Domestication

“Dude, you are so domesticated.”

I smiled with a nod. “Thanks.”

“I didn’t mean that as a compliment.”

I regarded my friend with a quizzical arch of the brow. “Your jealousy is so transparent.”

“I’m not jealous. What’s to be jealous of? Pssh. I’m not jealous.”

I grinned. “Okay, whatever you say man.”

He scooted his chair to the left, pushing his coffee mug with him. “Okay, let me tell you how lame being domesticated is.”

I waved him on. “Please, tell me.”

He cleared his throat. “First, it means your girl’s got you by the balls. You gotta do whatever she says now. Be at home by a certain time. No drinking late with your friends. No more parties and hangovers. No more—”

“Hold on man, I’m going to stop you right there. Do you honestly, seriously, in all sincerity, think I still want to be doing any of those things of my own volition?”

“Yea. Well… no? You don’t, I’m guessing?”

“Damn right I don’t. I’m too old for that crap. Hangovers? Dude. C’mon. Hangovers?”

“Well, I don’t mean hangovers are the goal, they’re just the end result of a good night…”

“A hangover for me is not the sign of a good night. Maybe when I was in college, but even then, I never aimed for a hangover. Who in their right mind aims for a hangover? I never did. And as an adult, definitely not.”

He rubbed his chin. “Okay…”

“And ‘got me by the balls?’ Really? Did you really just say that?”

“You know what I mean.”

“Oh, sure,” I nodded slowly. “I know what you mean. Because I don’t go out and party all night long means my girl has me by the balls. That’s what you mean, right?”

“Yea…”

“And that presupposes that she ordered me to stay home. Hence the ‘by the balls’ comment, right?”

“Um…”

“So if I tell you I do not want to party all night long anymore, because I am a tired old man who needs his sleep, otherwise I’m a cranky bastard in the morning, does that constitute following an order by someone else?”

“Well, no…”

I sat back in my chair. “So what else you got, Sherlock? Tell me what else is lame about being domesticated.”

He shifted in his seat. Coughed. Cleared his throat again. “Fine. Point B, it means your ass no longer has freedom. You can’t just take off on a road trip, or hit Vegas for a weekend, or—”

“No more freedom. By that, I assume you mean I can’t travel on my own anymore, right?”

“Right, exactly. She either has to come along, or you can’t go at all.”

I studied the swirls of whipped cream on my mocha. “That’s not exactly true. Maybe for your past relationships, you’ve had that kind of restriction. For me, my fiancée doesn’t mind if I take off on a trip alone. She’s taken trips just with her friends, and so have I.”

He slumped forward. “Really?”

“Yea. To me, that’s a mark of a healthy relationship. Or, at least, what I want out of a relationship. Some people prefer tighter interaction. Others, looser. She and I both feel it’s important to have our own lives, as well as a life together.”

“Well, okay…”

“Then there are times when I genuinely want her along. I have fun with her. That’s why I’m marrying her! So why would I want to do all of those things alone, when I can have this wonderful, funny, beautiful person with me too?”

“Dude, you’re going to make me sick.”

I took a gulp of frothy mocha and wiped my lip. “Okay, okay. So moving right along. Are these your reasons against domestication? Seriously? You know, you’re just talking about relationships in general. Neither of these points has anything to do with being domesticated.”

He snorted. “That’s where you’re wrong! Domestication is the process of taming. You’re getting tamed, dude. That’s what I’m talking about.”

“Tamed?”

“Yea. Like, you once could do all this wild stuff. Now, you gotta be—excuse me, want to be home by a certain time, and stuff like that.”

“Oh, so you’re lambasting the process of getting older, as opposed to being in a relationship?”

He scratched his head. “What? No. Don’t confuse me. No, I ain’t talking about… no, not about getting older. I mean, you’re getting domesticated, like, you got a girl now, you’re settling down, you can’t do the same stuff you once did…”

“As we get older, none of us can do the same things we once did. You can’t sit in a high chair anymore and be spoon-fed by your Mom, for instance. Well, maybe you do, but not the average adult.”

“Funny. What I mean is, and this is reason number three: You’re not having any more fun.”

“Okay, now you’re lamenting the process of getting older, not domestication. Though perhaps you’re drawing parallels between the two.”

“Yea, um, exactly.”

“Well, I for one, relish the idea of growing older. I actually like to have more responsibilities, deal with new challenges, and adjust my life accordingly. For me, this is all very fun and exciting. I realize my sentiments are uncommon, but hey, that’s me.”

“I dunno man, that sounds crazy to me…”

“Sure. And that’s fine. You don’t have to like the process of getting older, or being in a relationship. Me, I love them. I love being in a relationship, I love being engaged, I look forward to a house and kids and in-laws and grandkids and all that. It’s not for everyone. There are a lot of people out there who don’t want this, and shouldn’t aim for this either. But I do. Each to his own, right? Each to his own.”

“I told you, man…”

I quizzically arched of the brow. “What?”

He shook his head. “You are so domesticated.”

How to Live a Long, Happy Life

I intend on living a long, happy life.

It would be cool to be a great-grandparent, for instance. I’ve also got many things I want to do. Write books, learn new things, start businesses and non-profits, help my community. So many plans, so little time.

Age is not the limiting factor. Health is.

So how can I live a long and happy life? Dan Buettner, a National Geographic writer, believes he knows the answer. He founded the organization Quest Network, Inc. to conduct a study of “Blue Zones” – regions of the world where there are sizable populations that live active lives past one hundred years of age.

There are currently five known Blue Zones in the world:

  • Sardina, Italy
  • Okinawa, Japan
  • Loma Linda, CA, USA
  • Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
  • Icaria, Greece

Buettner and his organization studied these regions and discovered four key traits that all share, regardless of geography, culture, religion, or other factors.

  1. Move Naturally
  2. Right Outlook
  3. Eat Wisely
  4. Connect

Move Naturally

People living in Blue Zones don’t run marathons or lift heavy weights in gyms. They don’t sit in front of the TV or computers a lot either. Instead, they take a lot of walks. They climb up stairs. They hike up mountains. They even tend gardens, which require daily manual labor.

The Sardinians live on hillsides. So to get around, many walk up and down these hills all the time, even those in their eighties. Many Okinawans maintain personal gardens that they cultivate with pride. It’s not uncommon to see elders plowing and raking and pulling out weeds.

The trick is to do something active every day that you enjoy. That way, being active isn’t a chore; it is something you look forward to. And that’s why it works.

If you love doing cardio at the gym, then more power to you. Otherwise, take a walk around the block. Walk to the local grocery store instead of driving. Use the stairs instead of the elevator. Take a parking spot further away from the entrance of the mall so you have to walk a bit. Play sports with friends. Play the Nintendo Wii. Do something active everyday.

Right Outlook

Blue Zone inhabitants maintain a healthy perspective on life. They take time to slow down and relax from their hectic schedules. They use healthy outlets to vent their stress. They take problems in stride.

It’s not that they live boring, unexciting lives. Loma Linda is the home of a large medical university and medical community. Being a doctor is far from relaxing. The majority of these residents – those that regularly live long, active lives, at least – are also Seventh-day Adventists, a Christian denomination. Their religion aids in their ability to find peace with their frustrations.

Aside from mechanisms to dispel stress, Blue Zone inhabitants also deeply believe they have a purpose in life. That purpose could be as small as the Okinawan fisherman who sees his purpose is to fish so he can feed his family, or the Okinawan grandmother who knows her purpose is to care for her great-great-grandchildren. Religion also imbues a deep sense of purpose to Seventh-day Adventists.

Many don’t retire. They keep on doing what they enjoy doing, because they believe it is their purpose, their reason to get up every day.

Look for healthy outlets for your stress. Some use exercise, some take walks, and some create art to find relief. For others, it’s spirituality, religion, or their family and community.

A sense of purpose is also equally important. If you don’t have a reason to wake up every day and stay healthy, then find one. Spirituality and religion fill this hole for many. Family and community fill this for others. Still others find their purpose in their work or art. And sometimes your purpose isn’t bestowed upon you; it is something you go out and determine for yourself.

Eat Wisely

Those in Blue Zones eat healthy food in moderation. By healthy food, I mean their diets include a lot of vegetables and little processed food. Seventh-day Adventists are vegetarians. Okinawans eat lots of fresh fish. Sardinians consume homemade food. Each community has a different meal mix, though all contain a lot of vegetables and little processed food.

By moderation, I mean they don’t overeat. They don’t serve huge, American-sized portions. The Okinawans even eat from small plates as a means to minimize overeating. Others take breaks between servings. Since it takes several minutes before the feeling of satiation hits your stomach, taking a break can curb the amount you eat.

Include more vegetables in your diet. Decrease the amount of processed food and fast food from your daily intake as much as possible, or remove it altogether. You don’t need vitamin supplements as long as you eat a wide variety of vegetables, grains, and meats.

And perhaps even more importantly, reduce your portion sizes. Eat from small bowls. Take breaks between servings. You may find yourself feeling full without the usual volume you consume.

Connect

The last common aspect of all Blue Zone elders is their sense of family and community. To them, family comes first. Grandparents aren’t shut away in nursing homes. Respect increases with age, so the eldest are given the most respect.

They also feel a sense of belonging within their communities. Friendships endure throughout lifetimes. A person can count on a friend in time of need, and give selflessly when that friend is in need. You’ve got my back, I’ve got your back.

These tight bonds are formed with people of similar values as well. Everyone in a particular community shares the same core values of enjoyable activities (walks, hikes, etc), a healthy outlook (able to vent with each other, a feeling of purpose), healthy diets (natural foods in moderation), and a sense of belonging.

If you’ve been estranged from your family, consider making amends. Be the bigger person and take the first step at healing that bond. In cases where that’s totally impossible, foster the friendships you have, especially with those that share the same values. Consider being a part of a healthy tight-knit community, such as an activity group, special interest group, religious group, etc.

Is This Possible?

For some, this news is obvious to you. But for others, this may seem entirely impossible. How such a lifestyle can be followed in today’s society? I hear you. I know it’s not easy.

I don’t think it’s impossible either. It just takes some extra effort and a lot of discipline. Moving naturally and eating wisely are the easiest ones to do first, since they involve changes in behavior. The tough part is sticking to the new behavior long enough for it to become habit.

Having the right outlook and connecting to others are much tougher. The first involves changing a mental model that’s been ingrained for years. The second involves both behavioral and mental changes.

Part of having the right outlook is having healthy outlets for stress. This can include exercising, talking to trusted friends, or creating art. There are numerous self-help websites and books you can turn to for more ideas as well.

The other part of the right outlook is a sense of purpose. If you can’t find an easy answer, you are probably waiting for that purpose to come to you. Let me correct that misconception: that is not going to happen. Not everyone is lucky enough to be given their purpose. You need to go out and find your purpose. Create one. Look for something you believe in, whether it is a family member, a vocation, or a cause. As long as it allows you to follow these other traits and doesn’t harm others, embrace it as the reason you get up every morning.

Finding a community that accepts you is probably the toughest one to achieve. If you weren’t born into a tight-knit family or community, you will have to work hard to become a part of a healthy community. However, it’s worth the effort. Once you are in a good community, a sense of purpose will almost certainly come to you.

How do you find such a community? Church groups are an obvious source. Activity groups and special interest groups are another, though not all will give you an encompassing sense of community. Some people join such groups just to do the activity, then return to their own communities without further involvement in the group.

Neighborhood-based communities are also a good source. There are “gated communities” (a set of houses enclosed within gates) that try to engender such a sense of belonging, not only for goodwill, but for protection too (crime is less common in such neighborhoods).

For some, their work can also provide a viable community, though like activity and special interest groups, not all of the members may be willing to put in the same level of commitment as you. To them, it’s just a job, not a community.

I am lucky that I follow and have a lot of these traits. Hopefully I can continue to foster them throughout my long, happy life, and vice versa. For many, I had to work hard to create them. But once they’ve become engrained in my life, following them is as easy as eating and breathing.

Want to see more? You can watch Buettner’s talk at a TEDxTC conference on September 2009 about his study of Blue Zones. It’s a fascinating talk.

Now go live long and prosper. And talk a walk around the block while you’re at it.

The Lens of Life: It’s All About Perceptions

The glass is not half full nor half empty. The glass has water in it, filled approximately to the middle. Or: the glass has equal portions of gas and liquid content within its cylindrical interior. Or: the glass is entirely full of air and water. Or… you get the point.

It’s all about perception. Life isn’t how it is; it’s how you see it.

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The Inland Empire

When I first heard the acronym “IE” I thought it meant “Internet Explorer.” That’s because I am a web geek and IE in the web world means Internet Explorer.

Now I know better. The initials IE can stand for many things. A web browser that has frequently frustrated many a web developer. A Latin abbreviation for “id est,” which corresponds to “that is” and not “for example.” Or a hot, dry, wasteland of a Californian desert with the occasional pocket of life and delicious food.

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We Were Almost Hit by an Asteroid This Week

Did you know that the Earth was almost struck by an asteroid this week? Unless you follow science news closely, you may have missed it.

The asteroid, designated 2009 DD45, is less than a third of a football field in diameter (approximately 20-30 yards). After watching movies like Armageddon and Deep Impact, that seems pretty small, doesn’t it? It’s no Texas-sized Global Killer like in Armageddon.

The impact of 2009 DD45 would still have been disastrous. “The force of multi-megaton nuclear blast,” wrote one reporter. Striking a city would have leveled it and killed millions. Striking the ocean would have caused a horrible tsunami that devastated coastlines.

Yikes!
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Eavesdropping in a Cafe

I was minding my own business when seven words caught my attention:

“And then she went down on him?”

How fortunate. I’m on my laptop right now, trying to come up with something to write. Thank you sweet fate for offering this titillating story to me via eavesdropping.

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The Wear Sunscreen Speech

You know the Wear Sunscreen Speech, right? If not, where have you been? Under a rock buried in the sand behind an outhouse on an island with dark sunglasses at night? Tsk tsk.

The Wear Sunscreen Speech—sometimes simply known as the “Sunscreen Speech”, but originally called “Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young”—was written by Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich way back on June 1, 1997 as a fictional commencement speech that she’d like to give if she were ever asked to.

For some reason, a mischievous student decided to send the speech around as a MIT commencement speech given by Kurt Vonnegut. Weird, huh? If you’ve seen that email, now you know who really wrote that speech—Mary Schmich and not Kurt Vonnegut (though Vonnegut could have certainly written something just as witty & profound).

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The Art of Digital Zen

Zen is a school of thought, a state of being. A way of thinking. Traditionally, it is a school of Mahayana Buddhism known for emphasizing an acceptance of the present, embracing spontaneous action, and emancipating the self-conscious & judgmental thinking.

For better or worse, its meaning has evolved as other schools of thought have adopted and interpreted it. In the Mike Lee School of Thought, I merely make a contemporary addition to the traditional definition: excising physical belongings and converting them to a non-corporeal form, namely, the digital format. In my geeky way, this is what I call Digital Zen.

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I’m More Blind than You!

“Why are people always trying to brag about how bad their eyesight is?”

Ken adjusted his glasses and shrugged. “People brag about their eyesight?”

My arms flailed about furiously as I nodded. “Hells yea. People are always saying, ‘How bad is your eyesight?’ ‘Well, mine is worse.’ ‘Oh yea, I can’t even see that sign over there. I’m as blind as a bat.’ I’m so sick of that.”

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