Friday, February 27, 2009

Interruption from regularly scheduled program

I've been thinking more about this blog lately. It's been about 2 weeks into it and I'm enjoying the ability to express my thoughts and emotions. It's been very cathartic. The content has been bugging me a bit. Let's face it, it's been a bit sappy and wimpy. So in danger of having the man card revoked, I've decided I'm going to rectify the problem with a weekly topic. I'll keep it up as long as it takes, with the goal of bringing the blog back into balance and show a more balanced picture. I think I'll come up with a name for the weekly posts, something like Testosterone Fridays has a nice ring to it, but I haven't decided on what works best.

Michael on babys:

My wife's cousin just had her first child this week. Congrats to Gayle and Rob for their little baby boy (Alex, 5 1/2 lbs). There's been a bit of a baby run for my wife's cousins this year, I think this is the third. Of course she gets all excited about them and can't wait to hold them, cuddle them, pinch cheeks etc, etc.

My thoughts: Blah, blah, blah, it's a baby, sure I suppose they are cute, but I can't see them as more then an eating, pooping, noisemaking machine. I don't have any pressing desire to hold them or touch them. If I could get away with it, I'd merely look at the baby, nod to the parents as acknowledgement that I saw their child and be done with it.

About 3-5 months in babies become interesting, even my own little one, didn't move me much until I knew that she was smiling because I came in the room.
Random masculine things for the week.

1. Megan Fox , is there anything else that needs to be said. Hey, the wife can drool over Johnny Depp, a guy can look can't he?
2. Looking forward to the Watchmen movie coming out, great series from what I understand and if it's similar to Sin City in cinematography, I'll be pleased.
3. I hate home repair, between the issues I'm having with the garage roof I finished in the fall and the friggin dishwasher I just replaced, I really just want to tear down the garage and put a big piece of plywood over the cabinet area the dishwasher goes in and forget about them.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sticks and Stones Pt 2

So back to the neurotic mess that is me. During the first years of college, I wound up getting close with a group of friends that I'm still close with to this day. I became very comfortable with them and was able to come out of my shell over time. It was a direct result of having them as a support network. On my first draft of this blog, I realized I could go on about my friends all day. I plan to write about them more as time goes on. I do want to say to all of them, without you, I don't know what I would have done without your support, and I wouldn't be the person I am today.

My guard wasn't completely gone, it still existed, but in a changed form. While I had improved my outlook on life, there was still a strong part of me that didn't like myself and didn't believe anyone else did either. It felt like an empty hole that was unable to be filled. Even without real life situations to put me down, my emptiness took delight in shaping my perceptions. My skewed perceptions would take harmless ordinary situations and turn them into self loathing thoughts. I found myself in a constant struggle.

I was a freshman in college and I went about my business without worrying about anyone else. I’d go to class, finish, go home, and hang out with friends, during that time I saw improvement in my happiness. Until one day I overheard someone laughing on the bus, looking up, I noticed them looking in my direction. Hindsight now tells me it was a random conversation and had nothing to do with me, but my self loathing latched onto it, and I was devastated. I decided at that moment that I needed to take control of people's perception of me. I couldn't control their thoughts, but I could influence them. I went home and threw out almost everything in my wardrobe and wound up replacing it with stuff I liked. Not a lot of variety (army surplus clothes and anything in black), but it was a big step for me, I finally was choosing things that made me comfortable and I had a purpose in making those choices.

My philosophy was that at least I could be in control of how I looked, so if people laughed or didn't like it, fuck them, it's who I was. Oh, and before one of my friends finds this blog and comments, there may have been a bandana or two that I wore at the time as well. (Thankfully to my knowledge there are no pictures that exist for this period of time)
This was an empowering step for me. It redefined how I felt in public. If there were looks/comments I didn't care. I started to recognize that I had much more control of people’s perceptions then I gave myself credit for. I blamed myself for failing to learn this earlier, but it was one of the first times that I accepted my failure without berating myself for it. I was making progress in the social world. Eventually, my wardrobe became a bit more appropriate. However, to this day 95% of my wardrobe is black. The other 5% is dark grey, dark brown or dark blue. I look like crap in light colors and except for a rare work situation, I’m probably not going to be seen too often in a polo shirt either. And don’t even get me started on khakis.

I also met some female friends that I let get inside the shell, which helped give me some feminine perspective. This helped with establishing my sense of self. Not only was it refreshing to have that perspective, and although many of them were just friends. They accepted me in a way that my male friends never could and when I did experience pain from some of those relationships. I could classify it as good pain and something to learn from.

I realize now, that a lot of this development was perfectly natural for who I was, some of it may have started later then it did for others, but we all deal with self esteem issues growing up. And while my circumstances are personal to me, they may be downright average to someone else. Who we are and how we think/react can be as important as the experiences we've encountered.
Taking a moment in remembering some of this, I need to point out some valuable lessons learned from a very close friend, Wendy, who seemed to know more about what I was going through, then I probably ever realized. She recommended a book; called Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman that I can honestly say changed my life. I remember thinking a self-help style book was the last thing in the world that could possibly make a difference, and while I don't agree with all of its philosophies. There were tools in the book, which I was able to adapt and apply to my life. My friendship with Wendy also helped me learn to accept being me, and not to apologize for it. I cannot think of a more important lesson or gift that I had been given to that point in life.

One of the big issues for me and a contributor to why I struggled so much is I never wanted to be anything other then myself. Sure, I was susceptible to trying to fit in at times, but it was never my goal to fit in. I wanted to be me, even if I didn't like who I was. Deep down I wanted to shape my world to my tastes rather then try fit into it.

I learned to constantly challenge my own negative thoughts, and I started seeing it produce positive results in my life. I was able to shape my own criticism and apply my life experiences to its filter. I no longer beat myself up, but learned to think critically about situations around me. I still do it to this day, failure and disappointment no longer mean self loathing, and they often lead to a better understanding of me.

So where the hell does the title of these posts come from? After all, I certainly seem like I’ve moved on from words that harm me. Well, there are two incidents that seem to stand out in my thoughts, they both happened within the last 6 months. Comments that I’ve had trouble getting out of my head. These are things that should have washed off me with no residue, which is where the title comes from and I'm hoping this stroll down memory lane helps me resolve them.

The first was when I was traveling, walking out of a bar one night and two women were passing by, and directed a comment to me that my clothes were too tight. Truth is they were probably right, I'm not at my ideal weight right now, but I'm comfortable with where I'm at, so while they weren't perfectly fit, they probably were a little tight, hell I knew it when I put the outfit on, but it's an outfit that I picked because I felt comfortable in it and I liked how I looked in it. Choosing my clothes often fits a mood or a feeling, sometimes it’s a reflection and sometimes they are chosen to try and achieve a state of mind. So their comments bugged me, hell it's bugged me so much that I'm still stewing over it 6 months later. (Obsessive to say the least).

In thinking about this, my first reaction is how miserable a person must feel to have to say something like that. Considering they said it to someone they didn’t know and who was minding his own business. The comment disturbed me. I felt as small as I used to when I was mocked. So I delved into what was bothering me and came to the conclusion that while it hurt, it wasn’t the same pain. I realized I could care less about their opinion. My mind already was working through the issue subconsciously. Their statement was a trigger that brought it to the front. Once I determined this, I was happy that I wasn’t regressing, but concerned that I was becoming emotionally detached from myself.

The second one is similar in content. At a party with some friends, someone made a casual comment about weight, clothes or something like that, and it hit me in much the same way. I'm relatively sure the person who said it, meant it as a slight joke. I'm friendly with him and have known him for awhile, but our relationship is casual and I don’t expect him to have any knowledge of my inner demons on weight and appearance. It pissed me off, and like the other comment, I was concerned about being upset. I’m strong enough to not let these things get to me anymore. It was a small party with drinking and joking going on. Besides if I was making a comparison between us, I'd feel pretty comfortable I'd come out ahead in weight, looks, and appearance. This isn't a knock on the person, it's just my opinion. And it's unlikely I'd ever offer that opinion outside of this blog, unless of course the person and I were having a discussion and they asked for some advice relating to that topic. Since I can accept it as a casual slip, the perplexing issue is why it still bugged me?

I don’t understand my obsession with these comments. What's it say about self understanding that these rude but fairly harmless comments started this emotional tumble? Why did they resonate so deeply? Why did it take a bit of strut out of my step? Is my self confidence real or some intricately contrived protection mechanism, which still has holes?

I’ve thought about this a lot and have some theories. And while I feel pretty comfortable that these theories of ‘why’ are accurate, the level of anxiety these comments provoked concerns me that my instincts may be off.

Here are my theories. I think I'm obsessing based on my concerns of growing older. At times, I'm embarrassed that I still want to dress and act younger. On some level, I don't want to grow up. Clothes that may not fit perfect regardless of whether they feel right, are telling me something deeper then I'm ready to recognize or able to resolve. It would be so much easier being a snake, shedding my outgrown skin for a new coat. Unfortunately I'm not; the change has to be done through choice, reasoning and understanding. I'm desperately working on doing that.

Now mind you, I'm not looking to be a club going 20 year old again, but my life feels stale and way too structured. I've stated before, that I feel like something’s missing. I recognize that I need structure in my life; I take pride in the fact that I've built this foundation. However, in reviewing the issues and trying to establish a path to resolution, I have to figure out what's important. Only then can I design a path that can incorporate my wants/desires and retain the parts I need.

Figuring out what's important is going to be my next step. I'm scared to death of this step. My foundation incorporates a lot of people that I care deeply about, and there is no way to please everyone with the decisions that are going to be made. I'm no longer naive enough to believe that I'm going to please everyone, but I tend to be highly sensitive to causing other's pain and I need a plan on how it's going to play out.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sticks and Stones Pt 1

But names can never hurt you, we've all heard the phrase and repeat it for our kids, but I have to say I think it's a bunch of BS. Maybe it's just me, but names/words have hurt for as long as I remember. Now I recognize that they aren't supposed to hurt, but no matter how many times I've told myself that over the years, it's never really processed. This is a look at some of how I’ve dealt with it over time and some theories on what’s bugging me today.

It's funny; most people from a physical view of me probably wouldn't take me as someone overly sensitive. I'm 6'1 and have weighed anywhere from 190-320 pounds since high school. I'm wide shouldered, have a shaved head, and what I would consider myself to have defined facial features including a strong chin and eyes. So I'm probably not the prototypical sensitive type from a physical standpoint.

I'm also not the most engaging person, I'm severely guarded around people, and I don't tend to smile easily, that is unless I'm extremely comfortable with people I'm around. The smiling part isn't really intentional. I just hate the way I look when I smile, I can smirk just fine, but my smile feels forced and I think I look like a dork when I’m smiling.

Combine these things and I think it puts me in a bad spot, emotional people tend to be engaging and look a certain way (well at least for guys) so an average person might say something to me that they wouldn't to someone else. At least in some cases that maybe the case, but in truth it's the things that people intentionally say that seem to hurt the most.

I was picked on relentlessly in middle school, I had a 45 minute bus ride to and from school so and hour and a half on a bus filled with kids that had nothing better to do. Now take into account, I was an extremely late bloomer from a physical and cognitive standpoint add in the fact that we had so many kids on the bus, many of us had to stand for the whole ride and it was a recipe for disaster. My stop was one of the last, and I learned very quickly that school was every man for themselves, friends I would think I could count on to move over and let me share a seat, quickly spread out and ignored me, scared to be targeted by association. So I'd stand and try and hold on as our crazy bus driver drove us the whole way to school, being pelted with a variety of objects, flicked, hit, spit at, all the time trying to keep my balance and being assaulted with names.

I probably should have fought back earlier and by the second year when it continued even with kids my own age, I did. I got off the bus one day and this particular girl who was relentless (her brother who had moved on was actually the worst offender from the first year) kept running her mouth, as she was kneeling on the seat, her head was above the window, I snapped, I walked by and slammed her head against the metal of the bus. I should clarify here, I didn't really slam her head, but I gave her head a solid push. My goal wasn't to harm but to embarrass and shock a bit and I accomplished it. To this day I can't believe I did that, it's the only time I've ever harmed a girl. I have no excuse though, it wasn't a moment of passion or loss of control, and it was completely pre-meditated based on all the factors at the time including opportunity. I know there's a cowardly side to it, as I should have stood up for myself anytime over the previous year. However in many respects it finally took me this long to start to understand why people picked at me in the first place and it also took this long for me to get to the point, where I felt the need to stand up for myself. Make no mistake; while it was a girl, she was undoubtedly the ring leader for that current year. I will say this, she never said anything derogatory to me again, nor did she direct her minions to bother me either. Unfortunately there was only a month left of school anyway, but it was a fairly relaxing month.

The next year I moved to Streetsboro, for the beginning of high school. By this point, my junior high years were in the past and I did feel like I could get a new start. At that point though, my depression was already in full swing and I did nothing but sit at home and eat for the majority of the time from junior high all the way through high school. At the end of high school I was up at about 325 pounds. High school was pretty uneventful for the most part, I learned from Jr. High that keeping to my self and keeping a low profile worked. Mind you, I was miserable, but when I was picked on, I usually confronted it pretty quickly and survived. My self esteem sucked, I hated my body and my self. I had essentially one friend in high school and one from where I moved from. When I was around them, I was comfortable. There were others I hung out with, but I'd consider them acquaintances for the most part. I had developed a shell and I wasn’t using it very effectively to protect myself.

I finished high school and started college, working at a local retail store, I developed a crush on a girl who worked there and was still in school (a junior or senior at the time). Needless to say, she enjoyed talking with me and was going through a rough relationship, but she had very little interest in me outside of what emotional support I could provide. I realized one day at lunch, sitting in the car, that I couldn't possibly think of someone liking me if I couldn't even like myself. I was fat and hated it, how in the world could anyone like someone that looked like me?

So I got motivated. For that lunch I was just having a snack, a carmel and nut Reeses cup. I stopped myself from opening the pack and set it on the dashboard and left it there for the next year. (Maybe longer) I started planning on how I was going to lose weight. I bought an exercise bike floor model from the store and put it in the basement. I rode the bike and recorded my weight daily. I tracked the results in a journal with a line by line entry.

We had a 40th birthday party for a friend a couple weeks ago, and during the night the subject moved to weight loss. My brother and others were a part of the discussion. I’ve been concerned for him on how he's taking care of himself, so I was offering suggestions. So as we were discussing options, he told me he didn’t feel like he could do it the way I did. His exact comments were “You were driven and extremely focused; I’ve never seen you do anything like that.” He's right the focus I had was extreme, it was the first time I remember ever consciously setting my mind to something that seemed insurmountable and deciding that I was going to accomplish it.

Within 3 months, I was down at least 40-50 lbs. I changed my eating habits, rode the bike everyday, and continued weighing myself. I moved from fast food and fries to subway sandwiches and sunflower seeds. (If only I would have known Jared would have made a crap load of money from his weight loss promoting Subway, and if I'd have only written a letter :) ). The weight continued to come off, I'd plateau, and continue pressing. The research I did showed that 3lbs a week was about the best you could expect over a course of time, so even if you lost 20lbs the first month your plateaus were going to make that average about 3 lbs. At about 9 months I was down to about 215 and felt good.

While I wasn't quite where I wanted to be, working out became a huge part of my life. Even now, while I don't keep up like I used too, when I don't workout regularly, the level of grouchiness I feel is unbelievable and I'm amazed at how good I feel from one or two workouts. However even weight loss couldn't resolve all of my depression. I discovered my weight loss meant nothing for the girl I was pursuing. I won’t bother with the details, but she didn’t think much of me and I ended our ‘friendship’ once I learned this. Losing weight had at least given me a bit of self esteem. This realization also caused me to protect myself more emotionally.

This things getting long, so breaking it up into Part 1 and Part 2.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Nothing deep, just current events

I thought I'd just post about some of the things going on currently in my life.

Bronwyn continues to amaze me on a daily basis, she's completely obsessed with putting puzzles together, so much so, that I fet she was doing her older ones, much too quickly and went out and got her a couple new ones. Her mom was very appreciative of how much I was trying to foster Bronwyn's spatial intelligence, well not completely, as these puzzles added another group of 'things' that get piled up on the floor. I believe the exact comment was "Hey why don't we get her some more puzzles and we can just put them all over the floor." I can appreciate her sarcasm here, after all, when Bronwyn's finished a puzzle, she has them pushed to the base of the TV, and doesn't like to them put away, so it can be 'interesting' to see 4 puzzles laid out. And our house like any other with little children has tons of toys all around and looks to be in a perpetual state of chaotic mess. My suggestion to the wife, was to take a deep breath, chill out, and relax as the house is never going to be 'clean' again until I'm guessing at least Bronwyn's 10th birthday. I realize that is cautiously optimistic though and besides I'll trade some messiness for IQ points/development any day of the week.

Bronwyn's also working on her new facial expressions, she's so like a sponge, so I'm always trying to work backward to where she might have picked them up from. Her newest one, is to throw her hands across her chest, squint the eyes, raise the chin and say 'fine'. It's pure cariacture and imitation, and always accompanied by her laugh. I have no idea what I'm going to do when it's for real. I'm pretty sure she picked this one up from her mother, although I'm still trying to figure it out, Bronwyn won't tell me. So far, she's blamed Dora and Kei-Lan and I'm pretty sure from watching the shows with her, they've never displayed that attitude.

Laurie's got another cold and is lamenting the fact, that out of 5 winter months so far, she's pretty sure, she's been sick 80-90% of the time. She's been subbing more this year, then any of the last couple years, so she's exposed to a lot more students, and I think that plays a big role. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I don't catch it as I have my trip coming up next week, and I really don't want to fly with a head cold or be on the road for that matter.

This weekend we have my sister-in-laws 30th birthday party. So it will be nice seeing everyone getting together. This has been an interesting winter, in that I've gotten to see people on a number of weekends. There have been a number of birthday parties and my dad's retirement party through the first two months, so the weekends have been busy.

I had a chance to visit with one of my closest friends last weekend, I kept thinking that he and his wife were going to get together with Laurie and I, where I could give his daughter, Anna (my goddaughter) her Christmas gift, but we just haven't been able to connect. So with a free morning and some shopping errands to run, I gave him a call and stopped by and we got to talk for 30 minutes or so (would have been longer, if I didn't get lost looking for his house and get off on the wrong exit). It was so relaxing, just having a spontaneous conversation for that little bit. It's something I miss, with everything being so scheduled in my life, even when I get together with people, I seem to have an agenda for how I want the night to go, and I can't remember the last time, I just went out for coffee with someone I hadn't seen in awhile and talked. Matter of fact, I emailed another friend last night, to see if they want to get together and do just that.

The next two weeks are going to be a bit busy though, I'm off to Las Vegas next Thursday evening (3/5) by myself for 6 nights. I've got some work to do out there, but have also planned a day or two as vacation. I've not talked a lot about my Vegas obsession, but I visit the place 2-3 times a year. I've found there are enough distractions there that I can take my mind off of the things in life. I know the place is chaotic and lively, and I enjoy it's energy. I'm able to find a solitude there even with the chaos all around. It's funny, but one of the things I'm looking forward to most, is just taking long hot showers, for as long as I want. I don't know when showers became an indulgence, but lately it seems I never have enough time for a long shower. I'm also excited that that I'm going to be able to set a good portion of my trip to my own pace. Even with work factored in, I have enough control of the timings, that I'm not going to feel pressured by schedules. So between, long hot showers, setting my own pace, and having very little influence from the outside world, maybe I'll be able to solve some of my own problems.

Regardless of whether I solve anything while gone, I do get to come back and have a couple vacation days that I'm going to spend with Bronwyn. (Laurie too if she's not working or interviewing) Even though I just had time off in December, it seems like it's been much longer. So I'm excited I get to see Bronwyn for a couple days, I'd be lying if I said I feel like I give her enough undivided attention, so I'm glad we do get some time for that.

The last big thing is my wife's school job fair at Kent State, she has a couple interviews currently scheduled for that day, and it will sort of officially kick off the job search for this year. Not sure where we may end up at this point. The new rule is East of the Rocky Mountains, with my old rule of the area having a major airport as a requirement still in tact. Omaha, NE and Louisville, KY look like possibilities, although Virginia, and Clear Creek, TX could be possibilities as well.

So it should be an exciting couple weeks, I'm debating whether to blog from Vegas, I have the iphone I can use updating, but I may just collect my thoughts and post them when I get back.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Life past 35 a lesson in short-sightedness

Well, it's almost March and the 36th birthday is around the corner at the end of the month. Fact is I've never been a big birthday fan, I don't particularly care that I'm a year older in truth. It's a number that could be radically different if our time keeping was set up differently. It's more about how I feel and where I'm at in life that causes me the most issues this time of year.

So I as I posted last week: I'm trying to look toward the future and understand how I want to pursue things in life. Thinking about it further after that post, I realized, I never planned for life past 35. Heck, I was thinking I would just be happy to make it that age and hopefully accomplish some of the goals I had in mind.

Well I made it here, have a family, a job, house, dog, cars. Not too bad, although not entirely unexpected. I've also managed to stay pretty true to myself and I believe I have maintained a personality that holds many of my core characteristics that I value. Let me also provide some insight here, I don't put down hard and fast goals, I actually hate trying to measure progress for the most part. However, I do put general goals out there, which help frame choices as I encounter them, so while I may have a goal of 100k a year to be made by 2005 (as an example). It doesn't really matter whether I hit the goal directly or not, it just let's me utilize it in planning and using a positive/negative expectation value to more important decisions.

I currently feel like something is missing. Part of it is I do believe things in life could be better, better job, house, more income, etc. So there are material things I know that I need to factor into this next plan. Since I've got a fairly solid foundation though, I'm not overly concerned with how difficult those things will be to obtain. I think the biggest concerns from a monetary standpoingt are going to be trying to wrap my head around the fact that I need to start figuring out things about retirement. Kind of a scary thought, especially considering I still think of myself as someone much younger then I actually am.

So the material issues will likely handle themselves. The mental aspect of this, is where I feel I'm missing something, as I stated in my other post, I don't want to grow old and be bitter about things. These days, life seems like it's rushing by and I desperately want to slow it down a bit. As much as I have come to like consistency and schedule. I despise it in so many ways. If you take away the times when I go out of town for work, or for an occassional getaway, I can pretty much predict where I'll be at what time and on what day for the next 3-6 months and that is a terribly scary thought and depressing at the same time.

I need to figure out whether this is a rut or whether there is a greater issue here that's making me feel this way. There are a variety of things that could be driving it, my wife looking for a job, being exhausted from work, having a hyper 3 year old and many others. Once I can get an understanding of that, I think it will be time to start looking at the plan past 35, how far I want to look ahead though is still to be determined, as there are some tough decisions I have to make that affect career and family going forward as well. Unfortunately in the field I work in, career advancement can cause some tough decisions in relation to family, that I need to figure out. But that's for another day's post.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Ipod play list vs Mix tape showdown

So I need a bit of levity in my posts, and this question has been dogging me for awhile.

Why the hell is it harder to choose a play list to fit to my ipod then it used to be to make a mix tape. And I'm not just talking about the high school sweetheart mix tape, I'm talking about the one you made to cruise around town with as well. Heck I remember having to put whole cds to fill some of those tapes, once I got through what I wanted.

After all, the damn tapes were about 60 minutes of music total (edit: (Thinking about it now, maybe they were 90 minutes long) ), what's that like 20 songs on average, my shuffle holds a GB of music and I'm consistently trying to filter it down and fit it for the requirement.

I know, I know, the easy solution is buy a bigger IPOD, and sure that would help, but even putting music on my iphone, I still run into issues with 3-4 GB of music.

So what's the solution? First of all I think I have to figure out a way to make smaller play lists and then just add those to my ipod, I start out trying to make a play list for a full gig rather then break it down into type of music. I have two currently, my Vegas play list and my workout/bike riding play list. My Vegas list is my toughest as I want mostly my favorites on there, for when I'm walking the strip or playing video poker, and I'm just finding that I have way too many favorites out of my 14GB in music. The workout one is even getting a bit hard, I made a rough play list just to get going and hit 900MB, without even trying, and it was mostly just throwing faster paced songs on the darn thing. I'd hate to see what in depth analysis does for it.

So if I decide to break up my lists into smaller categories, I'm extremely worried that I'm going to have overlap or at the very least, not capture what I truly want on the damn player. So I've been reluctant to try it. Plus I tend to buy cds pretty regularly when I visit the 1/2 price books place, so I'm always adding one or two songs somewhere on a weekly basis.

I'm open to other suggestions though. I have figured out that my main focus when choosing favorites is to choose favorites and variety rather then overloading on my favorite musicians. And in saying that, I figured I'd list my top ten favorite albums/musicians.

1. Guns N Roses, Use your Illusion II : if for no other reason then Estranged, my favorite song of all time.

2. REM, Automatic for the People: I've spent more time listening to this album completely then any other album period. The biggest problem here is there aren't a lot of songs on my IPOD from it, as it's a conglomerate album for me and song by song doesn't work so well.

3. Guns N Roses, Appetite for Destruction: If I need to get the testosterone pumping, it comes from here.

4. Billy Joel, Stormfront: I think I could put all the songs from this album on any favorite play list, but, it moves down some spots as the songs don't mean as much to me as some of the others.

5. Matthew Sweet, Girlfriend: Had to have something obscure on the list, plus I love the different sound his music brings to my favorites.

6. Pearl Jam, Vs: Plenty of options on here as well, and Ten just killed me in how much it was overplayed, still can only deal with Ten in small doses because of it.

7. U2, Acthung Baby: My favorite U2 album, but it has the same problem Automatic for the People does, in that it works listening all the way through, but not much besides One makes it onto a play list for me.

8. Def Leppard, Hysteria: lot of good stuff on here, and a bit of a high school flash back to boot.

9. INXS, Welcome to wherever you are: My favorite INXS album, and their last I believe before Michael Hutchence died, more refined in my opinion then the earlier stuff in a lot of ways.

10. Live, Mental Jewelry: Live's first album and far superior to the overplayed Throwing Copper in my opinion.

Others missing the cut: Nirvana, NIN, Stone Temple Pilots, Sponge, Green Day, and a variety of others, I'll post a top 10 song list sometime, can't imagine that's going to be easy though, maybe we'll do top 20. So any good suggestions on how you build your play list?

Friday, February 20, 2009

On being wrong

You never admit when you are wrong, I truly hate this statement. My thoughts when I hear this are: What....? You are joking aren't you?

I can't tell you how many times I've heard this statement and when I do, I honestly wonder whether the person truly understands me. Lately though, I've been trying to understand the reasoning for this, and here are my thoughts.

I've realized recently that this statement is probably the least true statement about me. I don't like being wrong, however I do admit it. Hell, I obsess about being wrong. I despise my mistakes and am probably harder on myself then anyone could ever be. (BIG thanks to my parents for my overdeveloped SuperEgo). In my opinion, it would be the height of arrogance to believe I could never be wrong, there are far too many variables in every conversation and in the world to make this a possibility. So why in the world do those close to me say this at times?

Let's start by understanding my pursuit for knowledge, for much of my life, I've been behind. I was a late bloomer and high school was an absolute horror show for me as I'm sure it was for many people. The scars I retained from it have shaped much of my life. Being a late bloomer meant there were many things I understood too late to adapt to, which caused me to be ridiculed, rather severely in many cases. I determined I was going to learn from those experiences and learn to adapt. My early life taught me that when I didn't understand something, it left me vulnerable and I hate being vulnerable.

So my views on life changed, I picked up more interests and when I found them, I threw myself into collecting knowledge on them and in the process often used that knowledge in multiple areas. I also applied many of my observation skills to life, news, history, you name it, I strived to be knowledgeable and believed with that knowledge came my power. I know a little about a lot of things, opinions I offer are 90% of the time based on something from my knowledge. I tend to not engage when I'm not familiar with something or at the very least state up front my lack of knowledge or opinion in the area of discussion. I'd even go so far to say that I'm very different then most people in this respect. I'm a student of life, and I devour knowledge wherever I can attain it from and where time permits.

So how does that apply to this dilemma? Well, I'm able to engage in a lot of discussions on a wide variety of interests on a deeper level then most can from a casual perspective. On the surface someone encountering me could definitely consider me arrogant, rather then confident. The opinions I've formed often have their strength directly correlated with my knowledge of the topic. On top of that, my instincts are good, I believe I'm able to filter information rather effectively, authors and columnists I follow have typically shown me that I can trust their insight. I review their credibility constantly in applying that knowledge to my thinking and I recognize that they aren't always correct, but in applying our self filter and critical thinking to information we are often able to separate bias from an opinion over time. I'm definitely confident in my ability to form an opinion, but as you'll see, it's not the main function of my knowledge gathering.

I engage in a lot of discussions on issues. The funny thing is that most people I engage with have no idea that it's a conscious decision to engage with them based on my respect for them. I don't typically engage deeply with people I don't know or respect. Much of my knowledge is gained through these in depth discussions with people whose convictions, bias, passion, perception and beliefs I understand and respect. In truth, for most of my discussions I could care less who is right and who is wrong, deeper understanding is far more valuable to me then being right. Engaging regularly with these people gives me insight into their personalities and I apply it in my discussions with them. At the same time, if I engage in a subject I'm unfamiliar with, I usually admit my lack of knowledge or opinion on an issue. During those conversations I often use deductive techniques to flush out the topic. The reason is much of my knowledge is foundational, it's layered in what I've learned and applied previously in my search for knowledge. So it's fairly easy for me to form an opinion or to understand something by having a foundational basis for reasoning. That means I do use a lot of context to shape my perspective. It's rare that I completely agree with people on an issue. There is just to much complexity in an opinion or perspective to completely agree in most cases. To me, agreeing is completely irrelevant, I'm more interested in discussing a solution. I don't believe most people look at it in the same way, I think they are looking for reassurance or confirmation of their beliefs/opinions.

I maybe one of the worst people in the world to talk to if you are looking for confirmation or reassurance. When we start to engage in a discussion, agreement is the furthest thing from my mind. From the start I'm probing and using my techniques to further define the conversation. My goal is the data not agreement. I despise discussions that are based on common beliefs or that are done for reassurance. I don't really believe they do much to further the understanding of an issue. They sort of go like this: Person A: I believe in global warming. Person B: yes I do too. Person A: Boy those corporations suck. Person B: yes they do. (end of dialogue). I want to know whether the issue is real, 2. whether there is a way to solve it given the opposing arguments, 3. discuss those options.

This is typically how I engage with people, I know it's frustrating for people, and it shapes their perspective that I'm arrogant or can't admit to being wrong. In many of these discussions I'm rarely falling on one side of an argument, but I think the frustration of the discussion makes people think that I am. Since I don't agree with them completely or at least on a good portion of the discussion, then I must be against them, unfortunately that's often not the case at all, but this perception is what I think drives people to think that I never admit I'm wrong.

And the truth is I'm usually not right or wrong on those, they are far too complicated to be completely right or wrong. I think people remember that I didn't agree with them and the issue was resolved, so therefore I was wrong. I understand this, we typically remember based on our own filter and our memories are often faulty in this manner. I'm sure I'm guilty of this as well, but if we had transcripts of a discussion, my guess is by reviewing it people would see that I rarely come out for or against something, rather my conversation tends to discuss the issue as a whole and works to find a middle in most situations.

So that's where I think this concept people have about me comes from, the interesting part is that the opinion being formed is likely not from areas where I'm absolute. The times I'm stating something absolute (example: The store opens at 9.) and I'm wrong, I have no issue admitting it. For bigger issues when I'm wrong on topics that I was absolute in my opinion. I find myself obsessing over the reason I was wrong, trying to determine where in my critical thinking I was faulty or could try to improve it and not make the same mistake again. Which is the reason that it confounds me that people make the statement.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Film shortage in the 90's

I just realized with my newfound motivation for updating online, that I have a severe lack of pictures. Now granted, I probably have 5000 pictures of the little one and a couple hundred of the dog. Not to mention, wedding albums and pictures of vacations, mostly of the wife, as I seem to be the one doing the taking. But I have hardly any of myself and very few (none) that I actually like of myself.

Not to mention, reconnecting with friends on Facebook, I get to see people I haven't seen in years and while I remember them, I realize I had absolutely no pictures of them. So was there some film shortage during the 90's that caused this? Or were we just too damn busy or uninteresting to take any pictures? God, I wish I knew, but alas there is no way to go back in time and start snapping away, so I'll have to work to correct this going forward. So for those I see in the coming months, be prepared for me to annoyingly be snapping away with the cell phone and don't be afraid to snap one of me as well, I could definitely use one, I keep trying to find one for a profile as a head shot, but am way to critical of how I look in each shot. I should have one soon though, that I'm happy with, just have to shave the head and then take about a 100 photos at different distances to find one I like.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Really, its called a Snuggie?

Ok, so I thought I was going to post something deep tonight, and half way through realized the topic and thoughts were too ambitious at this time, so I decided to go a bit lighter in content.

What the hell is a Snuggie?

Well if you are using the internet you probably already know what one is, it's a friggin blanket with sleeves, groundbreaking it's not.

Robe: The original Snuggie!

So I'm trying to understand the fascination with it, I really am, now don't get me wrong, I sort of think it's neat that we have some new fad, while things sort of bubble up differently nowadays due to email and the internet, it's sort of neat to see something that looks like it's straight out of the 80's resonate with people.

But let's take a look at some of my questions: When did wrapping oneself in a blanket become such a difficult task? Do people mummify themselves or loved ones so much that they are incapable of adjusting to hold the phone or remote? Why would you go to a sporting event with one? If you have two snuggies and you cut holes can you have sex while wearing them?

These are the things that go through my head. I decided to pose a of the questions to the wife, now mind you, my wife seems to like Snuggies. But she's a bit pro-blanket anyway, after all she swears there is an alarm attached to the thermostat that alerts me if it's turned up (even when I'm out of town), and she seems to be perpetually wrapped up in a blanket in our old drafty house at night.

Me: So please tell me what the hell is the purpose of these?
Wife: They have sleeves it's awesome, you can hold stuff while wearing them and they'll keep you warm.

Me: But it's a friggin blanket
Wife: Yes with sleeves, cool huh

Me: Um, no, why not wear a robe?
Wife: They aren't warm enough

Me: (at this point I know she is just messing with me ) So you mean the 3 ply robe that pulls down the hook on the door because it's so heavy?
Wife: Well they aren't blankets, it's not the same, you can't wear a robe to a sports game. By the way do you think people get beat up for wearing snuggies at sports games?

Me: Probably not, because it's likely women wearing them, if the guys wearing it he better be with a women, otherwise, he's probably getting punched or at the very least a drink spilled on him.

Me: So what happens if a couple is both wearing snuggies and decided to have sex, do the arms get tangled, do they cut holes in the snuggie, how does it work?

So without an answer to that question, I guess I have to pose it to anyone that cares to comment on it.

If a blog is created in the forest

I'm sure that reference has been used in some way multiple times on people's blogs. That's been the question I've been struggling with for a long time now, and a big reason it took so long to start putting my thoughts down to keyboard.

Do I want my thoughts and opinions out there in the websphere for everyone to see? No problem on the answer there, yes I want it out there for people to see. The next question then is do I want people I know to be able to read my blog? Yes, a large part of me wants those I know to be alerted to it's existence and to read it if they want to. So why am I struggling with it. It goes back to my compartmentalization of my social life. I want to express my opinions and thoughts openly and to words, without over-worrying on how people might react to them. I think it's important to take other's thoughts/feelings into account when you are posting something about them, but I don't want to over analyze their reactions, like I'm prone to do.

I guess the last thought with this is based on the title, what if I tell everyone and no one cares. I think I would be ok with that too. At least I know I put it out there for them. Whether or not they want to hear me on my pulpit is certainly there opinion, besides whether or not I can gain any regular readers is going to be as much my responsibility as anything, as if the content sucks, I wouldn't read it either.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Back to the Future moment

So a couple weeks ago, we had a retirement party for my dad. Congrats Dad for finally making it to the end 25 years at Pepsi and probably close to 10 at the Cleveland Press. Anyway, it was a nice party, hosted at a restaurant in town, in a private room. We had a variety of people there, family, some of Dad's friends and some of Jason and my friends that have been around over the years. So how does that translate into a back to the Future moment.

Well my cousin Jennifer was there as well, she's been off in Toledo finishing school for nursing and we haven't got to see her much over the last couple years. Hell it's probably been like 3 times in the last 10 years or so, and when your little cousin is going from 10-23 in that time, it's quite a change to say the least. She's developed into quite the beautiful young lady, smart, attractive, and she's got the family gene for being able to hold her own liquor as well.

I probably have over 40 cousins on my mom's side of the family and Jen has always been the one I was around most, I babysat her and her younger brother and always had a bit of a special connection with her. I always kind of saw myself in her, at least when it came to my grandparents. See we use to visit them all the time, and while they treated all of us special, there were a number of years before my brother came along that I sort of had a head start, and was doted on a bit by them and it carried through into the later years. Jen came along as the first girl grandchild for the younger kids and since she was around at that time too, she sort of became the special grandaughter of that group. So I guess that's where I see the similarity, but I always felt a bit closer with her then any of my other cousins, maybe it's because we were the oldest kids of strong mothers and only had one sibling, but we have a connection.

Having said all that, I was a bit shocked to see her and glad as well for the chance to catch up. During the night, I wandered over to the my brothers and my friends and overheard them talking about how attractive she was (they are all single) and having a little fun with it. I can't say I blame them, she's an extremely attractive young women and very outgoing and friendly and they were well within the lines of harmless conversation. But I must say I was a bit surprised in my own thoughts and action at the time. Now mind you this is later in the night and Jen and Jason had decided shots all around was a running theme. But I don't think it would have been much different without the alchohol. I found myself in Dad mode, a bit more aggressive in conversation, posing open ended questions and trying to be a bit intimidating. Not intentionally mind you but instinctually. I remember walking over to one of the guys as I came into the conversation and put my hands on his shoulders as I started talking. Nothing more then some minimal contact, but certainly not my typical style. Interesting to me to say the least.

Looking back on it now, I consider that I was sort of getting a feel for how I will act when Bronwyn inevitably brings boys around someday. I kid the wife that I'm going to be an ogre, but in truth I could never be that. My goal is to develop a relationship with Bronwyn, where I'm able to be a confidant and help prepare her for navigating the world of relationships. If I can't do that, then ultimately no intimidation or ogre tactics are going to matter. Here's hoping that's the way it works out, we've got a good start with it. Not too mention that she has a younger role model in her cousin that helps paint a picture for her as well.

10 Random thoughts

In trying to build some content for the blog, just thought I'd post some random thoughts/observations of mine, that I've had from time to time over the last year or two.

1. Disturbed's version of Genesis' Land of Confusion was a perfect match, the words needed the heavier sound of rock and roll to match the tone of the lyrics. Call it a victim of the 80's bee bop sound, but the lyrics of the song were strong.

2. We wonder why men are frustrated, yet our television shows and movies seem to delight in portraying us as bumbling idiots. Who only can be corrected by a woman.

3. Music needs another revolution or at least a re-revolution. Where's the sound that identifies the 00's. Not to mention we probably could use a bit of fun in our music (i.e the 80's) with everything going on today.

4. I think Cleveland is dying and has been for a number of years.

5. Baseball is a far superior game to any other major sport.

6. REM's music went kerplunk when their drummer was forced to retire.

7. Indulgence is underrated or at the very least has some bad publicity attached to it.

8. I was going to say we could really use a fad in the 00's as well, but I think snuggies are filling that niche .

9. There are no coincidences, although sometimes that banana peel is just a banana peel and those hoofs you hear mean Horse, rather then Zebra.

10. Fringe is a fantastic television show.

It's only taken 2 years for the second one

So what's on my mind? Self inspection, going from the knowing the me of old to understanding who I am today and who I want to be tomorrow. It's funny how life changes and can move so quickly nowadays, it used to seem it took forever for something to develop, now it seems like it's over before it starts. And unfortunately my belief in how much I understood myself has been challenged over the course of time, and my over confidence in that understanding is causing me a great deal of angst lately. As much as I went through the teen years and early twenties not having a lot of self confidence, there were parts of me that I was proud of and gave me confidence to get through. Feeling superior at times for my views on how I would handle potential situations, the belief in that I was a good person, intelligent, and other assorted things. Of course that helped me move into my confident self along with some very supportive people that were able to see my faults at the time, and reflect them to me. However my pride and intellect while useful also caused me to view life through the filter of how I wanted it to be rather then in many cases how it actually was.

So as time went on I based a lot of decisions on whom I wanted to be or in maintaining the order of life around me. I found a path to proceed through life and be successful that minimized fear and hurt and basically bottled up feelings. They erupted at times when I was emotionally spent based on the isolated world I had created. I've worked to control everything, my feelings, other's perceptions, situations, you name it. Whether it worked or not is subject to great debate, but I'm now realizing that beyond being exhausting, that I've lost myself in that control. I don't know what's real and I seem emotionally lost. In addition to that, as my life has changed so has my situation, cues I used to rely on from others are now gone, I work from home, and see limited friends in very specific social settings, and most that I see while I consider them friends have always been held at arms length. The ones that I truly got reflection from I tend to be separated from by obligations we all have as we grow older. Not to mention some have developed differently then when I knew them and our paths have taken us to different areas of life, I'm not sure some would be capable of understanding me as I am now, as we've grown too different.

So what's all this mean and where's it coming from? I have plenty of theories, but watching my father and some of his friends and older men, I see things I don't want to be and and in some cases I fear I'm becoming. Bitter at times, afraid to be themselves, lost in a whirlwind of life and faced with difficult situations. Hell I'd cry about it if I could, but alas even as I write this there's no feeling good or bad, just ambivalence and I'm disgusted by it. So much of my life I see has been based on living in fear, so many decisions affected by it and yet at the same time, I know that I've made some good choices in life, so with more to sift through at this age, I can't very well just throw it all out, much more difficult task now then when I was younger, while I had fewer tools then, there was less to sift through, so maybe in some senses it evens out. The question that I first have to answer though, is how do I get where I want to be. Well the first step is identifying the problem, I think there are two main ones: fear of not having control and fear of emotion (my own and others). The second step is trying to incorporate changes to those two into my life. That's where I'm at for the moment.