Sunday, October 28, 2012

Small changes = big rewards

Two years ago I made the first in a series of small changes aimed at increasing my health and fitness. Some of the changes were small, while others were huge. All were a challenge; even the smallest of the changes. Habits are hard to break. I know. I've tried over the years and failed at most attempts, but not this time. I approached the problem from a different perspective. I used tools from my professional life. I'm a technical project manager. I know how to make big things happen. It takes a combination of small focused efforts and measurement of the process. It works every time. 

Project managers have a saying, "Who does what and by when?" It's a fundamental concept. In this case the "who" is me. The "does what" is to make a small change. The "by when" is the length of time it takes to make the change stick. I focused my first project on smoking. 

On November 1, I will celebrate two years without smoking. I was a cigar smoker. On average, I've smoked six or seven cigars a week since 1999 and one or two a week since the mid 80s. I targeted smoking for obvious reasons. It was killing me slowly. I knew that. I was not confident that I could quit as I had tried a many times before. Smoking a stogie was too much a part of who I was,  and it was something that I enjoyed too much to walk away from.

I attacked smoking in small steps. The first thing I changed was my environmental triggers. I tended to smoke at lunch. I would grab some fast food, go to a park and then eat quickly. The rest of my time was dedicated to smoking the biggest cigar I could find. I usually smoked with friends. Lunch was a social break centered around smoking. The first change was easy. I stopped going to the park for lunch. Instead, I started to eat socially with my coworkers at local restaurants. Without an opportunity to smoke, I smoked less. When I was alone, I went out looking for something to photograph rather than a quiet meal in the park.

I waited a few weeks and then targeted other environmental triggers. I liked to smoke a cigarillo in the morning after coffee. I replaced the morning smoke break with a short walk. I did the same in the afternoon where I would sometimes smoke after tea. I rarely smoked at home, so attacking my workplace environmental triggers had a larger impact on my smoking. After a few weeks, I was down to one cigar a week. On November 1, 2010 I stopped altogether. There were 15 small changes in all that I made to quit smoking. It took a few months to develop new habits. I'd make one small change at a time and then wait a week or two for before making the next adjustment. I replaced bad habits with healthy new alternatives. I also wrote a project plan and measured my progress by counting cigars smoked per day and money spent on smoking supplies per week. After a month, I had reduced my cigar intake by 35% and my spend by 22%. In the end, I saved an average $125 per month. 

Quitting smoking was easy compared with the next big change on the list. I wanted to quit drinking diet soda.  I had acquired the soda habit 40 years ago while a youngster. I switched to diet soda when Diet Coke came out and then migrated to Diet Dr. Pepper when it hit the market. I was a soda addict in the worse possible way. I estimate that I drank at least  seven cans of soda per day, plus a couple of large sodas from fast-food vendors. I was out of control. I used the same approach for sodas as I did for cigars, but it was much harder. The diet coke monkey was on my back, and it was working me over hard. I suffered through a month headaches and concentration problems, but I kept at it.  By the end of November, 2010 I had stopped drinking diet soda altogether.  Here are some of my small steps:

  • I drink three glasses of water when I wake up in the morning (24oz).
  • I substitute unsweetened iced tea for diet soda.
  • I drink water on a regular schedule (Yes… there is an app for that).
  • I order club soda when dining out.
  • I drink water with most meals. 
  • I stocked up on club soda brands for social occasions.
  • I drink scotch whisky straight up or with club soda (Instead of Jack and coke).

I've had a sip or two since quitting. I cannot understand why I liked it. It's so damn sweet. I really can't stand the taste any more.

Diet soda may not seem like a big health concern, but too much salt and chemicals in my diet worries me. With my health problems, less salt is a good idea. The chemicals are another matter altogether. Chemicals are not food. I want to eat food, not chemicals.

I've continued to use this technique on other areas of my life.  My current focus is weight loss. I've had good results so far too. Another area is writing. It's also one of the reasons I've slowed down on my blog. I'm working on a project that demands more of my time. Blogging is fun, but it does not help me get any closer to my writing goals, so i'm doing much less of it these days. 

I'll post more on this in the weeks ahead. Wish me luck. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

A follow up on voting libertarian

I had a few emails roll in over the last 24-hours since I posted this article One email pointed me to a link for what passes for the LPC's voters guide. I've recreated the guide below:

Libertarian Party of California Voters Guide

  • Proposition 30 - No
  • Proposition 31 - No
  • Proposition 32 - No
  • Proposition 33 - Yes
  • Proposition 34 - Yes
  • Proposition 35 - No
  • Proposition 36 - Yes
  • Proposition 37 - Yes
  • Proposition 38 - No
  • Proposition 38 - No
  • Proposition 39 - No
  • Proposition 40 - No position taken

The good news is, I now know what the Libertarian Party expects from its members, what I don't know is why I should vote yes or no on any of the propositions. If left to my own devices, I will always make up my own mind. Take prop 32 for instance. Why should libertarians vote for more regulation?

A little research shows that democrats appose the initiative while republicans support it. To put it another way, unions appose it, while businesses support it. Dig a little deeper and you find that Charles Munger Jr. poured $22 million into the initiative while the California Teachers Association poured $20 million.  Why does Munger support prop 32? He wants fair elections. Oddly enough, so does the Teachers Union.  Does prop 32 make for fair elections? No; not really. It limits union money from entering campaigns by attacking their funding. The initiative does not do the same thing for businesses (although it says it does). Businesses do not raise political donations from their employees. The notion that they would is absurd. If prop 32 were fair, it would the ability to contribute funds. 

My acid tests:

Is this proposition part of a Republican strategy to change the balance of power in California? If yes, then I vote no. Having a stronger Republican party does not advance libertarian ideals. It weakens our ability to influence policy. Republicans are increasing led by dangerous theocrats. Any link to libertairian principles are subverted by a Christian social agenda. We gain smaller government at the cost of inviting the government into our bedrooms? Doing anything to help the republican cause is insanity. 

Is the initiative fair? In this case, it is not fair. It attacks one side of the problem while leaving a gaping loophole that only business can exploit.  Balance is lost. Our system will suffer. 

Since I do not know why libertarians should support prop 32, I will vote NO unless I hear a better argument. 

This is my point - I want to know why we take a position on a proposition. I want a well written and professionally crafted document accessible to all that tells the story in language we can understand. If we have this, then people like me can  promote our position. Each month my blog has tens of thousands of visitors. I've racked up 2 million page views in the last couple of years. My articles post highly in search results. If I write about an issue, I can influence others in a small way. Yet without leadership, little happens. I must research and develop content on my own and guess at the motivations of our libertarian leadership. It still blows my mind that we cannot get our act together. Instead we talk about the unelectable Gary Johnson as if campaign matters. I don't get it. Gary who?

Where the hell is my voter guide? Where is my candidate analysis? I want to know which candidate, of the electable candidates, is most closely aligned with libertarian thinking. Trust me - very few libertarians who run locally are electable. Why vote for an unelectable libertarian if our ability to influence policy can best be implemented via a democrat?

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

So I’m a libertarian voter

Yes. It’s true. I’m a libertarian (notice the small L). I’m also an incrementalist. I believe that any movement, even small steps, towards libertarian political objectives is a good thing. I’ve tried to connect with big “L” libertarian establishment here in California over the last decade. Let’s just say I’m not a good fit, especially since the rise of the Tea Party nutballs. I’ll write more on this in the future, but for now I want to concentrate on one thing. I’m a libertarian voter. I want to know how I should vote in the 2012 election? Where is the official Libertarian voters guide?

Is there a voters guide posted at the LPC website? The answer is no (I looked hard too). You can waste a lot of time looking for it, but ultimately, you won’t find it because it does not exist. And that my friends, it just plain sad. There are 11 propositions on November's ballot. An inquiring libertarian wants to know what the LPC’s position is on all of these propositions? To find anything, I had to look in other places, like the up or down guide at LPLAC.

Take Proposition 34 for example. The LBC website has no articles on proposition 34. If you want to find the libertarian position, you must Google it and read the positions of the various county organizations (good luck in crazy land). All of the county positions I read call for libertarians to vote yes, which is good since that is my position. I want more though. Why should we vote yes. the why is important. What is the principle at stake here? What do we gain by supporting a repeal of the death penalty? Eager minds want to know.

I believe libertarians should vote YES on prop 34. The reasons are simple. The death penalty is morally wrong (I realize morality is not a libertarian thing). The state should not have the power to execute its citizens. And finally, eliminating the death penalty will save California tax payers billions of dollars and reduce the size of government.

I do have problems with prop 34 though. It calls for creating a fund of "100 million dollars to help solve more homicide and rape cases. I don’t see how ending the death penalty is in any way related to solving more crime, but given the potential savings, 100 million dollars is chump change. Remember, I am an incrementalist. Movement in the right direction is a good thing. Ending the death penalty is a step in the right direction. So I support it.

The Libertarian Part of California will never provide this service. Instead they offer this superficial tripe:

Libertarian solutions are the most practical and workable for strengthening our economy and governing our state. If they had been employed during the last decade, our state would be strong and not in a deficit. Thus, Libertarians work to:

  • Reduce government spending;
  • Reform public employee pensions, which are bankrupting cities, counties and the state;
  • Promote private business development, which will create jobs;
  • Privatize government services that are best delivered by cost-effective providers;
  • Guarantee equal treatment under the law for all Californians;
  • Regulate marijuana like wine for adults, thus making it less available to minors; and
  • Adopt a part-time Legislature.

The Libertarian Party has candidates who will make these reforms, such as our Presidential candidate Gary Johnson, but first they need your support in this upcoming election.

Libertarian Party of California
Kevin Takenaga, Chairman
770 L Street, Suite 950
Sacramento, CA 95814-3361
(916) 446-1776, Extension 6

I’m sure Kevin Takenaga means well, but seriously. What does this have to do with proposition 35? Which is: California Proposition 35, Ban on Human Trafficking and Sex Slavery (2012). I’m told by the LPLSC guide that I should vote no. I would like to know why. I’d also like to know why this guide is not on the Libertarian Party of California’s website… Just saying.

Regarding prop 35. I was inclined to vote yes, but then I read the text of the proposition. I have a couple of rules on issues regarding crime.

First: Does it create a source of income for law enforcement? If the answer is yes, then I vote no. My reasoning is simple, if law enforcement agencies receive increased funding from arresting people, they will arrest people to keep their funding. In this case, fines levied against human traffickers will be split between law enforcement and victims. The cops will have an incentive to arrest people under this ordnance, which means the husband of a woman who chooses to work as a prostitute (a consenting adult with a consenting adult), could find himself arrested under a broad interpretation of the new law because he received financial benefit from his wife’s work.

Second: Is the initiative an unfunded mandate? The answer here is yes. There is no provision for offsetting the cost of increased prosecution at the state level and no funding for increased law enforcement training and procedural changes.Plus, no funding for increased incarceration in already overcrowded prisons.

Third: Is the proposition actually doing what it is purported to be doing. Again, in this case the answer is no. It adds language for the distribution of offensive material which would make any person distributing said material subject to prosecution as a human trafficker.

After thinking about it, I’m voting no. It is a good idea, but executed poorly.

Now, back to libertarian la la land. Where is the leadership? Where is the good advice? Where is the analysis? Why is it that we manage to act like kooks promoting all manner of oddness at a time when real issues need attention. We fail at all levels here. When  presented with something as simple as a well-designed website with good content, and a voters guide, we can’t seem to get it done.

I found this in on a blog post from September 24th.

Your California LP is hard at work preparing not only for the November 6th elections, but also getting Prop. 14 overturned, supporting our candidates, deciding our stands on the propositions, and getting our voter registration numbers up to meet ballot eligibility requirements.

I can’t see the results of the “hard work." There have been two blog posts since the one noted above. Neither have any content about the election.

I like my politics honest

I know this may sound silly given the political shenanigans of this political election cycle, but I really do appreciate honesty in the people I vote for. I can never vote from Romney for example, his lies are too many to count. This post is not about presidential politics, I’m focused on local issues today. In this case, a Democrat named Cristina Garcia who is running for the California State Assembly in the 58th District in this November’s election. Political party affiliation and politics aside, I cannot vote for her. Here is why.

Garcia promoted herself in election material by claiming she had a PhD in Public Administration from USC.

“In my campaign literature for state assembly, I stated that I have a PhD from USC. While I have finished all of my course work, I technically am only a PhD candidate. I have yet to finish the final process of my PhD, which is defending my dissertation. I will fulfill that final responsibility in the near future.”

“As such, I take full responsibility for using the term PhD instead of PhD candidate in my campaign literature. For that I humbly apologize and ask for the forgiveness and understanding of all the voters of the 58th Assembly District,” Garcia said.

Source: Assembly hopeful Cristina Garcia admits not having Doctoral credentials; seeks ‘forgiveness’ from voters

Misrepresenting ones credentials is a dumb thing to do, especially when your opponent runs a private investigation business. More importantly, it cause me to write the candidate off as untrustworthy. She could have said that she was a PhD candidate. Doing so would carry the same weight.

I try not to lie. It’s hard, but I do try to be honest. For example, when asked if I still have my APICS certification, I say no. I kept it for years, but did not renew it after I changed careers. I don’t use the certification (CPIM) in my title any longer because that would be misrepresenting my credentials, but I do list it on my resume as inactive, In other words, I was once certified, but I am not certified any longer. I do the same thing with my MBA. If asked I will tell people I finished near the top of my class. I don’t say top ten, I don’t say, “top of my class.” If you press me I will give my actual placement, which is in the top 20.

Honesty brings a sense of humility that is important in relationships. When I tell the story of why I missed being at the very top of my graduating class, I’m happy to relate that I did not study for a key final exam in a very difficult class because my young niece was near death in a hospital 200 miles away. I kept vigil with my family while knowing full well that I would not ace my test. I did poorly, my grade suffered. I felt pretty good about the decision afterwards and I will not trade the memory of seeing my niece in recovery after heart and lung surgery. Garcia will need to learn how to feel good about her failures. She’s a PhD candidate at USC with her course work and dissertation behind her. I would feel pretty good telling that story.

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There are no poor people in Cerritos

Cerritos, my neighbor to the west, has once again shown its true colors. This time, they voted down a Goodwill store because residents think the store will increase crime.

White homemade signs, muffled gasps and cheers filled the Cerritos City Council chambers as the city council denied Goodwill SOLAC a conditional use permit to open a store on Carmenita Road. With Councilman Mark Pulido being the odd man out, the majority of the Oct. 11 meeting audience seemed to be on the council's side.

You won’t find homeless people or panhandlers in Cerritos. There are no soup kitchens or homeless shelters. You will see the homeless once you pass into neighboring cities through. It’s odd how that works. Cerritos is a city full of expensive homes, zoning-commission approved businesses and churches. There are lots and lots of churches, but very little love. I’m sure they pray about the poor while voting Goodwill stores.

Mayor Pro Tem Bruce Barrows said it best, “it was the wrong fit for the community.”

Cerritos sees itself as affluent. A Goodwill store would soil its image. Screw those in need.

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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Why do we do bless the water?

I realize that as a non-Catholic and atheist I do not have the inside dope on why religious people do the odd things that they do. Like this commemorative plaque outside of Casa Torres Mexican restaurant in Sylmar.


There is a small fountain outside the entrance. This sign hangs near it. Casa Torres is newly reopened. I assume this happened at that time. Why bless a fountain? We are not talking a big impressive fountain here either, the thing is better suited to my backyard.

Why would the City of Los Angeles offer this service? Why? And, why is this important? I think an outstanding Yelp review would do more to bring in business. God don’t care about the quality of your food.

It’s a damn good restaurant for Sylmar. The Casa Torres special is killer.

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Why I can’t watch Fox News

The Network for Church Monitoring has an article up call 14 Propaganda Techniques Fox “News” Uses to Brainwash Americans that manages to capture my frustration when trapped in a waiting room with Fox News. I question almost everything. It’s an old habit, but I cannot start to question Fox News content because I trip over their oafish manipulations. The one the bothers me the most is Projection/Flipping.

Projection/Flipping. This one is frustrating for the viewer who is trying to actually follow the argument. It involves taking whatever underhanded tactic you’re using and then accusing your opponent of doing it to you first. We see this frequently in the immigration discussion, where anti-racists are accused of racism, or in the climate change debate, where those who argue for human causes of the phenomenon are accused of not having science or facts on their side. It’s often called upon when the media host finds themselves on the ropes in the debate.

I find myself saying, “Wait. What?”

My total patronage of Fox News this year is no more than two hours. None of this was voluntary.

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Tea party idiocy on the 19th Amendment

Central Mississippi Tea Party President Janis Lane said these immortal words recently in an interview where she giving women the right to vote was a bad idea.

"There is nothing worse than a bunch of mean, hateful women," she says. "They are diabolical in how than can skewer a person. I do not see that in men."

Source: Letting women vote was a bad idea, Mississippi tea party leader says: Jarvis DeBerry

I look forward to the day 20 years from now when a scholar writes the definitive history of the Tea Party Movement. It will be one-page long and simply say, “they were idiots.”

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Monday, October 08, 2012

Youth pastor Eric Manual convicted


Eric Manuel, a former youth pastor, pleaded guilty to a charge of child molestation. He tried to corrupt a 15-year-old boy by offering money in exchange for sex acts. Manuel also stands accused of sexting with 17 other teen boys while pretending to be a teen girl.

Manuel faces 10 years to life in prison. I’m guessing we will not see this freak for a very long time.

Manuel can best be described as a newly minted youth minister. He passed muster because his criminal background check was just that; a criminal background check. I’m not a fan of simple checks. A reference check is required. I tell churches that hiring a youth pastor is like hiring a person to work on a secret project. Applicants must pass a reference check if they are to work on the project. There is no better way to determine the character of an applicant than by talked to those have interacted with them in a different setting. When I went through the process, they even talked to my high school teachers. A criminal background check is required, but it is not enough. A reference check is required. There was ample information available in this case. The Catholic Dioceses of Lafeyette did the bare minimum.

Manuel, a 2008 graduate of St. Thomas More High School in Lafayette, attended seminary for about one month before he voluntarily withdrew, according to information provided earlier this year by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lafayette.

He had volunteered with youth ministry programs at St. Thomas More and Notre Dame High School in Crowley and participated in youth retreats and a mission trip, according to information from the Diocese.

Source: Man accused of coercing boys

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Mistaking thinking for praying

For lunch today, I stopped a Carl’s Jr. for quick meal. I’m fighting an entrenched battle with my waistline, so I’ve been carful to make choices consistent with my paleo lifestyle.  In this case, I ordered a chicken breast sandwich served protein style with no sauce and a side salad, plus an iced tea. It’s boring, but I view weight loss one battle at a time. I won this one. When I add in breakfast, snacks, and dinner, I managed to win all my battles today. Good for me.

I’m practicing something called mindful eating. It’s one of many small changes I’ve made towards my relationship with food. In this case, I allow myself one bite of the salad to start, then spend a minimum of two minutes thinking about my meal before I eat it. I have a checklist on my phone that I use to run through a series of questions. Questions include:

  • Is there anything in the meal I should discard before resuming the meal (croutons)
  • Is the meal prepared the way I ordered it?
  • How much of this meal should I eat?

The lists also includes prompts to help me get all Zen about my meal by thinking about what my first bite tastes like, reminders to eat slowly, and most importantly, a reminder to ask myself if I am sated.

I know this sounds corny, but to be honest, my relationship with food is horrible and I need these little changes to make the big changes happen.

And now for the odd part, While in my self-imposed two-minute break, a man who had been studying the bible at a nearby table stood up and said, “It is beautiful to see a fellow Christian praying over their food.”

“The hell you say.” was my response. “I’m thinking here.”

“I was watching you. You were praying.” says the Christian.

I was miffed at this point, but try to be polite. “Listen. I don’t pray. Can we leave it at that?”

The Christian backed off and returned to his table. A few minutes later he left the restaurant. A few minutes after that he return with a small New Testament. He dropped it on my table and said, “I think you might need this.” Then he left.

Lunch ruined. Mindfulness forgotten. I threw his gift away with the remains of my meal.

he says a word
I say a word
Autumn deepens

- Kyoshi Tarahama