Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Supreme Court Ruling

I grew up playing video games. I was no walking zombie, no lethargic slob, but my parents allotted me an hour or so each day to play with my brother/girlfriend. I had strict rules I had to follow that, when breached, would result in assured grounding. I couldn't watch TV on weekdays unless my parents approved (see PBS specials and an occasional Olympics or basketball game). My parents weren't tyrants, but they wanted to instill in me a sense of prioritization that academics and work came before play.

I thank them profusely for that knowledge.

I'm trying now to recollect if my parents monitored which video games I played. Pops, who frowned upon any inactive stimulation (that wasn't academic, athletic, or intellectually enriching) certainly never took the time to look because his disgust for the games was universal and regardless of theme of the game. Donkey Kong or I Kill Your Brother 10x (not a real game...I don't think), it didn't matter.

Mom may have been a little more investigative, but no more than the general - oh good, they're not kicking the dog, molesting the neighbor, or dropping acid type stuff. For one, my Mom could hear a whisper in Colorado from my desk in D.C, so although she was always a presence (visual or not) we knew she was lurking somewhere (we may have been able to blow each other up - so long as we didn't yell FU@# afterward). Her presence never precluded us playing James Bond 007 or even Grand Theft Auto.

Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that children can purchase violent video games. California had a law fining retailers $1,000 if they sold to underage children. The games already have a suggested warning label (similar to "Explicit Lyrics on CD's or movie ratings). Now, it's permissible for stores to sell them outright to kids.

This is a complex issue, and I suppose I side with the court. As a pacifist, I believe (and so does, ya know, empirical evidence) that kids become conditioned to violence and if they immerse themselves for extended periods in these games it may alter their personality/behavior. This seems obvious, and numerous studies prove this theory, but I need look no further than myself as an exemplary refutation.

But the studies don't prove all, they just demonstrate that an alarming number of kids become acclimated to the banality of violence/murder/rape. So the state says, well, s@#$, we gotta do something about this before we have a generation of wife-beaters on our hands. Also, I had a little voice in the back of my head that said, "Ya know Conor, what you're doing is in a realm of pure science fiction and should never be applied to actual real life," or maybe that voice was my Pops. Regardless, I had generous erudition outside of the classroom from my folks who don't endorse any form of violence. They influenced me more than the tatted up gangster I was personifying. Although maybe that is why I want a peace tattoo....I digress.

I side with the court solely because I respect parents' autonomy of raising their children and I think children who are socialized early can often better process it (despite the studies), than those who know/see nothing until they get out of high school. Children who wish to play these games would probably have to play at their parent's house (or friends I suppose). If the parent is that adamant about prohibiting violent gaming, than ideally they will be present enough to prevent the kids from playing. At a friends house, there can be ground rules applied as well (although notably more difficult to enforce). But what are you gonna do, prevent your kid from making friends?

Moreover, I don't think the government has a right to tell you what you can/can't purchase. I err on the side of freedom here, with reservations. While children should be treated differently than adults, they have rights too. And their rights shouldn't be constantly eliminated for the sake of 'righteous' legislators or lazy parents. The government's role is not to tell you how to raise your kids or tell you what you can/can't buy. If you need games vetted, it's nothing but a Google search away or a cursory examination of the label itself.

In a perfect world, the demand wouldn't exist for these ugly games. Manufacturers wouldn't sell this kind of junk to our kids. But they do and it is. And while I reserve the right to revoke the privileges for my (future kids), that right doesn't get extended to Uncle Sam.

Musings from a Charlatan

When I began my trek towards hating government the past couple years, I was worried people would presume I'm conservative. I was wary they'd believe I sold out to the corporations/corporatocracy and was one of those absolutist free-market bloviators. And, I suppose I lean more in that direction now than ever before. However, as a compassionate person, I do believe that a little regulation goes a long way for mitigating pollution, food safety, side-effect notifications, etc.

That's not to say I support the sensational new ads cigarette packs will be forced to display next fall. I don't. I think it's overdramatized and unnecessary. We know cigarettes are bad for us. Kids know it, adults know it. A warning label detailing the potential damages incurred is sufficient. The upcoming graphics are grotesque and often exaggerated, it reminds me of the pro-life demostrators at county fairs. It's an FDA intrusion on a product that hides no secrets. (perhaps more on this and a similar issue later today)

Here we see the government regulating (its job to some extent) and I'm okay with some of this interference. What's more worrisome is when corporations and gov. work together to benefit each other (think subsidies, contracts).
Liberals often champion government as the solution or the answer. Want to revive the economy? Spend, spend, spend, manipulate interests rates, and tax the rich. Inject a stimulus like a typhoid shot. Most believe government intervention will alleviate the pains people face.

Conservatives say the opposite. No new taxes. Cut spending. Deregulate. Disband unions.

But the system we have in place is perhaps far worse, as it's a twisted combination of both.

How are many private companies getting rich? Government contracts.

Think about it, DHS and TSA have federal employees. But the machinery they use - contracted. Auto companies, investment banks, commercial banks, hit a snag and tumble downward, who bails them out - the government. Lockheed Martin, Boeing, DynCorp, Halliburton - how do they make most of their money? Government contracts.

Suffice it to say, government acting in collusion with private industry is the culprit of our fiscal crisis. So I like to claim to be anti-corporation, anti-government (although potentially singularly they may function benignly). Reminds me of a blogger I used to read, Whatever it is, I'm against it. If the government wants to expand, it shouldn't outsource its work. If it doesn't have the manpower and technology experts to build what they desire (mostly bombs and s@#$) then they shouldn't be able to do it. Not to mention building bombs and s@#$ isn't the most productive and healthy way to make money.

Same for a corporation. You have to live within your means.

It's a big scam that people are pitted in the middle between powerful interests (federal gov. and large corp.) and vulnerable to their selfish decisions. I think the only way to cleavage the two is to creat a big enough pit that acts as a wedge between the two. It's like two rivals at a school, there'll be no fighting so long as we keep them separate. It's insider trading, and only the aristocracy is cashing in. I'm pissed.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Abandoning The Obama Train

If you search the archives of this blog (or if you've stuck with me long enough), you remember a time where I endorsed President Obama like Sting endorses Kama Sutra. He was the savior to our ruin. The voice of hope to resuscitate our disintegrating opportunities.

Over the past year or so, I've criticized the President in various forms; upset with his capitulation, his moderation, his bipartisanship, and his continuation of President Bush's failed policies (amongst others). However, most of you may have (rightfully) viewed my complaints as resembling a venting girl complaining about her boyfriend. At the end of the night, no matter how she's slandered him, she realizes he's the best she's got, and sticks by his side.

Well, consider this my formal denunciation of President Obama. This has been a long time coming.

First, in the past year, I've twisted like licorice and converted from a big-statist to (mostly) a libertarian. I've been influenced by the books I've read, the conversations I've had, the academics of my program (surprisingly), and by taking a step back to examine my preconceived biases and wishful thinking.

One of the earliest obstacles I face with supporting President Obama is his reckless deployment of the military. How can one be anti-war and pro-Obama? You can't. As a pacifist, I should have seen the signs earlier (ahhh, but I was blindly enamored!!), but lost in my idealistic naivete, I projected my aspirations of ending the ruthless bombings of Muslims across the world onto our Commander-in-Chief. He doesn't (and likely never did) share my sentiment. His authorization of drone-attacks, weapons, and fuel in Libya without Congressional support illustrates his arrogant power-grab and contempt for the legislative branch (ironic b/c if we're supporting 'democracy' why would he circumvent his own most democratic institution?).

Secondly, the bailouts proved nothing short of collusion between him and top executives to ensure exculpation of incarceration and moreover, reward those who initiated the ugly mess to begin with. Obama refuses to prosecute Guantanamo detainees, investment bank executives, former Bush officials, etc. He will however, swiftly prosecute 'illegal aliens', citizens who use drugs (and intimidate voters in California out of legalizing marijuana - which faces a tremendous budget deficit!), and ensure the implementation of the Patriot Act, used to spy on Americans and revoke our civil liberties. Not to mention, he's quick to throw the District of Columbia under the bus and has done nothing to secure us voting rights in Congress or prevent our district as being a concessionary bargaining chip.

Third, he has not boldly supported civil rights. As a member of the African community, he should feel a sense of urgency and obligation to provide homosexuals equal rights. His tepid support (but boy does he want the love reciprocated) for GLBTQ rights has made minimal gains at best.

The health-care law, which I concede has some positive elements, overarchingly stands to benefit private insurers. He never strongly advocated for a public option, much less a single-payer system. You may say, wait a minute, I thought you were libertarian....sidenote: I do believe that health care is a right and a justifiable entitlement. I think power rests in individuals. Not corporations, not the government. I find it patronizing that the government 'knows better'. Especially when they're the ones signing off on bombs that annihilate toddlers. Excessive regulation does more harm than good and wastes taxpayer money.

I could continue my disparagement, but my point should be clear by now. Currently I proudly sport a bumper sticker that says, "Ron Paul 2012, The Change You Wanted". Paul is not the perfect candidate. I don't have the same ambitious delusions I had when I first supported Obama with Paul. I do however, see him as a semi-viable choice and a step in the right direction to restore individual rights and mend the destructive perception the USA has earned over the past decades. I implore you to examine your support of the President, and look to find alternative ways to stay involved.

We shouldn't be forced to choose between the lesser of two evils year after year. The two-party system is crippling, and supplying us with poor choices again and again. The only way to block the cycle is to make a statement with a 3rd party candidate (I promise there are lesser-knowns running who deserve your attention and support). The 3rd party isn't likely to garner more than 10% of the vote, however if we don't start the change now, we never will. More posts on this stuff to come, please feel free to share your thoughts...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Monday, June 20, 2011

DC Triathlon Recap - Super Long Post (bring food)

After great anticipation, I was able to score an entry card into the triathlon on Sunday. Never in my life have I pressed so hard to do something so grueling. It'd be like begging a taxi to let you off two miles from home in a thunderstorm. But I was determined and undeterred by the numerable obstacles (I also put in countless hours training), put on my best James Bond impression to pose as my friend (Rhett Walker) and race in his place. Throughout the post I'll be supplying links to the dctri website. If interested, quickly click on the link and check it out.

The course is one of the most magnificent in the nation. DC is home to only two triathlons per year, so the course in itself was gorgeous. As a DC resident, it's extremely rare to have unfettered access to the roads sans cars or transient homeless people trying to bite your leg, so that was certainly a bonus. The roads we typically experience in gridlock were zoomed over vengefully!

Saturday night I barely slept a wink. Most competitors didn't either (as I heard queuing in the lengthy port-a-john line). Alarm was set for 4:45 AM, and all my gear was facing the door, anxious in itself. Many roads were preemptively closed, so navigating the beltway was tricky. I got dropped off near the Lincoln Memorial and followed other groggy racers to the transition area.

Prioritizing sleep over ample transition time, I had to hustle to set-up my stuff in 15 minutes, when the transition area closed promptly at 5:55AM. I picked up my timing chip (a Velcro band around my ankle). Then I waited in the outrageous line to use the poddy. Here, is where I finally got a bit intimidated. Standing alone, nervously arching my body from side-to-side, the sheer number of men exiting the line with washboard 6-pack abs was astounding. It seemed almost like the port-a-john wasn't a toilet but a Superman phone booth. I saw folks' normal-looking backs, and they reemerged momentarily shirtless - face first looking like Christiana Ronaldo. Men upwards of 50 had em. I knew the ages because each participant had his/her age marked on their freshly shaven calf. These were some of the fittest people I have ever seen.

When I finally reached line's end, I hopped into the stall and noticed there was no toilet paper. Bummer. Here I encountered my first novice mistake, not bringing my own.

The next hour and a half was spent spectating the International Distance Race and waiting in my wave. The organizers must've thought it was funny to give the 18-29 Men bright pink racing caps. Standing amongst svelte men my age gave me mixed feelings of envy and a sense of belonging. While others looked intimidating to me, I (hopefully) looked imposing to them. I jockeyed toward the front, knowing as the most aggressive age bracket in the competition, the swim would be a dog fight. I was nervous enough for the open water swim, last thing I needed was to be pummeled by Ronaldo's foot and elbowed by a muscular brute in tow.

Suddenly, things started unfolding rapidly. Primitive grunts from our wave ruled the air and we began pacing toward the deck. My pulse rose. The P.A. announced us over the intercom to wild cheers. Female spectators pushed themselves up to the gate searching for their lovers, or searching for potential ones. 30 seconds later we reached the deck and two men asked us to show our body numbers. They yelled them loudly as someone else computed on an iPad. It was a time-trial start, meaning people were being released intermittently, not all at once.

Without so much as a preparatory gulp of air, I was ushered to the edge and instructed to jump off. I held my goggles as I splashed in, not used to not being able to push off a wall for leverage. Bodies were everywhere. Neon green caps (of the previous wave) filled the river like a giant flock of ducks. I lifted my head every three strokes to ensure I was staying on track and rapidly passed many people.

Then I passed the 100m buoy. What! Can't be! My pulse must've been pounding near 195. A hand grabbed my calf and pushed down. I went to breathe and swallowed my first mouthful of the famous Potomac. I momentarily panicked and almost called for a kayaker. How would I possibly finish 700 additional meters!!??

I tried to calm my fears by hearkening back to my training. I can easily swim 1600m. 800m should be cake. The next 150m or so was dreadful as I struggled to catch my breath and initiate a pattern. I would love to say I settled into my stroke and glided forward the rest of the way, but I'd be lying. It was one of the most challenging things I have ever done. When I reached 100m remaining, I was so jubilant I practically hovered over the water. Some women were doing backstroke. Others were panicked off to the sides grasping the kayak. Others were slowly doing breaststroke. And the great swimmers were pulling through unfazed. I was somewhere in between.

I emerged from the water short of breath and found it extremely difficult to muster anything more than a slow jog up the ramp. Later, I found my transition time (T1) from swim to bike was among the slowest of everyone. I put my sunglasses and helmet on when I reached my bike and sat down to put my socks and biking shoes on. I took my bike off the rack but then realized I forgot my bib number (racing belt). I scrambled back to retrieve it and then jogged my bike out of transition to the mount area.

No problem getting on the bike. The bike btw, is a bright green Felt single speed, lent to me from a buddy. While most people had triathlon bikes, or at minimum racing bikes with aero bars, I was somewhat the laughing stock of the race. However people did yell out that they loved my polka dot bike seat. I was terribly nervous I would get a flat (with no way to repair it if I did). Luckily I didn't. I turned my legs over quickly, but found it hard to pass anyone save for women. Many men passed me in the crouch position, especially on the small hills. I felt like my cadence was up around 100-110 rpm, but it didn't matter. I will say, that I did not tire out, and in fact, felt better and better as the bike race continued. It was only a 12.4 mile ride. I finished most of my G2 in my water bottle by the time I dismounted back into transition.

As I returned the bike to the rack, took off my helmet and sunglasses and put on my running shoes, I faced a choice. Should I eat something or not? I had a pre-opened bag of powerbar energy gummies, but I was wary I'd cramp up. I also didn't know when to eat them. Now, so they kick in by the end of the run? Should I eat them when I need them on the run for immediate adrenaline? Or should I have eaten them on the bike in anticipation for the run? Or, skip altogether?

I opted to eat one in transition which took about 15 seconds as I needed what was left in my water bottle to wash it down. When I turned my race belt to the front and took the straps off my trisuit (and rolled it down), I felt a twinge in my back (where I usually feel pain). Uh oh. My lungs felt fine. My legs were surprisingly fresh. But I had this sensitive discomfort for the first half mile. I also had a piece of the gummy stuck in that awkward area between your nose and your mouth (internally) that I couldn't dislodge.

But nevertheless, I was passing people with ease. I was shocked how easily I was passing people.

At the one mile marker, I decided to eat two more of the gummies (hoping to dislodge the first) before an aid station. I grabbed some water and took a half sip and kept running. I felt great. I wasn't getting tired. My pace was consistent. I continued passing people and not a single person had passed me. I was minimally nervous I would bonk, but after passing the 2 mile marker (it was a 4.65 mile run), I became convinced I had enough to finish strong. This race was heavily skewed in favor of the runners, as the run is generally only 3.1 miles. Which worked out well for me!

I remained steady and in all honesty could've run quite a bit faster. When I finished I didn't collapse. I wasn't even exhausted. I could've run some more. It was an odd sensation.

Afterward, I bumped into our former mayor, Adrian Fenty, and took a photo with him (I'll post it shortly). We chatted for 5 minutes and I told him he's missed (this is one politician I actually like). He said he appreciated the support and we talked about the race. He completed the International Distance, not well, according to him. He was touted as the most fit politician in the nation a couple years ago by some magazines. results. My buddy, who lent me his ID to run in his place earlier joshed, "Dude, the only thing I'm worried about is you winning the damn thing. Then you'll have some explaining to do!" I didn't win. I did, however, finish 2nd amongst all new triathletes (out of 324 men and 279 women in the sprint). Click newbie challenge, then click search. My name for the race was Rhett Walker remember. My goal of finishing in the top 50 overall was achieved. I placed 37th overall (out of 1313) and 10th out of 146 in my age bracket (25-29). My personalized page is here. And here (with a photo).

I'm satisfied. My bike wasn't great, and I could probably shave a minute or two off that time with a better bike. The swim was rough, but I did the best I could. The run felt great, probably should've pushed myself a bit harder, but I feel proud of my pace. My pace/splits by the way, can be seen by clicking here. Then click on sprint distance (under events). Then type Rhett Walker in the first and last name search and you'll have it. Anyway, next planned race is either a 5k on 4th of July, or the Parks Half Marathon again (looking to finish around 1:30). Here's hoping!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Second Batch of Photos


Each night I pray to the computer gods to miraculously intervene and resuscitate my antiquated Dell so I can post more photos. Unfortunately, the gods must be encountering cell phone frequencies or Michelle Bachman's shrill, as the message is simply not getting through. They're busy (why can't they take messages?), and therefore we all suffer until I get a temporary lucky window where I can post another 15-20. They're good, certainly worth the wait.

Until then, I'll have to do the big boy thing - writing. Ugh.

Yesterday I challenged myself to run a fast 5k. As many of you know, I've been training for a triathlon this weekend (which I may or may not complete due to numerous technical difficulties). The tri is an 800m swim, 12.4 mile bike, and a 4.5 mile run. It's basically a sprint. So yesterday was gonna be my last speed workout before tapering off. I clocked in at 18:38 treadmill time, the fastest I've gone...maybe ever. I averaged a 6:00 m/per mile pace. I could've gone faster (not much), but I felt relieved to be finished when I did. It helps that I'm hovering right around 180 pounds, instead of 195. I'm faster by default (and it's easier). Meaning I'm no longer a fat f@#$.

I've been waking early each morning to swim at the Olympic Pool in Tenleytown. Today, I swam one mile (1600m) in 24:30. I've been clocking consistent 12:00 800m's so I'm fairly pleased with that effort. My form still needs some work, as my lower body is more drag than RuPaul and my flip turns are non-existent. If/when I improve on both of those, I think I'll see pleasant jumps in my times. And maybe I can beat the super fast dude (SFD as I've coined him) who everyone fears and venerates at the pool. This guy swims 1:15-120 100m repeats with ease. It's insane.

I haven't biked often since returning to the states (only twice). The major obstacle of course, in this endeavor, is not having a fu@#ing bike. I could spin at the gym but it's just sooooooo boring I'd prefer to watch reruns of MTV's Sweet 16 (not really, please don't ever make me!!!). This afternoon I plan on spinning for 50 minutes. I've been diligently perusing online ads for bikes (if you know of any lightweight racing bikes in 60-61cm let me know).

Work has been largely uneventful thus far. My office is prepping for a significant biannual meeting Friday where apparently very important peeps will be in the building. I'm able to sit-in on the meeting which is cool and be a fly on the wall. My first paycheck comes next Friday (9 days away), which is very cool. I need the dough like a baker before I start selling my body for...well plasma is about all people would pay me for I suppose.

I finished Franzen's "Freedom." Excellent book if you have a chance. I began "Better Than Sex" yesterday by Hunter Thompson. His novel channels the ascendancy of Bill Clinton from the vantage point of Thompson (which is on-the-surface extremely dope - literally). It's entertaining so far.

I'm moving out of my current adobe and into a new one August 1st. Time for a change and time to get out of the basement dwellings I've been molding myself into the past few years. Time for some sunshine! My landlord didn't take the news very well yesterday. Her dog (of 15 years) was put down last week and her father is on his last throes. I've made a concerted effort to be a sense of solace to her during this time, but I'm around so infrequently it's hard to ascertain if I make any difference. I told her to call/knock anytime if she'd like to talk/vent/cry or what-not. She's mainly aggravated that she'll have to fill my shoes (Impossible Say I!!). But with the school year creeping up closer than it seems, I think she'll have no problem.

I'm looking at Arlington (specifically Clarendon, Ballston and Courthouse) and Bethesda and possibly Adams Morgan. I'm willing to sacrifice some autonomy for a better kitchen and floor level. I guess what I'm saying is I'm open to having roommates (gag me) provided they stay the f@#$ out of my business ;).

More to tell, but I'm mumbling away like Newt Gingrich, so I'll stop there and hope to get some more pics up pronto....

Friday, June 10, 2011

Plane Preacher

First of all, I brought my camera to work today to download the photos (after charging the batteries) and it won't allow me to do it. Damn, government computers. So that means I'll have to use my old school computer at home instead. So the anticipation is mounting, but I do indeed intend to post them. And I'm not just saying that as in the Queen of England intends to die (this century). Seriously, must suck to be Prince Charles.

Anyway, in lieu of the lacking photos, I figured I'd post an interesting experience I had from LA to Milwaukee (my flight over). I was assigned a window seat, and before I sat down a middle-aged woman was scrutinizing a copy of the New Yorker on the aisle. She emanated liberal elitism (the warm and cuddly type I've grown accustomed to living on the east coast) as she glanced me over superficially and moved aside. I felt comfortable. It was going to be a calm flight.

Just a couple minutes before they closed the cabin doors for departure, a tiny Japanese man squeezed between us. Normally I would have been marginally annoyed: A - He delayed us. B - Less room now because of an occupied middle seat. But he smiled at me sincerely and took up about as much space as an 8 year-old girl, so my give-a-s@#$ factor remained pretty low.

Plus moments earlier I had to scramble to catch the flight myself as LAX security bogged me down (did get to talk to NBA player Kenyon Martin though which was pretty dope).

Seconds after take-off he initiated small talk with me. I was itching to finish Franzen's book, but I figured I'd give the obligatory few minutes of curt answers and he'd get the point. That was a fail.

When the conversation lulled, he began describing an elongated story of his child's birth. The child (now 9 and sitting in the middle seat across from us next to his Mom) leaned his head forward and gave his Pops a smile. To condense, his child was born without a pulse. The umbillical cord wrapped around his neck and cut off circulation. Doctors worked tirelessly to resuscitate him and notified the father that they would be stopping at 30 minutes. Apparently (he showed me documentation to prove it) 29 minutes in, the boy began to breathe. Miraculous. The man was a Nurse Practitioner so was vastly knowledgeable of the medical jargon when relaying this event.

I was touched. It was an inspiring story. Then...he began to thank God profusely. He had thanked God casually once before, and I digested it like anything else he said, not ascribing much importance to it. But afterward, he said God spoke to his wife during the crisis and assured her everything would be all right. I smiled convincingly. How am I to know what happened?

He asked me my religious beliefs directly. At this point the woman sitted to his left shifted awkwardly and I noticed she'd been eavesdropping. I told him the truth, that I'm a healthy agnostic. His face was pained like a request for a raise was denied. Instead of letting it be, he proselytized (I use that word intentionally) about the Bible and what the Bible says. He scoffed at evolution, lambated homosexuals. At first (to humor myself) I played along and didn't dispute his claims. Finally, he began requesting some feedback (we're about 2 hours into the flight at this point). I pushed back and said I think the evidence for evolution is overwhelming. Unsurprisingly, he cited three specific examples of manufactured evidence to debunk the entire field of anthropology. I told  him to read the Origin of the Species. He said he did. We argued about the merits of the evidence (the links from apes to humans, microevolution, present day evidence, etc.).

I could supply interesting details, but this post is already dragging on. One notable interchange we had (we had numerous over 3 hours) dealt directly with the lengthy story of the birth. I asked him if God intervened. He said unequivocally, yes. So I asked him, what if I had a child that was born with an umbillical cord wrapped around her head, and she didn't survive. Wouldn't he feel like an insensitive a@#hole? To believe that God gave preferential treatment to his child? He squirmed and I pushed him further, saying that one day, he will run into someone when he's in the middle of preaching that that's happened to. And he better be prepared for that moment.

He said God doesn't always choose life, and there's reasons (of course there are) for selectively intervening.

So here's my last thought. I really don't mind people who believe in God. I know conclusively that no one knows for sure, one way or the other whether or not there is a God(s). If you want to believe, by all means. But to push your beliefs onto someone else is rude and to believe in divine intervention is asinine. With all the mayhem and disease and undeserved accidents, if a God does exist, then we can safely say he's bestowed free will and refuses to intervene. If he intervenes selectively, it's no God worthy of worship or idolatry. To give preferential treatment would be no better than a wicked monarchy.  

Thursday, June 9, 2011

NBA Finals

To say I'm a fan of basketball would understate my affection for the hardwood. Losses elevate my blood pressure. In some pathetically odd way, I'm a part of the team. After a lose, I toss and turn in bed. When they win, I'm vicariously ecstatic as if I've accomplished a piece of the victory myself. This of course, is not a highly recommendable way to live. We have enough turmoil on our own, it seems silly to pile on more.

But it is what it is. If you asked me from the age of say...7 or 8, what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would answer unequivocally, an NBA player. My answer didn't deviate until the age of 17, when the politicking, the injuries, and the introduction to college gen ed (not to mention co-eds) classes altered my perspective.  I no longer wish to be an NBA player (nor do I think agents are lining up). I do, however, retain the risidual passion from my competitive playing days and place it firmly on the shoulders of LeBron James (he's a big man, he can handle it). I've been a fan of LeBron ever since he lent me a dollar while we were in high school (we graduated the same year).

When he was drafted by Cleveland, I rooted for the Cavs. When he made "The Decision" I was the only one who lauded it a selfless, philanthropic move, that was best for him and the NBA. When he encounters scowls and friends/writers ridicule him, I go out of my way and defend him.

Last season, when he 'quit' against the Celtics, I was disappointed. Even the superstars have off nights, and LeBron shrinked at an inopportune time. People decried this as representative of his true nature, while I saw it more as a fluke, an abberration. At 26, he's accomplished more than almost any other player in the history of the game (at the same age). Including clutch shots, epic playoff series, and the consistency that a clock would envy.

Then Tuesday happened (and to a lesser extent, Sunday). LeBron faded into the backgroud rendering his freakish talents irrelevant as his team crumbled in the final minutes. He looked tentative. He looked shaky. He looked scared.

Writers, desperately looking to vilify him, went on attack mode and disparaged him for his efforts (lack thereof). Color commentators snickered at his shortcomings, chalking it up to his mettle...his heart. Comparing him to the iconic Michael Jordan, they claimed was a disservice to His Airness.

Two minutes of defense and I'll say while they're wrong:

Critics claim that Jordan never would have joined forces with the likes of Wade and Bosh. Who cares? To me, it shows that James (with all his ability) is willing to defer to others. This selflessness is something Jordan did not posses and never did. James is as comfortable distributing (maybe more so) than attacking the basket. To take less money, in better hopes of a championship (after 7 painful seasons - where he gave everything - in Cleveland), I think you would have done the same thing. P.S. - It was CLEVELAND!!!

Critics say Jordan never shrunk when it mattered. I can't vouch for this, although I take it at face value. LeBron hasn't either. His stat line showed almost a triple-double last game. He played just about every minute, playing great defense. He accepts whatever role ascribed to him. Truly remarkable, considering a player of his caliber typically has an ego the size of Mt. Rushmore.

LeBron isn't cutthroat. He's pleasant. Unlike Jordan, his teammates actually like him. He smiles frequently. He showboats only after incredible feats, not run-of-the-mill field goals. He wants to win. Some may claim that he should have took the hard road (which implies taking a max salary and playing for a bad team). I see his willingness to put winning first, to put frienship (he's very close with Wade and Bosh) above primitive competition and to strategically maneuver his way to (potentially) numerous championships as nothing shy of brilliant and admirable.

So here's to Game 5. Here's hoping LeBron will step up and lead the Heat to victory.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Back in the States

And wouldn't you know, Murphy's Law greeted us with open arms! After a mostly uncomfortable 13 hour plane ride (of which I spent the majority of the time shifting in my seat and watching blood splatter from a season of Spartacus - Starz). I did manage to squeeze in a few pages and almost finish, "Freedom" by Jonathan Franzen. It's a fascinating read. The way he delves into the characters and fishes for the intricacies that make up a person's mental psyche. The delicate and precarious nature of relationships and feelings of lust and betrayal. Never - and I'm an voracious reader - have I been more intrigued through a 550 page book. Perhaps he breaks the adage I recite: "If everyone likes it, it can't be good."

Once we arrived, we were subjected to the quotidian ridiculous security measures (ya know, to keep us safe). It's so obviously a facade as no one's bag was actually searched, however they do ask provocative questions and stare you in the eye (maybe they think they'll see their own reflection). It took almost half hour to get passed immigration and into baggage claim. You'd think by that time the 'throwers' would have managed to load the bags onto the belt. If only. So we waited impatiently for our bags to arrive as my brother queued near another security line.

With bags in the cart, we maneuvered our way to the security checkpoint, only to be reprimanded by a young blonde who explained the line formed 50m behind her. We told her that Dylan was waiting patiently holding our spots and her anger abated. When we reached the front of the line, we were singled out for another search and sent to another line. We waited (no one was there) for a minute until two insouciant security guards asked us why we were sent over their direction. We shrugged. They said, well, it must be for a reason, right.

I said I just want to get on with it, so check my bag, do the cavity search and I'll go about my day. Of course this type of flippant dismissal doesn't bode well with police-types, so we were hassled with numerous questions that we had answered previously. During this debacle I phoned the hotel to have our shuttle waiting for us outside the international terminal.

We waited.....and waited.....and waited.....

50 minutes passed until we opted for a cab (after much pleading to my father). Dreary eyed and upset, we arrived at the reception desk only to face another long line. (We did, however, get reimbursed for the taxi).

As exhausted as I was, my testosterone was boiling and I knew only a workout (or perhaps sex) would relieve the requisite tension. So I hit the gym and then walked by myself to IHOP. And induldged on my first bites of American food in the last month. It was shockingly delicious.

Today is my first day of work at the Department of Defense. As you probably know, I'm working in the education arm (perhaps the only liberal branch to be found). I have a nice cubicle on the 6th floor fairly isolated from the rest of the workforce. There are numerous windows nearby that admit the sunlight. Gotta say, it's been a nice start.

Digesting the memories from the trip has been a pleasant endeavor. It was amazing. Bangkok is a crazy city. A mecca of business and shopping. The winding roads of Koh Chang, the zooming of the motorcycles, the wooshing of the wind and the smiles from the passing faces puts a grin on my face. I took over 200 photos during my stay, and I hope to post perhaps 15-20 at a time. If you have questions about a specific one, just comment which number and I'll do my best to describe what you're viewing...

Keep checking, the pics are coming soon.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Final Day of the Vacation

We concluded our journey in Koh Chang by renting motorbikes and zooming up and down the island. Pops declined and instead went on an all-day snorkeling excursion. Holy crap that was a lot of fun. Got the motorbike up to 110km/hour. Which doesn't sound very fast, although with the winding roads I reckon it's probably the fastest anyone has ever gone on those roads. There were very few straight away's. I was practically Tokyo drifting.

Dylan also got to know (that phrase is employed to invoke your imagination skills) the travel agent at our hotel on a personal level. She was about 30 and she had a crush on Dylan from the outset of our trip. Good times.

We swam near a waterfall and swerved around passing dogs and cats (and small children). Dylan's back tire swung out on one turn and he was fairly timid thereafter. Could've been disastrous but he maintained his balance somehow. Suppose the bike work was good prepping.

We left Koh Chang via ferry and flew from the tiniest airport you can imagine over to Bangkok.

Bangkok. Well, what a place. I feel it'd be neglegent not to mention the ramapant prostiution in this city because it's so apparently obvious. Some women sell themselves on the streets directly. Others go through men who chauffeur johns to and from the brothels. Practically everyone in this city is involved in the sex trade in one regard or another. Drivers constantly harass and solicit you for "sex shows" (you honestly don't want to know) or massa (massage - see sex) or of course the famous red light district.

Dylan and I checked the scene out two nights ago and weren't overly impressed. Pops accompanied us briefly last night to see what all the ruckus was about. Earlier in the day we toured the city and around dinner time we watched Hangover 2. Terrible film, however the coincidence of being in Bangkok (where the movie is filmed) upon its release was too much to pass up. The movie theater was incredibly large and resembled a NASA space station. It put every other theater I've been to in my entire life to shame. Honestly.

Today is my last day in Bangkok before we depart tomorrow morning for Los Angeles. I stayed out until 3:30 AM last night (dancing at a club called Insomnia), so my brain isn't functioning properly. I also just finished running a 10km (ran a 19:25 5k yesterday). So I'm wiped and I need to pick up some last minute gifts and EAT. So sorry for the shoddy post, but I'll have to recap better some other time.