“Journaling Creates Focus”

December 11, 2014 Leave a comment

I am now writing to focus. This is something I used to do on a regular basis, but for some reason I stopped, or the process became inconsistent. I realize now I have to return to what I was doing in order to move forward with my personal development.

I keep multiple journals on teaching, health, exercise, nutrition, personal stories, musical ideas, dreams, etc. I write in them all and read them all. I reflect on them all and find common threads. These common threads usually reveal actions I need to take to move forward in my life, and the life of my family. It can be quite confusing and time consuming, but the time spent is well worth it because the end product is a better me.

I encourage writing of any kind to become part of one’s life. Everything from social commentary, music lyrics, daily chronicling, or merely stream of consciousness, all kinds of writing are applicable for gaining clarity, focus, and motivation.

I am consistently writing, and there in lies the challenge – write consistently.

Categories: Miscellaneous Debris

“Step by Step Through Reflexivity”

December 8, 2014 Leave a comment

Watching a child grow is an amazing experience. The process of seeing a person move through steps of curiousity to frustration to elation or even defeat can make one reflect, I think. I often see reboots of my life as steps in my growth. And I have not made massive reboots that have totally changed the structure of my life, but the little changes I have made have created ripples that are reaching very far areas. More than anything I am trying to focus my mind and get more active. The major mind move though is to take slower steps so I can stave off the frustration to defeat option in life, and move through the frustration to elation option. I don’t mind being frustrated because it means I am trying and learning ways not to do something. I am trying to enter a state of reflexivity, which is basically a state of reflection and action. The process is a very personal one, and one I have chosen to put up here. In the next few posts I will talk about specific tools I am using to catch up with where I am now, how I am moving through this period, where I want go to, and where I end up. Until next time, peace.

Categories: Miscellaneous Debris

“Journeys”

December 6, 2014 Leave a comment

Beginning a journey is a daunting experience – the conception, preparation, execution, and reflection. So many aspects of life flow through the mind, body and soul. So is the case with the journey I am about to take. I am actually making a journey back to a place I felt quite comfortable with the objective being to push myself to new places; I’m going to write more. In particular I am going to get back to blogging. Not about one specific thing, but about various topics; exploring old stories, current events, future happenings, reviews of books, interesting and poignant literature, vinettes, polemics, and thoughts of all kinds. Most of all I will also chronicle my own personal development on many fronts – family, health, career, etc. The goal is for three to four posts a week (more is okay, but looking to hit that three to four mark).

There is no special reason why I made now a moment to restart other than, why not? I am about to start a health and nutrition journey where I gradually cut sugar out of my diet to see what happens to me (life hack to some degree). I will couple this with keeping my exercise regiment at regular levels, for me – running 3 to 4 days a week (6 to 10 miles per run on any given day), and general cardio, strength training, dynamic stretching, and yoga. The objective here is to see what my nutritional input, which was laced with sugar (overtly and covertly), has on other areas of my life.

I have always had a “sleeping” problem that manifested itself into fluctuations of energy that have baffled me considering my bill of health has always been clean. I used to be very defensive about my “sleep” issues, but now I am more easy going about it, but maybe too much so. I really want to tackle these energy problems, at least in my opinion. My feeling is my diet in some way has been contributing and at 39 no one controls my diet but me (considering I am fairly healthy man with no physical ailments that causes me to rely on others for my nutritional intake); the problem and solution and responsibility lie with me.

So this is the beginning of a journey that could change my life in fundamental ways. Along with the health journey, I am also back to writing more. Hopefully this will spur me to finish off my dissertation research. Intellectually I am passed my study, but I need to actually do it so I can get my doctorate of education and advance my career as an academic and educator and leader. I guess there are a few journeys to deal with and move through. Funny how life does that.

This year, leading up to age 40, will be a dynamic one filled with many episodes along this path I call “My Life”. I will try to chronicle my thoughts and ideas at this space. Comments and questions are always welcome.

Be well, and peace be with you as you make your way on your journeys.

“For A Greener Planet?”

January 4, 2011 Leave a comment

New Year’s day had its share of commercials pushing the “eco” this and “green” that. In Japan, it seems the car companies are ready to roll out electric/hybrid cars. Zero emissions here we come. But is it really going to make life better?

Have you ever wondered what it takes to make these new fangled cars? Cars used to be a bucket of bolts and wires and leather (for the seats). Steel belted rubber hit the pavement and the engines were powered good ole fashioned gasoline, which is derived from environment killing fossil fuels. I’ll stay away from the fact that even though one will not have to stop at a gas station, one has to use electricity, which comes from fossil fuels, for now anyway. Let’s tackle the simplicity of constructing these wonderful machines (and most electronic items that surround our lives).

Rare Earths Unleashed
Ever hear of rare earth minerals? (Some say just rare earths.) To use the word rare is an understatement. These minerals are used in the production of parts that eventually end up in fuel efficient, no-emission producing cars. The advancement of battery technology depends on having a healthy supply of these rare earths. Japan is not rich with these minerals, or other ones for that matter, but thanks to China, Japanese companies have been getting a healthy supply of rare earths. Actually, about 50% of the rare earths mined and refined in China go to Japan. However, that situation took a real blow last fall when a Chinese fishing boat hit a Japanese Coast Guard boat near the Senkaku Islands, which lie in disputed waters. Japan arrested the fishing boat captain, and China stopped shipments of refined rare earths to Japan. Japan rather immediately released the Chinese fishing boat captain. Rare earths miraculously began arriving in Japan from China. You draw the conclusions.

Rare earth oxides, clockwise from top center: praseodymium, cerium, lanthanum, neodymium, samarium and gadolinium.

Anyway, check out the periodic table of elements and you will see these wonderful minerals in “the so-called lanthanoids, from lanthanum through ytterbium, plus…scandium, yttrium and lutetium.” The New York Times Online has some great background stuff on these rare earths. I won’t go into the science of these elements because quite frankly I have zero clue about this stuff. That said, I do know China controls a lot of it, and here in lies what I believe will be major battleground for 2011, and beyond.

The Reality
Over 95% of the world’s consumable rare earths come out of Chinese mines. America, Australia, and Central Asia make up the majority of the rest of the deposits, but basically, China holds sway over the world’s supply. Why will this cause clash? Let me illustrate through simple examples.

Do you own a flat screen TV? If the answer is yes, you own rare earths. Do you own a cell phone or smart phone? If the answer is yes, again, you own rare earths. Own a computer? – made with rare earths. You want to own a hybrid car? – It will be made with rare earths. In fact, almost all the electronic devices we have in this digital age needs rare earth minerals. Without them, no more of the above. I haven’t even mentioned all the high grade medical technology that relies on this stuff. You didn’t think the MRI machine was made of aluminuum, and some duct tape?

The Environment
So, what does all that have to do with the environment? Simple, getting to the rare earths means destroying a certain environment. Some rare earth’s are really toxic, and if they seep in to the ground water, people will be adversely affected (to put it mildly). Back in the 80s a U.S. based mine had to shut down because rare earth minerals in liquid form got into the local drinking water. Since this time it has been impossible in the United States to get a permit to mine rare earths. China’s environmental regulations are far more lax than the U.S.s. This goes for most of the world outside of Europe and maybe Canada. To get at the amount of rare earths needed to develop our “Eco” or “Green” society we have to muddy some waters. What do you think is happening in China? I can tell you this, in some places, don’t drink the water, and bring your air filter.

Who To Blame?
I don’t want to sound like I’m blaming China for having resources. I just want to point out two things. One, China has a stranglehold on the world, and will not hesitate to apply pressure whenever and wherever necessary. Two, “Eco” isn’t what it appears to be. There are a lot of things to consider when advocating for a “greener” planet. Like Newton’s Law – for every action there is an equal and opposing reaction. When we wash ourselves clean the dirt has to go somewhere.

Tragic Irony
Ironically, there was a time the United States was the leader in this category, but for some reason China now has the technology and advanced techniques to mine and process the minerals. Getting them out of the ground is not so difficult, depending on your environmental stance, but refining and smelding are quite complex, apparently, and the Chinese are good at it, environmental and human health degradation being par for the course.

Why can't the U.S., and the world catch up to this?

You would think the U.S. and Europe could figure out more advanced ways to get at these minerals, but the slates seem blank. For now, China is in the driver’s seat, and taking the world for a nice ride. Hopefully other countries open mines to counteract China’s stranglehold, but that all takes time. I don’t want to deny the Chinese their prosperity, I just want to level the playing field and encourage more competition, which could raise standards for everyone involved in the process.

Categories: China, Japan, The Environment Tags:

The Big 4 Blogging…Well 3?

December 10, 2010 Leave a comment

The speed and vastness that is the Internet will never cease to amaze me, especially when it comes to blogs. Obviously, I have one (even though I’m poor at updating it). Blogs are everywhere and for everyone, including the chief executives of nations. I’m sure this is not news to those who live in cyberspace, but who would think that the leaders of 4 major national powers would be blogging (when they probably should be attending to more pressing national issues – poverty, inflation, unemployment, raising taxes, etc.).

Who are these 4 nations – Russia, The United States, Japan and China. You can get to the first 3 of these blogs very easily, just hit the links. Apparently there was a rumor that Hu Jintao, President of China, did some microblogging, but I could not find it (didn’t really put all that much effort into it).

Out of the 3 I could easily find I am not surprised by the look and feel of Obama’s or Medvedev’s. Both really reflect the men, and how I think they see themselves and their nations. Obama’s is sophisticated and polished, and easy to navigate, much like Obama himself. As far as I’m concerned Obama isn’t hard to understand, if you listen to the man, and not the diatribes of the dimwits who roast him. He hasn’t done everything I would like, but he surely hasn’t put the U.S. on a course of disaster any more than Dubya and his cronies did. If the Republicans actually had some ideas and could actually present them in an articulate manner then maybe things would be better. Will the real conservatives please step forward!

President Medvedev’s blog is very clean cut and easy on the eyes. Like the man himself. It looks like it could have been conceived by a well-trained lawyer who also served in the Russian military, like Medvedev. For a nation with all the problems of Russia, the mere appearance of the blog gives me some hope that this nation with great potential will one day come back to full form, but with a more benign and humane profile.

Like I said, the Chinese blog was not found, except for the rumor that President Hu did some blogging somewhere. I gather the blogger Hu Jintao is much like the man himself – brief and to the point, but also elusive from the camera’s eye, or reporters’ questions. The blogs look would of course highlight the very best of China, and be cast in read and yellow. It probably would also be very serious and not send any indication that China is lesser than any other major world player. If the Beijing Olympics was any indication of the grandeur and sophistication of China look for a blog equally as grand, but also very sophisticated and intelligent.

The final blog is the most interesting (I think) because it fully characterizes what I think Prime Minister Kan means to the people of Japan – a bit of a cartoon. Anime and manga might be big in Japan, and a cultural export the Japanese have marketed to perfection, but it doesn’t need to appear on the blog of the Prime Minister. Kan’s header is basically a big caricature of himself. I have been trying to give Kan the benefit of the doubt, and take him seriously in all that he says, but the blog just looks unsophisticated and unintelligent. I’m not talking about the commentary, I’m just talking about the look. Japanese aesthetics might be grounded in minimalism, but the minimalism also has some taste and style to it. This looks like the blog of an elementary school child. Compared to the sophistication of Obama’s and Medvedev’s blogs I can’t really take Kan’s too seriously.

Now, maybe I’m just looking at this with a pessimistic perspective. Kan could very well be taking the piss of himself when it comes to the illustration that heads his blog. If so, more power to him, but after being in Japan for some time now, and knowing Japanese people the way I do, I think these people deserve more and better from their leader. I do like that Kan, apparently, writes comments himself, and posts regularly. That said, Japan has some big issues to deal with. I hope Kan can balance dealing with structural deficit that will collapse the nation, and attending to his blog.

So, what does this all mean? Not much, just that leaders of nations feel they need to connect with people and to do that blogging is great. All the sites are seemingly nationalistic and promote the overwhelming positive aspects of the nation. Why not? What would be the point of posting critically negative stories? Ironically (or not if you think about it), and for what it is worth Medvedev’s blog is set-up to appear in multiple languages (Russian and English).

Peace

Another Proper Use of the Military – Blowing-up Drug Cartels

Last year I posted an article, “The Proper Use of the Military – Killing Pirates.” Some might argue that using trained soldiers to kill outlaws is not a job suitable to their qualifications. Well given how the pirates were running ransack over ships and what not, and considering how much valuable cargo was involved, I think using trained killers was a good way to stop amateur ones.

Well, you don’t read much about these pirates anymore, at least in U.S. newspapers. Don’t know if using U.S. Navy forces combined with other nations has worked, or not, but I don’t see pirate stories on the news. Now you read about the violent drug war. Mexican drug cartels are really upping the levels of violence being used against foes – government and criminal. The traditional police are definitely not up to this war. And the Drug Enforcement Agency, Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, FBI, Mexican military, whoever, seem to be overwhelmed. You’d think with all the highly trained agents, getting rid of some drug cartels wouldn’t be a problem, but not so. These cartels are well financed, and have the guns to protect themselves, as well as inflict severe punishment on those who stand in their way.

So, my recommendation to the U.S. government, use the full ability and force of the United States Department of Defense. Send in the unmanned drones and blow those cartels off the map. We know where they are, so lets get ’em. Let’s use that “winning hearts and minds” strategy in Mexico. Given the damage that hard drugs are doing, why not pull out all the stops? What do we have to lose…some might argue we are losing already.

I really think how the U.S. military is organized needs to be re-assessed anyway. It is bloated and way overdone. We could slim it down so much. It seems China is way ahead of us in this respect. They announced their defense would grow only by 7.5% this year. That is down from 14.5% last year. This is according to the China Daily. On top of that, the Chinese have announced that their military is strictly defensive in capability. Critics will contend that statement, but they haven’t attacked anyone.

Instead of military spending China is spending money on infrastructure – transportation, agricultural, communications, you name it. The goal is to connect China from one end to the next and make sure people can physically access China. I don’t know if that will stem the potential social unrest that is the backdrop of Chinese development, but fixing and upgrading buildings, bridges, rail, and roads probably won’t anger people. As long as it is done well.

The U.S. needs to optimize the military more efficiently, and put the muscle where necessary. Get those F-35s (whenever they are finished) over Mexico and take out the drug cartels. Use the drones to bomb drug lords. Use those Navy Seals in Coronado Bay to run some assassination operations in Mexico. Those would be overnight deployments. Not to mention it would give the Mexican government some relief, and help them regroup. They are using their military, and seem a bit overwhelmed. The U.S. should bring the noise because this drug war is just as much our problem as Mexico’s; We are the marketplace. So, here is another good use for our military. Instead of fighting endless wars in far off lands. Let’s protect our backyard.

Peace

What Does Health Care Mean in the United States of America?

March 17, 2010 2 comments

The debate in the U.S. is coming to a head, and the Obama/Pelosi/Reid train seem to be making the final stop, and calling all aboard. Those who are left at the station will…well, they might make one more stop if there are too many people left at the station. That is the state of Democracy in the United States, at this very moment.

There was a point I was pretty sure what the current fight for health care was about. I actually read some of the various bills…well, skimmed and scanned really, but that is more than most laypeople do. I looked for the provisions of discussion, and searched for the nasty deals. I even looked at the Republican offering, and was actually surprised how common-sense it really was. In the early versions of the House bill, constructed by the Democrats, I saw the huge expanse of government the Republicans were fearful of. The bill had commissions for everything, and the Secretary of Health had enormous power. And yes, there was a “public option.” Many of the new commissions were to govern that public-option and make sure it jelled with the private system currently in place. There were also all kinds of professional development programs, and provisions for technology upgrades. The bill was chalked full of things that really amassed to a totally new system. I can see why people might be scared. All these new things, but put into a global context, they were things other countries equally advanced as the U.S. already had in place. Comparatively speaking, the U.S. was playing catch up.

But while this was out there, I didn’t see much Republican opposition except for crap general statements. I followed site after site and didn’t get anything meaningful. Now though, at zero hour, the Republicans seem to have some piece of real identifiable legislation that is running counter to what the Democrats have. You can get all the text, and more at www.gop.gov. Like I said, the bill is fairly commonsense and basically rehashes all the traditional Republican talking points of tort reform, buying insurance across state lines, tax credits, and other incentive based provisions to encourage people to buy insurance. Personally, I don’t see how it controls cost, or lowers premiums, or does anything close to reducing deficit and debt projections. And Republicans definitely do not touch entitlement programs, Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security. So, the Republicans do have a plan, just a little too late, and fairly thin.

The thing this whole debate has brought about though is a discussion about what exactly does health care mean for the United States of America? We hear that it is 1/6 of the economy. We hear that more people go bankrupt because of costs related to health care than anything else. We hear that insurance companies make huge amounts of money from health care. We hear that the U.S. system is the best in the world. We hear that our doctors and the actually care is the best in the world. On and on and on and on. We hear so many things. So what does it all mean?

Well, part of my answer is anecdotal. My father went to the hospital after fainting and cracking a rib. His bill was littered with tests and checks and all sorts of things. He was billed for doctors who didn’t even see him. His bill totaled US$55,000. That is a lot of money. I saw it with my own eyes, and I have fairly good eyesight. I was fully awake and not daydreaming (my father has a pretty loud voice so I was pretty alert). Thankfully, he was covered by Medicare, his own private insurance, and my mothers private insurance. At the end of the day, his total charge – US$0. Thank you GOVERNMENT RUN INSURANCE! Medicare picked up the whole shibang. Still though US$55,000 is a lot of money. You’d think he was in the hospital for a month or so, but no, he was in for a few days (over a holiday weekend so the costs were a little higher than normal week days). The ironic thing is the doctors couldn’t find out why my father fainted. The tests were inconclusive. They thought he was just a little too tired. 55 Grand, lots of test, no real answer, but at least his rib was fixed up nice and right.

In the United States, it seems that health care is about cost. Hospital costs, doctor costs, medicine costs, room costs (US$8,000 for one night), malpractice costs, insurance costs, all sorts of costs. It seems, that if government could figure out a way to actually control the cost structure maybe the system would function better…maybe? To that the only real answer to actually impose cost, create a really competitive market by implementing a single-payer tax based system, and make the insurance companies go elsewhere for business. Abolish checklist health care. Get rid of ridiculous lawsuits. Let doctors practice medicine and healing instead of fighting for paychecks. I’m sure the doctors who took care of my father were very comfortable because the minute they saw Medicare plus 2 other major private insurers they stopped worrying about whether the patient could pay for the care, and for them. I would hate to think what the case would be if my father didn’t have that kind of coverage.

In the United States, health care also means jobs. If my father, and mother, didn’t have good jobs they wouldn’t have had the insurance plans to back up whatever Medicare might not had covered. They are retired, but because of the pension plans from their jobs they have excellent health insurance. 30 plus years of hard labor paid off. But that kind of peace of mind came with A JOB! Make no mistake, this health care debate is as much about jobs than any stimulus, or jobs bill, or unemployment number. If health care is the driving force of family bankruptcy then having a job that provides adequate health care is a necessity. If the costs of health care are too high then companies will choose not to hire people. Health care = jobs. I think this message was lost, or was never clearly made.

At the end of the day, health care in the U.S. isn’t about reconciliation debates, or fights to maintain political power. The citizens of the U.S. don’t care who is in a seat. What they want is for their premiums to stop rising. They want treatment when necessary. They don’t want to have to worry about being kicked off a plan, or not being able to join one.

And to push it further, I think the citizens of the U.S. would love a real public plan that covers all people. I think the citizens of the U.S. would love Medicare for everyone. But what they do not have is the leadership to get it done because to the leaders, health care means politics and power plays. For politicians, issues that citizens worry about are about poll numbers and election cycles. It’s about ego. When ego and self-fullfilment is removed then maybe we can get down to the reality of hard choices. But that takes enormous will, modesty, and humbleness that current politicians simply do not have.

So, the choice is a 2700 page bill to who-knows-where…and the cost of doing business in the United States of America – 2010 mid-term elections.

Peace