Friday, June 17, 2011

Locker Room Community

We all travel between little pocket communities. There are people we know only within the context of our neighborhood or our workplace. One of the most intriguing to me is the community of the gym.

I have attending the same gym for the last three years. As I work out three to four times per week, usually at the same time, there are people that I see more frequently than some of my friends. I really don't know many of them, not even their names. I have given many of the regulars "gym names." There is Grunty, the Lion Princess, and Mr. Groomed-to-within-an-Inch-of-His-Life. We all nod at each other as we progress through our workouts.

In the locker room, it is a bit more intimate. I have had a few chats with the guys as we shave in the morning. Through conversations, and overheard conversations, I know a little bit more of the back stories.

There is one guy who always uses the locker next to mine. I have seen him several times a week for the last three years. We chat. I know some basic info about him. I just realized this morning, however, that I never asked his name. So while we were getting dressed today, we shook hands and swapped names.

It feels funny to say "Nice to meet you" to someone you've known for such a long time.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

No Rest for the.....

Last night I had problems falling asleep. This happens to me periodically. Fortunately, it is not a frequent occurrence. It is hard to say exactly what the culprit was in this instance. It may have been excitement from class. My mind was certainly racing, and my usual calming routines weren't working. I also know that I had too much salt and too little water during the evening. I felt hot and uncomfortable, even though the air conditioning was clearly doing its task. I probably should have gotten up and drank water, but I was worried that might rouse me even more. Regardless, it is behind me; I just have to get myself through the day. At least I need to convince myself that is true. If I worry myself about having a second night of poor sleep, it will become a self fulfilling prophecy.
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Monday, May 23, 2011

The Dark Lord Tastes Like...

It is always tough for reality to live up to expectation. Earlier this year, I had a delightful experience where my expectations were met. Opus One is one of those wines that gets a lot of hype. I had a glass in 1996 and wasn't super impressed. It might have been the state of clarets back then. It was more likely an indictment of how green my palate was. Jumping forward 15 years, we ordered a bottle on a recent cruise. I was truly impressed. It certainly deserves its reputation.

Not so the Dark Lord. This beer has legendary status amongst craft beers. I have heard about it for years. It is available once a year at a festival in Indiana; tickets sell out in five minutes. A colleague of mine offered to pick me up a bottle this year. I was so excited!

Last night we cracked open the Dark Lord. Many words could be used to describe this beer: sweet, syrup, coffee, chocolate, intense, experiential. However, would I describe it as good? Not really. At first I thought it wasn't a style I'm wild phase of liking heavy dark beers ended about five years ago. However, my partner loves dark beers and he disliked Dark Lord even more than I did. It really tastes like they are trying too hard, and their cult-like following does not want to admit that their holy grail of beers, The Dark Lord, tastes like alcoholic YooHoo.
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Monday, May 16, 2011

February in May: Chicago WTF

I think I am losing my credibility as a Chicagoan. I know we're supposed to be able to handle any weather, but this spring (coming out of that winter) is really getting me down. Highs in the mid May...really?!? We barely had any sun over the weekend. That wears on me even more than the temperature. The only ways I can tell this isn't winter are that it's light outside at 5:30 and there are leaves on some of the trees. I'm just over this. In the words of the great Jimmy Buffett, "I want to go where it's warm!"
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Friday, May 13, 2011

7 Lessons From the Death of a Friend

My friend Omar Ahmad passed away Tuesday. We were roommates at the Florida Foundation for Future Scientists program at the University of Florida back when we were in high school. We became fast friends and he kept me motivated as we competed in various science fairs the following year. We won spots as the delegates from Florida to the National Youth Science Fair. After college, our contact was regrettably spotty, but we started getting back in touch in the last few years via Facebook. We had a chance to sit down last year when he was in Chicago. I so looked forward to the continuing renewal of our friendship. Who could have imagined that we wouldn't have time?

In his 46 years, Omar lived more than most people do in twice that time. His accomplishments and impact are beautifully summarized in this piece in the Huffington Post.

I am still trying to process this loss. I cried myself dry by the end of Wednesday. I have been numb most of the week, but I can now smile when I remember him. Even in death he brings people together. I have been in contact this week with people I haven't seen for decades. His memory truly is a blessing.

Omar's passing has been very challenging to me. Aside from the incomprehensible loss, it also forces me to look inward. I strongly believe that every sad thing, every loss, every tragedy comes with a lesson. Sometimes you have to look hard to find the lessons. However, as always, Omar is a great teacher....sadly, what I need to learn is right there in front of me.

  1. When was the last time you saw a health provider for routine health maintenance? Omar passed away at 46 from a heart attack. I have no idea how well he looked after his health. For a physician, I take reasonable care of myself. I actually have a primary care physician, and I allow him to direct my care. I routinely see my dentist. However, given my family history of colon cancer, I am overdue for my repeat colonoscopy. I also need a routine skin survey from my dermatologist. I probably should stop ignoring the pain in my neck and back.
  2. What do you do on a routine basis to care for yourself? I probably do best in the physical realm. I eat a well-balanced diet. I exercise 4-6 times per week, though I really need to do more cardio. My brain is well stimulated by school. I do miss reading for pleasure, but I hope that will return when I am done with school. I need to nurture myself more spiritually. I grew apart from organized religion years ago. I still consider myself Jewish and spiritual, but I don't really dedicate any effort to developing that dimension of my life.
  3. How often do you say "I love you" to the people you love? I am very diligent about this. If any interaction with someone I love could potentially be my last (which clearly is true), I'd like to know that the last thing they heard from me is "I love you."
  4. How much do you live for today as opposed to tomorrow? Years of striving to get into medicine taught me all about delayed gratification. Years of practicing Rehabilitation Medicine has taught me that life can change in an instant. I struggle with this. When I try to live well now, I feel guilty about not saving for the future. When I deny myself to prepare for retirement, I worry about not living in the present. I constantly work on this balance.
  5. How are you impacting the world and the life of others? As a physician, I have always had the satisfaction of impacting the lives of others. However, at the end of the day, I feel that all I have to give has been drained from me. I marvel about how some of my colleagues are able to go one step further with volunteer work. I am conscious about how that is going to change as I transition into my next career. I actually look forward to the opportunity to explore the different ways I can contribute to this world.
  6. What will be your legacy? I don't have kids, and I don't see kids in my future. So what will be my gift to the future? I see some of that in all of the students I have taught as a physician. I love teaching and I hope that I will be able to return to teaching once I have established myself in design. What else can I leave? I think about this. I worry about this. One possibility Rob and I have discussed is helping out gay youth. There are agencies which place gay teens that have been thrown out by their families with stable gay couples. Is that right for us?
  7. Are you sure that your regrets cannot be done/redone/undone? This is probably the question that stings most sharply. I will never have the opportunity to rebuild my friendship with Omar. Another friend, Bridget Phillips, was murdered when she was in grad school. Clearly, tragedies such as these can make a regret permanent. How many more, ones that seem so fixed, really could be addressed. There are a few friendships that I have thought permanently damaged that I am considering revisiting. I have also always wanted to live abroad, but figured that the opportunity may have passed, being locked into my current career. While it might create a massive disruption to our lives, might it actually be a real possibility. I know that so many obstacles in our lives are placed there by our own minds. I need to start challenging those barriers.

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Monday, May 9, 2011

Starting Again (perhaps a little wiser)

Last night, Rob noted that we have been doing great lately. Things weren't bad, but I agree that the last few weeks have been wonderful. My initial reaction was that it corresponded to my break from school. This may or may not be the reason (or at least the entire reason), but it must be considered. I know that school had taken a toll on us individually and as a couple. The new semester starts this evening. While I don't think it will ber a bad one, I don't want things to regress at home. I like how much fun we've been having and plan to make a conscious effort to keep things going.
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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Chicago Commute: Not Fresh

I really don't think it if an outrageous expectation on my part that commuters should bathe. Busses are pretty packed during rush hour, and some of my fellow riders are a bit ripe. Unfortunately, this is only going to get worse as it starts to warm up outside. I don't expect that everyone is going to smell like roses at the end of the work day, but something is seriously wrong if someone smells like a barnyard.
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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Watching Is Exhausting

I spent the day shadowing at VOA. Honestly, I should have done this before starting school in design. There weren't any problems, i.e. I'm not scared away from interior design. However, in retrospect, I should have seen the real practice before committing. I think I knew that at the time, but I was afraid of being dissuaded. Nevertheless, I'm glad I did it today. I shadowed one of the principals for most of the day, and I had the chance to go out on a client visit with the interior design team. I definitely like the types of activities they were doing and could serer myself doing this. I am even more convinced that I should be working at the big picture level, probably doing planning. I need to set up some time to shadow the head planner there. However, I forgot how exhausting shadowing is. I would much rather be working hard than just watching!
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Monday, May 2, 2011


During rush hour, tons of weary commuters take the bus home. It is a bit of a crap shoot whether or not you'll get a seat. I get that, but some people take way more than their share of space. Today, a parent with one of those SUV strollers parked themselves in the wheelchair space, taking three seats out of commission. Further back, a overweight woman is taking up two seats...not even making an effort to squeeze over to the side to allow someone to perch on half a seat. It is harder to accept standing for the commute when your fellow passengers are so inconsiderate.
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Friday, April 29, 2011

Mr. Crabby-Pants

I'm crabby. Wednesday I kept thinking it was Thursday. Thursday I kept thinking it was Friday. Basically, I spent the whole week disappointed. I'm sick of work in general, but it is much worse this week since I am post call. To top it off, Rob decided to go out with friends, so I'm stuck on my own this evening. I didn't say anything or ask to join, so i have absolutely no business being upset. All the same, I'm in a pissy mood.
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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Rush Hour

Generally, I really like taking public transportation. Aside from all the environmental considerations, it reinforces my identity as an urban kind of guy. However, the bus during rush hour always challenges my conviction.
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Friday, April 22, 2011

Still Not Breathing

School is over for the semester, but I don't really feel less stressed. I am starting to look ahead to graduation, which is not that far off. I am trying to set up time to shadow at a design firm. I also need to put together a portfolio. While I have some work ready to be included, some of it needs major rework. Work still is soul numbing. Also, the computer needs some attention. I updated all the drivers and did a complete backup...but I desperately need to go through all my school files and purge the unnecessary files. So much for having time to breathe...
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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Getting too old for this....

Thursday night I pulled an all-nighter. Next week are the final presentations for two classes. The print shop recommended that all banners be submitted on Friday in order to be ready for Monday. History tells me that the print shop can usually have things printed if you get it in first thing the day you need it...but they have been kind of erratic lately. So, I probably didn't absolutely have to stay up all night on Thursday. Since I had planned ahead and taken off Friday, I could have slept, done my work Friday, and had it in by the end of the day.

But why take chances? Since I was off Friday, I would have time to recover. So I put my nose to the grindstone and kept working. Oddly, I chose not to jack myself up on coffee. I kept thinking that I wanted to be able to sleep once I finished. So I drank water and hot tea...and probably ate too fuel my work. More than once, I almost fell asleep at the keyboard. I had a few breakthroughs (around 4am and 8am) that gave me some excitement and renewed energy.

I am disappointed to note that I think the banners are some of my best work (in terms of layout/presentation). I guess I do better under pressure. I wish that weren't true. I definitely don't bounce back from all-nighters like I used to.

I submitted both sets of banners by noon on Friday, meeting my self-imposed deadline.

I then passed out on the couch. About three hours later, I woke with a dachshund standing on my chest, reminding me to let him out to do his business. I got another two hours before Rob came home. I got 10 hours of sleep on Saturday...and I'm back in business.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Blithely Unconcerned

"Blithely Unconcerned" would probably be a great name for a blog. Maybe I should add that to my 'to do' list.

Finals for this semester are just over a week away. I am starting to map out what I need to do finish my thesis over the next two semesters. I am also beginning to seriously consider what the next steps are in terms of transitioning my career. I am beyond behind at work. Despite all that, I am blithely unconcerned.

I should be whacked out of my mind right now. Actually, a little stress might help generate some motivation. Somehow, I felt fine going out to brunch yesterday and cooking dinner for friends last night. Now, I'm trying to generate the focus to do something....heck, I'd be happy to have enough focus to decide what I need to produce over the next day or two. Why doesn't this bother me more?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Digging through "The Pile"

I went digging through "the pile" on the kitchen counter. You know the one. As mail comes in, you throw some stuff away. Some things, like bills, you put near the computer to handle in the near future. However, some stuff goes into "the pile." It needs to be dealt with, but you just don't feel like it now.

Wow. I clearly have been putting off too much for too long. Among the surprises, I found:
  • renewal info for Rob's drivers license
  • renewal info for my drivers license
  • emission testing notification for the car
  • renewal info for the car tags
  • paperwork from the accountant for taxes
  • all of the miscellaneous forms for the taxes
Needless to say, it has been a busy morning plodding through "the pile" and getting stuff done. I've made huge progress, but my to-do list for the next few days just filled up!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

An Odd Success

I'm still relatively new to this whole blogging thing. I'm also fairly new to the whole world of interior design. I am just shocked at the success of one of my posts on Daydreaming About Space. Last fall, for my theory class, I had to research and write a brief paper on a paradigm shift in architecture or design. I wrote about the shift away from modernism that was personified by post-modernism. I felt that post-modernism was more of a mannerist style than an actual movement, and it is defined more as being not-modernism than anything in particular. I used Charles Moore's Piazza d'Italia as a defining example.

I wrote a post to summarize my research on the topic. Since that time, I have been having regular hits to that post, sometime 10 to 20 each week. The hits are from around the world, and right now my post is the fourth one that comes up if you google "Piazza d'Italia."  I'm not sure which amazes me more: my successful posting or that fact there are that many people interested in Piazza d'Italia!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mega Weekend

Wow, what was I thinking? This weekend, everything so to come together. I had a thesis committee meeting on Friday; I have to prepare for two midterms (Monday & Tuesday); I had opera on Saturday night; I am on call; and at the last moment, Michael decided to come visit for the weekend.

I have gotten better at looking ahead to try to prevent freak-outs. One of my partners agreed to take one of the call days. I also arranged to take off take off Thursday, Friday, and Monday. So not only have I been able to get a lot of work done, I have done it a non-frenetic pace...and I've been able to enjoy myself as well!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Slow Start

The new semester has started, but I am getting off to a slow start.  I am having problems summoning up motivation.  I'm not quite sure why.  I am actually pretty interested in the coursework.  I should be able to make significant headway towards my thesis.  I will be learning new and buffing up old computer skills.  In addition, I should start making some progress towards building my portfolio.  All good.  Maybe I've been dealing with this whole work/school/life balance for too long....two years can be draining.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Back to Full Time Everything

Tomorrow, I start back to school.  Part of me is excited.  I start fleshing out what my graduate thesis will be.  I get to learn some new computer skills.  I'm growing in new directions.  I'm making progress towards graduation...and towards my new career.

However.....there is a big however.  I'm two years into graduate school.  I am so tired from balancing 80% at work and 70-100% time at school.  That doesn't even take into account trying to have a proper home life.  It is simply exhausting.  The break was rejuvenating, but it will take a few days to erase all that.  I know I can hang on through this year.  I don't really consider failure an option, but I feel that I am pushing my limits.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

My New Year Celebration

What a great start to the new year.  Rob and I headed out to San Francisco last Thursday to hook up with some friends.  One of them had scored some free VIP tickets to Cavalia....sort of a horse based Cirque du Soleil.  The shows was a solid "good"....with parts being great.  Regardless, it made for a great start to the weekend.

On Friday we headed up to the wine country.  We first made a stop at Gundlach-Bundschu, a Rhine-style winery in Sonoma.  We discovered this a few years ago. We had rented a limo for a tour of wineries, and the driver had suggested this winery.  We all fell in love with it.  The trip this weekend was mostly so that John could exchange a few bottles that had been sent in error.  However, after a fabulous tasting, Rob and I couldn't resist signing up for their wine club!

We then headed over to Guerneville on the Russian River.  We had rented a home through VRBO.  The place was situated high above the river, pretty much hanging on the side of the hill.  The house was great; the view was spectacular. After a major grocery run, we settled in for the weekend.

I was head chef for the weekend.  We ate, drank, and hot-tubbed our way through the new year celebration.  Entertainment included Scrabble, Killer Bunnies, and "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert."

I have a superstition that how you spend the New Year is how you will spend the year.  I try to avoid bars, clubs, and the TV.  I want my year to be full of love, loved ones, good food and great wine.

If my superstition holds true, 2011 will be just awesome!