Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Runkeeper, and Being Accountable

About 5 months ago, I decided to start running because I had been noticing my heart a little too much for my liking. Anytime I did any amount of physical activity (stairs, jog, walk to the fridge, lift a piece of cake), I noticed that my heart was beating a little too hard, and my pulse was seeming a little too fast. Going in to the doctor for a cold or an infection often yielded remarks like “Is your blood pressure always this high?” or “That can’t be right, let’s check that again.”

When I was in Jr/Sr high, I ran cross country for 3 years. I remember getting a physical where my blood pressure was so low they checked it twice (opposite of my more recent BP experiences). In those days, I could eat whatever I wanted with no repercussions because I was running 8 miles every day during practice. It was then that I learned the habit of eating an entire pizza all at once. But high schooler I am no longer.

I started realizing that I apparently do not have the body type to just eat what I want and not work it off. I am 28 years old, so I’m still fairly young – but I am not a kid anymore. I need to be proactive about my health. I am also not obese by any means – but if we are talking about BMI, I am solidly in the overweight category. To top it off, I have a kid (he just turned two). I need to be healthy.

So I decided to start running. And to make sure that it doesn’t disrupt my life timewise, I decided to run in the mornings, before I get ready for work. The only problem that comes up with this is my apparent inability to get up at 5 am with any consistency. I am working on it!

In any case, this is where Runkeeper comes in. It is one of many apps available out there that track your activity via GPS. If I initiate it before a run, it maps my route, tells me how long I ran, how fast I ran (on average), and how many calories I burned. This is the free version. I could pay a few bucks to get more features, but I’m not made of Runkeeper money. Are you made of Runkeeper money?

So here is my first (recorded) run, my longest run, and my most recent run.


Look at that progress! First of all, I got a shiny new Note 4 in May 2015, so the maps became much sharper since the GPS functionality of my phone was better. I promise, I didn’t cut through yards. The more accurate the GPS, the more accurate the mileage. So I started out running about a mile and a half. Now, I run usually in the area of 4-5 miles when I go. Not super fast progress – I’m not about to go run a half marathon or anything – but progress all the same. More importantly, even though I haven’t seen a very drastic weight loss (or any), I feel so much better. My legs feel stronger. I feel better (usually) about myself. My endurance is better. And, most importantly, I am not winded by common, everyday actions like walking up my front steps or chasing my son around the house. I haven’t been back to the doctor for a checkup yet, but I will soon – and I am confident (well, mostly hopeful) that I won’t get that same incredulous reaction when my blood pressure is checked.

Perhaps the best thing about Runkeeper (and other apps like it) is that it’s also a social network. I can add other people who have the app as friends, and we can compare runs. If I run with one of them, we can tag each other in the activity. That might not seem like a big deal, but running together is far better than running alone. When I run alone, I give up faster. I don’t run as far because I have no one there to hold me accountable. When I run with someone, it both keeps my mind off the horrible activity I am pushing myself through (because we are often distracting each other by talking), and it keeps me accountable because I don’t want to be the one to cut the run short (unless I really have to). Plus, every time I finish a run, my friends are notified – in this way, the app keeps me accountable by letting everyone on my list know whether I’m running or not.

It’s a great app – and I definitely recommend it. 10/10 would run again.

Monday, August 31, 2015

A Repost of a Repost



So I was recently tasked with writing a review of my favorite scene in a TV show / movie / whatever, and it occurred to me that I’ve already done that. This sort of thing comes up so often, in fact, that I’ve already written a post about that review. So here it is! Reposted (from a repost) from 2/5/11, slightly edited.


I'd like to talk a little bit about my favorite movie, mainly because I've just recently decided (or realized) what it is. It's Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.
Because towards the end of the movie, in the scene where they find the Jaguar Shark, there is more emotion in Bill Murray's expressionless face than I think I have ever seen on an actor's face ever. And that scene is when you (or I, I guess) realize what the movie is actually about. It's not just a quirky, dry comedy about life on the sea, and it's not just a love story, and it's not just about revenge or rescue.
It's a story about a guy who just wants to be admired, like he used to. It's about a guy who just doesn't care enough about anything anymore to care about anything anymore. And then he starts to. It's about a guy who, at the end of everything he's ever had, finds a little something else to have.
And then he loses it, and it's too much. Everything is too awful and beautiful and meaningful and meaningless and he can't decide which he wants to believe, because he believes everything and nothing, and he just wants the world to leave him alone for a while. Provided that it still takes care of him.
And then everything breaks again. But as its breaking it's fixing everything that's been wrong with his life. And at the end, he is happy in his misery.
That's what I see in Bill Murray's expressionless face at the end of that movie.
If you haven't seen it, you need to watch it. And if you have seen it, but don't really understand what I'm saying, you should watch it again.
And if you've seen it, and you hate it, then I guess that's ok too. We just have different tastes.

Monday, June 1, 2015

A Picture a Day for a Week

Sunday, May 24

Today we went to the Hesston Steam Museum in Hesston, Indiana. It was pretty cool - they have many vintage/refurbished steam engines of all kinds - trains, sawmills, cranes, and a popcorn machine (I had no idea such a thing ever existed). We took the kid for rides on some of the trains. He had fun, but got a little sick of it after a while.

Monday, May 25

Went for a run in the woods today, on a short leg of the Wabash Heritage Trail. It was super humid and gross.

Tuesday, May 26

This morning Clark decided to do some reading on his own. Reading is a full-contact sport.

Wednesday, May 27

Today I got a Surface Pro 3 to use for work. It's awesome.

Thursday, May 28

Last day of school! Some kid thinks I'm an octopus or something.

Friday, May 29

Today we took my mom to lunch at Scotty's Brewhouse to repay her for babysitting. I had a burger topped with jalapeƱo poutine. It was dopelicious.

Saturday, May 30

Open bars make for fun weddings.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Wirebirds (A Very Short Story)


Today I felt the curve of the earth.
The horizon bowed at my feet.


- -


     “You see that?” The old man was talking, breaking the silence in which we had until then uncomfortably existed, amongst the smells of leaky exhaust and ancient leather. “That’s where you want to be.” I looked, but couldn’t see anything important. “Up there, boy! On the wire.” He pointed.
     “The birds?” I had no idea what he was talking about. The light turned green.
     “The ones on the wire.” There was a flock of birds in the median. Most of them were on the ground, pecking and eating and jumping – busily doing bird things. Some of them, about twenty or so, had perched high above the rest on a phone line. “That’s where you want to be,” he repeated, “up outta the shit. Up where you can breathe.”
     I looked at my grandfather – really looked at him – and for maybe the first time in my life I saw him as the person he was. Not as an occasional giver of money and interminable stories, but as a flesh-and-blood human man. A man who had scraped and fought his entire life to live in his own tiny house in the poor part of a town that had grown up around him. A man who should own the respect I had never thought to give him.
     A horn sounded behind us. “Grandpa? The light’s green.”
     “Ah shit,” he said, and stepped on the gas – too hard. The old truck lurched, stalled, and coughed to a stop. “Go around!” he yelled, waving his hand out the window. He laughed, and looked at me. “What was I talking about?”
     “Oh yeah.” He turned the key, the engine sputtered to life and we continued on. “Birds.”

     We finished the drive in a very different kind of silence than the one in which we had started.


- -


Gravity’s weight had me defeated,
and the core of the earth – I could feel its heat.

-Attack in Black



Monday, May 4, 2015

Spoiler: Long and Embarrassing

When I started college in 2005, I did what a lot of people who start college do: I looked at a guitar and thought “Oh yeah. I’m gonna learn me some of that.” So I learned a couple of chords from my friend Rob and decided I was a musician.

Now, what I should have been doing had I been actually serious about learning a new instrument was actually focus on learning that instrument. Instead, I focused on writing lyrics to songs I would never record or sing – because I am not a good vocalist and while I practiced guitar long enough to develop calluses on my fingers, I did not practice long enough to learn more than three chords and definitely did not practice long enough to be able to sing and play at the same time.

But I did learn enough to transition between those three chords (It might even be four)! As you can hear in the following clip:

Why I am not rich and famous, I will never know.

So guitar was evidently not my thing, nor was it going to be. Not because I was unable to learn how to play, but because I lack the motivation and discipline to learn an instrument when there are things like video games and television in this world.

I am very good at playing video games and watching television. I would enter into a television-watching contest if there was such a thing. Maybe there is. Stay tuned.

In any case, I did continue to write lyrics to songs that would never exist. Poetry was kind of my thing the first two years of college. Maybe I was kind of angsty. Maybe it was being on my own for the first time in my life. Or maybe it was because I really liked writing poetry. Who knows? I eventually grew out of it.

Whatever the reason, I have decided to share some of this potentially embarrassing writing with you, my very few readers. Keep in mind that I was very heavily influenced by bands such as Something Corporate (& Jack’s Mannequin), Dashboard Confessional, Brand New, Zox, Linkin Park, Jimmy Eat World, Copeland, etc. Please don’t judge too harshly.

Keep in mind too that these were supposed to eventually turn into songs – my friend Rob had a good singing voice, and he was the one teaching me to play guitar. I (maybe even we) had dreams of becoming a famous singing/songwriting duo someday, which were probably crushed when I decided that playing video games was way more immediately gratifying. Anyway – to the embarrassing things!

(Influence level: Linkin Park)
(Embarrassment Level: HIGH)

Hiding in the shadows
You are all the same
Dancing in the moonlight
Playing twisted games

Drawn towards the perilous
Burning with desire
Throwing caution to the wind
You fuel the darkest fire

Children of the night
You were angels, angels
Come into the light
And rewrite your life

Sometimes I imagine
That you are just a dream
Slinking, sliding, slithering
You make me want to scream

Running blindly through the muck
I’m giddy with the fright
I curse the silence of the moon
You trap me with delight

Children of the night
You were angels, angels
Come into the light
And rewrite your life

Forgotten by society
You shun the modern world
Living in proximity
Your words are never heard

Banished to the darkness
Your pain just never ends
Forgotten by your family
And Hated by your friends

Children of the night
You were angels, angels
Come into the light
And rewrite your life

Not trying to be normal
Not trying to fit in
Looking past the darkness
To see the light within

(Influence Level: Something Corporate)
(Embarrassment Level: Moderate)

Politely bruised and broken
You are lying on the floor
Too nice to speak your mind
To willing to give more than he deserves

Wake up and smell the flowers dear,
You need to get away from  here
Before you die

You’ve all-important vows
You think are worth the toughing-out
Too loving to let go
Too ready to miss out on a better life

Try hard to make it on your own
You would be better off alone
You don’t need this

Without him you are elegant,
Unstifled, bright and pure.
Too pretty to be real
Too certain to be sure your life is right

Look up and see the newborn sun
Give that bright smile to everyone
Give it a try

Your life becomes a cancer
That will rot away your heart
Too simple to be dangerous
Too familiar to be part of what you hate

Can’t tell you how you’re supposed to feel
It’s something you need to reveal
All on your own

Your secrets are a cure
That helps to only make it worse
Too blind to see the faults
Too blessed to be cursed, you are so young

You are so young

(Influence Level: ???????)
(Embarrassment Level: Moderately High)

Come inside to see
All the things you’ll never be
Look around and you will learn
When your dreams begin to burn

You call yourself my friend
But your laughter never ends
You are laughing with my pain
But your laughter is insane

Can’t you see that I’m about to snap?
Helplessly I fall into your trap
You twist my words so I can’t say a thing
You bind my ears so I can’t hear you sing

I step so carefully
On the surface of the sea
Jump above and try to dive
But I fall into the sky

Can’t you see that I’m about to snap?
Helplessly I fall into your trap
You twist my words so I can’t say a thing
You bind my ears so I can’t hear you sing

I feel your sick delight
In the darkness of the night
You fooled me for so long
Now I find I don’t belong

My life is caving in
Around the places I have been
Put my mind up on a shelf
And please come save me from myself

(Influence Level: Dashboard Confessional)
(Embarrassment Level: Fairly low)
Still one of my favorites.

The city whirls around me
Fills my head to burst
The sidewalk melts and I dive in headfirst

I wake up and I’m driving
Your picture on my dash
I see it and I smile for what we had

The radio sings to me sadness
While the full moon shines in through the glass
And I want to go to sleep so bad it hurts
but first I need to be sure that you’ll be there

I pull into a dark house
I never want to leave
The hospital bracelet hides beneath my sleeve

My thoughts lie down beside me
They whisper to my heart
But I can’t change how everything’s my fault

The radio sings to me sadness
While the full moon shines in through the glass
And I want to go to sleep so bad it hurts
but first I need to be sure that you’ll be there

The city whirled about me
We were spinning in the street
I could feel the sparks beneath my feet

The city whirled around you
You were flying through the air
The last thing I remember was the smell
Moonlight on the flowers
Was the sight
Spinning in the street
Of your hair

(Influence Level: Jimmy Eat World & The Calling)
(Embarrassment Level: None!)

Misty Monday morning
You walked out of my door
Memories are slipping
What do we do this for?

Cry out for an answer
Helpless futility
Memories are slipping
This life isn’t free

I picked it up and I tried
To fake your brutality
But the thing you never realized
The answer was always me
Cry yourself to sleep tonight
Look inside and you will see
Your strong guilt-free exterior
Is breaking at the seams
And the thought of me is haunting all your dreams

Feelings buried deep
Locked away forever
Memories are slipping
Ties you tried to sever

Living on your own
You are living all alone
Memories are slipping
What good have you done?

Look where we are now
Did you know that it would end like this?
Did you know we were bound to miss?
Tangled in all this bliss
Like this

You are wasting time
You wasted all my life
Memories are slipping
It serves you right

So there you have it. Some embarrassing pieces of my past. Although those last two (Sparks and Amnesiac) I actually still like quite a lot. My previously-mentioned friend Rob actually sat down and recorded a rough take of Amnesiac with guitar and vocals that I think is pretty dang good considering it was recorded in one take sometime in 2006 on some kind of potato microphone. With a little polishing and practice I think it would sound awesome.

To leave you, here’s a video of that very recording with some doodle I doodled after he recorded it.


To double-leave you, here is a short poem that was actually published (front page!) in one of the Purdue Exponent’s student literary editions, so I was fairly puffed up for a few days after that.


What do you see on the back of your eyelids?
What do you see in your dreams?
Follow a road to the back of your mind
Where nothing appears as it seems;
Where your unspoken secrets are living their lives
And only in sleep are they free.
How can a question be answered with yes?
How can we answer with no?
Setting a price on the weight of the world
Is like standing a candle in snow.
And the melting puddles of our tired lives
Will steam up to the stars and glow.
Have you ever really looked out the window?
Have you ever looked at the scene?
We’re building a bridge to the end of the world
Just to fall back into the sea.
And everyone’s lives are one and the same
The killer, the preacher, and me.

Monday, April 6, 2015

For those with nothing else to do.



Let's talk about alcohol. More specifically, let's talk about what I would consider to be my first drink. Of alcohol. Of something alcoholic.

Excluding, of course, the occasional glass of champagne or limoncello at family gatherings, my first drink was a glass of Bloomington's own Oliver "soft red" wine after a calculus exam. I was twenty, which is a year younger than the legal age but several years after (I am sure) many of my peers. That first glass with friends turned into a game of wine shot glass checkers with friends, which turned into a pretty amusing walk back home.

Once I had discovered that having a few drinks was in most respects very excellent, I was all about trying new ones. I had my first shot of terrible vodka (unchased because chest hair) at a party with high school friends, first beer at a similar party, probably while playing beer pong. I did not really understand the dangerous potency of liquor though, and drank far too much of it on a couple of occasions. Learning to drink when the only people around you are college students is not a great idea.

Still, having a cold beer or a well-mixed cocktail with friends (especially in the summertime) is the best. Nowadays I prefer a nice cloudy wheat beer, though most will do in a pinch. Tequila, whether by itself or in a classic margarita is my liquor of choice, with bourbon right behind. To leave you, here are a couple of my favorite cocktail/drink recipes - if you are so inclined.

Grilled Pineapple margarita
Made with mezcal rather than typical tequila, this is an amazing summer cocktail. Enjoy with friends, or drink the whole dang pitcher by yourself – preferably on a beach at sunset.

Mexican mule
Tequila, ginger beer, lime. Great combination.

Old fashioned
I prefer to use Woodford Reserve in my Old Fashioned, but Knob Creek or Jim Beam will do just fine.

Whiskey Smash
Ditto on the bourbon (see above).

New York Sour
Don’t get freaked out by the raw egg. It’s totally fine.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

My Time in the 205/285

In the fall of 2006, I was starting my sophomore year of college at Purdue. It was to be a very important year for me, in several different ways – and most of those ways hinged on a couple of very important classes.

I was clearly awesome. And hella skinny.

EDCI 205 (Exploring Teaching) and EDCI 285 (Multiculturalism & Education) are two required courses for education majors at Purdue. I believe 205 is the first early field experience education students participate in although I could definitely be wrong about that. 285 basically exists to make us aware as human beings (but mostly as teachers) that we will come into contact with many different types of people, and how all these cultures will mix together in different ways but we have to teach them anyway. Or something. It was a long time ago.

The important thing about these two classes in the fall of 2006 is that they were being taught by two friends, Bruce and Sybil, who decided that instead of teaching two separate classes of the same group of students, they would just teach their sections together. I’m not sure if it was the clear enjoyment of what they were doing they brought with them every day, the in-depth discussions about our field experiences, or the frequent debates which would inevitably erupt between Bruce and members of the class who didn’t totally agree with his point of view (always fun to watch), but that class has cemented itself in my college experience.

logoenlargedOf course, it’s also the class where I met Mike – who I soon found out was in the Crazy Monkeys, an improv comedy group I saw during my freshman year and for some reason thought to myself “yeah, I could do that” despite having done nothing like it ever before. Becoming good friends with Mike during our time in the 205/285 led to me auditioning for and becoming a new member of The Crazy Monkeys later that semester. It is completely fair to say that my life would be absolutely different than it is now had I not met Mike and made that decision to try out. Almost all of the friends I either regularly hang out with or stay in frequent contact with came from my time in the Crazy Monkeys. To say it was a major component of my college experience is an understatement. It defined who I was and who I would become in many parts of my life, and I am very grateful for the time I had with the group. Improv is still a huge part of my life, and I am not sure what would have replaced it had I never tried it out.

But wait! The 205/285 Mash-up Bruce & Sybil Variety Hour was also the class where Mary and I met each other, and through a mutual friendship with the aforementioned Mike, became close friends. Most of our time together was doing mutual friendship things, like getting McDonalds Happy Meals or going to see comedy shows on campus. It wasn’t until the spring semester that things got real real. Bruce announced at some point during the fall that he would be teaching a different class in the spring – EDCI 490 (the title was something like “Continuing Issues of Multicultural Education”) and that we were all welcome to take it – and that it could be worth graduate credit if we didn’t have an elective slot for it to fill.

So I decided to take that class – and so did Mary. And probably nothing would have happened between us at all but for one tiny thing that happened one day. Mike maintains that he had some kind of behind-the-scenes puppet master nonsense going on – which may have been part of it, admittedly. The catalyst for what would come next, however, came one day when I got to class and saw that Mary had sat in my seat. For whatever reason, we always sat with our desks in a circle in that class – I think Bruce liked having discussions better that way – and I always sat against the back wall near an audio cabinet. There was no real reason, it was just where I sat the first day and things like that have a way of staying.

Anyway, Mary was sitting in my seat. And I said “Hey, you sat in my seat!” And she said “So just sit next to me.” And I did. And so in February 2007 we were dating, in June 2008 we were engaged, in June 2009 we were married, and in August 2013 we had a son.

I’m not sure if the content of the classes was that memorable or had any profound effect on me as a person. The field experience was just visiting a school – and having been in school all my life, it was about what I expected. Learning about different cultures is always important, but not only was I attending a fairly diverse campus, I have been brought up to be a tolerant and accepting person (or so I like to think), so it was just reinforcement of what I already practice and believe.20130922_095607

What really made the 205/285 important for me was who I met and where they led me. Meeting Mike and Mary took my life where it needed to go, and I would have neither the friends nor the experiences that surround me now. I would be a completely different person, and I am not confident he would be the better for it.

In fact there’s absolutely no way.