Bella the dog. She is about 11 years old and slowing down. She snores and it’s awesome.
What stops people from achieving goals they set for themselves? I have learned that this is the very person that stares back at you when you’re looking in a mirror. Yes, it’s you. I write this knowing now that successes and failures in my life have been ultimately caused by my actions but I didn’t realize for many years that the failures and missed opportunities are my doing. It took me decades to figure out this bit of knowledge thanks to listening to the Rich Roll podcast when he interviewed David Goggins. I’ll make it easy for you. Click here to get the episode. If it doesn’t open your mind and get you fired up something is wrong. Ultimately we’re responsible for our own life. It’s very simple. As of today I am determined that nothing will stop me from my goals. I’m getting out of the way of myself so I can get things done that matter to me.
In all my years of dealing with people in my personal life and in business I’ve come across genuinely good people and some real tools. One glaring difference is the tools don’t seem to know that they’re over the top jerkoffs with nothing to say except words that demean and dehumanize. Good people take the time to listen, take a moment to think before responding, and generally have an outlook on life that resonates with values that align with not being a dick. It’s really pretty simple to treat people with respect, but when that respect isn’t paid back things quickly turn sour. So, don’t be a dick.
As another year ticks over and the calendar is flipped to a new year many people are hopeful and fired up to get resolutions going. I’ve always been a naysayer to the idea of resolutions since the calendar shouldn’t dictate how we live our lives, rather we should live according to the seasons. That’s just my $0.02. So for 2018 I’m going to go ahead and set a resolution and make it real. The resolution to update my blog with a new post at least once a day. That’s it. Seem’s easy enough. We’ll see how this goes!
Last night we enjoyed good food and hilarious conversations with friends. Waking up without a hangover was a pleasure but getting to bed at 1:30am pushed us to lounge in bed way to long. I don’t think I need to recap NY Eve shenanigans of years past that caused all-time spin inducing hangovers to any of you since you’ve probably only tallied up a few legendary year ending self-imposed illnesses.
A nice leisurely hike with my wife at lunch time today was very nice. Clear skies and 64F weather made it pleasurable and relaxing. I felt a little verklempt thinking of my friends and colleagues freezing in the snow so I took off my shirt for the warm hike back to the car. Here’s to 2018, resolutions and all.
I was driving home from work today minding my own business when I was rear-ended by an inattentive driver while exiting the 118 eastbound at Laurel Canyon. Now, before you get your concern switch flipped to the rage setting, it wasn’t like the airbags popped out or I got whiplash from the impact. It was a little bump, but it still needed to be reviewed on the side of the road. I immediately pulled over and watched as the driver of the pickup truck slowed down as he drove by me, then sped off!!! Say what? Yep, he was a runner! I hopped back into traffic and followed him through two intersections. When it was clear I pulled up next to him and motioned to pull over. He quickly pulled onto a side street and got out of his truck. He walked back to me while I was looking at the rear bumper of my car. There was no visible damage. Not even a scratch. I started asking him why he took off and you can’t just hit people and leave the scene and so on. After a few seconds he looks at me and says hablas espanol? I said sorry buddy, not good enough to get through this. So I just kept on talking about hit and run and leaving the scene of an accident. Finally he says he’s been awake since 3:00 in the morning in sketchy english. Ok, I understand now. He was wearing a work uniform, probably from a gardening company since it was all green with the little oval name tag patch. I stared at his wrinkled mug thinking to myself this guy is probably as old as me and just got done busting his ass all day, I can claim this with my insurance and go through the whole process of getting my car checked out for the lightest bumper tap I’ve ever had, or just let it go. I chose the latter and we shook hands and went out separate ways.
The moral of the story is not every little inconvenience to you needs to result in a lawsuit, someone getting a fat lip, or pulling out a gun and having a duel. Just let that shit go!
Vegan. A simple 5 letter word that conjures up mental images of free roaming animals living a full life to absolute derision by unenlightened omnivores. It’s been a positive lifestyle choice for many people and at the same time a way of life that is often confusing and unattainable for others.
Perhaps you’ve heard the joke that goes along like this; how do you know when you’re talking to a vegan? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you. But, have you ever mentioned kale to a meat eater? You’ll be instantly attacked with tales of brisket and smoked tri-tip, followed by looks of indignation and scorn. How can you possibly survive without hamburgers and bacon? Seriously, you’re weird!
Stop. Let’s back things up a few years. Meat consumption in the USA has risen 432% from 1909 to 2012 according to the Earth Policy Institute (via NPR) which puts the USA way up near the top of all countries on earth in meat consumption. When did this “meateoric” rise begin? Looking at the stats you’ll see a slow build after WW2 then a small dip followed by a steady climb from 1950 all the way to the 2000’s. Go anywhere and you’ll find meat. It’s everywhere and if you believe the marketers you should be eating bacon for breakfast, burgers for lunch, and steaks for dinner. Seriously. How can this be? It’s simple really, money. The producers of the products are in business to make money. The costs to your health and the secondary by-products of the industry that waste resources and pollute the environment are just part of the business model. But, does it really have to be this way? Pull up a chair and follow along on my journey. I’m not here to berate anyone, I’m just relaying my experience.
(On a side note, I don’t use the word diet to mean eating to lose weight, instead I use it to describe what I eat. This is a big difference in terms.)
Back in 2012 I made a choice. That choice was to eliminate all dead animal body parts and their excretions from my diet. The company I work for was using a marketing agency that was promoting a healthy living campaign for us. Everything from eating right to proper exercise and getting good sleep was posted on a daily basis. Eventually we stopped working with the agency and I took over maintaining the Twitter account for the company. I quickly realized that the Standard American Diet, S.A.D., and the growing waistline of Americans, me included, wasn’t doing my health any good. I was cycling regularly and trying to stay fit. Cooking on the weekends consisted of barbecue during the summer months, tri-tip, smoked pork shoulder, ribs, you name it, I cooked it, and ate it. I was using 3 Weber barbecues at the time. A large classic grill, a small portable grill, and a large smoker. I had all of the meat bases covered. During the weekdays we would eat a “healthier” diet of chicken and occasionally fish. Oven-baked chicken, chicken stuffed with cheese, chicken pizza, chicken whatever. We were sure we had this food stuff covered. We’d add veggies to just about every dinner so we’d get that covered however it was rarely the main course. Melting cheese on veggies made them more palatable so we loaded just about everything with cheese like good consumers! In the late summer of 2012 as I was reviewing Twitter posts and it dawned on me to dig into the data and find out what happens when you eliminate meat, dairy, fish, eggs, and processed food from your plate. What happens is a person could reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, and cancer. It was a revelation. The path I was on was doomed to fail even though the marketing I was believing was telling me otherwise. Some family and friends were struggling with their health and I saw the correlation between the food choices they were making and I realized I had to change something in my life. If I stayed the course I would probably develope diabetes, followed by heart trouble, and then cancer. In August of 2012 I made the decision. The seemingly radical choice to go vegan took a full two weeks to build into a habit. During that initial phase I ate some cheese and hamburger at a friend’s house during a backyard barbecue. The following day the entire family was travelling home from a soccer tournament so we stopped off at the legendary Southern California In-n-Out Burger. That right there was my last dance with meat. I had a double-double (animal style) and never looked back. From that day on I was in the groove and hooked on plants 100%.
Often I hear statements thrown my way along the lines of “I could never do that, I like cheese too much.” or my favorite “Where do you get protein from?” to which I answer the same place elephants get protein from. Was it hard to kick all of these things out of the refrigerator? Absolutely. Initially there was a learning curve that evolved from vegetable soups and salads to more detailed dishes with cashew cheez, lentils, and other legumes I would have never tried. I read as many blog posts and plant-based recipes as possible. One fateful day in September of 2012 I opened up the podcast app on my phone and found the Rich Roll Podcast. It may sound corny but this podcast changed my life. I was presented with a lifestyle, that first off was not lame, and secondly I wouldn’t be a weakling by not eating meat. Rich Roll and his wife, the very insightful Julie Piatt, were podcasting from Hawaii. Their easy going style was the perfect platform for delivering a message that yes, you can eat plants and not only survive, but thrive. It’s been 4 years now and I still listen to the podcast every Tuesday. Roll’s conviction and guest list are top notch. Every episode is a tour of the mind without being in your face about the vegan diet. I encourage everyone to listen whether you’re vegan or not. I guarantee you will enjoy the thought provoking banter and the stories that the guests bring. Truly, this is the best lifestyle podcast of all podcasts.
In the beginning weeks and months I discovered that taking the vegan lifestyle on the road can seem to be difficult. I learned quickly that finding something to eat in the middle of nowhere California seemed impossible but with some creativity you will learn that there are food options available right in front of you. All you have to do it look. Bringing pre-cooked meals along helped out tremendously. I’ve read about new vegans being nervous about not being able to eat when away from home. This is a real fear, but it’s almost always unfounded. When travelling you’ll find fruit stands that have a wide variety of items, plus many have prepackaged nuts or dried fruit from local suppliers. Many fast food places have veganizable menus. I can walk into any fast food place and at a minimum get something small to eat, or depending on the restaurant, I can get a full on feast. My key to success is to learn the menu and ask for substitutions. A quick search on Google while standing in line has given me many ideas.
You may be wondering about athletic performance. I mentioned that I was into cycling. I’ve been riding in the dirt on mountain bikes since 1992 and on road bikes since 1994. When I stopped eating SAD I quickly lost about 20 lbs and noticed that recovery after a hard ride was much, much shorter. I could literally destroy myself with hours of climbing on my mountain bike and the next day I wouldn’t feel barely anything. When I was eating SAD it would take at least 2 days to feel good after a big ride. Leg soreness and achy joints just took a while to feel better. Pre-2012 I had raced cyclocross for 7 seasons, and raced track too, for 2 seasons, with trips to the national championships and masters championships respectively. My fitness was high, or so I thought, and I regularly rode the local Strava segments like a race. After stopping the SAD plan in 2012 I put racing on hold and just rode my bikes. Going back and re-riding some Strava segments my times were better, but my fitness level was not nearly where it was. How could this be? Plants. Plain and simple. The plant based diet was making me stronger. I could climb faster and for longer periods without feeling like I was going to fall over and cook on the hot pavement. Even without high threshold training I was flying past my old Strava times. It had to be the vegan diet. Reading more and listening to other podcasts it became clear that the diet was working well for me. I’m starting to get the itch to race again, perhaps I’ll start training soon and get back at it in 2017. In the meantime just riding is a blast for me. An easy cruise or a blast in the dirt is all good.
There is a deeply rooted thought process that holds the premise that if a man doesn’t eat meat he is someone less of a man. This is absurd. In fact, the strongest man in the world is a vegan. Enjoy this video of Patrick Baboumian crushing it hard.
In the 4 years since I made the decision I’ve come to realize that going vegan is the ultimate fuck you to the industry that markets “food” products purely for a profit. I’m simply not participating in the marketing plans anymore, it’s that simple. My health isn’t worth the perceived convenience that comes from opening a box and microwaving a freeze-dried package of artificial ingredients molded into food-like blobs. It’s so easy to get blinded by marketing slogans and jingles that stick in your mind for years. Why do these companies do this? Because it works. If it didn’t work they wouldn’t do it. TV, radio, billboards, everywhere you go is this message of consume, consume, consume, and if you do consume like we say, you’ll look good, you’ll be cool, and more importantly, you’ll feel good! Seriously though, this is not working. Our country has a major health crisis and we need to change our ways or face the consequences. The addiction to sugar, salt, and animal fat is real. Too many of us are closed off to changes that really do benefit our health without taking away from the enjoyment of food. Look, I am a food junkie. There is nothing better than cooking up a new recipe and sharing it with my family or friends and seeing the surprise on their face when they realize that it’s all plants, it looks good and tastes great. So, in closing, to use the classic cliche, if I could do it, anyone can. Remember, without good health you have nothing.
Coffee. The elegant mahogany liquid that starts the day off right for millions of people has been used for it’s inherent qualities for centuries. Personally, I’ve been drinking coffee for over 30 years. I used to be a creamer but then in the early 1990’s I saw the light and ditched the sugary cow squirt for straight black. I’m not sure what made me change but I’m glad I did. Perhaps it was a friend showing me that you could light powdered creamer on fire? Who knows. Now, over 20 years later and I think I’ve mastered the art of brewing coffee. How can this be? You may be asking yourself what in the hell this writer is doing at this very moment. Over 30 years of coffee drinking and just now you figured out how to brew it right? Short answer is yes, I have just figured it out. But let’s take a look at why this has taken so long.
Like many people I used to hit the local 7-11 for my morning fix and then head off to work. Standard procedure. Then as I got a bit older I made the wise decision to use a coffee maker. My roommate had this old brown beast that heated water, dumped it on the grounds, and spit out something we called coffee. While it worked well I was completely clueless to what was out there in the world. A trip to Seattle woke me up slightly to better coffee. Actually the trip woke me up to coffee attitude in Seattle. A person we met up there took us to the shop he worked at and made us some late night concoctions. I tried it, couldn’t really tell what was going on within the cup but that may have had more to do with the beers earlier in the evening. Moving on to the late 1990’s I stepped up and got my own french press coffee maker with my girlfriend (now wife). It seemed like the cool thing to have in a tiny apartment. We used it for a while and didn’t know we had been using it wrong. The basic instructions were woefully inadequate. I’m not sure what happened to it but it probably got turned over as a thrift store donation. The few minutes it took to make the coffee with the french press was too long for me then so we opted for an electric model complete with a timer. Damn! This was awesome. I could set it up in the evening and wake up to hot coffee ready to go. I want to say this was a Mr. Coffee brand unit. Eventually it got way too crusty so it had a one-way date with the dumpster. Cleaning those machines never seemed to work very well. The interior of the water tank would start to get fuzzy, or something like stalactites would form. Not having any of that!
Since that experience we tried a couple other electric makers that had varying degrees of success, but inevitably that would be overrun with the fuzz again or the electrical components would fail and I would have the entire machine field stripped in the garage trying to figure out what was wrong. Of course somewhere along the way I was introduced to Starbucks. I can’t recall when this first happened but when it did I was hooked. Pondering deeply I really don’t know why I liked it so much. It wasn’t the caffeine, I mean that can be scored anywhere. Maybe it was the big bold aroma and deep flavor of a Pike Place? Or was it that it cost more so it had to be better? Well, as luck would have it, I was perusing the local thrift store last year and I found a lightly used french press for $5.00. Carefully bringing it home like a bowling ball I cleaned it up thoroughly and admired the simplicity and serious lack of moving parts. The plunger slides through a domed lid and that’s it. No wires, no timer, just a glass carafe, a screen, a rod, and a lid. Reunited, in a sense…
We immediately put the french press into action and we’ve enjoyed the seemingly simple process of heating water, pouring it into the carafe over the ground coffee, waiting a few minutes, then pouring the coffee. Now, you would think that this would be such an easy thing to do but in all actuality it’s not ever going to give you the best coffee possible unless you do it right. How can this be? Science! Coffee has to be brewed in a specific way to get the best cup possible. Just this morning I tried this method that is detailed at CraftCoffee.com. I can say honestly say, without any hesitation, that brewing coffee in a french press in this way works so well I may never buy another cup of overpriced bitterness ever again. Well, unless I’m travelling, or in need of a fix. I digress, moving on.
I prefer a french roast whole bean coffee, but pre-ground works well too. Heating the water is easy enough. Starting with a fresh fill into a well worn kettle that works as designed the H2O get’s up to speed in less than 5 minutes. I’ve always used the same measured amount of ground coffee, or whole beans, in the french press carafe in an attempt at consistency of flavor. The magic happens when you take your time and follow the steps in the brew guide instead of just drowning the grounds in hot water. In less than 5 minutes of actual working time resulting creation is what I can only describe as the best cup of coffee I’ve ever made. Velvety smoothness with a deep rich flavor profile, dull edge bitterness, simply amazing. A lingering big bold aroma hung in the air around my cup and invited me back for more. I’m genuinely stunned. I had no idea that this simple contraption could create such delectable coffee when it was used in the manner in which it was engineered. Throughout the day I was pouring small amounts into my cup just to try it again. Was it still as good as it was this morning? Yes! The feeling of gratification was repeated over and over until the coffee was gone later in the afternoon.
I see the french press keeping it’s place in our kitchen for years to come. This familiar morning ritual is going to be a routine I look forward to even more so now that I’ve learned the way. Truly this was an epiphany in my kitchen life. I urge you get a french press or use yours in the right way . You will not be disappointed and maybe you’ll be just a little reluctant to buy a corporate coffee after you’ve learned this ancient skill.
There’s no beating around the bush. Moleskines are cool and you suck if you don’t have one. Sorry, just kidding. Perhaps you’re asking yourself just what in the hell is a “mole skine” anyway? Once you’re up to speed on the pronunciation of moleskine you should be ready to purchase one at your local bookstore. Why would you possibly need one? Many reasons. Read on philistine!
Taking down notes is a common usage for many moleskines. I use mine for jotting down ideas before I forget them which I am apt to do in the blink of an eye. You probably have 3 to 4 ideas per day that will make you millions of dollars, but without a solid note the idea is gone, worthless, floating away into the dark recesses of your overloaded brain matter. Well, thankfully, the moleskine can save your ideas and get them one step closer to reality.
The first one I received was a gift in 2007. It’s a leather-bound super heavy notebook, not from Moleskine the brand, but from a large chain bookstore. I used it for many years and filled it will all sorts of stuff. The pages were unlined so I could draw a sketch of a bike, scribble a note, fill the page with postit notes (redundancy at it’s finest), or use it for passwords. Up next was a hard-bound journal with bright white unlined pages. I use this one for black ink drawings, but not too often. During Ink-tober 2016 I’ll attack it again for 31 days. In 2013 I bought a Moleskine brand notebook. Instantly I could feel the inspiration. I got it home, opened it up, and stared at the blank pages, flipping them over, and over, and over. Then I tossed it aside. It sat unused. And it sat there, and didn’t move. It mocked me openly. “Why aren’t you filling my pages with all the wonderful things that go through your mind?” I was puzzled. Buying a moleskine doesn’t instantly bring on a rush of creativity, it merely provides a physical outlet to create an empirical notation that stands on it’s own. Starting on January 1, 2014 I started filling the pages. The first entries were silly ideas, then I created task lists, followed by a new bike project. One page was used to track how much gas I was using in my car. Then, once I was awakened by the Budhha, I used the moleskine as a daily journal for over two months. I laid down some internal thoughts each morning in an attempt to bring meaning to the mornings. It worked. I felt relieved and I enjoyed the sense of accomplishment. The first few journal days were meager, a few sentences. After a few weeks the pencil wouldn’t stop. Writing for a solid 30 minutes time would seem to fly by. Soon my morning routine was changed and I had to drive the kids to school. I stopped the daily journal attack and set that moleskine aside.
My wife was looking for a daily notebook recently at the local big chain bookstore and as I am wont to do I headed straight for the moleskine rack to check out the latest offerings. One thing I should note is this; Moleksines are not cheap flimsy notebooks. They are made well, and the price reflects the quality. Expect to pay a bit more but know that it’s well worth it. In the photo above, on the right-hand side, are two of my latest. I use one for daily life notes, the other below it I use for work. I’ve retired my yellow legal pad. Good riddance. The red covered notebook is made of stiff cardboard that is a great doodle pad in itself. I added a paperclip and one postit note that irritates the shit out me when I see it. Why do I use a postit for a tab? I must be possessed by a ghost of my past that used those annoying little glue-goblins for too many important things. Just now I peeled the postit from it’s page and tossed it into the recycler. No more postits!!!
What makes the moleskine the perfect notebook? I think it’s the inherent style that has historically been shaped into the bound paper you see today. From the beginnings in the 20th century, when notable thinkers and writers used these bound notebooks for drawing and writing, all the way to today, where the Moleskine brand has become an icon in less than 20 years. The blank pages are yours to use. Fill them with anything you wish.
With that I think it’s time a for a doodle, and time for you to go shopping.
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