Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Torn Gi

…a time when stadium lights blanketed the bowl, spectators screamed at the top of their lungs, mascots, cheer and song leaders led spirited yells…

Year ago, I had this pad and number two lead pencil , beckoning, and daring me to jot down a couple thoughts and ideas.  In the span of two or three years I collected enough of these hand written notes to put together what you see now…

The Baby Boomer Sensei

Killer Worms of Kern County (Screenplay - First 10 pages)

Oil Moeba
Killer Worms of Kern County
Dominador “Domi” Tomate

Knowledge is Power

            This reference manual on Lean Enterprise for Small Businesses, is a guide specifically designed to provide information for those, who want to learn about Lean Sigma concepts, without having to take a class or spend a lot money.  As a business owner/operator, this could be the first time you’ve heard about Lean Enterprise and Six Sigma, which bottom line, incorporate both traditional and modern theories to business process management and, consequently, save companies, like Motorola, millions of dollars if not billions!!! If these methods worked for them, then they, most certainly, can work for you.  First step is to learn what it’s all about. 
            About a year ago, I decided to write this guide. I have friends who are business acquaintances and former associates and wanted to learn more about LSS.  They were intrigued by its novelty.  With pencil in hand, I started drafting pages that ended up being like the manuals I’ve read, complicated, boring and hard to understand.  I decided to make it simple, write in a way where a person, like me, can pick it up and figure it out without thinking.  Face it, business owners have more things to do than read pages containing complicated information.  Bottom line: they’ve got businesses to run.  So, I wrote this guide for anyone, big company or small. 
            I feel it is perfect for the single operator, or mom and pop business.  It provides business intelligence without thousands of words explaining.  Lean means less; otherwise, I’d call it MORE six sigma.
            This guide delivers a powerful story Realistically, small businesses don’t have the resources to engage in a full Lean Six Sigma program.  Small businesses, however, benefit by learning and using some of its tools; and, as a means of getting this point across, I wrote this guide to teach strong and powerful concepts.  I’ve been involved with Lean Six Sigma for about ten years, and from this experience, I feel it should be available to everyone.  Used properly, it creates opportunities for success.  Furthermore, based upon Thomas A. Seitz’ opinion, in his abstract, Lean Enterprise Integration: A New Frame Work for Small Businesses, he says that because of their smaller sizes and less bureaucracies, small businesses have “natural lean process” built in. 
            Years ago, when I was first introduced to LSS, I read and studied what I felt was a foreign language.  It was nearly impossible.  It took years for me to reach a level of comprehension.  It was not easy but my journey was well worth it.  I now feel comfortable mentoring and writing about these ideas. 
            The legendary Bruce Lee once said, “Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own.”  In the realm of LSS, I’ve absorbed, discarded what is not important and created a path that is uniquely my own.  It appears, at face value, easy to understand. With about eight years of practice and thousands of pages of reading, it brings to mind an intellectual perspective that, when creating a paradigm for change, the skill level equal to a Mixed Martial Artist who enters an Octagon.  I’ve had over 40 years of karate training and, after moving up the food chain in Lean Six Sigma, I recognized the similarities.  This is anecdotal as with many of the examples I’ll be using throughout the book.  For example, decades ago, when I first took karate, I endured long hours in the dojo.  The day I wrapped that coveted black belt around my waist, I realized I was an ineffective fighter.  The techniques were exceptional in the dojo, useless in a ring or street.  To illustrate, there was a short period of my life where I worked as a bouncer for several night clubs and, in one instance, fell short of defending myself, relying upon the “duck, grab, lift and slam” technique I learned from football.  Martial arts notwithstanding, I reacted to whatever it took to defend myself.
            A short time later, I took classes with my old friend, Abe Belardo who, at the time, included kick boxing to his curriculum.  For those unaware, kick boxing is a popular but brutal sport popular in Thailand, less regimen than karate, emphasis placed on endurance and marathon shin kicks on heavy bags and on each other.  Karate allowed me to segue into this different form of martial arts that taught me, of all things, to change my way of thinking, adapt less rigid standards and allow me to use similar tools, albeit, differently.
            Years ago, when I attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, I took a class in Business Administration.  I learned theory and examined case studies.  I learned the works by Fredrick Taylor, Frank Galbreth, Ed Deming and Peter Drucker.  Classes were short and intense.  I learned very little except to understand that scientific methods were incorporated in business management.
            Fast forward to the 1980s, when I managed a small insurance claims paying office.  I attended a week long seminar on Peter F. Drucker’s “Management by Objectives.”  It was intense and, from what I remembered, it taught me to appreciate goals and achieve objectives.  As a young manager, I implemented what I learned, executed the principles but wasn’t sure if the gains were worth the effort.  Years passed, and I switched jobs between insurance administration and agricultural management.  It was not until in the late 1990’s, when I decided to join forces with an old high school and college buddy.  Together, we co-owned a small durable medical equipment company, servicing Medicare and Medi-Cal (Medicaid) recipients.  It was nothing I could not handle, but it fell outside the scope of my past experience.  It was then I picked up books on Toyota Production Systems (TPS) and Six Sigma to help me run the company efficiently and profitably.  I heard about it through discussions and read great reviews.  I met a person who was a business process manager in the automobile industry.  He and I found work and consulted for a large medical clinic.  I prepared the controlled documentation while he practiced techniques from Lean Six Sigma (LSS) that I recognized from reading.  He earned a Master’s in Business Administration from a prestigious university and operated from a scholarly position.
            When that ended, I took a job as a Raw Materials Buyer for an FDA cGMP medical device manufacturer that specialized in cultured media.  With what I previously researched and studied in LSS, I was pleased to incorporate the LSS knowledge into application.  This company utilized the process along with ISO 13485; the most useful of experiences came from enduring multiple audits.  After many years of day-to-day experience, I decided to earn LSS green and black belt certificates that added to my marketable jobs skills in the oil and gas industry. 
            Presently, this is where I’m at, but during this learning process, I made a decision to share this knowledge with small companies that have little exposure to these powerful tools.
            I wanted to be the guy known in history who helped small businesses benefit from tried and proven techniques used by large deep pocketed companies with staff, equipment and resources.  My way of achieving this is through this guide, a reference that small businesses can refer to without having to attend expensive classes.
            This guide essentially includes ideas based upon a combination of long hours of research, practicing the principles out in the field and dialogue with executive management and rank and file.
            My target is the small owner operator, who struggles to provide a product or service to their unique group of customers.  I’m talking about the hair stylist, employment agency, website developer, interior decorator, boutique, corner store, transmission shop, insurance salesperson, machine shop operator.  Lean Principles can surely work for small and middle sized companies.
            My goal is to provide knowledge without being heavy handed, introducing tools that, if used appropriately and properly, can end up making a big impact.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

My First Karate Class

A college kid in the 1970's got involved in the martial art, motivated by Bruce Lee, Kwai Chang Caine, and Lo Lei in "Five Fingers of Death," a long haired hippie in bell bottom pants, tank top tee shirt and a fu manchu mustache, I took a dive and entered a karate dojo.

I can say the first day in class was foreign, alien, whatever.

Like everything else during this time of my life, when I encountered something new, I spent more time watching, observing, emulating, saying nothing, and hoping my “wild flower” imitation not attract attention. Except for those wearing starchy white karate uniforms with various colored belts announcing their ranks, I noticed others like me, stretching awkwardly, in quiet corners, not making eye contact.

After I walked in, I sat in a chair and took shoes and socks off, tucking them neatly away in a place where I wouldn’t forget them. I stood at the edge of the dojo floor, bowed and entered. It was the first time I experienced hard wood floors on bare feet. It hurt.

Right then I realized how much of a wuss I was now that I’m taking “kay-RAH-tay”

I held off purchasing a gi or karate uniform. I was allowed to wear sweat pants and a white tee shirt. I noticed that gis worn by the students were cleaned and pressed before each and every workout.

This was the start of a strict code I was not familiar of.

A high regard for manners was a requirement; any breach, large or small, was not tolerated. Screw up and the student forfeited his membership. During my years of training, neither had I heard nor experienced a case when this code was ever broken. When I first took martial arts, I lived in an era when manners were mandatory. My family lived poorly working in the farm fields of California’s Central San Joaquin Valley. As a young child, I had few possessions: several sets of clothes: One for play or work; a set for school, and a fresh clean set for church or formal events. Though mom and dad earned a meager wage as itinerant farm laborers, we dressed in fine suits and dresses at church. I was uncomfortable spending the effort trying to appear proper-like. When I joined class, I was in college, and thoroughly not interested in wearing formal clothing. I was not interested in adding another set of rules to my confusing life. Despite this feeling, I forged forward, not much to accept the rules but more to learn. As long as I was not asked to train butt naked, I tolerated the clean gi, immaculate training quarters, etiquette and filial obedience. A uniform appearance was necessary as not to be an issue in learning: One less thing to worry about while learning something new and perfecting old. It’s like wearing pressed slacks, white shirt and red tie to an interview. Conservative by today’s standards, by wearing conservative clothes, appearance will not be a reason for not getting the job. As with the whole aspect of etiquette, manners and regimental mannerisms, there’s an attitude of respect and humility. Though the instructor didn’t have to spell it out specifically, I learned quickly that the process of learning evolved further and deeper than what was in front of me. I found that these rules developed character and made me a better person.

When I was a child, I was taught to say, “yes sir,” “yes ma’am” to elders, teachers, clergy, police and so forth without knowing why. In retrospect, prior to entering (and leaving) the dojo, and greeting the sensei, I was taught to bow and say the word “os,” short for “onegai-shimasu” (oh-neh-GAH-ee-she-mah-SOOH) which, translated, means “Will you help or teach me, please?” An act of respect, and a culture of self control and etiquette all the while learning self defense. “Excuse me and I apologize, but I must rip your eyes out with my tiger fist technique.” Peace and compassion, the foundation combines manners and killing skills.

On that first day, Sensei Willard Thomas had us stand in line with senior students at one end and beginners at the other. We waited several seconds as the dojo fell silent, silent, the experience unnerved me. I watched intently as he knelt by first dropping onto one knee and then the other. Everyone followed suit. I struggled to imitate these movements as the floor made my knees and instep hurt. As I ached and fought the urge to readjust, others around me remained frozen like statues. It was the first time I did anything like this and it was weird, uncomfortable but yet intriguing. Sensei made eye contact with me and then yelled “mokutsu!” (moh-koot-SOOH) I had no idea what it meant, but I saw him close his eyes. I naturally followed along. As the seconds ticked, I tried to let whatever supposed to happen, happen. What I remembered through closed eyes was nothing but darkness and an after burn of trailing images. I concentrated on this darkness as eyes focused on the back of eyelids, the world around me ticked by. Though among others, I felt alone and weird.


It was so quiet I could hear my heart beat. The person next to me breathed quietly while a strange wheezing came from a young child who knelt on the other side of me.

I stifled a laugh.

My mind then wandered thinking of the roof caving in, crashing down upon all of us except on sensei who remained untouched and unaffected. I felt my breath leave me, suffocating. I needed to leave, but fought the feeling. The seconds ticked by and I screamed inward.

Then through the blackness I heard him speak, “As students of karate, leave all thoughts behind you. Your home, your school, your church. Everything. All thoughts, except karate, no longer exist.” I felt an overwhelming peace. Something happened; I did not fight it and enjoyed this strange ride. A long period of silence followed and then “Mokutsu-yame!” (moh-koot-SOOH-YAH-meh) I opened my eyes just to see what’s supposed to happen next, and everyone has their eyes opened and trained on sensei. He bowed in kneeling position, forehead barely touching the floor. Everyone bowed back in respect.

My forehead hit the floor.


I was in college experiencing life away from home, difficult studies, freedom, an open mind accepting the deliverance of time. Learning new skills such as dealing with adverse personalities, this new culture felt like cold ice on my feet. It was in the early ‘70s, during a time of my life when drugs and sex were supposedly acceptable, appropriate and safe. As a result, the last thing on my mind was to be disciplined, military in scope, enamored in a strange culture. Mokutsu (the Japanese word for “meditation”) removed outside thoughts and I transformed into a sponge for learning.

This training helped me, 35 years later. Though I’ve trained in other systems, Shorin Ryu and Shotokan Karate, Aikijujitsu, Okinawan weaponry, Muay Thai Kickboxing, and Taijiquan, what I learned from sensei taught me how to learn by first relinquishing all external thoughts.

I learned that in order to be good in anything, I had to be a good student, hard worker, an expert on the foundation of studies. In math, grammar, history, science or music, I found that if I mastered the fundamentals, it would be easier for me to climb the learning ladder than had I bypassed basics.

Karate consisted of three basic blocks, three basic kicks, a whole host of punches plus an assortment of striking techniques. Sensei Thomas’ curriculum was the same, no different than the last. I started awkward, stumbling. Others were like me, some better the next. Mirrors showed their determination. Senior students led by example and I willed my arms, torso and legs to mimic. Sensei stopped by and corrected me on periodic intervals. As days and months passed my form improved. I progressed quickly, partly because I was an athlete, mostly because I practiced at home and was motivated. My self-confidence soared. This helped with, of all things, college, which prior to the martial arts training suffered. It was my first year in college and I devoted part time effort to studies. The college party scene sent me reeling backwards that I needed to change. Karate training brought back “discipline,” a concept that I heard in conversations helped me. Discipline a military concept was something I didn’t practice prior to taking sensei Thomas’ class. When we stood in horse stance for the entire class duration, my legs burned and I hurt like I’ve never hurt before. Everyone else in class suffered while sensei Thomas remained in his stance punching, striking and blocking, a stoic presence. Not wanting to be outdone, I mirrored his stance, lower than most others in class, accepting his challenge to progress.

This taught me to shut up, listen, and emulate.

Martial arts is a discipline that teaches by example. On occasions, the instructor corrected through instruction, but most of the time, I just copied (monkey see, monkey do).

I can say that the most important part about life is to appreciate its intricacies, learn the basics and become an expert, and in this case, the better copy cat you are the better. When the time comes when you’ve mastered the art of copying, then you can begin designing your own path...your own destiny. Hai. Wakirimaska?

Monday, November 21, 2016

Poem by Yee Yee Sugar Pea

Love trumps hate
Makes us irate
Fear perpetuates
When hate insinuates
Love brings light
Wrongs made right
Hearts made bright
Peace will be in sight
When love is all
By Yee Yee Sugar Pea

Pendejo Virus

I remembered a college PhD professor ask a student to give him an example of a metaphor. The student, an ignorant bastard, stood up and said, "This class is bullshit." The professor told him. "A rather crude example, but adequate." You may sit down. The student sat down not knowing why what he said was a correct answer, and a Mexican friend of mine who, later on in life, ended up being a college professor, leaned over and whispered to me..."You see? That...is why this world is going to be full of "pendejos". Like a virus, it'll spread like wildfire! We're doomed!"
That was in 1971, and at the time, I didn't believe him.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Made the mistake of turning on the television this morning to watch the election results.  Now I'm staring at the t.v.  It's 6:30 p.m. and the news are reporting the count on a real time basis. Win.  Lose.  Crazy stuff.