Monday, November 30, 2009

Thoughts on Relationships...


Relationships are rendered obsolete when a couple doesn't spend any time together. In the barrage of work, exercise, familial commitments, hobbies, school, volunteer service and other daily endeavors; for an active person, relationships are ephemeral. A priority needs to be implemented to preserve the connection and to make the sporadic shared time worthwhile.

Unless you're able to share your hobbies and exercising (which a concerted effort should be made), there flatly isn't much time in the day to share with your sweetheart. However, while self improvement and making a living and working out are all necessary, what may ultimately be more important is the human desire for love. Therefore, while many fervently hustle about wavering between tasks, they're ultimately left empty and unfulfilled.

Over the break I finished the book, "Hell" by Robert Butler. The finale details the protagonist's escape from Hell into Heaven. After a tumultuous and painful experience in Hell, Heaven provides all the comfort he can ask for; his favorite coffee, cheeseburgers, HD TV, great books, pristine scenery and wheels that would make Mercedes blush.

Less than a half hour in Heaven, he recognizes he's seen no other person. No one. A frantic chill overcomes him as he drives around the beautiful pastures and spotless city streets. Nothing. Shortly thereafter he returns to the doorway of which he entered and without hesitation returns to Hell. As painstakingly frustrating as Hell is, his earthly possessions succumb to his innate nature pining for affection and interaction.

Too often do we embark on tasks that seem worthwhile and imperative, while actually they're self-serving. Excessive exercise is a great example. While we accrue strong discipline and garner respect from others, it comes at a high cost. Where we emphasize one area of our lives we neglect another. Time with your significant other is marginalized and perhaps so are his/her feelings.

Communication and reciprocity are the pith of relationships. If you have two individuals who don't require much face time, this may not be a problem. Likewise a co-dependent couple won't likely complain with all the time they share. However, incipient problems materialize when one party deviates too far from the other. One person feels resentment and neglect while the other feels guilt and aggravation.

It's crucial to recognize that although your actions are pertinent to your life, others may misconstrue that notion and personalize a feeling of rejection. Others may not personalize it as rejection, but may feel he/she is culpable for focusing more on themselves than their lover. Make a concerted effort (assuming you value your partner) to communicate the expected time and energy spent into the relationship. Be malleable to circumstance and alterations, but it's best to vocalize these issues.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Enjoy. This morning I ran a run to benefit the homeless before my feast. I didn't break 20 minutes yet, but I'm at least in the vicinity. Enjoy the day off and be safe.
C

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Like a Timeshare


I'm a skeptic. I don't trust people and their nefarious intentions. Well, that's a tad exaggerated I suppose, perhaps not nefarious, more self-serving. Take the dentist for example.

Like many, I dread the biannual trip. With the possibility of fillings, gum disease, plaque removal, radiation from X-Rays, discomfort and pain during the visit, battling insurance companies for coverage, requesting time off from work, and swatting away the barrage of further expenditures are just a few highlights of my reticence.

What's most aggravating is the chicanery into selling the unnecessary. For example, retaining my wisdom teeth is always a salivation for dentists. Ca-ching. While my current magnanimous insurance plan will cover their removal, my Mother still has them in, and according to many there's no imminent reason to remove them. Yet, talking to my dentist it's as if I've contracted swine flu. Action must be taken immediately!

While dentists often refer patients to their friends in oral surgery, I'm not naive to ignore the fact that there is financial incentive at stake. Collusion. Moreover, what causes me to quiver is outright sabotage. Succinctly, dentists either manifesting or exacerbating problems in your mouth (which may or may not be factual). Without the burden of proof (how are we to know any better) and while second opinions can be expensive and inconvenient we need to analytically decide what's best.

Do I trust these fillings are imperative to oral hygiene, or do I ignore the advice and continue brushing and flossing with renewed alacrity? Can we trust these people we depend upon? Should I have to maintain such incredulity into everyday interactions? Where is the fundamental value system in this country?

Fortunately, dentists are an infrequent worry. However there's an abundance of other hesitancy's; doctor check ups, vehicular tune ups, solicitors on the street (think Greenpeace - in DC you'd understand), rental car offices, insurance providers, etc... We're accosted by capitalism in all facets of our lives. To be a conscientious consumer is an arduous and ever present task.

When the bottom line is profit and not service or performance, we're vulnerable to much subterfuge.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Verdict


After much deliberation and consultation, I've decided to dedicate the next month to studying and will apply for my Master's at American University next fall. Shy of a month away, I don't necessarily have ample time to rock the GRE, however it's sufficient to harness my focus and binds me to a date. Vowing to shatter my erstwhile pattern of procrastination, I believe I'm ready to continue my journey academically.

Realistically, I don't want to allude my admittance as a sure thing. It's not. The SIS at AU is a well established, highly competitive program and the acceptance rate is near 20%. I'm required to submit letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, a resume, transcripts, GRE score(s), and of course, completion of the application itself. A tad less than two months away, allows nominal leeway to deviate from this goal.

But really, I had nothing to lose. Worst case scenario: I bomb the test and get denied entrance. If that happens I'd be no worse off than if I postpone this decision altogether. With my parents benison and encouragement, I hope to rise to the occasion. And if I don't, it's a temporary impediment and will agog my energy the next go around.

Don't get me wrong, I think next fall is the right time. In fact, coincidentally, SIS is constructing a new building that will be complete as of next fall. My intent is to matriculate next year and will remain optimistic until that goal materializes.

I can confidently proclaim that attaining this degree can only assist my progress. Regardless whether I specifically work in the international peace realm after graduation, I'll be more mature, better analytically and will have met many influential people in the process. No education is wasted. No life should be wasted. So with that I say thank you for your input on my last post (you too CJ). Unanimity is overrated, but the aggregated opinion I believe is correct.

Friday, November 20, 2009

My Conundrum


Traveling as frequently as I do has its perks. Photographing the landscapes and culture, exploring the intricacies of cities and mingling with the denizens are just a sampling of the highlights. Albeit, drawbacks like paying for rent while I'm away, interrupting my exercise regimen and overall continuity of life are hindrances. Relationships move from passenger to backseat, and interactions like stoplights - become single-serving and haste.

Recently it's become imperative to take advantage of the interstices between recruiting trips. In October, I attended a graduate school fair at American University. I've always had a proclivity toward AU since my previous salad days in 2006. AU hosts one of the best School's of International Service in the nation. In fact, they have a comprehensive, autonomous program where students can fine tune their niche while gaining invaluable work experience and learning from renowned professors.

The grad school fair elicited an inner recognition that attaining my MA is a prerequisite to progressing in DC. The gape of self-aggrandizement (so pervasive at many other campuses) and the communal empathy and altruistic focus allured me toward the SIS at AU. Generally, people are less focused on a 6-figure salary and more occupied with their impact and satisfaction of the work they accomplish (which isn't to say they don't live handsomely).

The next step - getting the parents on board and applying. The former being less arduous, as my folks are outspoken advocates of education. The latter resulting in the conundrum I currently face. The application deadline is fast approaching (mid January), and I have yet to take the exam (much less study profusely).

Therein lies the quandary.

The GRE score is permanent. If I rush to complete this application and do poorly I may inhibit my chances at other schools/programs. However if I wait, I'm prolonging graduate school another year due to my ineptitude. And next fall seems like an opportune time to matriculate.

For those who are unfamiliar, the GRE's biggest section incorporates vocabulary and analogies. Hence why I've made a concerted effort the past few months to eliminate colloquial language and enhance my word choice (see blog posts). The GRE also has a small section on math, two essays and a reading comprehension component.

This weekend I need to make a decision. Postpone or immerse. Tick tock.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Culture at Rutgers


Most campuses I visit have rara avis, features that distinguish them from other schools. Visiting Rutgers - Newark yesterday was no different, as the bland architecture was overshadowed by the hullabaloo and personality of the students. New Jersey has a reputation. Mostly negative and is often described as the 'armpit of America.' However, recognizing the culture and appreciating it instead of approaching it abstrusely has taught me much patience and moreover, respect for diversity.

For example, I have a penchant for fixation on me (shocker, eh?) as I deliver my presentations. Call it ego, call it selfish, I call it respect. I trek from Washington D.C and I'm allotted a measly five/ten minutes to present. The bare minimum, I presume, should imply feigned interest from my audience. Yet, in Jersey, students continue the persiflage much to my chagrin. In fact, many flatly walked out of the classroom to answer cell phones or to head to the restroom making no effort to shield their indifference.

At first glance I was disgusted and angry. I didn't want to waste my time or the company's and after supplemental visits, the pattern continued. During my lunch break I realized it didn't matter if the Pope came to speak they still wouldn't mollify their behavior. The culture was different from what I'm used to. I told myself not to resent it, but to embrace it, play off it.

So I gave it a shot.

And I was shocked at the results. Late in the afternoon at my 1-hour informational session 17 eager faces yearned to learn more about the program. Shouting over one another and preempting my disquisition - with questions I planned on answering my next sentence - I relaxed and allowed myself to be receptive to the environment. The brio in the room was rare and although it was often combative, I sincerely enjoyed the scene.

A year or so ago, I would've ranted today about the lack of respect I received. I would've blasted the campus and its denizens. But this time, it's different.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Stand Up For Peace


Gulping down water after a pick up basketball game in Georgetown, I glanced above me to see a small flashcard advertising a comedy event on campus. Intrigued, I read the details; a conflated stand up comedy event featuring a Muslim and Jewish comic sharing the stage together in a laughable roast of self-deprecation. I was enticed by the combination of two of my favorite things in the world.

And so I went.

Coincidentally, I made plans to attend an event at the Israeli Embassy yesterday. My perspective to the speaker was altered based upon my recognition of his faulty attempt to mollify concerned students antipathy toward Israel. Many college campuses harness students attention on violence, conflict and oppression without acknowledging the advances in science, technology and environmental research in Israel. The speaker reiterated the priorities of his birthplace, while remaining fairly equivocal on political issues.

A couple days earlier I was laughing liberally as a Jew and Muslim spoke of their commonalities and differences in jocular terms. They've toured the world together after years struggling in the New York City comedy scene. Honing their niche, they elucidate the diaspora on themes of love, compassion and friendship. They perform in front of Jews, Muslims, Christians and atheists. Rarely heckled and frequently celebrated, this talented duo gladly answers questions afterward on anything from peace, geography, to the formulation of material.

The dynamic they share and their mutual respect and deference prevailed throughout the show. To spice things up, they requested interaction with the audience. Using a show of hands for proof, they asked where people were from. DC - being a cultural melting pot - I was still astounded at the diversity. There were people from Albania, Palestine, Israel, Morocco, Iran, Egypt and the U.A.E. Muslims, Jews, people who politically should despise one another instead smiling and shaking hands.

There's really not much else to say, but if you get an opportunity to watch these two perform you should. Peace and comedy. Perhaps you can't have one without the other.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Riddle


Latching on like a cub to its mother,
Insipid and dumb following one another,
Dependence is key for this term entails,
Collectivized effort as one prevails,

I'm on tour adjacent to fame,
It's likely you'll not remember our names...

What am I?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dangerfield Syndrome


During this economic recession, it's almost audacious to ask for a raise. While unemployment creeps its ugly head upward of 10% and many organizations experience cutbacks and furloughs, it's an imprudent climate for monetary advancement. Quite frankly, you don't have much leverage unless you're working for an organization who's desisting these brutal consequences.

Managerial responsibility doesn't quell during this environment. In fact, the best managers shine through during these trying times. Rapport between colleagues and positivity is imperative to maintaining an engaged and hard working office. When tangible benefits are unlikely, managers need to augment their sentiment and creatively satiate the demands of employees. The last thing anyone wants is a disgruntled employee under contract.

Therefore, the significance of cordiality and taking the necessary steps to laud falls on the shoulders of employers. Succinctly, a pat on the back and a shot out during meetings can make a huge difference.

Employees need to feel valued. People need to feel valued. I'm the only person in my small business with my title. I'm an anomaly. I'm also one of the youngest members and have felt at times; ridiculed, belittled, ignored and unappreciated. Without crying out like a victim I vocalized my concerns today.

Without reservations.

Many people don't have the gumption I do (for better or worse). As a not-yet 21 year-old in my internship in Alexandria, VA I once requested to be paid at an unpaid placement. After debating with my co-intern and delicately phrasing my words, I met with the President of the company.

He looked at me incredulously.

"You want to be paid? (Pause) Not in 35 years of hosting interns has anyone ever had the audacity to ask for money." (Another long pause)

Me: "Well...what'd you say?"

(smile seeps through) "How much you want?"

Unfortunately, anticipating the worst, I hadn't thought that far in advance. But that's all it took.

"Um, can I get back to you this afternoon?" I asked.

My point is this, appreciate people. Don't make them feel like riffraff. Sporadic efforts produces splotchy results. In this climate more than ever, take the time and ask: How are ya?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Unlikely

It's unlikely we got this far,
Unlikely we depart amicably not marred,
It's unlikely we got along so well,
Unlikely, but this poem won't give you hell,

Shattered pieces from the start,
Shared anguish from throbbing hearts,
Lacking in commonalities but pulled together,
Maturing lockstep for the better,

Independently we strive to be,
However instead improving collectively,
Rubbing off, influential puppets,
Like a magnetic pull that Gepetto summoned,

Inexplicable! claim the raucous chorus,
Laughable they chime - quite humorous,
Little did they know in their tiny minds,
Couldn't grasp delight was intertwined,

Some people judge success on perseverance,
Enduring time, like an extended clearance,
Yet the gauge I measure isn't as stringent,
It's the memories forging a kindred spirit,

Alas some relationships aren't meant to last,
They run their course and leave you with laughs,
We accept our fate no coup d'etat needed,
Sorrow is certain but rationale heeded,

A year went by quicker than I imagined,
Who woulda thought? More than anyone fathomed,
And now it is time to trek the transition,
Altering the paradigm changing the prism,

A piece of my heart you'll always have,
Nothing tangible though, nothing to grasp,
My advice I hope you'll solicit,
My blessings you have, my respect elicited,

As to now what can be said?
Emotions weave through our bodies and thread,
Adjustments we embrace this time apart,
Change we crave further away afar,

It's unlikely I'd be tearing up,
Unlikely this hardened man softened some,
It's unlikely I'd dread this moment,
Unlikely I'd care so deeply to foment...

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Few Pics...

Yep, that's my ride. Shiny, sporty, and look at me, giddy. I rode with the top down in the rain from Bellingham to Seattle weaving in and out of traffic shirtless. Got a lot of thumbs up and a lot of confused stares. Here I am about to meet my Uncle (Mom's Brother and family) for a dinner at a local Indian restaurant by UW-Seattle.

The sunset I convinced myself to pull over for and dig through my luggage for the camera.
Worth it.
Align CenterDefinitely.
After Jersey Boys...not a proponent of leather, but I've had this jacket since I was 18!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Violence and the Culprits


While traveling in the airport yesterday I sat impatiently per my flight was delayed. Wolf Blitzer of CNN was dumbly repeating how he never heard of the school the shooter of the Ft. Hood massacre attended in Bethesda, MD. Blitzer proclaimed he's lived in Bethesda for years and never heard of the campus. His physiognomy was bewildered, confused and dull.

Interrupting his flummery was an automated announcement regarding a new facility built to house veterans in the concourse (at the airport). Similar to a platinum or elite club, this would be accesible to military members as the drone reminded loudly how heroic these people are.

Sick, sick, sick.

The past two ghastly stories favored by the news media: Ft. Hood shootings, and the rapist in Cleveland. No shock that MSM would bolster their squabbling about these stories to sensationalize and stupefy the masses. However, what's the most underreported element in this story?

Both of these murderers were military members.

Many have mentioned the irony that a mental health counselor would partake in a paroxysm. I'm not. He's part of the military industrial complex. The most disgusting, negative, evil system our world has devised. I'm not shocked. In fact, I'm rather stoic as this seems quite normal.

I'm not trying to convey apathy. Oh, I care. But we have got to stop venerating the military. Stop it. Get it out of your head that people are heroes. Every one of you (and me) has been brought up with this seemingly innoucous drug called nationalism, patriotism and respect for veterans.

It's wrong. And it's continuation will sing a chorus of false bravado for years to come. As a nihilist, I reject these aspects of our culture vehemently. I implore my readers to view this issue with disdain, not because of the atrocities. But because of the quotidian obsession and the justification of future military procurement and development.

Our educational system is in collusion and creates purblind citizenry. Almost each person I discuss these issues with dismisses my input cavalierly. Reciting the propogated deception they've been spoon fed since birth, they're unable to view things outside of this paradigm. Instead of revering peacemakers and taking a stand against this abhorrent culture, they applaud the 'heroes' and wave flags in the front yard.

If this blog does nothing else, I hope it offers a refreshing viewpoint. One you won't receive listening to many other bloggers, pundits, or demagogues. You don't have to agree with me, but you should at least not truckle when the bloviators spin you like a dreidel.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Staying in Touch


This week I've been back in my hometown, Phoenix. Returning so infrequently, it's no surprise I don't have many friends in the area. Some, like me, have moved away. Others I've lost touch. Yesterday, my sentimentality was challenged as I rehashed old memories by visiting my old stomping grounds. I was nostalgic.

Sauntering at my alma mater Cactus Shadows High School, I coincidentally bumped into my cross country coach Patty Egan. Coach Egan has a twinkle in her eye and a wry smile that habitually shines as she speaks. We recollected the era while I was in school and I learned much about what my old friends are partaking in these days.

I heartedly thanked her for incorporating a melange of challenges, frustrations and overall pleasure in a grueling sport. She's a votary of cross country and continues to train with the team today. I relayed to her how often I hear from folks who complain about the negative experiences they endured in high school sports. They're left so dejected, they refuse to further participate in the sport that scarred them. I told her how opposite that was for me. How even though I wasn't her top runner (or even the top 3), I still felt like an integral part of the team. How much I love the sport and completed a half marathon just a couple months ago. How fondly I remember my time training and laughing and stretching and joshing with the coaches and harriers.

Leaving the campus I felt bittersweet. A whirlwind of memories (crowds cheering, shoving matches, arguments and hugs) lingered in my head as I drove away from the parking lot. I was quite nervous for my next stop per this had been a lacuna I hadn't filled in a long time. My ex girlfriend's (we dated for almost 3 years) family had generously invited me over for dinner. I haven't seen them in over 3 years. They were making a dish I used to devour weekly. One I hadn't tasted since before I could procure alcohol. My exes younger sister would be there (I met her when she was 2 and hadn't seen her since she turned 6). Her grandmother was driving up just to see me. I felt nauseous.

Thankfully, my timidity was overcome by my joyful mood and confidence. It was only a dinner, I've inured through much more in my day. I was planning how to palaver the scenario if I felt awkward as I stopped to pick up a dessert to bring over. I had many doubts and was worried I'd be judged and feel like a needle in a haystack.

Boy was I wrong.

Taking a deep breath as I knocked on the door, her father answered with a welcoming smile on his face. His sincerity was felt immediately as I exchanged hugs with everyone. My cheeks hurt within thirty minutes from smiling and laughing. There was so much love shared. The introductions proved to be just a harbinger of the interesting chatter that was to follow. We spoke of my ex, her boyfriend, we caught up, we discussed politics, ethics, the economy. We smiled fondly on the past and looked optimistically to the future.

3 hours later I reluctantly left. I paused. I felt so blessed and grateful to have maintained a relationship with such a wonderful family. It's as if I was walking out the door one of the hundreds of times I did in my teens.

Driving back to Tempe to my hotel I existentially questioned everything. Why keep in touch? Why do we have memories? Is there such thing as a present? Why do all these events in life occur? Perhaps this is heaven? Our heaven is having free will. Choice.

The synapses were firing so fast it was difficult to discern any sense of it. Life.

But I'm addicted.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Resonating


The essential element in my metier is connecting with the audience. Which, currently is college students. Albeit, to blanketly stereotype students would be a great disservice to me, them, and teachers everywhere. Each campus (and class) contains a unique atmosphere and different techniques are required to be as effectual as possible.

For example, students at Arizona State University are generally unfamiliar with D.C. Certainly one can employ a multitude of approaches, however I decide to dress down and speak up. Meaning I'm hardly flirting with business casual attire, yet my dictum is professional and sophisticated.

From the outset I deliver a joke or two to ease the tension and to show that I'm relatable. Thereafter, it's no bulls@#$. I hardly miss a beat (save for the intentionals - more on this later) with consistent acuity. I want to impress. I flew in from Washington D.C. The placements our organization is affiliated with are legitimate and major players in the world. I don't need to inflate. If they decide to embark upon this journey their lives will change.

It will open doors and assist them for graduate school and career choices. Their fait accompli is an invaluable investment. (It's lucid I believe in what I do).

Through previous trial and error, I've removed parts of my speech that derogate from the program and augmented the areas where eyes didn't blink. For example, I've implemented a segment where students recognize that everyone else in their class has a GPA. Everyone. Yet, not everyone will have completed an internship. Further, not many will have recommendations from a big-time player(s) in D.C. Students utilize their deductive reasoning and begin scribbling down the corresponding information I wrote on the board at this point.

I've also determined I'm much more poignant when I pause. By using interstices, a la President Obama, people tend to cling on every word. Because the brevity (assuming I'm alloted only 5 minutes), if I pause for 3 seconds, subconsciously people acutely listen moreso than trying to jam too much info in a tiny window.

Many might believe that mirroring is all you need to do to be an effectual speaker. I actually flip it (yes, I don't check my ego at the door). If you come off as someone desirable and risible, the audience becomes more like you. So I hone my speaking skills over and over through large lecture halls and tiny discussion groups.

And at the end of the day, I receive emails from liaisons notifying me how they can't keep up with student interest in the program.

Mission accomplished.