Will Obama Do the Right Thing?

President Barack Obama meets with his national security advisors in the Situation Room of the White House, Aug. 7, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama meets with his national security advisors in the Situation Room of the White House          Aug. 7, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

 

 

The current situation in the Middle East right now, in particular Iraq and Syria, is increasingly dire. Now, with the news that an American journalist was executed, America is once again at a crossroads with Iraq. The question then becomes; will Obama do the right thing?

The correct course of action differs on whom you ask but our choices are clear. Remain vigilant in our air strikes and continue to supply Iraqi and Kurdish forces with the supplies and logistics they need, or an extreme change in our current road of action.

On one end, we can take a step back with our military presence. This seems highly unlikely. America does not negotiate with terrorists and pulling out and letting the Islamic State continue to grow seems like an option that no one is willing to consider. On the other end of the spectrum we can up the ante and get more involved into a continually deteriorating situation. Also unlikely but not as much, but it would be the correct course of action.
So if the United States did ramp up offences in Iraq, how exactly would that look?

For one, we can continue with air strikes, but with more firepower. The United States has been selectively choosing its targets. America can become more indiscriminate if it wanted to. This, however, will only be a fleeting change. Today’s enemy is different, not a traditional fighting force. We can send them back into their holes so we can let a decent society grow again, but they will be there, waiting to come out and spoil whatever peace has been seeded.

Another option is limited ground support, meaning Special Forces. This seems the more likely path since it’s one that the President feels comfortable doing, especially after the success of Operation Neptune Spear. This will have limited troops on the ground and get rid of some High Value Targets, but it wouldn’t come without risk. There is no question that our Special Forces community is the best in the world, but even they carry so much luck. If we throw in all of our Operators in at the same time, it could have the effect of ridding one of America’s strongest arrows in her quiver if the situation disintegrated.

The third, and arguably, best option is to reestablish ground forces in Iraq. While our air power will push the enemy into their holes, ground forces will be able to smoke them out and put finality to the problem that the world so much desires. It would even be easy for the President to authorize. He could label it as an Iraqi operation with Americans providing supportive forces. Current to the Wars Act, he wouldn’t even need Congressional approval. He would just have to inform them within twenty-four hours of the attack. But will he?

The situation and the way to deal with it are clear. The go ahead, however, is politically muddy. The country is still war weary from its two previous engagements and the President ran on a platform of getting troops out of Iraq. Putting forces back in would be a watershed moment in his administration and legacy. It would admit fault that he created a vacuum by pulling American forces out too soon from Iraq and it would bring on a political firestorm from his supports that elected him. Men are stubborn creatures and the President is no different. Could he admit wrong and go against one of his cornerstone promises? No one but him knows. But if he does decide to act, it would be the toughest decision in his presidency and quiet possibly, the greatest. History remembers those who make the tough decisions when the world says otherwise.

All we can do now is wait.

What’s Really Wrong With Americans

“The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.”

Gilbert K. Chesterton

This piece may come as shock to many since I am known for my patriotism. But therein lies already a wrong assumption about what I’m trying to relay. The title may be partially at fault but my real purpose of writing this piece is to really display what is different with Americans and what I think we can learn from it.

There are many assumptions about every culture and society on earth and the United States is no different. The most obvious examples are that Americans are fat and stupid. Regarding the former we are and the latter we can be, much like everyone else however. But as I’ve traveled I’ve learned quite a bit about myself and also my country, the United States of America. What may surprise many Americans is how much they don’t know about themselves. Traveling has led me to see what the world considers the norm versus what everyday Americans do on the contrary.

Before I get a load of academics on my butt, let me say that of course I am generalizing and my point of reference is limited only to Europeans as opposed to Americans. Nevertheless, there are some stark differences that many Americans haven’t considered, I feel.

Americans are Rude and Selfish… When it Comes to Appearance

The world likes to go on about how rude the French are and in particular, the Parisians. I don’t think most Americans appreciate how rude we Americans are when it comes to our appearance.

To put it plainly, we are slobs. Gone are the days of covered arms and legs and the collared shirt is now the exception instead of the rule. Casual Friday has given way to casual everyday. Most Americans chalk this up to comfort, but that’s exactly the point. Americans care more about how comfortable they feel than how their appearance is to others. That level of inconsideration is just plain rude.

How you present yourself to others is an extension of how you treat others. Putting your own personal comfort over how others have to experience their day is extremely self-centered. It also displays an innate disrespect of oneself.

When it comes to caring about your own appearance and how that effects others, most Americans have just given up.

Americans are Obsessed with Youth and Adults Acting Like Children is Now the Norm

I may be the last generation that was raised by adults. Baby boomers are adults who are refusing to grow old, leaving a ponytailed, flip flopped wake of destruction behind them. These people who refused to grow up raised kids that were their friends, not their children. There is no wonder why women have stopped acting like ladies since most men have stopped being gentlemen. To be a lady and a gentleman you have to be an adult first. Something strongly lacking in today’s America.

People like to complain about kids nowadays but the real problem is parents nowadays.

Americans See Nothing Wrong With Gluttony

We Americans are so spoiled with food, that we pay extra for foods just so that they comply with our way of thinking. What an amazing luxury to have a financial opinion about where your grapes come from. Culinary snobbiness has become such a norm, that the term “foodie” is applied to oneself with pride instead of the correct shame it should. Instead of documenting experiences and people, more and more people take pictures of their food. Think about that. People take pictures of their food. Not a picture of you climbing a mountain or spending time with someone you love. A freakin’ picture of something you are about to consume.

Americans Feel We Need to Tell Everyone How We Feel, All the Time

Know what I think about something? Of course you do! I’m an American. My buddy in Europe asked me, “Hey. Do Americans still have bumper stickers?” I looked at him with shock. Of course we have bumper stickers, doesn’t everyone, I asked. He just shrugged and said, “seems like it’s letting everyone know your business.”

Wham. There it was. It hit me like a ton of bricks. How had I overseen something so obvious? Americans don’t have much of a filter. We want everyone to know what we think and we want them to know all the time. The idea of keeping things to yourself has become very foreign to Americans. Which brings me to my last point.

Americans Are Openly Intolerant of Those with Opposing Views

If I told you that all people of a certain race are stupid, you would call me intolerant, correct? You would because you’d be right. Now imagine if someone said how stupid liberals or conservatives are. You’re probably waiting to hear why they’re stupid so you can chime in as well why you think they’re stupid too. And therein lies the problem. We think it okay to lambast and generalize those with opposing views of ours. This is more to do with social immaturity than anything but it also helps highlight how excepted our intolerance of others views are.

The Good

Okay, so those were some quick shots at what many Americans are oblivious to. I’ll end on a high note on things we do better than others.

We Are Hygiene Freaks

When I’d go to a public restroom with my European friends, I noticed something disturbing about my Old World buddies. Most of them didn’t wash their hands after going to the restroom. In fact, even our homeless population smells better than some of their average populace.

At a very young age we are taught to brush our teeth and bathe daily. You’re probably nodding your head thinking of course but it’s a surprise how this daily ritual isn’t shared with many in the rest of the world.

We Are Generous

Not only do we tip generously, we give very generously too. We have our problems and have a long way to go, but overall, most Americans are there to help someone else when they need a hand, and more importantly, a dollar.

Help Me, Help You, Help Me

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Ulysses and the Sirens – John William Waterhouse (1891)

In the realm of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) there is the belief that every motivator has two sides, an “away” motivator and a “towards” motivator. An easy example of this is, you are going to ask for that raise and treat yourself to a weekend out if works out. That’s a little bit of an away motivator and a towards motivator. At first, it may seem like it’s only a towards motivator. After all, there’s a carrot at the end of that stick and that stick isn’t whipping you. True, but the away motivator is not wanting to be alone on the weekend moping about how broke you are because you were too afraid to speak up.

Most people see their goals with towards motivators. Lots of money, an abundant dating life, having people respect you, and so on. When in fact, when you really look at it, what most people are really wanting is to not to be wealthy but to stop being poor. Not being a whore but no longer being lonely. Not having people look up to you but to just being noticed in the first place. These are the real hidden motivators that push people to act on their goals.

And that is why I am writing this here today. I want to get better. At what? Well, a lot of things. But at the top of my dream list right now is to play the piano. I’ve always wanted to learn. I play campfire guitar but even that I did because I thought other people would think it was cool. The piano, with it’s repetitive keys, is made for a nerd like me. That is why I am making a Ulysses Contract.

What is a Ulysses Contract? A Ulysses Contract is where you make a deal with yourself in the future. When Ulysses wanted to hear the Sirens’ songs, he put wax in his crews’ ears as he was tied to his ship. That way, he could hear the Sirens’ songs and not die as he was driven to madness. Obviously, if he didn’t have himself tied to his ship, he would have chased the Sirens to his death. He made a deal with himself, a Ulysses Contract.

Now here comes the part where you can make lots of money while bettering yourself. There’s a great new website called stickK.com. StickK was designed by a couple a really smart Yale guys. They don’t call it a Ulysses Contract but a Commitment Contract that you make with yourself. It’s completely free but you have the option of putting down a financial incentive, or “Stakes” as the the folks at stickK call it. There are also referees and cheerleaders. Those jobs are just like the names entail. So here’s my challenge to myself:

Learn to play Opus 28 by Dustin O’Halloran on piano,

by September 15th, 2014.

And here’s where you, the reader, come in. If I don’t reach my goal, I will give up to five people, $100 each. Yup, you read right. If I don’t learn how to play Opus 28 in a year’s time, I’m out five hundred big ones. Ouch. I can’t afford to be out $100 let alone $500. But that’s the point. It’s supposed to hurt. So if I can’t produce a video of me playing the piece, up to five people get a hundred bucks.

Now before you get all excited about signing up, there are some things I’d like from you.

  • If possible, I want you to also try to reach one of your goals. I’d then be your referee. We can help each other. Not mandatory but I’d like to help others too.
  • If I don’t do it, you have to take my money. I’ve done stuff like this before and when I’ve failed, my friend would be like, “Oh, don’t worry about it. You tried.” Nu uh. I need you to take my money and for the world to know I’ve failed. That is helping me. Giving me a pass would hurt.
  • I have to know you and you need to be an honest person. If I’m able to play like a mini-Mozart in a year’s time I don’t want you to let this pass by so you can steal a $100 from me. A deal’s a deal.

So here’s what you have to do:

  1. Create a stickK.com account (it’s free).
  2. Add me as a friend there. My username is Hernandez.
  3. Notify me in the comments below if you’d like to be a referee on my piano challenge and thereby making you eligible for the $100.

And that’s it. Again, I’m limiting the possible payout to five people but the rest are more than welcome to follow and support my progress. I’m not sure if I’ll get ten responses or none. We’ll see.

Thanks and wish me luck. As you can see and hear below, I’m gonna need it!

The Hustle in Paris

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I’ve done a bit of traveling and know I should share more. I have had some amazing experiences and some not so good experiences. Of each country I’ve visited, I could write for about as long as I visited, but for the purpose of this article, I’ll choose one place and one subject.

The Hustle in Paris

Paris is just like any major city when it comes to poverty and people looking for a handout. What stood out to me was how creative these people got. Maybe it was because I spent an entire week there that I saw more of how they do it than in other cities. Not sure. Regardless, the hustle in Paris was impressive and I’m going to share them with you from lease impressive to “wow, I can’t believe you tricked me!”

Begging

Well, nothing new here. There are people asking for money in every town and village in the world. One thing I did find was how friendly the French beggars were. Sometimes, I was happy to see a guy holding out a Styrofoam cup looking for change. They gave great directions!

One thing that did surprise me was the amount of Muslim woman begging. It never really dawned on me how most beggars are men until I was in Paris and saw these poor Muslim women.

Now I’m not here to make any judgements. I’ll just share my two trains of thought. One, these woman are out there on behalf of their husbands, or two, they were probably once married and lost their spouse. Either way, it’s tragic and I still feel very bad for these women.

As with all homeless people, I am always reminded how lucky I am to have such a loving family. Many are disabled or were just handed a bad hand. Had I not been born into a supporting family, it would be me out there with a cup asking for change.

Signing Petitions

This one you’ll also find here in the States, but more so in major cities. And for the most part, they’re honest.

There I was, walking along the street and some kid came up to me with a petition to sign. It was for deaf children or something, I can’t really remember. Anyway, it was worded in a way that said they’d contact me later and how much I could possible give. I put my info down and wrote $20. Then the kid demanded the money right there and then. I told him I didn’t have cash on me, that the form said I would be receiving information on how to give later. I was upset at being deceived at first but wanted to get him away from me as soon as possible, so I gave him all I had on me, about two Euro.

He literally grabbed me and tried to drag me to an ATM. I told him no and he kept pointing to the clipboard as if to say, “you promised!”

I should have known that the charity he was trying to get money for was a fake. The paper I was signing looked as if someone just quickly printed it, bad wording and all. It was even old and dirty.

A few days later a girl with a clipboard comes running up to me. “Are you American?” I guess my clothes and Latino look gave me away. I told her no thank you in as good a French as I could and kept walking.

Wasn’t going to fall for that again.

Bracelets

This one, I didn’t fall for but saw a few that did.

When I went to visit Sacré-Cœur (the most beautiful church I’ve ever witnessed) I saw this bracelet hustle. First, Sacré-Cœur is on this beautiful hill. They didn’t have escalators in the 1800’s so you have to climb. It’s a beautiful climb, don’t get me wrong, but a climb nonetheless. Needless to say, me and my crippled self had to take a breather or ten when climbing up or down the steps.

On my way down I took a seat to see the marketplace below. There were these guys running up to tourists and making bracelets on their wrists.

Here’s kind of how it went.

They would stop a group of tourists and compliment them. They would ask them to put out there hand. After fighting the original hesitation, everyone would stick out their arms. That’s when they started wrapping string around the wrist. They would talk to the tourist while they were doing this intricate weaving on their hands. After about two to five minutes of tedious weaving, the bracelet would be on tight and finished. Then of course they’d ask for money for all their work and what they gave you. Kind of smart, really. They make you feel they invested time and they gave you something.

Luckily for me, my face isn’t pale and hair fair so I just walked right by them. But everyone who has collagen deficiency (white folk), they are all over them.

Oh, and one more thing I noticed at Sacré-Cœur. There are musicians there. Again, nothing different in Paris than any other city. Musicians asking for money. That’s cool. But what wasn’t cool? They all played Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”. All of them. Seriously. After about two days I wanted to grab their instruments and throw them into the ocean so they can join Jack and the Titanic.

The Golden Ring

This one was the best. As I was walking along the streets of Paris along the river Seine this old lady came up to me from behind. She told me that I had dropped something. It was a golden ring. I told her it wasn’t mine. She felt embarrassed and told me to keep it. I refused. She refused my refusal. And then she just left.

I remember walking away feeling so good. That a stranger would just give me something like that. Like a painting, I walked with my head held high in the wind, smiling, feeling that the world was better than I thought. That a poor woman would rather give me something to show me how nice she was than to keep it herself.

Then she came back.

Asking for money of course. I was’t carrying any cash. She just grabbed the ring from my hand and shook her head in disgust that I didn’t fall for her little dance.

I just kept walking. I also had a smile on my face. This time it was out of respect of the pure audacity this woman had. I’ve been around the world, and have seen and done a lot of things. But you can’t out hustle the hustle in Paris.

No One Cares About You

No one cares about you. I’m going to start off by getting that out-of-the-way. I don’t think that set in, so let’s try it again.

No one cares about you. Got it? Good, let’s move on to my next point.

No one cares about you. Okay, okay. I’ve hammered the point home. “I get it Tony, ‘No one cares about me'”, so now we can can move on to the meat of this article.

No one cares about you.

All right, seriously this time, I’ll stop. But I really need for that to sink in. No one cares about you. And this is a good thing. Nay, an awesome thing. Let me explain.

First of all, when I say no one cares about you, I don’t mean that in the nihilist “why does nobody want to play with me and when I die no one’s gonna care!” kind of way. Far from it. We are all part of God’s creation and each of us mean the world to Him and those that we love. Heck, even if I don’t know you and I saw you hurt on the street I’d care about you and your wellbeing. What I mean by, no one cares about you, is, no one cares about your opinion or what you think.

Why do I know that no one cares about what you believe in and what you feel? Because you don’t care what others believe in. Because you don’t care about what others feel. You don’t care about other’s opinions and thoughts. Everyone is just a collection of yous to themselves. Let that last sentence sink in, it’s a doozy. Read it again. You didn’t read it again, did you? Fine, let me write it again and just read it slower this time.

Everyone is just a collection of yous to themselves.

You are you. “They” are their own “yous”, to themselves at least. So everyone is just like you since we are all the same. And you don’t really care what others think so therefore others don’t care what you think. It’s a beautiful, self-centered, cycle.

Take social media for instance. What a false sense of self on display that is. And in that theater of false self we get a front row ticket into our broader selves.

Again, you care about what you think and what you feel. You don’t really care about what other people think and feel. Except for the fact that you do care about one thing other people think and feel about… and that one thing is you. And they in turn feel the same way. So what does this produce? A near endless stream of self involved consciousness. I’ll give some examples.

Complaining. People love complaining.

“Why are people such bad drivers!”

“I can’t believe this guy was saying [insert something benign] to his [noun]!”

“Ugh! I hate it when…” or,

“I can’t stand people who…”

You get the drift. This is just passive aggressiveness towards strangers in the hope that others can relate to them. And if people relate, well then, aren’t we justified in our little temper tantrum?

Then there are the belief reinforces. Most of the time they sound a bit like this and genuinely encompass things political in nature.

“I hate people who think we should legalize…”

“I hate people who think we should criminalize…”

“Democrats are so stupid! Look at this!”

“Republicans are so stupid! Look at this!”

“Being a liberal is awesome! Look at this!”

“Being a conservative is awesome! Look at this!”

And so on and so on. Their mind’s are made up. They just want to feed their ego twice over. One, they want to reinforce their beliefs by getting kudos from the like-minded and, two, they want to look disapprovingly to those that they don’t agree with. It’s a win-win for that petty little ego of ours.

Next time, sit back and listen to a conversation. I mean really listen. The old saying is so true, no one is listening, they’re just waiting for their turn to speak. As you sit (or stand, not sure what you’re chilling preference is) notice what you’re thinking. More times than not its something you want to say. But no one cares about you. Because of the same reason you don’t care about them.

Most conversations go like this,

“Me, me, me, me, me.”

“Really? That’s crazy because this one time me, me, me, me, me.”

“Oh yeah! Wow, I know what you mean because me, me, me, me, me.”

“Yeah, I think that me, me, me, me, me. I, I, I, I, I.”

“You do?”

“Yeah. Why don’t you?”

“Yeah, I mean I, I, I, I, I. But that’s just me.”

Meanwhile, there’s a third person listening between the two of them waiting to interject about themselves with an amazing story that starts and ends with, “me, me, me, me.”

It’s all very eye rolling, really.

So knowing all this, how can we better communicate with people? Isn’t human communication a lost cause because we are all on the same agenda of self? No, no. See therein lies the key to making folks happy when communicating with them. Themselves.

People enjoy my company. Everyone loves me. Okay, not everyone. Miserable people don’t like because I’m happy. But besides people who hate themselves and the world, I’m a big ol’ jar of awesomesauce.

Is it because the things I think are so awesome? No.

Maybe it’s because everything I believe in is so great! Nope.

Again, no one cares what I believe in. No one cares about me. So why do folks like being around me? Besides the fact that I’m good-looking (yeah that’s right ladies, I’m winking in your direction) the reason people enjoy my company is because of the value they perceive I bring to them… which is themselves.

Here are two ways I get folks to like me. The first, is listen and talk about them. Boom. That’s the big one. That’s the key. Everyone likes talking about themselves, what they hate, what they like, cetera, cetera. Go with it. Agree with them (when you genuinely do). Ask them why they like this. Ask them why they don’t like that. When they answer you, make a statement about what they said. Then ask another question about them. Or notice something about them. Talk about their known interests. What they’re wearing. Where they’ve been. Where they want to be. They will walk away loving you. Why? Because you talked about what they loved the most, themselves.

This also helps to protect you. All the beans are being spilt on one side while your can is still perfectly sealed. Beautiful.

The second way is harder. Humor. People like feeling good. You feel good when you smile. You smile when you laugh. So if you can bring people a chuckle, they’ll love you. Again, not because they like that you are a funny person, they like that you make them laugh and feel good.

So don’t feel bad that people don’t care what you’re eating, drinking, or doing. I mean, you don’t care what other people are eating, drinking, or doing. No one is being a jerk because they don’t care about pictures of your dog sleeping or your kids eating because you don’t care about people’s pictures of dogs sleeping or their kids eating. Oh! You care about your dog sleeping and your kid eating! After all, they’re your dog and kid. But no one else does. Not really. Unless they’re liars. And if they say they do, they’re just waiting to talk about their dogs and kids sleeping and eating habits.

So go on talking about what you ate, where you drank, what you did. What you like, what you don’t. No one cares.

No one cares about you. No one cares about me. Everyone just cares about themselves. And once you know that, everyone will start to care about you.

Second Tuesday in September

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The second Tuesday in September. I still remember looking forward to that day. I had Diamondbacks tickets and our division rivals, the Colorado Rockies, were in town to start a series.

I was awoken by a phone call from my roommate. He worked at an office and I worked from home, so his day began earlier than mine.

“They flew a plane into the World Trade Center. We’re under attack” he had said.

My first response was “which one?” as if I knew the difference between the north and south tower. I had never been to New York at that time and didn’t even know how they differentiated between the two.

He just said “both of them.”

After disconnecting, I turned on my television. It was a scene from a helicopter’s point-of-view. It was hard to make out what I was looking at. Grey smoke filled the screen. How are people breathing, I thought. And then Katie Couric, in a calm, straight voice said, “and there goes the second, and final tower.” I saw it fall. But I still didn’t understand it.

The news then switched back and forth between live shots of lower Manhattan covered in dust and video of the images that were recorded. Most of the videos were of people falling.

Later that day, and for the weeks to come, those that fell to their deaths were referred to as “jumpers”. Pundits would talk about what a decision these people had to make, stay in the building, or jump to their deaths. They were and are wrong. These people didn’t jump. They were forced out of those buildings. Either by the inability to breath or the heat from burning jet fule. No one jumped that day. They were thrown.

The replays showed what no one will show today; people trying to hang on for their lives outside the World Trade Center. And people falling. There was lots of video of people falling.

Then the video of the collapse started coming in. People running from the grey smoke.

Commentators starting guessing at how many dead there were. Thousands if not tens of thousands.

Cut to a scene to Washington. The Pentagon is on fire. Was it also struck by a plane?

Flights are being grounded. Fox News starts having a news scroll at the bottom of their screen. Other stations follow. Some are scrolls, some are just news flashes at the bottom of the screen. All were trying to get the ever changing news and updates as fast as possible.

Mayor Giuliani was assuring people that first responders were doing their best. Commissioner Selig cancelled all ballgames until further notice. One of the scariest moments of my life was underreported. The president’s location was classified as he was flown to a secret location. My president, our leader, was publicly unaccounted for. This was crazy. I had no idea how much of a security blanket it was knowing that your president is always accountable for, was. Then, per procedure, he disappeared. All we knew is that he was in a secure location.

More video of people running from smoke. People falling. Pentagon still on fire. There was talk of more planes and that the attack wasn’t over yet.

Video of a plane hitting the the second tower starting emerging. How big was it? I thought it was a smaller plane. Only later did I understand that I did not appreciate the size of those towers. Those planes looked tiny compared to those massive monoliths.

Live video of lower Manhattan. Building 7 was still on fire. There was talk that it too may collapse. Then it did. I had witnessed two building fall in one day.

It was way past lunch time and I was starving, not having eaten all day. This is weird to say, but I felt guilty that I had to get something to eat. I left the house and went to a place I knew would be open, McDonald’s. There was a weird sense on the road that day. Everyone seeming to think, what I’m supposed to be doing? People are dying, donating blood, and I’m grabbing a cheeseburger. It just didn’t feel right.

Then I saw something that was very eery. I should say, what I didn’t see. Planes. There were no planes in the air. I never gave it much thought before. Planes in the air are and were a constant all my life. But then, there it was, nothing. Clear and quiet skies.

There still wasn’t a September 11th. It was what was happening now. Then it became yesterday. Last week. Ten days ago.

A plane was shot down. Maybe it wasn’t. There might be other planes that have been shot down. The president landed on the South Lawn. One bit of good news.

Our representatives gathered in front of the capital. After some remarks they burst into an unplanned rendition of God Bless America. I remember thinking how beautiful it was. I remember thinking that I didn’t know the words to that song. Or in fact, most Americans didn’t. Not so anymore.

After the president’s remarks, more video. Lots of the same videos. Leaders around the world sending their condolences. Celebrations on the streets of Iraq. Explosions in Afghanistan. Had America already struck? I was sure of it. I knew if I were president, I’d a let every missel rip.

It was late. Should I go to sleep? Again, another feeling of guilt. I’ll rest in bed while people die.

Today is the first Tuesday since that tragic day that the 11th of September again falls on a Tuesday.

When people ask, what was the worse day of your life, mine will always be that second Tuesday in September.

Calling All Aspiring Salsa Dancers


Okay, so here’s the deal. I’ve always wanted to learn how to dance. I can do an okay cumbia and tear it up at a Quinceañera or a backyard barbecue. However, I’m not any good at any actual dance form. My real wish is to one day learn ballroom dances like the Waltz. However, one thing I’ve always wanted to learn to dance is Salsa/Merengue.

I took a Groupon for two dance lessons about a year ago. I naturally have rhythm and I could tell that with practice, I can get good at it. The biggest problem was, of course, the cost. After my two lessons were up, I had to sign up for so many lessons. A contract basically. And if any of you have looked into dance lessons, you know how expensive it is. Also, most places offer “group dancing lessons” as the main part of the lessons. The private, one-on-one was great. The group lessons are horrible. It’s a way for the dance studio to get lots of people in with little work on their end. Plus, having middle-aged women a little too happy to have a young Latin man in their arms was a little creepy after the first lesson.

For this, and other reasons, I want to try to learn to dance Salsa on my own. And here’s where you come in.

Who is Interested in Learning Salsa?

I obviously need a partner and if this is a skill set that you want to be part of your life, like I do, continue to read on.

First, you have to be a girl. Sorry gentlemen. It’s great that you want to learn this too but get your own partner.

Second and (maybe) more importantly: you have to be motivated. I speak three languages and I’m currently learning my fourth. I play one instrument and I am learning my second. I’m not saying this to show off (okay, maybe a little) but to impress upon you that I am a very focused and determined dude when it comes to learning. I love acquiring new talents. Hobbies are my hobby. So if you agree to do this, don’t expect a fun few weeks that will fizzle out. I plan to do this like I do most things; with full commitment. It’ll all be fun, but I do expect someone who will be practicing and getting ready for the next lesson like I will be.

You have to live in the Phoenix area. Obviously, this wouldn’t work via texts.

You don’t have to be single. I’m not doing this to pick out a chick to hang out with. If you have a man in your life, that’ll probably be even better. As long as he isn’t too jealous, this should be good. In fact, you learning to dance is a great gift to give your husband or boyfriend.

What I Envision

We’d meet up once a week and practice for about an hour. There is a great online service that gets lots of great revenues and the best part, it’s free! Go to adddicted2salsa.com. It is the #1 resource for free, awesome Salsa lessons. Before we practice, we’ll pick a video to study. After that, we meet and practice together. Then, we go our separate ways but this time with a new video to practice at home with. Meet again, rinse and repeat.

The key will be to practice at home by yourself before we meet. If you feel that you are motivated and have the time to commit to that, perfect.

If there are more than one of you interested, maybe we can have our own little Salsa Club. If there are couples reading this who are interested, that’d be great if we all learned together.

Also, I am very good at learning. I am a slow learner but a good one nonetheless. My hope and belief is that I can also be a good mentor for you as well.

The Real Reason Why

For those that don’t know, I broke my leg and I’ve been in crutches for three months. I am finally walking now. By walking, I mean I’m limping. However, I am getting better every day. I was stuck in a bed for nearly two months. During this time I had some depression and anxiety. They say, you don’t appreciate the things you have until they’re gone. So true. I have such a new appreciation for walking, running, and yes, dancing. I spent a few hours one night looking at dance videos. I made myself a promise then, that when I was up and able to walk, I was going to learn how to dance!

Also, if you’re worried that you suck, don’t be. So do I. I just had those two classes so I’m no Fred Astaire either.

So if you are interested in learning to dance Salsa, let’s do it!

Send a message via facebook or shoot me an e-mail. I will keep all inquires confidential.

TH

Of Mice and Motivation

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During the Cold War, the CIA came up with an acronym for what persuaded agents to defect from the Soviet Union to the West, and vice versa. That acronym is MICE.

There are several varieties to this, but the most common one is money, ideology, coercion, and ego. While these are used to describe as to what motivates an agent to turn, we can ourselves turn these on us.

Money

The oldest motivator known to man. Although we’d like to believe that our motivation is entirely altruistic, there is nothing wrong with a financial motivator. It can be something as simple as knowing that as soon as you get better at a certain skill set you may get promotion therein qualifying you for more money, or you can dangle your own carrot. “I’ll buy myself X once I do Y” is a great kick starter.

Ideology

This is meant as a change of heart. Some Western agents believed that the mighty communist machine was inevitable and joined the Reds. While most of the time, Soviet and Eastern agents would see the freedom and joys of the West and turn over here. Regardless, we can use this as a motivator for ourselves. I am not saying we need to destroy our beliefs! To the contrary. Ideology is belief and we need to embrace them. Just knowing what you’re doing is important is enough. One just needs a constant reminder.

Coercion

No, do not go out and blackmail yourself! While this was used to force agents to spill the beans (i.e. we have photos of you and your mistress we can share with your wife unless you tell us your nation’s secrets) we can instead look at coercion as accountability. Telling everyone on facebook that you’re going to start exercising is a perfect example. It forces you, or coerces you, to keep going forward with your goal.

Ego

This one is probably the biggest motivator yet easily dismissed because of our – ironically enough – ego. “I’m learning to play guitar/learn a language/get in shape/etc., etc., because I care about bettering myself.” That may be true, but you also care what other people think of you. And that’s okay! The line between ego and ideology can get blurred but at the end they both pander to our self beliefs and what others think of them.

So if you’re having a hard time getting yourself going on a certain goal or project, look no further than yourself. Yes, that man in the mirror may be the main force stopping you, but with the right change of perspective, that same reflection can serve as the main motivator you need.

Throwing Away My Books

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Just half of what I’m getting rid of

I’ve decided to sell most of my personal library.

This may come as a shock to you all, but it really shouldn’t. Everyone knows that I’ve always been a reader. Not sure if it’s because I’m studious or because being a bed bound child left little options. Regardless, I’ve always been and will always be someone who enjoys reading books. In fact, most of waking hours are now spent reading the written word. So why am I chunking my books? For a myriad of reasons.

Less is more
With the advent of e-readers like Kindle, having a physical copy is no longer necessary. Books are awkward and cumbersome. The words bend down or up towards the spine of the book. The tediously slow page turning. The weight. All these things are very unpleasant. With my Kindle I just hold it in my hand and click the next page with my thumb. Simple. It’s as if someone printed out a brand new piece of paper on card stock and then magically turned into another one. e-Ink is by far the biggest technological leap forward in displays. Why deal with a physical book when you can read it on an e-reader?

Tossing ego
There’s something that all of us with book collections are scared to admit: we collect books because we care what other people think about us. We want people to say to themselves, “Wow! Look how smart/cultured/well read/etc./ so-and-so is!” As if being well read is the only scale of intelligence. Please! Most people have books in their libraries that they have never read nor will they. So why have ’em? Ego, that’s why.

I’ll get to it
Another reason people hold onto books they’ve never read is because they plan to at that place they never arrive to; “one day.” Well today is “one day” so get to reading or get to tossin’.

Tossing arrogance
Books in a library are the modern day version of notches on a bed post. “Look at what I’ve done!” Lame. If you read something to show off instead of your own personal growth, that’s something you need to sort out on your own. It just becomes one big dusty pile of insecurity.

We’ve come to a time where CDs are no longer needed. Now the DVD is being fazed out. All these vessels are becoming antiquated and the printed medium is no different.

Do I still have a physical library? Sure. There are books that are still not available digitally. There are books that have forms. Books with photographs and charts. And yes, there are some that I’m holding onto simply for personal nostalgic reasons. I buy a physical book every two to three months. But that’s quite the change in gear from buying two to three a month.

My plan is to buy another Kindle or two. When people come to my place, they can borrow a Kindle. Easy.

The CD, DVD, and now the book.

They say all good things come to an end. Not so. If you’re willing to let go and grow, all good things become better.