Category: Josh

Build || Rebuild

Build || Rebuild

Among my favorite stories about Gandhi may or may not be apocryphal, but it goes something like this:

A woman walked many miles for hours with her young son to see Gandhi and ask him to tell her son to stop eating sugar. He told her to come back in two weeks. She did, and upon arriving, asked, “Why did you send us away after we traveled so far?”
 
“I had to stop eating sugar myself,” he told her, “before I could tell your boy to stop eating sugar.”

Take care of your own house, first.

I let the chaos of 2020 get me, these past few months. In September, I was down 20 pounds. I was running double-digit miles. I caught some bug, which turned out not to be COVID. It knocked me out for a few days. While I was out, both races I had been training for were canceled.

I never got back. I sat by and let the year hit me.

As I write this, I’ve just finished a round of antibiotics after a bronchial infection (also not COVID). I put all the weight back on. I feel like garbage. I’m drinking kombucha and eating an Asian pear. I guess those are steps in the right direction.

If you listened to the kicking off 2021 episode of JKWD, you heard me say I’ll post less here, and try to write more elsewhere. I’m doing that, and I’m doing other stuff to build, or rebuild, my own house.

This is not a Baldessarian effort; it’s more of a Gandhi dump the sugar effort. It feels wrong to tell you to dominate your day when I’m barely dominating a few hours of my week, it feels like.

I’ve submitted to a couple of writing contests, got some training programs set up, with accountability partners. JKWD is doing well; if you haven’t listened, please do. We’re having some great guests during the first quarter of the year.

In an effort to give myself some grace and get through 2021 healthy and happy and leading my family to greatness, I’m going to put this here: expect not much in public spaces from me this year. Most of those who know me have my phone number or can connect on WhatsApp; you can also go over to the contact page and fill out the form to be in touch by email.

Be well. Win your day.

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Flipping the calendar: Our greatest creations

Flipping the calendar: Our greatest creations

We build our greatest creations to God, or the gods, or whatever it is we worship. From Gobekli Tepe to the pyramids at Giza to Stonehenge to Sagrada Familia and the Sistine Chapel, we build extraordinary monuments, sometimes over the course of generations or even centuries, to what some people dismiss as mere superstition but what some other people are willing to die, or kill, for.

It is said that the Judeo-Christian God created people in His image, so maybe we should consider building some of our great things for us, too.

I don’t know anyone who will be sad to see 2020 go, but if I dig deep enough, I don’t find anyone who isn’t willing to admit that the things that irked us in 2020 won’t still be there in 2021. It’s a matter of flipping the calendar of our own perspective.

Build something great in the new year, and build it to whatever, or whomever, you lost in the old one.

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Banned

Banned

That brief, fairly-well supported (I thought) piece I wrote last week on forming a more perfect union?

Facebook didn’t want it. In fact, Facebook seems to think my blog is simply not OK for their platform. And Instagram (owned by Facebook) seems to not want me at all.

This seems like a win. I mean, yeah, Facebook is a good place to share, since everybody’s there, but I’d really checked out of Facebook for the past six months, and now, other than a couple of groups I’m involved in, I suppose there’s not really a reason to go back.

And I was already finding Instagram sucking up too much time so I’d deleted it from my phone (which made it really hard to post), so I guess that’s no longer a concern.

While I do have something planned in this space next week, you may see a bit of a dropoff. You may not, but I have a couple of other writing projects I’m excited about. Hopefully they’ll see the light of day, but the risk of moving off my own publishing platform is that maybe they won’t. Onward.

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New year, new you? The problem with resolutions, and how to own 2020

New year, new you? The problem with resolutions, and how to own 2020

Last week, we recapped 2019. Not a great year, but I definitely feel like I’m picking up steam. First, we’re going to talk about me, then we’re going to talk about you.

Can we just start with this? 2020 doesn’t even sound like a real year. There, I said it. We’re in the fucking future, people.

Health. My personal focus in 2020 is on my health. “You’re fat, your cholesterol is a little high and your blood pressure is getting to be a problem” isn’t exactly a massive heart attack, but it’s enough of a wake-up call to me that if I expect to be around for my kid, my health is my top priority this year. If I have to drop something else that I’ve deemed more important, I will. I will finish 2020 at a healthy weight, with healthy habits and a happy physician.

Freemasonry. I’m moving to the east this year; that will mean something to some of you. To those of you who don’t get it, it essentially means the lodge will look to me for leadership this year. And it’s going to be a tough one. After a century(ish) in our current location, we need to move. It’s going to be emotional, but it’s not an option. We might as well make some more difficult decisions while we’re doing it. Not really for public consumption, that stuff, but if I seem to be pounding a little harder than usual and you can’t tell on what, it probably has something to do with that.

Better Humanhood/JKWD/Blog/etc. We’re going to keep writing; it’s in my blood. The rest is … well, there are plans, but I think this year is either go big (or be well on the road to being there) or go home.

Family. As I mentioned last week, I felt like we fumbled through our first year with a child. She got on more of a daily routine at about 9 months or so; hopefully that will tighten up in 2020. That will give us a chance to really come back together as a family unit.

Reading/learning. I probably read 65 books in 2019. I got a little overwhelmed with it sometimes. There will be more novels, and more slow, purposeful reading in 2020. I love learning things, but I think I need some deeper learning on a few things this year, instead of the wider learning I did last year.


Now, let’s talk about you. And, specifically, if you made a resolution, toss it, now.

Here’s why: Your resolution is tied to the changing of the calendar. It should be tied to something important to you.

I didn’t start making my health a priority on January 1, or even on November 1. As soon as I recognized that there was a change my health was going to potentially negatively impact my relationship to my child, I took control.

Here are a couple of other things you need to know about any improvements you want to make:

• You need to have a measurable goal. You won’t know you’ve succeeded if you don’t. I know that 140 pounds is an achievable healthy weight for me. I know that I’m genetically predisposed to a high LDL level; if I can keep it under 135, I’ll be in good shape. I know that my blood pressure should be under 130/80. All measurable.

• You need to have a plan for success. What happens if you get where you want to be? This is easy for a weight loss goal — either maintain that weight or set a new target weight • but what about a financial goal, or a career goal? If you get where you want to be, do you stagnate for years? You need to figure out what’s going to be next.

• Set milestones along the way, and acknowledge them. You can’t make big moves without little ones.


Most people overestimate what they can accomplish in one day, but underestimate what they can accomplish in a week, month or year. Go big, but only plan on doing a little bit at a time.

If you can read 10 pages a day, you’ll read a 300-page book every month.

If you can write 500 words a day, you’ll write over 700 double-spaced pages in 2020.

If you can walk 3 miles every day, you’ll cover the distance from Atlanta to Boston; 10 miles a day, you’d cover Los Angeles to Boston.

Go.

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The old year passeth: Winding up an eventful year

The old year passeth: Winding up an eventful year

It’s been a crazy damn year.

On Christmas Eve, our daughter turned a year old. I’ve spent most of the year with her — since I work from home, we opted to save our money and not put her in day care. Maybe this held her back a little, socially; yes, we were around other children in our visits to library storytime and we saw plenty of people about —; we weren’t shy about walks in the park, shopping or eating out — but there was no immersion.

It was definitely cool to see positive peer pressure at play — “Daddy, that little girl’s walking. Stand me up, Dude.” “Uh, sweetie, you’ve been standing for 3 days and you have to hold on.” “I said, stand me up, Dude.” “OK, fine. Don’t get cocky.”

But if I’m honest, for most of the first nine months of her life, I played a victim card. “I don’t get enough sleep. I don’t have time to exercise. I can’t get any quiet time. Everybody needs something from me. I haven’t run 2 miles since the marathon last year.”

My annual physical had me up some weight, but also with elevated LDL (bad) cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as borderline pre-diabetic.

That was a wake-up call. Choose: (a) Die young of a heart attack; (b) be around for a while but be on medications with side effects like muscle soreness and joint pain and lack of energy; or (c) do some fucking work.

I fumbled around for a month, and then decided, no more. I killed the last of my excuses. I didn’t get where I wanted to be, but I got on the right path, and I’ll be focusing on my health for 2020, even if it means getting up at 5am more often than I’d like.


I read a big pile of books (not counting the little ones we read to the baby). Five favorites from the year:

Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins (audio). You’re probably familiar with Goggins, but if not, quick summary: He wanted to be a Navy SEAL. Just to qualify, he lost 100 pounds in 3 months. Then he had to get through hell week three times after he wound up with broken bones the first two times. When he got out of the military, he started running ultra marathons, and he set a 24-hour pull-up record.

Most recently, he went to run the Moab 240 (that would be a 240-mile race through the Moab desert). He went 7 miles off course and had to run those 7 miles back, and then at the 200 mile marker (so, 214 miles in), he was carted off to the hospital with a high-altitude edema. The race organizers wouldn’t let him finish (which makes sense, of course). And then he went ahead and finished on his own anyway.

Can’t Hurt Me is his memoir of growing up with an abusive father, and of getting out with a mother whom his dad wouldn’t marry, so there would be no financial obligation to her. He had a ghost writer on the book, and the audiobook version of it is read by the ghost writer. But it’s not a straight reading — after each section, he has a conversation with Goggins, going into more detail.

Creativity: The Human Brain in the Age of Innovation by Elkhonon Goldberg. Goldberg has put together the most comprehensive view to date of how creativity is handled in the brain. This stuff fascinates me, and, while I don’t know if it’s truly possible to exercise certain pieces of the brain, it means that if we can, we understand which parts target creativity.

While Goldberg does come at this from a very scientific standpoint, it’s a fairly accessible book. Not exactly beach reading, but you don’t need a degree in neurobiology to get it.

Feck Perfuction by James Victore. We outlined my highlights on Victore’s book just a couple of weeks ago, so I won’t go too deeply in here, but understand that Victore had a vision for his life. He way surpassed it, and then found himself lost because he didn’t have a plan for success. Learn from that. He did.

Read as a pair: Sapiens and Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari.If you want a fresh perspective on where we’ve been (Sapiens) and where we’re going (Homo Deus), give these a read. And don’t be fooled by the subtitles. There’s nothing “brief” about these books.

Discipline Equals Freedom Field Manual by Jocko Willink (audio available from Apple Music).This is a regular listen for me while I’m running, or while I’m making excuses for not running. The manual is divided into short, severable sections, so it can be listened to on shuffle. Or just read the thing, but I’m not sure it’s as effective in print. If you’re not sure who Jocko is or why you should listen, go watch Good (under 2 and a half minutes).

Plus the usual rereads: Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth by R. Buckminster Fuller; The War of Art, Turning Pro and Do the Work by Steven Pressfield. These are at least annual reads for me, sometimes twice a year. Pressfield reminds us to get to work; Fuller reminds us why. All four are quick reads.


We got the Better Humanhood Podcast up and running consistently, got this here blog going consistently, and repurposed some of the content for Medium. JKWD is still going strong.

Overall, the year was not a strong year. I felt weak, defeated and like a victim for much of it. But I finished strong, which brings momentum into 2020. Onward!

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Our unshared memories

Our unshared memories

One of the containers that I’ve moved with for the past 20 years or so is a red milk crate monogrammed H.P. Hood and Sons.

Hood was ubiquitous in my childhood, as was that crate, or other crates like it.

I only recently learned that Hood, while it produces some products for Hershey’s and Blue Diamond, is very much a regional company. Its reached stopped at New England for most of its time (Harvey Perley Hood started it in 1846), and now it distributes into New York as well, largely spurred, no doubt, by the fact that Agway owned it for about 15 years.

Hood was frequently the brand of milk we had in the house, and ice cream, too, along with occasionally sour cream or cottage cheese. The logo was and remains very simple — an oval, filled red with “Hood” printed inside in white letters.

The fact that Hood is a regional company means that most of you have never had a Hoodsie cup, which is astonishing to me, and your childhood was the worse for it. I mean, I’m sure you had wonderful ice cream treats, but if you were raised on rocket pops and king cones, you don’t know what you’re missing.

They’re very simple confections, really: chocolate and vanilla ice cream, sold in a waxed cardboard cup, with a similarly constructed lid that you pulled off via a tiny attached tab. They came with a wooden spoon and even if you were eating them at home, no way were you getting a spoon from the silverware drawer.

They later added sundaes with chocolate, strawberry or butterscotch inserted into vanilla ice cream in a star pattern.

It’s amazing what we retain from our youth.

In my memory, that milk crate hails from Murphy’s Pop Shop, which only just closed earlier this year.

Murphy’s was a short walk from our house, and as soon as we were old enough to responsibly cross a busy street with the light, we were allowed to go there. In addition to being a small convenience store, they had a small arcade in back, a penny candy shop upstairs, and a small diner that sold, among other things, a foot-long hot dog. When penny candy went out of style, they expanded the diner upstairs.

For a while, a small bakery would bring a small number of loaves of star-shaped Italian bread over and we’d rush over on Friday to make sure we had one for the weekend; Sunday was usually kids-help-Dad-make-sauce day.

They also used to sell craft soda in glass bottles, and they’d take the bottles back to be cleaned and refilled. These would come to the house in the milk crates. Of course, “craft” sodas are a new thing — back then they were alternatives to the name brands, and came in flavors like lime and orange and cream and root beer.

I, of course, have no idea how accurate my memory is, but I’m fairly sure I’m reasonably good.


There are plenty of memories from our childhoods we’d consider “shared memories.” Even if we didn’t grow up in the same place, people born in 1976, like I was, will largely remember some of the cartoons that were specific to our generation (“He-Man and the Masters of the Universe,” “Voltron” and “Thundercats” among them). We’ll remember the toys — Transformers, GI Joe, maybe Lincoln Logs — and perhaps some other cultural markers (caps in red rolls, The Cosby Show, Lite Brite).

We’ll also have shared memories based on the kind of kids we were. Chemistry sets. Sharing, symbolically, bar and bat mitzvahs with Soviet children who weren’t allowed to practice Judaism. Cultural markers like Tienanmen, Rodney King, OJ Simpson, Phish, AIDS, Social Distortion, Jumanji (the book), Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, The Karate Kid and Parental Advisory stickers on cassette tapes (thanks, Tipper Gore!).

And then there are the memories we share specifically with our friends and family — arcade games at Murphy’s, Frankie & Johnnie pizza, playing hockey in the lot behind Notre Dame school.

But as adults, we have memories from childhood we have no idea we don’t share with the people around us as we move around. Hoodsies were that for me.

What’s something from your childhood that I need to know about?

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Enemy of the people

Enemy of the people

I’d been thinking about this as a blog post lately, and it turns out that a bunch of news organizations writing op/eds today so I figured I’d get on my horse laptop and get the thing written to coincide with others’ pieces.

President Donald Trump, while he’s famously yelled about “fake news,” went so far early in his administration as to call media an enemy of the people.

Enemy.

As if it were my goal, as a journalist for a major media outlet, to see other Americans die. Because that’s what enemies want, right?

I think the news media do a lot of things incorrectly. We give mass murderers notoriety by naming them and profiling their lives, when so often they do evil purely for the sake of that notoriety. We over-report on small, scary problems (like Ebola, which kills about 2 people in the U.S. a year, usually after they return from abroad) and under-report on major ones (like the flu, which kills upward of 20,000 Americans a year). We’ve eliminated layers of editing and fact-checking in the name of publishing quickly, so we publish many more corrections than should be necessary.

But we still do an awful lot of good.

The ha-ha version of how journalists describe their job is to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. While most journalists report leaning left politically (somewhere around three-quarters of writers in the newspaper world), if they’re doing their job well, they (we) come off as anti-establishment more than anything else.

My journalistic training sent me out with the basics. Find the truth. If there’s a disagreement, talk to all sides, but don’t pick a side — just report them all (but verify if someone’s not telling the truth, and report accurately).

I’ll give you an example from early in my career.

The housekeeping staff at Mt. Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass., voted to unionize by a narrow margin. I was invited to the press conference/union rally. Afterward, some of the housekeepers who had voted against unionizing waved me over to give me their story.

I went through the facts, and was careful to give roughly equal print space to both groups.

The day after the paper came out, while I was out on assignment, my editor told me a group of people in favor of the union vote stopped by to voice their disappointment in my story. He asked if I’d reported anything incorrectly, and they said no, they were just angry about the balance.

That’s a small-scale, nutshell look at what we’re supposed to do.

Comfort the afflicted: I gave voice to the minority, who were feeling downtrodden. Afflict the comfortable: Giving voice to the minority — even though I gave equal play to the majority — so upset the majority that they gathered a few people and drove 20 minutes out to the office to complain.

If you’re feeling generally angry about news media right now, take a look at the rest of your life. You’re probably fairly comfortable and happy. If we’re doing our job, we’re a thorn in your side.

If you find yourself generally happy about the direction news takes, you’re probably feeling uncomfortable in the rest of your life.

But if you’re honest with yourself, even if you disagree with much of what you read in the media, do you honestly believe that journalists are your enemy?

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Lessons from Everlast and Joe Rogan, with some Teddy Roosevelt tossed in

Lessons from Everlast and Joe Rogan, with some Teddy Roosevelt tossed in

Two drunk/stoned friends after a podcast. @ogeverlast

A post shared by Joe Rogan (@joerogan) on

Everlast was back on Joe Rogan’s podcast recently. It was another one of those podcasts that I expected to enjoy but instead learned a lot (see my notes from Bert Kreischer talking to Robert Kelly).

Everlast is a musician and rapper; if you’re my age, you know him from House of Pain. Need a reminder? Have an earworm. He’s been dead on the operating table twice. He has an artificial heart valve. He has a daughter with cystic fibrosis. He recently watched his mother slide downhill with Alzheimer’s and then pass away.

Fame doesn’t make you immune to the problems of the rest of us, is what I’m saying.

The followng video appears during the podcast. It’s a better 2-minute clip to start things. The full podcast is at the bottom of the post.

There’s some drunk babble. It kind of runs off the rails at the end. But there’s a lot in here. You don’t need to listen, but if these snippets move you, maybe at least hit play on that video at the bottom and give them a play.

• Be open to learning something new
• Culture is like an operating system; we gain perspective by loading new operating systems (visiting different cultures)
• Half-truths are turning people against each other
• Americans right now are part of the biggest reality TV show ever
• If you want to be a leader, you must let go of ego
• Sometimes you have to call out the bullshit
• It’s easy to pick a team and then fight for it. It’s more difficult — but more important — to find common ground
• Think for yourself
• Take a step back
Love
• Be compassionate. Sometimes people need to feel whatever it is they’re feeling
• There are injustices in the world
• Anger doesn’t serve you
• Sometimes there’s a glitch in the matrix and you just have to deal with it
• Your life is normal
• Some people fight battles you’ll never see
• “Compassion is the thief of joy” —Theodore Roosevelt
• Get joy out of what you do
• Show gratitude to those who helped you become who you are
• Invite inspiration in
• We need community
• Be happy when others are successful
• Find people to push you to be better
• Respect those who paved the path for you to be able to do what you do
• Don’t become old and bitter
• Let people enjoy what they enjoy
• Let art evolve
• The way we’ve always done things is not a good reason to keep doing them that way
• Whatever you do, do it your way
• Get out of your own way
• Manage your attention the way you have to manage oxygen on a spaceship
• If it’s not relevant to your life, it’s taking up too much room
• Don’t focus on things that rob you of energy and time

Here’s the full podcast:

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The Red Sox and the flu: Health care and the bottom of the pyramid

The Red Sox and the flu: Health care and the bottom of the pyramid

Sometime in the not-too-distant future, I’ll have a post about Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler’s book Abundance. Until then, I just want to borrow their concept of the bottom of the pyramid – the four billion or so people who are the world’s poorest but could mean big bucks for someone willing to go in with cheap products.

One of the things that happens is, if you can get this group of people clothes and food and water and electricity and cell phones, they can solve more of the world’s problems. If you’re worried about clean water and where your next meal’s coming from, you could be the world’s top engineer and you can’t help anybody because you have to feed yourself first.

It’s the same reason they tell you on airplanes to put your oxygen mask on first before you help anyone else with theirs: If you can’t breathe, you’re not of much use in making good decisions for someone else.

OK, so there’s the bottom of the pyramid. Let’s look near the top of the pyramid: professional athletes in the U.S.

The Boston Red Sox are off to a slow offensive start to the baseball season. A lot of that is due to the fact that the starting lineup has been decimated by the flu.

These are pro athletes, so they’re generally in really good shape. They’re also by and large wealthy – minimum salary for someone on a Major League roster all year is over a half-million dollars (approach that number without judgment – just recognize it as a statistic in relation to other incomes in the US).

While healthy people do tend to get rid of the flu more quickly than unhealthy people, the flu doesn’t give a crap about your bank account.

Doctors and insurance companies, however, might.

Whether you’re making $535,000 or $10,000,000 as a member of the Red Sox, if you feel like garbage and miss several days’ work, at least your family is going to be well-cared for and it’s hardly a matter of life or death.

If you’re closer to the bottom of the pyramid, as far as US workers are concerned, several days with the flu might mean you miss several days’ pay and perhaps you get fired. Maybe your job doesn’t offer health insurance. Maybe your family isn’t going to get to eat, or turn on the heat or lights this week, whatever you choose to forgo.

The thing about the flu: It spreads. If you have the flu, you risk your family getting the flu. If you go into work, you risk spreading it to their coworkers, and then to their families. If you work a bottom-of-the-pyramid type of job, say, at a department store, you might get a few dozen people sick. If you work in a restaurant or grocery store, there’s a good chance you’ll get some customers sick. This is why the proper PPE is important if you seriously cannot miss work, things such as a face mask, disposable gloves, and hand sanitizer are key and must be with you at all times.

But if you work those bottom-of-the-pyramid jobs, it’s hard to not go to work. You risk a lot.

Still inside the first few months of a new presidential administration, a lot of people are looking for a change in our health care system. Leadership royally botched its first attempt.

My congressman replied to my letter to him (see the post linked in the preceding paragraph), pointing out the Congressional Budget Office said the American Health Care Act would have saved the federal government money.

Yes, I responded, but they also said it would leave 24 million (more) people uninsured. Some people call that “patient choice.” It’s really not a “choice” if you have to decide between spending three-quarters of your paycheck on insurance and having a home and food and such.

So what do we do for those folks who, once the Affordable Care Act is replaced, won’t be able to afford health insurance and won’t be able to afford to miss work? Sure, they could use a comparison site (e.g. https://www.insurancequotes.com/health) to find the lowest price available, but unfortunately many still won’t be able to afford it. So what do we do then?

I don’t know the answer. We have lots of smart people who could be working on it, but I’m not convinced any of them are.

In the words of President Donald Trump, “sad.”

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