Wednesday, March 10, 2010

This Post is for You

You know who you are.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

What a Long, Strange Trip...

Ok -- so it's been almost a year since my last post. I've been busy, what can I say! Quick recap: I graduated from the University of Southern Maine with a BA in political science and a minor in economics, and I'm currently unemployed in the field of my choice.

To be honest, it's a little scary. I'm at a crossroads now where I have to make some important life decisions, and the last time I had to do that was over four years ago when I decided to buckle down and get my bachelors degree. I'm interested in graduate school, but I probably won't be applying until next year, which would make me a candidate for the 2011 fall semester most likely. So what does this mean? Time to get a generic, non-professional job, save some money, and figure out exactly where I want to go to graduate school, and what I want to study in. I'm mostly considering schools based in the D.C. area such as Georgetown, George Washington University, and American University, though NYU might make my short list (as much as I dread the idea of living in New York), and I need to find a fifth school as a safety-net.

As for what to get my MA in, I'm thinking something along the lines of security studies or stability operations. A good friend of mine got a masters in that field, and it seems like it's both relevant and interesting!

By the way, for the academics out there, I recently discovered that iTunes has a treasure trove of information, especially in the field of political science and international studies. When you're browsing the iTunes store, you can go to the iTunesU page, and find a plethora of recorded lectures from different schools, as well as podcasts from fantastic non-partisan think-tanks like the Council on Foreign Relations and the Center for Strategic & International Studies. Really great stuff!

That's it for now - just wanted to let everyone know I'm alive, and I have plans!

Sunday, November 23, 2008


I've made good on my exercise pledge. Sort of. For the past few years I've been wanting to try yoga but haven't been able to due to aforementioned knee issues. Now that my knees are more or less normal and healthy, I decided to take a stab at it. I wasn't really sure what to expect. I've heard that it has incredible health benefits, but for all I knew that could have been a huge exaggeration. After all, the West has a fantastic habit of adopting Eastern practices, be it religious, philosophy, or exercise, and corrupting them with new age spirituality bullshit. You know, crystals and the Earth Mother, or whatever. But what the hell, I figured. I found a yoga supply shop in my town, bought a mat and carrying bag, and did a little investigating to try and find a decent yoga studio. I was shocked to discover that there are no less than half a dozen studios in my town! After narrowing down the candidates to two, and made a few visits and talked to a few people and finally settled on one. Not knowing what to expect, I attended a Wednesday evening beginner class.

As I walked into the studio the first thing I noticed was the sheer variety of people attending. Some were my age, some a little younger, and some older - middle aged and up. There definitely wasn't a specific age group being targeted here. I found the instructor before class and introduced myself, explained that I had knee surgery five months ago, signed a waver, and changed. I wasn't sure what to make of the instructor - she looked 30 something, incredibly fit, but had this granola air about her. She didn't smell bad, which was good, and didn't sport any dreadlocks, but she definitely seemed to be in the "Earth Mother" camp. She smiled a lot, and had this light, floaty, gentle quality to her voice, the kind of quality that I've heard from girls who were rolling on ecstasy (a decade ago in my late teens - I'm a model citizen now *cough*). But what the hell - I figured if this does turn into a "love the goddess" session I can always ignore the faux-spiritual crap and just focus on the exercise.

She told me to roll out my mat at the back of the classroom since I was new, and at first I wasn't sure why. I figured it'd be more beneficial if the new people were at the front of the class so they could get a better view of the instructor and the poses that we were supposed to do, but I didn't argue. I set up at the back with an elderly woman to my left and a woman my age on my right. I made small talk, and discovered that even these people who were relatively new to yoga had taken at least one class before. I was the only neophyte in the class. The instructor took her position at the front of the room, and we began.

This isn't meant to be sexist in any way, but at a glance, yoga looks relatively easy. You know, a bunch of women stretching. How hard could this be, right? Let me tell you, I thought I was going to die. Even the basic poses were incredibly difficult. After ten minutes my body was gleaming with sweat - droplets were falling from my face and spattering on my mat. My muscles were quivering and my breathing was ragged and uneven. This particular style of yoga involves holding a pose for 30 seconds or so, and then moving to a slightly different pose, holding it, and moving again. After every ten minutes of poses we got to move into a resting pose called "child's pose" which involves kneeling on the ground with your upper body bent completely forward so your forehead touches the floor and your arms are outstretched above your head. It wasn't very restful.

Occasionally I looked to my left. The elderly woman was doing fine. She wasn't even breaking a sweat. To my right, the woman my age showed barely any signs of strain. And then there was me. On two occasions I thought I might actually vomit from the exertion. Now, I had nothing to prove going in there. I knew I was out of shape, and this was my very first class, and no one reasonable would expect much from me. But there's this little slice of vanity that made me determined not to be the only one in this 25 person class that had to take a breather and sit a few poses out. And that's when I understood why they place the new people at the back of the class - so they're well out of sight and don't have to deal with the embarrassment of the rest of the class seeing how laughably out of shape they are. And by they, I mean me.

The class lasted an hour and fifteen minutes, and after ten minutes or so I lost all sense of time. It became utterly meaningless to me as every second was consumed by concentration and fatigue - trying desperately to maintain the poses, to not collapse, to not sit out. I was honestly scared at one point, not knowing if I could continue, but even more scared about collapsing into a heap in front of everyone. Stupid, I know. The instructor approached me to correct my posture from time to time and ask if my knee was holding up. It was during these moments that all thoughts of her being a new-age douche went out of my head. She was gentle, warm, and respectful, and that smile, natural or not, was more than welcome. She saw what a physical train wreck I was, and didn't judge me at all. But I didn't fall in love with her until she ended the class. Just at the moment where my vision began to darken, cloud, and I began to hear the voices of my ancestors calling to me, she dimmed the lights and instructed us to lie on our backs for ten minutes of meditation and rest. I complied. After the class I told her how difficult it was, and how amazed I was that I made it. She was amused and encouraged me to return.

I can honestly say I've never had such a grueling workout. Not with aerobic exercise, not with free weights. For the next three days my entire body felt like it had been beaten with lead pipes, and even today I still feel a little sore in my upper chest and abdomen. It felt like every single muscle, no matter how small, had been pushed to the brink. And you now what? It felt good. I'm going to be attending class again this coming Wednesday, and it can't possibly be any harder than the first class, right? I hope not. Let me be absolutely clear: If you're out of shape and want to get fit, yoga will fuck you up in a good way. I can't recommend it any higher if you really want to push yourself and get in shape. I'm not sure how long I'll stick with it, but I'm determined to go to the next class, and then the next, and see where I am after that.

While I wasn't able to exercise 20 minutes a day for a week, that's mostly due to the fact that I needed days of serious recovery after my first class. As I do it more, my recovery time will decrease. Right now I intend to take yoga on Wednesdays, and do some aerobics on Mondays and Fridays to work on reducing my gut. Even with exercising only three days a week so far, I still consider my experiment a tentative success.


Thursday, November 13, 2008


I'm not sure if it's the weather, or the alignment of Venus relative to Pluto, or some sort of generic cyclical effect that I can't quite comprehend, but every now and then I get hit with periods of great lethargy. The coming of the fall semester at college may have kick started it, or maybe I never fully fell back in the zone after recovering from knee surgery, but damn... you ever just want to not get out of bed?

I'm not a lazy person per se, but dammit, I've felt like a lazy person since late August. It takes forever for me to get the motivation to clean my apartment (and sometimes it falls to embarrassing levels of clutter), I limp by in my school assignments (though I am a senior; maybe some of that is to be expected now), and that getting out of bed thing? Lately it's all but impossible for me to rise early, and I find myself languishing in bed until I'm absolutely compelled to drag myself to my feet due to a class or whatnot.

How do people motivate themselves? One theory is that human beings are motivated entirely by fear. The fear of death, of not being able to have a roof over their heads or central heating, etc. Maybe that's the issue. I live a reasonably comfortable lifestyle. I don't have to worry about food, clothing, or warmth. I even have the ability to distract myself with expensive video game systems and a solid collection of literature. But that doesn't sound right. I mean, beyond the fact that it's depressing to think that we're only productive when we're suffering, there are countless examples of well-off, driven, motivated people.

So do I hate myself? No, I don't think that's it. I'm rather fond of me. Sure, I have my own foibles and issues; things I'd like to change (lethargy being one of them). Do I just not care? I don't care about some things, perhaps. To quote Billy Joel, I used to think of myself as ". . . a romantic, I'm such a passionate man!" But as time ticks on and you get a bit older, some of that passion which is usually wrapped up in the idealism of youth tends to subside. But I'm not a bitter old guy sitting on a rocking chair cackling at the kids who walk by. Yet. I guess I just have to force myself to do better. At the end of the day, you're all you've got. Sure, your friends are there to help you in times of need, and support you, but they can't make you change your behavior. Your friends can be a sympathetic ear and give you suggestions if you want to quit smoking, for example, but only you can quit smoking.

This isn't a pity post. More like a philosophical musing. One thing I think might help is exercise. I live a pretty sedentary lifestyle, and if I got the blood pumping for 30 minutes a day I bet that'd help. I was able to use my knee surgery as an excuse for awhile, and though I don't have my full strength and mobility back yet, I'm at least capable of dragging my ass around the block a few times, or using a treadmill. Alright, so that's how I'm going to end this post. I'm going to exercise 30 minutes a day for the next week, dammit, and I'll report my findings back to you. Consider this a psychological and physiological experiment.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


So it's been months. Right. I knew that.

I have these weird motivational tics. I'm easily inspired, and through the course of a year I'll have a lot of ideas. Some that I think are brilliant, and a lot that are rather mundane. I'll latch onto these ideas with enthusiasm for awhile, but it tends to be cyclical. For instance, my apartment is in a constant flux of cleanliness vs. filth. When inspired, I keep my apartment virtually spotless for a few months or more, but inevitably I'll stop caring for some reason, and it'll end up looking like a hand grenade went off in the center of it for a few months. I suppose the same theory can be applied to my blogging habits.

This isn't to say that there haven't been disruptions. A primary one being the start of the fall semester which has thrown an uncharacteristic amount of work at me since September, and usually by the end of the day after reading and writing for my classes I'm hesitant to do any more for the sake of pleasure. Thankfully, I can be easily guilted into doing things from time to time, hence this post.

Granted, this is a short post, but it proves that I'm still alive and haven't given up on this blog entirely. More to come.

Oh, by the way, after eight years, my guy finally won. F&#$ yeah.

Monday, July 28, 2008


The internet is redundant and though I continue to perpetuate this trend with this blog I maintain, I decided I wasn't doing enough to speed up the mediocrity of the world wide web and took it upon myself to make a new blog about a little side hobby of mine: video gaming. It's a hobby I've indulged in ever since I was a kid, and rather than force my little past time among readers of this blog (which I consider to be relatively well-rounded and a general synthesis of my life), I've decided to create a new, separate blog specifically for this little obsession of mine. After all, I hate cartoonists who love golf or some other shitty sport or hobby and constantly remind us of that fact by including golf jokes all the time. And though I am a hypocrite, I try to at least keep that little fact hidden. So here you go. Enjoy:

Premeditated Gamicide

By the way, since it's been so long since my last post, here's a little update: Physical therapy is exceedingly long and highly annoying, though it does feel good to get a little physical exercise given the fact that I've been more or less immobile for the past nine weeks to one degree or another and my surgeon's stopped supplying me with those delightful little painkiller pills that somehow make life less dreary. So in other words with nothing else to do, I may as well go to a cramped excuse for a gym twice a week and lift my leg up and down a hundred and twenty times before they'll let me leave.

My only real regret is that the summer is flying by for me, at a rate seemingly faster than normal as I've had very little chance to get outside and experience some of that sun that everyone else seems to like so much. Oh well, at least I have an excuse for my pasty-white Irish skin this year.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

"Count backwards from 100..."

So, I haven't written a blog entry in weeks, but this time I actually have a good excuse. On the 21st of May I had knee surgery, or, to put it technically, an "elmslie trillat" with a "lateral release." Basically this means they stick an IV in me, pump me full of drugs, wheel me into an OR, knock me out, slice open my leg, "laterally release" my kneecap along with a big chunk of my tibia, move stuff around in there, preform some carpentry, drive a screw through some bone, and sew me back up. Of course, I didn't do this just for the free drugs. I've had this really annoying problem with my knees, to put it mildly, that started when I was 14 or so. My kneecaps developed pointing at a slight angle instead of being dead-center in their sockets. It's a relatively common condition, but the stink of it is it meant that my knees were a lot easier to dislocate than they should have been. And let me tell you, if you've never dislocated anything, especially a knee, you have no idea the sheer amount of utter pain and suffering you've successfully avoided thus far. I'd rather break a bone. When you dislocate your knee, it pops out of its socket, and twists 90 degrees around the side of your leg, tearing all the tendons and ligaments with it. Obviously you drop like a sack of potatoes -- and the fun part is when you have to manually wrench your knee back into its socket, all while writhing around on the ground like a bass flopping about in the bottom of a canoe. You'll also burn through your vocabulary of profanity very quickly - I recommend a thesaurus.

I've had dislocations from carrying a bicycle up a set of stairs, to playing four-square in the street when I was a kid, to playing paint ball, to getting out of my car and having the door swing back and smack me in the knee, to messing around on my hands and knees trying to plug things into the back of my computer... it goes on and on. Essentially, I'd get a dislocation whenever I zigged when I should have zagged. Of course, this has been a huge pain in the ass for me because it precluded me doing anything remotely active that involved any degree of pivoting. I had to give up paint ball for starters. I used to love playing baseball, softball, and basketball, and those were off limits. Hell, I couldn't even go dancing safely - an activity that I really love. But these were all off limits. After all, if I could dislocate my knee getting out of my car, how could I expect to tear it up on the dance floor?

It had always been my right knee that had been the culprit, and in 2004 I had this same procedure for it. Now it's straight as can be, and I have a nice screw in my tibia that I can feel through my skin as a reminder (it sounds grosser than it is. It can be removed, but I just haven't been able to be bothered with it yet). The procedure is outpatient, and takes about two hours. You're virtually immobile for a week, though you can hobble around on crutches if you desperately need to get somewhere, such as, say, the bathroom - but that's about it. After 10 days or so you can think about putting a slight amount of weight on that leg. After three or four weeks, then begins six to eight weeks of physical therapy, which is more of an inconvenience than painful, but the whole thing from start to finish is an ordeal that you don't want to take lightly. Unfortunately for me, it was necessary.

Of course, almost immediately after I had my right knee fixed, my left knee, which had never dislocated before in my life, started to pop out. I had to wait three years or so before getting it fixed mostly because I wanted to do it in the winter, but being a college student made that impossible. Finally, I just said "fuck it" this year and decided to get it done over summer vacation. I just really miss being active, and don't want to have to walk on ice every time I do something that involves a slight degree of pivoting. I want to play sports again. I want to run around like an idiot. I want to dance again. This fall, baby... this fall.

My folks more or less demanded to take care of me during the first two weeks of my recovery, and bless them, it was both a huge comfort and a massive convenience. They more or less waited on me hand and foot, though I did my best to be a kind and benevolent Young Master, not abusing my powers as much as I could. Now I'm back at home, and I can "walk," or more accurately hobble, without crutches. I can take actual showers (try going two weeks with only sponge baths sometime), I don't have to wear a dressing on my wound anymore, and I can prepare my own food. A measure of independence is good.

Oh, yeah, and my knee looks like this now. You can see the lovely round, softball shaped curves and contours around my knee, along with some puffy, bloated flesh. We're hoping that goes away reasonably soon! Thankfully the scarring probably won't be that bad. And on a side note, having your knee shaved, for a guy at least, feels damn weird. There's so much about surgery and the process leading up to it that's just damn surreal.

And, just for a frame of reference, here's a side-by-side comparison of my healthy and non-mutilated right knee, verses my left knee. As you can see, there are some... subtle... differences. But, to be fair, the medication is fantastic - nothing like oxycodone mixed with vicodin to help you keep your sense of humor about something like this. Still, after 16 days of seeing practically nothing outside of my mother's home office where I was more or less confined to the guest bed, I was starting to go a little stir crazy. Don't get me wrong, it's a nice home-office and all, and I got to take regular sightseeing trips to the bathroom, and occasionally had to slide downstairs on my butt to go to the surgeon's office for an update, but after awhile it felt like being confined in a luxurious prison with excellent room service and home care. Though it was a fantastic bonding experience with my folks, and I remember saying how ironic it was that it took major surgery to bring us closer together, especially when we live a stone's throw away from each other. But then again, life is funny sometimes.

And now I'm home, in my studio apartment, and while it's a definite change of scenery, I still can't really go anywhere for at least another week or two. But I'm trying to make the most of it and be productive in ways I might not if I could be more active. I upgraded, and practically rebuilt my computer with the help of two of my friends, and it absolutely screams now (though I will need to upgrade my video card very soon), I've got some writing done for a project I've been kicking around in my head for awhile, and it's also been a good opportunity to reflect and spend some quiet time with myself.

Oh, and if you're going to have knee surgery, or any kind of surgery that'll result in you being immobilized for awhile, get a cat. One of my folks' cats, named "The Little Guy," was quite a comfort - except when the little asshole would jump on my left leg while I was sleeping. Anyway, here's to being able to walk, and run, and dance, and throw a ball around. Here's hoping there'll still be some summer left by the time my bones finish knitting.