Spartan

My Spartan Race is scheduled for tomorrow on the muddy ski slopes of Pennsylvania; this is how I planned to prepare for the brutal 5 mile obstacle course: over run Prospect Park for distance familiarity, while alternating between sprint intervals and weight training for strength conditioning. As adults, we generally get over the spectacle of walking after we learn to do so as toddlers, unless yesterday was leg day, and you wake up with quadriceps contractions.

I came a long way from the super skinny competitive guy who hated losing, and mocked losers. I have always been competitive and obsessive enough to be good at anything I set my mind to; however, I wasn’t always equipped to excel at physical activities. Being slender, among people who intermittently exercise to lose weight, has earned me quite a few “good genes” and “divine metabolism” remarks; nonetheless, being scoffed at for eating small portions never gets old; neither does a lack of fat translate into an abundance of muscle. I learned the difference one summer when I went to visit my sister on an Army base, and was demolished on a basketball court by muscular men, the likes of which never make it from the pull-up bars to the basketball courts in Brooklyn.

By my mid-twenties, without professional aspirations, I finally adopted an active lifestyle to challenge myself. By that, I mean: I stand in trains cars, even the empty ones. I look forward to flights of stairs, two steps at a time! If not for sweaty shirts and winter months, my bike would be my primary mode of transportation. After paying for multiple gym memberships, I bought my own weights and weight vest to spontaneously break out into workouts. Without fail, I feel bigger, faster, stronger every year. Always trying to one up myself, I joined the New York Road Runners Club with the intention of running the 2014 ING New York Marathon. Now I have to run 9 club sanctioned races before the end of 2013, just to run another 26 miles next year; and I can’t wait.

In the mean time, without an option for “IT professional” on the Spartan Race application, I was told to represent; which means I plan to finish in the top 10% and Instagram a deluge of post race photographs. This isn’t the last of my personal challenges this year either: see my five minute plank if you haven’t already, then look forward to my race against a train; yes, a train, you read that right. Madness?

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New Glasses!

Well known secret: my glasses have been broken for some time now. It’s one of those things that illicit subtle stares to confirm they’re indeed broken, without asking any questions. Like with the occasional pimple, most people will not point at your face in passing; however, like the eczema on a sufferer’s neck, it’s hard not to glance every now and then to quietly wonder about treatment. So I get it, I just don’t care. To prioritize functionality over aesthetics means I would amputate my own foot if it meant more speed: four minute mile speed for starters. If you thought the functionality of wearing glasses was to impress you, then you’ve done your self evaluation a great disservice.

My plan was to walk into the glasses store with a coupon for a $20 eye exam and prescription, then search for a suitable frame online. Being a technologist, I already vowed to never go in-store shopping again once Amazon develops same day delivery. About this coupon idea, no one likes printers, and I was worried that the clerk wouldn’t use the recycle bin. Of course I printed the coupon nonetheless, because I wouldn’t dare expect them to honor the deal without wasting trees.

My exam experience was great though, the optometrist was a nice older gentleman surrounded by younger administrative folks. Afterwards the sales pitch started: Would you like to buy frames? Okay, how much are you paying there if you don’t mind me asking? Well I can also sell you something for under $100 and knock off the $20 cost of the exam. The real kicker was trying on the glasses with immediate feedback, having the frame and lenses ready within an hour, and peering into the sales clerk’s wide open blouse; which I don’t feel ashamed about, because that’s what the gaping cleavage was obviously there for.

About the glasses themselves, they’re awesome! I immediately tweeted:

That awesome moment a new pair of glasses can make all the difference: I see better, look better, and everyone else needs more makeup.

My last pair were very Malcolm X. I wanted something larger and not black; basically something that didn’t immediately tie me to politics and activism. The best my online searches turned up were a pair of plastic aviators I wasn’t sure would last a week in the real world. The breasts were kind enough to suggest two pairs I liked, the first were reminiscent of my last pair with a metal frame top and loose lens bottom. The second pair remains on my face. I love the look! They’re my first pair to equally encourage goofiness and professionalism with exclamation points! The online price difference was made up in terms of breasts and convenience.

Lastly, I almost purchased a pair of sunglasses, before remembering the lessons I learned and didn’t want to repeat from over wearing them a few years back. Prolonged sunglass wear makes your eyes very sensitive to sunlight. Once my I lost my first pair of Tom Fords, which I loved by the way, I could barely go anywhere without a visor. And second, I could no longer justify the confidence hidden behind my tinted wandering eyes; even a busty clerk should know her bust is appreciated. So I can look you in the eye; if anything, without spending the extra money to remove glare from my lenses, it’s possible you can blind yourself attempting to look at me.

Contacts are next, I think I’ll go with white pupils!

When You Need a Dry Phone

I accidentally submerged my phone in a small tub of water Tuesday evening. Not in a toilet bowl or kitchen sink, my phone fell into a mosquito trap, which I have been in dire need of. Everyone knows that water and electronics don’t mix. Google says to shut down your device, if you can, remove the power source completely, and submerge the phone in rice to absorb every H2O molecule possible. I was in a rush. My rush, and subsequent patience by force, explain the following shortcuts.

Like any other elementary school student, I wicked away all the water I could see with my naked eye, powered on the device, watched the screen light up with the correct loading images, then remain static despite my harried finger swiping to and fro. Okay, time to graduate to Junior High School. There must have been water trapped inside of the phone! So I made long flailing motions to coerce water out from the speaker and headphone jack; the following is a reenactment:

Droplets eventually stopped squirting against my face, leaving only air and hope to be expected. Again I powered on the device and was met by a picture of my home screen, instead of an interactive operating system. Hello High School, time to put those complicated evaporation lessons to use! Here’s where my real genius shined through. Blow dryers are a bad idea, because extreme heat can damage circuits without any assistance from water; even low settings can singe more than the eye can see. What source of heat could I use, knowing well in advance that the upper temperature was safe for sensitive electronics? Well, you see, I have this 13-inch laptop that I love; it’s equipped with an i3 Core processor and made of plastic, making it light and fast enough for media production on the go. A mild drawback includes the whirring fan that erupts whenever Adobe Dreamweaver launches, and there I found the perfect heat vent, simultaneously proven hot enough to burn a lap without detrimentally affecting a motherboard. Adobe Dreamweaver, Lightroom, Premiere, and YouTube videos warmed the phone innards hot to the touch, just like I remember my Earth Science teacher called for. You can guess what happened next, nothing happened next, besides the sound of text message alerts.

There went my plans for the evening, and as luck would have it, the following day also. I’m pleased to report from my phone after another 24 hours in a zip lock bag full of dry rice. Two pluses from the experience: not having a phone sure helps make decisions that much easier, and provides great material about irresponsible behavior. The lesson is, when you need a dry phone, use patience first.

Joys of Washing Dishes

My main chore growing up was vacuuming our carpet ocean and rug islands. Every rug was seemingly made with frills flowing from the border, designed to repeatedly jam vacuum bristles. Attempting to rush inevitably sat me down to unwind frills under the foul odor of a burnt motor. There were countless attachments to keep track of, and being tall, my back used to hurt prematurely from hunching over the hose into uncomfortable positions, to clean beneath furniture and into the creases between stairs. Needless to say, vacuuming became my least favorite chore. I preferred ironing, folding, or doing laundry. When I got my own space, I went so far as to sweep what little carpet I already hated to lay; when will someone make affordably heated wooden floorboards?! Ironically, washing dishes is my favorite chore to date, and I was never asked to do it as a child.

Before all of my relationships went to hell, we always agreed as a couple that I would wash our dishes everyday and she would vacuum our place every week. Even as a bachelor, I like a clean sink. Especially after breakfast, after my first sip of water and before my morning shower, I feel the most refreshed pouring water over my hands while soaking dishes and utensils. Everything gets soaked, utensils get wiped first in two alternating strokes with a soapy sponge, rinsed off, and place in a rack to dry. Dishes follow a similar pattern, then pots, which occasionally require extra scrubbing. Quick household hack: I routinely use a rolled up bit of foil in place of steel sponges. My self-admitted dishwashing flaw is constantly running water during the entire procedure. I hate piling soapy dishes on the side, while my skin dries, until I rinse them all off. Most people, especially older folks with a history of limited resources, scold me for the waste. The very sound of running water is soothing though, as are the feeling of my wet hands, so much that I can’t imagine wearing bright yellow rubber gloves, nor can I imagine not applying a moisturizer afterwards. Maybe I really just like washing my hands, except that wouldn’t explain my disdain for dishwashers or the concept of pre-washing.

Still working on my house husband resume, and my original offer still stands for my future wife. I also give great massages, I’ve been told, if you like strong hands.

Turnt Up

Most of my friends and associates are older than me, and I just turned thirty. Like those before us, my age group is quickly becoming oblivious to what’s cool, hip, fly, phat, dope, or the bomb; of those phrases, cool may be the only one still in circulation, and it’s still not cool to refer to oneself as cool. The problem is that we’re a productive bunch, and that usually means less rap music; which is the news for people who are so misinformed, that portraying art becomes their life. Popularity ultimately drives catch phrases into a culture’s vernacular, and we get left behind, because we’re more concerned with earning the Money, Power, and Respect that reciting lyrics did not give us. While hanging out, chilling, and relaxing all cool, conversations lose context when new slang goes over our head; in turn, this is the first in a series of posts to stay up to date with the ever changing Ebonics around me.

When I think of something turning up, I think of a volume knob on a stereo set, or the sudden appearance of something that previously went missing; like, my car keys turned up, you wouldn’t believe where I found them. If I had to associate the phrase with a slang connotation, arriving late to a party would make some sense to me; then we could do away with mentioning colored people time. Due to the term’s constant attachment to photographs of unsupervised raving, I deduced that being turned up appears to be the opposite of being faded. If you’re also confused by the term faded, then you are not alone, you’re also in luck! To digress, a faded person is usually “out of it” due to excessive narcotics consumption, they may also “black out,” and must definitely be in a happy stupor. Faded and turned up are not exact opposites though, because I assume you can get faded anywhere: at work, or with your children in the kitchen; whereas, based on observations, being turned up involves energetic people at parties; no one is getting turned up at the Laundromat.

Music is an integral part of the turn up community, per music videos and sing-along hooks, the genre of music also appears to be a vital ingredient to the turned up environment. Hip Hop and Rap definitely turn people up, Rock and Roll could potentially provide turn up tracks; Gospel, Country, and Alternative Rock are not conducive to turning up.

Before you graduate from this course, with the knowledge necessary to confidently turn yourself up, I must introduce you to the formal spelling: turnt up. For the life of me I can’t figure out where the extra “t” came from; however, you will look like an amateur without it. Do your best to erode any advanced grasp of the English language you may possess, now you’re ready to turn up, get turned up, and start turning things up; that last one really doesn’t compute, don’t use it.

Web I Read

If not technical references, I generally avoid reading lengthy non-fiction literature. Self help books from lifestyle gurus with horticultural certifications are not my cup of green tea. And for someone who professes to be as well read as myself, I also detest broadcast news; especially all news as breaking news, flashing lights, and theatrical diplomacy, that promote little more than depression, anxiety, and fear. For more positive segments, without the morning variety show spiel, then kudos to GOOD Magazine‘s impression of my ideal newscast. Because I’m a contrarian and appreciate alternative snarky perspectives, most news that I do find intriguing are discovered through New York Magazine, Vice, and the Onion. Enjoy my other categorical exceptions below.

Every young man should be gifted a subscription to Esquire magazine; I bought mine in High School while piecing together my own Weird Science inspired role model and mentor. Esquire’s web presence has nothing on their print, and while there’s a boat load of consumerist alternatives to online Esquire, including Valet and Uncrate, I drew my metro-sexual line just before anyone should expect their appearance to trump their achievements. After diligent research, I still haven’t found a newsstand female lifestyle magazine less ignorant than listing Love, Beauty, Life, and Career Advice under Horoscopes: I’m looking at you Marie Claire.

Supplanting years of terrible ESPN web design, the new Sports Center Feed is a boon to every self confessed sports addict. In my youth, as a growing athlete, and avid sports watcher and reader, Peter Vecsey’s articulation and shrewd judgment nurtured my early literary interests. To completely avoid the New York Daily News, I shifted to reading Bill Simmons, who remains my favorite sports author and leads Grantland, the ESPN offshoot, with awesome articles and B.S. Report podcasts.

Wired, Venture Beat, and The Verge satiate my general technologist needs; TechCrunch, Engadget, Gizmodo, and Mashable are now too popular to not be written for lay people, and Pete Cashmore’s smug face is an eye sore. Without delving into an endless list of web design and development references, I recreationally enjoy reading Smashing Magazine, A List Apart, and the Firefox Developer Blog.

Reddit/pics is a great distraction if you’d like to uncontrollably giggle to yourself in public. Reddit also provides a gateway to every interesting nook and cranny on the internet, most notably including science and medical journals; on that note, if anyone knows a doctor willing to prescribe me Adderall and Lithium treatments then email me their information, thanks. About people who mislead their humorous capabilities with reposts from Reddit, just know that you’re a huge disappointment in person.

For business and entrepreneurial news, the Harvard Business Review is an underappreciated gold mine. Special shout out to my good friend and industry consultant, Michael del Castillo of Upstart Business Journal, for his genuine enthusiasm about startups, and thought provoking content. I hope to continue this article with a nightly list of links I find worthy of sharing. Feel free to suggest any publications I may have missed. Best wishes and good reading everyone!

2013 NBA Finals

We’re headed for the result I most wanted to avoid: a Spurs vs. Heat Finals. Despite being a Spurs fan, as a practical person, I chose the Grizzlies to come out of the Western Conference Finals. The Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph duo was clicking, Tayshaun Prince completed a lockdown wing tandem with perennial defensive force, Tony Allen, and Michael Conley was climbing the elite point guard ladder higher than the memory of Greg Oden. No one loved the Rudy Gay export more than me. Not only were the Grizzlies suddenly a complete team that could again live up to their GRINDHOUSE moniker, they’re also two years removed from thwarting a dominant Spurs team in the first round. In the Spurs’ defense, after pummeling a Lakers team that wouldn’t have done better with Kobe in the lineup, then subduing the Warriors in Stephen Curry’s coming out party, they managed to cruise like witches on brooms against their hardest test out of the West; and no, the Thunder wouldn’t have fared better, the Spurs would’ve exploited the Harden hole to no end. Given a week to rest before the Finals, are the Spurs the undercover favorites regardless of who comes out of the East?

The Knicks were primed to surprise the Heat after Miami’s soft schedule over the hapless Bucks and feisty Bulls. After their series with the Pacers, I can’t fathom a New York championship with Amar’e Stoudemire on the payroll, or built around Carmelo Anthony’s potential. On the otherhand, the Pacers aren’t ready; after stealing and relinquishing home court advantage, they’re going to learn about missed opportunities the hard way. If not New York, then Memphis was primed to give Miami their hardest trial en route to repeating as Champions. Flash back to the 2007 NBA Finals with me, when the Spurs met a young Lebron James, and rode Tony Parker to their fourth title; this is not the same Lebron, nor are these the same Spurs. A trivial piece of history that separates Tim Duncan from his contemporaries, namely Shaq, Kobe, and Lebron, is the fact that he has never lost an NBA Finals. I personally find meaning in unblemished journeys through the Promised Land. I would personally prefer Tim Duncan lose in the Conference Finals, rather than the Finals, simply to preserve this distinction. As the underdog, more important than earning a fifth ring, these are the stakes I am most aware of.

Of course, should the Pacers improbably earn their title shot, I’ll be celebrating Tim Duncan’s untainted record immediately. Not sure how you begin to word such an unlikely alternative future: The revenge of George Hill? Frank Vogel out coaches Greg Popovich? Roy Hibbert learns to be agile while chasing Tony Parker? Or the Pacers suddenly win four games against a team they’ve only beaten three times in eleven years? In closing, I need the Neilsen television ratings for the Style segments after every game, I can’t be the only one who prefers Lifetime movies.