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Mind Control

The title is to grab your attention.

Most of you are probably thinking that I’m referring to controlling other people’s minds á là Jedi Powers right?  But no, this post is going to be about controlling your own mind.

At first, this might seem like an exotic, esoteric idea but put in the proper perspective it is quite common which I’ll demonstrate.  We’ll get to the exotic later.  🙂

The common is often referred to as simply “thinking positively,” “having a good attitude,” and so on.   In sports, you have to believe that you are going to win or you probably will not.  Put in these terms one might not think of them as “mind control,” but that is exactly what is happening.

We are conditioning our minds to “believe” in a positive outcome and overtime conditioning our own minds to think in a certain way.  On the opposite end of the spectrum “negative” people might always complain and the more they do complain the more negative thoughts they have until the negativity has pretty much taken over the majority of the thoughts.

Moving further into mind control it takes a cognizant effort to change one’s own thoughts.  We have to stop, identify the thoughts we are thinking and ask ourselves, “Why am I thinking this?”  Can I change it?  The fact is that you can.

I’ve found that the majority of people let outside influences control them and their thoughts than the other way around.  It is as if they have relinquished control of their own minds and let random events and external interactions determine which thoughts they are going to have.  The question is, why would we want to let this happen and would it not be better to project our own thought process and “mind” on the world?

I’ve put one foot in the esoteric here but to quickly come back to the common, I’ll give a few examples of how I consciously changed my own thought process.

I. Two Examples

1. Stress while driving

When I first arrived in San Francisco after living for five years in Asia I was quite relaxed and easy going.  I took a job and in the beginning had many ride alongs with my boss.  I found that his tension levels rose tremendously when driving and he became very angry at other drivers since the traffic can be quite chaotic here in San Francisco.

At that time I told myself that I would not become like that as there was no point in becoming angry over something I could not control.  Yet, after just one year of driving here, I found myself doing the exact same thing.  If a driver made one small mistake I found that I immediately became angry and would lay on the horn.

Then, I realized what I was doing and told myself to not let myself become angry anymore.  I was giving power to these external forces and letting them determine my own thought process.  I trained myself to control my own thoughts and now I never lay on the horn and never become angry when driving.

People step out in front of me when they are not supposed to and sometimes drivers cut me off.  Yet, it no longer affects me in any way.  This is all because I now control how I am going to think instead of letting external forces control my own mind.  All it took was a simple decision to do so.

2.  Foreign Countries

It is no secret that when living abroad some people will have a wonderful time, others will have a terrible time and still others will be somewhere in between.

When people ask me if country x is fun or country y is a good place to live I find it difficult to give a short answer.  The fact is there will be a range of experiences some good, some bad but it is up to the mentality of the individual which will determine if they enjoy it or not.

Living in a foreign country for the first time is an intense experience.  The normal path usually followed goes like this:

a.  Honeymoon phase
– Everything is new and exciting.  This is a very enjoyable time

b.  Crash
– People become depressed and are overwhelmed by the new culture.  They often have thoughts of returning home

c.  Rebound
– They bounce back from the crash, have more in-depth experiences with the culture and begin to enjoy it again.

This cycle can repeat itself many times.  But we have to ask ourselves, is it the culture that changed or is the way we think about it?  The fact is, it is our own mind cycling through these phases.  It is true that external experiences will play a big role, but if one thinks in a positive manner then enjoyable experiences will “manifest” themselves more and more.

Now, I’ve stuck my entire leg into the “esoteric”  but am not ready to dive in.  Let me give a simple example of how I made a conscious decision to control my thoughts in Japan.

One aspect that can bother some expatriates is that they are constantly an object of curiosity.  You look different, and ARE different from the general population.  This invites a lot of stares.  One of acquaintances in Japan complained to me about constantly being stared at when he got off the train.  The platform is very long and sometimes I refer to it as a “catwalk.”  You step off and have quite a long way to walk alongside the stopped train to the stairs leading the way out.  As you are walking by the train, many of the passengers will stare at you as you walk by.

For my acquaintance this was very bothersome.  However, for me I enjoyed it quite a bit due to my way of thinking.  I understood that most of the people were simply curious and I should be happy for all the attention.  So, that is exactly what I decided to do.  I decided that I would enjoy all these eyes staring at me and from that point on it was an enjoyable experience.

If we think about this, both my acquaintance and I are in the exact same situation, in the exact same train station in the exact same country.  But one of us is enjoying the experience and one is not.

Some may attribute this to “personality,” but I ask, what is personality?  Is it something we can consciously change?  It may be difficult to change an entire personality without a lot of practice but in it’s essence isn’t “personality” simply a state a continual state of mind?

Some foreigners will thrive very well in a foreign country where others will crash and burn.  Would it not be beneficial for those that are having an unpleasant experience to try and keep a positive state of mind?  Again, there are some external factors that will come into play and it takes a lot of practice to change one’s mind but is it not possible to do so?

II.  What World Do You Live In?

In the previous example I used living abroad as it is a complete change from what we are used to and our mindset is going to play a tremendous role.  Now, let’s come back to our domestic countries and ask the same question.

I live in San Francisco which is a large city full of many inhabitants.  Many love the city and have a wonderful time.  Others would prefer to live somewhere else and are full of complaints.  In both cases, the individuals are experiencing the exact same city and have the freedom to explore, gain new experiences and enjoy themselves if they w

It is without argument that there are many diversions with which one can entertain themselves so it is not a question of being a “boring” city.  Some live in less desirable neighborhoods while others live in better.  It can also be said that those living in the “less desirable” areas can be quite happy and take advantage of all there is to offer.  While those that live in “better” areas can be quite miserable.

The truth is, it makes no difference where you live or what things you have in order to make one happy.  It is simply a state of mind.  As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, a majority of people will let life determine how they are going to think and what their mindset is going to be.  Again, my question is why would we let these external forces control us?  Why would we not want to make a conscious decision to be happy and enjoy life no matter what the circumstances?

This was proven to me when I visited a very poor village in Vietnam and then a high powered law office here in San Francisco.  It was quite obvious that the poor villagers smiled more often and were more friendly than the high powered lawyers who rarely smile and seem unhappy.

One would think that it would be logical that the poor villagers would be unhappy as they have very few prospects to “advance” while the high powered lawyers have the world at their fingertips.  Yet, the reverse was true.  We could get into all the varying reasons as to why this is with one perhaps being the poor villagers, when comparing themselves to others, simply do not know that they do not have very much.  Perhaps they have less stress?  It may be a variety of reasons but the important thing to realize it is simply a state of mind.

If the lawyers are chasing money which they believe will make them happy but never seem to reach the goal of actually being happy, then why would they continue?  This brings to mind a story I once heard about the MBA graduate and a fisherman.  It goes something like this.

There once was a poor fisherman who enjoyed life in his village and everyday would catch his fish.  One day an MBA graduate came to him and said, “Why do you waste your time fishing for only you and your family’s needs?”   “I have an idea where you could hire others to fish for you, and then you could supply the entire village!”  ”After that has been accomplished, you could travel to wall street, sell your business to the highest bidder and make millions!”

The fisherman asked “And what could I do after I have made my millions?”

The MBA replied “Then you could come retire in your village and go fishing.”

Now, I understand the logic here is very simplistic and that the fisherman would be protected should the fish run out.  However, we also have to ask ourselves if the new corporation would fish so much that there would be no more fish and then the village left devastated.  Kind of feels like what is happening today with what the major corporations are doing doesn’t it?

The moral of all this is going to have a twist, which is everyone, the MBA, the fisherman, the lawyers and the poor villagers can all be happy.  It does not matter what their individual circumstances are, they all have the ability to make a conscious choice to be happy if they wish.  It is simply a state of mind.

So, we have to ask ourselves what world do we live in?  Are we a poor villager, a high powered lawyer, or in one of the other millions of professions?  Does it even matter?  What world have we constructed for ourselves and how do we choose to perceive this world?

Coming back to San Francisco, I think of the city in a certain way.  For some, they will say San Francisco is “x,” but for others, San Francisco is most definitely “y.”  I realize I have a certain mentality about San Francisco but I consciously try to break this mentality from time to time and form a new one.  To help with this, I like to travel to different places, read up on the history and discover new things.  I use external stimulus to break my former mindset and then make a conscious decision to enjoy these new experiences which contribute to a whole new mentality about how I will think of San Francisco.

III.  Material Things

One trap that I find many people fall into is the belief that material objects will bring happiness.  Happiness is simply a state of mind and one can simply choose to be happy.  Yet, with the purchase of material things we often discover that the happiness is temporary.  Thus we become addicted to accumulating more things in order to bring back the temporary joy.

Would it not be beneficial to look at what we already have and tell ourselves that we have decided to be happy with what we have already?  If a trinket brought joy at one time and then faded, why can we not simply choose to bring back that happiness with a conscious decision?  Once we have accomplished that, we could ask ourselves if it is not possible to be happy with no trinket at all?

This has been discussed as of recent as we are going through the “Great Recession.”  There have been many articles, one of which is called “But Will It Make You Happy,” which was in the New York Times.

If you do not have time to read the article, I’ll tell you the answer.  No trinket will bring you happiness, it is simply a state of mind that can continue if you simply choose it to.

VI.  The Esoteric

The post has become long and I am in no mood to write a novel.  So let us dive headfirst into this “esoteric” and “exotic” pool regarding Mind Control.  The best part is it is not esoteric at all but the path to happiness is right out in the open.  It is simply a change in the state of mind and there are even road maps about how to get there.  As there are many, I’ll only cover my favorites and those which people will already be familiar.

A.) The Secret

Recently, there was a book put out called “The Secret.”  The Secret is nothing more than a commercial version, packaged for profit to show in a book what has already been known for millennia.  The basic premise is that we control our own world through a state of mind.  If you believe something will manifest itself then it will.

This might be a big jump for some so let us back up a bit.  In The Secret, I find they spend too much time talking about how to acquire money.  In this they miss the point which is simply finding happiness.  They claim that you have an “inner power” to make things come about but unfortunately concentrate on manifesting material things.

This sounds like a big bunch of nonsense to some people but we could refer back to simply having a “positive attitude.”  In our sports example, if you do not believe you will win then you most likely will not.  If you do not believe that you will not do well in an interview then most likely you will not.  If you are certain you will not have a good time, then you will not.

It is your state of mind that affects the outcome and not the other way around.  In the secret, they rely on the mysterious forces of the universe that will align themselves around your goal and make it happen.  I personally like this thought and have not discounted it.  But as it might be too much for some people, let’s bring it down to earth.

If you believe you can do something, then you will take the steps necessary to bring the result about.  Let’s say you have your mind set on attaining a fit body as an example.  I’m not sure if the forces of the universe will align themselves to make this happen, but what is certain is that you will “magically” find yourself at the gym more often and paying attention to what you eat.  Before you know it, you are now fit and it had nothing to do with the universe but rather your own mind which made a conscious decision to m
ake something happen and it did.

Skipping past all the other material, physical examples let us get straight to the root which is happiness.  If you believe you will be happy then “magically” you will be.  This might not be easy as you have to train your mind to be happy and like a strenuous workout it can take time to shed those negative thoughts.  Yet, returning to our main theme, it will not be difficult unless you believe it is which comes back to your state of mind.  Just believe it will be easy, convince yourself of it and so it shall be.

Now, as a caution, there are certain things I cannot simply “will” myself to be.  I cannot tell myself I will be an NBA player and it will happen.  However, I have to ask myself “Why do I want to be an NBA player?”  I think the obvious answer is that it will make me happy.  Yet, why not just skip to the goal and tell myself to be happy which is certainly something everyone can attain.  We have to power to do so as our mind belongs to no one but us.

B.) Religious Aspects

I have found a very clear road map to happiness in the Buddhist teachings.  This does not mean that I am going to start wearing a shawl and shave my head.  But it does mean that I have an open mind and listen to what the teachings are saying.

My favorite aspect is that you have to understand yourself.  In order to do so you need to concentrate on your own mind and control it rather than letting it control you.  To get there, they do chants, Yoga, and various other practices to help attain “happiness” or “enlightenment.”  Without getting into what “enlightenment” is, let us just stick with happiness for simplicity.

In the Buddhist tradition, your mind is most important.  Your mind is you and is the root of your entire existence.  All material objects, experiences and so on are completely dependent on your own mind and how you choose to perceive things.  For those that understand and control their own mind well enough than no material things are actually needed except what you need to sustain yourself.  These things include shelter, food and good health.  Everything else is a distraction.

You may ask why I chose Buddhism over all the others.  I am not an expert in “all the others” but what I do know is Christianity.  Yet, I do not even know Christianity that well even though I spent 12 years in a Catholic school.  To put things simply, and wrongly, it is often in the Christian tradition that we are asking an external force “God” to make things happen.  If we are sad, then simply pray about it and perhaps God will grant you a favor and simply make you happy.

I believe that this is seriously misguided and not what Christianity is about at all.  There must be some mistranslation somewhere or misinterpretation of the teachings in that we have to rely on a supreme being for happiness.  Or perhaps, I simply have never read the right teaching?  From all my years in school, the fact remained that you had to pray in order to make something come about. You simply couldn’t do it on your own.

But what is prayer?  For some, it will be asking a divine being to make something happen.  I believe it is a form of mind control in which we can bring things to pass, but it is our own doing, “mystical” or not, rather than a divine being somewhere giving us a blessing. In Christianity, relying on a “divine being” more-so than ourselves is what many clergy teach. But if we dig a little deeper, I think Jesus tried to tell us that we have the power by the following examples:

a. “You are the light of the world – let your light shine.”
b. “And Jesus said unto them … , “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you.”
c. “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?”

To me, this is Jesus telling us we have the power. We are connected to the “higher power” and are part of it and part of everything. Therefore, we need only ask (ourselves) and things will come to pass.

I believe Christian “prayer” is along the same lines as the Buddhist tradition but in Buddhism it is much more clear.  You are the one who has the power to make yourself happy, it is simply willing yourself to make it so.  If you can do this, things fall into place and a kind of balance is reached.  I think Christianity tried to teach the same thing but certain institutions wished the population to become reliant on their services and corrupted the teaching.

This religious debate is worth at least another post, if not a novel, or an entire library so let us quickly return to the main point of this post which is controlling your own mind.

There are many guides out there to help us along the path to happiness but they all boil down to controlling your own mind which controls your life experience.  The question is, “Can we control our own mind?”

I would say it belongs to no one else and is something you have complete control over so long as you choose to do so.


Journal Politics

10 Minutes of Ruminations

Again, it has been a long time since my last post. It has not that I haven’t had the desire to write but rather I really didn’t feel any specific topic worth an entire post. Therefore, even if I opened up my blog, other distractions quickly pulled me away. Tonight, the dam has burst as I’ve found a solution to this problem. I’ll simply write a post without lingering on any topic too long. These are things that have run through my mind in the past month and which I really don’t feel like getting in a mire with all the details.

1. Healthcare

– If one listens to the talking heads too long in the media one is bound to go crazy. Thank goodness for American media that they have simplified the debate into two camps. The one camp that really stands out is of course the conservative side. I think this is because they say the most outrageous things which makes the news, Youtube etc. They do better at getting people fired up. On the left, I find myself reaching to think of a few talking heads but when I do, the Daily Show and the Young Turks come to mind but even these shows do not inspire the passion that the conservative side does.

My Opinion:

– Being back in the States I find this all silly. I have been in countries that have no health care. They do what they can but have no social net if they cannot afford treatment. Therefore, what I perceive here in the USA seems like a bunch of spoiled children, half of which wants the government to take care of them and half of them who do not. For the Liberals, they want big brother to take care of everyone which at first glance is a noble intention but we have fiscal troubles at the moment. The conservatives on the other side detest big brother and only want to take care of themselves or people they directly know. Perhaps they can just pray for everyone else and believe that will suffice.

After seeing people in other countries that have absolutely no healthcare, I really do not feel sympathy for either side but if I were forced to choose, I would choose universal healthcare but would make them get their finances in order first.

When I look at the conservative media such as Hannity show, I just see a bunch of old prom queens and ex-high school quarterbacks who drive SUVs drink their Starbucks and could give a rats ass about the poor class. The liberals on the other hand are more elitist and seem a bit snide with their comments.

2. Global Warming

– Another hot button issue. I understand the conservative point about the “cult of globalization.” It seems like a bunch of liberals taking up a cause in order to further their other agendas for what the conservatives believe is completely false.

My Opinion:

– I believe the scientists and from everything I have read points to Global Warming. Yet, their approach can seem a bit shady. However, if strict measures were not taken then how can we stop putting junk in the atmosphere. I have lived in cities where the pollution is atrocious. Even here in the Bay Area we can no longer see across the bay. Only after a severe storm can we see the other side. It would be best to stop putting crap in the atmosphere as this will cause problems in our lungs and one does not really want to breath the crap I have in certain cities. Perhaps the liberals are not going about it the right way but the bottom line is we have to stop polluting. We only have one Earth to live on! I am not on either political side on this one but the first one to come up with a good plan to stop polluting (and is not shady) I will support completely.

If we continue to pollute then I believe it will take a good majority of the population to come down with asthma before most people understand the problem. Unfortunately, by then there will be many other problems to contend with such as drought, rising oceans etc. On the conservative side, they can continue to deny it as we won’t feel the full brunt of the problem for another 40 years or so and by then the people who deny the problem will most likely be dead so they can say anything they believe now and not have to worry about the consequences.
I detest the fact that they see some snow and then use it to say there is no Global Warming. Even if it didn’t turn out to be as severe as scientist predict, it would do well to stop putting crap in the atmosphere.

3. Most passionate = Most uninformed

– I have never read so much as I do now. With the birth of the Iphone and all the free media I find myself reading anything and everything on a daily basis. It has almost become an obsession. Yet, I often ask myself “Am I learning anything or is it all just noise?” I believe the majority of the media is just noise which really doesn’t teach me anything. I find that I have a better perspective on the world through my travels and reading books from the past. When I read something that was written by someone in the 1800s or even earlier, I find I have a better understanding on what is actually happening today. The cliché is that “If we forget the past we are condemned to repeat it.” Well, from what I read in todays media, it would seem we have a very short term memory.

Those that do not read, have not traveled have a very small scope of understanding. By relying on the talking heads of today we are severely limiting ourselves in our understanding and simply taking up “talking points” by which to debate the issues. I’m afraid it is quite un-useful to have debates with most people back here in America as the majority simply repeat talking points that are used in the media. Those that have the most passion are most often the most uninformed and ignorant. I miss my discussions with top ambassadors and people of note that I had access to in Vietnam. Only on occasion do top news outlets such as the New York Times come out with a really good article that fosters great debate. Recently, the debate has been shit. If people really took the time to understand the issues of the day then there would be more people in the gray area than on the extremes which has happened now.

4. Facebook

– On a lighter note, I’m very delighted about the fact that I have been able to re-connect with just about everyone I have ever met. It is not so much that I am intimately reconnecting with everyone but rather am able to see their pictures and get a sense of how their life is progressing.

Some, prefer to keep their friends list pretty tight in that they only keep the friends with whom they interact with the most. For me, I prefer to keep connected, even if only lightly, with everyone I have ever met. Perhaps the reason is that I have lived in so many different places and am not bound to conform to any certain thinking or group. I also live in a place where I perhaps will never see the majority of people on my friends list ever again. Therefore, they are just a figment of my memory and only “become real” should I have the chance to meet them in person again.

This seems like a hard point to explain but perhaps the best way to do so is that most of them are just pictures and updates on a computer. I don’t have to worry about someone not agreeing with me on a certain point or keeping with the social norms. As Mr. Smith put it in the movie “The Matrix,” I’ve “become unplugged, out of the network” if you will. Therefore, I have the freedom to write things such as this because I have no fear of unpleasantness or disagreement with my social network. People who want to agree or disagree remain simply updates and pictures on a computer.

5. Rush Limbaugh

– For amusement, I find myself listening to Rush Limbaugh quite often in the mornings. I find that at first it got my blood boiling but now just seems like a comedy show. This man is full of hate speech for three hours every day. Yet, to my surprise, I did agree with him on one issue this past week. He was speaking about Toyota and the witch hunt going on between the government and Toyota. He m
ade a point that it seems very odd that the Government is seeking answers from a private company and threating to punish them. Why, should the government be involved in this? In the public sector, as Toyota has caused problems their sales will suffer. That is the way of the market economy. Why is it that the Government needs to get involved?

My Opinion:

– Government, stay out of it. Toyota will pay the price for their failings and don’t need any trouble from you. Less government is better in this issue and by taking a private company to task, you are raising the fear which the conservatives have been most harping about. If you want to do something, just pass healthcare and leave everyone else alone.

In any case, that is my two cents for the week. Had to get it off my chest.


Journal San Francisco

Bank of America = Awful

I really could not think of a better title for this so I kept it very simple. I just watched a few videos on YouTube that have reached top rankings and center around the theme “Debtors Revolt Begins Now.”

Basically it’s a bunch of people very upset with Bank of America charging an APR of around 35% on their credit card accounts and they are angry.

This confuses me tremendously.

First, I am no friend of Bank of America but I play by the rules. The reasons I hate Bank of America are:

1. In 2008, every time I went in to deposit my check they hit me up for a credit card. AND every single time I asked them to please stop doing that. Sure enough it never ended. They would look up my account, put a surprised look on their face and say “OH, Mr. Curtin, you are eligible for a credit account with us!”

No matter how many times I denied, they tried to keep selling it to me until I confronted them and the clerk replied with, “Maybe the next time you’ll look into the details!

So badgering me wasn’t enough, they had to be rude as well.

2. When activating the debit cards for me and my wife on the phone the automated prompt told me how I should be very afraid of the boogeyman and buy the Theft Identity Protection Service. I pushed the number corresponding to “No.” Then the prompt IMPLORED ME TO “NOT LET THE CRIMINALS TAKE AWAY WHAT I HAD WORKED SO HARD FOR.”

The prompt was actually begging me to buy a service!!! To say the least this annoyed me. I imagined if this was even real or if I had been transported to absurd land where nothing makes sense and money just flies out of my wallet for services that are unneeded. What I heard was “GIVE US MORE OF YOUR MONEY.”

Now for the debtors on YouTube.

Let me understand this properly. You have taken out a loan to buy something with money that is not yours. You are angry because the banks have changed the agreement which in the fine print they are able to take as much as they want from you should you owe a balance.
I understand this makes you very angry but you should have known that in a Capitalist society the point is to make money, not give it away. What they are doing is called “Usury,” and has caused all sorts of havoc throughout history. There is nothing in the agreement which talks about “fairness.”

There used to be a time when people spent money they had or even saved it. Now the society has become about spending everything and when that isn’t enough, people are borrowing to spend. The problem is society keeps telling us to spend and unconsciously we trust the system, the sales pitches and agree that everything is a “good deal.” We learned to trust the system and bought everything.

It is now time to start using our heads. The first thing to do is to stop spending. Money going into the wallet = good, money going out of the wallet = bad and if this is not the case it is time to quit that game. Start playing the game when your assets go up, your liabilities go down. Society tells us we need this and need that. We do not need any of that junk.

Should borrowing be absolutely needed, credit cards are the WORST way to do it unless you know how to play the game to win. I pay with my Amex for most things then pay off the entire amount every month. To the credit card companies, I’m known as a dead beat, the worst type of customer because they do not make any money off me. Actually, they pay me money with the cash back program!

The reason cash back is successful is they know people will not control their spending, get into debt and then have to pay the interest on the loan. They are using human greed to make a profit. It’s time to play the game differently. Spend only what you have, pay by credit card, and let the company pay you.

Therefore, the companies can charge me an APR of 10 billion percent if they want. I don’t care because they won’t ever make any money off of me. As for BofA, I lend them money in terms of a CD and now can make money off of them!

I often hear that people have to pay a lot of bills and that is the reason for not having any money. But what is a bill? It doesn’t just magically appear for no reason! It is a request for payment for some service or good. The trick is to ask ourselves if we really need that service or good, could we get it cheaper or perhaps just do without it completely.

Coming back to America I found that there is intense pressure to continually spend and fees for everything. It was almost too easy to spend money. However, the country I was coming from was Vietnam and those folks know how to save! In fact, a good part of the population do not even use banks! Therefore, if the bank told me there was a fee for this and a fee for that I looked at them like they had three heads. Then they kept telling me about services that magically appeared out of nowhere and gave me no tangible benefit. As for Identity Theft, my logic was if you lose my money that is your problem not mine. What I am hearing is that it is safer to keep my money under my mattress at home?

When I replied with keeping money under my mattress the clerk got a deer in the headlights look and wasn’t sure how to respond. I do take reasonable care as well to check my balance, guard my cards as though they were gold bars and make sure nobody suspicious is around me when I’m at the ATM.

In my opinion, we should take care of ourselves and not trust the system to do it for us. That is why people who borrow money then get upset over the terms make no sense to me.

Journal San Francisco

San Francisco City Life

I have recently become interested in reading about the ordinary (extraordinary) lives of expatriates through their blogs. Daily experiences, joys and frustrations of other major world cities are very fascinating to me which got me thinking. When I lived in Saigon and Tokyo I only blogged when some event left a deep impression be it cultural, political or just an event I had never experienced before. The daily, monotonous routine however was deemed not interesting enough to write about. However, now that I look back I wish I had kept more of a journal so I could go back and read what my life was like back then.

It then occurred to me that I am currently living in San Francisco but will not be here forever. Thus, it might be a good idea to write about my daily experiences which may be interesting for those living in other countries or even cities even though it is not interesting for me at present. Yet, in time I would like to come back to these posts to further understand where I had been and what my experiences were.

So without further delay, here is my ordinary day starting with a frustrating event.
After work, I often like to hit the gym across the street. It is rather small and unlike my other gym experiences I do not relate or even talk to the other members of the gym. Here in SF, people are generally friendly but at a distance. I really do not feel that close connection that came to other gym members in Tokyo or Saigon. Here I put on my headphones, work out, steam bath and shower then go home.

Yesterday, I did have an unpleasant interaction as I was on the elliptical doing my hour routine. A young blond woman came up to me and asked how much time I had left. I told her about twenty minutes. She told me I had already been on for thirty minutes and there was a time limit. I replied that there were other machines available and that I was not getting off. So she went to a young staff member who came over and told me I had to get off the machine. I replied that there were other machines available but the blond chick said this one was a “little different.” So, realizing I could not win this round I did get off but then asked to see Tony the manager. I explained that the intent of the rule was if all machines were occupied then out of courtesy one needs to limit their time but not if 90% of the other machines are open. I also told him this was the second time this woman has asked me to get off the machine.

He agreed with me and said he would talk to the bimbo and his staff member. Apparently I had won but am wondering if this chick will come up to me again. If this happens then my strategy is to have a sit down discussion with her and the manager to sort this thing out.

I am amazed by my capacity to resolve a dispute while keeping my emotions under control. Sure, I would like to express that “this bitch is pissing me off,” but realize that in order to win I simply have to outsmart them and use reason to get a desired outcome.

I also am trying to fight the urge to compare this situation to Asia. In Japan and Saigon this had never happened because the people are more respectful of each other and I have never experienced someone taking advantage of a rule for their own personal benefit. This also could be another “culture shock” as perhaps in this culture (big city life) people are quite selfish.

After the gym I tried to put it out of my mind by watching the Wizard of Oz in preparation for the musical Wicked. It has been quite difficult to forget about it as the battle might not be through but if I am trying to adjust my mindset and think of it as an opportunity for growth.

After the movie was over I went to bed only to be awakened by a car alarm at 3:00am. This alarm went off three times for a total of 15 minutes. At that moment I was thinking about going out to flatten the tires of this car or at least hoping someone would call the police which odds are probably did happen. A car alarm going off at 3am in this neighborhood has effectively awoken at least 600 people. Odds are someone called the cops. And, if I flattened the tires it would probably just set off the alarm again.

This morning I had a very important meeting with a large customer whose sales have tanked quite badly. I went with an upper level colleague of mine so we could strategize together. The meeting went well and we did identify a few areas where we could be a great resource helping the customer save time and money but the issue is this “boss” cannot mandate to the four buildings. I do have a great relationship with these buildings but the challenge will be getting them to cooperate, standardize and allow us to take over some of their existing business.
The weather is uncharacteristically cold and wet. A perfect opportunity to clear out a bit of the administration/follow up work which I have just completed.

Today is also Friday yet working from home I never have that feeling of Friday elation. I do my work, wait on 5:00 but at five no joy magically appears. I then try to decide what to do as it is Friday but even though there are a lot of options I find myself very indecisive. When you live in the city, even though there are many things to do, they have all been done before. On one hand I want to be productive or at least do something that will bring joy. Yet, I cannot shake this feeling of melancholy.

It at this moment I think of Saigon and the wonderful expatriate crowd there. I had a complete list of contacts that were most likely already out and about and nothing could be better than having a few drinks and conversing with them and their distinct points of view.

I tried to replicate that here by going to a bar down the street that is full of Asian barmaids and they even have a dart board. Yet, nobody plays darts and the conversation is very boring. The last conversation I heard was someone discussing movies and how “Bad Santa” was the best movie ever made. These guys just get drunk and have a dumb conversation. No other way to put it really.

I did join a few language clubs which did seem interesting and it is fun to speak another language but the fact is these people are strangers. Again, one just cannot connect with others as easily as in Asia.

So what to do with myself tonight? Go to the gym and pick a fight with the blond bitch,, er, I mean, young woman? Go to the bar and listen to boring conversation? Maybe just watch a movie, read, or play an online game? Go out to a restaurant which I have done 1000 times before?

It would seem that my batteries are drained and I could use a vacation. City life does wear on you and I rarely escape. Tomorrow I am going golfing with my ex-colleagues which should be fun but unfortunately there is rain in the forecast.

I’ll leave it at that since writing does not seem to be dissipating the melancholy. At least I’ll always have a record of the last 48 hours.

Until the next adventure I remain,



General Thoughts

Once again, long time no post. I’ve been extremely uninspired lately and feeling a bit disconnected. “Disconnected” seems like an ironic word to use since I’m now flooded with information on a daily basis through my PDA, Google Sidebar, news and magazines. Yet, for some reason I feel like this information really does not help me understand anything at all!

While living abroad, I was exposed to so many new things and experiences. Couple that with the grave mishaps (the Bush administration) America was up to I always had the drive to write. Here in America I feel like I’m constantly subjected to one big advertisement telling me to buy something and the wonderful experiences that I had in Asia no longer happen here. Instead, new “experiences” are simply different ways to spend money.

It might be that living in the city has something to do with this. There are always things to do but require sums of money to do. Restaurants, shopping, even Napa involve money. Also, the constant noise, honking, sirens make me unable to concentrate unless I’m at work. Throughout the workday I only think about my accounts and sales opportunities which, while good for my career, do nothing for personal growth.

Thus, my longing to return to Asia. In Asia I feel like I can “slow down,” spend time with interesting people and always be learning. Here, I feel like I’m simply always spending.
To get away from spending I turn to information, the news, magazines, etc. Yet, I feel like I never really learn anything. For example, I’ve spend a lot of time trying to figure out the whole “economic stimulus” idea yet have gotten nowhere. I read the “Economist” and listen to politicians from both sides but in a nutshell this is what I hear.

1. We need a large stimulus to revive the economy. We have to get the banks lending again.
2. What happened to the last stimulus package? Nobody is quite sure!!!!!
3. Will the new package work? — Absolutely no real answers.

As for the hope that the politicians will be able to help, that is fading quickly. I still support Obama but the whole fiasco with Tom Dashle in health care puts a damper on this. I cannot understand why someone who is supposed to manage national programs cannot manage his own affairs!!! As for the economic team, I think Summers will do a good job and there are plenty of smart people in there AND they must do SOMETHING but no matter how hard I try to understand I feel like nobody really has the answer and this package will not work just like the first one did not.

The scary thing is that nobody is sure how far this thing will go. In the news the benchmark is that things will be tough through 2009 but should be improving in 2010. Yet, the reality is that this thing could be very very severe with the entire American financial system in complete meltdown at the extreme end. Even though the probability of that being on the low side, America could enter into a “dead economic period” such as that of Japan during the 90’s.

For me, all this economic talk does not affect me directly and will not until heaven forbid I get a pink slip from my employer. I hear all this bad economic talk but am still able to sell and did make goal last year and am just a bit under this year. Personally, I’ve never been in a better position financially. During the “boom times” I found it more difficult to maneuver than I do now so it would seem I move in an opposite way to the actual economy and what the news is broadcasting.

Even if I were to get laid off which is unlikely, I have an escape hatch right back to Asia where I could always find work even if there would be a big pay cut. For me, money does not translate to happiness. Happiness is reserved for new experiences and “living life to the fullest” which does not mean I have to spend money. The only area where money comes into play is providing for my wife and future family which would involve a house, kid etc.

Therefore, the only solution I can find to actually “be happier” is to cut out the news, ignore the honking horns and not rely on my environment to provide happiness but instead to make it a “mental state.” This can be done but I honestly think it was much easier to accomplish when I was in Asia.

Yet, should I move from San Francisco I know I would sorely miss this town just as I missed Tokyo when in Saigon, and Saigon now that I am here.

Therefore, what have I learned since being here?

1. Money does not buy happiness.
2. I am extremely restless always looking for new experiences.
3. The news does nobody any good and only puts me in a bad mood.
4. I am addicted to information (including the news) and will read it anyway.
5. It’s harder to relax in a city.
6. I really enjoy the peacefulness of my parents porch swing in Ohio but would get bored if I went there to live (In Ohio,,, not with my parents).
7. I like reading the Economist put get tired of the economic angle on everything and would really like to read more from a social point of view.
8. I am more informed but have less answers.

To wrap this post up, I feel as though it is not as exciting as my former posts. Yet, this is my mental state at the moment and it might make good reading for my expatriate/foreign friends. Now, the rest of the day will be spent at the gym, reading the economist and news and playing video games. Seems I’m in a bit of a cycle with no real out at the moment.