Not Drinking and Malcolm X

Howdy. I just have a few quick things to say so i am going commando again this time! For those of you playing the home game, today is day 26 of no booze for Renfroe, and i feel pretty good.

Today presented the closest thing to a true “test” for me so far on this leg of the journey. Not a very hard test, and i passed, but still the first potential stumbling block.

I have not been really alone since i quit, until today. I do currently live with my folks and my grandpa and it is pretty easy on the day to day to leave it behind. Most days i don’t even think about it.

I went to an LYP mixer event at a bar last night and stayed after the event to listen to a band until midnight. It was not remotely difficult to avoid drinking there. In fact it was great not to drink there. I got $20.00 in cash before going out and i came home with $16.00. How many times have you been in a bar from 7 ’til midnight and spent $4.00??

But today mom, dad, and grandpa went out of town for the weekend. I love being alone. I have enjoyed it for as long as i can remember. I also love drinking alone, or being alone and drinking. I would drink around other people, but that was always different than drinking alone (with a few exceptions). We will get into all that later, for now i just wanted to broach the topic.

Drinking alone has been one of my favorite things to do for about 25 years. Having the opportunity come up today did give me pause and make me think about it. I did not seriously consider going out to buy my preferred beverages, but it was the first time i had to stop and consciously re-affirm my decision to stay sober. Things don’t usually get too tough for me until around 6 -8 months. I get my life more on track. I start to feel pretty good. I usually have a seriously increased exercise routine. Often i have quit smoking during that time. I am not even thinking about booze anymore. And then i start to say, “hey man, you got this licked. Things are back on easy street. Have a beer and enjoy yourself.” When i do that, i generally maintain an even keel for 2-8 months before the wheels start to come off and i am back to consuming way too much and for all the wrong reasons.

Hopefully i can stay vigilant and A) get that far again and B) avoid the 6-8 month victory voice idiot in my head. That guy has a lot of bad advice.

On to Malcolm X.

Malcolm X died February 21, 1965. I love Malcolm. I think i have read every one of his speeches that have been published. I have read a ton of other Malcolm material including his FBI file. But i do still feel that there is no better way to experience Malcolm than to listen to Malcolm. It was the 60s so the sound quality varies greatly, but there are loads of legal sources online to listen to Malcolm for free. If you are not very familiar with Malcolm, or have a bad impression of him, i can’t recommend enough that you read The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley. If you can’t afford it, i will buy you a copy (limited to first 25 serious inquiries).

One of his best speeches, in my opinion, is The Battle or the Bullet. Malcolm is one of those guys that was often misquoted and quoted out of context. It happens so much these days that many people take it for granted and do a little research before basing their opinions on the millisecond sound-byte from Big News Show. (Really Renfroe? Many people do that? – We can hope right?) With Malcolm, there was a concerted effort to use every means possible to discredit him in the public eye. I don’t believe that any other single individual did more to throw support and in particular white support behind Dr King than Malcolm. If you can present Malcolm as the scary angry violent black man ready to come to your house and kill you, sit-ins with Dr King start to look a lot more appealing.

Malcolm is one of the very few public figures in human history who cared enough about truth and a scientific approach to the union of belief and principle that he actually changed his mind about deeply held beliefs multiple times over the course of his life. When he encountered evidence that challenged his beliefs, he did not seek ways to justify his belief anyway, he changed his belief to fit the facts. That is not easy.

The Ballet or the Bullet provides a great glimpse into Malcolm’s thinking after his first Hajj. He had left the Nation of Islam and started the Moslem Mosque Inc. This was a few months before he would found the Organization for Afro American Unity. But it was during this period when he was beginning to build support and advocate for a new approach to the civil rights struggle. Call it simply a human rights struggle and plead a case before the UN as many other oppressed peoples around the globe had done.

There is a ton of great information in here as well as a few laugh out loud jokes. Malcolm’s oratory style is captivating. Check it out folks.

Download Ballet or the Bullet – The speech start about 3:31 into this recording.

Pre-JMT Aftermath Potluck

And you thought the JMT stories were finished just because we finished the JMT? Silly Rabbit. There will be a few tales from “Green Valley Days: three weeks at Casa de Luna” and a few brief tales about the epic-in-its-own-right cross-country adventure back to PA. For now, some odds and ends.

This post does contain homework for you all.

JMT Video: I have been working diligently on creating a movie about our JMT experience. All the pics are in it, all the video, and some other material as well. It is about 90% complete now. I am not sure how long it will take to polish the last 10%, but it will be before the winter holiday season. It *should* be available to download for the tech savvy, but I will also format it to play on DVDs in a regular old DVD player. So homework for you guys:

  1. Send me a message, leave a comment, dispatch a carrier pigeon – let me know if you want to possess a copy of this movie and if you prefer download or DVD. This is not a contest and you won’t be judged. I don’t care if you don’t want to see the thing, but many have expressed interest.

Blog Posting Schedule: For a few nerdy reasons, I watch the “site stats” for my blog with interest searching for patterns. I have not found any patterns, but it is fun to look. If I am in internet silence for a month or more, my first one-three posts generally get 45-75 views each day. If I post once a day for two weeks or so, I generally get 3-10 views each day – and at that level, I pretty much know who you are. I will be doing more writing, more regularly, for the foreseeable future. For me, the primary joy is in the writing itself. I like sharing and love feedback and discussion, but I do not write in search of praise. So, I figured that I should ask you guys what you prefer? I got good feedback from the group of regular readers on issues related to the length of individual posts and when to break longer tales into chapters, and in that same spirit I ask you:

  1. What would you like the “publication” schedule to be? Do you want one post a day? One post a week? Two or three times a week? Or, also important to learn, does your interest in reading here depend more on your schedule than on when new posts do or do not appear?

On the Horizon: We are about to delve into somewhat different topics here than have previously been explored. I have a few things cooking and am not sure which will be ready first, but there is going to be a series on politics in general, the efficacy or not of voting, a tiny bit about the recent elections and other related bits. It will be difficult to do that without touching on many issues, so a discussion of religion is coming to BOC. All of that material will have some philosophical elements, but there are a few other more technical bits of philosophy to be discussed as well with one of the primary aims being to un-technical-ize them.

Meeting of Minds...
Meeting of Minds…

For some lighter fare, I still owe a brief account of the Conversation Desk, pitons, and a close corollary, the “Real Quick”.

Consider completing your optional homework assignments and enjoy the day folks.

Gulash – another mash-up

I have been playing with the scheduled release of blog posts and liking it. If you do not know, you can write entries and choose when they will be automatically published.  This is awesome for me given that i go through droughts of not writing and then writing four or five posts at once.  Now, i can spread those out.  It is a little difficult to deal with both tense and timeline issues, but i think it is worth it.  I released two or three posts via the scheduler Fri-Sun.

A little job news – one of the places i applied that i was excited about was the Apple Store at the local mall here in Millersville PA.  They are revamping their Business Team (which is a great and necessary idea) and have some openings. It has been a week and i have heard nothing.  I did go in the day after i applied online and spoke to one of the managers briefly just to verify that they were still looking as the post had been up since september.  It was a nice chat and i left feeling positive.

There is an up and a down side.  The up is that i do not really want to stay in Pennsylvania. I was serious when i applied and i would take the job if they offered it today, but i would want to learn and position myself to move before next winter. The down is that i do not understand why i did not get any contact. I felt like my package was good. Some of the folks in the store know me, a few managers, lots of floor staff, the Business guy, and the Regional manager. I am considering contacting my Business sales guy to try to set something up to find out what happened. Not so much to be begging for a job there, but to learn what was wrong to help me in the future. Did i make some gross error i am unaware of? Is it the pitfall i have found many times – overqualified? Is it the employer second guessing the applicant game of ‘he can’t really want this job, he’s been a CEO!’

The other facet of concern – I also applied for the same job in Georgetown as well as a job one rung up in the business division also in Georgetown.  Those jobs i am very interested in, and i have a bud in Apple throwing a good word my way. Probably the Apple thing is not going to work out right now, but that is OK. I have some other consulting leads and am setting up meetings for this week (and next if necessary). I do plan to go into the Georgetown Apple store though while i am down NOVA way. I can probably make much more money consulting, but i imagine that i would be happier working at Apple.

State of the Blog – I believe it is about time to kick it back into gear with the move to a self-hosted blog.  I did seriously slow down on that effort, but i hit an unusual wall.  I could not make the self-hosted site work on the free space at godaddy.  I read that many people had the same problem, and a few people made it work.  That was only designed to be a temporary stage anyway, as it would include godaddy banners at the top of each page.

I have been working on a post about Malcolm X (and a little about Martin Luther King Jr.) and some decent ideas hit me while walking this morning and i used the voice memos thingy on the iPhone to capture them.  I wanted to intersperse these voice clips with text in the entry, but you cannot upload mp3/m4a on a free blog hosted through wordpress.  The upgrade package to be able to post audio is about $20.00 a year.  Not bad, but if i have to pay, i would rather pay to host it myself and get the rest of the features that i am missing and the additional customization.

But – all that will have to wait until i get a new job.  I refuse to spend money on my blog while under-employed!

The Malcolm entry is probably going to stay in draft form for now.  It is too important to me to not craft it well, and that is going to take some more time, and i need to get back to other things.

For now let me just say that i hope we all take a minute to remember Malcolm today (he died on Feb 21, 1965).  If you do not know much about Malcolm, i encourage you to learn.  One of the best places to start is here!

If you know some about Malcolm and have a negative opinion, i encourage you to read this!

Martin and Malcolm

Mexico Update #3

December 26th

Skipping over the events of Barcelo Maya! and the travel to Playacar for now, i wanted to share a little bit about yesterday – Christmas in Mexico.  Fair Warning – this turns political, and emotional, and “preachy” would not be a far stretch, about halfway through.

It is about ¾ of a mile to the swanky downtown area of Playa Del Carmen from my hotel.  The walk is safe.  Very small Airport on one side and a row of gorgeous, though abandoned or not yet occupied buildings, on the other.

The swanky end of downtown has the nice free public restrooms – always good to know where those are.

I looked around and quickly learned that this too is pretty much like the touristy sections of Virginia Beach or Ocean City or Myrtle Beach – hawkers, overpriced stuff, and large crowds of slowly wandering tourists.  But it was interesting all the same.  I found one of the veggie places from Happy Cow100% Natural.  Sadly their site is poorly designed with images and flash instead of text so google translate does not work there.  I did download the menus and did some work con dictionario and learned enough about what was offered.  When i found the restaurant, it was near the beach on one of the main drags – 5th Avenue.  This is what it said on Happy Cow, but on their own website it is listed about 15 blocks away. It looked just like the picture and description from Happy Cow (waterfall!) and the menu was the same.  I did not have enough spanish to find out if there is more than one location, or if they moved – but i have 6 more days in Playacar to figure that out.  The location from the website is very near the natural food store I plan to visit anyway, so I can check those out at the same time.

After noting their location on the map i drew combining info from the phone book and the interwebs –

Highly Detailed Map

i told them i would be back and went off to locate another Happy Cow find – Playa RAW.  This is a vegan, raw only joint.  I have only been to one other restaurant of this style, but the food is better than it sounds.  Vegan Raw lasagna is awesome.  How do they do it?  I don’t know.  It is mind blowing to imagine lasagna prepared without heat, cheese, or dairy – but they do it and i like it.  I have never studied these folks or their methods, but I did learn a little.  They are Vegans plus (or minus).  Heat causes chemical change that decreases the amount/effectiveness of the nutrients in food.  Raw food has maximum effect.  They take the principles of vegetarian/vegan animal friendliness and extend them to the rest of the earth.  Everything needs energy to sustain itself.  We get ours from food.  Eat as low on the food-chain as you can and maximize the effect you get from eating so that you kill fewer things to sustain yourself.  All I know about their cooking methods: some use is made of non-electrical natural-convection-style and/or solar dehydrators.  I don’t know “the best” ones, but if you google it, there are tons of info sites and even DIY youtube videos.

I knew it was going to be a long walk, but i had not managed to get a sense of scale on the maps yet to know if it was 2 miles or 6 miles.  It is closer to 5 miles – one way.  A direct route may be only 4 miles or less, but i was not on a direct route.  I turned around at about 65th Street North.  Playa RAW is near 84th Street North.  Known location for good veggie food, 100% Natural, – about 10th Street North.  Known bathroom – 10th Street South.  I had already walked around 3 miles, and i was getting hungry, and would need a bathroom sooner than later, and you leave the tourist areas and enter the blocks where people live near 20th Street North.

I did not have the sensation of fear walking in these neighborhoods, but i was uncomfortable.  If i had more Spanish, i would have felt a little better, but as with other places where the poor live, it is hard not to feel like you are flaunting your wealth.  It was an odd place.  There was a mixture of absolute squalor – rivaling conditions i saw in the Indian slums around Delhi and the refugee areas (“camps” makes them sound better than they are) around Amman, Jordan – normal poor folk, and even lower middle class/upwardly mobile folks.  There were kids with radio control cars playing in the street and almost every late teen/early twenty year old had headphones on or was playing tunes on their phone in speaker mode.  But right next to these are the people digging through trash looking for anything useful, living in burned out buildings with maybe 3 walls and collapsing roofs, or in abandoned construction sites, or just under a tattered tarp.

I do not have the answers, but i do think it is important to learn to even ask the questions.  Back home i think of myself as poor – or at least economically lower class. Mostly i am just ‘thrifty’ (or cheap if you wish) and the ‘poor’ self-image encourages thrift.  It is a simple but effective tool – you spend less and learn how to do more with less if you tell yourself you have no money.  But there are options and resources available to me that these people do not have.  This is a gross oversimplification but i think it is a great example of the importance of the Big 3 – Economics, Infrastructure, Education.

Politically, you have to find a way to help those who need it – and it takes a lot of money. You have to get people with money to give it to you so you can get resources to the people with no money.  And you have to find ways to generate and retain more people who have more money – Economics.

It is hard to get a job, even a not-very-good job, if you smell bad all the time and have nothing but dirty clothes because you do not have water – Infrastructure.

It is hard to get a better job if you can’t read or write – Education.

I believe that we have been blinded by the pace of life today.  Everything must be said in a sound-bite and issues must be made sexy and fun.  The things that need the most attention and the people that need the most help do not fit into these categories.  It is hard to campaign for office or do fundraising on a platform of sewage, roads, and books – but those are the things that will do the most good – everywhere in the world.  It is embarrassing that we not only have not fixed these things – we are not even really trying to fix them.

These are not secrets.  It is not hard to reach these conclusions, or build a consensus on the veracity of these claims.  I have no special knowledge, skills, or de-coder ring – these facts are laying out in the open for all to see.   We choose to look away, back to our own lives.  Me too.  I have done charity work, built and repaired with Habitat for Humanity, volunteered in soup kitchens, given money and clothes, built websites and presentations, planned and led events, and designed fundraising strategies for other charity organizations.  But, i spend way more time on selfish pursuits.

We can’t all be “all give all the time”.  I get that.  But why can’t we get everyone some water and some rice, a road to the hospital, and a book?  Why aren’t we trying harder?

A little bit of random for you (or welcome to my head)

I am still here, still doing ok, and still committed to writing in this blog.  I have not run for several days, but i have stayed on the abstinence plan.  I celebrated 4 weeks of cleansing on the 4th with a nice bottle of tap water!  Without thinking about the larger context, i ate a chocolate covered coffee bean in Giant.  It was awesome, but after 4 weeks with no caffeine or coffee – it took about 3 seconds before i REALLY wanted a smoke.

I am currently working on a few different, hopefully brief, personal writing projects offline that i will bring here when they are a little more advanced. {Current difficulties with the running/exercise, why i hate the holidays, the general anxiety/dread/discomfort i feel related to impending life changes, the golf basics project, and a political mash-up (voting, the state of public discourse, the “discussion” about health care reform, taxes, government spending, and more!) that will take a while to untangle into manageable chunks.}

I also still have a lot of my least favorite kind of  writing to do for work (corporate re-branding) involving my least favorite professional subject matter and format (me, my career, the resume, and the short form narrative bio).

Redesigning schematics at midnight

I have made some good progress, but i need a few more hours of dedicated but undirected writing to get more of the broad strokes down.  I will also need another brainstorming session and review of my notes and emails to jog my memory and capture some critical past events and projects.  (For example, i forgot all about developing a TV show in India, and writing and doing the voice-overs for commercials/promotional videos in Doha and India until a short work session this morning.)  Then i have to craft that mess into sections and sift and evaluate.  What should go on the website to describe capability?  What should go into the projects archive? And the challenge for long-winded bastards like me, The One Pagers!!  What gets cut from the narrative bio?  How to mash all this crap into something attractive for a resume?

Sorting out the Tents

I will get there – but i hate this.  The last time i was even asked to submit a resume to get a job was at Borders in 1998 (maybe 99 – i am no good at historical time-lines), so this is not a simple update.  It is really hard to figure out how truthful to be also.  I don’t mean “should i embellish”? I mean “should i leave most of this out”?  Will people hire a dude who has been largely self-employed for 11 years, who founded/or co-founded six companies on three continents, who is still the CEO of three of those, and a Senior Partner in another? But who only has a BA (technically three, but no one really cares about that) and is not in a higher ed program currently?

Enough.  I gotta do some head clearing with the books or the tube for a bit and sleep.

I did golf today.  The first time i played 18 holes in a long while.  I did many things that i have been working on quite well, but i could not put it/keep it all together to avoid a few of the big numbers.  After 7 holes, i was feeling good and thought, “i will break 90 again today”.  But i carded a 101/98 (there was no one out there and i played 2 balls on two holes). My best score ever is still an 82, and i did not think i would beat that, but i feel like i should be breaking 90 much more often.

More practice required…

day of rest(ish)

Running (Smoking and Politics Below)

I decided not to run today.  Not a ‘talk myself out of it’ give-up kinda vibe like i fought yesterday.  This was a conscious decision to let my body rest.  I have gone for a run every day since Oct 6th with the exception of Oct 9th.  That is 12 out of 13 days and 9 days in a row.  I figured i was due for a leg rest.

I did revise my run plan a little further.  I am still planning to stay at about 2 miles for a week or maybe two, but i have refined the reasons.  As i have stated previously, i don’t care about the numbers involved for their own sake, but for what they can represent.  One of my key goals with this running is to get a good and effective cardio workout of 20 minutes or more in each session.  The runs i have done so far are good and necessary steps on my path.  However, i can tell you without any fancy monitoring equipment that running 9:45-10:35 minute miles is not getting my heart rate up.  I am not close to winded or tired nor is my heart beating at an elevated rate when i complete these runs.  My legs are tired, and again, that is why these baby steps are important – to build my body into something capable of extended cardio workouts.  I need to stay at or near a 2 mile length until i can increase my pace to a more effective level.  I think probably 8 minute miles, or thereabouts will get it done.  There is not much point for me to continue to increase the distance i run if i run at my current pace.  I could run 7, 10 minute miles and still not elevate my heart rate.

So there is the new(ish) goal: keep rocking my current route and increase the pace.

Semi-Side Note: Some of you may be familiar with a little television show called The Simpsons.  There is a beautiful moment (one of thousands) in which Homer says “…let us celebrate this occasion with the joining of chocolate and milk.”  I sorta felt like that yesterday.  It was my first moment of ‘i would enjoy to have a smoke’, since i quit about 11 days ago.  It was not one of those ‘this is all too hard to deal with…”, or “i am gonna lose it if i don’t get a smoke’, or ‘i am gonna lose it all over YOU if i don’t get a smoke’ kinda moments.   It was more like a victory feeling.  “I am doing so well with the fitness and the abstinence and getting back into daily writing.  How should i celebrate and commemorate this occasion?  I know!  Let us celebrate this occasion with joining of cigarettes and beer!”

It passed. All is well.  But it goes to show that this stuff is difficult and sneaky and it hits us all in different ways…

I may not get to it tonight, but i have some random thoughts brewing about the pending mid-term election cycle, and in particular, the state races in Pennsylvania!  If you are not registered, it is probably too late (though not definitely too late so look into it!).  And if you are registered, November 2nd folks.  Hmm, perhaps i will have to put together a little voting post.  No judgment or real advocacy one way or another, just good info, like “how do i find out what district i live in?”