Moving In in San Francisco

I elaborated about getting from Georgia to San Francisco (“SF”) late last summer in a recent post. Although the journey provided as much reward as the destination, I omitted to write about the process that unfolded during the months after I got there. It was chalked full of trial and error and taught me more than I expected. Below is a list of what I would emphasize if I decided to move there again.

Consider comfort when picking an apartment–Before arriving in SF, I brainstormed about the factors that would determine where I would live. An overpowering aversion to long commutes led me to make proximity to work a much greater factor than it should have been. I set out to find an apartment within my price range that allowed me to walk to the office. My southern charm served me well in my Craigslist search for an apartment and landed me a room on a known and busy street in Nob Hill. I was living in the middle of the action within a mile from work, so I jumped right in.

Unbeknownst to me was my inability to sleep in a room, which overhung the sidewalk next to a street of a 24-hour bus line. Public buses in SF, while electrically powered, still make enough noise starting and stopping to jar me from slumber. On top of that, weeknight partiers frequented the streets until the wee hours of every morning. No judgment, but I awoke to the hooting and hollering of Tuesday night drunkards on multiple occasions. I remember waking up to someone asking, “Do you know what time it is?” to which someone replied, “2:40.” I happily realized that I still had a few more hours before I needed to get up for work.

Lastly, the room was infested with bed bugs. They are far more awful than I can express in a blog. I will refrain from grossing you out or reliving it (my feet still itch when I think about it), but, trust me, you never want to experience them if you haven’t already. A room far away from work without bedbugs is far better than one next to work with them. Having had this realization, I happily moved to a quieter place that was a greater distance from the office and did not have bedbugs.

Put any real dating on hold–Dating is a necessary pleasure and evil at this juncture of my life. SF was, in this regard, full of more exciting options than in my previous town. I came from a place made up of the same age demographic as the Price is Right’s viewing audience. I was ready to meet new people in my new town.

In spite of my readiness, I would have been better served by putting my energy into settling in before going on any real dates. I am not talking about avoiding making new friends or connections. I’m talking about setting up a mutually agreed upon meeting place days in advance, meeting there and spending$75 on someone you don’t know.

In my defense, I deleted Bumble and Tinder before moving to SF, but ended up spending more time, effort and money on a few dates than was necessary before I had my bearings there.  Speaking to myself, you will find better partners / dating options / mates when you are comfortable with yourself and your situation no matter where you are. To try and find them before you are is not only wasteful, but may end up hindering your ability to settle in at all.

I am always looking to be who the person I am looking for is looking for, which is someone who has their shit together. So, it follows that I was not going to find a person with their shit together until I had the same. Lesson learned.

Give Friends Space–Speaking in second person again, more solitude than normal is unavoidable in a place that is not your hometown. This is obvious, but important to keep in mind when you move. You may have friends in your new town, but keep in mind that they didn’t wait until you moved there to build lives and develop routines. Be mindful of the fact that they may still want to welcome you to their circle of friends even if they cannot get together on a weekly basis. It doesn’t mean they are avoiding you, it just means they have other shit going on. Give them space by creating your own original life that does not have to include them every week. After a while, you have new friends of your own, which you can introduce them to giving everyone a larger friend base!

Adulthood is full of people in different life phases at different times. Growing up, everyone is generally on the same schedule through college. Then, people get married, have kids, and do things on different timelines. This is as true in a new city as anywhere else. Don’t assume malice when busyness can explain everything.

 

me-on-a-rock

Me on a Sizeable Rock exactly 34 years after being born

 

I can continue on this subject and double the length of this post, but, in closing, SF is a magical place that should be tried for any amount of time. I am home now, but more fully understand that returning home is not the same as never leaving. I left some, not all, of my heart in San Francisco.

2016 Wisdom

By all negative or positive metrics, 2016 has been one hell of a year. Personally, it will be marked as a year of drastic geographic changes. I started the year in Central America, then moved back to the Southeast United States and am finishing it in California (pictured).

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As a man who appreciates the growth that comes with struggle, I will look back on 2016 fondly. Nonetheless, I am eager for this next January 1st and the 364 days after. Simply stated, I look forward to 2017.

I documented some of my adventures and musings on this and my other blog throughout the year. I told you about my time abroad, my music preferences, New Year’s resolutions, eating habits and gave you other glimpses into my life.

In this post, I have copied memorable quotes from books, movies, meditations, and articles I came across this year. Some of them are more profound than others, but drafting this post will have been well worth it if one of you finds one of the quotes useful.

The final two evoked the most visceral response for me. The last one most closely aligns with the most significant event of my year, which involved the death of loved one. It came from a scene in Westworld in which Delores (Evan Rachel Wood) explains the benefit of leaning into grief. It hit me hard.

Enjoy these and my favorite picture of the year. Comment if you like!

“The Real Reason We Need to Stop Trying to Protect Everyone’s Feelings”

-Ryan Holiday-

“Some of us find humor in everything, some of us do not. It’s important too—but those of us that believe it and live our lives by a certain sensitivity cannot bully other people into doing so too. That sort of defeats the purpose.”

“If someone succeeds in provoking you, realize that your mind is complicit in the provocation.”

“Control and discipline of one’s own reactions make for a successful person and a functioning society.”

From “The Art of Manliness” blog

“While you may never have to fight off an armed attacker or save someone from drowning in a river, there’s a 100% probability that every day you’re going to need the qualities of courage, hardihood, resilience, and so on to deal with life’s little annoyances, lead your family, and excel in your career. Thus, wanting such training, and desiring such qualities, is the most rational thing is the world.”

“Because if there’s one thing you should be paranoid about, it’s living a life in which you never develop your full capacities as a man.”

The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz

“[He] was a brilliant thinker who could encapsulate complex ideas into pithy sentences with ease”

“Humans, particularly those who build things, only listen to leading indicators of good news.”

“There comes a time in a company’s life when it must fight for its life.”

“All the mental energy you use to elaborate your misery would be far better used trying to find the one seemingly impossible way out of your current mess.”

The 48 Laws of Power, Robert Greene

“Do not imagine that your master’s dependence on you will make him love you.”

“By knowing other people’s secrets, by holding information that they wouldn’t want broadcast, you seal your fate with theirs.”

“[He] knew that most men build up defenses against the crooks and other troublemakers. The con artist’s job is to bring those defenses down.”

“An act of kindness, generosity, or honesty is often the most powerful form of distraction because it disarms other people’s suspicions.”

“[He] was already a millionaire through strong-arming and deception.”

“During social gatherings and innocuous encounters, pay attention. This is when people’s guards are down. By suppressing your own personality, you can make them reveal things.”

“If people suspect you are worming secrets out of them through conversation, they will strictly avoid you.”

“Give them a false confession and they will make you a real one.”

“An understanding of people’s motives is the single greatest piece of knowledge you can have in acquiring power.”

“Never discriminate as to whom you study and whom you trust. Never trust anyone completely and study everyone.”

“To some people the notion of playing power games—no matter how indirect—seems evil, asocial, a relic of the past. They believe they can opt out of the game by behaving in ways that have nothing to do with power. You must beware of such people… they are after often the most adept players at power.”

“If you attempt to treat everyone equally and fairly, you will confront the problem that some people do certain things better than others. Treating everyone equally means ignoring their differences, elevating the less skillful and suppressing those who excel. Many who behave this way are just redistributing people’s rewards in a way they determine.”

“Honesty is a power strategy—convince people of one’s noble character. It is a form of persuasion, even a subtler form of coercion. Those who make a show of innocence are the least innocent of all.”

“An emotional response to a situation is the single greatest barrier to power – anger the most destructive of all emotional responses.”

“You must learn to judge all things by what they cost you – apply this to everything –including whether to collaborate or come to people’s aid.”

The Match, Mark Frost

“Not enough of the meaningful prizes in life are contested solely for honor anymore, for the love of the thing itself, or the undiluted satisfaction of testing your mettle against the best you can find and, win or lose, walking away the better for it because the truths it enabled you to face and find out about yourself.”

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising AsiaMohsin Hamid

“Achieving a massive bank balance demonstrably attracts fine physical specimens desperate to give their love in exchange for affection. Achieving love tends to do the opposite. It dampens the fire in the steam furnace of ambition, robbing of essential propulsion an already fraught upriver journey to the heart of financial success.”

“There are times when the currents leading to wealth can manage to pull you along regardless of whether you kick and paddle in the opposite direction.”

Moonwalking with Einstein, Josh Foer

“Brains are notoriously trickier to quantify than brawn.”

“Normal is not necessarily natural.”

“Monotony collapses time. Novelty unfolds it.”

“If you spend your life sitting in a cubicle and passing papers, one day is bound to blend unmemorably into the next and disappear. That’s why it’s important to change routines regularly and take vacations to exotic locales, and have as many new experiences as possible that can serve to anchor our own memories.”

“Creating new memories stretches out psychological time and lengthens our perceptions of our lives.”

“…you’ve got to work on the assumption that you’re going to do better in practice than you’ll do in the tournament.”

(Quoting Bruce Lee) “There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you.”

Oprah and Deepak—21 Day Meditation

“There is nothing enlightened in shrinking so that other people don’t feel insecure.”

Talk Like Ted, Carmine Gallo

“Authentic happiness can only come from the long-term cultivation of wisdom, altruism, and compassion, and from complete eradication of mental toxins, such as hatred, grasping, and ignorance.”

“(Quoting Melissa Cardon) “When you are passionate about something you can’t help yourself from thinking about it, acting on it, and talking about it with other people”

“The passion that man has for his personal growth is the most important thing.”

‘(Quoting Dale Carnegie) The ideas I stand for are not mine. I borrowed them from Socrates. I swiped them from Chesterfield. I stole them from Jesus.  And  put them in a book. If you don’t like their rules, whose would you use?”

“The ability to tell a story is an essential trait of authentic leadership—people who inspire effort.”

“90% of all businesses fail, yet 80% of business owners never try a second time.”

“People don’t know what they want. And if they do, they have a hard time articulating what they truly desire.”

“(Quoting Isabel Allende) Nice people with common sense do not make interesting characters. They only make good former spouses.”

“Power posing increases testosterone and lowers cortisol levels in the brain.”

“I like to refer to dopamine as the “save button” of the brain. When dopamine is present during an event or experience, we remember it; when it is absent, nothing seems to stick.”

Seeing What Others Don’t: the Remarkable Ways We Gain Insight, Gary Klein

“When we put too much energy into eliminating mistakes, we’re less likely to gain insights.”

“…..Four stage model of insight: preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification.”

“While the idea of deliberate preparation appeals to our work ethic—and is, of course, crucial for many types of work—it was not the factor in the insights attained….”

“Insight cannot be taken back. You cannot return to the moment you were in before.”

“We tend to notice coincidences, associations we don’t fully understand based on relationships we can’t articulate. People who can pick up on trends, spot patterns, wonder about irregularities, and notice coincidences are an important resource.”

“While the idea of deliberate preparation appeals to our work ethic—and is, of course, crucial for many types of work.”

“Curiosities are unlikely to get us in trouble. If we examine a curiosity that doesn’t lead anywhere, we’ve just wasted some time. In contrast, coincidences can mislead us.”

“People aren’t accidentally stumbling onto insights. They are actively searching for them”

“All we can conclude is that we’re likely to miss the insight if we rely on a flawed belief.”

The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman

“You’re alive Bod. That means you have infinite potential. You can do anything, make anything, dream anything. If you change the world, the world will change. Potential. Once you’re dead, its gone, over. You’ve made what you’ve made. Dreamed your dream. Written your name. You may even be buried here. You may even walk, but that potential…. Is gone.”

Westworld”

Delores: “You think the grief will make you smaller inside. Like your heart will collapse in on itself, but it doesn’t. I feel spaces opening up inside me like a building with rooms I’ve never explored.”

 

 

 

The Truest Thing I Know

“Everyone you know someday will die,” Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips proclaims during the chorus of the official state rock song of Oklahoma (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPXWt2ESxVY). These lyrics are an example one of the various musical or poetic attempts to quantify an understanding of death.

Having recently experienced the death of a loved one, I am now more certain that I can have a complete conscious understanding of the unavoidable reality of death and still be emotionally affected and permanently changed every time someone I care about passes away.

Someone in my immediate family and two grandparents died before I was 12. I knew a few others who passed away before they reached old age. I am incalculably fortunate to have been associated with solid people for my entire life, but have faced losing loved ones at a greater frequency than a lot of people I know in my age range.

What has this done for me? Have I improved at dealing with death? Do I experience less pain when it happens? What have these experiences taught me?

Articulating the answers to these questions is impossible, but is worth attempting. I try below.

First, I am certain that losing loved ones has made me appreciate the ones I have left. Some people I know are scared to face the reality that all the people around them will all be gone someday. Denying this is to do yourself a massive disservice and miss out on the immeasurable value of authentic relationships. Gaining an understanding about this made me more careful about how I treat those I care about and, importantly, how my actions affect them. My closest relationships are better because I lost loved ones.

Second, it is tough to say whether going through the loss of loved ones lightens the impact of any future deaths. Does it get easier? I don’t think it does. I am not a cryer, but I lost count of the number of times I cried for the most recent death of a loved one that I experienced. It was less confusing, but it was not less emotional or gripping.

In fact, I noticed that I became emotional much faster and more intensely after learning about the most recent death of one of my loved ones than any of the previous ones I have experienced. This showed me that my previous experiences with death made me more comfortable with my emotional responses to it. So, having experienced previous deaths helped me begin the grieving process faster. The denial phase was shorter. The pain was as real as ever, and I clearly accepted it.  I am no master of grieving, but I am most certain that it is supposed to be hard when people you care about pass away. You cannot go around it being impacted by it.

Most importantly, this most recent death experience taught me not to run from death. It can make you a stronger, more loving and happier person, but you have to face it and let it do its work on you. You have to let it kick your ass for a while. Then, you will come out with a bigger heart, better relationships with the ones you have left, AND a fuller richer life. Death almost always leaves its survivors with a new advantage even if that advantage is perspective and strength. They just have to be bold enough to push forward.

Death is the unavoidable outcome we all share. It is undefeated. Everyone you know, someday, will die. That is the truest thing I know.

 

 

 

 

From Sea to Shining Sea

G’day Reader Creatures,

I am sticking to the persona of my blog and am keeping it ‘Themeless.’ After a few Cheat Day journals, which I very much enjoyed, I am here to report on a recent, life-changing journey.

I moved from Southeast Georgia to San Francisco (“SF”) for a new job and a new chapter. Having longed to experience the city life as a young/getting older professional, I finally got the opportunity to do so when I least expected it. Having practiced law for 3.5 years in my idyllic, but small, hometown, I took a sabbatical and then set my sights on a few of the great American cities. SF had always topped my list, but I took a pragmatic approach by searching for a job in places that I knew people (not SF).  I had only dreamed of living in SF, but had no idea how to get here.

Somehow, someway, I got a call from an interested employer in SF and was on my way there 2 weeks later. Shortly after accepting the job, I wrestled with whether to drive or fly and ended up driving as it was the easiest way to get my dwindling amount of belongings from the East to the West Coast.

By now, you may have deduced that I drove across the middle of the USA by myself. I am fortunate to have done it twice before with a travel companion. This one was uniquely memorable. My first segment was short. I drove from Coastal Georgia to Atlanta when both the Chick-fil-a Kickoff Classic college football season opener and Dragon Con converged on the city at once. It was a spectacle of various characters.

After Atlanta, I started on a more direct path toward SF. Other stops included Fayetteville, AR; Denver, CO; Reno, NV; before arriving in SF. I am enjoying being here in SF, but the journey at least equals getting to live here.

My observations and realizations from driving across the country are too numerous to post. I have not fully grasped some of these observations and realizations and some of the others I cannot fully articulate. If traveling is  super-food for the soul, my cross-country trip was a Kale smoothie.

Here are some of the things I saw and learned in no particular order:

Arkansas is underrated: Being arbitrarily grouped in with other southeastern states, Arkansas’ appeal was previously unbeknownst to me. I ignorantly thought it was most similar to Northern Alabama and Mississippi. Boy, was I wrong. Middle Arkansas to Fayetteville up through Bentonville (home of Wal-Mart) and all the way to the Missouri border are all as pleasant of suburban-rural places as there are anywhere else in the United States. The state is covered with lakes and rivers that are on display during the mountainous drive through the major highways of the states.

Fayetteville, having caught the eye of publications that have placed it atop their versions of ‘America’s Most Livable Cities’ lists, is Mayberry in the Mountains. Southeastern Conference college towns have an advantage in my book, but this one has the natural beauty going along with everything else most similar college towns do. Arkansans who I know commonly tout the attractiveness of their state, but are not always paid attention to. It is out of the way most for most of my trips. I should have listened to them earlier. It is so scenic and I plan on going back.

Continuing up the Walton corridor, the cleanliness of the area gives you a sense that Wal-Mart’s money trickled into Bentonville’s public areasand surrounding areas. It is so nice.

Simply stated, the Fayetteville through Bentonville to Missouri corridor is mountainous, forested, clean, scenic and worth checking out if you have any liking of the outdoors. Few people advised me to go there, but now I am advising you. Go there.

Still in the dark about Kansas

I-70 intersects the less populated parts of Kansas. This is the only part I saw and it made me want to drive through it faster. I credit Kansas for supporting our country’s agriculture, but I cannot say much more about it. Some people may like pretending to live on the moon by living in Kansas, but I found little stimulation there. One positive trait I gleaned was the catchiness of University of Kansas’s ‘Rock-Chalk Jayhawk’ battle cry. That sounds cool.

To sum up what I learned about Kansas: there are sunny days; you can drive fast there; the University has a cool mascot; and a disproportionate amount of food is grown there. I need to go back and learn more about it.

Colorado, let me count the ways

After enduring Kansas on I-70 West, I was rewarded by a noticeable improvement in scenery and plant life (I don’t mean marijuana) immediately after crossing into Colorado. You reach the Eastern Colorado border and start the gradual climb to Denver. It feels like you go from a moderate altitude to a mile above sea-level over the course of an hour drive. It is like God built a gradually inclining ramp from the Eastern Colorado border to the Mile High City.

The trip to Denver from the East is only outdone by the trip leaving Denver to head west. Vail Pass gets the reward for my favorite part of this segment, but surrounding areas are a close second. The views overtake your senses on this part of the drive. Green, forested mountains with rivers winding around and through the highway make it too much to take in on a single drive. It made me consider where I might go should I have good business fortune one day. I nearly stopped my trip there.

To try and fully articulate the scenery in this part of the country is to trivialize it. You cannot grasp the allure of this landscape without seeing it in person when it is not covered in snow. Continuing on I-70 toward and through Utah holds its own distinguished beauty, but there are few places in the lower-48 that compare to Vail Pass in the summer.

Lonely, Lovely Stretches

Traveling from one side of Utah to the other is scenic for sure, but it is also a lonely stretch of road. I reached Utah, drove a few hours, exited the highway, turned left and then turned right in East Jesus toward Utah. Then, I drove and drove and drove and drove until I saw another house, gas station, store, person or any other sign of modern civilization. I started thinking I’d see more broken down cars on the road as people are bound to overestimate their fuel, food, water, and sustenance supply for this arduous section. It was like a modern day Oregon Trail in a car minus the cholera and dysentery. If you plan on driving through Utah, get gas every time you pass a station and you might not run out.

Nevada, that is all

I covered 80% of the way through Nevada in the dark, which may explain why I took little note of it. I was too tired to think about much during this section other than how fast I could drive. I didn’t go through Vegas so that should tell you about all I experienced in Nevada.

California Love

Arriving in California came with a jolt of adrenaline not unlike Tom Joad’s final leg of his journey out here. As soon as I reached Cali, I was enthralled with the steeply sloping, grayish mountains on either side of the highway. The trek through Northern California from Reno to SF is breathtaking. The height and vastness of the mountains that crowd the road make you feel insulated. It is awesome.

Left Coast

Arriving in SF was the best part as it is truly a magical place. You take everything from every other great American city and put it in one place and you have a fraction of the allure of this place. Food aside, SF has mountains, water, weather (seldom too hot or cold), culture, music, surfing, skiing, high-tech commerce and on and on. SF is awesome.

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Near Vail Pass


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Kansas


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Utah (no people or cars)


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Nevada


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Near Vail pass again

 

Cheat Day Journal 2

Hola!

Much has changed since I published my last post. Simply stated, I moved from southeast Georgia to San Francisco, California. On the day before I left, I enjoyed my most memorable cheat day to date. This was made possible by going to the University Georgia football season opener versus University of North Carolina at the Georgia Dome (1992-2017) in Atlanta. My day was made more complete with an unforgettable meal at a new Atlanta hotspot (See below). Football season brings out the gluttons in all of us. Why should I be any different?!

Here is what I ate and some of what I drank:

(2) 16 oz. glasses of blueberry naked juice

(3) cheese eggs

6-inch Jalapeño pepper jack cheese sausage link

(2) pieces of mixed rye bread toast with fig jelly

banana

Snyder s’more pieces

Blueberry pop tart

16 oz sour apple iced

6 buffalo wings with medium sauce

Zucchini dipped in ranch dressing

(5) sundries tomato pieces

Chocolate chip cookie

Slider hamburger with ketchup

20 oz. Red Powerade 

Footlong hotdog with onions and peppers and mustard

Cookie brownie square

Sweetwater 420 beer

2 bourbon shots chased with coke

Food at Gunshow http://gunshowatl.com/

My meal (or meals) at Gunshow was unlike any I’ve ever had. If you have eaten there, you know what I mean. The menu at this Inman Park Gem varies daily based what the chefs originate. They prepare unusually delightful dishes which are listed on the menu and offer them to each party. If you deny them, they cross the item off of your menu and do not return. If you accept, you are in for a real treat. There was bone marrow, pork belly, cheddar and Lima bean covered bruschetta, and a lot of other things I liked but can’t remember. The experience surrounding the food is as memorable as the food itself. Plan ahead and get a reservation. You will thank me later.

That concludes my previous cheat day. Due to recent life changes, I am likely to break from reporting every Cheat Day, but that goes along with the Themeless theme.

Cheers!

Cheat Day Journal

After one of the longest self-imposed blogging breaks, I am back. The time I would have been using for my loosely defined blog posting process has been occupied by looking for a job. As much as I would enjoy writing these posts for a living, my strengths lie elsewhere, but I digress.

On to the body of this post:

I sped through one of Tim Ferriss’s masterpieces (The Four-Hour Body) last December and adopted the Slow-Carb diet lifestyle starting on January 1, 2016. It has been a smashing success and a catalyst for my life’s satisfaction.

Since starting, I have followed the Slow-Carb Diet religiously only eating foods listed as compliant with it during 6 out of every 7 days. The seventh day of every cycle, which I have designated as Saturday, is lovingly reserved for “Cheat Day.” Saturday is the best day of most weeks for this and multiple other reasons.

If you are reading this, you are probably attuned to the Cheat Day phenomenon. In case you are unfamiliar, it is becoming more widely understood that eating high-sugar, high-fat foods for one day each week keeps your metabolism at its optimal level. That is an unscientific explanation, but is as simply as I understand it.

Like other Saturday’s of 2016, I set out to indulge in the tastiest cuisine I could find without regard for its nutritional value this past Saturday. Below is what I ate and drank in chronological order with illustrations:

-4 homemade cookies (cream cheese chocolate chip)

-Sausage, egg and cheese croissant with hash browns and a fountain Powerade (Burger King)

-20 oz. Gatorade

-Sugar cookie

-Pack of Planters trail mix

-Dave’s double cheeseburger (Wendy’s)

-Small Chocolate Frosty (Wendy’s)

12:30 pm

-Pack of honey gram crackers (1 oz.) with vanilla pillsbury icing

-2 slices of pizza with garlic butter (local Pizza place; pictured)

Jasons pizza

-3 16 oz lemonades

-Fruit flavored tonic water

-Small strawberry milkshake (Chick-fil-a)

-6 Krispy Kreme lemon cake doughnuts (pictured)

Jason doughnuts

Needless to say, I was ready to put more suitable food in my body immediately after swallowing the final doughnut.

Cheat Day is delayed gratification at its finest. The gratification is only made more gratifying when the diet is closely followed non-Cheat Days.
I plan to keep you posted on what non-nutritious things I put in my body on the next Cheat Day.

Tomorrow is Saturday and the first day of football season. With club level seats, tailgating and all of the wonderful other decadence that comes with football season, it could be a Cheat Day for the ages.

Foremost Female Award

sia

Sia’s Face in all its Glory

I gave Beyonce the title within a year of Destiny’s Child’s disbandment shortly after she infiltrated my iPod with “Irreplaceable.” Then, Rihanna took it from Queen Bey upon her release of “What’s My Name?” and “Rude Boy.” Having held it until late 2011, Ri Ri passed it to Karmin’s lead vocalist, Amy Heideman who held it briefly until I was forced to give it to Amy Winehouse, posthumously. My personal celebration of the ‘Foremost Female in Music’ has been quiet for some time due to a lack of effort on my part and the latest recipient’s unfortunate inability to make more music. Without further ado, Sia is, in my opinion, the best current female vocalist and is hereby awarded as this moment’s ‘Foremost Female in Music.’

This title and award is not meant to be offensive, so, if it offends you, I am sorry, please comment with a less offensive, but catchy, award title and I will change it. Importantly, my recognition of this award says more about my music listening habits than anyone else mentioned herein. To explain, I tend to have a singular focus with my music—one song; one album; one vocalist; and one group at a time across the different genres I enjoy. I will listen exclusively to Jay-Z, for example, but no other hip-hop artists for months at a time. I am intensely loyal to my musicians for short periods.

Now, let’s go back to Sia. Hailing from Southern Australia, she sang with 1990s acid jazz band Crisp, and then released her debut studio album before teaming up to form the duo Zero 7. [1] In 2000, her solo career took a more recognizable shape and has moved upward and onward ever since. Most appreciated by me are her most recent hits of the last 3 years. She released her album 1000 Forms of Fear, which included “Chandelier,” a symbolic song about her struggles with alcohol and pills. The “Chandelier” video now has more than 1.2 billion views on YouTube. Later, she officially won me over by teaming up with Eminem for a cut on the Southpaw soundtrack, “Guts Over Fear.” Her booming, inspiring voice forced me to listen more closely.

Aside from her apparent vocal gift, her ability to write real, somber songs distinguishes her from some of today’s other female singers whose lyrics don’t really get under my skin. From all appearances, her priority is as a musician and not fame. She takes great lengths to keep her face from being viewed publicly.[2]  Sia blows me away with her voice, gets deep with her lyrics and some of her songs make me want to dance. Her special combination of talent and ability make her rare in this time of voice altering technology and simple, catchy song writing.

Sia officially received the title of ‘Foremost Female in Music’ upon the release of the striking hit “Elastic Heart” and soothing “Salted Wound,” both of which arrived on the Fifty Shades of Grey Soundtrack. Her art just keeps coming. She joined Fetty Wapp for an EDM laced song “Bang My Head” in which she steals the moment. Nothing against Fetty, but he may as well have been her back up singer for that one. It has not stopped. Her newest album This is Acting includes lyrically in-depth numbers and ones just for partying. Each song on it illustrates her distinct sound and vocal range. Sia is set to keep the ‘Foremost Female in Music’ title for the foreseeable future as she shows no signs of slowing down.

Because this award is given out and voted on by me only, I decide when it gets passed to someone else. There are no term limits. Sia will keep the title as long as she keeps doing what she is doing. If not, Kaela Sinclair (M83) and Neko Case (because she is awesome) could be Sia’s successors. All told, I realize it may be healthier to spread my attention amongst several female vocalists at a time, but I am a one girl guy. For now, Sia gives me the music I need. She is the ‘Foremost Female in Music’ of May 2016.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sia_Furler

[2] Ellen Degeneres Show; http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-3340830/Sia-reveals-never-shows-face-public-Ellen-DeGeneres-tries-coax-wig.html.

Sloth Onslaught

They are everywhere. The slowest mammal in existence has found its way into countless memes and social media postings (see @splurt). Youtube contains weeks of endearing videos of them (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ba7rRfKIHxU). There is even a kids’ movie coming out (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bY73vFGhSVk) that features them. For assorted reasons, people are displaying their Sloth interest by publicizing them at an exponentially increasing rate. My time in Costa Rica has only made me more aware of this phenomenon leaving me to ask how these unhurried creatures got so popular.

In Costa Rica, there are Sloth sanctuaries, baby Sloth petting zoos, and other places you are bound to see them. I even stayed at a Sloth-themed hostel two weeks ago (pictured). Costa Rica is cutting edge when it comes to Sloths.

Sloth Hostel

 

As background, Sloths possess the facilities of a formidable predator. With razor sharp claws (two or three toes), their appearance suggests they are not to be tussled with. Despite these substantial claws, they are not fast enough to use them. They are reeeeeeeaaaaaalllly, reeeeeeaaaaaalllllly, reeeeeeeaaaaaaalllllly, reeeeeaaaaaalllllly sllllllllllllllooooooowwwwwww-wwwwwww. Algae literally grows on their bodies. If hurrying to avoid danger, Sloths may travel at an alarmingly gradual speed 3-ft. per minute. Although they share a name with one of the 7 deadly sins, they are not lazy. Here’s why.

They eat rainforest leaves containing numerous toxins, which are taken through a ridiculously inefficient, but functional digestion process lasting two weeks. Their 3-stomached digestive tracts can only handle a little at a time, as they break down the leaf toxins with bacteria contained in their organs. Consequently, they can only store small amounts of food at a time from which to derive energy. Sloths are naturally aware of this, so the goal of their existence is to expend as little energy as possible for as long as possible. In doing so, they only come down from their chosen trees at the end of their digestion cycles (every 2 weeks).

You can tell I am as intrigued by Sloths as the social media world, which begs the question of “Why?”. What about them caught everyone’s eyes and some people’s hearts. According to the Gospel, I mean Internet, the Slothworld experienced its Gladwellian Tipping Point when Kristen Bell had a Sloth meltdown on the Ellen Degeneres show (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5jw3T3Jy70).

Their harmless, welcoming demeanor should also be credited for sustaining their popularity. The related, but contrasting, Honey Badger’s fifteen minutes of fame ended as soon as Tyrann Matthieu’s college tenure did. Sloths, however, have staying power. Why? I contend that it can be credited to the fact that humans do not fear them. If we feel anything for them, we may feel compelled to protect them as they have little known defense mechanisms other than being hard to see. As well, their way of not getting worked up about anything is a trait that our culture appears to admire. With all of the budding yoga studios, meditation programs, and the like, Sloths naturally act like we want to at times. Further, most people I know prefer being around an unpanicked person over a stress-ball.

I care enough to write this post, which should show that I am comfortably seated on the Sloth bandwagon. Not to finish on a low note, but I have not seen one yet. Last weekend I ventured through the beachfront trail at Manuel Antonio National Park (pictured—no Sloth).

Manuel Antonio--tell me if you see a sloth

I am still looking and preparing myself for the first sighting during which I hope to hold it together better than Kristen Bell.

Pura Vida!

Letter to Myself

Dear Self of August 2015,

Congratulations on the move you made today!

You may expect to find total clarity regarding your career goals and a better perspective on all of the challenging circumstances of your past within the next two months. I am not found those yet, but am closer than I was when I was your age.

I can give you some survival tips, but you will soon learn how adept you are at avoiding disasters. You have skills and smarts you don’t know about yet. In fact, you don’t really need my advice. Just go with your gut when it guides you and you will be alive and well by this time. I had to cut down on lifting weights and switched to more running and yoga for exercise, but the shoulder problem will heal with rest.  Other than that, things are on track, so I won’t bother with the preaching.

There are some understandings you will reach in your time away from life as you knew it. However, the life lessons and understandings you accumulated over the previous 32 years will only become more true in slightly different ways.  You already know most of what you will come to further understand about yourself, life and other human beings while you are in Costa Rica.

To start, you will learn that cannot put your values on hold just because you are in a foreign country. You will feel like compromising at times, because the consequences may not include disappointing old friends or family members. You are the only person who is sure to find out about any faulty decisions you make here. You will learn, however, that most of your values are aligned with what is best for you, so stay true to them. Acting in compromise to your values will negatively affect your relationship with yourself, which is enough not to do it.

Second, you resigned to temporarily make less money than you did in your stable life back home. However, you need to make a certain amount to put your best foot forward. Unexpected opportunities may arise when you least expect them, so you have to be ready at all times. Spend money on clothes, gym memberships, and other things that make you presentable. Looking and feeling your best is as important as ever, so spend as needed.

Because you need to keep yourself up, it is not overly-materialistic for making money to be a top priority. Do not wait on opportunities to come to you. You will learn that you do not enjoy living off of more money that you make, so earn accordingly.

Additionally, expect to be slightly offended and frustrated when you don’t understand why someone here appears to have mistreated you. 95% of the time, their culture explains their actions. People will be late. People will cancel. People may not show up at all and will not call to tell you why.

There are reasons for customs here. You may not agree with them, but they are not under your control. It will be better to suspend a response or judgment until you fully comprehend the situation. The mostly megalomaniacal bus drivers will love telling your Gringo self to get off the bus or that they are not going your way. Take it in stride. It is not like you have a choice. Accepting the way of life here is not compromising. It is adaptation, which will be useful when faced with the future’s guaranteed unexpected changes.

Go outside. Costa Rica’s exquisite rural areas and coast cannot be overstated. San Jose should be seen, understood and experienced a few times. Once done, move around the country as often as you can. For $20, you can take a day trip from downtown to waterfalls, volcanoes, beaches, great hikes and more. You may be nervous about surrounding yourself with total strangers for multi-hour bus rides, but you will thank yourself for doing it every time. The bus rides themselves are enriching for the simple fact that they will make you uncomfortable. You are growing every time you endure an uncomfortable situation. So get out, walk right through the discomfort and see this country. The more you see, the more you know, the more you know, the better you are. Don’t wait. Say yes.

Most importantly, threshold moments will continue after you get on the plane. Often you will have to choose between a comfortable and predictable day and one that includes adventure that may put you in vulnerable situations. Choose the latter every time as long as it does not compromise the values alluded to earlier. You may think that once you arrive here, you will not have to make difficult decisions. You may think that Costa Rica holds no seemingly complex interactions with other people. That’s simply not true. Reality exists here in equally significant ways as it does back home.  Threshold moments should be recognized and decisions made carefully.

Overall, you have to make decisions as if this time is another part of your professional story. Act as if everyone will find out everything you do here. You still have to surround yourself with the right people. You still have to mind your health and practice gratitude in the morning.  You still have to maintain solid relationships with your family. You are still you here.

I cannot predict exactly where you go after you leave here, but I can predict that your life will then be viewed as before and after Costa Rica (B.C.R. and A.C.R.). The latter will be happier and more fulfilling, because you took the step you did today.

I could go on all day and night, but, again, you have to find out for yourself.  I am thrilled for you. Good luck!