Monday, November 29, 2010

Hand Me a Knife Will ya

Thanksgiving meal this year is something I won't forget. While I was racing that morning I may have caught something from one of the volunteers dispensing water or from the random vagrant I made out with. Not sure entirely. Either way, I began to feel a sensation that I couldn't breathe very easily during the race and this is rarely a concern for me as I have super human lungs and could endure Mount Everest on a treadmill. The rest of my body, a different story, but I am blessed with a powerful set of lungs.

So I knew something was up.

Later that night, after consuming a heaping of mashed potatoes, veggie pot pie, zucchini pie, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, bread, mashed potatoes and then seconds, I wasn't feeling so hot. I elected to do what I prefer to do after dinner, go on a walk. During the walk, my stomach began to growl uncontrollably and I realized the dog might not be the only one using the sidewalk as a toilet. Of course, when I got home I scarfed down some pumpkin pie and cream cheese pie, because I was afraid there wouldn't be any left unless I did.

Big mistake.

Thankfully, my stomach withheld for the duration of the walk and it wasn't until I sat down to watch my favorite Wizard of Oz (just a damn good movie, and man, Dorothy is a fox) that it hit me. At that point I recognized I was in for a long night. And there was no place like home to turn to make it go away. No wizard to heal me. It was me and the toilet one on one. And I got my ass kicked.

Never, and I mean never, have I felt that bad. I had the worst bout of diarrhea and vomiting in my life. The two took turns tormenting me like I was a the kid in the middle between two sumo's holding their sushi rolls. Anyway, it was nasty. Disgusting. Gross. And to make matters worse, there was no relief. It happened hours after I perhaps consumed the most of the year. All said and done, must've had 25 alternating endeavors at the john between the hours of 12-6AM.

In typical over-dramatic fashion I asked people to bring me knives. Why? So I can slit my throat you heartless animals!! I'm quite the scene when I'm not feeling well. I pleaded with God (he was no help as usual). I repeated the mantra this isn't fair, this isn't fair, this isn't fair. But who cares about fairness. Not my stomach.

Eventually I banged the side of my head against the wall out of anger and got a throbbing headache. At that point I decided to stand up and take a shower. Yes I was going to vomit and other things. Yes, I couldn't balance and was depleted. But I was determined. So I did and besides falling over a few times, I succeeded and went to sleep.

And I slept. All day Friday. Allllll day. And finally, I'm healed and starting to regain some of my energy.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! This morning I ran a 5k to support the homeless. SOME - So Other Might Eat - has their annual run parallel to the Potomac River right next to the Lincoln Memorial. In my 3 years of living here in DC, it's the only thing I've done each year. My time was pretty pathetic. Ideally I'm almost 3 minutes faster as I ran a 22:45. However, I've been plagued by a nagging back injury (where I could barely walk for 4 days straight) and hadn't run in 2 weeks. So my training was little to none. My accomplice and I raised over $400 for the homeless to eat today, so I feel good about that.

Anyway, have a great meal and enjoy friends and family. I'm thankful for you guys reading my blog and taking the time to share your thoughts with me. Thanks for motivating me and keeping me consistent...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Column

Below is the link to my latest column. The previous one generated a couple letters to the editor that offer the predictable rubbish you hear everywhere else. Bo-ring. Anyway, they edited a good analogy in my latest, I wrote that those who need 'the boys' approval aren't acting all that masculine anyhow. Not sure why they took it out, maybe because of space...

http://www.theeagleonline.com/opinion/story/real-men-arent-afraid-to-stick-up-for-women/

Quick Thoughts on Military Column

Based on the feedback, and the ambiguity in which I wrote, I write this to clarify a few of the misconceptions people have felt after reading this column. First, I did not choose the title (as is common protocol at papers) and didn't focus on the Military Industrial Complex. My focus was more broad, the military itself. The MIC has more to do with war-for-profit which one reader rightly pointed out. That I suppose, can wait for another column. Although I did mention it briefly at the end of my column, it was not the crux or focal point of my critique of the military.

Also, I did not criticize the troops. I am perplexed as to why so many (must mean I did a poor job of constructing the column) felt I was insulting the troops. I wasn't and that was not my intent. I will say, to be clear, I do not support our troops. However, I did not say that in the column, and I may write that column another time as well (I have many columns I can write that are critical of the military and its many components). In fact, I went out of my way to express what I do believe about the troops, that is, I wish them a safe and quick return back to the states. Although I do not support them, I certainly do not wish them harm. I have love for these people and have known quite a few in my 25 years. And while I disagree with their rationale and their actions, I (atheistically) pray for their safety and that they'll one day recognize their government takes advantage of their service.

One point I bring up just for humor is the fact that one person accused my argument as ubiquitous and mundane. It's not. 99.9% of what you hear/see is complete reverence for the military. One commenter even said out of 'fairness' her letter to the editor should be printed (which of course it is). I laughed. The Eagle has provided so many positive news stories and our national newspapers (liberal and conservative) always write about how we need to support our troops and the military. One column that is (somewhat) critical is printed and the backlash is incredible. And two letters the editor are printed as response. Based on that alone, that's two-to-one. And make it 2,000 to 1 in the larger scheme of commentary on the military. To not recognize this disparity is absurd.

I also wasn't supplying rationalizations for troops going to war (although many of them have been duped by the claims I criticized). I was criticizing the media and the generals and our government and officers who deliver these speeches and fund these video games and justify these policies. These are not the troops, although the troops are victims in their manipulation. I figured this goes without saying, but clearly I should've been more specific.

To those who question my activism - this is a cause I've championed for years, and has alienated me from the larger populace. It is anything but self-serving. I do not write these columns for personal gain (in fact, I don't know how it can possibly be self-serving but if you do please comment!!). Or publicity. To those who scoff at my 'safety of my couch' - I'm enrolled in a program that dedicates my career to solving international conflict in a peaceful manner. I led my own grassroots protest for years. I participate in marches I write columns, and I practice what I preach. I don't hide behind a column/blog. Both are public forums, and my name and face appears in both. It's ironic to criticize me hiding when most of the comments composed are anonymous. Point is, it's not easy for me to say. If you were in my shoes, you would understand that you're in a small, small, small minority of people who dare speak up on this issue. And that is anything but cowardly (whether you think it's correct or not).

Being brave enough to take a bullet for someone else is something I'm prepared to do. If I get killed one day for vocalizing my views against violence, that's an incurred risk I'm willing to take. I'm not willing to take someone else's life. There's a major difference there and many people don't make that distinction. I have faced the threat of violence many a time in my life and thankfully I'm still alive to talk about those incidences. I responded peacefully, and I'm glad I did.

Lastly, the causal relationships passed around in the comments are largely unfounded. For example, I'll fight for your right to say it, though I disagree... If you're in the military (I believe) you lead to the deterioration of our freedoms, not the preservation of them. That is my opinion. I don't accept that causal relationship (they're fighting for us - they're not, even though they believe they are) and it shouldn't be accepted by others. If you make that claim, you're perpetuating a wrong causal relationship, one that, frankly, is mundane and ubiquitous.

I have more to say, but I shouldn't bore you. Although I felt the need to clarify some of the confusion that is partially due to the ambiguity in which I wrote.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Les Miserables

Last night I attended a tremendous high school performance of Les Miserables. I wasn't expecting much of a crowd, or really much of a performance. Fortunately my low expectations were significantly exceeded. The auditorium was packed, with many people sitting in the ailes, and others standing in the back for the entirety of the play (2.5 hours). Th ensemble was comprised solely of high school students, although if you were blind and only heard the music and singing, you would've mistaken it for professional theater. Honestly. It was incredible. A magnificent show that any crew would applaud.

During the play I thought how amazing it is when folks work collaboratively. The cast included something like 50 actors, and there was a sizable orchestra playing live music (with conducter). There were many people who worked on lighting and soundboard and a few set designers. Without each person completing their task, the performance would've collapsed. There would've been a major blunder. There wasn't. The play continued without a hitch.

When people work together, their collective power can erase the obstacles we face. And it can often produce amazing feats. Obviously the plot of the play takes place during the French Revolution, thereby the similarity was even more obvious. The people worked together to create a resistance movement powerful enough to challenge the establishment.

After the play, the lead actors thanked their directors profusely for their guidance and were articulate and humble. It was such an incredibly positive atmosphere. Everyone was smiling and hugging, and although that can be kinda lame sometimes, it can also be kind of awesome. It was a euphoric feeling shared throughout the audience. When I was walking to my car, I shook my head in amazement and admiration of these hard-working teenagers. They transformed their roles in their small world as 'whiny' high school students and became professional actors in a stage in Fairfax, Virginia. At least for one night.

For anyone who hasn't seen (heard) the play. I highly recommend it. Hopefully the pros don't pale in comparison to these kids.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Privacy

I wrote a column some weeks ago about a war on privacy. In the column, I referenced the Rutgers student who committed suicide after his sexual encounter went viral on the Internet. Today, our country faces another challenge. And it's bound to affect just about all of us in the next few months when we do our holiday traveling.

Testifying before Congress today, a representative from TSA spoke about the new ultra-invasive techniques employed for security reasons. These techniques include graphic full body scans, and dehumanizing pat-downs including (practically) a feel on the groin.

Obviously, people are pissed off. Already reluctant to fly because of the delays, the costs, the hassle of getting to the airport hours before departure only to queue in line, now passengers are subjected to another unwelcome addition. An unskilled TSA agent will ask (I use that term loosely) to do a pat-down. If you decline, you will not be allowed to fly or must comply in one of their other options (private search, um, that's reassuring) or undergo a body image that emits radiation and transmits an image to some random agent, exposing genitalia.

Thanks for flying!

The raging debate on many talk shows today (my new favorite is POTUS on XM), is whether or not the increased security measures outweigh the unquestionable breach in personal privacy for passengers. And on a deeper level (meaning not discussed), is the social conditioning tools our government continues to subtly introduce in efforts to control its population. The absurd steps implemented that do nothing for safety and only serve to aggravate passengers and pay a few salaries. Anyone who has traveled abroad knows what I mean (see customs and the 15 security checkpoints required).

This new method of screening passengers is inappropriate and not worth the dehumanization cost for more 'thorough security.' Airport security is not a laughing matter. However, the public must fight back when their interests and privacy are being attacked in the overt manner they presently are. It seems the choice hear is not black and white. We shouldn't have to choose privacy over security or vise versa. With all the bureacrats working for TSA and in security, there must be other mechanisms to ensure safe flying while preserving and respecting the soveringty of individuals.

What do you think?  

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Column

I've been waiting to write this column for some time now. It's much, much less severe than I've written in the past, even so I'm interested in how it's received. I doubt anyone will challenge on its content, but we shall see....

http://www.theeagleonline.com/opinion/story/u.s.-brainwashed-to-support-military-industrial-complex/

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Improving Little by Little

Over the past few weeks, I've been stressed out, upset with my inability to produce acceptable papers in my graduate work. Two important papers I completed were rewarded with a D/F and a C-. For a writer (self-proclaimed) this is unacceptable. For any graduate student, those grades are unacceptable. In fact, after receiving my research proposal back from my professor with a grade much lower in the alphabet than I'm accustomed to, I visited her office hours.

I didn't have much of a game plan. I wasn't going to demand a higher grade. I wasn't going to ask her for a second chance. I just felt the desire to talk to her. And so I did, and for the first time in a couple years I practically cried doing so.

After exchanging cordiality's, I told her that I don't respond well to negative feedback. I am more apt to improve under encouragement and motivation than when I'm belittled and insulted. And this goes back to my days playing basketball.

Whenever a coach expected me to play well and said how much he believed in my ability to lead my team to victory, I stepped up to the challenge and embraced it. I welcomed the pressure, so to speak. Other coaches had a different approach. They would yell, scream, cut their players down, (I assume) hoping by so doing they would motivate them toward better outcomes. I never responded well under these angry circumstances and would get in the game and nervously under perform.

Two different coaching/teaching styles. One may work on half the population. The other style may work on the other. For me, I don't respond well to overt criticism, and moreover, I shouldn't have to in this program.

I show up to class. I do all the assignments. I never turn in late work or show up tardy to class. I come prepared and do all the reading so I can contribute. And although I can't claim my papers are stellar, I do spend a liberal amount of time composing them. So when I received the acerbic feedback that my work was 'unacceptable for a graduate student' I got emotional. I got angry. I got upset.

When I sat down with my professor I was on the verge of tears explaining to her that I'm dedicated to this program and it took me almost 3 years to choose to matriculate to AU. I told her I care about learning and I care about the class. I told her grades aren't priority number 1, but if I'm in danger of failing, that's a major concern. Moreover, I told her that a mark of a good teacher is one who empowers her students and enables them to get to the next level. Not one who dismisses inadequate papers and disparages the author. I told her (in my opinion) in a Peace Studies program especially, it is important to work collaboratively and be peaceful and positive. Perhaps at Harvard MBA, emotions don't matter, but conflict is all about emotions. And they do matter.

As a student in a conflict resolution program, this was a perfect example of a way two can resolve their interests in a broader collective interest. We were enacting an interpersonal conflict like the many we've studied in class. I asked her to help me get to where I need to be. I'm willing to put in the time if she'd be willing to lend a hand and be patient. Her eyes bulged as this large man (me) continued his evocative monologue. Finally, she paused and apologized to me and agreed to help me and to be an enabler to my success, not an inhibitor. She started giving me constructive criticism and hints to get to the graduate level.

I was thrilled. And since then, I've been doing much, much, better. It goes to show you that people respond differently to stimuli. My brother I think is more like me, whereas my sister thrives as the underdog, and like to prove 'the man' wrong. But no matter which way you are, it's important to be flexible and recognize that there's no blanket equation for getting the results you want from someone else. You have to teach to the learning style.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Another Poem from Pops

For a Party so reviled as monochromatic,
It must have been reflexively automatic.
A slate almost entirely of single syllable nominees,
Brown, Burk, Buck, Lieb, Au, Maes, and Lee,

Why I wondered, in a nation so diverse,
Would they offer up such a constricted universe?
Perhaps simple vowels are so easy to remember,
It's the Party of " NO", not only in November.

Perhaps it's the result of political in-breeding,
With print costs less to increase their succeeding.
Or maybe when issues are nuanced and complex,
One syllable answers are all we can expect.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Perspective

Plugging away is what I'll do,
Ignoring the elephant in the room,
Asking what it all is for,
With a half-hearted shrug, I ignore,

Distraction is nature's default drug,
What's to ponder with so much to be done,
Instead of analyzing or carving our tree,
We're stuck oil changing, queuing at the DMV,

As we get a moment to reflect on our lives,
Sleep creeps into our droopy eyes,
We awake and its morning, woopdeedoo,
Back to the mundane, nothing's new,

I wish I could depart on a journey,
Far away, no plan on returning,
A man alone with backpack and jacket,
Somewhere tranquil, away from the racket,

Perhaps it's hedonistic, it might be so,
To abandon those close to you and hit the road,
A clean break is all it takes,
A minor step always impossible to make,

Although I listen as it whispers to me,
In form of the wind, or blades of grass on my sleeve,
Yearning for my utmost attention,
Luring me toward another dimension,

Maddening I stand, laughing at the air,
Egging me on. What, are you scared?
Like a little boy tugging in one direction,
It'll be fun, let's go, you betcha,

As my hairline recedes and seasons change,
Little boy remains ageless, his presence unfazed,
Yet each year that passes his enthusiasm dwindles,
As if slightly submitting to the repeated signals,

My adoration for this spirit remains,
As his brio weakens my heart feels pained,
Dominant culture's leading my foot,
He kicks a rock, pretending not to be shook,

To acquiesce, run away is intriguing,
But perhaps this advertisement is quite misleading,
For what if it's true, this little boy never ages,
To never mature is its own complication.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Column Link

Below is the link for my latest column. Already generating some good responses ;). Tough day, today....

http://www.theeagleonline.com/opinion/story/procrastination-not-on-the-agenda-for-these-midterms/