A pick me up


Dear Reader, have you ever left your automobile in an inconvenient place and had to devise a clever plan in order to retrieve it?  That happened to me tonight.  My wife and I went to a dinner this evening.  After we got home, my wife put my son to bed, and I drove the nanny home.  As I drove home, I realized that we forgot to pick up my wife’s car on the way home.  She couldn’t go with me to pick it up tonight because she had to care for our son.  I couldn’t drive over and pick up the car by myself, because then I would have to get two cars home.  So I decided to walk over to pick up the car.  The weather was freezing, snow was falling, and the roads were slick.  I walked briskly about a mile on foot to pick up the car, and then I drove it home.  Our forgetfulness actually ended up being a pick me up, because it encouraged me to exercise.  I started exercising again last night on our treadmill, and it felt great.  Tonight I varied my routine by walking outside in the cold.  It felt great!  Tomorrow I’ll go back to using the treadmill…I hope.

I Survived Eating Pufferfish


I was extremely busy last night and crashed when I returned to my hotel.  It’s physically draining to be running around all day, hurrying up, stopping, waiting, springing into action.  Tomorrow night will be a very busy day for me as the most important dignitaries arrive here in Busan for the APEC Summit.  To read all about the APEC Summit and the goings-on here in Busan, visit http://www.apec.org/ or http://www.apec2005.org/.  The latter site goes into much more depth about what’s happening now here in Busan than what I could describe in a single blog entry.  It is quite an exciting time to be here in Busan.  I’m amazed to be on the front lines watching the action and advance preparations unfold.  I’m not a spectator, mind you, but I am watching while I work hard doing my small bit to make sure the show goes on smoothly.  The big show, the APEC Economic Leaders’ meeting, is yet to come on November 17, 18, and 19.  I will be here all the way through the Summit and will watch the last major plane fly away a few days later.
Yesterday I tried “bokguk,” or pufferfish soup.  The pufferfish, also known as the blow fish, is a spiny creature that blows itself up into a balloonish shape when it is frightened by potential predators.  The defense mechanism is one way for it to appear larger than life, scaring away the predator.  The pufferfish is also poisonous, secreting a poisonous toxin intended to kill its predator.  Many Americans know that Japanese enjoy eating pufferfish, better known in Japanese as “fugu.”  Stories occasionally come out of Japan claiming that someone died from eating “fugu,” typically caused by the improper preparation of the “fugu” dish.  In Japan, chefs receive extensive training on preparing “fugu” properly, removing the poison glands so that the puffin fish meat remains untainted.  It is considered a delicacy in Japan.

I did not realize that Koreans also eat pufferfish, although this fact makes perfect sense since Busan is just a few hours by boat off the coast of southern Japan.  In Korea, pufferfish is not generally considered a delicacy, and here in Busan, numerous shops serve the fish in a soup for about 5,000 Korean won (about $5.00).  The soup includes bean sprouts and chives and can be served either spicy or mild (depending on whether you want to eat it with red pepper paste.  It is typically served with rice and a variety of panchan, or side dishes.   The pufferfish meat is cut into large chunks and served in the soup.  One typically eats every part of the fish except the head, organs, and spine.  The meat is delicious.  Served fresh, the taste and texture do not taste like fish at all.  To use an overused cliche, the meat tastes more like chicken.  (Actually, it tastes more like frog leg.)  Perhaps best of all, the pufferfish has so few bones that it is very easy to eat. 
I’ve wanted to try “fugu” ever since I first read about it when I was a teenager.  Perhaps I’m crazy wanting to eat something that kills some people (I think the victims are typically children or the elderly).  I have no desire to eat live octopus, which here in Korea the cephalopod is occasionally known to kill an unwary diner if the struggling animal lodges itself in the diner’s throat and suffocates the diner, as happened to an unfortunate Korean man in the past year.  I personally think it’s cruel to eat live animals and would rather that my food not move on my plate while eating it.  I have the same apprehension whenever my wife’s family eats “drunken shrimp,” a Chinese delicacy featuring live shrimp soaked in alcohol.  I just cannot bear to eat an inebriated shrimp starting up at me with those big black eyes, as if to say, “Hey dude, surf’s up!”
According to Wikipedia, all species of pufferfish off the coast of Korea are considered poisonous.  It mentions a hilarious episode of “The Simpsons” in which Homer Simpson eats pufferfish and is mistakenly told he has just 24 hours to live.  Like Homer Simpson, I too ate pufferfish and lived to tell about it.  Perhaps more daringly, I ate pufferfish at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant I’m sure is run by a Korean family as a small business.  I’m positive the cook did not attend professional pufferfish culinary training.  Well, I survived anyway.  Will I try it again sometime?  Oh, I suppose I will, depending on the occasion, now that I know how delicious it is.  Hopefully next time I will try it at an upscale restaurant, where I would feel more comfortable about how my meal has been prepared.

Insomnia!


Last night I couldn’t sleep. 
 
I went to bed around midnight.
 
I tossed and turned until about 2 a.m.
 
I willed myself to sleep.  No such luck.
 
By 3:30 a.m., I started to worry.
 
I knew by then I wasn’t going to get much sleep.
 
At 4:30 a.m., I gave up trying to sleep.
 
I almost got up, but thought better of it.
 
Around 5 a.m., I think I went to sleep.
 
At about 6:15 a.m., I looked at the clock again.
 
I got up at 7:10 a.m. this morning.
 
I was surprisingly awake and alert in spite of myself.
 
I was fine all day until this evening, when I was exhausted.
 
Have you ever had a night or nights like that?  I have them from time to time.  Sleepless nights are caused by a variety of factors.  Sometimes it’s chronic.  Sometimes it’s caused by young children.  Fortunately, in my case, it never lasts more than a night or two.  Usually my insomnia is brought on whenever I have a lot on my mind.  Last night, I believe that the combination of illness, muggy weather, and heavy activity just before bedtime caused me to have insomnia.  I felt much better last evening and really wanted to do something different for a change, so I worked out on our treadmill.  (Working out is one of the crazy aftermaths of my recent "Whole Life Model" blog entry.)  I told myself, Self, why do you spend so much time at the computer?  There’s so much more to life than blogging or staring at a computer model.  So I did something different for a change.  Unfortunately, I worked out much too late.  My body was much too awake and alert after working out.  I know what you’re thinkiing–Mike, what are you doing working out when you’re sick?   Oh, I don’t know why.  Maybe I just got carried away because I thought I’d finally conquered this infernal bug.  It’s too bad something good (working out) resulted in such dire consequences.  I am not a morning person and cannot work out in the morning.  I’ll have to figure out a way to work out without bringing on sleeplessness. 
 
After I finished working out, I wound down and talked to my wife for awhile, then I read a bit, and finally headed off to bed.  The lingering illness and workout must have raised my body temperature substantially.  The room was warm and muggy, leaving me very comfortable.  It didn’t help that I couldn’t turn on the air conditioning, because it would pump cold air into my son’s room.  I settled on using an electric fan, but the fan’s oscillations left me either too hot or too cold.  It was miserable lying in bed.  The more I thought about how uncomfortable it was, the less likely I was to sleep.  After awhile, worry took over.  Oh man, I’ll never get to sleep.  I’m not going to be able to keep my eyes open at work tomorrow, I thought.  Fortunately, for some strange reason I felt strangely awake this morning and had a fairly productive day at work.  Perhaps I slept more than I realized, albeit in short increments.  I did fine today in spite of myself.  Nevertheless, when I got home tonight, I crashed for a couple of hours and slept very well.  I hope that I can sleep tonight.  I have to, because I need to go to Pusan tomorrow.  I’ll let you know how it goes tomorrow, dear reader.

A Whole Lifestyle Model


I haven’t been well all weekend long.  On Friday I started feeling sick–a mild cold.  On Saturday morning I felt even worse, but by the afternoon I felt better and went with my family to a neighborhood barbeque and over to some friends’ for dinner.  Our dinner plans were on again, off again as my illness was touch and go (they have small children, and I ddin’t want pass it along).  We finally decided to go ahead, get together for dinner, and have a great time. I left early when I started feeling worse again.  This morning I again woke up with a stuffy nose and sore throat.  I thought I would finally be over my illness, but I was wrong.  I hope tomorrow I’ll feel better when I head back to work.  I’m planning on it, anyway.  I’m much too busy to stay away from the office if I can help it.
 
Thus, this weekend my thoughts have been on the subject of wellness.  Not just thoughts on getting better, but on how to live life in general.  So many obligations can pull you in many different directions.  Perhaps the siren sound of money causes you to focus on building wealth.  Perhaps you are spiritually devout and focus your time on spiritual growth, faith, and on religious activities.  Perhaps you’re a health nut who spends your time working out and staying in shape.  Perhaps you’re a workaholic who stays at the office for long periods of time, whether out of necessity or because you just like to work.  Perhaps you’re retired and love leisure pursuits–traveling, video games, golfing, shopping, you name it.  Maybe you’re in a difficult situation that preoccupies your time, such as caring full time for children or someone who is ill.  Perhaps you’re focused on a lifetime of learning.  Maybe you’re a career student working on your second Ph.D, or you’re going back for your master’s degree after leaving your job.  One of the unfortunate aspects of life is that there are only 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, 365 or 366 days a year (Leap Year).  Time moves on.  We can’t do it all.  We have to choose what to do and how long to do it.  We are prone to neglect things we need to do and sometimes focus too much on things we probably should focus on less.
 
I think most of us have a tendency to focus on a few aspects of life we enjoy or are obligated to do and tend to neglect other priorities.  I’m as guilty as anyone.  I focus a lot on work, obligations I have to my family, and building wealth (investing).  I tend to neglect other aspects of life that I know I should not neglect.  I should be out exercising more often.  I should focus more on spiritual growth.  I don’t though because I have to focus on family and work and because I tend to do the things that can easily brought to closure, such as buying a mutual fund or changing the oil in the car or mowing the grass.  Long-term activities such as exercising and spiritual growth tend to take a back seat, for better or for worse, because they never come to a close.  To stay in shape, you must always exercise, and to grow spiritually, you need to continually do what you must do to spiritually grow.  Some people have different priorities.  I have a colleague who exercises diligently every day and is in great shape.  However, they tend not to focus on financial security, which I believe is as important as exercise.  We could both do better by exercising and planning ahead financially.  I know others so focused on spiritual growth or having that they neglect exercise and planning ahead financially.
 
Last month I read about Steven Case, the former CEO of America Online, who was ousted when AOL’s merger with Time Warner failed.  Case, among others, was blamed for the botched merger.  He disappeared from the limelight for awhile, but recently he resurfaced with the announcement that he was launching Revolution LLC, an investment firm focused on investing in the healthful lifestyle market.  I have a lot of respect for Case.  Here is a man who had it all in 2001.  He had built the country’s largest Internet service provider, AOL, and was on top of the world when the FCC cleared the AOL Time Warner merger on January 11, 2001.  But his success was fleeting, and his career and personal life suffered tragic setbacks soon thereafter.  In 2002, his brother Dan, a successful investment banker in his own right, died of cancer prematurely at the age of 44.  Dan and Steve were good friends as well as brothers, and Steve subsequently used his celebrity and wealth to help find a cure for cancer.  In January 2003, Steve resigned in disgrace as chairman of AOL Time Warner, and he went into seclusion.  However, he has refocused and reemerged, focusing on another area he believes has high-growth potential, the healthful lifestyle market.  I really admired that he bounced back from such huge setbacks and has a fresh start.  It is really tough to come back from a situation as difficult as he had to endure.  He has combined his interest in business with something dear to him–health.  The healthful lifestyle market has already started to emerge and is visible in ventures such as Whole Foods, the fast-growing organic market chain. 
 
I think it’s time for a "Whole Lifestyle Model" that would encompass all the vital aspects of one’s life into a comprehensible roadmap to a better life.  I call it a "Whole Lifestyle Model" because it does not focus solely on physical wellness. Likewise, the word "holistic" is also commonly used to refer to health and wellness.  Financial planners help plan one’s financial security, pastors focus on one’s spiritual growth, guidance counselors help you make education decisions, headhunters and job placement agencies help you manage your career, personal training help you get in shape, and travel agencies and leisure-time companies help you have enjoy leisure.  Why can’t these all be combined into a single model that helps people manage and balance their lifestyle?  It should be a model that changes with time, because one’s priorities at the age of 20 are far different than what they are at age 50.  Spiritual leaders will tell you there is no greater calling than spiritual growth.  Health nuts will say that physical and mental exercise is paramount.  Financial planners will tell you that financial security is key.  Many will say that there is nothing more important than family.  Other will say, "Hang loose and have fun."  When one is torn in so many directions, it would help to have a model that helps one manage one’s own lifestyle, a flexible model that reminds you at age 25 that yes, you should save for retirement and exercise at the same time, play fewer video games, and not sacrificing sleep to cram an additional hour for that exam.  It should be a model that tells those at age 55 who go to church five times a week or are busy with grandchildren that they still need to start saving aggressively for retirement, because Social Security will not sustain their current lifestyle when they turn 65. 
 
Morningstar developed a famous matrix to help people decide which mutual funds to purchase.  The matrix is intended to help them diversify their portfolios.  The "Whole Lifestyle Model" would be something akin to this matrix.  The boxes would be determined by the individual’s age and priorities at the age.  The individual could work with a "Whole Lifestyle" planner to help them sort through the complexities of life.  The planner would not be a pastor or a physical trainer, but they could help the individual sort through their priorities to find the optimal mix to have a whole lifestyle.  I’m still thinking through how the model would work and whether it could be a viable business model, but I think it would be a useful way for many people to help balance their lifestyle at various stages of life.