Thursday, September 25, 2008

Compound Interest

Most of us are aware of the benefits of compound interest. Albert Einstein, noting its value, said,“The most powerful force in the universe is compound interest.” Depending on frequency, compound interest is basically the principle amount times a rate plus interest, added over and over again.

But what about other things, like skills? If we start something at an earlier age, compounding our skills on top of each other, then don't they add up to something great?

I have been pondering an idea lately of something I call "ultimate expression." It is almost self-explanatory, but allow me to indulge. A while back, I read an article from Fortune Magazine titled, What It Takes To Be Great. The article spoke of people such as Tiger Woods and Warren Buffet, performing at the top of their game and at the top of the world because of something called deliberate practice . The stories' thesis was: anyone can achieve a level of greatness with time and deliberate practice. The key is deliberate practice, also known as dedication/due dilligence/determination. This article may have prompted the idea of the ultimate expression.

There is something in life that everyone is passionate about. There is something inside that, when it comes out, makes you feel great. Some play an instrument, some sing, others play sports or teach. There are endless ways to express this passion. If you are fortunate enough, your work can fulfill this desire. But for most of us, our job is well, a job. We find other ways to make us feel whole.

This expression is the soul escaping into the external world. It is the reflection of what is in you, casting its presence into the material world. For Picasso, it was through his vision and by extension, his hand and the canvas. For Pavarotti, it is through his sonorous voice. For Ali, it was with his graceful movement and hand-speed in the ring, and to a great extent his ability to manipulate his opponents' mind. For those of us watching, they make it look like child-play, like it's the easiest thing they've ever done. It is amazing when we get to see someone's soul on display. We are left in awe in the presence of a great soul at its zenith.

But we know that it isn't easy. It takes years of dedication to reach these levels. Take Ali for example. Do you think he spent all his time praying to Allah to help him win fights? Of course not. He spent hours circling and pounding a bag, hours dancing in a ring, countless hours perfecting his footwork and technique and always pushing and improving himself. It does take this much to be "The Greatest."

Although some of us are lucky enough to find our ultimate expression, others spend their entire lives searching for something that fulfills this desire. You need not become (and likely will not become) as famous as Tiger Woods or Muhammad Ali, but the feelings can be the same. For those of you who have found it, then, it is your duty to make use of it, to nurture and let blossom this inherent beauty. For the rest of us, I pose these questions:

What is your ultimate expression? How does your soul speak to others, or to yourself, for that matter? It's compound interest of your interests, for passion, not money, that makes you rich.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Going "Ghetto" Green!

Going green is the latest trend everywhere! From big biz to small mom and pop shops, becoming environmentally friendly is the way to go. But to every trend is an ugly, kept in the closet, don't let the deformed half-brother out of the basement, side. Even with it's so-called "clean" reputation, going green has its dark side. I intend to expose it and allow you do decide how clean this movement really is. The following are methods that you can use to make your life green, depending on how far you're willing to go. This is the list the goodie greenies don't want you to see.

Water Conservation
1. Take cold showers.
2. Take less showers.
3. Don't take showers.
4. Kill two birds with one stone, drink your pee. (Neither flush nor tap water!)
5. Don’t wash your hands (or your dishes). Strengthen your immune system.
6. Defecate outside, in a bucket or in the garden. Use it for fertilizer.

7. Turn off your lights when you're not using them, or
8. Wait until the power is cut off to pay your bill. Remember to use your home computer.
9. When it's cold, bundle up and sleep with your sister/brother.
10. When it’s hot, take off your clothes and sleep with your sister/brother.
11. Move into a smaller house (you guessed it), with your sister/brother.
12. Don’t use a refrigerator. Move somewhere cold and put perishables outside. Also see tip #9.
13. Watching TV is a waste of time anyway so don’t own one. The same for washing machines, dryers, microwaves, and toothbrushes.

14. Cook Top Ramen for dinner.
15. Don't cook.
16. Don't eat meat.
17. Don't eat.
18. Don't buy appliances. Borrow or share with your neighbors.
19. Don’t buy furniture or worthless stuff. Sit on the floor.
20. Don’t invite anyone over for a cold one or a warm one or whatever. In fact, invite yourself to their place.
21. Steal. Actually this would be unethical. Borrow with the intent of “indefinite return.”

22. Don’t own a car.
23. Carpool and freeload.
24. Use the bus or public transportation.
25. Ride a bike.
26. Better yet, ride a stolen one. Sorry, a "borrowed" one.

There it is. But this list is far from complete. There are many of you that may be pros in the art of Ghetto Green. Please leave your tips for me and we can build a compilation!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Take a Risk, Grow a 19th Floor Garden

This is the first of what will be my gardening series. I live in crowded Taipei, Taiwan, where people are mashed together, and so are the buildings. If you are interested in gardening and live in an apartment, there aren't many options. Sometimes you must take your life into your own hands and grow a garden. Mine happens to be on the 19th floor of the tallest building in the area.

As you can see, I have what you might call a desperate situation. Working with what really can't be considered a balcony, more like a man-made cliff, I tend my sprouting crops. It is a location not meant to be used. There is no door. I actually have to climb out the window! As of right now, I have tomatoes, basil, a stunted coffee plant, thyme, and papaya seedlings, the basics that any life-threatening garden should have. It's a meager and almost depressing "garden."

However, I do follow the most up to date gardening practices:

In the red trash bin, I also have compost, or my attempt at compost. What it really is is a kitchen scrap bin left outside. It is too small to adequately compost. If you have the resources, check out How to Compost. However, I prefer mulching as a method to build the soil.

I've implemented the permaculture theory of making your garden like a forest. I try to recreate the forest floor with decaying plant matter. In my "bed" I use scraps as fertilizer (don't know what I base this on or if it works), kinda like sheet mulching, but without the sheeting and carbon. I do know that it does attract micro organisms that may or may not benefit the plants.

Companion Planting/Guilds
Another gardening technique demonstrated here is companion planting or guilds, as it is called in Permaculture. This uses plant diversity as a way to build a mutually beneficial situation. Just as some insects are good for plants, plants can also create a symbiotic system. Tomatoes and basil have been said to be a so called "guild." The onion pieces are just there because several months ago my girlfriend bought a huge bag of them (as can be seen in the first picture). I used all of one of them, and they proceeded to grow in the refrigerator so my roommate put them outside.

As far as I know, all my to-be products will be organic and natural. Until the day I can have a plot of land that I can implement permaculture on, this approximately 2sq. meters (and 60 meters up), will have to do. Even in this smallest of spots I cling to the hope of not falling to my undramatic death and of creating something I call grand. Unfortunately, there would be no honor, only stupidity, related to my death.

To all of you who risk something for a greater good, I commend you.

Alternatives during the Credit Crisis

I propose all who are just barely scraping by, those, who if they lost a couple of hours at work would be forced to desperate measures, the people with little mouths to feed and bellies to fill, take up arms. But not arms in the common sense. Have a hand in the undoing of your undoing. Take control of your present and future. Create a revolutionary garden. Learn how to grow your food so you no longer pay market prices for “fresh” fruits and vegetables. Have your hand in the soil, securing you and your families’ future. The power is in you. If you have no job, no land, and no help, yes, your road is much steeper and less clearly laid. But what choice do we have nowadays? We can almost no longer afford to drive to the super-market, much less buy the stuff in it. Be your hero. Be your families’ hero too.