Tuesday, October 31, 2017

No History, No Culture, No Self - KNOW History, KNOW Culture, KNOW Self

I've become a friendlier person. That's one of the changes in my life that I'm happy about.

My Uber and Lyft rides have become more and more interesting with each ride I take. Last night, I was picked up at the airport by a man with an accent, a Lyft driver. It's one of the first things I recognize when I first meet my drivers. Naturally, out of curiosity, I had to ask where he was from. It's been my leading question often these days, and it's a great conversation starter.

His name is Guy, and he told me that he is from Haiti. Quick to draw on my memory banks,  I asked if he speaks French, which I recalled is a major language of Haitians. He does. And then I asked if he was from Port-au Prince, to which he responded that he was from a town on the outskirts with a French sounding name like most other cities, town, and villages in Haiti have. Guy immediately started to break out his historical facts of the Haiti, most of which I had no idea about.

He zoned in on the French colonization / occupation and then on to the revolutionary times. I sensed that he welcomed this conversation and looked for an outlet to let his freedom of speech go. As I complimented him on his spectacular knowledge of history and politics, he, funny enough, mentioned how happy he was to be able to speak to "someone like" me. I asked him who that might be, and he said someone who is curious and engaging in conversation. It made me happy to be the recipient of his knowledge. And it brought back to mind a quote I'd heard many years ago that drove my self-awareness:
"No history, no culture, no self. KNOW History, KNOW culture, KNOW self."
Guy has aspirations of making documentaries about Haiti and Haitians, the history, the politics, and the culture all with the point of enlightening others about the struggles and strife their people have endured over the years. His near-future goal is to save money for a decent camera with which to produce the videos he intends on posting to YouTube. I wished him well on his dreams and hoped to see something come of it in the future.

My conversation with him made me look back at my own history of shyness, of being closed-off, possibly even standoff-ish in my demeanor. But I really am not. Taking a step back and reminding myself of my culture, my education, my knowledge base allowed me to be confident in speaking with others. Opening up has given me comfort in being more friendly towards others and accepting of who they are, as I hope that they accept who I am. I know my self better than I did before. It's taken a few years (34) but at least there is improvement.

I hope to continue to chatting with my ride-share drivers. They've mostly been pleasant, engaging,  and forthcoming with their stories. I admire them for their service and their attitudes.

Do you strike up conversation with your Uber / Lyft drivers? If not, it's not too late to start. (533)

Monday, October 30, 2017

Leadership - It's About Others, Not Just You

"When you become a leader, success is all about growing others. It's about making the people who work for you smarter, bigger, and bolder. Nothing you do anymore as an individual matters except how you nurture and support your team and help its members increase their self-confidence. Yes, you will get your share of attention from up above - but only inasmuch as your team wins. Put another way: Your success as a leader will come not from what you do but from the reflected glory of your team." - Jack & Suzy Welch - BusinessWeek Magazine

All throughout college, I thought of myself as a leader. I started small with minor roles in student clubs and then eventually worked my way up to leading a national organization for a couple of years. I remained with that organization in the role of a consultant for some time after that thinking that my knowledge could help benefit others. And although it did it wasn't until later that I would learn what true leadership was. I'll tell you what it's not.

Leadership is not advancing your own goals. It is not forcing your ways upon others. Convincing others of the "proper" route isn't it either. Leadership is not a position of power. Rather is it a position of respect and a role of encouragement.

Many years ago, sometime after I graduated college, I started reading about leadership and how to succeed in life and in a career. And the quote above by Jack and Suzy Welch is what continued to guide me as I pursued leadership roles going forward. It was first published towards the end of an issue of BusinessWeek, a McGraw Hill company previously (now Bloomberg Businessweek), in a column which the husband and wife team contributed.

Ever since then, I've tried my hardest to make all my teams the best they could possibly be. We would sit and discuss topics. The team would be an open forum to ask questions without fearing a "stupid" one. We drew out scenarios on a whiteboard, created examples of our quandaries, and solved situations together. We reached out to others for help when we needed it. My teams eventually offered support to others, lending a branch of our knowledge if called upon. And the teams became resources in the long run. All of my teams became well-known, trusted, and well-rounded. With the abilities to do anything our jobs required (and sometimes even tasks outside of our scope) my teams have always risen to the top of each department recognized by management and staff alike. We became all-stars together.

I credit Jack and Suzy Welch's column for the successes that I've been allowed since the day I read their words. And I'll continue to lead and manage in this fashion for the remainder of my, hopefully long, career. Leadership - it's about others, not just you.

How do you lead? (486)

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Last Minute Errands Yield Stress

Last night at 10PM on a last minute run to find a pair of brown 36"round smooth dress shoe laces, I went to 4 different locations, to no avail. How could all these locations carry only black dress shoe laces and sports laces? Is it too much to ask for them to carry brown? Why is it that when you need something the most at the vest last minute, you often don't find what you want? Doesn't it seem like the world is working against you in the worst way? I came home stressed and annoyed that I hadn't tried to do this errand earlier. I knew that I needed them for days, heck even weeks. But I put it off until the last minute and this is what I got.

Even now as I write this post from Bellevue, WA I still do not have the shoe laces that I need. Instead, I'm writing this post because I'm now 3 hours behind and am hell bent on making sure I get a post on my blog. Haha. I'm ridiculous.

Anyway, I'm going to try to find some shoe laces around here somewhere. I need to find where the shops are nearby. And if worse comes to worse, maybe I'll just get colored laces.

You might be asking yourself, why am I in Washington, and why do I need shoe laces? Well, I'm interviewing here tomorrow morning and then I'm back on a flight home. I need the shoe laces because they broke the last time I wore them, and I need to wear brown shoes with the attire I selected, navy blue pants, white button up, blue tie, brown belt.

I have an alternative. Black shoes. But I hate the way they look with the blue pants. I brought a black belt too, just in case.

I had wanted to pack a light as possible. But here I am with 3 pairs of shoes on hand. One on my feet and two in my carry-on luggage. I originally wanted to work out at the gym, but that would have required a 4th pair of shoes, and I wasn't about to go that far. The weight will have to be piled on for now. I have 2 belts in case I can't find the brown shoe laces. And I have a pair of brown and black socks for the same reason. I hate overpacking.

In my haste, I forgot to pack my daily medication and vitamins. I also forgot to bring a jacket for this cooler weather. I only have a fleece, but I would hate to have to wear it with my business casual outfit to the interview tomorrow. I'm hoping for lots of sun, but it's not a good start with clouds and fog right now. I suppose we'll see.

On the bright side, I have an opportunity that I hope turns up positive. Wish me luck. Thanks. (490)

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Weddings Are Beautiful & Family is Wonderful

Over the past 8 years, Carolyn and I traveled near and far to attend 29 weddings of our closest friends and family.  Last night made 30. And by the end of December, we'll have been to 31 weddings, not including our own. Wow! That's a lot of happy people.

Yesterday one of my younger cousins on my mother's side got married to her long-time boyfriend. Her sister's maid of honor speech couldn't be contained by tissues alone. Our family thoroughly enjoyed the festivities and danced the night away. And the groom's family was as fun, supportive, and respectful as any I've ever met. Of my grandparents' 21 grandchildren, my cousin is the 19th in chronological order. And most, not all, of the cousins older than her are married, many with children already. Safe to say, we've had plenty of fun all these years, and we're hoping to continue the parties with the new generation of kids and those yet to come.

The best part of family weddings is seeing all the relatives in the same place. Family members who have moved away from the area, who we don't get to see at our convenience, come back to join in for the festivities and it's always fun catching up with whomever is in attendance.

It's too bad there are still situations when some relatives aren't able to join. It's been a long time since the full family has been completely together. But it's just an example of the difficulties it is to coordinate. No one means any harm by not being able to attend. There are always competing priorities or conflicting schedules.

The next wedding to be attended is my brother's wedding in December. We will be traveling to this one in Dallas as he too has moved from the area a few years ago. And we're already scheduled to celebrate 3 more weddings in 2018. It's funny how it's this time in our life cycles, this age range is the time when so many people get married. I'm sure that the older we get, the less weddings we'll be invited to but until then, party on party people. (358)

Friday, October 27, 2017

2017ers - Digital Diggers For The Technology Era

It's official. I'm a miner!

This is my crypto-commodity.

Similar to the 49ers who mined for gold in 1849 (the namesake referring to the year the gold rush began), I am now involved in mining for Ethereum. Is it fair to call us 2017ers, the believers and pursuers of cryptocurrency - in this case, Ether?

Regardless of what monicker we go by, we are the technology era's digital diggers. For those of you who are not familiar with Ethereum or cryptocurrency, let me try to break it down. Cryptocurrency is digital money. And Ethereum is one of the currencies available for use. It's the 2nd most recognized and popular digital coin; the first being Bitcoin. It's similar to the physical, paper fiat currencies like the US Dollar (USD), the British Pound (GBP), the Euro (EUR), the Australia Dollar (AUS), Chinese Renminbi (CNY), or the Japanese Yen (JPY) - but it's digital. Currently, the value of Ethereum against the USD is 1 ETH = $295.94 USD as of the time of this writing.

The real beauty of Ethereum is the background technology called Blockchain. I've talked about this before briefly. For me, the long and the short of it is that Blockchain will be the future of every industry conceivable. It's a general ledger system for data (blocks) that are linked (in chain fashion) and secured using cryptography. I relate this to the function of Accounting. Every person or business needs a good Accounting system. This could potentially be the best one ever designed. That being said, it's application is versatile and comprehensive.

For more on cryptocurrency and Blockchain, check out the ultimate guide here.

Getting back to my original point. I'm a miner! How?

Digital currencies are mined, not created or printed. In order to "mine" the "coins" or "tokens" complex computers are built and process extremely difficult maths problems. The machine who cracks the problem is considered to have "mined" the block and is awarded some portion of or the full value of the currency being mined. For a better explanation of the mining process, see here

That being said, I made an investment for an interest in a mining machine and will begin to collect Ether on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. Of course, like any other investment, there are maintenance costs along the way. So the hope is that the value of Ether against the USD will continue to climb to be well in excess of the operating costs.

My prediction is that cryptocurrencies will be here for the long run, and that eventually we will see it integrated into society and find it more and more as a payment method both online and in brick and mortar. It's ease of use and security will be the new gold standard of payment processing.

I'm in it for the long haul. Who's with me? (476)

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Step Master & The Environment

We've been home from our travels abroad for nearly 5 months now. Since then, I've gone to the gym on average 4 times per week. The gym is approximately 1.1 miles away. That being said, I've walked just about 176 miles in the past 20 weeks. And that's just going to the gym. If I include all my other walks, randomly around the neighborhood, to/from the park and basketball court, to/from the grocery store, and to/from my cousin's house then I've most likely broken 200 miles. I only drove to the gym once because it was raining.

How does that compare to someone who walks 10,000 steps each day? Well, according to The Walking Site, there are on average 2,000 steps in a mile. So 10,000 would be 5 miles. If you walked 5 miles per day, 5 days a week, then over the past 5 months you should have accumulated 500 miles or 1,000,000 steps!

Keep in mind, the 200 miles I've racked up is just from walking alone. That doesn't include the running on the treadmill, climbing the stair master, cycling, and other exercises that count towards that 10,000 steps per day goal. Nor does it include any other strenuous activity like playing basketball, biking within an 8 mile radius, or other sports.

The 200 miles of simply walking to the gym and other nearby errands / places is 40% of the pie already. Do I achieve the other 60% from all the other activities combined? I have to believe that I do.

In addition to the health benefits that I'm reaping, I've saved money on gas, wear and tear on our car, and most importantly reduced my carbon footprint and emissions. The carbon footprint calculator estimated that 0.07 metric tons of carbon would have been emitted had I driven the 200 miles instead of walked. It might be small, but every little bit of help the environment can get is worth it. And it only cost me 30 minutes per day.

How much walking have you done for your health and the environment? (346)

(Flashback to that time we made it to Mt. Everest Base Camp)
(Time: 14 days | Max Altitude: 17,602ft / 5365m after 9 days | O2: 50% less than sea level | 80 miles round-trip)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A Poll, Avocados, & Pop Culture

A little over a week ago, I took a poll about my recent avocado spending habits. In an effort to become more engaged with my readers and Twitter audience, I left the survey open for 7 days and got a few responses. Maybe what I should have done is embedded the poll here on my blog as well. I'll do that going forward. In any case, the results are fun and interesting. I'm happy that 67% of poll participants support my cause. I agree with them. I have to say that I enjoy eating guac. For anyone who answered in the negative, why?

I've been buying quite a bit of avocados and specifically guacamole to get my Omega-3 fatty acids into my diet, amongst other vitamins and minerals. Surprisingly, the local grocery stores make it fresh nearly everyday. It's about $5-6 give or take for about nearly 1 lb. of the mix of avocados, cilantro, lime, tomato, onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Stop and Shop makes it a little on the spicy side, which I like. If I so happen to be at Costco, I'll buy one of the guacamoles they carry too because it's individually packed for 100 calorie intervals. Either way, it's a good deal financially (for now - but it should and will get better) and healthwise.

I wonder why avocados took so long to become so popular in food culture? Maybe it's the high price point for a single piece of the buttery fruit. Hopefully, we can somehow manage to tackle the supply issue to be a closer match to the demand to help prices (on average $2 for a single Haas avocado) come down a bit.

Clearly, it's been widely eaten in Mexico for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. But why has the rise to stardom of this versatile fruit taken so long? Why do I feel as if Millennials and Generation Z started this trend? Actually, I don't think this is going to just be a trend. Similar to alternative and renewable energy, this fruit is now and will continue to be a strong player in the food world. With all the benefits avocados have to offer, it's tough to see it as just a trend. That is, unless global warming and climate change affect the production. (413)

One of my favorite brekkies in Australia - avocado toast or avo toast for short.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Keep Calm And Save A Life

Have you ever saved anyone's life?

I don't know or understand what it is with life and death situations that makes your instincts so sensitive and your reactions so sharp. When you know something isn't right or there's potential for danger, your senses just perk up and you remain unbelievably alert until the uncomfortable feelings subside.

I like to say I know. And I like to claim that I've saved a few lives in my own lifetime. But there was nothing heroic in the things I did. It was more common sense and reaction. The real heroes are the medical professionals that revive or resuscitate the nearly departed.

Sometimes I wonder. Is it because I grew up in a medical family? Is it because I'm a preventative person by nature and anticipate accidents and try to avoid them like the plague? Could it be because I sometimes play out scenes in my mind and how to assist, resolve, or avoid the dangers? Most likely it's because of all of the above. Much of it has to do with preparation.

I have. At least I like to think that I have. More than once, if you're wondering.

In one scenario it was as simple as screaming "be careful" as loud as I could. It drew the attention of a speeding bicyclist down a hill in the dark of an SUV that was about to make a turn into the street he was flying down. It also helped that the SUV's windows were open which probably made my yelp audible enough for the driver to wait a split second and jam on the brakes. Otherwise, it wouldn't have been a pretty sight. Maybe it was luck that I was walking the dog on a very unusual route that night.

In another case, my cousin was saved from hypothermia. We were on vacation and went for a swim in the cold waters off the coast of Bar Harbor, Maine one late summer. While most of us were fine, she came out of the water and we noticed her lips were turning blue / purple. And almost as immediate as we noticed it, her body went limp and fell to the sand. Both of her parents are doctors. But I suppose when it comes to treating your own family the mind is sometimes paralyzed by the shock that something dangerous is happening to your most loved one. Long story short, my instinct was to pick her up, and rush her to an area where she could be tended to by medical staff. This required carrying her off the sandy beach, up an enormous flight of stairs, and near the park's ranger station. The EMT's did the rest from there. I was fairly young at the time, maybe a teenager? But it was quick thinking without panic that I think really helped the most.

Most recently (2 years ago), my dad lost consciousness while he was sick with flu-like symptoms. Luckily I was there to catch him because otherwise, he would have cracked his head open on the kitchen tile. In that situation, the most important thing to do was lay him down completely so that the blood and oxygen could return to his brain and other organs to prevent severe damage. The paramedics did the rest on their arrival, eventually taking him to the hospital to be monitored.

And a long time ago, also when I was younger, my grandfather suffered from low blood sugar if I recall correctly. He was laying in bed and I remember his face hardening and turning blue. The only thing I could do at the time was call 9-1-1. Indirectly, I saved him.

My brother also had some strange "attack" when he was bouncing on my uncle's knee as a really young kid. He was having so much fun until all of a sudden he just stopped breathing. My uncle panicked. I called my mom at work. She's a nurse. Her panic made her come home immediately, but the emergency personnel made it to our house before she did, so they took care of the issue. So maybe I didn't exactly save his life, but it was that instinct again that made me call for help.

There was one other situation with a work colleague, but that still perplexes me. Our team came together to help him in his distress, but I think he may still not realize it. Hopefully he does one day.

Have you saved a life?

The only advice I can give is to stay calm. Quickly analyze the situation and call for help immediately. If you are not a medical professional, stabilize the person (lay or sit him/her down) and keep them calm as well (if they are conscious) until help arrives.

I may not have directly saved anyone's life, but the simple actions are sometimes the biggest factors. The most dangerous thing is non-action. Don't be paralyzed by fear. (826)

I never got one of these. This is all I ask for the next time I save a life. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Boxed Organics - Box #3

We're starting to get into the Fall vegetables as this is the 2nd box that has given us a gourd. In this case, butternut squash. This should be another interesting week of figuring out how to cook or make use of each of these items. I think the ingredients I'm most unfamiliar with here are the kale and cauliflower. I may try some kale chips and maybe I'll rice the cauliflower. Yea, I used "rice" as a verb here. I figured if Green Giant coined the term then I should use it as such.

This week's box included:

  • White cauliflower
  • Baby Indian eggplant
  • Red Russian kale
  • Red Butterhead lettuce
  • Bitter potatoes
  • Red potatoes
  • Butternut squash
  • Gala apples
  • Organic eggs
From the last box, I tried my hand at making a few things that I imagined I'd like. 

The first was a concoction with the cabbage. It wasn't the star of the dish, but it brought some texture and color to overall presentation. This is my garlic and onion chili chicken with cabbage. It was delicious. I generally use ground chicken because it's cheaper than beef and also more healthy. It's my protein of choice. I even use ground chicken in my pasta sauce and meatballs. Do you think you'd like it? 

Next, I pickled the winter radishes in a mixture of sugar, vinegar, and bay leaf. After boiling the mixture, I ladled it over the sliced radishes, let it cool, and then refrigerated it. I have to say that I'm really not a fan of this root vegetable in general. However, the Korean restaurants who make it, in whatever way they do it, I love it. Whenever I get the banchan, with my meal, I ask for more pickled radishes, cucumbers, and kimchi. Maybe mine needed to be less sweet and more sour. 

I've never pickled anything before, so maybe it was just a noob mistake or maybe I just picked the wrong recipe for my tastebuds. Whatever the case, these pickled radishes are still sitting in my fridge waiting for someone to eat them. 

At least the color is nice!

Lastly, but most notably was my attempt at making the purple sweet potato pie whose recipe was included in the newsletter that we get from Boxed Organics with every box. I'd have to say this was challenging because although the recipe calls for this to be raw, I had to boil my purple potatoes for ease of use. What do I mean? 

I don't have a food processor. So I had to mash these potatoes by hand with nothing but a regular sized fork. In order to make it easier, I boiled the spuds to make them softer, also allowing me to peel them easier. And it was still difficult to mash. Maybe I should have let it boil longer. But I cheated in another way I suppose; I traded the difficulty of mashing for the convenience of a pre-made pie crust. Nonetheless, the end result was fantastic. It was a hit in my household. Everyone seemed to enjoy it. And it's good at any time of day, for breakfast, an afternoon snack, or even dessert after dinner. For me, I took my slice for breakfast along with a nice warm cup of coffee. 

I'm having fun so far with the variety of vegetables we're getting through the CSA program. It's a great way to diversify the diet and keeps meals interesting and creative. I'm looking forward to "playing" with my food again this week. I'll let you know how it goes. 

In the meantime, I'll try to finish the radishes. =/  (604)

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Sunday SunDaze

I'm so shocked that I've made it this far with my 300/500 word-a-day challenge to myself. It proves the old cliché that says when you put your mind to it, you can do whatever you want. Although this post comes really late in the evening, I'm happy to still be getting some words in.

The day has been so hectic, and I'm feeling a little bit of writer's block again. So I'm going down the route of talking about the mental workout my brain has been getting recently.

My mind has been so full with thoughts and ideas of how to improve my life and the lives of my family members. Every waking moment, if not spent reading, has been used to calculate this, estimate that, or run through the various what-if scenarios. Even in the reading I do, I find ways to relate it to people I care about and think about. I have been weighing option after option against scenario against the pros and cons of anything and everything that could be from the cause and effect of this and that.

It’s tiring to do this all-day long. It’s strange to think that a lot of this thought processing wouldn’t even have the ability to occur had I been fully employed. Or rather, it might happen but much more drawn out over time and probably only late at night after a long workday, chores, eating, and other household administrative things. Maybe that’s why historically all my ideas took so long to come to fruition. I should be thankful to have this time to think, and I am.

Sundays are usually a time to rest and prepare for the week ahead, but it felt like today was just a blur. I have a busy week ahead. It includes helping my mom, my mother-in-law, and my wife with various appointments. I need to pick up my 3rd box of organics from the CSA program that I’ve been writing about. I have a potential business meeting regarding an investment I am making. And then my cousin’s wedding rounds out the week of excitement.

I look forward to being able to continue writing this week. Hopefully I have more interesting topics to cover and enlightening / insightful discussions take place throughout the week.

To all my readers out there… have a great week! (391)

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Internet Era's Biggest Baddest FEAR

In the era of technological advancements there is a new phobia that strikes even the bravest of souls. For some people, it forces changes in sleeping patterns from waking up earlier than the rooster to going to sleep just before sunrise. It's a fear so powerful that it has the ability to cause anxiety. This phobia is also one of the few that is triggered by positive events. Everyone loves to say that they were there when it happened...if it's a good thing. No one wants to be around if it's devastation and chaos. That's right everyone, I'm talking about the "fear of missing out" otherwise known colloquially as FOMO

I believe that FOMO developed from the strains society has placed on keeping up with current events. With media feeds like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook everyone can keep tabs on everyone else, in addition to all the promotional posts from various media outlets relaying the news and advertisements. The constant scrolling up and down through all the microblogging platforms has given rise to the idea of staying current, and the importance of being current has been emphasized by social media. It's a vicious cycle. It's the feeling of being left out that drives the repetitive nature. 

The real question is, are you really "missing out?" My initial response is no. If it doesn't affect you directly, then you're not missing out. And maybe that's my old school mentality kicking in. I'm in the in-between generation that grew up in a time when internet wasn't even around. I aged at the same pace as the world wide web was developed and skyrocketed into daily use. There was a time when we read newspapers in paper format rather than digital. It used to be that you had to wait for the news to come to you. There was no such thing as real-time updates for anything. 

FOMO is not just a social media concept either. It's application in real life is clear. People fear missing out on parties, social events, and other experiences. 

How do you combat FOMO? 
  • Don't scroll. In this case, the more you know, the worse your FOMO becomes. Get updates about events you were interested in the traditional way. Talk to someone who was there, but take their words with a grain of salt as we know some opinions can be exaggerated. 
  • Check on WHO matters the most to you. Because it's your loved one and closest friends that will have the most impact on you. It doesn't matter WHAT is happening, but it matters who is having fun and who is safe.
  • Let the news outlets do their jobs. Watch the news on TV. Read the newspaper. Occasionally check the news websites. But don't scroll through social media to get your news. 

I know that FOMO comes from deeper psychological issues that are very important to mental health. And I don't mean to oversimplify the issue at all. I'm just pointing out the surface level / observable habits and possibly ways to help reduce the anxiety. Here's an article that might help. But if you believe that you or someone you know has extreme anxiety from FOMO, it's probably best to speak with a professional to help relieve the stress this condition creates. (546)

Friday, October 20, 2017


This post comes as I read yet another headline about a climate change denier entering political office, again. To me, it's like the antithesis of Neil Armstrong's profound words as he stepped on the moon for the first time in all of history. 
"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." - Neil Armstrong
Rather, I'd say that the current state of political affairs makes me believe that we have taken smalls steps in the right direction, but one giant leap backwards in terms of our environmental concern.

I realize this cartoon is referring to Obama's ending of the space programs in 2011, but I couldn't help but relate this more to something like Obama poking fun at this administration's step backwards in climate change position. 

98% (192 of 195 parties to the Paris Agreement) of the civilized world agree that climate change is real and have taken and continue to take steps towards curbing the effects of global warming. How is it that the vast majority of Earth's population can accept the facts of climate change and strive to implement change, but one the most powerful countries in every sense refuses to believe scientific fact? Check that. How is it that one of the most powerful countries can allow a handful of deniers to steer the course of action on the greatest threat to human life we will ever experience?

Who will take responsibility for the damage and destruction as a result of the inaction, or more accurately the reversal of scheduled action to combat the rise of greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere? By the time the world feels the most intense climate results of mother nature, these politicians, appointees, and even the President himself will be out of office. And then what? Blame them still? What does that accomplish?

Yes, we're feeling the effects now but it only gets worse in the future. And the fact is that although the rest of the world will contribute to the solution, the United States is the biggest polluter in the world and any offset will not be enough to neutralize the negative effects this country puts out.

It is, however, inspiring and overwhelmingly positive that individuals, businesses, and cities will continue to support the Paris Agreement despite the reverse route taken by the current administration. But still, get these naysayers out of office! They're ruining our lives, literally. (364)

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Get Your Umbrellas Out Because I'm About to Brainstorm (Again)

While I'm on the topic of investments, I recently had a recollection of all the random ideas I've had in the past that never made it anywhere. For a while, I "invested" my time in developing some concepts that I hoped would make it big someday. The names needed to be short and catchy; the domain name had to be available and memorable. The product or service had to be something people would be interested in, and at the time I thought that was enough. Little did I know that the product / service also needed to be needed and solve a problem. (I know these things now because I watch Shark Tank religiously.)

Then I registered the domains, created the administrative email accounts, setup a Google Suite account, and if the idea was good enough - I recruited a small team to help, created a website, FB page, Instagram, and Twitter account. Of all the ideas that ever completely made it down that path, there were only two - my own blog and DrunkEats. But the vast majority of other thoughtful possibilities only got domain names. And even with that, the names and ideas were a stretch away from anything remotely possible.

But there is one idea that I constantly keep at the forefront of my imagination hoping I could further develop it and one day be smart enough to have others back it. I mean, I think it's good but its not unique enough. (Although the slogan we came up with is fantastic. Haha.) Anyway, a discussion about the service-oriented business idea resurfaced recently in a conversation with a friend who is currently going through his own newly created (but certainly thought about at length) brand development.

As I described to him the concept behind the name and could-be business idea, he chimed in with enthusiasm, even adding fuel to the gently stoked campfire burning in my mind by contributing some ideas and thoughts about it. We talked about blogging, branding, marketing, and direction. And at the end of the phone call, I told myself that I'd have to jumpstart the idea again with the team I previously enlisted many years ago when it all started. Of course, I'd want to involve my friend somehow because the more, the merrier but also the better the ideas become with more people to help it along. (396)

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

My Investment Compass

Yesterday I spent most of my day tinkering with Excel and putting together tables. My analysis was for some investments I plan to make in the near future. It was a reminder of how analytical I can get sometimes. I started out with ABC up and down the X axis, and XYZ on the Y axis and populated the cells with various formulas. Then I would rearrange the line items or add / delete lines all to get the right amount of detail.

In the world of corporate tax (my profession), it's rare that we have to put together a table from scratch. Most of the time, the data is already provided to us and it requires manipulation. Often times it's as easy as performing a VLOOKUP or HLOOKUP or simply using a Pivot Table. But there's just so much information to analyze. The trick is to know what you need for a narrow down the dataset to those categories.

The data I came up with yesterday was based on reading and research I did about various investment products which I plan to place bets on. For me, my interests are currently in:

  • Blockchain technology
  • Cryptocurrency
  • eSports
  • Environment
  • Renewable Resources / Alternative Energy
The potential for each of the above is sky high. I think we're going to see Blockchain become the accounting of the future. Plenty of businesses are currently analyzing how to implement and make use of the technology. From the success and safety of the Blockchain, cryptocurrency was developed potentially to make financial exchanges easier, non-centrally governed, and safer than transactions with intermediaries. It is yet another factor that will shrink the world and create a common denominator to create business across borders. Imagine being able to pay for your meal in a foreign country safely without having to exchange currency or use a credit card and be subject to foreign transaction fees with just the click of a button on your mobile phone. It's potentially that easy. 

Then there's eSports, and if you've read my previous posts you already know what I think. It's sports digitized and the market is only growing. I can only see an upside financially. The downside is going to be getting your kids outside for fresh air to play like the old days of activity and exercise. I'm sure the world will find some health detriments, and we should be sure to combat them and set limits. But the trend is upward for eSports. And like anything that requires moderation, it will be a matter of parental guidance and reasonableness that helps mitigate any health concerns. 

The environment and renewable energy also go hand in hand similar to Blockchain and Cryptocurrency. It's easy, the bet is that renewable and alternative energy sources will improve the environment that we live. And those who create a greener lifestyle should and will benefit in more ways than just financial - health-wise too. Solar energy is really making a statement these days. The tech has been around for years but Tesla and other solar manufacturers are really making it easier and cheaper to be environmentally friendly. Wind is also rising but less publicly. The new turbines on and offshore will have been providing electricity for a while now but drawing much less attention. Similarly, hydroelectric energy has also been around for a while but with few water sources to plug up with dams, it too doesn't get the recognition it deserves for as long as it has already served us. And the remaining alternatives include biomass, geothermal, and tidal have yet to really make a profound impact but again, the potential is great. 

I suppose over these past few months of unemployment, the experiences I've lived through, the reading I've done and the interests I've developed have helped me realize what my future holds. I know better who I want to be and how I want to carry out that lifestyle. For now, the next investments I will make are just a stepping stone for the future I want to build. And like the past few months, I'm sure these investments will be rocky at time but the long term results should be upward trending. (700)

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

From A Gamer's Perspective

My cousin's son (first cousin once removed) is my nephew for all intents and purposes.  He is an avid gamer but now a college student (and school comes first, maybe). Ever since I can remember, he's been inseparable from his video game consoles, whether it was his Nintendo GameCube, DS, Wii, or now that's he's older, his computer.

With my curiosity for eSports growing, I thought it a good idea to interview him to know what it's like as a player in the game and to analyze it like an investor to a potential investment.

Here's the transcript:

J: What kinds of games do you play?
AC: MMORPG, MOBA, Open World, First-Person Shooters, 2D Side Scrollers
Analysis: A variety of games and situations allow a single person to play with / against numerous multi-level players. Check out these stats

J: What system / console do you use?
AC: PC most often, Wii
Analysis: With speedy internet and an overwhelming majority of households having a computer, the basic hardware is already in place for gamers and future gamers. 

J: How often and how long do you play for?
AC: At least 8 hours a week on average
Analysis: That's practically 1 workday per week, and that's as a college student. Professionals must play 5-6 times more than that. That's time invested to learn and improve. 

J: Do you have a team that you always play with?
AC: No, I do follow teams though primarily in League Of Legends and the team name is Team SoloMid
Analysis: This team is branded, has a track record of winning, and is publicly known in the gaming world and on social media. They have all the essentials to make money. 

J: Is the gaming community around you large?
AC: Not around at my college but the community within the games are massive ranging from hundreds of thousands to millions of players.
Analysis: He's a college kid in a small Texas town. I'm not surprised. But the value in this response is that gaming is a world-wide phenomenon that draws millions of people. How's that for market size? 

J: What games do you play?
AC: League of Legends, Counter-Strike Global Offensive, Overwatch, Playerunknown Battlegrounds, Starcraft II, Maplestory, Osu, Art of War: Red Tides, Guitar Hero III, Super Smash Bros. Melee, The Forest
Analysis: The variety of games available for play are many and varied which means that there are few limits to their markets. Males and females from ages 18-38 with a computer and some money to buy games to have fun is their target. It doesn't get any broader than that...unless you don't like to have fun?

J: What skill level are you?
AC: In League of Legends I was top .8% in the world; Maplestory I was once Ranked #1 in the world; Counter-Strike I'm DMG (which basically means I'm around the top 15%). All the other games are just for fun or there is no real ranking to determine my skill.
Analysis: We have an avid, intelligent, adaptively skilled gamer here. If he wasn't pursuing an education, he definitely would have a future in eSports. But don't tell his mom I said that. She'll kill me. 

J: How important are reaction times and ability to learn levels?
AC: In the games that I played competitively reaction times were crucial especially in Counter-Strike Global Offense. A lot of the games require in-depth game knowledge, which entails being able to predict your opponent and adapt to different situations due to every game (match) being different. Learning the games were relatively easy but mastering it and being able to apply different sets of skills is almost impossible and not even the best of players are perfect at the game.
Analysis: Gaming is a skill, like being able to make handicrafts or use MS Excel or recite the law, it requires time, practice, patience, and concentration. Last I heard, skilled workers were fairly well paid. 

J: Do you participate in tournaments?
AC: I used to
Analysis: Good. You should be studying while you're in school. Make sure you tell his mom I said that. 

J: How large are they? How much do they cost to join? What is a typical amount you might win?
AC: Some consisted of 20 players others consisted of 100+, it depended on what type of tournament. Most tournaments were $5 to enter per player (team of 5 in regards to League of Legends and Counter-Strike Global Offense) and some made us pay $15 per person. Normally we would win $100 or more.
Analysis: His response seems typical for smaller tournaments, but I'm sure that the bigger tournaments that have $1M prize money require quite a bit more to buy-in.

J: Do you find  that you need to practice?
AC: Yes, if you did not practice you'd be left behind due to the game always changing (patches, updates, etc.) and people are always finding out different builds which changes the META (META = the things that worked in game, strategies, champions that fit those strategies)
Analysis: Practice makes...winning. Because as he said, it's nearly impossible to be perfect. I suppose relative to your competition you could be perfect, but it's adaptive gaming that wins. 

J: Did you build your own computer?
AC: Yes with my friend and my dad
Analysis: Parents getting involved is not uncommon. According to a study done by the ESA, 67% of parents play video games with their kids once a week. When you have support and involvement, there are less barriers to entry. Meaning, parents will shell out the money for their kids games. And that is a source of income for the gaming industry. 

J: Do you use specific hardware / software because of quality?
AC: Yes, some games won't run if your computer specs. aren't up to par with the games minimum standard. Some games are graphic intensive (not League of Legends or Counter-Strike Global Offensive) so if your computer can't hold up your FPS (frames per second) would be very low and it would cause an inability to react which in turn makes you a bad players.
Analysis: The better you become at gaming, the more likely you are to want to upgrade your gear. So the components industries are also making gains. Keep an eye out on the software and hardware companies stock price as the gaming industry grows. 

J: Does your school have an eSports team for gaming? If so, is it sponsored?
AC: No
Analysis: But more and more schools do. As the eSports industry grows in the adult world (NBA, NFL, MLB, MLS, etc.) so will the collegiate and high school markets. Just take football as an example - there are the pee-wees, pop warner, freshman, JV, Varsity, Collegiate, Semi-Pro, and Professional levels. 

This interview was pretty insightful. I learned a lot about my nephew and the gamers' perspective. But I was also able to do a little analysis as an investor. eSports is going to grow and now is the time to invest. It's now time to do a little more digging on where to place these bets. (1188)

Monday, October 16, 2017

eSports Is On The Rise

Last night I started to read about something new to me but not new in general. eSports. Kids and many of today's adults play video games. (I say "today's adults" because they are the generation that pioneered gaming systems 30-40 years ago.) And in the recent years, the video-gaming industry has turned what was once friendly competition into a money-making, competitive, league-forming battlefield.

Players are now considered "professional" depending on their "skill" level at beating their enemies or completing tasks / levels. And there are many, many players out there. So many, in fact, that tournaments are organized and bring hundreds if not thousands of players. But most significantly, the events bring spectators, enthusiasts, amateurs, and others to watch the fast-paced motion graphics on big screens in arena-sized locations. We're talking about millions of people involved here. eSports are taking on a life very similar to real life physical sports (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS, etc.).

And the prize money is not insignificant. This is a link to the Top 100 games with the most prize money awarded over time. Clearly, there's plenty of cash to motivate players to improve their gaming abilities to be good enough to compete.

I suppose it's no real surprise that the money is there. I mean simple investment strategy tells us that you have to put money in to get money out. That is, you have to buy the equipment (games, consoles, controllers, graphics cards, microphones, headsets, etc.) to put in the time and practice, and once you've achieved that certain player level, you might reap the rewards monetarily. How good you are determines your Return On Investment (ROI).

But now that there are established tournaments all over the world and the frequency with which they happen is often, the idea of creating leagues and teams for profit must have been tugging at the purse-strings of investment related mindsets. It was just a matter of figuring out how to monetize the industry. And now it's been done.

The industry has been growing for the past couple of years already. Expectations are for the size and wealth of the players, investors, gaming designers, software companies, hardware manufacturers, and all the other peripheral positions is growing exponentially. Actual franchise teams are investing in their eSports teams. Even celebrities are getting in on the action. And it clearly makes sense. The investment is relatively cheap, the target market is growing (in population), and the returns are proven.

The target market grows in so many ways too. You have the gamers and spectators on the high side of the age range who continue to age (obviously) but with that comes more disposable income. And since they're already locked into the mindset, it's natural to continue to support something they've "grown" with. On the other side of the spectrum are the kids who are entering the gaming age. We know that there are millions of kids born each each. That just means the chances of developing a fan, a gamer, or an investor in the future is pretty good.

And technology is constantly improving. We're getting better computers, improved graphics, and faster internet everyday. The world is becoming smaller, faster, and more capable all the time. This all makes the gaming industry that much more capable of supporting the inevitable gold-rush-like boom that will continue for the next few years.

I'm very interested to see where this goes, both in the short term and the long term. As one of today's adults, it will be one of those things that we'll look back on and say, "I was around and conscious of it all when this movement started." And my hope is that I too can get in on the action in the near future and make a future for myself with that. Anyone want to take a risk too? (641)

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Save Puerto Rico, U.S.A. - Where The Americas Meet

It is truly unbelievable how slow the response is for the devastated island of Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory. In part, I believe the difficulty in reaching the island prevent normal citizens from reaching out similar to how we did for Texas and Florida. The affected could drive out or the determined could drive to the ravaged areas. But because flights have to be arranged and private boats are just not practical for responders due to it's many limitations, the people who want to and can help, are in a way handcuffed.

In situations like these, it's the government's responsibility to make sure action is taken as quickly as possible. Only they can control the situation efficiently with their seemingly unlimited access to any resource necessary at any given time. But what have they done so far?

Without discrediting the government for what has been done, these are the statistics we know as of today:

  • it has been 3 weeks since Hurricane Maria struck the island nation
  • 85% of the island remains without power as of Saturday
  • 48 people have died from various causes related to the weather-related incident
  • the risk of disease increases every day without proper sanitation and drainage
  • 36% of homes lack clean water
  • food is becoming increasingly scarce, not to mention expensive
There is still so much that needs to be done to help our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico but it seems like the federal government isn't doing everything it needs to do in the timeliest manner. In fact, the news shares more back and forth bickering and complaining from the leadership than effort to save the people and landscape.

How could they let this happen to these people? I feel like I've seen more coverage about scrambling jets to fly over Korea or talks to force action in Iran than in aiding citizen of the country. But why am I still surprised? In this administration it doesn't seem like the American people are really as important as some make us out to be. I mean it sounds like we're just continuing to hurt the people rather than help them. For example, here are some headlines:  
  • President Trump's decision to end ACA subsidy creates fresh uncertainty - Tennessean
  • Almost half of Republicans want war with North Korea, a new poll says. Is it the Trump Effect? - The Washington Post
  • Trump turns to executive powers in bid to force Congress into action - The Washington Post
  • Trump to nominate climate change doubter as top environmental adviser - Chicago Tribune
  • Trump's Love Affair with Coal - Politico
  • Trump Wanted Tenfold Increase in Nuclear Arsenal, Surprising Military - NBC News
  • Bob Corker Says Trump’s Recklessness Threatens ‘World War III’ - The New York Times
Sadly, Puerto Rico isn't as important to the government as it is to the people on the mainland who have families, relatives, friends, colleagues, business partners, and love for the beauty of the island that has provided us with great vacations, countless memories, and priceless relationships. 

If not for the upstanding citizens with drive and diligence, if not for the tech companies with the ways and means to help, if not for the compassion of the private sector and celebrities alike we might have completely lost Puerto Rico. But despite the outlook being grim for now, I'm sure that Puerto Rico will have as great a rebound mostly due to the good natured American citizens who don't let politics interfere with their moral judgement. (581)

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Day 17 Of The Challenge

Today is Day 17 of my 500 (really just 300) Words-A-Day challenge to myself. And I'm struggling yet again to find a topic to write about but forcing myself to put some sentences on the page. Does it count if I contributed 156 words to my other blog? Or is that cheating? Haha.

I think it's been tough to find subjects to post about because I've been cooped up all day at home. And although I read the news online, watch television, read books and magazines daily, I don't have the constant interaction with other people. I believe it's that discussion time, that spur of the moment thinking, and dynamic / at-this-very-moment stream of consciousness thought process that really diversifies an experience. Trains of thought and exchanges of ideas in the midst of conversation are what give your mind the helpful dose of creativity and mental ammunition for good writing.

There's only so much you can think about while you're alone. Walking to the gym to exercise or taking a 5 mile stroll around town are certainly good times to provoke thought but for me the ideas just recycle themselves. For a fresh outlook, I really believe I need an exchange with another human.

I suppose that's why going to work / being in the office always kept my mind churning. I constantly felt busy or that my mind was so full. I remember always having random thoughts. The conversations I had with co-workers and colleagues was always interesting. We had a steady flow of material and not enough time to share it all.

Thankfully, tomorrow, I'll be going out to lunch with my relatives to celebrate my dad's birthday. I'm sure I'll have some interesting conversations with them that should spur some ideas.

Unemployment, you're messing with my mind! (300)

Friday, October 13, 2017

Flashback or Fast-Forward Friday?

It was just about 1 year ago that Carolyn and I notified our jobs about our intent to travel the world for 6 months.

I remember the looks on the faces of my managers. It was that "are you serious?" look, jaw slightly dropped, eyebrows raised, lines across their forehead like you could see their brains churning the information and implications of my departure. They asked questions about why, how long, and was I certain? "Yes," I replied affirmatively. But once those answers were revealed and they knew nothing was going to prevent us from going, they changed their line of questioning to where will you go? And how long? And since when have you known? Is it all planned? How much does it cost? Are you afraid?

And after all was said and done, they wished me the best of luck and had a look of happiness for me. Because these people actually know the kind of person I am. I felt that they genuinely understood what this trip would mean to me. I knew that when I returned, they would continue to support my decision and help me if I ever really needed it.

So here I am today recalling the life changing decision to pursue the life of a temporary nomad. I remember how scared I was to take this road less traveled. But I also remember how liberating it was. I know we made the right decision.

As I read back some of the posts I started out with, I particularly zoned in on this post from Friday, December 9, 2016 while we were in the Atacama Desert in Chile. I pondered,
"Do we have the fortitude to withstand the test of time like the elements in the desert? Are our dreams as colorful as the sunset? Will we travel the earth like the wind-blown sand? Or will our passions dry-out in the desert heat?"
It's certainly not out of the question for us to take time off again in the future. In fact, I know for sure that we will make it happen again. Any children we have at that point will join us for the journey. It may not be as long as 6 months, more likely 3-4 months, but an extended period of time is necessary. We've seen so many other families do it, and despite the challenges it poses, the reward is immeasurable.

The trip whet our appetite for more. We survived all the obstacles in our path. The world's characters were our teachers. Our minds were the canvas for the brush strokes of experience to color our dreams. And we will continue to travel the Earth for as long as we can. (451)