter, once considered to be a tech giant, has yet to make a profit and is in the process of down-sizing. Financial gurus tab this as smart fiscal consolidation, but this statement contains more bullshit than a Donald Trump African-American outreach speech. From the laymens perspective you probably couldn’t name a successful merger in the past five years and you would be right. A staggering 82% of mergers in the finance and technology field have been deemed fiscal failures.      
So this begs the question, why should we adopt a mindset that has dulled our creative ability, tarnished our overall mental state, and provided us with no fiscal gain? The answer is that we shouldn’t.

Many of you would argue that a society with a systematic way of life in the corporate world is a hipsters heaven that would not be possible. However, there are many moments in history that would prove you wrong. In the course of researching for this blog, I found hundreds of large scale projects from the earliest construction of temples in Asia to Portugals policy for decriminalization as evidence that meticulous planning trumps multi-tasking. Still, I will only focus on two projects that are near to my heart.

When tracing the roots of the tech industry one looks back to a top-notch institution in Silicon Valley. Known as the birthplace of Google, Tesla, and Yahoo!, Stanford University has been deemed the prime incubator for technological innovation. Youd think that the founders of this institution would be proud of the multi-tasking of the tech sector, but you would be wrong.

In honor of his son who passed from typhoid, railroad tycoon and former California governor, Leland Stanford sought out to build one of Californias first non-denominational and co-ed universities. In 1891 Stanford opened its doors to its first students and in 1893 Leland Stanford died. The school struggled financially for several decades after Mr. Stanfords death. Local papers decried this university as “academic boondoggle” and an “educational nightmare that couldn’t teach Japanese immigrants how to use chopsticks.”

But, Leland’s model was different in one key way. The former Governor purposely built an institution where roles and responsibilities were more segmented than any other college at that time.  The Silicon Valley-based campus aspired to build programs where teachers would solely teach. Leland and his predecessors prohibited professors taking on side projects. Stanford University was the first academic institution to carve out programs that focused on endowments, creating public-private partnerships, and student mentorship programs.

When many academic institutions folded or increased tuition during the Great Depression and in the financial crisis of 2008, Stanford did neither. Admittedly, the universitys current core goals and student body deserve a fair amount of criticism, but no one can deny that Stanford has built the foundation to be a long lasting elite institution.

While this blog has focused on sectors shaping our current society, we humans are also affected by the places we visit. For me that would be the Taj Mahal.

On May 15th, 1632, during John McCains sweet 16 birthday party, Shah Jahan, a Moghul emperor in Northern India, commissioned the construction of a monument in honor of his wife. Architects of the romantic shrine estimated it would be completed in five years. The Taj Mahals final complex was built in 1652 and Mr. Jahan deemed the shrine to be finally finished in 1665. What was the hold up?

During the initial stage of development, two architects were tasked with developing the budgets, gathering workers, and developing blue prints for each corridor of the Taj Mahal. But in 1637, Shah Jahan halted construction and hired five more individuals to oversee the project. Unknown to him at the time, Mr. Jahan not only created what would be one of the Seven Wonders of the World but also a new job, the project manager.

Mr. Jahans meticulous and methodical approach paid off. Despite Indias rampant government corruption, fiscal imprudence, and horrendous environmental record that would make Leonardo Dicaprio weep organically filtered tears, the Taj Mahal has largely been immune to all these problems (for nearly 400 years!).

Mr. Jahan was such a forward thinker that in the mid 1600s, he purchased more land for public transportation. The Taj Mahal has never been attacked nor has it been the center of property debate. The commission has always funneled donations back to maintain the building and no government official in Agra, where the Taj Mahal is located, has EVER been implicated in a money laundering scheme.

With technology, constant public criticism, and shareholders having a greater stake in how businesses run I will admit society may no longer produce a new elite institution or a historic monument. But that doesn’t mean we cant recalibrate our lifestyle. As someone who recently turned 30, I understand that even daily activities once deemed effortless have become ever more arduous (i.e. stretching). However, nothing is stopping us from slowing down and prioritizing one task at a time. If anything, take your cue from the hosts of Shark Tank. In Season 3, all five “Sharks” demand to cut down on pitch meetings and restructure the show where they analyze one investment at a time.

When asked about the change in format, Mr. Cuban replied, “When you look at one thing at a time, youre more focused, you learn quicker, and you just make better decisions.” 


The Lesson We All Forget

                Writing a blog on a topic like this is always difficult.  I think that’s because it never feels like the words measure up to the emotion of the events.  The words can never quite seem to capture the gravity of situation.
                Last week someone I know (not really well, but I talked to him at least once a week for the last three months), was killed in a hit and run.  The day after he died I spoke with his co-workers, his supervisor, and his mom.  That last one was the most difficult phone call I’ve ever made… If I think words are failing me now, it’s nothing compared to that phone call…

                Needless to say, anytime something like this happens, it is a horrific and tragic event.  Still, when it happens to someone you know, it has a different effect.  It has reminded me of a lesson that I’ve heard a thousand times, but which has only truly sunk in once or twice.
                Life is short.  So live it while you’ve got it.

                We make plans for our lives, and that’s all well and good.  It’s a sign of ambition, to have goals or dreams and to systematically chase them.  But we forget how easily our plans can be derailed. 

                Sometimes they’re overturned by a bad habit that has never had a negative impact on us until the one time it does.  Sometimes it’s caused by a single moment of distraction, no matter how brief, or whether or not we’re even the ones distracted.  It could even happen completely out of the blue, with no rhyme or reason whatsoever. 

                In some ways, we human beings are so much stronger and so much more tenacious than we give ourselves credit for.  But at the same time, our lives are fragile and can be changed or ended in less than half a second.

                I guess what I’m trying to say is, planning out your life is great and fantastic.  But when your life can end in an instant… well… don’t let an opportunity for something great pass by just because it doesn’t fit into your plans.  At least give it a second look.  You may think you know exactly where your life is leading you, but you don’t.  Between now, and the time you reach your goal, your goal and your life will have changed.

                Life is so full of wonders and possibilities; and your chances to enjoy them can end in a flash.  So live every moment… maybe not as if it is your last moment, but at least as if it is a precious one, because I guarantee you it is.

                Your entire world can collapse around you with a phone call, a doctor’s words, or a walk across the street where you never reach the other side…

                People say they want to live a life without regrets.  But not only is that impossible, it’s naïve.  If you never regret anything in your life, then you’ve never accepted your mistakes and learned from them.  And I promise you, you will make mistakes, you will fall, you will fail, and your entire world will be flipped upside down in ways you never thought possible. 

                So chase your dreams, but don’t let them rule your life; have the flexibility to allow your dreams to change as you do.  Do your best to live a life without regrets, but when you fall, don’t forget it, learn from it.  And remember to love those close to you, with every fiber of your being, because you never know when their love could be the only thing left for you to hold on to.


The Grand Experiment: Part 1

                I’ve written quite a few blogs in my life.  I’ve only ever done research for a handful of them.  And even then, the research only lasted a few hours each time.  I’ve never written a blog that required a long period of research or experimentation… That being said, I’m about to do something I haven’t done before, and I’d like to document it in a blog.  So this post is my “before” post.  And part two will be written after this little experiment concludes, in a month or two…

                Dating as a Millennial isn’t the same as it was for previous generations.  It has become a multi-billion dollar industry.  Online dating sites, matchmaking services, and most of all, dating apps, have led to this massive money monster.  But what is that doing to the actual process of dating?

                All of these sites and apps are advertised as if they make dating easy.  The love of your life is simply a click away!  And maybe it works for some people… and maybe I’m old fashioned with this idea of mine that dating isn’t supposed to be easy.  It’s the process of building relationships with other people and watching them crumble one by one until you find the one that won’t.  

                Dating is ugly, it’s painful, humiliating, heart-wrenching, scary, and difficult.  But it’s also beautiful, fun, exhilarating, hilarious, fulfilling, and rewarding.  The one thing that dating absolutely isn’t?  Easy.

                It can’t be easy, not really.  If it’s easy, then you aren’t emotionally invested, and that person means nothing to you, which isn’t a great way to build a relationship.  And that’s my problem with the dating industry that our generation has built into such a massive economic powerhouse…

                We don’t build relationships, instead we text because if we say what we want to say over the phone, our voices may crack, and there will be less room for interpretation of what we mean.  If we actually meet someone face to face for a difficult conversation?  Then we may have to see their face, or even worse, they’ll see ours. 

Our emotions show on our face, and showing our emotions is how we get to know each other.  If we let this person know what we’re feeling, we may become vulnerable.  And if we’re vulnerable, we get hurt.  So instead we wrap ourselves in the emotional bubble wrap that the dating industry provides through technology and anonymity. 

There’s a glaring problem with that though… that vulnerability that we’re protecting ourselves from?  It’s the only way to build connections that truly matter.  A friendship or relationship without that vulnerability and without emotions, is empty.  It may be fun to spend time with that person for a while, but they’ll never truly matter in your life, nor you in theirs.

At least, that’s my current point of view on dating as a Millennial.  That being said… I’ve only very briefly used one dating site before I cancelled my subscription.  And I’ve never used a single dating app.  So I feel like I can’t justify this hatred for them unless I actually give them a try, and a fair one at that.

Admittedly, giving them a fair try won’t be easy, I’m clearly biased on the subject.  Still, I’m going to do my best to withhold judgement… for at least a month and a half.

I’ve decided that I will download three different dating apps (now that I have a smartphone, which will be the topic of my next blog).  And I will give them all at least a month and a half, maybe two months before I write the second part of this blog, which will be my findings.  Did I absolutely hate the entire process?  Or did I at least have some fun? 

Having a bit of fun is, I’m fairly certain, the best I can hope for from this adventure.  I’ll believe their advertising about true love being one simple click away when Emma Watson’s dating profile shows up on my phone… Still, I’ll try to keep an open mind… stranger things have happened I suppose.

Anyway, the three I’m going to download are (drumroll please…)

Tinder:  This one is obvious.  It’s the king of the dating apps, and it has played a significant role in shaping the dating industry and the habits of my entire generation.  Its logo is a small flame, which I’m sure is in reference to the fact that Tinder has turned the world of dating into a dumpster fire.  Still, what’s the worst that can happen?  It is built entirely to protect us from ever having to get hurt by someone after all… 

Match:  I should mention, I’m only downloading the free app, not getting a paid subscription to Match.com.  I’m not committed enough to this experiment to spend money on a subscription.  And if you’re wondering why use Match at all then… it’s because Match.com has ruled the online dating market with an iron fist for years, now that they’re getting into the app market?  Well, maybe they know what they’re doing, or maybe they don’t.

Bumble:  As I understand it, this is basically Tinder, except that it’s more popular in 2016 because it’s newer and things move pretty fast around here… Also, when two people are looking to become a match on Bumble (at least for hetero couples, sorry everyone else, for you it really is just Tinder), the girl must make the first move.  This caught my eye, because I’ve always been attracted to confident women, so it will be interesting to see what it’s like to flip the script.

All right… I don’t want to rant anymore about the degradation of the dating pool, not yet anyway.  So let’s get this ridiculous experiment started… And ladies, if you are on any of these apps, I’d like to just apologize in advance.  Chances are that I’m going to make an ass of myself, probably frequently.


A Quick Update 2

                Just over three months into the year, I wrote a post to give all of you A QUICK UPDATE on my life this year.  I’ve been getting a lot of people asking for further updates.  So, I figure now that we’re another quarter into the year, perhaps it’s time for a second one. 

                When we left off, three months ago, I was in the hunt for a new place.  Let me tell you, the search was NOT an easy one… The housing/rental market in Reno is pure insanity at the moment.  I made appointments to go see places the day they went on the market, but by the time I arrived for my appointment (two and a half hours later), the houses were each already rented out. 

                I went to open houses so full of people that I had to stand shoulder to shoulder with strangers.  I’ve never been to a Justin Bieber concert, but I imagine that it would be a similar experience… A bunch of people crammed together, each slightly embarrassed to show their eagerness to get to the front, but not so embarrassed as to not throw an occasional elbow.

                Lucky for me, I did eventually find a place.  I really had to sell myself to the landlords when I met them.  They were looking for a long term tenant, who would be willing to take care of minor repairs on the house on their own.  I pulled out all the stops, laid it on thick, and it certainly helped that I had a great credit score… Eventually I got the house, and the landlord informed me that I beat out 107 other applicants!  The house had only been posted for a week.

                Anyway, I got the place, then the move was the next stage.  I hate moving… I don’t mind helping other people move… but my own stuff?  Terrible.

                I barely did any packing, and very little prepping.  So when moving day finally came, I was very lucky to have some amazing friends who essentially did everything for me.  Couldn’t/Wouldn’t have done it without each of you!  Also, I realized that I have way too much crap…  So there’s still a couple couches and a foosball table in my garage if anyone wants them… As well as some other random stuff.
                The new house… I’m still getting used to it.  There’s certain aspects of it that I really like, and other aspects that I really don’t.  The biggest advantage though is that it is right next to a nice park.  I realized that this was a big advantage weeks ago… and now that Pokémon Go is out, I cannot stress enough how amazing it is to have a park that close to my house.  I’m loving it… 

                On to the next update topic… The new job!  Last update I had recently given my two weeks’ notice at my job of seven years, and would be starting a new one soon.  Well the new one has begun, and it’s been wonderful.  I got an amazing new office, some great co-workers, and plenty of diverse work that keeps me engaged and interested.

                At my old job, it became a daily grind.  Corporate wasn’t open to new ideas, so it was simply a matter of doing the same thing, over and over, day in and day out.  I ended up getting so bored with that job that I would play games with myself, like seeing how long I could work with my eyes just slightly crossed before getting a headache.  Or attempting to type out entire emails only to the beat of whichever song was currently stuck in my head. 

                Thankfully, the new job keeps me busy, very busy, and with so much more than just a daily grind.  I’m getting to do new and different things all the time!  It’s pretty great.  And at my last job, I had to wait five years before I got the chance to travel for work at all.  Here, it’s only been a few months and I’ve already got travel arrangements.

                That brings us to the third topic from my last update… my dating life.  Last time I mentioned that I had just been on a couple dates with a girl, and she gave my butterflies in my stomach, and I thought she was special… I was clearly smitten.

Well, it lasted for a little while.  In fact, we had the makings for a fantastic rom com script.  But then real life happened, and soon after everything went to shit.  At first I behaved like a puppy that had just had a shoe thrown at its head and didn’t know why.  So I (figuratively and literally) cowered in the corner for a while, hanging my head in shame. 

Then I tried reaching out (don’t drink and text kids, it’s stupid…) and didn’t get the answer I wanted.  So once again I behaved like a puppy.  This time I acted out, (only figuratively…) knocking over the trash can and peeing on the contents.  My behavior was dumb, and I immediately regretted it.  All I did was add to my already massive pile of embarrassment. 

When it all started, I promised myself that I wasn’t going to go head over heels immediately, like I always do.  But then things happened, and my promises went right out the window.  So I went head over heels, and landed face first on the pavement.

After my childish behavior, I hoped to keep things amicable, so that we could at least remain on speaking terms; but apparently it’s too little too late.  Now that I look back on everything, there were warning signs early on that I, of course, ignored.  I would say that I’ve learned my lesson, and that next time I’ll pay attention to those signs before I get burned.  But let’s face it… I won’t.

It’s very rare that I meet someone I genuinely like in that way, so when it happens, I fall hard and I fall fast.  I am Ted Mosby.  I wear my heart on my sleeve, and I occasionally act like a child.  That’s just me… deal with it… or don’t.  Needless to say, the butterflies are gone, though I still think she's special and I wish her the best.

In other news, I haven’t been sleeping well again, for about the last two months… Not being able to fall asleep, then waking up again and again once I do finally get there.  Sometimes I hate my brain and I wish I could read it my favorite bed time story… (GO THE FUCK TO SLEEP)

And as a final note, to wrap this update up, let’s talk about Pokémon Go.  It’s so incredibly addicting.  Yes, for those of you who are disgusted by this fad, I play it, and I’m quite proud of that fact.  It’s a throwback to one of my favorite things from childhood, and frankly it makes for a fun escape from an otherwise stressful life. 

So if you want to judge me for playing it, go right ahead, I don’t care.  It’s fun… You do still remember what “fun” is, right?  It may be childish, but I feel it’s important not to ever let go of the kid inside us. 

When we were kids we all saw the world through lenses of wonder and magic, and it was that world that made us dream big.  We weren’t dreaming of being mid-level management at an accounting firm, or fantasizing about getting a reserved parking spot at the office… We wanted to be heroes, we wanted to be marine biologists (even though we had no idea what that really meant), and we wanted to have fun every day of our lives. 

For me at least, Pokémon Go taps into that.  To see those characters that I loved, come to life in the real world… to see so many people my own age, running around parks with the same goofy grin on their faces… and most of all, to remember, even if only for a moment, what it was like to dream big… Those are the things that are making this game so addicting for me.

That, and my gym loyalty… Go Team Yellow!

As one last note, I’ve never wanted to download a dating app of any kind.  I feel like they are a huge contributing factor to the degradation of romance in my generation (that’s a topic for a future blog).  They’re terrible.  However, I have met and seen plenty of very attractive women playing Pokémon Go now.  And I have a built in ice breaker… I’m somewhat considering using this game as a dating app.  Besides, then I know we have something in common already, and that she is still in touch with her inner child, which is nice.

Who knows?  It could work… unless she’s on Team Red.... that's unforgivable. 


An Introduction to Mallowing...

                This blog is rated PG-13 due to mild cartoon violence.

                Today I want to talk to you about stress relief.  We’ve all had those days, weeks, or months where no matter what we do, nothing seems to go right… Maybe it’s because of work, maybe you’re in the middle of a move, perhaps money is tight, you’ve got family problems, or you’re planning a wedding.  For my part, I’ve had a stressful couple of months.  A new job, a move that ended up being more difficult than I expected, and in the last couple of weeks, a tendency to put my foot in my mouth so often I’ve started to see Nike swooshes on everything I eat. 

                Whatever the case, sometimes you need to just take the edge off…

Now, since the stress has set in, I’ve tried all kinds of different methods of stress relief… I’ve drank far too much, I’ve begun exercising again (I walked at least 5 miles every day last week).  I’ve been re-reading one of my favorite books, and you may have noticed that I’ve been writing more, a lot more.  However, through all of that, I hadn’t partaken in the greatest stress relief method of all time, not yet, not until just the other day…

I introduce you to!.... Mallowing!!

The name derives from a cat that was at the SPCA for quite a while when I worked there.  His name was Marshmallow and he was awesome.  Why we named it after him?  Who knows?

Let me give you a little tutorial, with pictures!

A table or some other sort of stand, in a wide open space.

Plenty of water bottles, filled as full as you can possibly get them, so there is no air in them (or at least only a tiny amount). 

A Sharpie.

A baseball bat, or something similar (the fabled Mallower itself is the haft of an old pickaxe, without the head).


Step one:
Use the Sharpie to draw little angry or sad faces on the lids of the bottles.
This is done so that you can focus on that little bit of unhappiness. 

Step two:
Pick one bottle at a time, set it up, away from the others, in prime hitting real-estate.

Step three:
Wind up… I don’t necessarily mean just winding up physically, though that’s somewhat important too.  What I mean is to wind up mentally and emotionally. 

Whatever it is that is bothering you, eating away at you, depressing you, or stressing you out; focus all of that negative energy on that little unhappy face.  Take all of the things weighing on your mind and picture yourself pouring them in to that little, unhappy bottle.  All of your fear, your anger, your shame, it IS the water in that bottle, and if you don’t get rid of it, it’ll just find its way back into your mind.

Step 4:
Swing baby swing!  Keep your eye on the bottle, so you don’t miss.  But swing with all of your emotion behind it.  Hit that bottle as hard as you can and send it flying!

Since you filled it up so full, there is very little room (air) for the water to expand into.  Therefore, the bottle has a tendency to break… but that’s putting it mildly.  If you’re really putting all of your emotion into that swing, then that bottle will explode.  Case in point…

(Those two pictures were of the same bottle)

Sometimes the bottle will break open, and other times that little unhappy face will break in two…

Step 5:
Repeat until you either feel better, or you have run out of bottles.

Some of you may have already realized that this is a beginner’s course.  Mallowing lends itself to all kinds of possibilities!  Have a melon that is just going to waste in the fridge?  Want to see what happens when you shake up a Red Bull and hit it real hard?  Or a Coke with Mentos in it?  Feel free to experiment…

That being said, if you want some more assistance in simply picturing all of your negative energy in the bottle, try adding a drop or two of food coloring, or writing a phrase that has been particularly irksome to you on the bottle.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the world of Mallowing.  Enjoy!  


In Five Years Time

                A few times earlier this year I was asked, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”  I was caught off guard and ended up giving some less than mediocre answer, both times.  Afterward, I went home and I thought about it more…

                The vague answers that I had given implied a lack of ambition, or at the very least a lack of planning.  So, now that I’ve had a few months to think on the question, I think I’m finally ready to give an answer.  It may not be the answer that you’re looking for, it most likely isn’t the answer that the person who asked me was looking for… Hell, for that matter, I’m not even positive that it’s the answer that I was hoping for.  It is however, the only answer I have…

                 Where do I want to be in five years?

                In five years I want to own a home.  And I’d prefer that it not be a “starter home”.  In five years I want to own the house that I’ll be living in for a good portion of my life.  I may not live there forever, but I want it to be more than something to fix up and then turn around and sell a few years later.  I want to get to know my neighbors.  I want to invite people from the neighborhood over for a barbeque in the summer and a turkey dinner in the winter.  I want a yard, with plants, fruit trees, and a small garden.  In five years, I want to own a home, not a house. 

                In five years I want to have financial security.  I’m not saying that I want to be rich, or never have to worry about money again.  I’m simply saying that I want to have enough income that I know I don’t have to wonder whether or not I’m going to be able to pay my bills on time.  I want to have enough income that I can set aside a bit of money to pursue my dreams, to travel, to have hobbies.  Financial security, to me, doesn’t mean being Oprah rich.  It means exactly what it says, have enough money that I can feel a sense of security and stability in my life.  That’s what I want in five years. 

                In five years I want to actually be writing.  Not these blog posts, and not the starts and stops that I so frequently do; getting 15 pages into a story, then never looking at it again.  I want to be seriously writing.  Whether it’s more than a hobby at that point or not, doesn’t matter.  I enjoy the feeling of creating worlds, creating life, and placing the beauty of it all on the page.  I want to help other people see the power of language and imagination.  I want to make people think, I want to make them feel emotions.  I want to move people to laughter and to tears.  In five years, I want to show people the immensity and the majesty of the world though language.

                In five years I want to have submitted an audition tape for Survivor.  Whether I get on or not is another matter, and frankly not as important.  I know it seems silly to most of you, and maybe it is, to an extent.  I think for my sake, I just want to prove that I can follow through on something that I’ve always wanted to do.  In five years I want to have finally reached for that one dream, even if it’s only to prove to myself that I can reach for any of my dreams.

                In five years I want to have traveled more.  I want to have gone to Scotland, Australia, back to Alaska, maybe even to Borneo to meet an Orangutan (since Terry Pratchett died, I’ve been looking in to Orangutans… they’re really quite amazing).  I don’t want to go just to go.  I don’t want to go through the usual tourist traps.  I want to go for the stories.  I want to go off the beaten path and see things that will change me.  I want to experience life in someone else’s world, even if only for a moment.  In five years I want my world to have grown.

                In five years I want to be in love.  I want to be with someone who makes me smile simply by being present.  I want to have someone to share my life with.  I want someone to take dancing, someone to watch bad movies with; someone who, when they’re having a bad day, I can make them feel better just by holding them.  I want someone who will laugh at my terrible jokes and someone who will tell me when I do something stupid, then be there to help me fix it.  I want to be with someone who wants to understand me and who wants to, every once in a while, see the world through my eyes, while also wanting to show me the world through theirs.  I want to be able to cook a nice dinner for someone every Tuesday, because Tuesdays are the worst day of the week and we should have something to look forward to.  In five years, I don’t want to be alone.

                All of these things that I want, all of these hopes, plans, and dreams for five years’ time… will all of these be fulfilled?  No… of course not.  But all of them have one common theme.  That’s what I realized while thinking about this question.  The next time someone asks me that, I could give any one of these answers, or something more professional, or maybe something vague and unsatisfying again.  No matter how I choose to answer it in the future, I’ll know the one thing that I’ll always want… You could take away any or all of the hopes I listed above, as long as you left me with this one…

                In five years, I want to be happy.

                It’s a simple request, and yet at the same time it’s so damned complicated.  When I was a child I thought, “It’s easy to be happy, you just decide to be and then you are!”  Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, that changed.  Happiness is fleeting, it’s rare, and it shows up in one aspect of life just to abandon you in another.  It’s a challenge.  It’s difficult.  And yet, it may be the only goal truly worth striving for, because every other goal is just a step toward this one.

                Like I said at the beginning, this isn’t the answer you were expecting, and probably isn’t what you were hoping to find.  I’m sure it’s not what the person asking me the question wanted to hear.  But when I asked myself the question, this is the answer I came up with, and I don’t care what anyone else wants to hear, because this is the best answer I have.

                So, ask yourself… Where do want to be in five years?


A Reminder

           It’s been a while since I posted anything.  This year has been insane, a lot of changes, all at once.  It’s been wonderful!  But also incredibly stressful.  I’ve missed writing these posts, they tend to help me relax, they allow me to get things off my mind and on to paper instead…
           The last few years I had fallen in to a routine.  The same house, the same job, the same schedule, the same everything, day after day after day after day.  As I’ve documented on here a few times, that sameness and that routine didn’t help my mental state very much, I needed some change… Well, now that the change has come, life is moving pretty fast, and changing along with my life, is my state of mind. 
           I’m not saying that everything is great.  I’m not saying that introducing some change to my life has suddenly caused the sun to start shining, the birds to be singing, and for chimney sweeps to be dancing on roof tops…

With all this change comes a different mental state.  I can’t quite explain it yet.  It’s not bad, but it’s not always good either.  It’s kind of like the power flickering during a storm; the lights are on, everything’s fine, then suddenly for just a couple seconds (or a day or two), everything goes dark.  The lights come back on quickly, but there’s still that question, “what if they don’t?”

Ultimately, these are my issues, they don’t concern any of my readers, and they are certainly problems that I have learned how to handle.  I’m not writing this blog just for me and my neuroses today.  I’m writing it for those of you out there who may need a reminder.

For those of you whose lives have fallen into a routine that spirals downward with no end in sight, or for those of you who feel like you have so much going on that you can’t breathe.  This post is for you. 

Everyone has times when they struggle.  Maybe life feels stagnant and you just want some change, something to spark in your life.  Or maybe you’re at the opposite end of the spectrum and you feel the demands of the world closing in, overwhelming you, and you simply need a break. 

I’m not an expert, and chances are that I don’t know how to help you specifically.  Maybe though, all you need is a reminder… A reminder to:

Try something new.  I know it can be scary, but breaking out of your comfort zone can give you the opportunity to experience something you never would have thought possible.  Each of our lives are full of limitless opportunities, but we sometimes allow ourselves to believe that how things are now, is the only way they can ever be.  We tell ourselves stories and convince ourselves that the job/relationship/home/routine that we are currently in is the only one we could reasonably be in for some reason or another… but it’s not true.  Break the mold, do something new, something that scares you, even if it’s something small.  It may lead to greater things than you realize.

Take time to do the things that make you happy.  When our lives get busy and hectic, it’s easy to let the little things, the things that we don’t view as “essential”, fall in to obscurity.  We shove them aside and say “tomorrow, next week, some other time”.  But those little things, those things we don’t think are important, they’re what make us smile and provide us with an escape, no matter how temporary.  Even though they may seem like a waste of valuable time, don’t forget that your happiness is just as valuable, if not more.

Just breathe.  Life can overwhelm us in an instant, and other times it happens slowly, over years.  When it seems like all is lost, when it seems like there is no end in sight, don’t forget to take time to just breathe.  Go outside, go alone, and let go of it all, even if only for a moment. 

Lean on the people who are there for you.  Your friends, your family, whomever it may be, there are people in your life that care, and that want to help.  Maybe they don’t know how to say it, maybe they assume you know they’re there, or maybe neither of you wants to be the one to speak up.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help, you may not always get it, but it won’t hurt to ask.  Sometimes all you need is someone to listen to you, and I promise that if you ask, there will be someone there for that. 

Take one step at a time.  Nothing will be fixed overnight.  If you try to solve everything at once and in one fell swoop, you’re only adding to your stress.  I know this may not be what you want to hear, but chipping away at your problems, little by little, is far more effective than balling up everything bothering you and trying to get rid of it all at once. 

Never give up.  I've felt hundreds of times (and still do occasionally) that I'd be better off if I scrapped everything and retreated into a life of quiet solitude.  Sometimes I just want to retreat from one part of life; work, home, friends, finances, etc. Other times I want to leave it all behind and start somewhere new with a clean slate.  But it won't work... that retreat is what the monsters under my bed and in my head want.  As annoying/painful/frivolous as all the little things and connections may seem at the moment, they are the only things that have ever truly pulled anyone out of a downward spiral. So don't run away, don't retreat inside yourself and think that this will pass on its own.  Always strive, no matter how arduous that journey may seem.

                To summarize, we all need reminders now and again, myself most certainly included.  So remember:
Try something new
                Who knows what it could lead to?

Take time to do the things that make you happy
                No matter how small they may seem, they’re important.

                With each breath, the world will slow down for you.

Lean on the people that are there for you
                There are people that care, and they may surprise you.

Take one step at a time
                When climbing a mountain, one step at a time is more effective than trying to jump over the whole thing.

Never give up
                Running from your problems will never solve them, they’ll just follow you in some way.