Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Unite for Hunger



Today, "Bloggers Unite" has asked bloggers across the globe to write a post on hunger. The reason is to increase sensitivity and awareness and alert yourself on ways to get involved with the fight against starvation.

Like many pressing issues, most of us become desensitized by gaudy statistics and geographical distance. It's not real for us.

So I'm asking you to make it real for you. For one day.

Challenge yourself to go an entire day without eating. Just 24 hours. By accepting this difficult task you will have empathy for citizens across the world. It may prompt/inspire you to get involved in the cause.

Sometimes all it takes is a little exposure to appreciate what others feel on a daily basis. Below are a few of the 'gaudy' statistics to give you a better idea of how pervasive the problem is.

In the Asian, African and Latin American countries, well over 500 million people are living in what the World Bank has called "absolute poverty"

- Every year 15 million children die of hunger

- For the price of one missile, a school full of hungry children could eat lunch every day for 5 years

- Throughout the 1990's more than 100 million children died from illness and starvation. Those 100 million deaths could be prevented for the price of ten Stealth bombers, or what the world spends on its military in two days!

- The World Health Organization estimates that one-third of the world is well-fed, one-third is under-fed one-third is starving- Since you've read this post, at least 200 people have died of starvation. Over 4 million will die this year.

- One in twelve people worldwide is malnourished, including 160 million children under the age of 5.

- The Indian subcontinent has nearly half the world's hungry people. Africa and the rest of Asia together have approximately 40%, and the remaining hungry people are found in Latin America and other parts of the world.

- Nearly one in four people, 1.3 billion - a majority of humanity - live on less than $1 per day, while the world's 358 billionaires have assets exceeding the combined annual incomes of countries with 45 percent of the world's people.

- 3 billion people in the world today struggle to survive on US$2/day.

- In 1994 the Urban Institute in Washington DC estimated that one out of 6 elderly people in the U.S. has an inadequate diet.

- In the U.S. hunger and race are related. In 1991 46% of African-American children were chronically hungry, and 40% of Latino children were chronically hungry compared to 16% of white children.

- The infant mortality rate is closely linked to inadequate nutrition among pregnant women. The U.S. ranks 23rd among industrial nations in infant mortality. African-American infants die at nearly twice the rate of white infants.

- One out of every eight children under the age of twelve in the U.S. goes to bed hungry every night.

- Half of all children under five years of age in South Asia and one third of those in sub-Saharan Africa are malnourished.

- In 1997 alone, the lives of at least 300,000 young children were saved by vitamin A supplementation programmes in developing countries.

- Malnutrition is implicated in more than half of all child deaths worldwide - a proportion unmatched by any infectious disease since the Black Death

- About 183 million children weigh less than they should for their age

- To satisfy the world's sanitation and food requirements would cost only US$13 billion- what the people of the United States and the European Union spend on perfume each year.

- The assets of the world's three richest men are more than the combined GNP of all the least developed countries on the planet.

- Every 3.6 seconds someone dies of hunger

- It is estimated that some 800 million people in the world suffer from hunger and malnutrition, about 100 times as many as those who actually die from it each year.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Concert Tonight...



Move Along, Move Along, Like I know ya do...

Tonight, Rocker Rachel and I are going to a concert at the 9:30 Club in D.C. One of my favorite bands, The All-American Rejects are performing.

Can't wait.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Movie Day...



Yesterday night I watched a film in my favorite theater in D.C., the E Street Cinema. It was a quiet Sunday afternoon, a scorching hot one too. The E Street Cinema is the independent and foreign film haven in the beltway. The clientele is notably unique from the more trendy establishments. It's not far-fetched to overhear a discussion on atheism in the hallways. Or to have the hallways displaying thoughts of atheism.

Plus, they sell alcohol.

One thing that always fascinated me about DC is how desolate the city lulls on Sundays. It's like it survives only through soft winds and the homeless. You can walk amongst some of the most important buildings in the world, and hear nothing but the faint footsteps of a security guard. It's peaceful. It also shows how rapidly things change.

I saw the film Lymelife, starring Alec Baldwin, Timothy Hutton and the Culkin brothers. It took place circa 1979, and unravels the story of how irresponsible decisions determine who we become. And shape our relationships with friends, family and lovers. But aren't those one in the same? Aren't we just what others think we are? What difference does reality/actuality mean, when the rest of the world harbors a certain viewpoint about us? Moreover, what is reality?

Unless we live completely devoid of outside judgment, we're only as good as others think we are. Which is beyond our control. So we do our best to influence it through our actions and communication.

But when our heads hits the pillow, aren't we the ones who sleep with ourselves? Shouldn't the emphasis be placed on self rather than others? It's our lack of control of others perceptions that requires the emphasis to remain on us.

Although it's rendered meaningless if we set aside that selfish tendency of constant introspection and focus more on others perceptions (of us). Even as many of us maintain an inward peace and character, others cast a shadow. Which has to be one of the most frustrating things in the world...

Maintaining innocence when everyone else deems you guilty.

The dichotomy is fist-clenching. The testament of the character and will of the perceived defendant is the (amount of) effort they expunge to negate the notion of their guilt.

To me, that always reconciled that which they were guilty of. Perceived guilt, that is.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Some pics...


Here is VP Joe Biden on inauguration day. Man it was cold. We were very close - this was on the side of the White House.


Here is a pic of my coworkers and I posing for a brochure for The Washington Center. Eating at a Middle-Eastern restaurant in Dupont Circle.


He was quite a stallion. The Cherry Blossom festival.


Pretty tree...


That'd be me sipping my green tea in front of the Jefferson Memorial.


Ditto.


Thousands of people were out there. You could rent paddle boats too.


Three friends from work, Ashley, Erin and Patsy.


Me at work.


A more typical expression with weird lighting.


This should be my theme pic, don't ya think???
FYI - if you click on the picture they go full screen.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Donald Boy...

I was just treated at an Indian buffet lunch by a coworker on L Street. And guess who I saw as I was crossing the street - Donald Rumsfeld. I was shocked at how tiny he was. Maybe 5'8". Things are starting to make more sense now...God I hate short men, they're pathetic. He's a handsome little guy though.
This would've been more apt for twitter, but as I don't have an account this will have to suffice.
P.S. He was coming from none other than K Street. Shocker huh?

Going to the Dominican Republic...



Two months from today I will be riding the winds on a kiteboard in Cabarete, Dominican Republic with Pops. After doing much research, he phoned yesterday to give me the good news. In addition to kite-surfing, surfing and snorkeling, we are going to do some donating and exploring. The surfing takes place at three times throughout the day - 6:30AM-8:30AM, 10:30-12:30, and sometime in the afternoon.

As baseball is hands-down the most popular sport there, we will be bringing balls and gloves (and maybe bats if we can find a way to transport them) for impoverished children in the region. Pops and I were both inspired by a recent Nicolas Kristof column in last Sunday's NY Times.

Hence, I am going to email everyone at my work to see if they have anything they would like to donate vicariously. We also may volunteer at a relief agency for a couple days.

Cabarete is on the northern coast of the Dominican
(almost directly north of the capitol, Santo Domingo). Him and I will stay in a bungalow right near the beach and 500 yards away from the city.

I will be refreshing my Spanish for the trip and trimming down so I can fit into a wetsuit. I hope to blog about my adventure (similar to Vietnam and Israel) given Internet access.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Thoughts...



I've been described as more of a man's man than a lady's man. For obvious reasons. First, I'm not a pretty boy. I rarely, if ever shave my face because I refuse to stand complicit in the robotic chain of normalcy. Some men are forced to shave per their jobs. I pity them.

Second, I'm borderline arrogant and assuredly confident. I prefer gregarious or affable but have been typecasted at times as overbearing and difficult. My charm with women comes from the rough edges of my behavior more than the soft compliments I (infrequently) shower. However, in my defense, women weigh the compliments I deliver heavier than the cheap platitudes other men offer. They have to earn my kindness and affection and when they receive it, it's all the more worthwhile.

Third, other men respect me. Whether on the basketball court or in a work meeting. I have the alpha-male personality. Guys joke around with me and imitate my style. The younger bucks at the gym even solicit advise.

All of the aforementioned are accurate, yet I spend almost all of my time with women. I prefer to. There have been times in my life where I have had 'my boys'. But mostly, I spend my days and nights with women. Lots of them. I've been 'romantically involved' with over 60 women in my life. And plenty more platonically.

Women intrinsically desire to nurture and improve others. Especially their man. Some men are quick to change to satiate the desire of their lady. Some shun the woman's efforts and leave her frustrated and feeling powerless.

I believe it's best to work with what you have, while staving off the inclination to remain stagnate.

I don't believe men should fundamentally change for a woman. For a few reasons.
First, women should choose a man based on who he is. Not in spite of it. If he's a conservative Muslim, why waste your time if you're a liberal Christian? Sure, he may convert, but how much respect do you have for the transformation?

Second, women are quite fickle and change their minds quicker than men do. Therefore, if you're constantly at the whim of your lover's decree, you're setting yourself up for a lose-lose situation. She may no longer feel the way she did and she surely won't value the change (in her man - who she's seeking to be dominant) by her clever manipulation.

Now, I should've prefaced that with my resistance to rigidity. Men should change. And they should appreciate the input of their lover. But what needs to change are the minor things, the leaves - not the branches or stump.

Too many women spend months/years futilely asking their man to show more affection (not a personal problem just an example of a common mistake women make).

Not considering that this man is not hard-wired for such behavior. Even if he does change, the behavior is forced and unnatural.

Women should choose their man based on who he is, not just how he treats her. A woman should never waste her time with a man who doesn't treat her with love, respect and kindness, so I won't even delve into that. But many women stay with a man because he treats her well. Instead of being with him because of who he is.

This is an introduction to a later post on the prevalence of Desperate Housewives and moreover unfulfilled women in the US. So don't analyze this post too much, this is just a way to clear my head for a later post...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

R.I.P. Uncle Eddie

My great-uncle, Edward Pugozeno, passed away yesterday afternoon. He went into a coma a couple days earlier and passed away peacefully. My Mother watched him take his final breaths and held his hand.
Her voice on the phone yesterday was crushing. She sounded broken.
He helped raise her when she was a kid and she helped care for him when he aged. Wonderful karma.
He will be cremated and my Mom is going to fly to Pittsburgh, PA to have him buried by his family.
I believe my Mom is now the oldest person on her side of my family. The matriarch.
R.I.P.
Below is an email my Mom just sent out -

Dear dear friends and family: Well the long ordeal has ended for my beloved uncle....He died yesterday at 12:05pm...It was not an easy end, but with hospice help and lots of love and prayers he was able to leave his wounds, his pain, his suffering here on earth.....I cannot thank you all enough for the support, the cheerful e-mails, the love you sent my way...The song is true"I get by with a little help from my friends"......My uncle's obituary will be in the Pittsburgh Post-gazette on Sunday .www.post-gazette.com ; under Edward Pugozeno......There is a guest book there --on-line (new thing for me)( for those of you who knew him) to leave a comment if you would like...... He was so special to me and I am glad we had these last 2 years together It was such a privilege to be able to care for him for so long....... A big hug to all of you, Jan

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Running For Alex...



I met Alex Heide when I was playing for Team Phoenix in the Maccabi Games. I was representing the metropolitan Phoenix area between the ages of 14-16 in the national Jewish Olympics for youth (The Maccabi Games). The Games last a week and we were generously provided with host families who put their lives aside to focus on ours during that timeframe. *Side note - Alex and I won two national championships together.

The games were held each summer in a different city. The first was in Tuscon, AZ. The second, Sarasota, FL. And the third, Memphis, TN. We stayed in mansions suitable for a King and Queen. With Jewish Mom's in tow spoiling us every step along the way.

Alex was from one of the biggest schools in the state, Mountain Point (every high school in AZ has either the word Mountain or Cactus in it or both) (not true) a powerhouse for basketball/football.

He used to tease me about playing 4A (5A was the highest). I'd tease him about playing JV. He'd tease me about my lazy eye. I teased him about his nose. We laughed and hustled eachother like best friends.

Alex is a ladies man. He was one of those kids that had facial hair before a driver's permit. I was always a tad envious that whenever we met up with girls on our trips, I was always second best. But I had a better jump-shot, so I figured I made up for it.

Alex is a caring guy. We used to have long talks about our families and girls and life in general. Deep stuff for a couple 15 year-olds. Only later on did I find out (his father pulled me aside) that Alex really looked up to me.

Since then, I felt a sense of obligatory effort. I wanted to be a good role model for him so he respected me even more. And so I lived up to his lofty expectations.

Even after we breached the age limit and could no longer compete, we would come back to Phoenix every Summer for the alumni game. It was even more fun that my brother was starring on the current team. Alex and I shared a special bond. I deferred to him when we played on the court together and visa versa. After the game we would chat for an hour or so and then get some Philly cheesestakes together.

About 2 years ago, a few months before the alumni game I heard some terrible news. Alex was in a horrific snowboarding accident and broke some vertebrae in his neck. He was partially paralyzed.

I was shocked.

One of the alum's had contacts with the Phoenix Suns and brought him a signed ball with all the players' signatures on it. We hosted a grand fundraiser to assist the family with his medical payments.

That alumni game was very melancholy. It was the first time I saw Alex since the accident. In a wheelchair. With no leg movement and limited upper-body dexterity.

And all smiles.

He didn't want us to pity him. He wanted to sit on the bench and ridicule me and my hairstyle. And tease me about the pretty 17 year-old I had who came and watched me.

As I drove away that day I broke down. I told Jessica, for us, that was one painful afternoon. To have to see someone you care for so much - incapacitated. But for Alex, that's life. That's everyday.

Tomorrow morning I said, I'll wake up and decide if I want to swim, bike, run, play basketball, etc. For Alex - he'll endure a couple of hours of showering and dressing himself. He may never walk again.

So I run for Alex. I run for Alex because he can't. I run for Alex because he pushes me to be better. I run for Alex because he's that little voice in the back of my head telling me not to quit.

It's the reason I push myself so hard on the treadmill. The reason that I could feasibly run a sub-5minute mile within the next couple months. The reason when my sides ache and my heart pounds ferociously that I endure the discomfort.

And I surely don't relegate his influence to exercise. My problems pale in comparison to the challenges he faces on a day-to-day basis. I have to consistently remind myself of this.

Alex Heide will never fully understand the profound influence he's had on my life. I haven't spoken to him in over a year.

I hope we remember men like Alex when we experience hardship. Whether physical, emotional, financial etc. The source of inspiration and perseverance should enable us to endure. Enable us to push ourselves and succeed.

Thanks, Alex.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Poem...



Dazed and confused is the presence I bare,
Lacking the knowledge of how I got there,
Weren't things fine just moments ago?,
Now I stand empty with nothing to show,

I don't deserve pity from near or afar,
Reckless abandon - how I played my part,
Destruction is but a phrase in the day,
All are slipping further and further away,

Pathetic attempts to salvage the lot,
Left me desolate more often than not,
It's as if the ball kept growing bigger,
To stop or slow down - you must be a kidder,

Deceit and betrayal scooped me up on a platter,
I learned from the best, I'm just a rung on a ladder,
Save this one doesn't progress or go up,
It twist and it turns, makes me dizzy, throw up,

If life is measured in helpings of love,
Is my portion small or closed like a glove?,
If it is - haven't I gotten what I deserved?,
For using alcohol to neutralize the burn,

The remorse that exudes from my happy facade,
Supersedes my justification for disbelieving in God,
The lack of faith I have transcends people,
The Deus ex machina was realizing I'm weaker,

And now all I hope for is a blank canvass,
Void the past irrelevant, replace the mattress,
Blame I embrace and apply to myself,
One day will be exposed by one thorough delf

Friday, April 10, 2009

Getting Mauled By a Cougar...



I'm a fairly aggressive guy. If I want something, I alter the circumstance until things unfold favorably toward me. Often through persistence and wit. Until finally, the object of my desire submits to my incessant efforts. My lord, this guy just won't give it a rest - kind of like that.

Therefore, I'm not very shy when it comes to pursuing an attractive female. What takes me aback is when the tables are turned.

Three examples in one week have prompted this post btw.

The first came from a girl my age at a grocery store. I was in normal Washington D.C. post-workout attire (t-shirt, long sleeve shirt unbuttoned, leather jacket, shorts) and in the checkout (pun intended) line.

I was zoned in at something fascinating, pry like Octo-Mom discovered eating her children on some 4 magazines when the girl behind me said something.

Her: Hey, you gonna buy one of those drinks for me?
Me: (Because of my poor hearing) Excuse me? (Yes I realize I wouldn't know exactly what she had said if this was a 100% accurate story but inaccuracies are part of journalism)
Her: I asked if you were gonna buy one of those drinks for me (smiles).
Me: (Pause) Heellll no.
Wait, what just happened. Did I just say hell no? WTF am I thinking.
Her: Wow, not just a no, but heelll no, huh?
Me: Oh, Well. Ya. I mean I don't really even like these drinks. You wouldn't like them. I mean they're ok. Not that I know your tastes or anything. Just these are...
Her: (Immediately couldn't be more turned off - unless I were a Sumo wrestler with the face of Jason from Friday the 13th.) Have a nice day!

Walking out of the Safeway flustered and embarrased, I kept asking myself. My lord, was this the first conversation I ever had with a woman?

Episode 2

Dressed in a cut-off after lifting arms with hi-black socks, I draw attention. Preferably from women my age. I purchased my sandwhich and head to the condiment stand to get napkins. A dark-haired woman in her early 40's approaches.

Her: Hi!
Me: Oh, hey sorry (assuming I was blocking her access)
Her: What's your name?
Me: Oh, I'm Conor. You know like (trying to think of famous Conor's) an Irish guy.
Her: Well, Hi Irish Conor.
Me: Well, I'm not Irish really. My family. I come from a confused family.
Her: (Laughs) What do you feed that hot body (I swear - verbatim) of yours after you workout?
Me: Oh, nothing special. Just some veggies and meat. Trying to lose weight.
Her: Doesn't look like you need it. (Wry Grin)
Her: Anyway, I'm a personal friend of Theresa Heinz Kerry.
Me: Oh, wow, big fan. They even have her ketchup here.
Her: Ya, well I'm sure she can get you some money.
Me: If anyone it'd be her.
Her: Can I have your business card, I'm gonna call you.
Me: (In little boy's voice) Ok.

The third episode I can summarize in a few sentences. Woman at stoplight tells me I look great. Says men don't dress like me anymore. I say, that's because they have style. She tells me I'm handsome and likes my sunglasses. I walk away nervously.

I talked to Pops about this recent happening, and he said it's commonplace.

Pops: Oh, ya, happens to me all the time. S@#$, even yesterday a woman bought my coffee for me without me knowing it.
Me: Dad, you mean Mom?
Pops: Another time a woman put her business card in my shirt as I was lifting weights.
Me: You wear polos when you lift? Wait, you lift? Hold on, wasn't that your friend Joe?
Pops: Point is, get used to it son. Women will always love the bad boy.

So there you have it. I really need to step my game up and be armed and ready when the next one approaches.

Which may never happen.

Especially given my previous disasters.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Riddle



I'm on the cusp of history,
My nemesis seems to get the best of me,
My recent implosion isn't typical,
Becoming a father will be magical,

My face shines from the blades,
And my eyes focus on the green...

Who am I???

Monday, April 6, 2009

Cylces....



The walls we build in our lives as protectionism instruments serve a purpose. They hem us in and safeguard our exposure to potential pain or loss. They keep the predators at bay because their efficacy is never that strong.

Unfortunately, they limit us as well. They serve as an impediment to living life to its fullest. To continue to progress with the maturation of an adult, we must learn to lower the barriers encapsulating us.

A friend taught me a valuable lesson this weekend. She said getting hurt and opening yourself up to the possibility of disaster is the only way to live fully. By embracing our feelings and embarking on a risky endeavor.

I'm being vague, so let me supply an example.

Hopefully most of my readers have felt what it's like to really love someone. Whether a parent, friend or lover, the benevolent watchful eyes we peer through are special. I would also hope that most of my readers have understood what it feels to have that taken away. Smashed. To lose something you considered invaluable.

What matters is not really loss itself (although it serves a purpose in and of itself). What's most important is the response and reaction to the debacle.

Some of us grow harder from these experiences. We construct shields that are impenetrable. After some time to heal, we drag around the albatross of our past failures.

Which ends up stunting our growth in addition to limiting the wholeness of a new relationship.

The best way to surpass these obstacles is to expose your vulnerabilities once again. It is our very vulnerabilities that soften the harsh terrain of the world. We're supposed to hurt. Hurting means we're doing something right. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross wrote, "There is no joy without hardship. If not for death, would we appreciate life? If not for hate, would we know the ultimate goal is love? … At these moments you can either hold on to negativity and look for blame, or you can choose to heal and keep on loving."

The cycle of living completely requires emptying ourselves. Emptying our love onto others. Embracing the hurt when things collapse. Repeat.

Makes me think of doing laundry :).

So don't fault yourself for lack of judgment. Don't let the bastards get you down. The greatest satisfaction is knowing that you care enough to weather the pain.

Because soon enough, you'll experience that keen eye for affection. Soon enough, love comes booming into our airwaves.

And it will all be worthwhile.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Books I'm Reading...



Something about a bookstore makes me smile. The warm aroma of the brownies from the coffee shop. The pondered, painlessly slow walks from readers down the aisles. The hope of finding a new book by an author I admire. Scoffing at some of the bestsellers. And skimming through the ones with fluorescent titles.

This morning I popped my head in, and, as usual, was suckered in. It's as if the books call out, "Can we help you?"

Me: As a matter of fact, yes you can.
Books: Um, we can't talk you know.
(Other people begin to stare)
Me: Which is why I'm in here, safe away from the general public.

The breadth of knowledge in a bookstore reminds me of an elderly man. Wise. Complete. Still able to attain new information and rotation of the stock (like a change in outfit).

The two books I'm currently reading are; "My Booky Wook" autobiography by Russell Brand. For those of you who don't know, I'm a big fan of his comedy. I also find him very similar to me (although not transparently).

The second book is, "Good Book" by David Plotz. Also written by a comic, this takes a glance at the Torah and his interpretation of it.

If you guys are reading anything interesting (books, not magazines/newpapers) please comment and let me know.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Updates, Updates, Updates...

Updates in my world:

Weight loss: Haven't had many questions about this one, but after dropping 10 pounds, it's been fairly stagnant. I've lost 12 pounds total since my weight loss goal.

MRI Results: This was a real shocker. After taking my MRI last Wednesday I received the results yesterday. And they're not good. My worst fears materialized; I have a partial tear in the ACL graph and cartilage damage in the meniscus. Both came back with problems. Which is amazing because I've continued tennis, basketball, and running on it over the past years. My doctor is referring to me to an ortho-surgeon. Will keep y'all posted.

Moving to Jacksonville: Crazy as my life is, I've decided to pack up and leave DC for Jacksonville. I met a girl out there on my latest recruiting trip and she came and visited me last weekend. I've decided to move out there to be with her, and start a new me for awhile. Should be out of my place by the weekend. Her father runs a marketing firm and I can get a job quickly. Looking forward to some sun!

Hearing Aids: Finally will receive them back tomorrow morning. Yay! I'll be able to hear again. I haven't had them since January so I'll have to readjust all over again.

My Great-Uncle: Still hanging in there. His condition has not improved, but he's still cracking some jokes and complaining. Which is a good thing.

Questions, comments, concerns (anything else I need to update) - leave me a comment?