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Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Cold

Hey All - hope you're enjoying the Grammys.  I'm at the point where I recognize maybe 5 of these people -- search me, I'm a classic rock guy, I like mostly stuff written prior to 1995.  Then I should like Daft Punk, because "Get Lucky" sounds like a disco tune from 1978,  But I digress . . . .

This morning, several thousand people jammed into Central Park to run a Half Marathon in 18 degrees.  When I first got up at 5 am today, my iPhone told me the temperature was 25, leading me to believe it was not a newsworthy event.  How the temperature dropped between 5am and 6am I'm not sure, but somehow it did.

After removing my outer layer of clothes and leaving them at the Baggage Drop, I needed to keep myself warm.  I found myself pathetically drawn to the men's room at Le Pain Quotidien not to take care of regulatory issues, but just to stay warm.  The last time I'd seen a men's room that crowded was at the last Isles game I attended between periods.  Maybe only two of the gentlemen in there actually needed to use the facilities, we just desperately needed some relief from what has now become known as the polar vortex.

Finally, we made our way to the speed-designated corrals.  The waiting time before the start was now reduced to only 10 minutes, and I added my own bass harmonies to the National Anthem for luck.  So I booked it, and the cold worked its magic.  After the first mile, I no longer felt the chill -- this would change periodically when I encountered a headwind, but since I was able to feel my fingers and toes, this was a welcome sign.  Even more welcome was the split times that seemed to have been accelerated by nothing more than the cold, making both Cat Hill and Harlem Hill less onerous than they otherwise could have been.

Crossing the finish line, I felt a variation on the runner's high.  This was more like a runner's trip.  While I was very coherent of my surroundings, and was again feeling the chill slowly return, I was smiling and cracking up laughing for no apparent reason.  No need to question it, it was enough to simply enjoy it.

Later on, the Rangers and Devils faced off in Yankee Stadium, bringing the relatively new trend of outdoor stadium hockey games to the Big Apple.  The players and coaches would add their voices to the accolades offered to the league to offer them the chance to play hockey the way they first learned how, on frozen ponds in Ontario, Saskatchewan, and various Slavic and Scandinavian provinces.  This trend will continue this Wednesday night, when my beloved Islanders will join the outdoor game as well.

Yes, even this unprecedented cold snap that blasted New York with unexpected temperatures could not prevent some enjoyable athletic contests from taking place.  In the place of running and hockey, it only enhanced the experience.

But when it comes to next week's Super Bowl, I have to say I'm not entirely looking forward to it.  The two best teams in the NFL have already gone through intense competition and adverse weather conditions.  They have earned the right to play for a championship in an easier climate.  Also, I'm bored with two states arguing over whose game it really is.  The playoffs and conference championships are where you get your winter-weather high-stakes contests, not the game to win it all.  

Road races and hockey are meant for the cold.  Football, to a point, also is.  But the Super Bowl is not, and has never been.  If this game goes forward, then so be it, but it's my hope that it not be repeated.

Night, all!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Repost in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I don't like to do this often, but what I've said about Dr. King already says it most.  So here's a repost, with a few edits.

Tomorrow, we honor the birthday and celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Dr. King was one of those rare men who rise above human nature and its many weaknesses to bring about real change.

He came of age at a time when racism was as American as apple pie.  Most chose to accept it, because "that's the way it is."  Some of my detractors may find this mantra somewhat familiar, as it is monotonous, but obscenely easy to adopt.  Jim Crow laws, separate-but-(un)equal facilities, and policies designed to keep one race isolated and abject were omnipresent.

The only other alternative besides "just accepting it" would have been starting rebellions and riots.  Dr. King, however, was not that kind of man.  As a man of the cloth, he understood that peaceful resistance was the most effective means by which to stop racist laws and counteract racist culture.

When I first learned about Dr. King in elementary school, I immediately identified with him. Back then, I learned that the "the system" was not there to take my interests into account.  At the time, I was bullied, the school knew about it, and it did absolutely nothing to stop it.  Dr. King's life story dealt with not only one person, but an entire group of people, being harassed, deprived, and disadvantaged, and a government that either turned a blind eye to what was occurring, or sometimes even encouraged it!  For me, it was far less an issue of race than it was an issue of respect -- or the complete lack thereof.

Dr. King can truly be said to be the greatest anti-bullying advocate there ever was, before people even understood that there was such a thing as "anti-bullying!"  He also combated what we now know to be bullying in ways that most men would not conceive of implementing.  He proved that it was not necessary to stoop to a bully's level to beat him.  He also proved that when complaining to a government does not get the desired result, then actions that bring about that government's attention, and that take away some of that government's assumed power, actually can bring about that result!

Got a bully in your personal life?  Or better yet, someone who has the backing and implicit encouragement of the authorities? It may feel easier for you to just "let it go," because that person has "always been that way." I'll be discussing in a later post, it's not because that person is "insecure," it's most likely because they've simply never faced consequences for their behavior.  Once they hear those consequences, loud and clear, they will (hopefully) get the message that screwing with other people all the time is not a divine right bestowed upon them.

It may also feel easy for you to start blazing your guns at them, so to speak.  As we learned from Dr. King, this is a mistake, because that's exactly what the bully wants you to do. They're trying to make you use your anger from a position of weakness, which means you will, repeat will, make mistakes.  Anger can only be used from a position of strength, which the bully will often have over you. Don't let them play with your emotions like a sucker!  Dr. King saved his passion for his speeches, not for cursing out some sheriff with a fire hose!

My suggestion?  Use the power of "NO."  Are they trying to expose your weaknesses and foibles?  Say "NO" to the entire conversation.  The fact that they want you to admit that you've forgotten something or neglected something is not their attempt to win a case or a prize -- it's their way of testing how weak you are. If it's something that you know is irrelevant and inconsequential, just answer honestly. If it's something that they want to use to make you look stupid, just change the subject.  In fact, start talking about something that you enjoy that makes them look stupid! Dr. King may have never debated someone like Jesse Helms, but if he had, he'd probably run rings around him this way!

Is this person an expert on finance, who wants to show you up for your lack of knowledge in that field? Check his or her weakness, and open it up!  Chances are, you may know how long David Lee Roth was in Van Halen, and which songs were better, and he or she won't know anything from anybody about that subject.  Why should he or she be the only expert in the room?  Do they like pointing out that you didn't read The Great Gatsby in high school?  Screw their snooty stuck-up prep-school attitude!  Ask them if they ever read Bless The Beasts And Children or The Outsiders!  Or better yet, ask them if they ever wrote a story as towering and as magnificent as the book they read!  Just make sure you only ask questions that you already know the answers to -- one false move and they'll smell blood!  And don't be confrontational and angry about it either -- that only incites these people even more!

Are they maybe yelling at you over something that everyone else knows is B.S.?  Maybe because they don't like the shirt you're wearing, when everyone else in the known universe thinks it's just fine the way it is?  Or perhaps they don't like the way your eyes get wide when you laugh at something?  Maybe they think you're ugly?  Or chances are, they just hate you and can't stand the sight of you because you're you?

MLK didn't eliminate hate, but he did severely weaken the power hate has over society.  So if someone hates you and you can't avoid interacting with them, just weaken their power.  Start with the Four Pillars I posted some time earlier.  Just so you won't have to go back and check, they are:


You can recite it as a mantra, you can hum it to yourself when nobody's around, it doesn't matter.  Just as long as you have these Pillars in your head when these people are screwing with you, it's a lot easier not to let them win. You'll almost render yourself bulletproof!

(yeah, good call -- now how do I respond when these dogs start barking about how much they hate me?)

Turn their hate against them.  Do they hate the way you lift one eyebrow like "The Rock" from WWE (now known as Dwayne Johnson)?  Never stop doing it.  Don't make it obvious like you're instigating something, but don't eliminate it from your repertoire just because they want to be mineholes! (no, that's not the real word I'm going for, but this is a clean blog)

Does it bother them when you advocate some political philosophy that they can't accept?  Bring it up.  Again and again and again.  Cite to reliable authorities to support your position, too.  That way you can dare them to say that they're smarter than your sources, WHICH THEY NEVER WILL BE.

And so, in closing, please honor the memory of MLK.  Not just by showing respect and tolerance towards members of all races, but also by how you respond to threats and adversity.

What's old is new again, what can I say.  For clarification, this post was written in a time when my lifestyle was somewhat different than it is now, accordingly the tone is different than my more recent posts.   Originally, this blog was focused merely on opposing bullying.  It has now evolved into an empowerment tool for Beta Males.  And I am confident in now stating that Dr. King was the penultimate Beta Male.  His philosophy was based in maturity, and not in machismo, but the result was more powerful than the hardest punch ever thrown.

Let's not let hate blur our thoughts and pervert our judgment.  Let's not be swept away by groupthink, buzzwords, and sound bites.  Let's think first and react afterwards.  

And above all, let's give, and receive, RESPECT.

Good night all -- try to use that day off productively tomorrow.

When The Hour Comes

Hey all.  Somber topic today, but bear with me.

This week, most of my former high school classmates are mourning the untimely death of a man who was well-liked and friendly.  After achieving great success on the wrestling mat, he went on to become an entrepreneur, to make a living with creative endeavors, and to start a family. 

(I ask the family's indulgence if I'm incorrect about any of the above, since I'd not spoken to him in several decades.  I ask the same of his friends who are reading this post.)

The Four Pillars remind us that we Exist, Matter, Belong, and Deserve.  Apparently we've been taking the First Pillar for granted.  As our dearly departed friend has reminded us, this is not a guarantee.  

We are never sure when our lifetime will end, and we only assume that tomorrow will arrive. Far too often, we curse our existence for its faults and foibles, never stopping to consider how much worse the alternative oblivion truly is.  We grumble and complain about the hand we're dealt, without realizing that the game could end arbitrarily.

So I ask you ... where will you be when the Hour comes?

This is not a question of the afterlife.  I am not concerned with Heaven or Hell, Gan-Eden, Gehinom or Sheol.  That's between you and your Maker.  I'm talking about this life.

Let's say it all ended now.  Would you be happy with your final act?  Would you be proud of what you used to occupy your last moments?  Will your last words be the ones you'd want on your headstone?  Will you disappear doing something you loved, or doing something you'd otherwise be ashamed of?

Yes, of course, your surviving relatives will sanitize the account of your death, or simply just say it's a private matter, but you'll still pass knowing the truth. Wouldn't you feel more fulfilled knowing you left this Realm doing something good?  Something right?  Something that made you happy?  Something that told the world that this is who you were, and how you'd want to be remembered?

While you still can, live that way.  Don't make your relatives have to defend you or whitewash you.  Be respectable.  That DOES NOT mean be POPULAR or conform.  It means give people a reason to respect who you are and what you do, be they friend or foe.  

In other words, to fulfill the First Pillar, don't just be alive, as important as we now know this to be.  Be somebody.


(no, this does not make the other three redundant.  If anything, it makes all four concepts more connected)

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Heart of Armor, Continued

Hi All.  I'm watching the NFC Divisional Playoffs between the San Francisco 49ers and the Carolina Panthers.  Just saw the Niners have a ruling in the field overturned in their favor right at the end of the first half, because both of the receiver's feet actually WERE in bounds when he caught that ball.

Jim Harbaugh, the Niners' coach, gets a lot of attention because of his priceless reactions to just about everything that happens on the field.  The grimaces.  The gestures.  The histrionics.  The facial expressions that could most definitely improve his chances of landing his own show on ESPN should he ever tire of coaching.  I mean, you expect this type of behavior from college basketball coaches, but not every NFL coach does this.  That being said, he's only coached at this level for three seasons, and his winning record speaks for itself.

But what people should know about "Harbs" besides what a character he is, is that he actually also had a great deal of emotional maturity, and knew how to use it when it counted.  Don't believe me?  Go back to 1992.

Back then, he was a quarterback for none other than Mike Ditka with the Chicago Bears.  Now that was one coach that nobody could mess around with.  But as luck would have it, Harbaugh found himself in a little trouble with that coach.

The Bears were at Minnesota, and they had a 20-0 lead over the Vikings.  Ditka had told Harbaugh that he did not want him to call any audibles, and that only the coach would call the plays.  Well, Harbs felt a little extra confident with that 20-0 lead, so he went ahead and called an audible anyway.

For those of you who are not football fans, you don't have to know what an audible is.  You only have to know that, as the name implies, someone needs to hear it.  Well, the intended receiver didn't.

As a result, that receiver was not in position, and that pass got intercepted.  This was bad.  After the turnover was completed, Ditka proceeded to tear Harbaugh a new one, throwing a complete temper tantrum on the sidelines.  To add insult to injury, this exchange was on the jumbo-tron for all of the Minnesota fans to have their schadenfreude fix.

As a result of that interception, Minnesota came from behind to beat Chicago.  In his post-game interview, Ditka made it clear that he blamed Harbs for losing the whole game, and that if any player thought he was "smarter than the coach" again, he would cut him.

Under these most unfavorable situations, Harbs handled it like a champion and a gentleman.  He did not react in kind to the coach's tirade on the sidelines, but he also didn't crumble when confronted.  During his own post-game interview, he admitted that what he attempted did not work, and that "it's Mike's team, he can do whatever he wants."  He also stayed with the team through the 1993 season, went onto greater success with Indianapolis, and the rest is history.

I've recently posted about how, out of respect, you can't ignore warnings when consequences may result.  I've also posted in the past about how there are times you need to defend yourself, but if you do it at the wrong time to the wrong person, you may be stuck with those consequences.  This example from more than two decades ago demonstrates why.

Harbs may not have reached the Super Bowl during his playing career, but he handled this moment like an MVP.  He made a costly mistake, and paid a heavy price for it, but he owned up to it.  He did not blame the receiver who didn't hear the audible.  He did not malign or slander the coach.  He also did not threaten to quit and go to some other team where he'd be better understood.  He handled the situation with dignity and respect, and that says a lot more about his character than how he handled his victories.  And quite honestly, I also think it gives him a pass for that wild-man demeanor on the sidelines he now exhibits.

This is why we need to have our hearts encased on armor.  In his own way, Harbs had exactly that.  His ego was not bruised, his playing did not suffer, and he went on to bigger and better things.  That's a much more responsible way to react when mistakes are made than to automatically become defensive.

It would be nice if people in general were more forgiving and tolerant of mistakes being made.  Sometimes they are, and sometimes they're not.  But we can choose how to react to this, like Harbs did, and not let it harm us.  Let's follow his example, gentlemen.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A Leadership Crisis: Who Is Responsible, Anyway?

Hey All --

Yes, my schedule is a little bit altered.  But, since a few close family members sometimes chide me for never "deviating" from my normal itinerary, here's my chance to prove otherwise.

This week, the magic of email, and its permanent qualities, ended the employment of several high-ranking officials in the New Jersey Governor's administration and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.  Allow me to explain how.

For those who are not in the know, the George Washington Bridge, with upper Manhattan on once side and Fort Lee, New Jersey on the other, is one of the most heavily-trafficked bridges in the country.  This past fall, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was up for re-election in what was expected to be, and became, a cakewalk.  However, the mayor of Fort Lee did not endorse Christie's re-election efforts.  Accordingly, some members of his administration apparently conspired with contacts with the Port Authority, which regulates the bridge, to reduce the available lanes for Manhattan-bound traffic on the New Jersey side of the bridge, thus making the traffic even worse.  These emails explicitly stated that it was "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."

In a thuggish endeavor to punish, bully, and intimidate the mayor of Fort Lee, these miscreants instead managed to punish, bully, and intimidate anyone who expected to drive eastbound across that bridge in September of 2013.  Commuters who had their schedules uncontrollably altered because their attempts to get to work timely were thwarted.  School children were prevented from arriving at school on time, through no fault of their own.  And since emergency services were delayed, at least one person who required medical attention expired before it could be provided.  In shorter words, it was a mess!

It was only this past week that these emails were released to the media, and Governor Christie's leadership and intentions were called into question.  So how did he handle it?  With a show of respect and responsibility that we should all learn from.  The authors of those smoking-gun emails that were in his administration were immediately terminated.  Those co-conspirators who worked for the Port Authority stepped down before consequences resulted, which they would, since the governors of both New York and New Jersey control the Port Authority.  He even made a special trip from the state capital to Fort Lee to personally apologize to that town's mayor.

He then gave a long press conference in which he called out those who had engaged in this behavior, but also admitted that as governor, it was his responsibility, despite the fact that he knew nothing about this plan when it was happening.  Call it damage control, call it what you will, but this will either derail or severely impact his expected run for the White House in 2016.

I'll admit it, I think he's telling the truth.  Notwithstanding the reputation that New Jersey has for political corruption, I don't believe Christie plays dirty, partisan politics of this sort.  If you remember what happened during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Christie welcomed President Obama with open arms to the Jersey Shore.  No matter how much his fellow Republicans took him to task for accepting their sworn enemy in such a friendly way, he maintained that he was doing his job as Governor -- he wanted to rebuild the extreme damage that New Jersey had suffered because of the storm, and the President was willing to send all the federal aid that New Jersey needed to assist in the effort.  Christie even went so far as to say that he didn't "care about the election," no matter how most Republicans wanted Obama unseated, because rebuilding the shore after the hurricane was a thousand times more important than what the polls had to say.

If he could welcome the assistance of the scourge of his own party, and risk being seen as a traitor or a softie, then I doubt that he would play dirty against a mayor who chose not to endorse him in an election that would require no effort to win.  As long as they kept the information away from him, it was shockingly easy for his staffers to engineer this assault on commuters seeking to travel to Manhattan.

As beta males, we most often work for someone else.  So we know that, even where you have a boss who micromanages you, they can't watch you 24 hours a day.  For this reason, there is a certain level of trust given, with the assurance that you won't do anything they wouldn't want you to do, or vice-versa.  Sometimes this trust can be exceeded, when you catch something your boss didn't see, prevent a catastrophe from happening, and look like a big hero.  Provided you also make your boss look like a hero, this is a good thing.  But if you assume that your boss wants something, and you go ahead and do it without realizing what the ramifications could be, you invite trouble like this.

And if you do supervise others, you know that you can't always be on top of them every second.  Sometimes you have to just trust that they'll handle their responsibility.  And if they can't or don't, something must be done.  For most screw-ups, a simple talking-to followed by a simple apology will usually remedy the situation.  But something like this, that makes headline news?  Someone needs to go.

Bottom line, this was not Christie's fault.  He has handled the situation with dignity and class, and this should only improve his chances in the 2016 presidential election.  And all the others involved may have learned that not every politician seeks to play such dirty tricks, and neither should they.

And as beta males, hopefully we're above that most alpholish way of being.  And if we're not, use this story to get yourself right.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Chance After Chance

Hey All -- little busy yesterday, but here's my first post:

As you may have remembered from the Bible, Pharaoh did not take the hints.  Despite the aforementioned plagues that his country endured, he would not free the slaves.  He was given even more generous chances to change his mind, but not even a swarm of locusts or an extreme power outage made him consider that there were forces in this realm even stronger than him.  He even tried to "bargain" with Moses and Aaron, and only free the menfolk, and not the whole Tribe!  Sheesh . . . .

So finally, the boom was lowered -- at midnight on what would later be known as Passover, every first-born son in every Egyptian family died.  In the ancient world, where most advanced cultures valued primogeniture, this was a big hit.  This was hitting Egypt where it hurt, and reminding Israel to treasure their first-borns even more!

Everyone deserves a fair warning, and everyone deserves a second, or maybe a third, chance.  But if you don't take advantage of those fair warnings, and make those changes that are desperately needed, consequences will happen.  And they won't be anyone else's fault but yours, because you were on notice of what could happen.

If Pharaoh had made those changes when he first saw blood and frogs in the Nile, he could have avoided serious consequences for Egypt.  But instead, he wanted to show how tough, how loud, how badass he was.  Well, it's not always a good idea to do that to everyone.  If you're a child, and you act that way to your parents, you might get thrown out of the house or disinherited.  If you're an employee, and you act that way to your boss, you might get fired, and denied unemployment benefits for misconduct.  If you're in school (I mean a good school) and you act that way to your teacher or principal, you might get suspended or expelled.  If you're in a situation like this, you screw up, and you receive a warning, whether it's a friendly one or a threatening one, do yourself a favor and listen to it.

Compared to the consequences you could have received otherwise, that warning was a gift.  Be smart and accept it!  That doesn't mean you turn sycophantic and start apologizing for every word that comes out of your mouth.  But it does mean that once you've been warned, and told what the consequences of your actions might be, have the good grace to change those actions to prevent those consequences.

Go In Peace . . . .