Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Keeping Track

I've been sleep deprived all week. Yesterday, I took a power nap instead of eating lunch and drank lots of caffeine just to stay awake. It's not that I'm having trouble sleeping. It's just that I've been watching the IAAF World Championships in Berlin for the past week or so. Every two years, the IAAF holds World Championships in many sporting events, including some that aren't included in the Olympics. I'm a huge fan of track and field--and I was on the track team in high school, so you can imagine my excitement at watching the World Championships. I try not to read the sports news as I want to watch the events themselves, and they come on tv late at night and well into the dawn. And what an incredible World Championships it has been!

How about Usain Bolt? He is the fastest man in the world! He broke his own Beijing Olympics world records and set new ones in the 100m (9.58sec) and 200m dash (19.19sec)!

And he did it all in the same stadium that hosted the 1936 Olympics, where Jesse Owens won four Olympic golds, disproving Hitler's Aryan superiority theory, and inspired thousands of cheering German fans.

Jesse Owens' accomplishments earned the admiration of millions around the world. It was during a dark time when the US was segregated, when Jesse Owens wouldn't have been served in restaurants and forced to use separate facilities because of his color. But Jesse Owens proved that the spirit of a sportsmanship is not about ideology or politics. The true spirit of sportsmanship is about merit, skills, and heart. And while not everyone can be a champion, a champion can be anyone.

Let's face it, Usain Bolt is the best thing to ever happen to track and field in a long time! He re energized the sport, and he brought an excitement and appreciation in the field that has long been plagued by doping scandals and boredom. I like that he's so enthusiastic! Remember during the Beijing Olympics, when that IOC jackass, Jacques Rogge, said that Bolt's celebration was unsporting and Bolt should show more respect!?! I was like, get that paddle out of your ass, Jacques, you out of touch, outdated bastard! Let Bolt celebrate his wins! The crowd loves it! He earned it! And it's his joy and honest enthusiasm that has given track and field a new respect and a new thrill that has been missing from the sport in a long time!

As in all events, there will be controversy. Sometimes, it's utterly ridiculous! South Africa's Caster Semenya won the women's 800m race to win gold. However, the teenager has been accused of being a boy, because she doesn't look like a typical female! WTF?

Weeks before winning this event, the IAAF ordered Caster Semenya to undergo gender testing, and the results are pending. Part of me understands why the IAAF wants this done. During the 1936 Berlin Olympics, a young man named Hermann Ratjen was forced by the Nazis to change his first name to Dora and compete as a woman in the high jump! The goals was to improve Germany's chances of winning most gold. Ironically, 3 real women beat out "Dora"! Since then, there have been other cases of gender bending in the sports world. But in the case of Caster Semenya, something more disturbing is taking place.

I feel bad for Semenya, because this whole gender controversy is overshadowing her win. What bugs me about this whole thing is the fact that she is being singled out. Why not gender test all athletes? You test them all for dope, so why not test them all for gender? That would be fair. What's worse, this whole matter could have been handled more appropriately. Where is the confidentiality and respect for basic privacy and sensitivity to this issue? Because if the results come back that this teenager is in fact a female, what was the purpose of embarrassing her and sullying her win in the first place? What does it say for the IAAF when it looks like they single out athletes who don't fit a certain ideal?

Another controversy that took place occurred in the women's 1500m. During the last lap of the race, gold medal favorite, Gelete Burka (Ethiopia) was leading. Then Natalia Rodriguez (Spain) elbowed Gelete Burka, causing Burka to fall! Natalia Rodriguez then finishes first as Gelete Burka hobbles across the finish line last and collapses with her injuries. Rodriguez is met with boos from the crowd. Rodriguez then goes over to where Burka is and tries to offer sympathy until the medics arrive.

My bad! I thought I saw tapas at the finish line!

Too late, bitch! We got you on video!

Natalia Rodriguez was disqualified! Ha!

Getele Burka wasn't the only injured athlete. Muna Lee (US) pulled a hamstring during the baton pass and couldn't run, disqualifying the US in the women's 4x100m relay heat.

Sadly, the US men in the 4x100m also failed to qualify. They didn't drop the baton like they did at the Beijing Olympics. But they did illegally pass it before they got to the passing zone! So instead of failing to grab the stick, they're getting it off too early! Sigh. Fundamentals people! Fundamentals!

But it's not just the US short sprint relay teams that came up short. Other medal favorites also failed to deliver. Most surprising of all is Yelena Isinbayeva failing to win the women's pole vault! She was the defending world champion with two Olympic golds, having dominated the sport for five years. But she was off her game and failed to clear the pole! And with that, Anna Rogowska of Poland wins the gold, showing the world why she's a champion at working poles!

But don't worry Yelena Isinbayeva! You still look hot! And if you can't win, you might as well look good! It's the next best thing.

Meanwhile, Australian Steven Hooker once again wins gold in mens pole vaulting, repeating his feat at the Beijing Olympics. Hooker gets better and better every time!

Aussie Hooker is still the best at handling poles!

I'm a little wary of those Australians, though, especially their relay teams. I'm talking about their uniforms--such horrible, ghastly green uniforms! I've a feeling this was a dirty distraction strategy to throw off the other runners. I'd've filed a complaint to have these fashion atrocities removed and banned from the track!

Australia, along with the Brits, have made an incredible showing at the World Championships. The Brits are clearly making headway, and being the host country for the next summer Olympics (London 2012), they are on their way to becoming a track powerhouse--if they can keep up the momentum and training. They cannot be complacent, or they'll end up like the US short sprint program. Once again, Jamaica has emerged as the newest powerhouse of short sprint track, knocking off the Americans from the top spot. Is it just me or are the Americans up against the Commonwealth? Is the empire about to strike back? And why come the British athletes are using Great Britain and Northern Ireland as their country's name instead of the UK?

America still has hope. Thank goodness for Allyson Felix, winning gold in the women's 200m dash!

LaShawn Merritt and Jeremy Wariner win gold and silver respectively in the 400m dash. Sanya Richards silences her critics by winning gold in the women's 400m dash. And once again, it was the men's and women's 4x400m relay teams that brought home the gold, salvaging America's track reputation.

The next World Championships are in 2011 in Daegu, South Korea. I'm looking forward to the event, and I'm hoping to see more amazing athletes excel on the track and field. Until then, I've got a lot of sleep to catch up on!

Sunday, August 23, 2009


I usually check my mail about once a week--usually I get a lot of junk mail, some bills, and the occasional business or government related matter. Rarely do I even get any personal letters anymore, as most people have cellphones or use email. So imagine my surprise at finding a great piece of personal mail.

Check it out! I got a postcard from CyberPete!

CP is currently on a tour of America, having first stopped in Las Vegas, he is currently going up the California Coast and will eventually end his adventure in Chicago. He is visiting some really great cities, and I envy his fantastic voyage. I hope he's having a good time!

Thanks for the postcard, CP!

If you can think of any fun things to make his trip in America memorable and fun, feel free to send him some advice or tips at his fabulous blog, Difficult by Design.

Have a safe and fun trip, CP! Go out everyday (and night) and take lots of fotos! Explore those great places and try new things!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Paper or Plastic

While out shopping for supplies (you know, for the survival kit), I couldn't help but think of some of the stores I've been in over the years. We didn't have big chain stores where I grew up. In fact, we didn't even have a McDonald's! That finally arrived a few years after I had graduated high school and left that small town. So you can imagine my excitement and enthusiasm at finally going to McDonald's when I was a teenager visiting my cousins in San Francisco one summer. It was amazing! I was finally in the place that I'd seen so many times on tv! And I had no clue how to order anything! Luckily, my cousins went first and ordered, and one took the time to point out the pictures of the orders so I'd know what to get. Imagine that, pictures of the food so you'll know what to order!

And as thrilling as McDonald's Big Mac was (and still is my fave McDonald's burger), I had discovered the following day just how much more I preferred Burger King! Luv the taste of the flame broiled Whopper! And it was huge compared to the McDonald burgers. Of course, over the years, I've learned that sometimes, chains don't always provide the same quality service. Some Burger Kings are better than others, even if they're only a few miles apart. And sometimes, different chains provide different services all together.

Take grocery store chains, for instance. In the Southeast, I remember shopping at the Pig, Krogers, Winn Dixie, and Food Lion. They offered to have a bagboy take your groceries to your car. You just had to make sure to tip the bagboy. I've never had anyone offer to take out my groceries for me. We didn't have that where I grew up. Everyone just carried out their own grocery bags. Then there was Chicago. We went to Aldi's, where you had to rent a shopping cart. That's right. You had to rent a shopping cart for a quarter, and you couldn't take it out to the parking lot! What the hell was that all about? Seriously, is there a high rate of shopping cart thefts going on? But the strangest experience had to be Idaho, at a WinCo store. You had to bag your own groceries! That's right. You had to bag your own groceries!

So imagine my relief when I got to Texas and went to HEB. I didn't know the correct name of the store. Each letter was pronounced separately as in H E B; it was not one word, not Heb! I may not have known how to pronounce it, but I knew that I liked it! They not only bagged my groceries and let me take out the shopping cart to the parking lot, they also offered for someone to help take my groceries to the car for free! Not that I've ever had anyone take out my groceries for me, even if it was free. I like taking them out of the store by myself. It's how I was raised. Personal preference, I suppose.

Which brings me to the age old question: Paper or Plastic? Does anyone even offer paper bags anymore? Remember those big old brown paper bags? Those were useful. I could take them apart and use them as a cover for my textbook or wrapping paper for a box to be mailed off. I can't remember the last time a store even offered paper bags. Even the liquor store down the street puts the bottles in plastic bags. And what about adult entertainment magazines? Are those still placed in paper bags? Then again, is anyone even buying those anymore, especially with the abundance of free adult sites on the internet? Maybe it's just economics, that paper bags cost more to make, and using them less means saving trees. And don't we all want to save trees?

I suppose plastic bags are more convenient, with the easy to carry handles, and I can reuse them as liners for my waste baskets. But aren't paper bags more earth friendly, as in, if they aren't recycled, they breakdown easier in landfills compared to plastic bags? Sure paper bags are flammable (which can be fun when used in certain pranks), but plastic bags can suffocate you, and there's no fun in that. Of course, you can set the plastic bag on fire and watch it drip fire, which looks pretty cool, but I understand that the fumes are hazardous to your health. The fumes cause respiratory problems, cancer, and impotence! So in addition to killing you, you can't even get aroused, so you might as well be dead. Because really, what's the point of living if you can't enjoy a little loving?

I've heard in other places, people bring their own grocery bags, the reusable kind. It's supposed to be a very green thing to do. So I thought I'd give it a shot. In fact, the opportunity came up around Earth day, when HEB offered a free reusable cloth bag in exchange for 5 plastic bags that we bring to the store for recycling. I was so proud of doing my part for the environment, and that reusable bag was a green color! I did my shopping and had my groceries put in that green bag. I carried that green bag of groceries out of the store like a badge of honor.

That was a great day, I felt like I had done something wonderful, doing my part to save the planet. That was also the last day that I used that green bag. It now sits in the back of my vehicle, holding the paper towels, napkins, and other picnic items that I don't want rolling around the trunk. I don't like having a messy trunk. Being green is a lot more work and commitment than I thought. But I got another reusable shopping bag today, and I used it instead of plastic bags. I think if I keep on using it, it'll eventually become a habit, a good habit.

But I can't help but wonder, whatever happened to bagboys asking people if they wanted paper or plastic? Because it's really not about personal preference; it's not about whether paper bags or plastic ones are better. It is about having a choice. With so many large chain stores taking over, I had to wonder, do we have a choice anymore? Because when it comes to shopping, I find myself in a lot of big chains, because it's convenient and it saves me money. And by doing so, am I contributing to the demise of the small neighborhood store? Without these competing stores, my choices are limited to what the chains have on hand. And though I may be saving money now, I can't help but wonder if I'm going to be paying more somewhere down the line. By trying to save money, am I also giving up choice?

Sometimes, the smartest thing to do isn't necessarily the wisest. The right thing to do is never the easiest. Then again, sometimes,the most important things in our lives are often worth the extra effort.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Best be prepared

It's been a strange week. Monday morning, the power went out, and it didn't come back on til the afternoon. And in this heat, it was a horrible experience being in a place with no backup generators and the a/c is out. It was stuffy and overbearing, and no one can really think straight when you're burning up. Nobody wants to work and patience runs short! Opening a window didn't help, because it was hot and dusty outside. It was like being slow roasted in an oven, and I was sweating hard! We all were. Thank goodness my deodorant works well. I wish I could say the same for others. Some people stunk awful, like old dirty socks--festering, moldy, crusted socks! But how exactly do you tell someone that they reek without it sounding offensive?

On Wednesday, I was glad that I took a shower early that morning because by 8 o'clock, the water had stopped. It was out all day! Turning on the sinks only resulted in pitiful spits and a gurgling, gasping sound from the pipes. You might think that so long as you have drinking water from the bottle, you'll be okay. And you would be, say, if you lived in the wilderness. But people in the city have to use toilets--or at least they're supposed to--and when the toilets don't work, well, it's not a pretty sight (or smell). And with this heat, you need another shower when you get home just to wash off the dust and grime and sweat that's covered most of your body.

On Thursday, phone lines were down in the afternoon. It's a good thing that I didn't need to make an emergency call. Come Friday, the cable was out for a few hours! It's not so bad when you have other things to do, but it sure does suck when you want to sit down and watch tv.

I'm not sure what's causing all these break downs. Now it could be just a coincidence, the usual failure of infrastructure from decay or the need for routine maintenance. Or maybe this is the government's new way of preparing us to survive a hurricane disaster, when things don't work. Perhaps it's a sign of an impending apocalypse. Or quite possibly, this may be the work of gremlins who ate food after midnight, got wet, multiplied, and are planning to take over the world.

It was late, and I could've sworn it was a stray cat!

Whatever the cause, I want to be prepared. I'm restocking up on the survival supplies--flashlights, batteries, canned goods and water, blankets, multi tool/pocket knife and matches and lighters. I also need some baby wipes--they're much better than toilet tissue and I can use them to wash up should water become scarce. I'm also going to include extra clothes, important documents, first aid kit, travel kit, and cash. In addition to these basic items, I'm thinking of adding booze--might be a long while til help arrives. I may also need a weapon, possibly a rifle. This'll come in handy to fend off the looters, the vicious roving gangs that survive the apocalypse, and quite possibly, help eliminate the gremlins should they get out of hand.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Seeing Stars

I've been busy lately, doing the usual things that somehow seem to take up a lot of my time. I feel like I've been running around, doing what needs to be done, going on autopilot, everything seems so repetitive and routine. It's like my brain has tuned out and my body is just going through the motions. I can't believe that summer's almost over! Where does the time go? I've got to break out of this rut that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere and taken a lot of my time. I need a moment to recenter myself, find the balance, and just be.

In half an hour, the sun's going to set. It'll be perfect setting for some solitude and reflection. I'm packing up some snacks and taking some water to the beach. Tonight, the Perseids meteor shower peaks in North America (and the Northern Hemisphere). Seeing some falling stars early this morning made me realize that I need to stop and take some time for me and enjoy life. I rather like the falling stars, because they're a beautiful sight. When I was younger, we used to wish on every single star that fell. That was a lot of fun.

So I'm off to enjoy the heavens for a few hours, hopefully, in sweet solitude to sort out my thoughts, to think about everything and nothing at all. It'll be a great time to reflect, to dream, and to just enjoy the moment and majesty of the universe we're in. It'll remind me of just how very tiny I am in the cosmic picture. I'm seeing stars tonight, and I'm looking forward enjoying the fantastic celestial show and making wishes on the falling stars. Life can be amazing and wondrous. I just need to take the time to look around and appreciate the world around me.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Brothers and Sisters

Growing up in a big family, you can't help but bump heads with the other relatives. It's inevitable when you put a large number of people in a small space, conflict occurs. You find out pretty quick that your place in the family depends on birth order. The oldest and the youngest got a lot of attention; those in the middle had to try harder to stand out. But you also learn that the older the kid, the more power he wields over the younger. And every younger sibling knows that crap rolls downhill. The older kids usually beat up on the younger ones. And the younger ones had to put up with a lot crap from the older ones.

Still, a smart kid realizes quickly the advantages of forming alliances. It's always easier to defend one's self when you've got numbers on your side. You can outsmart the older sibling, distract him, divide his attention, or one of you may escape to get a parent to come stop a serious beat down. Perhaps we were a lot smarter than we gave ourselves credit for; or maybe it was a some sort of basic survival instinct. Whatever it was, the three of us young ones learned early on how to band together when one of the older siblings decided to kick our asses. Usually, we had it coming for doing something to piss off the older sibling.

My older brothers could be complete jerks when they wanted to be. Luckily for us, they were at an age when they wanted independence and weren't home a lot. Teenagers. Moody bastards. They did threaten us occasionally, warning us to stay out of their rooms, which only served to make us want to go into their rooms more. Not that my older brothers had anything that held our interest for long. And besides, we knew that as long as our mother was home, we'd escape any serious pounding from the older brothers.

Mom was very particular about big boys pounding on little ones. She never hesitated to protect us when we came running and screaming from an older brother who decided to beat us up for rifling through his stuff. She'd stop the older one in his tracks, scold him and tell him to lay off us, and he shouldn't beat up little children. The older brother usually left fuming while giving us the "I'm going to get you when you're alone!" look. And for the rest of the day, we'd stick close to Mom til things cooled off. When it came to older sisters, however, Mom wasn't quite as particular. I'm not sure if it's because she didn't think my older sisters would hurt us as bad as our older brothers; or if she just didn't believe that my older sisters were just mean, horrible people sometimes.

If my older brothers banning us from their rooms made their rooms seem exciting, then my older sisters rooms were the forbidden lands we so desperately wanted to explore, even after all the threats and beatings we got from them. My sisters rooms were different. They had all these fancy and frilly and strange looking things that seemed so otherworldly and alien. Their rooms also smelled nicer. And when you're a young boy bored out of his mind, nothing is as exciting as exploring your older sibling's room, especially if they hold many things you've never seen before. And of course, we luved the thrill of breaking into their rooms and trying to get away with it.

Most times, our older brothers had their own thing going on, and they never really let us tag along with them. My older sisters, however, took turns babysitting us. I think my Mom trusted them more than my brothers to feed us and keep us alive til she got home. Of course, this meant my sisters couldn't hang out with their friends or go to parties with them. I think that's why they were really mean babysitters. Or it could be because we went in their rooms and rifled through their stuff.

Once we found what we thought were rolled up balloons in shiny packets. They were slippery for some reason, but we washed them, then filled them up with water and had water balloon fights with the neighborhood kids. It was a lot of fun. We also tried what we thought were tiny candy neatly arranged in a circle in a small case. It tasted terrible! We spat it out and wondered why our sister kept expired candy! Then there was the time we were tasked to clean the floors. We figured it'd be much easier and more fun to mop the floor by taking our sisters silk and satin garments, tie them under our feet, dip them in soapy water and skate across the floors. It was a such a fun way to clean up the floors. My sisters, however, didn't quite appreciate the shiny, clean floors as much as we did. And when you piss your older siblings enough on a regular basis, you learn to run really fast and dodge objects thrown at you. I was a pretty fast kid. I was also pretty damn good at dodge ball.

The three of us young ones had always been close. Sure, we bumped heads a lot, often fighting amongst ourselves, but if anyone threatened one of us, the other two would come quickly to his defense. Brothers do that kind of thing; they stick up for each other. We spent many summers exploring the neighborhood, climbing trees, walking on rock fences, playing games, pretending we were different people on some amazing adventures. Some days we were spacemen fighting hostile aliens; other days, we were pirates looking for treasure. Sometimes, we'd set up camp in the backyard and sleep under the stars at night.

The summer I was 7, we made slingshots and hunted small birds. Most got away; then my older brother managed to hit one. We let out a cheer and rushed to see our prey. It layed there with a broken wing. It was a strange feeling looking at it, twitching on the ground, desperate and helpless. My younger brother started crying, feeling bad for the bird we just maimed. I was feeling terrible, too. My older brother looked at me, asking what should we do. I just shrugged my shoulders. I didn't know what to do. But watching that poor bird flop around, twittering pitifully, I thought about ending its life. But I couldn't bring myself to do it.

My older brother then thought, maybe we ought to try and nurse it back to health. And I agreed, hoping that maybe the bird would be okay. I went to get a box to put the bird in. But when I got back, the bird had stopped moving. It stopped twittering. I feared that it was dead. We sat there for an hour, watching it, hoping for some sign that it was still alive. My younger brother sobbed quietly, and a few times, I fought back tears myself. My older brother was quiet, but I could tell he was feeling very sad and sorry for what had happened. Finally, he said we should bury the bird. So we picked him up, put him in the box and dug a hole in the yard. We put the box in, and my older brother recited the Lord's Prayer before we buried the box.

We were quiet the rest of the day. My mother asked us what was wrong, but we told her nothing was wrong. And she let us be. That was the last time we went hunting for birds. For the rest of the summer, we shot at empty cans instead.

The three of us shared a lot of experiences that made us closer to each other. I wish I could say that I was just as close to my elder brothers and sisters, but we just don't have the same bond. Growing up, the world was such an exciting and scary place, and when you had someone you could trust exploring the world with you, it was a lot of fun. And having two brothers I was close to made everyday an adventure.

Related Links:
Brothers and Sisters
Once was enough
I say again, once was enough
The Good Intentioned Samaritan
The thing about fathers
Veterans Day reflection 
Soda Pop
A good jacket keeps you warm and dry