Archive for the ‘random thoughts’ Category

ash wednesday

March 8, 2011
Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, which signifies the beginning of Lent. In honor of the day, here is one of my favorite songs, which happens to include the name of the day in the title: Elvis Perkins’ “Ash Wednesday” – note, you will have watch/listen to it on youtube.

As is my custom, I am forgoing several activities for the Lenten season. I am also adding some as well. This year I am refraining from:

  • Reading my Google Reader
  • Reading blogs/Updating my blogs (with the exception of my family blog)
  • Facebook (I tend to do this every year)
  • Meat on Fridays

I am also going to do the following:

  • Read several books on Christianity
  • Run daily
  • Go on what I call the “half diet.” Meaning that I will only consume half the amount that I normally would, without really eliminating or limiting what foods I eat (other than the aforementioned no meat on Fridays).

There are other things that I am considering eliminating or adding, but I will have to fill you in on these once Lent has ended. Until then, have a wonderful Lent!


radiohead: ‘the king of limbs’

February 21, 2011

Unless you’re a Radiohead fan living under a rock, you’re aware that the group’s latest album, The King of Limbs, dropped last Friday – a day earlier than announced. I do not consider myself a proper reviewer of music, and as such, I will refrain from attempting an official review of The King of Limbs. I will, however, offer a few of my thoughts, as well as links to more proper reviews.

My Take

My initial reaction to listening to this album was that it reminded me of Amnesiac in many respects. Many reviews I have read are disappointed in The King of Limbs and its seemingly lack of novelty. I cannot disagree that the album does not seem to be mold-breaking or anything, but I cannot say I am disappointed. There are more adequate analogies than what I am about to offer, but this sentiment of being disappointed because it sounds somewhat familiar is, in my mind, akin to being disappointed in cheddar cheese because it has a familiar texture and is similar to swiss cheese.

I understand what many wanted with this record – something completely unexpected and new like OK Computer and Kid A – but being disappointed in this album because it fails to live up to your preconceived, and I feel misplaced, notions does a disservice to the music and talent of Radiohead. I am not as impressed with The King of Limbs as I was with some of their other works (most notably OK Computer, Kid A, and Amnesiac), but I do love listening to the album. I have also found, not unlike my experience with listening to most albums, that the more I listen to the album the more I am getting out of it. repeatedly listening is like watering the garden and this album is certainly beginning to bloom.

My favorite tracks, so far, are:

  • “Bloom”
  • “Lotus Flower”
  • ”Codex”
  • “Give Up The Ghost”

The video for “Lotus Flower”:

I don’t have any links for the other songs, but if you’re really curious and you have your best interest at heart, you’ll just go ahead and buy the album.

The Take of Others

Here are a few varied reviews of the album. I really appreciate the review and the author’s description of how the album opens. Enjoy!

laura gibson: my latest musical discovery

February 11, 2011

Laura Gibson (2)

Further adding to my already enormous affection for the Portland, Oregon music scene is singer and musician Laura Gibson. I’m not sure how I found out about her, but I think it may have been Pandora’s hit-or-miss system that played Gibson based off of my fondness for The Decemberists. Anyways, Gibson’s latest album, Beasts of Season, released in 2009, is simply a joy to listen to.

My favorite song of hers is “Edelweiss“, released in 2010. This is one of my favorite songs and her version is so beautiful. Her voice is soft and delicate and nothing less than gorgeous. Favorites off of Beasts of Season include:

I recommend giving Ms. Gibson a listen, if you haven’t already. You won’t be disappointed.

vegan for heart health month? why yes, please.

January 28, 2011

Vegetable Stand
February is, among other things, American Heart Month. I have mentioned how I am working on losing 1-2 pounds a week this year. On top of that, I have my 3-year follow-up heart exam in July. The last time I saw my cardiologist he called me fat. Okay, he didn’t use the word “fat”, but he did say I could stand to lose about 40 pounds, which was a polite way of calling me fat. Fast forward 2 years and I could now stand to lose double that, which is a polite way of saying I’m obese. Since I want to at least be back down to what I was 2 years ago by my follow-up exam this July, I need to lose some serious weight by then—hence the 1-2 pounds a week goal.

In light of this goal, I have been doing a walk/run program, and I have also been closely watching what I eat. I’ve also done a bit of reading regarding vegetarian and vegan diets. I began by reading two of Dr. Dean Ornish’s books (Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease and The Spectrum). This prompted me to read John Robbin’s Food Revolution, which led me to read Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s The China Study, which lastly led me to read Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. Although I do not know whether or not a strictly vegetarian or vegan diet is the healthiest way to eat, the evidence saying so is rather compelling.

I should say at this point that I love my fatty burgers, potato chips, chili cheese fries with jalapeños, ice cream, vanilla/chocolate/strawberry milk shakes, filet mignon, fried shrimp, fried chicken, beef tacos, and so on as much as the next person. It’s not as if I awoke one morning and saw the light and all of these foods suddenly tasted like cardboard (although, if this were to happen it sure would make February that much easier). Anyone who has seen me the past few years could attest to the fact that I love these foods. What is also pretty evident is that I have not lost any weight while consuming them. Here you might say that if I had only eaten them in moderation instead of ordering two #10’s each time I went to McDonald’s, maybe then I  would be skinnier. Perhaps. However, I think it might prove easier if I just forewent the foods altogether. After all, if it’s a fact that once you pop, you can’t stop, why pop to begin with?

In Campbell’s book, he recommends giving the vegan diet a month’s trial run. Seeing as it’s near the end of January, I decided upon February. After all, it is the shortest month, and if I am to have any success with this it most likely would occur the month with the fewest days. As providence would have it, I received an e-mail from a local health care provider reminding, or in my case informing, every one that February is America Heart Month. Eureka!

As I’ve begun to plan out my entire month’s worth of eating, I surely have my concerns. What if I go out to eat? What about going over to a friend’s house for dinner? What about the Super Bowl? How strict am I going to be with this diet (primarily because Esselstyn calls for eliminating not only meat, dairy, nuts, and fish, but also all oils, and processed and refined grains)? What about vitamin B12? For your pleasure, I will outline a few of my personal dietary decisions, as well as my plans for the Super Bowl in a future post. As for now, let’s just get used to saying it’s going to be a meat-, dairy-, and fried-free February!

state of the resolutions.

January 26, 2011

Last night brought the highly anticipated, at least by me, State of the Union Address. I’m a political junkie, with a degree in politics, and I always get excited for the speech—regardless of the current president’s political affiliation. While I would like to provide insightful perspective on last night’s speech, I really do not have much to add to the already spectacular commentary that is making its way around the Internet. What I can report on, however, is the state of my previously mentioned new year’s resolutions.

1. Weight Loss of 1-2 pounds a week.
Well, I hit a rough patch just after the new year, with the arrival of 2-3 inches of snow and ice. I couldn’t leave the house for two days, work was closed for three days, and the roads were unsafe for four days. Instead of eating less and working out, I resorted to gorging myself and barely getting off the sofa. With that said, I have nearly returned to my pre-snowcopolypse weight, which translates, interestingly enough, to a weight loss of 1-2 pounds a week. Unfortunately it was all weight I gained after the new year. Oh well.

I began this week with my study plan. I’m just three days into it, but I’m more confident this time around. Smooth sailing so far.

3. Save $500
Stagnant, really. I’m expecting to use most of this year’s tax refund toward funding my savings (yes, I have already filed my 2010 taxes…), so this should take care of itself in a matter of weeks.

4. Get accepted into graduate school/have a better plan on what to do for the foreseeable rest of my life
This pretty much relates to #2 on my list. Although, the more I think about this, the more apt I am to really dream, which can’t be a bad thing I don’t think. This dreaming might make a better future post, so I will refrain from expounding on this for the present. As with #2, so far, so good.

5. Complete either a marathon or a century or both
I’ve already run a marathon and completed a half-century on my bike…just kidding! Although I have stuck to my walk/run schedule, save for the aforementioned snow days. I’m only completing two miles at a time right now, but I’m planning on increasing either my distance or my running time soon. I’ve also ridden nearly 50 miles this month on the bike. I wanted to have ridden more, but alas I’m a wimp and it’s been much too cold for me.

The state of my resolutions is strong…at least for now.

what running in the rain can tell us about…

January 18, 2011

Night rain in Moscow I went running last night—in the rain. Or, rather I should say, walking and occasionally running. I find it super difficult to actually adhere to any routine exercise regimen when the weather is perfect, let alone when it is drizzling and 35 degrees outside. I only lasted 30 minutes, but that’s what I planned to do anyway, so it was a success.

There’s something comforting in exercising in the darkness. Add rain to the mix and it’s extra comforting. How is it comforting? Glad you asked. It’s comforting because the darkness conceals, or provides a level of concealment unattained in the day time, the physical reasons why I’m exercising. Toss in some rain and people are less likely to see the monstrosity that is me outside running. I would like to say that I’m exercising to better my health, especially my heart. That would be noble, but a lie nonetheless.

I’m vain and my vanity has led me to go outside when it’s nearly freezing and brave (or succumb?) the rain in order to try and lose (how exactly is it lost?) some weight. I should be out there, working up a sweat, in order to improve my health. I have my share of problems right now, all of which could be remedied by being in better physical shape. Instead I’m out there trying to improve my appearance, which is sad really. I mean, it’s great that I’m exercising, which is almost never a bad thing. Yet, my intentions are all backwards. I won’t get out there and sweat and endure the painful shinsplints because my doctor told me to. No. I’m out there in near-Arctic conditions sweating, panting, and suffering all because I want to look better. Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.

Back to the title. What can running in the rain tell us about…new year’s resolutions? Probably not much, except that if you’re actually out there running in the rain (and cold), you’re faring well in your effort to stick to your resolution. I’m having about 60% success right now with this specific goal. I’ve run more this month than all of the previous 6 months combined. I haven’t stuck to my schedule as I had hoped. Regardless of this, last night in the cold and rain, I was out keeping my resolution. I can’t say that this will be the case tomorrow, next week, or next month. But, for one cold night in January, I ran in the rain. And, two hours later, it felt pretty good.


January 13, 2011

This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit the High Museum of Art in Atlanta for the final day of their exhibit, “Dalí: The Late Work.” Salvador Dalí is one of my favorite artists, and his Christ of Saint John of the Cross ranks right up there in my top 10 favorite art works. While, I knew the exhibit had been in town for a while, and I had made numerous attempts at planning a visit, I had not been able to get to the museum. And, even though I knew the exhibit was about Dalí, I did not know which pieces exactly would be included.

So, I made my way to Atlanta just in time to see the exhibit before it left town. As I made my way around the museum, I came across what is perhaps Dalí’s most recognizable piece, Persistence of Memory. While I did not know what to expect in the exhibit, I was a bit surprised to find this particular piece there. A friend of mine said that the piece was not there for his two previous visits. My surprise would increase as I continued to work my way through the exhibit. Most notably, around a turn, I found Christ of Saint John of the Cross hanging on a wall, staring down on me.

To fully explain my surprise, I should confess that I am not really an art connoisseur. For instance, I had no idea that Persistence of Memory was so small (9.5 in × 13 in). I also had no idea that Christ of Saint John of the Cross was so large (80.7 in × 45.67 in). Any true art lover would have known this. But, alas, I had no idea and so, not only was I not expecting these two pieces to be there, I was definitely not expecting the one to be so small and the other to be so large!

All I can say is that it is both stunning and humbling to stand in front of such a notable and large piece of art as Christ of Saint John of the Cross. I could not stop staring, which I guess is part of the point. I felt like I was viewing something that I really had no business viewing. Not that the work was above me (it most certainly was and is, however), but that the immensity of talent and scale of size really hit at something inside of me. This is not to say Persistence of Memory did not affect me similarly. No, both pieces, as well as the numerous other works that were there, are awe-inspiring. But there was something about Christ of Saint John of the Cross, which I am having a difficult time expressing at present, that really impacted me. Is this what art is all about? I cannot say. As I have tried to establish, I am no art connoisseur. What I can say is that Dalí’s works were even more amazing in person that I could have ever imagined. I hope to gaze upon them again soon.

once was lost, but now is found.

January 7, 2011

As I returned home last night, my little sister had a surprise waiting for me. I generally do not welcome surprises, because here lately many have not been good ones. So, I was not terribly excited when she said she had a surprise for me. I had a feeling as I waited, however, that this surprise must be good, because my sister was was grinning ear to ear.

I waited for her to retrieve the surprise and when she returned, she was carrying a carry-on piece of luggage. I was a bit confused. I had just recently used this particular bag on a trip to a friend’s wedding in October, but I had not idea why it was the noted surprise. My sister sat the bag down in front of me and said, “See Jakey.” All I saw was the piece of luggage, which I had put away when I returned home following the wedding. I said, “Umm, what’s so special about this?” Which must have been the response she was hoping for, because she immediately began to giggle. She then, as the sole possessor of the surprise, flipped open the carry-on to reveal the true surprise.

What laid under the flap was nothing special to most, but to me it was like Christmas morning all over again. You see, ever since returning from that trip to my friend’s wedding in October, I was under the impression that I had either misplaced several articles of clothing, a pair of drum sticks (I am a drummer–sometimes!), my dad’s lint brush (holds all sorts of sentimental value to me aside from the practical value), and several other things. I particularly missed my rain jacket. For someone without a lot of money, purchasing the rain jacket in 2007 represented an extravagance beyond measure for me. I know it’s just a jacket, but it’s useful and didn’t come cheaply. I have missed the jacket and everything else that I thought was left or lost from that trip for nearly 3 months now.

Well, you probably know what was under the flap now. Yes, everything (EVERYTHING!) I thought I had lost!

I had, for whatever reason, neglected to actually remove my stuff from the bag when I returned home. I had never thought to check the bag again, thinking it would have been a bit insane to do so. Even though I have owned the jacket for nearly 4 years now, I never really appreciated it’s value until I was without it. The same goes for my dad’s brush, my drum sticks, and the other items in the bag. I’m not going to get all philosophical here, but it was interesting how finding something I owned was such a joyful experience for me and not knowing what I had until it was gone. Anyway, I’m just really excited to be reunited with some of my possessions. Finally, a good surprise!

christmas snow.

December 25, 2010

I wrote in a previous post that something that occurs all too often isn’t special. I was referring to snow in Georgia specifically. Well, today wasn’t so much the exception to this rule, and it might have even strengthened my point. Even though I wrote that all would be well if it were to snow on Christmas Eve, all is still right in the world. You see, today marked the first day in over 100 years that it has snowed in this part of Georgia on Christmas Day. One web site even puts the odds of snow on Christmas in Georgia as “slim to none.”

I can fully attest to this. In my days in Georgia (my entire life) I have never witnessed snow on Christmas. I have never, until today, had a white Christmas. In my previous post I said that I certainly welcome Christmas snow. While I knew I would love to have a white Christmas, I had no idea until today just how happy I would be at finally experiencing it.

So, as I write this post, while drinking a nice warm cup of coffee, I am thankful for a first in my life: a white Christmas. And, since I’ve no place to go, let it continue to snow. Merry Christmas!

friend of the year.

December 15, 2010

Mark Zuckerburg has been named Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year”. Yay for him. I’m not like many that would argue for or against his being given this “honor”. No, I don’t really mind. Not that Mark, or Time Magazine for that matter, really care whether I mind or not. I bring up his being named “Person of the Year” in order to discuss his creation: Facebook. I was one of the early faithful to this social networking site. I proudly announced to the world, or those whom would listen, that I was one of the few, the chosen few, who had a Facebook account. This was back in time when in order to have an account you had to be a college student. I understand the financial incentives that Mark had to expand the site’s coverage. I’m not arguing against that. What bothers me, however, is the integration of Facebook into people’s lives.

I know, you’re probably sitting there thinking, “Geez, buddy, give it a rest. Why such a Luddite? You’re using technology to advance your position.” And I would agree, somewhat. This blog may be my replacement. Sure. But, what it’s not is all encompassing as Facebook. I’m not constantly checking my blog to see if anyone has commented on my posts. I’m not browsing my friend’s blogs, trying to uncover some salacious gossip. I’m not perusing their photos in hope of feeling a bit closer to my friend for having done so. No, I use this blog to write about things I am actually involved with. Facebook, on the other hand, is the thing most people are involved with nowadays. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. Where I grow concerned is where people somehow think that their life is worth ‘less’ because they do not have a Facebook account. Or, they haven’t updated said account in several days. Or, their status updates aren’t somehow as witty as others they know. Or, when someone feels they know someone simply because they spent the past hour browsing their somone’s likes, hobbies, and photos on their profile. This is what bothers me.

And, because of these issues, I decided last June to de-activate my account. I did not fully delete it. Mainly because Facebook is useful for many things and I wanted to test the waters before I went all in. It does provide a useful platform and avenue of communication. Aside from this, I did not think Facebook was worth my time—at least for the time being. So, I forwent my account and all the privileges it provides. I was no longer able to see my friends’ photos, status updates, or latest interests. In order to get the lowdown on my friends, I was forced to…wait for it….ACTUALLY CALL THEM! Gasp. I know, what a tragic thought: In order to keep abreast of the lives of my friends, I was required to spend time with them. Actual time. Real time. In their presence. I would like to say that because of this I’ve been terribly busy keeping up with friends and the like. To say this, however, would be misleading. Grant it, I have given more effort to most of my friendships, but not so much that it actually felt like “effort”.

Sure I haven’t spoken, or e-spoken or Facebook spoken, with some in months. But, what I found was that I wasn’t actually speaking with them to begin with. I was silently sneaking through their virtual lives unnoticed, and I would hardly call this interacting with them. Instead I was viewing their lives like some sort of slide show. Here’s a photo of John’s graduation. Here is John getting married. Here is John at the birth of his child. Here is John’s new car. And so on. All the while never actually speaking with John, aside from the occasional Facebook chat conversation or wallpost.

Am I bitter? Perhaps. Maybe I never had a good number of legitimate relationships to begin with. Maybe, out of my 332 friends, I was only really friends with about 10. Do I miss reminiscing about past events with friends? Sure. I would love to go and view a photo of a friend’s recent wedding. I would like to be able to broadcast this blog to my 332 friends. And, as hypocritical as this might be, I may do so in the near future. I am contemplating re-activating my account. It’s a no-go right now. I was too comfortable with my “relationships/friendships” when I had Facebook. I hardly ever reached out, other than sending a message or writing on their wall. What value is there in this? Many would argue there is immense value and that times have changed. Yesterday’s handwritten note is today’s text message. I can see this. I don’t like it, but I have to acknowledge that, as one of my favorite singers once declared, “The times they are a changin’”. Does this mean I should change, too? I guess that’s what this is really all about.

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