Thursday, May 11, 2017

Keep on Moving

Kraftwerk and Einstein both say:

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Monday, April 11, 2016

How Cooking Fuels Creativity - Jaeger Schnitzel and Spaetzle

perfect view across four windows of the sunset

I’ve recently blogged about how creating is extremely important:  Cooking, Writing, Surviving:  “Cooking and writing should not only be ‘spectator sports.’  Instead, they are necessary components of surviving.”  

After a pretty intense work day I was fairly exhausted and cooking an authentic meal seemed a bit daunting.  But the original plan was to make jaeger schnitzel. I could have easily delayed it another day and relaxed.  But for some reason I was determined to make it.  I have a great west facing open kitchen and the sunsets are pretty scenic. 

So I decided to make this dinner because it was comfort food from Europe; it felt right.  My son was going to eat most of it so calories were not an issue.  Breading the schnitzel the same way my mom did and creating a roux based sauce from the age old technique was somewhat comforting.  Even stressful and emotionally draining events cannot kill your past, heritage and your accomplishments.  Creating my version of comfort food,  while watching the sunset, was comforting and a reminder of the achievement driven approach.  I have never meditated, nor can I picture myself doing it, but this is one of the closest attempts to meditation for me (playing piano and writing are some of the other ones).  Creating based on your skills are necessary components of surviving.

Key aspects to schnitzel:

Tenderize the meat by pounding it with a mallet-the meat should become thin.  This is actually fun.  Traditionally veal is used, but tender cuts of port, chicken and even turkey have been used for whatever reason.

Use three dishes:  Flour (season with garlic powder, Penzey roasted garlic is great), eggs, and PLAIN breadcrumbs.

Quickly dip the cutlets into each-fast so that it doesn’t become thick.  The breading should not overpower.  If you are avoiding gluten due to allergy a finely ground panko also works (process is in the food processor).

For the sauce, use the traditional roux method to create a jaeger sauce.  There are many recipes out there.  I like to keep it simple and traditional.  I like to use baby bella mushrooms due to their robust flavor. If you don't consume dairy, you can use soy butter, it works great for roux also.  A non dairy milk can also be used. I have made schnitzel successfully when we were dealing with dairy, wheat and egg allergies.


Jaeger Sauce

I didn’t use the traditional spaetzle maker, nor did I make the Hungarian csipetke (it was a weeknight after a long day of meetings, etc.)

Since the meat is thin.  It will fry very fast.  Once the meat is pan fried, place it on paper towel before serving.
Smaller portion for a non growing adult

Larger portion for growing teen
Enjoy with a great conversation. This process of creating something that is beyond standard, fuels the ability and drive to achieve more the next day. It’s a differentiator like other skills and accomplishments are, and for some of us, necessary components of surviving.

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Saturday, April 2, 2016

Why, When and How Psychology Should be Taught in High School - Part II

In my last entry on this “Why, When and How Psychology Should be Taught in High School Part I,”   I addressed why teaching psychology in a relatable way could prevent damage from these beings (sociopaths, psychopaths, narcissists, etc.).  Because of how these beings are depicted in movies, television and literature, the garden variety version (e.g., not highly intelligent, not stylish or worldly) thrive under the radar undetected, wasting years of people’s lives and causing significant damage.   Recently I clicked  on an article about sociopaths in my newsfeed by British Insider UK.  This is not a psychology page but has some interesting and quick read articles (important feature, nobody is going to read a book until they are in a search phase of some sort) about entrepreneurship and lifestyle. I’m in the process of brainstorming some business ideas, so I subscribe to a lot of business type pages. Typically  I would not even have clicked on the link,  but I did, because I was in the ‘in search of’ phase.  Why would I click on an article about sociopaths?  I’m not involved with suave criminals.  I’ve recently heard about someone wasting time with a narcissistic personality disorder being and they posted some articles, but it just didn’t resonate.  It tends to resonate better when you are searching for an answer to something.  I’ve watched friends break up with such people.  I’ve heard horror stories,  and I just wrote the predators off as bad people.  But grouping all of them together as ‘bad’ doesn't really help one in the predictive mode.  You have to avoid such people at all costs, regardless of how adoring they seem.  Whether it’s you, a family member or a friend who is associating with such a being, having this is information beforehand could prevent damage, or at the least, reduce the time spent in such a destructive ‘relationship.’  I’m using quotes, because it takes two to have  a relationship, these associations are not really relationships. They are relationships in the eyes of those they prey on (unless they are both sociopaths, then they are made for each other).  

So the answer to how to teach this topic is extremely tricky.  Because I too have tuned out all kinds of information that was out there.  But knowledge is power, and if more people were empowered with knowledge of these beings and their patterns, much time could be saved.

So how does one teach psychology to someone in a non academic way?   Here are some key components:

  1. Short and Easy Reading - brief snippets-headlines in our newsfeed are 10 ways to x, or 7 ways to improve y,  The reader’s attention span is extremely limited even if they are interested in the topic.  I clicked on that British Insider article because their articles are brief.  I didn’t need to read a book about sociopaths, because I didn’t even know that the content of this article was going to be relevant. I keep this in mind when I write…keep it short, concise and relatable.  Still struggling with the ‘short’ part.
  2. Relatable Survivors - at the high school age, bring in survivors of such relationships.  Men/women who in detail describe the adoration phase, the devaluation phase, and the ugliest exit they ever experienced.  Of course these people need to be close in age to their audience, but be firm in emphasizing that these beings are not necessarily as they are depicted on TV, in movies and in literature.  In fact, quite the opposite, it’s just a facade.  A person might say, “Oh, I’ll take the adoration phase, then if/she gets mean, I’ll just leave, then I’ll know they are a sociopath, narcissist, or psychopath.” It is not that simple.  If it was, there wouldn’t be countless boards online that are dedicated to survivors. This needs to be called out by the survivors.  This survivor teaching is similar to when holocaust survivors talk about their experiences. 
  3. Role Playing - engage in some role playing.  I know in some of my business workshops, we engage in team activities of role playing.  It makes you think things through.  While a teen may giggle her way through this, they will have it in the back of their minds. Not that different from what takes place in sex education.
  4. Tools -And remind them that if they believe they had such an encounter, they need to leverage what’s out there about how to move on.  There is a wealth of information out there on no contact, how not be lured back and how to leverage the legal system. 
  5. Journal or track relationships in general - and be on guard.  That doesn’t mean you can’t ‘fall in love’ or you will never make a mistake, but journals are a good reality check at all points of a relationship.  I think that journaling through a seemingly OK relationship is useful.  The mind is great at blocking out trauma and bad experiences.  It’s a great survival mechanism.  But the other aspect of that is that we start forgetting the bad things about relationships and that can lead to someone: 1) repeating the same mistake again,  2) dragging out the ‘relationship’ too long because it’s not ‘that bad’, and 3) wondering if they did the right thing by dumping this horrid being.  

So offering some ‘post’ information in high school is also helpful, especially during this day and age of social media.  TimeHop and FB memories only show the public facade.  Some people after a bad ‘relationship’  ask friends, was it that bad?  Yes, it was.  If one didn’t  journal, a reading of  former texts and fb messages will make the pieces fit.  One can see the pattern that shows the lack of empathy and feeling.   I’ve had friends tell me about how they accidentally came across an old text or email that reminded them of the painful reality they lived, not the public show. 

Another benefit of teaching this in high school is that maybe your social circle will understand and believe what happened.  They, as outsiders only see the public show and are in denial, even when presented with specifics.  Maybe they’ll get it, and save their friends, daughters or sons from entering such a ‘relationship.’  Of course real friends don’t need proof and the whole field of psychology behind you to make them realize what really happened. But that’s another topic.  Beware of the “I don’t want to take sides” camp; they bought the facade, don’t want to learn, and don’t really care about your well being.

And since most high schools are not actively teaching about these beings; teach your children and close friends.

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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Why, When and How Psychology Should be Taught in High School - Part I

I recently found out that many people have wasted years of their lives with sociopaths, psychopaths, and narcissists.  The people that have gone through it and wasted years of their lives (relationship + healing) are all experts and can be very helpful. They help friends that are also emerging out of these abusive relationships.

Some great articles and blogs are out there to help someone through surviving one of these very detrimental situations. They are very helpful once the damage is done, but why couldn’t the damage be prevented completely?  Most of the women (and men can fall to this too) I talk to are intelligent, strong and have their act together (which of course is a great target for a sociopath).  How come they didn’t see it coming?  How could they be fooled for so long when they are so smart?  The goal of this blog is not to do the psychological analysis, there are already some great articles out there on this subject.  But as I was reading through these articles and talked to friends, my thought was,  these friends and I had no idea what a sociopath even is, unless we already dealt with one in the family or friend circle.  Most of us imagine a sociopath as some intelligent, stylish, worldly guy that then pounces on you at the end and kills you or something.  Sort of like Hannibal Lecter on the NBC series Hannibal. The character is suave, highly intelligent and worldly like Mads Mikkelsen, plays Chopin before he whips up a gourmet meal and he is an excellent conversationalist and great dresser.  A sociopath is supposed to be intriguing in this way, and is romanticized by Hollywood and literature.  This is our expectation of a sociopathic or psychopathic personality.   An every day Joe can’t be a sociopath, he’s just some pathetic guy that needs help.  A sociopath is more like the Governor from The Walking Dead, clever and there is is something you can’t refute about him.  Andrea fell for him.   But regular Joe, he’s authentic and nice. He needs help.  If he ramps up the 'adoration' early on and even wants to move in with you fast, it's because he truly admires you and your accomplishments.   We think that an average guy may be different, but they can't be a sociopath, they are too simple; a bit different, but nevertheless simple. Their simplicity automatically implies that they aren't sociopaths.  This too was my perception, and I believe that I’m fairly intelligent and a good judge of character.  Well, these perceptions and idolizations are not true.  And after talking to friends, I know I was not alone in this misperception of what these people are.  And yes, sociopaths, and the rest of these personality disorders affect both sexes.  So now as a mother, yes, I’ve learned my lesson, but what about my son, he must steer clear of these types of people.  And another added pain point of these misperceptions is that even your friends diminish what happened and how you've been hurt, because they too think that an abusive sociopath is some suave calculating guy not a seemingly every day guy  And surely, the poor little average guy is just lost and discovering himself.  The guy you claim is a sociopath is nothing like those sociopaths in books and TV.  But it's just part of the show sociopaths weave.

Why do so many people encounter such beings and continue in these hurtful relationships?  Because pieces don’t fit, and you waste years trying to figure out what is going on and how to make the pieces fit.  Then after you finally realize that you can’t take it anymore, you go through the ‘how could he” phase.  Because you still don’t know what you were dealing with.  Until you talk to a friend, who encountered the same thing, and realize that you were dealing with a sociopath (or narcissist, etc.)  Then EVERYTHING fits.  The beginning, middle and end and post end (no accountability or responsibility) all fit.  Everything finally makes sense   Knowledge is power.  I think if people knew the basic characteristics not the romanticized one of such beings, they would 'get it' faster or not even enter into the relationship.   Now maybe in the old days, because extended family were around, we would get warnings from our mom, dad and other relatives who would insist that  this person isn’t right: avoid at all costs. We may not listen, but that information would  be in the back of our minds and the time wasted with such a person would be shorter.  Because ultimately it’s easier to wake up to this type of subtle manipulative abuse when your whole family insists for years that it’s not right.   Your parents can usually differentiate between a fake show and reality that such a being provides.   The realization would come faster.

But if we know that these sociopathic, narcissistic personality disorder individuals can be average people who don’t seem exceptional in any way, these horrible relationships could be prevented.  My first exposure to narcissism was a beautiful painting of Narcisus, by Carravagio (1599):

"A vain and snobbish youth, he refused the fervent amorous advances of a multitude of young ladies, but was to finally meet a worthy match when he came across his own reflection in a pool. The boy fell madly and irrevocably in love with himself;

"And how he kisses the deceitful fount;
and how he thrusts his arms to catch the neck
that's pictured in the middle of the stream!" 

Narcissus stayed beside the stream gazing at his reflected paramour in vain, neglecting even to eat or drink. Upon his death, his body was transformed into a beautiful yellow flower, which still carries his name today.


I seriously thought narcissists were just full of themselves and vain. I thought sociopaths were suave and intriguing criminals.  Again, romanticized versions. After reading some basic articles, I now understand what they are, how they work and that they don’t need to be particularly smart, attractive or worldly.  I understand why they run from responsibility and how to, in a business like fashion deal with them legally.   I even understand the difference between a narcissist and a sociopath.  And this is why I believe that psychology needs to be taught in a relatable way to teens so this thinking becomes engrained in our minds when we evaluate potential partners. Preventive thinking is always preferred to post damage repair.  Having a basic understanding of these beings would allow us to read and interpret that well known 'writing on the wall.'  Having a practical understanding of these personalty types and their methods is as important as understanding that you don’t use a hairdryer while soaking in a tub because you will be electrocuted. 

If we understood basics about these personalty disorders, they would just have to destroy each others’ lives since we would all be informed and would avoid them.  Sociopaths would have to date sociopaths and other similar beings.  And that too is happening these days when they have been found out and have to jump to the next ship.  It is often another sociopath or narcissist  that will match up with them in the same short time that they need to match up before the truth is found out.

Understanding what a sociopath is also empowers the subject of such a being to take care of the ‘post mess’ because they will understand better what these sociopaths fear (yes, they do fear) and how to introduce accountability into the sociopaths life (again, not dealing with Mads Mikkelsen here).  The articles I've read help do that.  Since they don't feel and they don't understand accountability or decency, they need to be dealt with in other ways.  

How psychology is  taught to a teenager is important so that it’s relatable and they will process and remember the new knowledge. With the right knowledge they can,  distinguish between ‘someone who is into you’ vs. a sociopath.  As with anything, the right type of education will prevent years wasted and hurt that results from it.

Not your garden variety sociopath.   We're not even sure what he truly is, other than very entertaining and cultured, and at times he exhibits authentic empathy.

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Sunday, March 6, 2016


Chris Brown "Loyal" cover

Today on the news, I heard that Nancy Reagan passed away and she was fiercely loyal to her husband Ronald Reagan.

My first reaction was, why is this attribute of her personalty called out on the news?  Is there any other way to be in a relationship?  Shouldn’t you be fiercely loyal to your loved ones, your significant other, your children and to some good friends? 

But unfortunately I know that loyalty, like many other noble traits, is on its way out.  As the art of letter writing, cooking, and some others are fading, so is the attribute of loyalty.

People love to watch cooking shows, yet they don’t cook.  People claim they thrive on friendships and social connections, yet many just have party buddies or acquaintances.   Loyalty should be a key attribute of a true friendship.

"Cooking and writing should not only be spectator sports," I stated in Cooking Writing and Surviving. Instead, they are necessary components of surviving. Relationships with your friends and partners are also spectator sports in this age of brokered personal services that are facilitated by great apps and websites.  Need some extra cash?  Rent your home out on AirBnB.  But your home may no longer feel like a home anymore. It is now a brokered asset.  You can rent all types of services these days. Who needs a real home, friendship or relationship? A service has a clear beginning and ending date,  and terms.  

The fading concepts of character and loyalty have lately become a question for me.  As I recently started writing a book, I’ve been struggling  with how much ‘character’ to put into my characters.  Sadly, too much character for your character is unrealistic.  If they are loyal they will be labelled as lovesick, not independent and are subservient. Characters have to be ‘realistic.’  What is realistic these days? Characters need to be politically correct.  They really shouldn’t be loyal because then they are pathetic.  Also, integrity should be wavering depending on what advances their mission. The character shouldn’t be loyal to their significant other; no they should move on fast and have no ties. The friends shouldn’t be loyal because then they are picking sides and all should be a big democracy.  No, loyalty is really a mafia trait, “don’t mess with the family.”   But in real life, you can mess with anyone, and if you aren’t in the mafia, life goes on.  Flexibility, agility and political correctness, even in personal friendships, is the way to go.  After thinking this through, I don’t even want to write a book filled with such hollow characters, nor do I really want to know such people.

At least the word loyal is still defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

unswerving in allegiance: as
a :  faithful in allegiance to one's lawful sovereign or government
b :  faithful to a private person to whom fidelity is due
c :  faithful to a cause, ideal, custom, institution, or product

I better write that book quick, before this word, like many others, disappears.  Now trying googling the word loyal and see what the top hit is  And yes, he’s right.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

When You Were You

While getting ready for work in the morning, I finally noticed the Mazda Miata ad that depicts: “A driver’s life”

Narrated with just the right level of emotion by Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad), it goes something like this
"16, wide eyes, driver's license took two tries" and moves through "First drive, fast livin'—en route to "Mid-size, family cruising … a sing-along of her choosing."

Subaru has recently used a similar approach showing a family growing through different life stages with different models of Subaru. But what differentiates the Mazda Miata ad is the final scene and phrase, something Don Draper (Mad Men) would have written and Aaron Paul narrated with the perfect tone:

"Now in the garage, something new, reminds you of when you were you" 

Many can identify with this sentiment.  Does it mean that we spent our lives compromising the ‘you’ away? Or is that period of massive compromise necessary to get the family and the cycle continues?

I don't identify with the teen who has the forgiving parents.  Maybe the ad resonated with me because recently I’ve driven a car that reminds me of myself; my son's first car (...and the cycle begins). It is a sports car I loved and wanted but didn't get because I had to be toned down because that's what you do for your family. And instead of trading up the sports car I had for the new one, I gave up on sports cars all together.  Is this just one of the many things we compromise on during the massive compromise phase of our lives?

I suspect the ad campaign will be successful.  Kudos to the non fictional Don Draper and team who created this ad.

Video: Something that reminds you of you

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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Facebook Experiment – Day 8

Update on my life without Facebook.

Day 1 to 5 – complete success and a few learnings:

What I don’t like about Facebook:

1) Major distraction with too much going on: 
I really enjoyed not processing any of this.  I wasn’t emotionally distracted with anything.  I focused on my real life. I didn’t see Facebook cliques.

Implication:  When I resume Facebook, I need to refine settings and “un-follow”  many so I don’t see a lot of activity and updates on my newsfeed.  It’s not that I have a disdain for my Facebook friends, but it’s seriously impossible to keep up with everyone and truly process what’s going on.   I do like Facebook for keeping track of what's new with people, so I will occasionally look in on their pages.  This selective browsing will reduce the time of useless scrolling. It's sort of like having a fence around your house, I like my privacy and no distractions, and when I come out, it's on my terms.

2) "Idle time" distraction  (waiting in line at grocery store) by hitting the Facebook icon on my mobile device because this became a habit.  Then, in turn, I would subconsciously process whatever I saw and my thoughts would go off in multiple directions based on what I read. For the first few days I actually did this, I would find myself hitting the Facebook app icon on my phone just out of pure habit.

Implication: When I resume Facebook (actually before I resume it), I will move the Facebook app icon to the second page of my iPhone and iPad.  It will be less tempting to check Facebook so frequently.  I will use this ‘idle’ time for better focus or simply not think about anything.

Overall I thought the experiment was going great.  I survived the holidays without posting my usual food photos of the holiday feast I prepared.  I didn’t share my joy of the holidays or my fatigue of endless cooking with the Facebook world.  I was pretty proud of myself.  I used Instagram to post an occasional photo.  This actually seemed more effective because it’s a public page and the hashtags denoted the subject of the photo.  I used Twitter to keep current on the news or developing stories. 

The experiment was a success until day six, a Saturday.  On this day, one of my kids had a happy major life event and he posted a photo of this on Facebook.  I wanted to share in the joy of this event and watch the comments. This was a day not to be missed by a Facebook experiment.  It was time to admit that there are a few things I do like about Facebook and that with proper use management I can follow it.  I put my experiment on hold.  I reactivated my account and posted a photo of this major event as well.  I felt like the Godfather “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”  I caught up with a few other events and decided that I will hold off on the experiment until next month (year).  So I kept Facebook on and now the experiment was to see if I could use it effectively since I learned a lot about my preferences during those first six days.  I use it to check some favorite restaurant specials, use the messenger app to communicate with some friends. 

But on day three, I  decided to deactivate it again.   Why?  It was still distracting.  It takes a month to make a behavior a habit. In the meantime, I’m still learning what I like and don’t like about Facebook. I believe this tool is useful, if I use it right.

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