Using Technology Wisely; Not Living as Technology’s Puppet

I think it’s an established fact by this point that technology plays a significant role in our lives. Phones, Ipads, TVs, laptops, all the jawns with a screen. Each one biding for our time. Time that many of us willingly give. Well, I would say our brains kind of trick us into using them almost constantly. We love that dopamine rush and the distraction. There are positives and negatives regarding technology usage, and I would say which one it is mostly depends on how one is using their devices.

I know I find myself checking my phone often simply because I get some signal from my brain suggesting (not sure if this is the right word here) I do so. This is simply the brain looking for a quick dopamine rush most of the time or a distraction. A thought in my head tells me that it’s important I go check my email/snapchat/any social media site even though I may have just done so less than 20 minutes ago. The only social media site I currently use is Facebook, unless you count snapchat. I don’t have the app on my phone anymore because I don’t think it’s a good use of my time to scroll through the feed multiple times a day just for the sake of doing so. I used to have twitter and I recognize how much time I could spend just scrolling through the feed. I know many people who have every social media site on their phones and spend tons of time looking through each site multiple times a day. I’m not criticizing anyone here because I do the same thing still. I’ll check the News app on my Iphone multiple times a day now and I really do not think it’s a great use of my time. Despite not having social media on my phone I still find myself looking at the screen way too often.

One could argue looking at various social media sites multiple times a day is how they want to spend their time. Want to make sure you know what’s going on with other people, right? FOMO. I understand the argument, but it would be worth asking the person to think a little deeper. Constantly looking at a screen is really just distracting from the present moment. The same thing will be on the feed an hour later than right now. I do think my generation and especially the youngsters below us are in a precarious spot with how much technology is available to us any moment. Kids at restaurants using phones or Ipads? No, that should not be a thing. I know I’m not a parent so I don’t have much room to talk but for thousands of years kids made it through a meal without technology allowing them to cop out from their boredom or discomfort.

What would positive use of technology look like? I think we already know; it’s just acknowledging how one can do so. Maybe setting time limits on how long you go on your phone each day? I know that would be hard for me to do but for some very organized people that could be an option. Personally, I am trying to be more mindful of what I am doing. Sometimes I’m just the puppet to my mind telling me what to do. Being able to check your thought before following through on the signal to check your phone can make all the difference. Next time you feel the impulse to check your phone just for the sake of doing so, see if you can just notice the impulse. It will probably go away if you sit with the feeling for a little bit.

Now, we are all going to still use technology and probably use it a lot. So how to do so in a positive way, at least the majority of the time? I’m not going to pretend I’m an expert in any way, but I would think it mostly revolves around checking that we are not mindlessly scrolling through social media or watching something for the sake of distraction. This can be okay some of the time but not too often. This is really hard to do. I’m on my phone way too much still so I know it’s taking the little steps that will really count.

I realize I mostly talked about phones here but obviously Ipads, TV time, video games, and any other technology are all similar. I’m trying to be more mindful of how much time I spend on them and think about how I can use them effectively, not simply as their puppet.

Hope this interested you in some way! Thanks for the read.

 

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Mental Noting aka Noting Your Thoughts

Have you ever taken a minute to observe your mind and thoughts? If you have, you may have noticed just how crazy our brains can really be. We have thoughts constantly streaming through that are basically out of our control. Sometimes, we are so caught up in our thoughts that we believe whatever our brains are telling us. For example, if you feel angry and just want revenge on a person who hurt you, you can become so caught up in these thoughts and the feeling of anger that you will believe this is who you are at that moment in time. However, our thoughts are not really who we are. Simply put, thoughts are just thoughts. We don’t have to listen to them and let them drag us around as a puppet. This is something I am trying to work on (it is not easy at all) and many meditation/Buddhist/mindfulness teachers use something called mental noting to help them not identify with different thoughts and feelings.

How can one do this? Well, it’s probably easiest at first to practice in a secluded area for however long you want just so you can see what it is like, but you can also practice in daily life at any time. If I notice that I am really feeling anxious about something, I can note in my brain “this is just anxiety at play.” What does this do and why does it matter? If I don’t identify with the thoughts there is a possibility I can cut the duration of how long the anxiety lasts down drastically. If you feel angry and can’t seem to stop thinking about the anger, maybe just noting in your brain “this is just anger” can help. It sort of takes the power of the thoughts and feelings away or at least reduces them. If one is really skilled at their practice (I am definitely not) they just move throughout the day with awareness and do not identify so much with their thoughts and feelings. They engage much better with what is happening in the present moment and not in their heads. One can do this with positive emotions as well, such as “this is what true joy feels like.”

I was listening to a podcast between Dan Harris and Jeff Warren recently where they recommended trying this out. Jeff uses funny little phrases in his brain such as “this is just catastrophic Jeff” or “fantasizing Jeff” and it seems to help. I think humorous phrases can really help take away the seriousness sometimes. Maybe give it a try if you get the chance.

Thanks for the read!

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We’re Back

I’m going to pretend a ton of people read my blog and apologize for my hiatus from writing. I was rather busy the past few weeks with City Year leading up to break. But that’s not really a great excuse considering we’re all busy a lot of the time. Writing crossed my mind, sometimes often, so I’m really not too sure what kept me from sitting down and just typing. There’s obviously no pressure here really and I enjoy writing so I’m hoping to start pumping out some posts. I usually write longer posts, which I think I almost created as a default expectation in my brain, but I think I’m going to start writing some shorter posts for fun. This one is just going to be a bit of a stream of consciousness.  I really appreciate the read.

I know this almost feels old at this point thanks to our constant stream of information coming at us with social media and the news, but thank god Roy Moore lost the special election in Alabama. I find the tribal instincts shown by supporters of Moore revolting. Voting for a candidate simply because he is Republican? And this is not a Republican-Democrat issue in this situation. This is seriously considering all the allegations against this man as a moral person. Apparently he may have been banned from a mall in Alabama for his behavior around younger girls when he was in his 30’s. What!? Just go look up on google some more about him. The main point is that I find the tribalism shown here to be sad. I also see a lot of hypocrisy in what I would guess are evangelical Christians in the state who are voting for him.

Today I finished reading a book by Mitch Albom titled Tuesdays with Morrie. I had never heard of this book before but my Mom told me there was a movie made after the book. Veronica was kind enough to lend this to me. I could easily write a whole post about this book I loved it so much. The book is really short as it only took me a couple days with lots of time in-between readings and no chapter is more than 5 pages. The premise of the book revolves around Mitch, around 37 years old during the time the story takes place, meeting every Tuesday with his much older college professor Morrie who is slowly dying from ALS. Morrie offers him an abundance of wisdom and each Tuesday there is a different lesson focus, such as death, forgiveness, family, and more. There were so many good things in the book that I took some pictures on my phone to help me remember some of the quotes. Highly recommend a read.

The Sixers went through a bit of a rough patch without Embiid but got a huge win today against the Knicks. Big step in the right direction. The East looks like it will be tough making the playoffs, though. TJ McConnell really crushed it and made some big plays defensively down the stretch. Also helped a lot having Reddick back.

What kind of gifts do you like to get? Pre-planned or a surprise? I definitely think it depends on who you are getting it from but I would probably go with surprise the majority of the time. I realize I am coming from a very privileged position saying this, but I do think in general we are too attached to materials and I don’t feel the need to have much more. However, I also understand that some people like to know what they are getting and enjoy the practicality. It can make things a lot easier for other family members or friends as well who want to know what you want.

I’ve read a fairly good amount over the past year or so and there seems to be some common themes from elders who have lived long lives and learned a lot. The constants include love, strong relationships, and finding a purpose. I think technology has it’s advantages obviously and can be beneficial for some but as a whole I still tend to think it can push us from more genuine relationships at times.

Happy Holidays and hope you get some quality time with family and friends 🙂

 

Graduate School Applications, Excerpt from Book, Miscellaneous Thoughts

Thank you for the read! Hope you have been doing well if you are reading this 🙂 or that you are at least feeling okay.

Graduate School Applications

Last week I started applying to graduate schools looking to earn a M.Ed. in School Counseling. This has been a fairly recent development. I was unsure about what I wanted to do next year (still not entirely sure) but I’ve enjoyed learning in school and I have a desire to learn more in a specified area. I was stuck between pursuing special education and school counseling. I enjoyed certain parts of my student teaching experience, but City Year has given me a different insight into how one can function in a school setting rather than teaching.

I really enjoy working with individuals or in small groups and I hope this experience will translate well to working as a school counselor. I’ve experienced counseling myself (I still do) to help me work with anxiety and to talk about life in general. My hope is that counseling provides me with a great opportunity to help others and to do something that I enjoy. I’m also well aware that school counseling is different than working as a counselor in a clinical setting. I hope to help create a positive and inclusive school climate wherever I end up.

The schools I’ve started applications with are Temple, Eastern, West Chester, and Penn (sort of… they are the only school of these 4 that require GREs so I’m deciding if it’s worth it).

This is also not a set in stone path. I’m not sure if something else will pop up, but as of right now this is most likely what I’m thinking of doing.

Excerpt from Book

I am currently reading Jack Kornfield’s book A Path with Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life. Kornfield spent some time as a Buddhist monk and then came back to the states and recognized the difficulties of integrating his spiritual life into the modern world. The book is full of wonderful anecdotes, advice, and wisdom. Below I copied a small excerpt that resonates with me:

“Just as we heal body and the heart through awareness, so we can heal the mind. Just as we learn about the nature and rhythm of sensations and feelings, so can we learn about the nature of thoughts. As we notice our thoughts in meditation, we discover that they are not in our control-we swim in an uninvited constant stream of memories, plans, expectations, judgments, regrets. The mind begins to show it contains all possibilities, often in conflict with one another-the beautiful qualities of a saint and the dark forces of a dictator and murderer. Out of these, the mind plans and imagines, creating endless struggles and scenarios for changing the world.

Yet the very root of these movements of mind is dissatisfaction. We seem to want both endless excitement and perfect peace. Instead of being served by our thinking, we are driven by it in many unconscious and unexamined ways. While thoughts can be enormously useful and creative, most often they dominate our experience with ideas of likes versus dislikes, higher versus lower, self versus other. They tell stories about our successes and failures, plan our security, habitually remind us of who and what we think we are.

This dualistic nature of thought is a root of our suffering. Whenever we think of ourselves as separate, fear and attachment arise and we grow constricted, defensive, ambitious, and territorial. To protect the separate self, we push certain things away, while to bolster it we hold on to other things and identify with them (49).”

Miscellaneous Thoughts

Clearly these are all my opinions on things:

I’m not going to pretend like I know much about tax plans and the economics behind it all, but c’mon. I just struggle to understand something that helps the wealthy keep more money and hurts the poor. Come and tell me again systematic oppression doesn’t exist.

Sixers should make the playoffs. That’s clear at this point. No excuses (unless Embiid or Simmons gets injured. Please stay healthy!)

Love this quote from Mother Teresa: “In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.”

Why the hell is sex education not required in all states? I wrote about this in the past, but it’s ridiculous to think about.

Everyone is pursuing happiness in their own way. The people who piss you off, try to see them from a different perspective with this understanding ( I struggle to do this).

 

Sixers Thoughts, The 4 Reminders, and Mental Health Article

Sixers Thoughts: 

I watched the whole first half of the Sixers-Warriors game last night and I was ecstatic as I went upstairs to shower. The Sixers had a 22 point lead and they were pounding the defending champs. I came back downstairs about halfway through the 3rd quarter and the Sixers were only up 8. I continued to watch as the Warriors dismantled the Sixers and dominated on both ends of the floor. Despite the loss, there were lots of positives from the game and I want to highlight some below:

1) Ben Simmons ability to drive and score with either hand. There was one play where he took Iguodala, an elite defender, to the basket and scored with his right hand. Simmons was stronger than Iggy and was able to use his athleticism to create the necessary space to finish at the basket. Iggy had no chance of stopping him. Most of Simmons points come from within 10 feet of the basket, which is highly unusual for a point guard, but I’m loving it.

2) An active Dario Saric. When the Sixers were clicking on all cylinders at the start of the game Saric was a key player. When he is actively going after rebounds and looking to shoot the Sixers are that much better.

3) Embiid’s trash talking. Embiid is obviously playing well on both ends of the floor, but I also love that he was willing to trash talk right back to Draymond Green. Green loves to run his mouth and the Sixers are starting to stake their claim as a legitimate team, so protecting the home court and taking pride in your play is important.

4) Reddick’s quick release. I love how Reddick is always ready to shoot. His presence adds so much on the court as the defense always has to chase him around and worry about his shot.

5) A vastly improved shooter in Robert Covington. Last year I was not a huge Covington fan because his shot flat out sucked. Suddenly, he is one of the better shooters in the league. Add that to his impeccable defense and he certainly earned his recent contract offer.

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The 4 Reminders:

I recently finished Pema Chodron’s book Comfortable with Uncertainty and one of the short chapters highlighted what bodhisattva-warriors (a Buddhist sect) call the 4 reminders. I wrote them below and shared a couple sentences for each one from the book.

1) Our precious human birth. 

“Just like the weather, all sorts of feelings, emotions, and thoughts come and go, but that’s no reason to forget how precious the situation is. Our human birth allows us to hear these teachings, to practice, to extend our open hearts to others” (59).

2) The truth of impermanence.

“The essence of life is fleeting. Life may be over in the next instant! Remembering impermanence can teach you a lot about how to cheer up. It’s okay to let it scare you. Seeing your fear can heighten the sense of gratitude for the preciousness of human birth and the opportunity to practice” (59).

3) The law of karma.

“Every action has a result. Every time you’re willing to acknowledge your thoughts and come back to the freshness of the present moment, you’re sowing the seeds of wakefulness for your own future. You’re cultivating innate fundamental wakefulness by aspiring to let go of the habitual way you proceed and doing something different. You’re the only one who can do this. Life is precious and it’s brief and you can use it well” (60).

4) The futility of samsara. 

“Samsara is preferring death to life. It comes from always trying to create safety zones. We get stuck here because we cling to a funny little identity that gives us some kind of security, painful though it may be. The fourth reminder is to remember the futility of this strategy” (60).

Mental Health Article:

http://theconversation.com/with-teen-mental-health-deteriorating-over-five-years-theres-a-likely-culprit-86996

I highly suggest reading the short article above. The author argues that the recent high increase in mental health issues among teens stems from the amount of time we spend in front of a screen and not in other activities that require face-to-face interactions. I don’t think the research is valid at this point considering there is a small sample size of research on the topic, but I think it makes sense and in the future at some point I would expect there to be more research backing up this point with better explanations for why the correlation exists.

It’s no secret that we spent an abundant amount of time looking at our phones, TVs, or laptops. The actual statistics for how much time per day and per year spent in front of a screen are probably pretty scary to consider and the long-term effects (if there are any, which I would put money on guessing yes) will be worth looking out for. One example that sticks out in my head is at restaurants nowadays little kids are always playing on some device, such as an IPad. It’s easy to write this off as harmless as this gives kids something to do and the parents get a break, however I would think it’s important to teach kids from a young age how to interact with people and talk. Teaching them that they always have a cop-out available with a screen will keep them reliant on this as they grow. When they don’t get to distract themselves with a screen, they will most likely consistently be upset and struggle with normal interactions.

 

Cheers 🙂 Would love any comments of any sort. Have an awesome week. 

“Heaven and Hell’ Small Excerpt from Book I’m Reading

I am currently reading “Comfortable with Uncertainty,” or as one teacher in my school called it when she asked what I was reading: “Being 22,” by Pema Chodron, an American Buddhist nun. I really enjoy the book as there are 108 short chapters, each with their own insightful message or story that’s full of wisdom and rather helpful. Below I copied an excerpt of an anecdote from the story that I really enjoyed. The chapter is titled “Heaven and Hell.”

“Once upon a time a big, burly samurai came to a Zen master and asked him to explain the difference between heaven and hell.

The Zen master looked him in the face and said: “Why should I tell a scruffy, disgusting, miserable slob like you anything?

The samurai was immediately consumed by rage, drew his sword and prepared to take off the master’s head.

The Zen master said: “That’s hell.

Instantly the samurai understood that he had just created his own steamy hell, filled with hatred, self-protection, anger, and resentment. He saw that he was so deep in hell that he was ready to kill someone. Tears filled his eyes as he put his palms together, bowing in gratitude for this insight.

The Zen masters said, “That’s heaven.”

 

I really like this story for multiple reasons. Firstly, it gives us a different perspective than the conventional understandings of heaven and hell. The samurai is ready to kill the zen master because strong feelings consume him. These strong feelings are full of resentment and self-protection. We experience a sort of hell when we find ourselves full of resentment, anger, jealousy, hatred, or any of the other negative feelings. On the opposite end, when we feel compassion, gratitude, gentleness, love, and the other positive feelings we are experiencing a form of heaven. Classically Buddhist, this story asks us to observe the mind and to think about what is happening now, not later.

UC 2 Mile Twilight

This past Friday night I ran in the Ursinus 2 mile twilight meet where the alumni get to race against/ with the current team. This being my first year as an alumnus, I was rather excited to run. I’m still friends with some current runners on the team and I am good friends with some of the other alumni, so I knew I was going to see a lot of great people whom I enjoy being around. 

With Alumni

I really tried to put aside any expectations for the race. Recently, I have been running about 15-20 miles per week. I usually run 4 days during the week, lift one day, do general strength + core another, and take off one day. I’ve been fairly consistent with this routine and I mostly enjoy it. City Year can be great, but it is also exhausting at times. Combined with my commute most days are around 12 hours total. In order to stay healthy and try to balance other things in my life, I’m not running as much. In a way, though, this is probably good for me. During my time at Ursinus I would often get a lot of little injuries that would keep me from training too much, which affected my race performance. I still get some tiny flair ups, but not running every day and using the whirlpool (basically an ice bath) at the gym twice a week seems to help.

The race ended up going rather well. I surprised myself and ran 11:06. I’ve been doing short workouts recently, with the most relevant one happening last Monday night where I ran a 5:25 mile and a couple of 400s at low 70s. Going off this, I knew I could run a solid first mile but the second one would hurt quite a bit. Funny enough, my first mile in the race ended up being 5:25. The second mile did hurt a lot but I did not fall off too much. If I really focused and did not joke around a bit with others while running in the race, I know I could have broken 11. Considering my low mileage, this was a pleasant surprise for me. If I ever really train hard for races again I’m excited to see what I can do. I’ve definitely got a Turkey Trot on my mind. Longer term the Alumni Mile and then a 5k in the track in the Spring on the track where I go for sub-17.

Running Alumnus

The race was loads of fun and there were lots of fast times. I’ve enjoyed running more for the sake of running while out of school, but running in a race atmosphere where I had people cheering for me reminds me how much fun racing can be and all the adrenaline involved. When I saw the results I was not surprised, but I was super impressed. From James demolishing the record and blazing to a 9:28, to Jamie running a 10:32 two weeks after a marathon, to finishing my 7th lap right as Haase came flying in to the finish at 9:47, a lot of great things happened. There really are too many people I could write shout-outs for in this race, so in fear of leaving anyone out, I will halt here. But seriously, to anyone who ran in the race, awesome job and I hope you enjoyed.  

Afterwards, the alumni got to go to ABC for some appetizers and drinks. It was really nice to sit with Vron (the best support around), Rudy, Vince, Jamie, Nolan, Simoncini, Doug, and Tony. It would have been cool to sit with Sam but he was at another table, and Drew apparently left his wallet at home so he came as we were leaving. I think Blickle and Crystal did a wonderful job setting up the race and then also setting up the after-party for the alumni. I imagine it’s not easy to coach a team that keeps improving consistently, recruit, set up events like this, and do your own training (as I know they both do a lot of). I still love UC cross country and track and field.

Post Race with Vron

Sixers Time, Books, Rudy’s BDay, Anniversary, and Miscellaneous

I hope you are doing well!! Thank You for the read!

Books:

I recently read “Why Buddhism is True” by Robert Wright. Don’t look to much into the title. I promise you this book is not a comparison between Buddhism and other religions. Instead, the author uses a combination of evolutionary psychology and modern human tendencies to help explain why he thinks many ideas in Buddhism are actually spot on in what they suggest. Quick example: Back when our ancestors lived in hunter-gatherer villages, the only available sugary food was fruit. Fruit has obvious health benefits and actually benefited our ancestors. We got stuck with this desire for sugar. Unfortunately, we now have an abundance of processed foods loaded with sugar. Most Buddhists would probably suggest that when you feel the craving arising in your mind, simply try to be aware of the craving. Notice how the mind seems to fight back and forth between the potential benefits (short-term gratification) vs. the long term effects (bad for my health). If one can simply be aware of the thoughts they may not be tugged this way or that and could maybe make a better decision, whatever that may be at the time.

I have recently started Christopher Hitchen’s memoir, Hitch 22. If you have never heard of Hitchens, as I had not probably up until a year ago, I highly suggest going on YouTube and checking out some clips of him. He is honestly one of the most well-reasoned intellectuals I have ever seen.

 

Anniversary:

Veronica and I celebrated our 5-year anniversary together yesterday!! This is rather close to a quarter of my life. In a time where social media is rampant and long-term relationships starting in high school or college seem to be rare (could be wrong, but just a general observation), I am extremely thankful and proud of this.

STORY TIME:

Veronica and I met at a cross country camp when I was going into senior year of high school and she was entering her junior year. I find it funny how things work out sometimes. I was a competitive tennis player in high school and was actually planning on playing tennis at Ursinus. I was certainly not planning on going to this camp as I was not an avid runner at this point, but boy am I thankful that I was persuaded to go. Veronica and I sat at the same table for all the meals. We did not have many 1 on 1 interactions while at the camp, more group chats. However, I was infatuated with Veronica-never mind the fact that she was already way faster than me- but I found myself really liking her and trying to impress her at every chance I had. Once the camp was over, I lacked the jewels at the time to ask for her number, but by chance (long story that won’t go here) I had a number of one of her friends who connected me to Vron. Thankfully she did not think I was too creepy and we ended up meeting at a few different events (mostly Prep events) before we became a couple.

A short blog post does little justice to the effect Veronica has had on me. However, I really am thankful for her and our relationship.

Beer Glass from VRON

With VRON after Mac's.jpg

Sixers Time:

I have not gotten to watch too much of the Sixers thus far-a good chunk of the Wizards game and then some of the Rockets-but there are great reasons to be authentically excited that this team is good and has loads of potential. The main reasons in my mind in order:

  1. Unorthodox but Incredibly Effective Ben Simmons 
  2. A Healthy Joel Embiid 
  3. Veteran JJ Reddick 
  4. Improved Robert Covington 
  5. Scrappy Team Player TJ McConnell 

Rudy’s BDay:

A couple of weekends ago I went out to Jersey to celebrate Rudy’s bday!! Jamie and Vince also came and we had a splendid time. We played Nintendo 64-which of course Rudy is amazing at-then we went to Applebee’s and some of us got the dollaritas deal. Afterwards, we went to a bar not too far from Rudy’s house that had a huge outside area as well as inside area. We got quite a few drinks, including the Dirty Girl Scout shot which Rudy loves, and got to dance a lot to music from a live DJ. I absolutely love dancing with my friends. We combat toxic masculinity and are not afraid to dance with one another. When we were leaving the bar a lady came up to us and said that she thought we were all gay because of how we were dancing. Lolz. It was a really nice time and full of laughs.

We all get to see one another again on Friday night at the Ursinus 2-mile twilight meet where the alumni race with the current runners on the track. Get pumped!

Miscellaneous:

Climate Change is clearly real.

The Eagles are balling out right now.

Is our education system broken, or was it designed to maintain oppression, or both?

Game of Thrones is still the sh*#!

 

 

Mandatory Service? Taking a Knee? Jhalil Okafor! New Music I Like A Lot

Ohhh man it’s been quite a while since I’ve written anything. If you are reading this I thank you and hope all is well with you. Time really does seem to go by fast. The paradox of time is kind of funny actually with how slow or fast it can feel at times, but in reality time is just a constant, social construct to help us structure our lives.

City Year has been going fairly well. Still busy as hell but we are diving deeper with running after school programs now and doing more and more individualized tutoring. I’m developing stronger connections with my students and learning more about them. I thought I’d write on a few different topics today.

Mandatory Year of Service?

I remember doing some activity in either high school or college where we were asked if everyone who graduates from high school (or college) should be required to do a year of service of some sort before they go on with the next step in their lives. We had to choose a side of the room that aligned with our answer. I remember going straight to the “no” side, adamant that everyone should have the right to do as they please. I would still probably choose that answer, but would not have a problem if the other side was a requirement. In the sense that it became a norm for everyone, such as going to high-school and then off to college is the norm today. Instead though, a year of service would go plop in between them or would be something everyone does after college before entering the workforce.

We had City Year Opening Day this past Thursday where we celebrate the beginning of the year in conjunction with the other sites in the country. Former Governor Ed Rendell spoke to all of us. Apparently he helped bring City Year to Philadelphia 20 years ago when he was actively working as governor.

He said that he’s believed for a while at this point and argued in some of his books that a year of service should be required for all young adults. He notes the impact that a year of service has on a young person. Rather than jumping right into the work force or going to school not quite sure what to study and pursue in life, service can help in many ways. The young adult is exposed to diversity, inequalities, learns to work on a team, and much more. He says that he’s noticed that those who do a year of service typically pursue something afterwards that really helps others in a direct way. Their new perspective helps them realize more about themselves and what they want to do, helping to make them a better citizen.

I sure hope this happens for me. I can already tell my experience with students is having a large impact on me.

I definitely don’t think service is required for someone to do great things, obviously, but after starting City Year I can understand the argument for it being a requirement much better.

Taking a Knee?

I know a lot of people love to share their opinions on this polarizing topic and that can be rather annoying. I would like to keep my thoughts on this topic short. Players absolutely have the right to do as they wish during the anthem. You have the right to disagree with their decision but that does not mean you can force someone else not to. That’s the simple answer on a much more complicated issue in my opinion.

The main arguments I hear against someone taking a knee or doing something else during the anthem is that it shows disrespect to military members, the flag, and our country. The military point is probably the most sensitive and I think I understand why. However, a lot of these players have publicly said why they are choosing to protest and nothing in their answers has to do with the military. From what I understand, there are military members who have said players certainly have the right to protest in this fashion. I don’t think any of these players have any intent to disrespect military members, past or present, or their families. Assuming that is their intent is a bit of a cop-out from the discussions they are trying to spark.  

Take a second and think about why many of the players are protesting. Notice that many are African-American. There is a reason for that. I don’t think I have to go in depth trying to explain the reason for this. It’s something many of us know and feel uncomfortable talking about, especially if we are white and grew up privileged. The main reason for their protest from my understanding is to try to spark more discussion and while I don’t know exactly what that looks like in a productive way at this point, I absolutely respect their decision and hope more discussion and clarity on what exactly should be talked about starts to happen more and more.

Working in North Philadelphia in an under-resourced school may be an anecdotal argument, but I get an up-close look at some of the systematic effects every day.

I know this can be a touchy topic, but again, I’d love to hear others thoughts on the matter.

Jhalil Okafor!

If you like basketball, especially the Sixers, go look at a recent picture of Jhalil Okafor. Many know that Okafor struggled to fit in with the Sixers last season despite his vast potential and many want to seem him gone. I was on that train but now we might have to take a stop quickly before reaching that point. 

Over the off-season Okafor went on a mostly plant-based diet (vegan) and lost 20 pounds. He always looked a little chubby, but now he really does look pretty slim and fit. He has been plagued by knee injuries throughout his career but recently he said there is no more swelling there. He cites cutting out dairy and meat, two main causes of inflammation in the body, as really helping him. A healthy Okafor can be a really good player; don’t forget his rookie season. He’s also playing well in preseason games. Unfortunately, last year probably would have been much better for him to make this change if he wants to get in the rotation. Adding Amir Johnson makes it that much harder for him to break in. 

Whatever happens, go Okafor! I’m happy that he made a big change in his life and that things are looking up for him thanks to an improvement in his health.  

New Music I’m Digging:

I should have written New Music “for me.” I know some of these songs have been out for some time and others probably know of them already. With that in mind, here is a list of some songs I’ve come across in someway recently that I enjoy. 

“Don’t Take the Money” – The Bleachers

“Rollercoaster” – The Bleachers

“Could Have Been Me” – The Struts

“Kiss This” – The Struts

“Lay it On Me” – Vance Joy

“Cocoon” – Milky Chance

“Praying” – Kesha

 

5k Action, Mr. Jamie Hartop, Homecoming

5k Action

Yesterday morning I ran in the Philly Rock and Roll 5k. The race started rather early: 7 am. I was woken up before 5 by family because I still had to get there ahead of time to get my bib. My family was kind enough to drive me in and watch the race (really just the end of it, but still very nice). I tried something a little different than I would usually do in the morning. Instead of eating a lot, I only had oatmeal and drank a lot of water. I think 45 ounces to be exact. Other than leaving me with a feeling of having to pee during the race (even though I had already peed multiple times), this definitely ended up being the right move. In conjunction with my run gum that I like to chew before the race (caffeine and B vitamins for energy), despite not getting much sleep I felt very energized and awake during the race.

I was honestly not sure about what the competition would be like. They split us into cohorts between 1-6 with 1 being the fastest, and my projected time of 18 minutes (put that down when I registered and planned on being in better shape) got me into the first cohort. I was a bit nervous about how good the other runners would be, but when I got to the front I knew I was in the right place. I do not like making assumptions about other’s based on how they look, especially running wise, but I had a feeling some people there were not super-competitive runners.

I was not sure what to expect from myself or what the course would be like during the race. The course thankfully ended up being almost totally flat on Martin Luther King Boulevard, and I ran better than I thought I would. I’ve only been running 15-20 miles a week (usually 4 times a week) with one day of lifting and also general strength and core. I ended up running 19:14. But my GPS watch did say 19:05 for a 5k. I hit 5:57 for the first mile and felt rather comfortable. About a mile and half into it when we turned around I started to feel it. The second mile was 6:08 and the final one was 6:24. Despite the pain, I enjoyed the feeling of being in a race again even though I’m not in good enough shape to really race to be competitive yet. After turning around, I ran by everyone on the other side and lots of them would cheer. Despite having 1300 people or so, the race really was not super competitive and my time got me 8th place overall. I’ve got another 5k coming up on September 30th at Frankford High School in Philly that is related to City Year. Hopefully I can drop some time and rep my City Year team well.

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Mr. Jamie Hartop

Congrats to my man, Jamie! He’s been running a lot starting from early summer to get himself into great shape and today it seems all that hard work showed. Firstly, the hard work has already been showing: he crushed a couple of 5ks the past couple of weekends (both 17:15 on the roads). Today, he demolished a half-marathon. He ran 1 hour, 19 minutes and 53 seconds for an average mile pace of 6:05. That is really god-damn fast.

I’m not sure exactly what mileage he runs per week, but according to Strava he’s been crushing 60+ a week at times. With full weeks of work, that’s really impressive. I’m experiencing what it’s like being tired from full days of work and I give him so many kudos for his efforts. True dedication.

Also this was one of the top google images results so I went with this older picture. He might want you to know that’s he looking even more jacked now-a-days 😉

 

Homecoming 

Last night I joined my old friends/teammates/residents John and James at Ursinus. They were kind enough to let me sleep on their floor. Logan was also generous in letting me borrow his air mattress. I did sleep well despite their freezing cold room (they keep the air conditioner going at night). Ursinus was celebrating Homecoming, but I basically missed any of the celebrations during the day. Instead, I had my own race and got to see VRON crush her race at Kutztown.

It was a lot of fun to catch up with John and James. I liked hearing how they were doing and they seemed to find my City Year stories and the different chants and cheers we do funny. We then headed over to Reimert. That place doesn’t seem to change much. I enjoyed getting to see the other guys on the team. I got to see some fellow alumni but I think I missed a lot of them from the daytime. The track team culture still seems to be solid and I like the newbies. I’m excited to see the guys race at some point and to hopefully be back at some point to enjoy with them some more.

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