Unintended lessons from the gym

Fate would have it that I be gifted with a 3 month free membership to our local gym via class action settlement (gotta love em lawsuits. Am I right, or am I right?). So, of course, I put it off. For almost an entire year. At this point I’ve forgotten all about my free card and simply go on with my sedentary lifestyle in mildly guilty ease.

Until about a month ago when I rediscover said card, hidden away in the confines of my closet next to my physics book.

Oh. Haha. I wonder how that got in such a hidden and obscure place…

Well now, it would be such a waste for me to stumble upon this gift twice and still not use it, so I stroll on over to the gym, slap the card on the counter like some VIP and say “Membership me!” I am confident. I am ready. I am in control, and I am Gym Member Extraordinaire!

Thirty minutes later I’m suckered into signing up for the basic personal trainer package. So much for being in control.

After a few sessions though, I find myself enjoying the training. Not only do I feel great afterwards (until the soreness kicks in. God have mercy on my weak pathetic body), but the set schedule gets me in the groove for motion/energy/etc. It’s actually pretty friggin nice. Besides the hurting part. Yeah, we can just keep ignoring that.

Other than the basics of gym etiquette and health/fitness (ie: don’t hang on the machines, don’t try to sprint on the treadmill when you’re clearly not able to walk a mile, etc) I’ve learned a few things during my brief month. A few are as follows:

1. There are 150 lbs. dumbells in existence.

2. There is a man at my gym that can use said dumbells.

3. His biceps are larger than my thighs twice over (and my thighs are no light matter).

4. Personal trainers can must be excellent liars:
“Just a few more, come on.”
“I can’t, it’s too much, I’m gonne diiieeee”
“You got this, you can do it!”
“Oh, yeah, ok, yeah I can do it. I can do it!”
<wake up next day unable to roll out of bed> I couldn’t do it… *cries*

5. Driving requires the use of abs. You only notice when you have absolutely no more power in your core left even for breathing.

6. The older people get, the less embarrassed they are of walking around completely naked in the locker room; as proud, jiggling sacks of maturity.

If only...

7. Even personal trainers eat bags of cheetos with no shame.

8. Army brats who grow up be army brat managers are pretty awesome. Especially if they understand the amazing combination of steak and rice (screw you, potato!)

9. No one actually looks at you in the gym or cares how out of breath you are. They’re too busy being FIT. If their attention is wandering, they’re probably just as much of a pansy as you are. Feel free to judge.

10. It is absolutely possible to be tired to the point of being unable to lift your car keys. I would be lying if I didn’t admit to a moment of panic setting in as I sit on that locker room bench my first day.

All right, time go lie down before today’s session kills me twice over.


Posted by on May 24, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Sometimes music is the only feeling you have

There is an odd grey area between numbness and feeling that can only be described as limbo. Jumping out of the metaphorical airplane one becomes momentarily trapped in the gusting winds and floats above the world, between the calm, safe serenity of the airplane and the hard, cold reality of the ground below you. You can go to either, depending on if you’re being pulled up by a bungee chord or pulled down by gravity.

Music pulls. For someone who generally resides in this limbo, the power of music is even more pronounced when it comes upon the urge to flaunt its might.

Especially when it’s awesome old school gothic rock.

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Posted by on May 11, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Why my mother is badass

Glorious Mother’s Day. An otherwise calm day broken by the clamoring of children trying to make breakfast in bed without any proven recipes and fathers/husbands trying to do chores to appease their wives for just one, simple day of relaxation (which usually ends up being cleaned up the next day by said women but… it’s the thought that counts, guys).

Unfortunately for my mother her birthday falls neatly around Mother’s Day every year, so our lazy family ends up combining both days into one happy little festival. None of us like spending money much (and if we did she would probably scold us for wasting so much dough) so usually a homemade meal or dessert is accompanied by a birthday present or two. This year I decided on buying the fine lady a bottle of perfume she asked for (with a cosmetic gift bag! Double the gifts!) and making dinner. My mother is a very specific woman, so when I asked her for her preference she said “Pasta. Oil based sauce. Seafood.”

Gotta love a woman who knows what she wants, right?

So here I go Googling away looking for pasta recipes and eventually I find a nice scallop-zucchini-tomato-basil-garlic-olive oil… thing. Grocery shopping? Check. Try not to ruin pasta? Double check. Whip out a bottle of wine I had gotten earlier from a friend? TRIPLE CHECK!

I know this may all sounds like a typical Mother’s Day ritual, and it is. Until you realize that after finishing her meal (which she liked, pat on the back for me!) my mother trots out to the backyard in the cool evening, finishes the (entire) bottle of wine, leans back in the patio chair and breathes, “Ah. So relaxing.” I feel a nice moment there where I realize that I have succeeded in making this a relatively good Mother’s Day/birthday.

After which she immediately stands up, pulls out a pair of jumbo garden shears out of nowhere, and starts attacking our plum tree with religious fervor.

Alternate dimension Caucasian mom.

Sure, we had planned on cutting down that tree for some time now. And it’s not like garden shears can do that much damage. Plus the weather is all nice and perfect for gardening, right? Standing outside and watching her go to work and destroying the tree with happy, wine-induced bubbly enthusiasm, I can’t help but think:

Yup. That’s my mom. Badass to the bone.

Happy Mother’s Day everyone.


Posted by on May 8, 2011 in Uncategorized


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The value of x

While merrily browsing my way through reddit, I stumbled upon this image:

At first I thought very little of it other than “oh, interesting”, shared the link with some friends, and moved on to “funny” and “pics”. But it nagged me. Without even knowing why I had already gone back to the image and stared at it for a little longer. All right, I’ve seen pictures of war. Of devastated cities, mass graves and even freshly burned corpses. During a particularly dark period of my personal IB art experience I collected hundreds of photos of the aftermaths of war and violence. So why, after looking through countless pictures of actual human remains and destroyed lives am I so stuck on some random artist’s rendition of a classic child’s toy?

It took a few good minutes for me to realize the reason.

First: background information. You already know I’m a moderate video gamer. I’m also an economist. Not professionally, mind you, but give me basically any situation and I’ll analyze the keynes out of it. Cost-benefit analysis, rational consumers, supply curves, utility functions – for me, all of these ideas become super imposed over reality and every remotely important decision. Even more so with war. Sure, the human in me thinks “oh woe is the loss of life and destruction of the beauty of the world” and what not. I believe these things, and honestly the darkness of war isn’t lost on me.

But what I think and feel and breathe is “How is this country optimizing its resources? What is the limit of loss before the operation becomes irrational? What combination of aggression and defense can be combined to maximize gain?” The list goes on, the thoughts continue, and I break down the concept of war into tiny pieces until it fits nicely into a neat little game theory square.

Place this alongside my video games, and international relations essentially becomes an RPG with decision branches leading out towards war or peace. I gather resources in order to have bargaining power. I upgrade weapons to protect valuable assets. I attack bandits weaker than me on the road to get their goods with no repercussions. I gift and befriend specific allies to gain their skill sets.

This is what dragged me back to the above image. This mentality that war is nothing but a game, that we, our leaders, and our civilians are merely children with a bucket of plastic soldiers playing in the sandbox, leaving them in the dirt when we’re called home for dinner. That I personally devalue the lives of the people who not only abruptly die in battle, but who die slowly at home after the war is long over. But this alone isn’t ground breaking or all that new. There has never been any argument that war doesn’t cost lives, doesn’t depend on the sacrifice of (relative) few for the many. It would be one thing to completely ignore them. However, it’s so much different when you realize that in the regression models of war, not only are they taken into consideration, they are considered simply x. We are telling them: We’ve taken your lives, and it is only worth 3(b+y), or p^2.

While constantly looking at the big picture and the large scope of the battlefield, we fail to look at the broken toy soldiers littering the sandbox. We’ll raise memorials for them, give them minutes of silence and shiny medals, but the sand crusted, bent and broken plastic pieces are ultimately thrown back into the bucket all in a big clump to be used another day, or thrown out, or forgotten.

I still believe some wars have purpose. I still hold to the idea that our very world was, and continues to be, shaped both negatively and positively by wars; that some sacrifices are worthwhile and some difficult decisions must be made. It’s just that now, when I mentally draw out the equations of battle, x will be a much higher value.

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Posted by on May 5, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Fear the cute ones

Okay, I never thought I’d be doing this, but for you, Internet, I will go the distance. Personal sacrifices must sometimes be made for the greater good. That’s right, sacrifice.
I’m not usually prone to fear for many things. I’ll hug snake, pet a spider, run around in a tornado, play with fire and so on and so forth. But some things are far more diabolical, far eviler than the human mind can comprehend (more specifically, mine). So, without further ado, I give you:

Top Five of my Personal Fears (with pictures)

1. Wasps
Let’s start off with a normal fear. And nothing is more normal than being afraid of little black and yellow flying insects with personal vendettas against the human race. Bees? Bees are ok. You don’t bug them, they don’t bug you. It’s a beautiful natural coexistence between fuzzy flying lancer and squishy hairless ape.  But these guys:

Ugh. I’m shivering right now as it is. I will quite literally walk 30 feet around a group of wasps (or even 1, who am I kidding here) in order to avoid their malevolence. Not only do these guys attack without reason, they keep going. Bees sting you once, and they die. You have time and natural selection on your side, and more importantly, hope. But wasps just keep biting and stinging until all that’s left of you is a pathetic shell of a human being curled up on the sidewalk, blabbering and crying like an idiot.

Okay, I can’t take this, on to the next one.

2.  Nutcracker Soldier Dolls

Oh. Oh God. Just… make it stop. Those dull, lifeless eyes that drill into the darkest corners of your soul. The stiff posture of discipline that threatens to beat you down into a pulp with its tiny wooden sword. The upturned mustache that both taunts and mocks you like a half-breed demon’s smile. Not to mention the gritted teeth just waiting to tear your life to pieces with a massively disproportional mouth. Everything about this “doll” is wrong. Everything.
It’s an annual tradition on Christmas for me to get THIS close to buying tickets to the Nutcracker ballet; then bailing out like the wimp I am once I see the advertising posters.

3. Clowns

Okay, even you, the average person, must admit that clowns are downright scary. To this day I refuse to go to the circus because these guys are always there, roving around the audience. They’re always smiling, always laughing, always wearing ridiculous outfits that don’t belong on the streets and dancing out of rhythm to some cacophonous melody in their head. You know who else does that?

The socially unacceptable. The mentally broken, twisted,  pathologic criminals that have no empathy, no fear, no understanding of right and wrong. They paint on smiles and put make up all over their entire face to cover up the fact that they’re merely robots with flesh. Cold, unfeeling, Terminator-esque robots that laugh at people’s misery while squirting burning water out of flowers into our eyes.

Why in the world are we letting these monstrosities near our children?  In packs?

4. Dolls that move on their own 
Have you ever ridden the attraction at Disney Land where you take a nice relaxing boat ride “around the world”? There are dolls dressed in clothes distinct to different lands, cute little dance routines their simple animatronic  bodies perform and colorful backdrops full of culturally distinguishable landmarks and architecture. It’s not the best ride in the world, and truthfully there are only so many times you can listen to “It’s a small world after all” before you lose your mind, but overall it’s not that bad. At least you’re out of the California heat.

Have you ever had the ride stop mid-way?

What was once mildly entertaining is now thrown into the chaos of hell. Your boat steers to a halt, and for a moment you gratefully notice that the blasted music has stopped. Immediately after, you realize with a sinking heart that the dolls are still moving. They continue to dance on their multi-colored stages, bopping up and down and waving around their little arms and blinking. Sweet mother of pearl, the blinking. Staring. Watching. Waiting.

Madness. Utter madness. The only sounds you hear beyond your pounding heart and rapid breathing are the clicking and whirring of their accursed parts… until you begin to scream and your 5 year old cousin has to calm you down.

5. Dolls that stare, in general



Posted by on April 27, 2011 in Uncategorized


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When your life is lorem ipsum

Life as we know it is unfathomably complex, and because our puny little minds can only comprehend so much, we do what we do best as a human race – we ignore most of it.

Think of a street you walked down recently, or a neighborhood you drove past. Can you remember all the colors? Any faces you saw? The millions of blades of grass or pieces of gravel? There’s this pretty little phrase called sensory overload that explains what happens when we actually pay attention to everything: something breaks. Usually your brain. Whether this is your train of thought or mental health doesn’t really matter, the key point is that it’s not all that healthy to feast upon every detail of life. Just the yummy portions.

But on the other hand, ignoring everything can’t be all that healthy either.

That’s basically me nowadays. Ignoring everything. Sure, I’m productive at work, I socialize with friends, I read books and write my stories and play video games and bake goodies. I even work out (sometimes…when I remember). Life is actually quite full of stuff. Whoopee! But there’s that fuzzy disconnect between life being full, and life being engaging. Moving through the days one hazy footstep at a time, I think I’m consciously ignoring everything that doesn’t require my direct attention, and everything is a Mad Libs line where I’m inserting lorem ipsum into the blanks. The game is much more fun to play when you can fill in the words to read “… and the blue kangaroo drunkenly flew down to the beach in hopes of jumping a spiky mattress.” See? Quirky. Odd. Amusing.

Instead, I’m looking more like “… and the ut aliquet dolor flew down to the scelerisque in hopes of nullamsem consequat ac.” I mean.. yeah, it’s filled up, so I technically did it right… but it doesn’t make sense. While it’s a far cry from being sad or negative, it’s not even remotely funny. What’s Mad Libs without humor? This is the epitome of failure without actually losing.

Oh good. Because even in our most epic of failures, grammar still remains a priority.

Pop quiz: If sensory overload breaks your brain, what does sensory deficiency break?

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Posted by on April 21, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Office eavesdropping

Human social groups are amazing things. The way complete strangers can come together because of some need (work, religion, social cause, hate of zombies) and interact with each other is quite extraordinary considering the personal barriers we tend to put up around ourselves.

Sometimes though, I do wish we’d hold onto our barriers a little longer. There is a stark difference between conversing with purpose, and conversing to fill up the empty space between two people. Usually, office banter is of the second species. What do they talk about?

Well, fortunately for you, I have conducted a highly scientific and precise experiment revolving around this phenomena, by means of sitting around and eavesedropping on everyone’s conversations (hey, science isn’t always pretty, we must push the boundaries to find the truth!).

And so, my results, in no particular order:

Apparently, humans love food so much, even when they’re not eating they’ll talk about it. Talk about what one’s going to eat for lunch, what one actually ate for lunch, where one got his/her lunch, and how one’s lunches just aren’t cooperating with one’s dietary tract. Amidst all this food-talk, humans are still capable of ingesting extraordinary amounts of fast food. Fascinating.

It appears that when humans are not working, they all deviate to one single past time: watching television. For people who theoretically have only a few hours of free time once they get home from sitting in front of a computer screen all day, a large percentage of that time seems to be taken up by sitting in front of an even bigger screen. How else would they constantly be up to date on the latest American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, Food Network shows, and hilarious GEICO commercials? Some subjects even peruse Youtube for the latest week old videos sent by their tech-savvy children. How they have time to eat their precious meals or intiate personal hygiene rituals is beyond the scope of my understanding, and will need to be researched further.

Even after filling up after-work hours with eating and TV, the subjects are still capable of conducting intra-familial rituals throughout the week and dutifully report back to the office. One can often hear the life story of a child through the eyes of their mother/uncle/grandparent, who evidently lacks any need to minimize how annoying/adorable/stupid/smart said child is, with various examples to support their thesis. With my methodical researching style and eavesdropping abilities, I can say with 95% confidence that, yes, your granddaughter’s candy eating habits will indeed result in type 2 diabetes, and your son is probably on some sort of recreational drug.

This appears to be not so much a conversation filler, but a sub-group I have deemed “conversation-starters”. Office subjects (usually, but not exclusive to, women) will initiate conversational protocol by expressing heightened excitement at the cuteness factor of one’s blouse, or the fashion sense of a new pair of shoes. At this point, the paired subject usually responds with tales of hunting down sales, matching outfit ideas, and lamentations of the shirt lost that looked almost like this one but that they loved so so so much better. Speaking of which:

The glue that holds mankind together, the universal conversation topic and glorious social bonding staple that predates written history: complaining. Whether it’s complaining about the weather, aching body, stupid landlords, broken down cars, poor customer service, or basically anything that proves just how unfair life is, it’s all up for grabs. No conversation gets as passionate, no individual gets as talkative, than the ones that include some sort of gripe about life. Not just life in general, but their life. Why their life sucks, why something is wrong in their life, why something negative is undeserved in their life. It continues to amaze me just how much human beings can talk about only themselves – while in a conversation with other people, who are probably talking about themselves as well.

Granted, these results are not as conclusive as I would like and requires a bit more research, but generally I do believe these topics take up about 98% of the time spent talking in the work environment. The question of why is a whole different matter all together, and will be analyzed in a future report.

Stay classy, office folk. Science thanks you for being such willing subjects.


Posted by on April 12, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Typing my way into insanity

Having a dull job that also causes you to sleep less than the recommended amount of hours can take its toll on you. And since corporate culture frowns upon bringing PS3’s to work, there’s only so much you can do before your mind starts “entertaining” itself.

Working with huge lists of names and accounts all day, you’re bound to stumble upon what I call “repeat offenders”. The accounts that never match. The insurances that never get through the system. The checks that bounce like Tigger on ecstacy. Nothing ever works right with such accounts, and like many other things in this world, it follows the 80:20 rule; 80% of your work comes from dealing with these 20% of people.

After a little while, you take it personally.

Mental conversations arise when you run into one of these offenders, and can go something like this:

“Ah, Mrs. Boyd, we meet again. What’s this? Another payment charge? Indeed, do you want to do this the easy way, or the hard way? <click. click> They always choose the hard way.”

<Insert menacing knuckle crack. type type>

“Oh, acting tought now, aren’t we Mrs. Boyd? Let’s see you handle this! <click type type click> Well aren’t we a fighter, but I have more up my sleeve~”

<click click type click type type type>

Nothing is working. At this point a maniacal grin seems to grow on my face, my mouse is cracking under the pressure, and I’m smashing my keyboard with blinding speed (APM 400!). I’m yelling threats now, mostly in my head, that is.

“You can’t hold out forever Mrs. Boyd! None shall pass through to the land of clean credit without my approval! You! Will! Balance!

It’s become an epic battle of good vs. evil, light vs. dark, red vs. blue (anime fighting backgrounds are always strikingly similar). I hardly notice my coworkers scooting away as their eyes shift between each other in a mixture of concern and fear. I’m too preoccupied with throwing every weapon in my arsenal at Mrs. Boyd, who so far has exhibited remarkal willpower and refused to budge. An ominous growl escapes my throat and my face shines with perspiration as this battle of wits begins to reach the turning point. It’s all come down to the big guns now, and every motion taken is calculated down to the tee.

The final click. The perfect keystroke. Success! Take that, Mrs. Boyd! Your wiley ways and crooked numbers were no match for my brilliance!

Brilliance, I say, brilliance! Mwhahahahahaha!

With the battle over I lean back in my chair and sigh with exhaustion. Fighting for the good of mankind sure is tiring. I don’t think I can handle one of those again. Hopefully the rest of my list is more willing to submit to the general rules of finance.

Ah, Mr. Mason, we meet again…

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Posted by on April 7, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Rose colored glasses

We’ ve all heard it before, the little cliche that says you are a happy-go-lucky optimist, looking at the world through “rose colored glasses“.

I’m a bit confused. Since when is seeing the world solely through the pink wavelength an acceptable, much less good, thing? When I look at my salad, I want to see a fresh green salad, not some wilty, salmon-colored, disease-stricken lettuce leaf.

Perhaps optimists have some sort of rare genetic mutation that not only causes them to see the positive side of everything, but affects their eyes as well and limits their physical vision to that of tickle-me-monochrome.

Does this mean they can’t see with 3-D glasses? Do green tinted ski goggles negate their pinkish vision and turn everything black? Does everyone look like they’re constantly blushing and therefore the world seems madly in love (or feverish)?

It’s a paradox. If everything is rose colored, then your lawn, the road, the clouds, everything is pink. Using what twisted mindset can these rose-colored anomolies look up and say “Ah, the sky looks beautiful today, because the entire horizon is colored like the backdrop of the apocalypse”.

Nope. Not foreboding in the slightest.

The gall these people have, automatically associating one of the ugliest colors known to man with all that is good and optimistic. Simply because I do not see the world in one color does not, I repeat, does not make me a pessimist.

Expecting to get cancer, live through a third world war, and watch as the world crumbles around me via climate change and ridiculous wealth disparities?

That makes me a pessimist.


Posted by on March 31, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Monday Monday Monday

Yes, I had to type it three times just to convince myself that it is indeed this dreaded day of the week. You’d think the signs were obvious; I’m falling around in heels, sitting at the desk and perusing facebook like there’s no tomorrow. Productivity is in the pits, and I am one poorly timed break away from falling asleep at work. Yep, it’s Monday all right.

Unlike the other days of the week, Monday has absolutely no redeeming qualities. It’s useless, bland, and life would be basically the same if not better had no one invented Monday. No one wants you, Monday. You’re like the white color pencil we give to the annoying kid in class because everyone else got the cool colors. Even brown is better than you. Stinkin, poop colored brown.

Wednesday? Hump day. The week is halfway over. You pat yourself on the back for making it through the 50% mark. And maybe hit up happy hour, just for kicks.

Thursday? It’s the day before Friday, the weekend. You only have one more day until freedom, and 80% done with the work week. That’s a B-, but it’s passing!

Friday? Pay day. Weekend. Enough said.

Saturday? You can sleep in, run errands, have afternoon tea and morning brunch (not that we do per se, but we can, and that’s all that matters).

Sunday? Church is pretty cool. You can’t sleep in but it’s still a weekend. More brunches and lounging? Yes, please.

Tuesday? It’s not Monday.

See what’s happening here? Monday is so bad, that simply not being Monday is considered a positive characteristic.

I’m not blaming Monday for existing, or saying that it should curse the day it was born and crawl back into oblivion. I’m not even telling it to come to grips with the fact that no one likes it and that fading from our lives completely would be the greatest thing to happen since my neighbors got unencrypted WiFi.

But I’m not saying it shouldn’t, either.

Yes, dear, we know. I won't tell you it's your fault. But it probably is.


Posted by on March 28, 2011 in Uncategorized


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