Archive for the ‘ Random ’ Category

To the Beginning Gardener

So you’re feeling all green and one with the Earth and you decide that a backyard garden is an awesome way to get food. You are right. It is. But don’t let an idyllic picture of a smiling be-aproned lady picking perfect tomatoes be your guide. Let ME do it instead, with my huge filthy boots and many sharp implements.

This is how it starts. There ain’t much to look at.

Choose Wisely – Pick food and flowers you like. Don’t randomly plant shit and then let it get overrun by weeds and/or rot because you didn’t realize you’ll have to eat all those peas or whatever. Generally, if it’s just you, one or two plants will make you all the food of that sort that you would want. So, 1 tomato, 1-2 cukes, 1 zucchini, etc. Multiply accordingly if you got other members of the household who are gonna want some. Be aware that zucchini is prolific as hell.

Equip yourself – Gloves, trowel or weeder, a small spade, a shovel, an action hoe, a rake, a hose with watering attachment, scissors and a knife, and a plastic tub with a watertight lid to keep it all safe in the garden somewhere so you don’t have to lug it all back and forth (this is specific to apartment dwellers and others who end up with community garden situations). You and I both know you’ll just forget it and use the lack of equipment as an excuse to be useless. I know the shovel won’t fit. Leave all that shit out if you gotta, but hopefully you can hide them out of the rain somewhere. At least don’t leave them lying around. It’ll eventually lead to comical happenings that you won’t find comical post-concussion. Continue reading

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Get up and glow: My experience at Living Social’s 5k Dance Party

living social logo

Lately, there’s been a visible upswing in what I like to call “theme runs”. Unlike your old, standard race for this or that, fitness based charity events are being paired with playful themes that are rapidly taking off. I think the first I ever heard about was the “Color Run”, about a year ago, which I was sadly unable to participate in. During the “Color Run”, participants begin dressed in white to run/walk/jog for 5 kilometers, each passing kilometer being marked by the baptism of a different color. Come the end of the event, everyone is experiencing something of a runner’s high, completely covered in brightly colored powdered. Then they get to party! Truly, it’s unsurprising that this sort of thing is catching on when the benefits are having fun, added health, and charity donations. Enter the “Living Social 5k Dance Party”, one of the aforementioned offshoots of this very idea.

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Feet Off the Ground

I’ve always wanted to learn how to ride a bike. Seeing fellow city dwellers casually cruising along the bike paths reminds me that I’m missing out on something. Not to mention that there’s finally a bike share program in NYC? Clearly, it is time to join this party.

The fact that I can’t ride a bike isn’t due to a lack of trying, mind you! Oh, I’ve tried! Numerous times throughout both my childhood and early adult life. But there was a disconnect between my body and what it was attempting to achieve. There’s also the fact that I can’t balance worth a damn if I have both feet off the ground.

While my dad has always been an avid cyclist, my mom suffers from the same balance issue as I do. Early on it became clear which ticket I landed with in the genetics lottery. Thankfully, bikenewyork.org are on a ceaseless mission to help folks like me. So, I strapped on my big-girl panties and signed up for one of their free “Learn To Ride” classes that take place every weekend, throughout different parks in the city, for the duration of the summer. Are you praying for me yet?

courtesy of bikenewyork.org

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Behaviorism and Monsters

So I read a completely fictional book a while ago called “John Dies at the End” and part of the hilarious, but nightmarish plot was an idea that monsters from an alternate dimension are currently training Earth children to become a fighting force numb to empathy and remorse. The way they did it was by introducing video games that were increasingly violent. That’s what started my mind turning.

A (not so) quick psychology lesson on behaviorism before I go into the thought that’s been festering in my mind all morning and has finally burst, spreading it’s pus of paranoia and hormonal imbalance and becoming this article.

These days we call behaviorism ABA, or Applied Behavior Analysis. You break each task you want to teach, or maybe learn, into small steps, and focus on each step as a goal until it’s achieved, then move on to the next step, reinforcing presenting behaviors as appropriate to your overall target. It’s really operant conditioning that I’m talking about, the proverbial “carrot and stick.” I’m also talking about shaping, one of the most powerful tools psychologists have.

With operant conditioning, you encourage each step with a reinforcer of some sort, prearranging that behavior. With shaping you look for naturally occurring behaviors that you want to reinforce to ensure they are the ones happening more often until maybe a competing behavior is gone completely.

The point is to change a behavior one very small step at a time. However, this approach is used in a social context, so it’s not just scientists screwing with rats and pigeons and whatnot. So we use it to teach kids with autism how to follow routines in school, though conditioning is truly a part of everything we do to teach anyone anything. How often do you tell someone who helped you that you appreciated it? Guess what, you just conditioned that person to help you again in the future. And you know what? The reason you said thanks is because you’re conditioned to praise behaviors you’d like repeated. Like I said, it’s everywhere.

Now onto what’s really on my mind: the brain-washing alternate dimension monster and the shooter games I so enjoy. I love shooter games, and believe that even people who don’t give a crap about video games can still rock a shooting game and ask for more.  Why do I like shooting things in video games? Because I don’t get to go on out on the range anymore, and because I still like  the fact that I can hit a target or because I’m instantly rewarded with points, and a rating, and maybe I’ll get more than the other players. This “liking” is a bit of dopamine and adrenaline my brain sends along like a favorite drug dealing uncle.

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On Having the Same Bed-Time as a Five-Year Old

You know what I love? Sleep. I just love the shit out of it! Dreaming, getting all snuggled up in my blankets, reading before bed, hearing the voices in my head get louder and louder until it turns out I’ve crossed the line into the unreality of randomly firing neurons. Oh right, already mentioned dreaming.

Koala sleeping on a tree top
Naps wherever!(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Ever since I confused CrossFit and StrongMan, I’ve been hearing about the Paleo/Primal/Ancestral diet. And as an increasingly obese person, I was motivated to learn and try whatever the hell promised me that my backfat would melt away. As I read about it, it became clear that food, although important, was only a part of a lifestyle overhaul. I realize I’m treading real close to new-age-douche baggery here and will try to mediate it with pictures of cute animals sleeping.

In another post maybe I’ll go more into above-mentioned overhaul, but not today. Advice given to those who are trying to make major changes, is to focus on one thing at a time, and tweak and change it until you feel happy with yourself. This is how I ended up self-imposing an 8:30pm bedtime.

So I gotta get up at 5am. Beelzy and I are trying hard not to drown in our own filth while also eating out as infrequently as possible, and on my end, that means 5am wake ups. Simple math means I need to be asleep by 9 to ensure at least 8 hours.

I decided to try this for 25 days, and like many other things I’ve been trying lately, I think I’m mostly gonna stick to this change.

“But that leaves so little free time,” you may say. Yeah, I guess. I get home around 5, so that’s three and a half hours to… Watch TV? Stare at Facebook? Well, that’s what I used to do when I had more bullshit time to kill. Now it’s just 3.5 hours! Can’t help but take it seriously and do some reading or mess around with the guitar or something….

Kicking Television

YOU ARE MY ZOMBIE GOD NO LONGER!!! (Photo credit: dhammza)

And of course I am less tired, more alert, and way less grumpy at the end of the work day. The nights I do stay out, the sleep debt is insignificant in comparison to how badly it affected me in the past.

20100612 - Food Party in Baltimore - Floristre...

Post-party naps (Photo credit: Rev. Xanatos Satanicos Bombasticos (ClintJCL))

Seemingly unrelated, my quest to become less obese has been helped by this whole lots of sleeping thing. I am literally losing more weight and quicker because I am allowing my body the rest it desires, thereby also allowing it to NOT MAKE ME INSANE. When I am tired, or sad, I tend to want to eat something. Often, it’s something that is either sweet, or salty, or packed with fat. When possible, all three, or at least one of those foods, following another of those foods, followed by another until I can eat no more. Since I now have just enough time to eat dinner, be pleased by life, and then go to bed that whole cycle is utterly moot anyway. But I generally have no need to go there, since as I mentioned, I no longer feel near-dead by 5pm, and don’t feel full of hate.

Internet tells me that this happier, saner, more reasonable being I have become is normal, albeit unheard of in the US.

So fuck conventions! And fuck sleep deprivation pride! You’ve been awake and chugging energy drinks for two days straight? Well, I sleep for at least 8 hours out of every 24, and go to bed at the same time as your preschooler! And it feels gooood!

Baby gorilla having a sleep on his mother

That’s some excellent sleeping there. You’re my hero.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A Game of Writey Drawey at a White Elephant Party

Life in Portland is very unlike what I was used to in the Bronx. There are many differences, and I may go into them in another article, but here is a sample: A few nights ago d42 and I attended a White Elephant Party where we instigated a game of Writey Drawey with 6 other adults while drinking home made beer and apple cider. Aside from maybe playing a game with several strangers (such as, who can out-stare whom on the train before an explosion of violence or intense discomfort take everything to the next level), none of those things have ever happened to me before.

On the way to the party I kept trying to get d42 to explain the rules to me, I gathered that people brought wrapped gifts, which were placed in a pile Secret Santa style, and the participants would then all take turns either picking a wrapped gift or stealing a gift they liked from someone else. It sounded like a terrible game to play with strangers whose house you invaded and whose good graces you were hoping to stay in. I admit, I was nervous.

Everyone was incredibly amiable and mostly, I was the only dickhead stealing gifts. But that’s how I roll and that’s how I ended up with a Super Art Coloring Kit by Crayola, which I actually technically brought since d42 purchased our secret gifts on her own.

With a gift like that we of course started drawing pictures of cactuses and winged penises. Then I remembered a game someone once mentioned where folks take turns drawing and writing something on a piece of paper and it all ends up pretty hilarious. Someone at this particular party apparently played it before and quickly dubbed it Writey Drawey. I didn’t know much about it, and from the name alone would have to guess it is probably a children’s game and is probably played somewhat differently, but here is how we did.

We tore the hell out of some papers, made sure each person had a mini booklet of pages the same number as there were players (so for 5 players, each person has 5 pages), and set the writing implements in the center of our circle. We numbered our pages to keep confusion to a minimum. Each person then had about 2 minutes to draw something on the top page, flip it up side down, and pass it on to the next person. That person would then look at the picture, shift it to the bottom of the stack, write a probable caption, flip the whole stack upside down, and pass it to the next person. That person would do his or her best to illustrate the mad scribbling, and so on. Once we each got our initial picture back, we would present this booklet to the group and to general hilarity.

Although describing the game is not fun, playing it is, and some of the results should absolutely be memorialized. Everyone jealously packed away theirs, but here are mine!

I chose to start with a picture of a small child ready for the monster in his closet. d42 chose to focus in on the banana-like monster grin

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How I Lost My Full-Body Callus at Spa Castle

Date: 6/13/11
Venue: Spa Castle, 131-10 Ave Collegepoint, NY 11356
Event: A day’s worth of sitting around in saunas, swimming, eating Korean food– to culminate in an assult by a tiny near-naked middle-aged Korean woman with scrubby pads.

The day began as many days of mine begin… with a crazy-ass workout where I do something previously assumed to be impossible (like lift 300lbs). Afterwards, I promised my aunt to go with her to a spa I’ve never heard of, but which she raved about. I’ve never been to a spa before, therefore this can’t be an objective comparison to other such establishments… but something tells me “other such establishments” are far and few between. You be the judge.

The place is called Spa Castle and is touted as a luxurious experience for an unusually low price. In fact, their slogan is “Welcome to Paradise.” $35 on a weekday ($45 on a weekend) will get you into 4 floors worth of hot baths, saunas, food courts, lounges, bars, massage chairs, rooftop bade pools with jets of waters beating different bits of you, a fitness center (for an extra $5) and an opportunity to be surrounded by naked women. If you’re a woman too. Sorry about that… I know some of you just got excited. The place is open from 6:30am until 11:30pm and you can hang out as long as you like once you pay the entrance fee. For more money you can also get a variety of treatments, mostly massages, more on that later.

It all began quite excitingly with me driving back and forth in front of the place not understanding where to park until my aunt finally saw me, and waved me frantically towards the front where an honest to god valet quickly sped off with my car to an unknown location at no charge (I got the car back, just so you know). We finally entered, paid, and were given little magnetic watches, each with a number that served as a locker key as a well as a way to keep a mounting tab without concerning yourself with things like money or cards, or pants in which to carry them. Continue reading