Four For Friday – The Election Edition

Q1 – Talk About It: Many of my friends have commented they cannot discuss politics with co-workers, family, friends and others without conflict rearing its ugly head. Do you feel you can talk with your family and friends about this particularly divisive Presidential election?

Q2 – And The Winner Is: Do you know who you’re voting for in next week’s Presidential election?

Q3 – Call It: A pollster is a professional whose primary job is conducting private pre-election surveys and advising candidates on election strategy. Put your pollster hat on: Who will win the Presidential election and by what margin (in percentages)?

Q4 – Issues: What do you think is the most important issue in next Tuesday’s Presidential election?

10 Ways to Enjoy Halloween with Your Family

Halloween can be one of the most fun holidays to enjoy with your children, but with all that candy and high expectations it can also explode in a meltdown!

Here are some ideas that have worked with my family that might help you get through it all in one piece!

1. Avoid the Halloween stores
This may sound weird, but those party stores come Halloween ain’t what they used to be – they’re pretty scary! Even for wussy adults such as myself. So if you have wee ones, don’t risk turning your kids off the holiday for good, with an unnecessary trip to Amityville.

2. Involve your kids in the decision-making
May sound too obvious, but allowing your kids to choose their own costume – even if it doesn’t conform with your idea of a cutie pie Tinkerbell will go a long way to making the holiday more enjoyable. Maybe they just don’t want to go trick or treating this year and would rather just receive other kids at home. Fine. Go with the flow.

3. Don’t overschedule
There’s a lot going on, a lot of stimuli

Is Your Yoga Teacher Insane?

He who applies himself to the doctrine of truth,illuminates this world like the moon set free from the clouds."–Dhammapada

When I found out one of my favorite yoga teachers goes to a shrink, I figured it must be one helluva shrink. After all, I find great clarity in this yoga teacher’s class. So I got the name and number of this Dr. Schein and showed up for a session.

"So David, what brings you here today?" he asked.

"Well I feel so nervous about the impact of the economy on my financial well-being. That and I have a strange fetish with gerbils," I quietly answered

"Who doesn’t!" he shot back.

"Oh good, so I’m not alone. It’s just that I find them so cute and squiggly," I added

"Oh I was referring to the economy, not the gerbils. And let me tell you, I’ve gotten some great advice from my shrink about this subject," Dr Schein continued.

"Wait a second, you have a shrink?"

And a few weeks later I booked an appointment with the shrink to the shrink. And after 6 months, I discovered the shrink to the shrink to the shrink to the shrink to the shrink to the shrink. All rivers seem to lead to one ocean, one guy who seems to be at the top of the chain of shrinks, a Dr.Abramowitz-Weinstein.

It took me 2 months but I finally got an appointment feeling absolutely confident that Dr. A&W, as they call him, would be nothing short of a friggin guru.

A measly man, 5 foot 2 with bifocals and a toupee, Dr. A&W greeted me.

"Velcome," he said in a German accent.

It didn’t take long before he led me outside, down a path, through the forest, around a pond, under a tunnel, over a mountain, across a graveyard, and through a labyrinth. And there in the middle of the labyrinth on a golden table was a big chocolate truffle.

"Zis is the answer," he said.

I hesitated but ate the special chocolate and felt amazing. I wandered throughthe woods and returned to Dr. A&W week after week. Each time I would eat another special chocolate and feel more ecstatic joy frolicking amongst the trees.

Finally, after thousands of dollars of doctor’s bills and a strange problem with itching, I had the special chocolates investigated and realized they were coated in oxycontin. I turned Dr. A&W into the police who also discoveredhe ran a huge pot farm, yoga studio operated by midget hookers, and counterfeit Christian Louboutin shoe factory. 

I was devastated. Horrified. Flabbergasted. Oh my God. To think all those shoes I’d bought from him were fake?!


At that moment I realized the Source does not exist in the form of a humanbeing. Yes there are gurus who are close to pure channels of the Source energy.Wayne Dyer calls them "Sorcerers." But for most of us, it’s not likely we will come in contact with these gurus unless we’re able to journey to India.  So the most realistic and financially healthy option is to chart your own path to the Source energy.

Source energy is rich with wisdom and revitilizing power that is yet to be filtered by the mental kaleidoscope. Think natural spring water. Think organic food. Think pure healing energy.  Without a daily moment of mental freedom, we essentially spend the day wallowing in the pollution of old habits and smoggy consciousness. Think Tijuana tap water. Think McDonald’s filet o’fish. Think the nastiness in the crevice of an American Airlines seat. 

Carlos Castaneda said, "The task of sorcerers was to face infinity and they plunged into it daily as a fisherman plunges into the sea." Each and every day, we must find the place from which to take the plunge. The plunge need not be from the ridge of the Himalayas. It can be from the ridge of a fine glass of Cabernet or (if you don’t drink), from the miniature craters of chocolate coating a Vosges red-fire tortilla chip (see below).   Who doesn’t feel like jumping from all that binds her to the world!

There’s nothing wrong with a trip to a Shrink many of whom are brilliant. But there should be a balance. By taking too much of a another’s advice whether it’s your crazy red-headed yoga teacher or Dr. Abramowitz-Weinstein, you risk ingesting the runoff of their influences, flaws, and fears.  But worse, you risk drowning out one of the most untapped human resources: intuiton. As Herman Hesse said, "All I ever wanted was to live from the promptings ofmy true self, why was that so difficult?"

To pre-order my book Yeah Dave’s Guide to Livin’ the Moment which comes our March 10, 2009, click here. If you pre-order, email me, let me know, and I’ll forward you a never-before-seen chapter I’ve written entitled “Redneck Aliens on Ritalin.”

Sign up for David Romanelli’s weekly newsletter, "The Schtick," by emailing him at   

You Think For Yourself but You Act Like Your Friends: How Homophily Changes the Way We Think

Birds of a feather tend to shop together.  That we know.  They also tend to talk together and walk together; and who their friends are affects more than just what type of jeans they buy.  Their friends have the capacity to affect their tastes, activities, and their lives overall.  Sociologists call this phenomenon of being affected by one’s friends "homophily" – the tendency to associate with people similar to you and the people you associate with tend to act like you over time (and vice-versa).  
Humans naturally conform to social influence – to their surroundings, environment, strangers, peers, friends, and the like.  People tend to socially conform or mimic their friends’ behaviors, attitudes, etc.  Besides the need for information, it is understood that people conform so that they will be liked and accepted by other people. 
We tend to associate ourselves with those who are similar to us in interests, attitudes, values, background, and personality.  The old saying that "opposites attract" doesn’t hold much weight; research evidence by Miller McPherson shows that it is similarity that draws people together (imagine starting with another on social networks like you). 
The Effect Your Friends Have Over You
Your peers are very important.  Judith Rich Harris’s groundbreaking book, The Nurture Assumption, suggests that peers have a much greater influence on child development than parents or teachers.  An immigrant 4-year-old boy from Poland (or China) who just moved to St. Louis is more likely to speak perfect English and love baseball within a year because he wants to fit in with the other kids.  He might still like traditional Polish food, but he’ll also quickly love hamburgers and pizza.     
The social psychology phenomenon of "mirroring" – people that are your friends or people that like you in general, tend to physically mimic or mirror your behavior, vernacular, movements, etc. – is example of the type of subconscious influence your friends have over you.  As a social experiment, try incorporating a new word or phrase into your lexicon and notice how your friends will slowly adopt and use this word or phrase.  Or try crossing your arms during a conversation with one of your friends and see if they mimic that behavior.
On a gender basis, women are slightly more prone to be influenced by their female friends than men are by their male friends.  In her research Sex Differences in Social Behavior, Alice Eagly hypothesizes that this stems from the social roles men and women are taught in our society.
How Your Friends Affect Your …

– Health

Nick Christakis and James Fowler published a study last year in the New England Journal of Medicine which suggests that your friends greatly affect your health.   According to the study:

A person’s chances of becoming obese increased by 57% if he or she had a friend who became obese in a given interval. Among pairs of adult siblings, if one sibling became obese, the chance that the other would become obese increased by 40%. If one spouse became obese, the likelihood that the other spouse would become obese increased by 37%. These effects were not seen among neighbors in the immediate geographic location.

If your friend gets heavier, it becomes more socially acceptable to gain weight.  And you start to get a different perspective on what is thin or fat.  And because you are friends with this individual that gets heavier, you may likely partake in activities with this friend that are unhealthy, thus increasing your chances that you too will gain weight.  Of course, if your friends start to eat healthy, it can be a motivating factor to eat less chocolate cake too.  

– Music Preferences

Birds of feather even sing together.  Noah Mark, Assistant Professor at UNC Charlotte, wrote a paper in 1998 that suggests that our music preferences are highly influenced by who we hang out with.  This makes complete sense.  We are limited in our time and capacity to try everything.  So we tend to try out and learn about things that our friends are doing, acting as a filter to all the noise that permeates our ear drums.  I suspect this is also true with the type of sports you play, art you like, food you appreciate, etc. – all your habits, likes, and dislikes are massively influenced by your friends’ habits.  

– Mood

And not surprisingly, much of your mood and overall disposition can be heavily influenced by your friends and the type of people around you.  Happy friends will make you happier.  Sad friends will make you more depressed.  Even thoughts of suicide can be contagious.  Essentially, mood is virus that is highly contagious.  Likewise, when someone out of the blue smiles at you, you usually can’t help but smile back.  Humans are susceptible of being influenced and we’re reciprocal beings at the core.  

– Political Stance

Political leanings is very closely linked to homophily.  If you live in an area with more than 65% party registration, you’re probably getting massively influenced by your neighbors. 
Using the Understanding of Homophily for Good Use
Homophily can be actively used to positively impact your life.  Christakis and Fowler did another study where they found quitting smoking is contagious and targeted interventions are most successful when done within a group.  It’s analogous to going for a run with a friend and pushing yourself harder and longer than if you were to just run by yourself.  Having many people around you can reinforce positive things like community service or negative things like UFO cults.  
If you are always trying to hack your life, the best thing you can do is systematically eliminate unhappy people from your encounters.  Even a reduction of 10% unhappy people will likely have dramatic affects on your mood and disposition.  Good-bye complainers, hello smilers.
The best way to deal with homophily is to understand how you are impacted by it and to hack your life and make adjustments accordingly.  To inoculate yourself politically, for instance, start considering the "other side" of the political isle.  If you are in San Francisco (84% Democratic), you might want to read the Wall Street Journal editorials every day.  Similarly, if you are in the back countries of Alabama (70% Republican) you should read the editorials of the New York Times every day.  Don’t let yourself be blindly led by those you know.  
So the next time you go shopping, be sure to bring along that frugal friend of yours to help curtail your spending spree – which is definitely not recommended in this economy.
(special thanks to Vivek Sodera for his edits and research)


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Her Lunarship and Her Regal Issues

Change isupon us all, regardless of if you are in the USA or even if you can vote, theresults of the Nov 4th election will affect directly or indirectly every personon this planet. In fact, looking at the ideological difference between the twocandidates, this upcoming presidential election will affect Mother Natureherself as well as our already marred relationship with her.

A close look at the astrological climate on Election Day shows that the planetsagree with the notion that we are at a tipping point. On November 4th, Saturn,the planet that rules traditional values, conservatism, caution, and maturityis precisely opposite to Uranus, the planet associated with reform, grassrootsmovements, computers and technology, humanism, hope and youth. Never before hasthe opposition between the two parties and two candidates reflected theopposition between these two planets in such a precise way. Even though thepoles show a strong significant lead to Obama, do not let the lead mislead you.When these two planets oppose you can expect the unexpected. Regardless of yourpolitical views, my suggestion is don’t trust the polls, go vote!

To add to the celestial drama her Lunarship is having issues almost all of nextTuesday. On November 4th the Moon will be Void of Course from 1:47am to 7pmEST. So what does that mean?

Void of Course means that the Moon will make any aspects with any other planetbefore she enters a new sign. Imagine the Moon to be a busy mother who iscooking energies, creating opportunities, telling stories and so forth butsince there are no aspects to other planets, none of her children or familymembers are there to enjoy or appreciate it. She will then get very annoyed andfrustrated until she will go into a rage and start sabotaging everything. Thatis why astrologers recommend to avoid having important meetings, signingdocuments or doing significant things when the Moon is (a)voiding course. It issaid that while the Moon is Void of Course, things do not manifest or hold on.It is as if there are no hooks or energetic nails that can hold fast reality.These times are good to undo contracts, break vows, and deliver bad news sincethe negative information will not be attached to you.

This means that Election Day will be marred by intimidations, long lines thatmight go way beyond the closing of polls as well as glitches and issues withthe voting machines. If you can vote before Nov 4th do so in the name of theMoon.

When the Moon finally finds her course in the evening of November 4th, she willsail into the sign of Aquarius. This is another interesting synchronicity sincethe USA’s natal moon is in Aquarius. It means that America is coming home, toits lost values. Perhaps at last we can truly declare the dawning of the Age ofAquarius.

Here is a good website that provides a calendar of the Moon. It has all thephases as well as the Void of Course periods. Just make sure you change thecity where you are located.

Video Blogs by Gahl:

Speculation & Accountability in the Real Estate Market

It is a well known fact that most if not all asset bubbles arecharacterized by significant speculative investment activity (and bythis I mean investors with very short investment timeframes andexpectations). And this was certainly true of the US housing market(and other overinflated housing markets globally) over the last fewyears. It

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