What’s Up? (1/31/2018)

2018 Resolutions

I don’t like to go too long without journaling here. The act of putting internal reflection into words, and publishing that, publically, can be pretty cathartic. Early January, when people are executing on New Year’s Resolutions, is both a great and dangerous time to commit thoughts to paper. Sometimes people come up with loft resolutions with no plan of execution — heck, I’ve been there. I’ve probably, definitely, declared a resolution on this blog that I’ve never followed through on, but I like to think I’ve learned how to come up with achievable goals.

For instance: Let’s say I want to work on my running. Running more miles this year vs. last year is an unknowable goal. I can only guess how many miles that would be, and putting a number on it needlessly complicates things.  But I do know that I ran downtown three times last year, so, running downtown five times this year would be a measurable goal and realistic, if low, goal.

If I want to lose some kinda weight, that takes even more work to measure. For instance, last year I believe I said “I want to weigh less than 170 lbs at least once” – and there were occasions where I weighed myself and got in at 169, which I’ll take as a win. If I want to improve on last year’s goal and say “I want to weigh less than 170 lbs for a week” I’ll have to keep track of my weight over time. Not only that, but it’d take significantly more work — I couldn’t just hit 169 once and call it a day, I’d probably have to get down to 165 to account for normal fluctuation.

Do you see how much trouble a resolution like that could cause? I’d much rather just run downtown five times a year, and maybe lose weight in the process, but in the end that doesn’t matter as much to me.

Pick Up Guitar

One of my resolutions this year is to simply pick up the guitar again. I have three guitars; one acoustic slide, one acoustic, and one electric. They could all use a little work before I get back into the hobby. The acoustic slide just needs a little tuning and we should be good, the regular ol acoustic needs to be brought to a local shop and repaired, but it will be worth it to get that up and running. And then there’s the electric guitar, which probably needs a full-on factory repair, because the pickups aren’t working.

I feel like I have a funny relationship with guitar. Yes I have 7-8 years of experience with it, but I’m probably still no better than your average intermediate student. I spent a lot of time messing around, improvising, learning this song and that song, but I seriously lack practice in some of the basic fundamentals. Not that I’m looking to change that this year — that may be too lofty a resolution — no, I’m just looking to pick it back up and start playing once a week.

Learn Dutch

So get this. In 2016 I stumble on an ASMR video that is a basic lesson in Dutch, teaching the colors, rood, oranj, geel, etc. I find it kinda cute (because ASMR) but also satisfying to repeat. The J’s and G’s feel particularly nice.

So on June 30, 2016 I downloaded Duolingo and, on a whim, just started some Dutch lessons and never looked back. So what started as an experiment is now something I’d like to finish in 2018. I feel like, with enough time and effort, I should be able to finish all of the Duolingo lessons in the Dutch language. This might be the most demanding of my 2018 resolutions.  

Travel West

This resolution is incredibly short and simple: I think I’d like to travel west of Pittsburgh for something, sometime this year. Probably a concert. This isn’t a matter of improving something in my life, or bettering myself, it’s just a thing I think would be fun to do.

Get A Tattoo (Design)

This resolution is more “unfinished business” than anything else. In the summer of 2014 I commissioned a design for a tattoo that I never got. On some level, I’m glad I didn’t go through with the original idea, and I had time to think about it. In 2015 me and the artist re-aligned on a new idea that also never came to fruition. I don’t think I’ve been ripped off as a much as he’s simply busy or has completely forgotten, but I’ve also had no luck in hearing back from him, which is a little scary. If I can at least get the commission drawing in my hands by this summer, than this four-year-long journey will be over, and the journey of actually getting a tattoo can begin.

Pair Down My Cocktail Bar

Oh geez, this will probably be my longest entry in a long, long time… but another thing I want to do in 2018 is trim down some of the excess liquor in my kitchen. There are a lot of bottles in my posession that were purchased and rarely touched. When you get into cocktail culture, I think it’s easy to buy things thinking you *need* them in your bar, or you *need* them to make this particular drink. When you get to where I am, I think you start to realize what you like and what you don’t, and you can start focusing on having ingredients solely for your favorite drinks rather than having a little bit of everything.

For my sake, there’s probably only two categories of drinks that I want to be ready to make at a moment’s notice: classic Gin cocktails, and tiki drinks. For me, pairing down my cocktail bar doesn’t mean throwing out the liquor I don’t want, but rather, testing myself to use unwanted liquor to make good “farewell” drinks. Excess vodka can be used for mules, Cherry Herring for Singapore Slings, etc. Once living with a well-stocked but “minimal” bar, I shouldn’t be tempted to pick up random bottles anymore — I should only replace the necessities once they’ve been used up.

The irony that my first goals were all about being healthy and running, and that my last goal was about being a more efficient connoisseur of alcohol, is not lost on me. Believe me, I’m aware how polar-opposite some of my favorite things are, but that’s just life.

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What’s Up? (2/6/17)

January 2017
I’ve been away for a month, but I’ve had things in order so I guess there wasn’t much to talk about. Coming into 2017 there were just a few things on my to-do list, and all of January was spent focusing on those things. 1) Any weight gained during the holidays has been lost, 2) I went and saw the movies I was meaning to see, La La Land, and Rogue One, and 3) I started putting myself out there again, trying to be and outward social presence.

Gaming
I’m more physically active than ever before, I’m trying to be more social as well — so explain why “Gaming” is the headline here. Well, I suppose, given that I have lost weight, and that I’m making friends outside of the “Pitt Alumni” group, it helps to have something fun and concurrent to do at home alone. Though I haven’t owned a home gaming console in years, and have stuck to a modest laptop for the better part of 5 years, I have recommitted myself to enjoying the hobby of video games more regularly. I’ve been listening to, and watching, nearly 10 hours of Giant Bomb content a week, since 2008, so I never really left the world of video games, even if I stopped playing them as much. Though that being said, I feel like I could probably go for writing a review of Pokemon Sun (2016).

KonMari
I did something very drastic this weekend. I tidied my apartment with the help of Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.” Now, typical home tidying would have me finding new ways to hide clutter (shove this there, hide this in the closet, kick this under the couch). I exaggerate a little, but typically that’s how I’d “clean.” With the help of a little audiobook, I discarded most of my clutter, rather than hiding it. What’s more, she helped me redefine many of my possessions as clutter.

Shirts that were going unused, or that had no longer brought me joy, were in my closet for no reason. They were clutter. I’d say my apartment has about 30% fewer clothes in it now, than it did on Friday. I have not completed my work, though you’re supposed to do it all in one fell swoop. The hardest thing to do, would be to let go of some of these books. If a book does not make me happy, then why keep it? I know this will be the hardest step, because I think having a full book shelf is what makes me happy to have a bookshelf at all.

Dry Month
There’s a theme here; less is more. Less clutter, more happiness. Less weight, more movement. Less boredom, more fun. So something I’ve been meaning to try for a while is a dry, alcohol-free, sober month. Why do that? I love cocktails, I like inebriation, I like the social aspects of it!

Well, because less is more? And to an extent, I think drinking a little less, or none at all for a whole month, will give me greater appreciation for it, and greater clarity for how I handle things like stress, and what to do when I’m bored on a weekend. It’s too late to make February my dry month, but I’m eyeballing March. 31 Days of sobriety should also lead to a massive drop in calories consumed. I’m not committing to it yet, but when I do I have to make it public; making it public makes it harder to back down from it.

That could be part of why I keep a public blog like this. A private diary has no stakes. You can confess and make promises, but it’s private, so your confessions and promises only matter as much as you care about yourself? If I tell you, anonymous internet, that I’m going to stop drinking for a month, then I’d be lying if I didn’t follow through. Here’s another public promise: This February I will be reviewing Neon Indian’s “VEGA Intl. Night School” (2015) and La Roux’s “Trouble in Paradise” (2014).

What’s Up? (3/2/16)

Vaporwave
I’m falling into a vaporwave rabbit hole. What the hell is vaporwave? Good question. Honestly, I don’t even think the internet exactly knows what it is. It’s a genre of music and art that has evolved greatly from its origin point, and in a short span of time. It’s defined largely by 80’s and 90’s nostalgia and commercialism,  and whether artists are embracing or criticizing that differs from case to case. One of my favorite artists used to go by the name Saint Pepsi; his album Hit Vibes is a collection of sampled funk/disco beats, sometimes slowed down, sometimes chopped together — not unlike what a low rent Daft Punk record might sound like, and I don’t mean that insultingly. One of the more popular tracks on the album, “Cherry Pepsi” is just a slowed down version of “BYOB” by Sister Sledge, but looped in an infectious way that required a lot of talent. I know first hand that sampling music is harder than one would think.

Still, as I think about why these stolen funky / elevator music tunes from the past are so great to listen to, I think it’s more about welcoming nostalgic/commercial feelings into yourself and rejecting them. Listening to Cherry Pepsi doesn’t make me want to drink a Cherry Pepsi, in fact, associating the word “Pespi” with a musician takes the power of Pepsi branding away entirely. A fun Pepsi commercial will only make me want to listen to Saint Pepsi’s music, instead of pursuing the product. Likewise the echoey songs of MACROSS and Master Stryker may remind me of 90’s shopping malls, VHS rental stores, and the good old Playstation and Nintendo 64 days – but carrying those memories in your pocket via Mp3’s completely removes the power that nostalgia has over you. When people remember what malls and Blockbuster Videos used to be like, they have this rose-colored glasses thing going on. They think about VHS rental stores once a year maybe, and say “wow I miss those, remember them?” But when you carry music that evokes those feelings, and listen to it regularly, it’s like you have a more well thought-out nostalgia. “I think about those every day, and while you may remember them fondly, there’s something eerily unsustainable about those businesses. If we think long enough about malls, and VHS stores and whatnot, their demise by the hands of the internet is so inevitable — and the internet didn’t destroy those businesses so much as it freed us from them.”

Dieting?
I think I can only go so far with all of my exercise before I face the unfortunate truth that one of these days I’m going to need to go on some diet. I really do mean unfortunate, because damn it, I love junk food. And not like fast food and potato chip junk food, but rather your hamburgers, fries, and cheesey sandwiches junk food. Carbs and fats. And pizza. Oh god I need to cut back on pizza. There’s only so much I can work off with exercise and sooner or later I’m going to need to find a way to cut a lot of meat, a lot of cheese, and a lot of breads from my daily routines. I’m not making any promises because, well:

That never worked in the past. 

What’s Up? (7/15/14)

If I were feeling excited about the future yesterday, after a night of sleep, I’m tired about the present.

I’m tired of defending myself every time I choose pink in this house. Because I chose the pink umbrella, and no, it wasn’t the only umbrella they had left. I chose the pink phone, the pink shirts, the pink pants. I like the god damn color so back off.

I’m tired of half-assed foods around the house. Sure, I don’t do the shopping and, free food is great – but Jesus Christ, nothing is “normal” food. Everything is half-calories, 100-calories, 90-calories.

I’m so tired of the Long Island Rail Road. I’m so tired of waking up an not knowing if I’ll have a seat on the way to work, and I’m beyond tired of fighting for a seat like an animal after work.

I need to go now, unless I’ll miss a train that might not have any seats for me.

What’s Up? (3/22/14)

If you see something, say something. If you see somebody post a horrible piece of fat-shaming content on Instagram, say something about it. If you think unfollowing the person solves the problem, think again. They didn’t notice you, they don’t care about one follower, and they don’t know that there’s a problem with what they did.

I said something today, to somebody who thinks it’s okay to say “You’re fat because you’re fucking lazy” because she thinks that is the attitude that motivates people. Against my initial gut reaction, I did not tell this person to fuck off, or that they themselves were horrible. I tried to take the route of letting them know that I was upset by it, and that it was basically morally wrong for the person to say such a thing.

She took the route of “You don’t know me,” insisting that everyone is entitled or “untitled” as she put it, to their own opinions.

Sam Harris proposes that science can tell us something about morality, and that scientifically, there are ideal morals to follow that would lead to the greatest human happiness. Since there are ideal moral codes, there also exist, harmful ones. Hence, there’s no reason to equate the morality of different types of world views: there’s no reason to respect say, the Taliban’s views on how you should treat women, because scientifically, they don’t create human happiness. That’s a fact you can prove.

As you shouldn’t listen to the Taliban’s views on how to treat women, you should likewise not look to fat shaming as an okay moral stance or “opinion” to be entitled to. It’s factually, scientifically, immoral; it hurts people, and so I argue – no, you’re not entitled to your opinions if they hurt people.

On Eating Clean

They say addicts have to hit rock bottom before they seek help, or seriously try to get clean. Can the same be said for those of us who eat poorly? The physical and emotional pain experienced just after eating Five Guys was just so overwhelming today, I feel like I should never go back, I feel like getting clean. I need fruit, vegetables, and water as soon as possible.

A bag of iceberg lettuce, and apples sits in the fridge at home. The time is 4PM, I’ve been awake since 11 AM and I haven’t had time to eat yet. Surrendering to a hunger, and need for a quick meal, I stopped at Five Guys. How many times over the last three years at Pitt does this make it? The hamburger itself was delicious as always and inspired no great guilt, yet when faced with a greasy paper bag of fries, I started to break down.

Physically, I feel bloated, full, big. Like I could throw up. Emotionally, lonely, tired, stuck. Full of regret, wishing I hadn’t done that to myself. Over an hour after finishing, the pain hasn’t gone away. Burping, remembering the taste of onions and pickles, smelling of fast food, feeling oily.

This person is at odds with the person who, on Tuesday, pulled himself together, got to the gym, and rowed. I mean, my goodness, how could these be two sides to the same coin? Why don’t I eat clean from now on? Look at what I did to myself by eating Five Guys, could you imagine how much better I’d feel if I just walked another block and got myself to Panera Bread? No more, period. This is cold turkey quitting, starting today, no more Five Guys.

What’s Up? (1/7/14)

I woke up, and couldn’t get hot water from the shower. I decided to skip a cold shower, considering it was cold enough outside that my hair might actually freeze on the way to class. People said it was twenty below zero today, but I didn’t think it was the worst weather ever. I’ve certainly been colder before. It’s just a matter of preparation, if you’re wearing the right stuff, you won’t die out there.

Anyways, let’s check in on other things. Did I eat as well today as I did yesterday? No. And that’s fine. I can’t expect to suddenly start eating salad every day of my life. That being said, despite having pizza and pasta for lunch and dinner respectively, I did pick up three apples and two huge oranges, and I still have half a bag of salad – so I think tomorrow will be a healthy day.

I meditated for thirty minutes today, after eating – I think meditating while hungry – and for just fifteen minutes was better. Thirty minutes started to make me tired, and I think I stopped benefiting after twenty anyways. That’s all for today, it wasn’t very eventful.