Reflections on Today

April 15, 2013

DISCLAIMER: this is just a random string of thoughts that came to me today after the bomb blast in Boston

I sent out a tweet earlier that said that I should probably shave my beard in light of what happened in Boston today. I don’t know if I was completely serious when I sent it, but it was definitely a concern that crossed my mind when I first heard of the bomb blasts. Being a brown man in the Midwest, it’s a bit perilous to look too “ethnic” when something of a violent nature occurs.

It’s funny, I’m an individual that is wholly invested in helping other people. I’ve spent countless hours studying and withstood many personal sacrifices to put myself in a position to take care of others. So it strikes me as odd that so much of what I have to offer the world is negated by society’s assumptions of ones character based off appearance.

External identifying factors shouldn’t matter. And yet, I know if I were to go to a bar after the events that occurred today, I’m quite sure I would find myself sitting by my lonesome because people were scared. It was ridiculous to see so many Anti-Islam, Anti-Arab, basically Anti-Brown sentiments shared so quickly after the tragedy was publicized. Everyone is quick to vilify a particular people without question.

Now, I am not Muslim and I am not Arab, but I am a big brown man with a big brown beard in American society. And, to be fair, I didn’t grow the beard for any religious or political reasons. But in any event, IT SHOULDN’T MATTER. I find it hard to believe that people are inherently good or evil based on their religion or ethnicity. We should be able to assess an individual on what they bring to the table. But that’s a pipe dream.

So, it comes down to presenting myself in the least threatening way possible. I just wish that wasn’t the case. Maybe I’ll shave, maybe I won’t. I just think it’s ridiculous that this is a discussion I have to have with myself.

Just Another Mass Text

November 24, 2011

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We’ve entered the season where we get mass texts from people we barely know congratulating and wishing us well during the holiday season. In an effort to stem that tide, I’ve forgone participating in them myself and figured it’d be apropos to just put up a blog post so one could partake in it if they so choose.

Thanksgiving is a time when we reflect on things we give thanks for. Reasons we are thankful range far and wide, but i figured for myself I’d just keep it simple. I am thankful for my friends and family. I cherish the people I interact with on a daily basis. Whether personal or professional, I am very thankful for the people that occupy my life. Y’all are the ones who engage me in debate, push me to try harder, challenge my ideas to make me think, and yes, occasionally entertain my inebriated ramblings. Thank you for helping shape myself into the man I wish to be. I appreciate every last one of y’all, even if we haven’t spoken in a while.

Thanks for fucking with me and my shenanigans. I’m better off for it.

Cheers!

C’est la Vie

April 8, 2011

DISCLAIMER: just wanted to get some thoughts out of my head during my lunch break

Definition of an up and down day:

Up: saved a lot of money on an eye exam for which I don’t have insurance coverage.

Down: Saved the money because the exam revealed a potentially serious medical issue allowing it to be covered by my medical insurance.

While I’m glad to have saved money I don’t really have, I would have gladly paid the full cost to have been dealt a clean bill of health.

Still, what is one to do when they get news like this? Does one wallow in self pity, cry about the situation and continually feed the cycle of negativity? Or should one simply take the news as it comes, deal with the problems that may crop up, and hope for the best?

I quoted a line from Aesop Rock yesterday when I was processing the aftermath of my eye exam:

“Life’s not a bitch, Life is a beautiful woman, you only call her a bitch because she won’t let you get that pussy”

and I think (language aside) it is a very appropriate statement. We always want what’s best for us out of life (naturally) and we think we deserve to only have good things happen to us. However, life doesn’t work that way. We can’t always score. We have to work hard in all aspects of life. Professionally, socially, even in regards to health, we have to work hard to be where we want to be. And even if we put in a supreme effort in all regards, there will be times where we stumble and fall.

It is in those key moments where we find ourselves on the ground, paralyzed by fear and unsure of our next step, that we need to get up, brush ourselves off and ford the river once again (to quote Oregon Trail haha). There will always be challenges in life, we just need to have the courage to face them head on.

I went into the eye exam yesterday thinking at worst I would be needing glasses after years of thinking my eyesight was infallible. I never dreamt that I would be exiting the office with the nerve wracking knowledge that surgery or a lifetime of medication with very little results are real possibilities in my future. But in the end, it’s all good. Either outcome would not be the end of the world. So to hell with wallowing in self pity. C’est la vie.

I bet it would suck to go blind though.

fording the river

fording the river

Rest in Peace, Jimmy

December 16, 2010

DISCLAIMER: This was originally written on January 14th, 2010 after the death of a friend. I’m just putting it on here so I don’t lose it.

When a person you know dies, you wonder what kind of impact this will have on your life. Obviously, when it is someone that is close to you that passes on, the impact can be quite significant. But what if it was someone who wasn’t close to you? Someone you may have known for a long time but would never consider one of your nearest and dearest? I found myself pondering this question when I received the news earlier this morning that one of my high school classmates had died in a car accident the previous night.

To classify him as only a high school classmate would be simplifying it a bit. We had been in the same class since I left the protected environment of private school and entered the public school domain in 5th grade. He was in my homeroom (Mrs. Rodas’ class) and was your regular big, doofy white kid from a small Pennsylvania town. Although academically we were always on different levels, homeroom and the general classes (gym, swimming, health, etc). had us spending enough time together to become pretty good friends.

One moment that stands out particularly in my mind from the thousands of interactions I’ve had with him was when we took a class field trip to Ellis Island in 5th grade. Coolio was the hottest artist that year and his single “gangsta’s paradise” was his crowning achievement . Since this was the age before iPods, the only portable device any of us had for listening to music was a walkman. Each person was trying to outdo the last with what tape they had brought with them on this long trip into the city, and my friend had trumped us all when he answered the question: “What do you have on your tape?”

“I have Coolio’s Gansta’s Paradise back-to-back-to-back-to-back. I taped it off the radio and looped it until the whole tape was full”.

Instantly he had the hottest tape on the field trip and we all had to grumble and accept it. Luckily I was assigned as his field trip buddy so I could easily listen to the hottest song of the year over and over and over again to my hearts content. We had a great time that day, cracking jokes, walking around Ellis Island and listening to Coolio’s masterpiece. It may have even been that trip that cemented my love for hip-hop, all because of one stupid tape.

In the years following 5th grade we grew apart. The innocence of youth degrades to the cliquish behavior of adolescence and as we grew up we went our separate ways. Although we were still cordial, we both joined groups on the opposite ends of the spectrum. There was no real overlap of friends or interests, and consequently the friendship deteriorated. By the time high school had ended, he had fallen off the map and I was ready to go try and conquer Temple University. Over the years, when I would come home for break from college, we would randomly run into each other and try to catch one another up with the goings-on in our lives.

The last time I saw him was about a year ago. Again, there was no real deep, meaningful connection. Just more of the same, sharing stories, seeing what’s new with each other, the kind of pleasantries you exchange with anyone you meet after an extended time. And now I sit here,in the second week of 2010, reminiscing about a dead friend and trying to remember what exactly it was that we talked about that last time. I can honestly say that I haven’t got a clue. I’m fairly certain I would have talked to him about medical school but for the life of me I can’t remember what it was he was telling me he was doing. I guess it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle in life that you tend to focus on your own thing and forget about everyone else. No one ever thinks “this could be my last conversation with this person”, you just say your piece and get on your way. I guess that’s what I’m trying to discourage by writing this. Take the time to savor the conversations you have with acquaintances. Try to shift focus from yourself and focus on what someone else has to offer. You never know when it could all fall apart.

To Jimmy Bonser, Rest In Peace man. You definitely made an impact on my life, even if I haven’t quite figured out what it was yet. I wish we could have one more pleasantry-filled conversation so I could really pay attention, not just stand there, half-listening and nodding politely. I wish I had more of an idea as to what was going on with you. 25 is way too young to go, but I hope you’ve found yourself in a better place.

Don’t Be That Guy (Or Girl)

November 30, 2010

DISCLAIMER: I wanted to save this post until I reached my goal, and initially I envisioned it as a triumph story rather than what it ended up being, but after what I witnessed tonight I felt it was important to get out now.

I’m a huge advocate of the gym. I try to go as often as possible, fitting it in whenever my crazy schedule allows. A year ago I was extremely overweight, a result of gross negligence for personal health while dealing the crazy stress from school. Poor eating habits and excessive drinking led to me ballooning up from 200 lbs to 286(!) in about a 20 month span. After realizing how far things had spiraled out of control, I decided to try to regain control and get back to a respectable weight. It took a lot at first, because as much as I said that I wanted to do this, that motivation was not enough. I felt great trepidation at the idea of going to the gym. Not because I thought it would be tough, which it was, but because I was very embarrassed at the state of my body, so much so that I didn’t want to go to the ideal place to help me deal with the issue (the ultimate Catch-22). I thought I would be subjected to ridicule from the other patrons and would never hear the end of it. I credit my friends who went with me and my family who kept me motivated to help me get over these feelings and get me to go to the gym. Once those first 5-10 lbs came off and there was a noticeable difference, it filled me with the confidence to continue working on it, realize that the change CAN be made, and become at home in the gym, knowing I was working towards a great goal. Here I am, 11 months later, and I stand at 220, almost back to where I want to be.

Some Before/After pictures:

March 2008

December 2009

Tonight, 12/2/2010 (Sorry, BB camera sucks). At the gym, obviously.

Some people, however, don’t have a strong network to build their confidence and keep them motivated. And yet they still try to go to the gym. They realize the problems they have and want to do something about them. It’s sad to see, then, that more often than not, other people try to tear them down when they are only trying to better themselves. Case in point, what happened earlier tonight:

After finishing with my lifting, I went to the row of ellipticals (yeah I use an elliptical. Get over it) to do the cardio portion of my workout. there was only one available machine at the end, so I hopped on, programmed what I wanted to do, and set off. The two people next to me were obviously gym regulars, in good shape and working hard on the ellipticals.

Then, on the bike in front of us, was a short, stout girl. If I were to guess, I would put her in her early 20s, about 5’2″, probably about 225. She was working diligently on the bike, building up a good sweat, trying hard to burn the fat. It was clear that she was putting in a concentrated effort.

The people next to me were talking to each other but I didn’t really pay too much attention to the conversation they were having. After all, I had my music to keep me company. By chance, I happened to skip a song and I heard the one guy say to his friend, “Look, shes jiggling everywhere!” I look up and I see him pointing at the girl on the bike in front of us. His friend chimed in with “Haha her fat ass just needs to give up. She’s never gonna get in shape”. Immediately, the girl stopped pedaling, jumped off the bike, and made a mad dash to the locker room. I sat there dumbfounded, trying to process what I had just seen.

My heart broke for the girl. Here she was, trying HARD to get in shape, only to have two dumbasses ridicule her. As soon as I came to my senses, I immediately lashed out at the two douches next to me. “What the fuck is your problem?!? Why would you say some ignorant shit like that?” I went back to where to locker rooms were to see if maybe I could catch her walking out. I just wanted to comfort her and tell her not to let the comments of some idiots get to her. Unfortunately, after waiting around for 15 minutes, she never emerged. Hopefully someone sat her down and talked to her while she was in the locker room.

Being fat, especially in a society that glamorizes the skinny, often lends a frail sense of self-worth to an individual. Comments like the ones above can prove to be soul-crushing and make someone stop trying altogether. When it takes a little bit of time to see the fruits of your labor, one can easily be deterred by someone else’s remarks. I hope to see this girl at the gym again, but I fear the damage may have already been done.

The point in relaying this story, I guess, is to try and change the idea that the only people who deserve to be at the gym are the people who are already in shape. I wasn’t aware that fat people should be ready to be ridiculed when they enter an establishment who’s sole purpose is to help people be healthy. If people were less ignorant and more understanding maybe we’d see the obesity epidemic wane.

Next time you see an overweight person at the gym working hard, maybe shoot them a smile, or a word of encouragement. A little can go a long way. Just please, don’t be that guy.

Bullet Time in Real Life

November 28, 2010

This is REALLY cool. This guy was on a train and used a high-speed camera to take pictures outside of his compartment. He then played the pictures back in slow-motion, which created a Max Payne “Bullet Time” effect. The resulting video is incredible to watch. check it out:

 

To be clear, this is a series of pictures, not a video, so there won’t be any sound. Just trust me and be patient. It’s worth the watch.

Preserving Dying Languages

November 28, 2010

This is a pretty cool project that is underway in NYC.