London Olympics

I can hardly contain my excitement: The London Olympics are just around the corner. I have been watching the Olympics—like most of you, I’m sure—for as long as I can remember. For me, the Olympics represent a part of what is right in the world, with people putting aside any differences for a month in order to enjoy a few sporting events. Ok, a lot of sporting events

Superficial reasons aside, I love watching each and every event, from the primetime ones like the track and swimming events right down to archery and ping pong. The athletes of these lesser-known—or less viewed—sports must find it painstakingly difficult to wait patiently for the Olympics to come around every four years. They have but one opportunity in that amount of time to showcase their talents, one opportunity to show the world what they can do, and have believing—even for just a day—that equestrian is a sport that matters.

What’s more, the Olympics provide an opportunity to watch some of the world’s greatest athletes take part in a tournament in which they receive no pay. The Lebron James’ and Usain Bolts of the world technically receive nothing but pride for representing their country (I say technically because there are surely sponsor deals to be won worth millions of dollars). The fact that these athletes are willing to put so much on the line simply in order to show a healthy dose of patriotism is inspiring.

This is why it is so upsetting to hear about Dwayne Wade saying that Olympians should be paid. Come on, man. I hear what you’re saying about the jersey sales; I hear what you’re saying about the possibility of getting injured; I get what you mean when you say its taxing on your body. But…come on, man. This is exactly what makes the Olympics so great. The notion of people putting all of that aside in order to achieve a common goal, simply for the sake of pride in their country and their people is what makes us watch.

Then there is the whole Michael Phelps saga from the Beijing Olypmics. The guy had just finished bringing his career medal count to a whopping 14. He had been training day in and day out to become the fastest guy in the pool for four years. He had done everything necessary to win short of steroids and gill implants. Then, when the Olympics were over, and everyone had seemingly forgotten about all the pain his body had likely been through, and all the sacrifices he must have made to win all of those events, he smoked a little weed. The world was back to that cruel, judgmental place, and we crucified him for it. Forgive me, but I think he should be allowed to do take a break and smoke a little ganja after something like that.

No Olympics are without its dramatic storylines. There will undoubtedly be cases of medals being revoked due to steroid use. There will most likely be other tales of cheating during such and such event and hints of racism on the part of some official from this country or that. The world will all be watching as this athlete or that publicly embarrasses themselves while giving a heartfelt apology for whatever he or she did wrong.

But none of that can take away from the sheer awesome-ness that the Olympics bring. And I, for one, cannot wait. Giddy-up.

The World Is Ending!!

The year is 2012, you know, the year the Mayan calendar predicts the end of the world as we know it.  With each passing day we are getting closer to our December 21st showdown with fate.  Amazingly, however, it feels like the hype surrounding the 2012 prediction is slowing way down.

In years past, I could have scrolled through the channels on TV, and found at least one program predicting a destiny of death in 2012.  Now the phenomenon seems as forgotten as Chia pets.

So I say we step it up, people!  I want to turn on the news and hear all about the man who created a most elaborate underground bunker/laboratory; I want to read about the concerned scientist who has recently been stripped of all licenses and degrees for claiming he had groundbreaking evidence of our eventual doom; I want camps popping up all across this great nation with purposes varying from hunkering down to try and survive, to a 7 month party for those who want to ride this thing out on a high note.

Fear of the end of the world has been around forever, and I think it’s probably a good thing.  Questions organically arise from the idea of a doomsday.  Questions like: What would you do if you knew the world was ending tomorrow?  In a week?  A month?

Answers to those questions can be really fun to think about, and generally we say we would do the kinds of things that make us truly happy.  You might say to yourself, “why am I not doing that for a living if it is what I really want to do!?”

Well, while the idea of living every day like its your last seems like a great one at first, I think it would get pretty hairy.  Skydiving every day might get taxing on your wallet, making out with total strangers in the elevator could get you arrested, etc.

But I do think it is possible to do this in moderation.  I’ve come up with an alteration on that ethos: live one day a week like its your last.  And, of course, keep it within the law, or at least most of the law.

I’ve recently—in the past two weeks—made a vow to myself to try and do this, and while I have probably not  done some of the things I would actually do if I knew it was my last day on earth, I have been committed to being more active in the things I want to do.

In the past three weeks I have created a raised bed vegetable garden, found a sweet walking stick and am in the process of sanding and coating it to be my sidekick on hikes, and brewed beer and joined Habitat for Humanity.  I have committed to hiking the tallest peak in every state within a reasonable distance of Pittsburgh—Mt. Davis you’re up this weekend if the weather holds, bud—and I’m hoping that can one day turn into all 50 states.

I think everyone should try and live one day a week like its their last—or at least try and do something you’ve really wanted to do.  What’s holding you back?  The world is ending in December, guys.  I’m hoping somebody starts that 7-month party camp.  Any eccentric millionaires reading this?

Skip Day!

I am taking a “personal ½ day” off from work today—and thinking about extending it into a full one.

I don’t like my job.  There’s no secret about that.  In the interest of keeping it, however, I wont mention the company or anything about co-workers (who actually make it bearable).  Suffice it to say I sit at a desk all day doing the same monotonous tasks, over and over and over.  And I don’t have any interest whatsoever in what the company does, so I can’t take any joy in the fact that I’m making some sort of impact in the world.

I had no real reason for taking this sick day other than I simply could not get out of bed with those same monotonous tasks looming over my head.  Yeah, I’m not technically sick, but I am sick of my job right now, and taking a break seemed like a healthy thing to do.  If I had not, I would have gone in to work, been completely lazy, moped around, thought about the millions of other ways I could have spent my day, mused over job listings on my phone, etc.: generally I would have been a horrible employee.

So, is it so bad—is it really so wrong—to take a day off every once in a while because you hate your job?  I don’t think so.  Not if it keeps you sane.  Everybody won today.  At least that’s what I think.

But what do you think? Is it ok to take a day off every once in a while for something that your boss would get angry about if they knew what you were really up to?  Back me up, here!

Online Dating?

So I’m sitting here watching Rambo: First Blood, drinking a cold adult beverage like any red-blooded American should be on a mundane Monday night, wondering what I could possible write about this week—a challenge I face almost every week come 10:30 pm on Monday.  Finally, a commercial comes on detailing an online dating website.  Heavens open up; thought breaks through.

Online dating websites.  It’s a relatively (might be a stretch) new idea, so I figure the topic is timely enough.  Nowadays everyone knows someone who has at least tried a dating website.  I can’t say that I’ve ever done so myself—save for a competition in college to see who could mack the most older women, untiil we found out you had to pay for it—so I am not necessarily drawing on any personal experience, here.  Come to think of it, one of the only people I do know who has tried it is now finds herself walking the Appalachian Trail alone—no correlation there, I swear.

So, odd as it may sound for someone who has no experience with a dating website, and someone who has written in the past about technology limiting our ability to interact with people, I am writing an article in favor these websites who do their best cupid impressions.

To criticize online dating because it launches someone into a relationship with a potential creeper without having first had some sort of person-to-person interaction, or to think that you’re above it because you can meet people on your own, is missing the point.  Think of it as your personal college admissions department: These websites exist in order for you to screen an applicant pool before making a final decision on them.  Before you make that decision, of course, you will also have to conduct an in-person interview, whereupon you’ll know whether or not you’re going to… let them in (sorry).

For full-grown humans, meeting that special someone can be hard when you’re working a lot and the free time you do have is spent doing things that might not necessarily lead to meeting Zeus or Athena.  Not every gal finds herself in the same aisle of the same grocery store at the same time as Patrick Swayze (R.I.P.!), as you both accidentally reach for the same grapes—did you feel that spark!  O, what a sensual fruit.

This isn’t college anymore, either.  All you bros out there can’t just grind up on some poor, unsuspecting female anymore and expect her to enjoy it, let alone think a relationship is going to come from that interaction.  In fact, you probably never should have thought that.  Not cool, man.  Unless, of course, she was “asking for it,” and giving you all the right signs to go for it.  Then, by all means…

Unfortunately, it’s a whole new ballgame out there.  Again, not that I have had the need to seek out a partner, but for those of you who—for some horribly misguided reason—are reading this for dating advice, I see no problem in joining an online dating service, entering your interests (I Heart Blogging), and watching to see the people who match up with you.

The way I see things, it can play out in one of three ways: (1) You’ll at least have fun looking at all of these weirdos’ profiles with your friends; (2) You find someone who actually sounds interesting enough to meet up with for a drink, if only to never call that person again; or, (3) You will actually meet that perfect someone and your love will blossom so much that the only way you can think to repay the website is to do commercials for me to watch during the next installment of Rambo.

Ya never know.

Old Man Strength

Old man strength.  It’s a scientific term given to men of a certain age who possess unique abilities to box out a high school kid of any size in basketball, throw anyone under the age of 12 across a room and lift trees and rocks of all sizes while lesser men get tired and stop.

But when do men get this seemingly superhuman strength?  It’s something I’ve pondered for at least the last 24 hours.

Contrary to all rational thought, I constantly hear those with old man strength referring to their younger days as the prime of their lives.  They’ll say, “when I was your age I could lift a horse, but not anymore…” They’ll recount tales of walking to school uphill both ways.  They’ll complain that they have lost a step and can’t hoop like they used to.

But then comes that magical old man moment.  The moment when you’re workin’ in the trenches, posting ‘em up, about to smash a dunk in their face, and it happens: old man strength kicks in and they push you away as though you weighed 80 lbs.

Old man strength applies to more than just basketball.  Ever try to help one of these dudes clear a field of brush, or cut down some trees?  They may complain about bad backs and having to crush a bottle of Bayer when they get home, but don’t believe this for one second: these old men are swindlers.  They’ll work circles around you and make you want to trade in your young, fit, six-packed-ab body in for a beer gut and a moustache in no time.

They want you to believe you have a step on them; more strength than them.  All lies.  It’s all a ploy to get us young folk to ease off the gas pedal.  They’ll wait patiently for that precise moment and then expose your weakness.  You’ll feel inadequate next to their godlike capabilities!

I write this, patiently waiting for my old man strength to kick in.  But when will it come!?  I have a garden to plant soon, and there’s a whole mess-a stuff to clear out before that can happen.  Where’s my dad when I need him?  I do have his genes, don’t I?  I’ll find the old man strength buried deep in my loins at some point.  Just hope its soon.

-John Officer

The Allegory of the Cave (Explained)

For this entry, I thought I would explain the video that I posted last week in absurdly plain terms and see if that would inspire me on some rant about something.  Here we go…I’ll see you on the other side:

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is a dialogue between Socrates and some other Greek dude I can’t remember.  Socrates describes a group of prisoners who are chained in a cave and face a wall, with a fire burning behind them.  I believe there are guards who are standing behind the fire projecting images onto the wall via shadows in the fire.

For arguments sake, I also believe Socrates says the prisoners have been in the cave for their entire lives.  The images they see on the wall of the cave are the only ones they know.  For them, the cave and the forms of images they see are reality.

Socrates then describes what would happen if one were to escape the cave, go topside, and see the world for what it really is.  “Behold,” Socrates probably says in Greek, “it so happens that one of the Cavedwellerz escapes!”  And I’m pretty sure his name was Sean-us Connery-us.  And what an amazing sight it is!  The light is blinding at first, but then the world opens up and he comes across a rabbit. The man had once seen an image of a rabbit on the wall of the cave, so he knew what it was (he knew its “form”), but what he then realized was that what he had seen was indeed just an image, a “form,” and not reality.  In reality, the rabbit is a robust creature, full of life and color and other fun descriptive words not identified with its “form.”

The prisoner runs around, taking in the world for the first time and seeing reality for what it really is.  He returns to the cave and describes what he has seen, but the prisoners don’t believe him.  To them, the forms on the wall are reality.  I like to think of the fish that gets caught and–for whatever reason–is thrown back into the ocean.  When he finds his buddies, he has the most awesome story for them, but nobody believes him:  “But dudes! I swear!…”  He’s pretty flipping mad.

Socrates uses the man who escapes the cave in order to describe the work of a philosopher.  A philosopher thinks (really hard) about reality for what it really is, and attempts to enlighten all of the laypeople (prisoners of some sort of wrong thoughts or something) about it.

I think that it can also be used as a way to get people excited about going out and having an adventure for themselves.  Learning about the forms of adventure (reading about someone who climbed Everest, or someone who had some great romp around the world) is indeed interesting.  But to do it for yourself is entirely another thing.  Maybe it’s even enlightening.

So, get out and live life’s big adventure.  You can go through life just seeing things on TV and reading about things on the internet, and you may very well never do any of them.  You, my friend, are a prisoner in Plato’s cave. Don’t wait for someone else to come back and tell you about it.  Do it for yourself.