Sunday, October 31, 2010

Rally To Restore Sanity

The streets were packed. The traffic was congested. The bathrooms inside every Starbucks had lines outside the door. The Rally to Restore Sanity was a monumental success and I (along with just about everyone I know) was there supporting the cause.

I left north Georgetown around 11AM and tried to catch a bus. The bus stop was overflowed with rallyers, many staying at the local Holiday Inn up the street. Finally got on, and many people had signs, and many people traveled miles and miles just for the moment. I met a couple from Denver who flew in the night before. I met people from Washington state. Many people from New Jersey and Philadelphia were present, all liberals (some moderates) smiling, anxious to prove the silent majority is a potent force.

When my group arrived, I was astonished by what I saw. It reminded me of the Inauguration. And for anyone who was in D.C. for that, it's inexplicable to illustrate the sheer size of the crowds. It certainly wasn't as large, but for a couple of comedians, liberals flooded the streets.

I brought 2 signs, front and back had clever messages. And I paraded with the others up and down the side streets of the National Mall while thousands of people gave me thumbs up, high fives, or asked to take my picture. I was interviewed three times (unfortunately, not by any major news syndicate). The backpack I was wearing was irritating my lower back and my shoulders were aching for holding a sign high over my head for over an hour and a half straight.

We went to grab a bite to eat, then returned to the rally as the crowd was dispersing around 3PM. From almost 3 until past 4, an incessant rush of people walked by. Many, many, many, people pausing in front of me to take photos. I stood off near the sidewalk and was in perfect position to have my sign read. It was incredible. I felt as if I were the key note speaker. The energy was powerful.

I rarely enjoy myself in crowds that large, but this time I didn't want to leave. Everyone was smiling, people were curteous. Many folks were picking up trash (something you'd never ever see at a GOP hate-fest). Crowd estimates vary, but I can promise you, that at least 200,000 folks showed up. Minimum. Anyone who says otherwise is wrong. It really was a beautiful, sunny day and a memory I won't forget. Below are some photos....



Thursday, October 28, 2010

Health Care

As you know, on Cinco de Mayo instead of celebrating with a margarita and chips and salsa like most of you, I went wild on pain meds. I had knee surgery. I planned my surgery according to my benefits which were set to expire at the termination of my work contract (the end of June) I assumed. Throughout most of June I had rehab appointments with a therapist before I left to Sri Lanka (via London, Dublin) for a month with Pops.

When I returned from my trip I assumed I was uninsured. I, well, Pops, purchased traveler's insurance, but as soon as I stepped foot in National Airport I was on my own. But then I realized I was still able to log into my email account (at work) and still receiving pay stubs, maybe I have yet to be cut off from 'the man.'

So I phoned my health insurance company to see if I still had benefits. Surprisingly, I did. I was told I was an 'active' participant and covered. Hmmmm. I told the woman the story that my insurance was not an individual plan but was paid through my employer and I had left the company. Well, she said, you're still under their plan according to Blue Cross.

Sweet.

So I scheduled a few more sessions in August. Not to push my luck I called periodically to double check. Each time I was told I still had benefits. Finally I asked, how will I know when they cease? I was told I'd receive a letter in the mail, notifying me and asking if I'd like to continue the prior plan as an individual. I'd have 10 days to respond.

That letter didn't arrive until September.

A month and a half later I receive a call from the hospital. They're unable to process my claim, the benefits were denied. That's odd, I thought. I explained the situation, but she tells me her hands are tied, the insurance company claims I was no longer covered during the August sessions.

I call the insurance company who substantiate that claim. What do you mean I wasn't covered, you guys told me I was? Well, apparently, my employer dragged their feet and didn't complete the paperwork until September. And they retroactively cancelled my plan as of July 1st.

You're kidding, right? That can't even be legal?

Afraid not she said. I pleaded the unfairness of the situation, and she said this is an issue between you and your employer.,..I'm sure they'd be just thrilled to cover me for that time.

Hence, apparently there is an outstanding balance of over $2,000 (can't believe it's that high for just a few sessions). I wouldn't have undergone the sessions I had in August had I known I wasn't convered. But I was told I was and did. Now, I'm stuck with a fat bill with no recourse.

Apparently this is standard protocol and I should've known better. Here I thought I was going the extra mile, doing my homework. What a wonderful system it is....

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

Playing with Kids

Well, that's a creepy title for a young man to post on his blog. But don't get all Michael Jackson-y on me. This weekend I attended a small wedding (not mine in case you're curious) and had the opportunity to hang out with little people. Something I sorely miss living the middle-aged college life.

Some of the parties brought their children to the celebration and I took charge in entertaining them. Or vise versa. We played imaginary football for awhile. Me vs. 4. And it was all good until I stepped in dog s@#$ while wearing my suit and decided it was time for a more sedentary game. Also, we kept throwing the invisible ball over the fence and I was sick of retrieving it.

So we spun quarters and I tried to teach them how to keep the coin spinning. Fail, big time. Oddly, my coins kept mysteriously disappearing as I turned my head to briefly engage in adult dialog. Responding to things like, "Hey Conor, remember that time on your crutches when you broke a Swiffer while trying to sweep the carpet?" Um, yes. How could I forget the greatest moment of the Suns season - when they beat the Lakers in the playoffs - and in my drugged up daze (off pain meds) went bonkers for about 10 minutes until all that remained of the Swiffer was the handle. Back to this weekend, each time my eyes darted back to the table I lost money.

Felt like the PAC's endorsing Christine O'Donnell.

Anyway, I miss being a kid. One of the exceptional books I'm reading, "Narcissus and Goldmund" follows the journey of the youthful Goldmund leading the transient life. As he ages, he reflects on his experience and grows saddened (at times) of his tainted image of the world. Instead of the jubilant grin and innocent laughter he used to exude, he grows angry with the cycles of death, the loss of satisfaction in simple pleasures and the meaning of his life.

For kids, life has no meaning. There is no long-term goal (except becoming King of the World at some point). They embrace each moment as it comes and turn boldly onto the next adventure as soon as the previous expires. In a span of an hour and a half, the kids and I must've played 6 different games and not once did we long for the first. Everything was new, single serving, exciting.

Mostly, I just missed how much damn fun you can have when you leave your inhibitions at the table and remember that you can have a blast playing invisible Frisbee with kids who assert that you probably weigh like 400 pounds. That's after I sacked the quarterback for a loss, I might add.

It was fun. And as the sun draped the lawn in warm yellow light, I was no longer the 25 year-old stressed out graduate student. I was the scrawny, awkward 8-year old boy with the double callac and freckles, playing 500 with my friends.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Donkey Mediation

12 days from now our country will shoot ourselves in the foot. Republicans are staged for massive gains in the midterms; a referendum, or perhaps water to the face of sleeping white America. A realization, oh s@#$, that Obama dude is black. The inchoate Tea Party and the rest of the Republican baffoons are running on a platform of abtinence. Abstain from progress. Abstain from debate. Abstain from rationality.

If only they'd abstain from voting.

One notable element of the Obama administration is his willingness to work across the aisle. Most bills passed under his tenure have included significant concessions. From health care to financial reform to the stimulus, the monolithic Republicans injected their cancer to poison decent legilation. Despite these concesssions and despite the intransigence of conservatives to even vote for the amended bill, Obama signed these into law. In fact, Obama (once cast as the most liberal Senator) has shown he's quite pragmatic and moderate.

I digress.

Picture this, after Obama's second term concludes, he'll be traveling the world, an invaluable accessory to US foreign policy. I predict his utility will not be exhausted while President. His impact as a non-partisan negotiator will be profound.

Currently there are three individuals the US deploys (aside from Hillary) to resolve conflict or ease tension abroad. President Carter, President Clinton, and George Mitchell. All Democrats. Mrs. Clinton is a Democrat. And you can all but bank that President Obama will join them upon his culmination in the White House.

And where are the Republicans? How come they're not well received abroad? How come they're not trusted to speak on behalf of the US?

Because they don't debate. They don't believe in it. They couldn't spell dialogue. Or you could say they put the di(e) in dialogue. They'd rather drop bombs than sit through three cups of tea. As my Pops hilariously (in a sick way) put it, "Dick Cheney never saw a country he didn't want to bomb."

Republicans don't debate. People are fed up with 'politics as usual'. People want change, because, let's face it, our country is regressing. Many issues remain on the table, but with an (even more) gridlocked Congress, we'll see fewer legislation tackled/passed. And we're poised to elect more Republicans? Are we sadistic?

No, just moronic. Welcome to Idiot America.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pics from the Retreat

Where I was accosted later by the old folks. They thought I robbed their friend. I didn't. But I thought about it.
Great air.
Patches of brilliant reds and yellow.
The trail. Fairly mild ascent. But constant for 4 miles.

The palm of life. A great seat. Had like 3 fingers and two nubs.
Hard to capture this, but these rocks are bluish-grey. And extend far up the hill.
Nice Golden Yellow.
Ahhhhh, TV, how I missed thee.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Nature Retreat

Even though I reside in the 'rural' part of D.C., I rarely get out of the city life. I'm 10 minutes from downtown. 10 minutes from Bethesda. 10 minutes from Arlington. 10 minutes from hell. My neighborhood is peaceful enough, save for the crowd of elementary school students and their parents jockeying for parking spots up and down my street between 9 to 5. Sometimes you just need some peace and quiet. A retreat.

So this weekend I took a journey to a bed and breakfast in Front Royal, Virginia. A quaint neighborhood which has been hit pretty hard during the recession. Many shops and restaurants are closed down. And I remember sometimes when Pops calls me 'bubble boy' (the Sarah Palin-esque insult) for being out of touch with real America, he has a point. D.C. is it's own little bubble, like anywhere else. And because I'm no longer traveling across the country delivering speeches like I used to, I've become insulated from the rest of the nation.

I went on an 8-mile hike in the Shenandoah Mountains on a picturesque day where shades of pink, brown, orange, red, and yellow leaves lined the trail. Fall is my favorite time of year, and Virginia and D.C. the fall colors are extraordinary. The hike was 10 miles round trip, however it was getting chilly and the sun was coming down and I didn't want to be forced to eat my partner in crime if I got stuck and hungry, so we returned a mile from the summit.

As we turned around we saw a man sitting on a rock, calmly enjoying a tuna sandwich. He must have been in his early 70's. He held two ski polls for assistance when he finally finished eating. He asked me if we had seen a group of folks his age heading down. Sure, I replied, about 15 minutes ago. Oh, he said startled. Guess I better get moving then.

He packed up his gear, smiled and began the descent. He was calm and looked more than capable of completing the final few miles downhill.

Approximately an hour and a half later when we got to the parking lot, a distressed woman approached us. She was frazzled, and asked if we had seen a man in his 70's while climbing. Ya, dude pretending to ski right? I replied. She inquired when I had last seen him and how far back he was. I couldn't be sure, but he was likely about 20 minutes behind us I said. She was moderately pacified.

The rest of the ancient warriors group (about 12 others) asked follow up questions. Apparently they had already called the police and forest service and a team of paramedics were on their way. They seemed panicked. I reassured them that he had nourishment and looked spry when we passed him, and he would likely complete the hike in another 20 minutes. But who knows, I can't attest to his strength, I don't know the man.

They thanked me profusely (without offering any food or monetary reward which was disappointing :)) and I drove off. It was a scare. Later that night when we returned to the B&B, our host explains he works for the fire department and they receive rescue calls frequently. He claimed it can take as many as 10 men to get a heavy man down the mountain (alternate carrying). 15 for me he added. (not really)

He assured us the man would be all right. I was a bit on edge myself, but his confidence assuaged my stress. Whew. I guess nature can have its stressful moments too. So much for a tranquil nature experience!

I may post a few photos later tonight if I ever get some homework done.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Riddle...

A stroke but not the medical kind,
Maturation will allow me to reach my prime,
Part of me is a baking necessity,
The other's an irritant, get em' off me,

What I am you will adore,
Adding flittering color to your world,

What am I?????

Monday, October 11, 2010

Anti-Death Penalty Day

Usually I'm not into gimmickry. I hate cliches on billboards for politicians, I loathe new fads. But every once in awhile a good cause reminds me that supporting something vocally, even for a day, doesn't necessarily trivialize it. In short, it's better to pay it short service than none at all. Yet, if you're one of those people who circulates wacky emails everyday (and you know the people I'm talking about) then go f@#$ yourself.

Kidding :).

Today is the official/unofficial day to speak out against the death penalty. My opposition to the death penalty has never wavered. It's application is arbitrary, it's primitive, it's irrevocable, and it doesn't fulfill its role as a deterrent. It's also costly and against the constitution.

No matter how despicable people are (and boy are they - see the disturbing whack jobs frequenting my city in protest of Obama) it's not the government's role to endorse violence (or anyone's for that matter). Perhaps certain folks are without remorse or beyond rehabilitation, than incarceration shall suffice.

There's a great scene in the Academy Award winning foreign film last year, "The Secret in Their Eyes" about revenge. The protagonist believes his friend has murdered the man who raped and slayed his wife. But he didn't. Instead he keeps the man chained up in his house for the rest of his life. I don't endorse this form of torture, but it does illustrate a point to those who claim prison life is luxurious. It's not. And it can often be more painful for the assailant than an anaesthetic lethal injection.

Moreover, the innate need for revenge is barbaric and something we should fight against. When I studied Christianity, perhaps my favorite wisdom's were Jesus' practice of turning the other cheek and loving thy enemies (and furthermore reconciliation). It's often too much to ask to befriend someone who's caused you unmeasurable anguish, reconciliation can be impossible. But however much we want to destroy the criminal who destroyed something of ours, we must continue in our lives with hope and love and not be burdened with hate and anger. Hate and anger are appropriate for a time, but ultimately, life goes on and we'll go on with it. And the second wrong won't remedy the first.

We're the last of Western countries to continue executing people, recently executing a (practically) mentally retarded woman. It's shameful. If we abhor violence, the policy is more poignant and meaningful if it's blanket. I hope within my lifetime to witness the cessation of the death penalty in the United States. Here's hoping.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Weight Loss

I've always been a staunch advocate of exercise. It was ingrained in me from an early age going to Club Sar with my Pops. Club Sar is a boxing club in Scottsdale where Michael Carbajal and other great boxers have trained. They have a substantive weight room and one rubberized basketball court as well. Before I was old enough to hit the rim, I was watching my Dad play ball and dribbling in circles.

Whenever I saw fat people I always figured they didn't work out. And that's probably an accurate generalization. However, more and more I'm convinced it's not exercise that manages weight, it's food. If you had to sacrifice one, eating smart wouldn't be the one to neglect.

Exercise helps prolong our lives. Makes us happier. Keeps our skin tighter, our muscles more defined and elevates the metabolism. It's benefits are exhaustive and while I still remain a proponent, I no longer recommend exercise as a panacea for weight loss. It's more important to cut calories and reduce fat intake.

That's the key.

Personally, I notice the biggest difference in my muscles not when I'm lifting the hardest, it's when I'm eating less. While it's important to include both, the expression is you are what you eat not you are what you exercise. There's a reason for that.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Column Link

I should mention that this will be routine, when I am published I will provide the link to make it easy on you guys. Don't forget to give feedback...

http://www.theeagleonline.com/opinion/story/student-suicide-shows-subpar-privacy-laws/

Monday, October 4, 2010

Riddle...

Like a synonym for a DWTS contestant's child,
Like an Alicia Keys' 2002 chime,
Ms. Caillat also sings a melodious version,
Like a slip off the ship, you would be submerging,

Troy was victim to me,
This one's too easy, don't you agree?

What am I???

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Women's Volleyball

This morning I coordinated my workout so I could finish by the start of AU's Women's Volleyball match. And I'm glad I did. When I lived in San Diego I loved to drive to ocean beach with some co-eds and play sand volleyball. In fact, you didn't even need friends. You could meander nearby and someone would ask you to hop on a team and you'd be drinking beer and having a blast in no time. Except, maybe now you can't drink beer on the beach there (if I remember correctly), but nonetheless I developed an appreciation for volleyball.

I also have an appreciation of women, so when both coincided, I didn't need much coercing to attend this game. (The fact that it was free was also a convincing factor) Our team is stacked. Our lineup includes three girls 6"2' or taller and a few more above 6 feet. The opponent was Holy Cross, the Crusaders (what a friendly name for such a pious school). And Holy Cross got sent packing. AU won the match 3 sets to 0.

Part of the reason I'm enamored with the sport is the attire of the women. But I also envy their leaping ability and knee flexibility. Since my knees bend about as much as a steel beam, I envy these girls who crouch in the blink of an eye for a dig. One of our better players named Angela, also had such a command over the ball during her spikes and serves, it was like Bend it Like Beckham. Or a curveball. She stuck out because of the velocity and spin she used to confuse and obliterate the Crusaders.

When I wasn't dazing into the uniforms, I was watching the camaraderie and leadership. After each point, the girls clap hands and huddle (won or lost). They also have only a few seconds to continue, so communication has to be non-verbal and fast. I was extremely impressed with the patterns and adjustments made by both teams. While ego dominates much of male sports, these girls were clearly working together.

There also was minimal showboating and well, everyone was so damn happy. The smiles were contagious and it was really cool to sit in the front row and be a part of it. Hard to believe only a 100 fans showed up, but I can attest I'll be at the match next Thursday.