Category Archives: Habits

Clearing the slate

December 19, 2015

Sitting at Té one last time.  Having a cup of tea and looking around.  Remembering and thinking.

I’m going to miss this place so much once it shuts down.  So many happy afternoons and evenings spent here in all sorts of weather.  Just writing, thinking, and relaxing.  Places like this exist to nurture the soul.

But time moves on and things change.

At the end of each year I come up with a list of goals for the next year.  I’m sitting here reading a copy of my goals for 2015 on my smartphone and shaking my head in dismay.  Such an ambitious plan and so many things that went wrong almost from the start.

I think it’s fair to say that 2015 was not a good year for me.  Strangely enough I find that most of the people who I know concur with this viewpoint.  I know of almost no people who consider 2015 to have been a good year.

This particular year began with a financial investment that went bad and barely broke even, to work challenges all year-long, to a very painful personal relationship episode, to a seemingly endless series of small but annoying mini-disasters that I had to work my way through, and finally to some health related problems at the end of the year that persist.

So here I sit with the weight of it all crushing down on me.

Despair is a narcissistic state of mind.  In a way it’s pleasant to lose oneself to despair and let your worries and fears take over.  No responsibility, just let things happen as they may.  But after a while you realize that it’s not getting anything useful done. So you stand up straight, square your shoulders, and look your problems right in the eye.

Or that’s what I normally do.  This time though I have to sit back for a second to take a deep breath and let out a deep sigh.  Middle age makes it a bit harder to pick up the pieces.

Okay, one more time.

An extremely trimmed down set of goals for 2016.  Sixteen  pages were way too much.  Focusing on the core fundamentals of my life and loosening up my goals as to what constitutes a “win”.  Normally I would council doing the opposite and tightening up goals and making goals harder to achieve.  This however is going to be a rebuilding year.  If I can get back to the state that I was in at the end of last year I will be ecstatic.

Looking back at last year’s goals I think that I was trying too hard to please other people in my life.  To make their lives better.  I was also trying to use other people’s goals in my life and in a sense live up to their expectations.  I need to live my own life and fulfill my own dreams.

So I start off fresh and cast away everything that isn’t useful or is in fact hindering me.  Firstly I will try to fix my broken body so I can then mend the rest of my broken life.  I have few extended goals that I want for myself this year.  I don’t know if I will be able to reach them but they’re there for me to aim for.

Two years ago I wrote about the barren landscape and how we craft the future.  We also craft our problems and the situations that get us into those problems.  But, we can also craft the solutions to those problems.

I finish the last of my matcha and buy a bag to make my own at home.  I leave Té for the last time.

Thank you for one last memory.


Being shy isn’t just an attitude.  It can be a lifestyle and even a great hindrance to getting what you want in life.

My parents and family tell me that as a young child that I was fairly forward and active.  Not at all shy and I always wanted to be in the thick of things.  So what happened?

I’m not sure exactly when it happened but surely somewhere in my pre-teens I started becoming more withdrawn and quiet.  I shunned being loud and drawing attention to myself.  I even began dressing down.  Not in a somber fashion like a goth but more in a plain fashion.  I started to fade into the background.  See my previous post.

I really didn’t care to stand out in any way.  If I did something praiseworthy I would try to play it down and minimize it as if it wasn’t anything special.

In my mid 20’s I began to notice that this wasn’t the best attitude to have in life.  People that I knew that were less talented than me but more boisterous began getting ahead in life and I was being left behind.  It turned out that self promotion wasn’t a sin.

For a long time I resisted any sort of change. To me, humility was the greatest of virtues and casually discarding that was unthinkable.

Eventually circumstances forced me to be more proactive.  My new position at work, in sales, demanded someone who was more proactive and forward and I started to come out of my shell.  Sometimes too much.  I had to learn just how much I could come out before I got obnoxious.

By my thirties I felt I had emerged sufficiently and I’ve tried maintaining myself at a comfortable level.  It is a struggle.  I have to admit that at times that I still don’t want to engage with the world.  But I also realize that life revolves around the other people in your life and that the only way that it is going to work is if I become more sociable and not less.

find the real truth

“Of each particular thing ask: what is it in itself? What is its nature?”

Not just a quote from Hannibal Lecter and Markus Aurelius but a useful tidbit of advice.  I think it’s the one question that all college professors should strive to implant into their students minds.  Unfortunately in today’s career driven college environment it’s often overlooked and passed by in order to instill “useful” lessons and information into a student’s mind.

Something that I see at work, in my off time and in my interactions on a daily basis is that people can identify the end goal and what they want but not how to get there or even where to begin.

At work I see clients who want to find gold, or oil, or manage forests or farms using satellite imagery.  A good solid goal.  But then you ask them how are they going to use the satellite imagery to do that and they get a blank look on their faces.  When you ask them if they even know what information a satellite image can provide and how that can be leveraged to get to their goal and then they really get bewildered.

I’ve had acquaintances ask me if an adjustable rate mortgage would be a good option to buy a house.  I ask them if they know the initial interest rate would be and how it will adjust over time and how much are they putting down and what are the other terms of the loan and they get a confused and persecuted look in their eyes.

I understand that you want a house but shouldn’t you make an effort to understand the loan that you will be dealing with for the next 15 to 30 years?

Goals are fine.  Goals are great.  They give us a direction to go and something to shoot for.  But before we get there shouldn’t we know something about the road that we’re traveling on?



Bad news can get you down.

Sometimes it seems that nothing that you do is right or that you can’t get anything to go your way.  Happens to the best of us.

The average person wouldn’t believe that successful people have bad days.  I mean you look at people who you consider to be winners and everything always seems to come easy to them.  They never seem to have a reverse or a tough time doing anything and no matter how their day is going they can always muster up an award-winning smile.

And it’s all BS.

Everybody has bad days.  The most successful of people out there have horrendous days.  When you do great things you risk great failures.  That’s just how things go.  Bigger the reward, the bigger the possible pratfall.

So what makes them all that different?  Well firstly, they hide it better.  They see no advantage in letting others see their pain or weakness and they mask it all in smiles and confidence.  For the most part they’re correct of course.  Sometimes they need to share but for the most part if they’re leading people or trying to do something great then there’s no point in showing the pain.

But their really big secret is that they stick to it.  One day, two days, a couple of weeks of bad luck won’t get them down.  They keep going.  They have faith in their abilities to come out on top when all is said and done.

Sometimes they have nothing to base this on and yet they keep on going.

In this life you will see times when even your biggest supporters, your most fundamental building blocks, and what you think are your most essential strengths will either fail you or desert you in your time of need.  You will have nothing tangible backing you.

Faith however will see you through.  You could base your faith in religion, on facts, or on self-confidence.

You could hope without proof that a deity or destiny or some sort universal consciousness is guiding your progress.  You could choose to believe in your experience, your intelligence, or your strength to see you through.  You could have a plan and choose to believe that no matter what happens that if you stick to the plan that things will work out in the end.

If it is true that faith can keep you going when nothing else will then so too can despair bring about your misfortune and dissolution.  Too many times you see those that succeed in life lose themselves because they stopped believing.

No matter what you base that faith on you need it to see you through the toughest of times.

Abbreviated post

Life gets hectic, even impossible sometimes.  It just does.

When push comes to shove we sometimes have to shed some activities or habits in order to keep the rest of our lives running.

“Just the essentials”

We all come upon these times in our lives.  Right now my household is turned upside down, my ankle is twisted, my air conditioning is broken, my….  You get the picture.  It’s a mess.  Why am I at a keyboard then?  Even for a short post?

well I suppose I can take comfort in writing, I can keep practicing something that I like doing.  It provides a little bit of focus in a world out of focus.

More importantly I don’t have anything else to do.  I have to wait for others to make decisions, to come back with answers  or to do some work.

I have nothing else to do, so why not write.  Even just this short blurb.

Just the essentials.  Sometimes, something like this is an essential.

Foodie city

Reading through the local newspaper and Houston websites I see that I’ve probably picked the worst time to get in shape and lose weight.  I read through websites like the Houston Press or magazines like Houstonia and there are always announcements about new restaurants and how up and coming chefs are migrating here.

Back in my twenties when I was just starting out we did have a bit of a food scene if you knew where to look for it.  Areas like the west side Chinatown offered up a variety of Asian dishes.  The Tex-Mex restaurant has always been a staple of Houston cuisine and we had some of the best.  Of course we also had the traditional steak restaurant.

But back then if you were to name cities to visit to experience haute cuisine or just a wider variety of dishes then Houston never even came up in the conversation.

Something happened back in the late-late nineties or early 00’s.  Here and there a chef would escape the rat races in other food towns and set up little bistros in Houston.  Not in the downtown area but near downtown where the rent was cheaper.  Chefs that might have otherwise left stayed and honed their skills.  Certainly Hurricane Katrina injected a dose of New Orleans talent into the mix.

By trial and error, by enthusiastic practice this city began building a reputation one dish at a time.

So here we are and I see that the wave is beginning to crest.  I have to admit that sometimes the temptation is overwhelming.  Just looking at the variety and quantity of places to explore makes me want to take a week or two off my diet.

Thankfully (I suppose) living out in the suburbs I don’t have ready access to these culinary wonders.  I’m not hours away from any of these places of course (I could in fact reach most of these in twenty minutes) but just far enough to put them in the slightly impractical column.

I console myself with the thought that I am working towards a worthwhile goal and that one day I will treat myself to a mini restaurant vacation.

meet your needs

Sometimes it’s difficult.

Repetitions or reps suck.  But you have to do them and you have to keep doing them till you start getting somewhere.  But they still suck.

Laps suck.  Going up and down the same lane over and over again.  Swallowing pool water, stinking of chlorine.  Why do I keep doing it?

After an hour or so I leave feeling a bit wobbly, a bit achy, but no stronger.  Or at least I don’t notice it.  That’s the thing about exercise.  You really don’t notice any improvement at first or at all for weeks, months, if not years.  As you get stronger you get accustomed to your new body and don’t notice any change.  But it all takes time.

Sometimes, when I look across at some of the power lifters or the competitive swimmers, or the fast runners I want to try to match them, to get onto their level.  Tired of waiting and going through the slow process.

I can maybe keep up with them for a little bit.  Match them stroke for stroke, lift heavier, keep pace running but after a bit I falter.  I’m not there yet.

I have to remind myself that I should not train to their pace but to my pace.  I remember way back when I first started and runners would jog past me as I started walking, not even running, but walking and how frustrating it was.  But I knew I wasn’t ready yet.  Over time I began to run and I could even pass some slower people but by that time that didn’t even matter at all.

It was the hard work and the commitment that mattered the most.

That’s what I have to remember these days.  I need to work out to meet my needs not do the work out that meets the needs of other people.  More patience, more hard work, more commitment.  That’s the only way that I’m going to achieve anything.


People are weird.

At one moment we can be calm, rational, and sometimes even distant individuals and the next moment we act with passion, with humor, and even with childish glee.

An example.  I was having a Twitter conversation the other day about cars with a close friend who had also recently bought a car.  We were discussing car nicknames.  We both had given our cars nicknames, and it wasn’t just us as several others chimed into the conversation with their pet names for their cars.

Here we were, adult individuals and we were giving our cars pet names like we were kids or something.  Another example?  I went to register my new car on the car website and they actually asked if my car had a nickname.  Why?

My car won’t go any faster or save more gasoline or avoid other cars with a nickname.  So why do it?

Maybe it’s a hold over from childhood as we named everything in our small world in order to get a small measure of control over things that were otherwise out of our control.  Maybe it’s a relic from the days when Greek sailors would name their ships and paint eyes on the bows so the ships would “see where they were going”.  A little bit of home-made magic.

Maybe in a cold digital and increasingly distant world we need to feel that there is something warm, organic, and familiar around us.  Even if it is something lifeless like a car.  Giving it a name seems to imbue it with a little bit of life, seems to make it a little less cold and a little bit warmer.

Sometimes we all need that in our life.


I’ve been running full tilt this year.  Been keeping busy as much as possible and trying to get things done and trying out as many new activities as I can in my spare time.

I’ve been programming my spare time, mainly the weekends, for the last few months and I’ve been able to see and do a lot of cool and fun stuff these few months.

But inevitably you are going to get a weekend that you’re not going to have anything to do.  Now to clarify, I always have some chore or some thing to accomplish but I generally have more spare time on the weekends, generally in the evenings, to do something and I’ve been putting that to good use.

Like I said however, you’re going to roll into one of those weekends where either nothing appeals to you particularly, or the timing doesn’t work out, or you just don’t feel like doing anything in particular.

Unprogrammed time.  It happens.  In a way it’s a good thing.  Just a chance to let things settle down and let your mind relax.  We all need that sort of weekend from time to time.  At first I was a bit anxious about it as I thought to myself “come on, I have to have some “thing” to do”

But really this is just one weekend out of hundreds.  Maybe this will give me a chance to reflect, to take turn off the smart phone and just think, or at the very least just hit the reset button on my mind and start fresh on Monday morning.

Putting pressure on myself to have something to do is good in most cases but becoming fixated on that notion is not.  Using this time to really relax is a gift I should embrace.


The real vs the ideal

Something that I thought might be fun to compare would be how I want to spend my week versus how I actually spend it.  This won’t be a minutely detailed exposition of my entire week but to give some generalized idea of how it goes and how it’s supposed to go.

Part of it is to give some insight into my daily activities but also for me to review how I tend to spend my time and to see where I might refocus or reinterpret the way that I spend my time.

Monday through Thursday

Ideally – Waking up at 3:45 and getting suited up to run my 7 daily miles and finishing up just in time to catch a quick shower and begin the workday at 5.  Getting on the phone and on Skype to chat to clients in the middle east and Asia as their workday comes to a close. Lunch at 11 and finishing up by 2 so I can hit the gym for an hour’s worth of swimming or free weights.  Come home for a couple extra hours of office work till 6.  Spend some time writing this blog or working on some fiction.  Wind down the day with a book and get to sleep round 9:30

In reality – Waking round 2:30 or 3 or 3:30 and trying to convince myself or negotiate with myself into going out to run.  Running somewhat panicked to get back home before 5 to start work.  Dealing with a half-dozen “emergencies” that have cropped up overnight while I was asleep and not getting any actual work that I’m supposed to be doing till about 9 or 10.  Lunch at 11 or 11:30 or 12 or when work allows. Aiming to finish at 2 but in actuality closer to 3 or sometimes 4.  Taking care of relatives or household chores that need to be done.  Hitting the gym if and when possible and then coming back to do more office work till 7 or 8.  Writing bits and pieces here and there.  Feeling too wound up to read anything substantial and instead trying to finish the day with some silly YouTube videos or some light magazine articles to fall asleep round 10 or 11


Ideally – Similar to the regular work week but at the end of the day letting things rest over the weekend and preparing to go out.  Everything in its time and place, right?  Going out but not too late so as to work out Saturday morning.

In reality – This is the day when everyone wants everything done and done right away.  It most definitely cannot wait till Monday and no we don’t care what plans you made already.  It will get done no matter how late it gets.


Ideally – a good workout to begin the day and then relaxing.  Noontime nap and then using the afternoon to write or create or plan.  Hopefully with friends at some coffee-house.  Enjoying Saturday evening at some event.

In reality – Trying to find any least excuse to stay in bed.  Working out and trying to make up for lost time during the week.  Grocery shopping to do, things to be repaired, things to be mended.  Running late as usual and the afternoon blurs into the evening.  Trying to find something to do since you haven’t had time to plan ahead


Ideally – Sleeping in a little longer.  Stretching and taking a calming run.  Looking over the paper and some bills and having  leisurely breakfast or even a brunch.  Starting up the computer to read over some work emails, and then napping in the afternoon.  Making an early night of it to start fresh on Monday.

In reality – Getting called at 2AM on a Sunday morning by a grad student from India who tracked down your home phone number and demands free data for his dissertation due in 2 months time.Staying awake for the rest of the night and feeling slightly worse than death for the rest of the day.  Being shocked by all the bills due for payment.  Doing office work and seeing 5 emails from the same grad student in your inbox. Staying up late and wondering if it’s all worth it.