Friday, December 29, 2006

Ode to Mom

My mother is an amazing human being. She raised the three of us almost single-handed (save for the first ten years of my life--and even with that she did most of the work herself). She has such a loving spirit and more than anything she loves to help young women out who have lost their way. She says it is something that she picked up from my late grandmother Sally. She passed when I was four so I'll take my mother's word for it.

Last night my mother helped me deal with the over packed laundromat. This meant we had to be crafty and out duel everyone for dryers, washing machines, laundry carts, and folding spaces. I made it to the laundry at 5, giving me a slight head start, but not much. Everyone was trying to make sure they had all the laundry done before the new year begins. I don't know how many times I heard it's going to be progressively worse the next few days.

Well there were two older women doing laundry. One was an older white woman with curly reddish brown hair. She was a tad bit hunchback and had some sort of tick, excuse me for not knowing the appropriate medical label. She was at the laundromat alone and had her clothes in the dryer by the time that I saw her. The second older woman who we (those of us who adopted her for the night) called grandma, was an older black woman (around 80--but still looked amazing) with a very sweet disposition. Her granddaughter basically brought all of the clothes into the laundromat and then left (saying she'd be back in an hour). She didn't even help load the machines.

I watched over the older white matron like a hawk. I was closest to her because I was drying by that time and folding. You see I found it very difficult to just jump in and do everything for her, as you know some older people are very independent. She didn't seem to have any problems. When I noticed the least bit of hesitation I gave her a helping hand, to which she was extremely gracious and thanked me.

The black matron had so much clothes to wash, no doubt some of her granddaughters clothes were in there. My mother helped her secure machines, then dryers, and then stayed to help her fold all of her clothes. She even told the woman to call her granddaughter to tell her to get her but in gear. The Chinese man that attends to the laundromat was very helpful as well. He put the change in the washing machines and the detergent in for the woman. She said she's been washing clothes there for years. He's a very nice guy: always helpful (even when my gold bracelet got stuck in the machine--another story for another time). He usually has to deal with a bunch of grumpy people complaining about dryer heat and everything else under the sun. Though last night was an exception.

It was just amazing to see cooperation amongst all of the people trying to get their clothes cleaned. This laundromat is usually chaotic with people fighting over machines. To see so many people offering dryers to the older women and just looking after them made me smile. There is a lot of good in the world. Sometimes you just have to open your eyes wide enough to see it (that's a shout out to all the pessimists).

Oh I almost forgot the older black woman tried to pay my mother for helping her, which my mother refused. She then issued some nice compliments to my mother and myself telling us that we are wonderful people and that we will be blessed. I was really impressed with my mother, as I generally am. Just seeing her in her element really touched me. I hope that if she's in need as she gets older that there will be people that show acts of kindness instead of irritants. There's so much that elders have to offer (even if they can be obstinate at times), LOL.

Have a happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Much Ado About the Holidays

So much of the Christmas spirit is giving. I guess that's who I am, I'm a giver. I like to receive too, but I don't give in order to receive (wow this kind of sounds dirty).

The best gifts that I gave out was a Tanzanite and diamond white gold eternity necklace and earrings for my girlfriend (not a set) and a diamond and yellow gold necklace for mom (which my brother and I chipped into buy. Both gifts went over very well--and are beautiful (I'm pretty good at picking out pieces that reflects the individuals personality). Al got her gift before Christmas, because I can't wait that long after I buy something nice for someone, LOL. It seriously drives me nuts (I guess you can say I have to give and know the other party likes it).

She was very happy and gave me the look of I can't believe you spent that much money on me (I made her promise before hand that she wouldn't yell at me). She then promised that she wouldn't show anyone until Christmas Eve (though Amy cracked her, LOL). And she was impressed that the gifts were wrapped (professionally of course--as I beg people to wrap gifts for me because I'm a poor man without the skills to do so effectively (winks)). I used my bargaining prowess to get a reasonably good price on the jewelry. You have to see the color of the Tanzanite--it is so beautiful (rich) and the clarity is wonderful as well.

My mother on the other hand. I know she gets up in the middle of the night. So I turned on the Christmas lights and left the necklace in the foyer in all of its glory. She told me she wanted to wake me up at 3 in the morning, because it was so beautiful. The retail value on the necklace is ridiculous, but I did get it for a steal, being the good shopper that I am.

I bought my nieces and nephew a bunch of board games (as they are finally old enough to appreciate and for me to beat them mercilessly until they learn to emulate my strategies and can go forth and conquer kids their own age). None of them have seen them as of yet (sighs), but they will probably get over to the house by this weekend.

Now everyone likes to ask me what I got for Christmas, which tends to make me sad. I don't expect a lot from people. I'm one of those people who loves Christmas Cards. I think a few heart felt words can't be beat.

I did receive some pretty cool gifts:
A knitted grey scarf, a power tie, and an amazing Norelco shaver from my wonderful girlfriend.
I was given some gift cards for Starbucks and Blockbuster.
And Thomas got me the new Game CD, which was completely unexpected. It was a nice gesture.

I gave my office mates the present of holiday cakes from Juniors (which they devoured today). I have their admiration, who can beat that.

The best gift of all was thank you from the office mates and everyone that I bought gifts for! I love it.

And I finally popped that bottle of champagne with Thomas from when my god-daughter was born! It almost dented the wall (been at the office since September 28th). It was wonderful and packed quite the punch.

I'm sure this will be my last post for the year. May God bless you and keep you near and dear to his heart in the new year.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Side by Side

Those of you who don't know me well probably don't realize how much of a huge tennis fan/sports fan I am in general.

My two favorite male players over the course of the last twenty years (wow been watching tennis for awhile) are Pete Sampras and Roger Federer.

They are arguably the two best tennis athletes the sport has seen. Something that no one would dispute is both players are two of the classiest men to grace the sports world. Despite being surrounded by pompous athletes that twiddle their thumbs and collect another million or shirk being ambassadors of the sports where they make their living, these two athletes were able to compete at the highest level possible (Sampras being ranked year end number one six consecutive years--Federer nipping on his tails for this record--I believe with four under his belt) and still be model citizens. You can throw big egos out of the window. They are two of very few male athletes that I have seen cry in public, at Wimbledon.

I hope in this generation of inflated egos and inflated salaries that players will start to envelope the spirit of a Roger Federer or of a Pete Sampras. Let your game do the trash talking.

This is a message that I hope coaches will be successful in instilling in the next generation of great athletes. It seems it didn't take much hold on the current crop (Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, Ron Artest, Lleyton Hewitt, Bode Miller).

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Book Recommendation of the Month

We had the privilege of reading Coelho's simple yet majestic novel for our December book club meeting.

It was a breathtaking experience as you follow a shepard boy in search of his destiny. Paulo's use of symbolism throughout the story is well done, meaning not stuffed down your face like a bad Taco Bell burrito.

Any reader, regardless of religious background should be able to respect the lessons revealed through this journey. I find it difficult to discuss this book without giving away too much (especially since it is a rather short and quick read). You'll just have to take my word on this one. All of the buzz that the story has received is not without merit. It's a clean, straightforward, tale that bristles with self-discovery and teaches readers the necessity of balancing being goal-oriented and taking in all that life has to offer.

Religious buffs can apply knowledge from the Torah/Koran/Bible/Analects to this tale. Fundamentally, this is a story that everyone should read at least once and would make a great gift (should you not quite have finished your holiday shopping).
Baptism By Fire

“Too much pepper…way too much pepper,” I say as I begin my 100 meter dash to the bathroom after consuming stewed chicken gone bad--from the local West Indian restaurant.

My stomach agrees as it purges this homage to crap into the confines of my previously sparkling toilet bowl. Just get it in the toilet.

At moments like these I think how awful it must feel for Godzilla as the flames rise from her belly so she can serve up some roasted Kong. I’m sure her belly is coated properly; mine on the other hand IS NOT! I can feel every seasoning from the toxic stew as it makes its way through my system: PEPPER, salt, thyme, curry, and perhaps Adobo or paprika.

“Honey you know that you can’t eat spicy foods.” I give my wife a mental fuck you as I pant hoping the purge is complete, still too afraid to back away from the bowl.

The inspiration for this story was an incident that happened to me (the last time that I've eaten from said restaurant--LOL)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

If You Talk to Them They Will Stalk You

My girlfriend has gotten me addicted to Alexander McCall Smith's Number One Ladies Detective Agency series. I'm currently blowing through the third installment, "Morality for Beautiful Girls."

The other day I had a goal to almost finish the book so that I could dive into my businesses magazine (two edition). So I read over 60 pages on the way in. I thought if I even come close to this on the way home I'll be finished this in no time.

Now it is Christmas time. I had in my bag at that time a yellow gold and diamond necklace for my mother for Christmas valued at $1000, which I got an amazing deal on (before it shot back up on Tuesday).

So I settle down and I'm about a page into reading and the gentleman next to me says oh I didn't even realize that was in the dictionary. I'm pretty puzzled at that point. I didn't see anything vulgar. I was hoping he wasn't going to give me a speech about the N word. I had the WTF are you talking about look on my face.

He was a pretty thin black man (probably in his sixties) with salt and pepper hair. He had a cane and I think some sort of interesting hat. Well he said "morality." I go oh, yeah. Then I start getting afraid that he's going to start preaching to me about Islam or something, which I was not in the mood for. I smiled at him and tried to keep on reading.

He had none of that. He asked what I was reading. I told him and then said I loved it because of the moral system Botswanan people go by. Well he interrupted me mid-sentence.

He says I know all about it. You don't have to tell me. I was in the war and then I left this country. Those people do have morals. I traveled all over Africa. Tunisia, Morocco, Chad...East Africa...wanted to go Libya but diplomatic relations weren't good...then I went to the Sinai...

Then he says how young people don't have morals. If you misbehaved back in the day and an adult saw you they'd whoop your ass and then tell your mother and you'd get another whoopin...can't tell young folks nothing these days...they'd curse go ahead and try and see what son tried it with me and I picked up a 2x4 and hit him with it...he was 18...he looked at me like I was crazy and I hit him again...they locked me up...I'd do it again...I wish one of my kids would.

The man was very entertaining, despite keeping me from my reading. Well I got up and wished him a good day when I went to transfer to my train. He apologized for disturbing me. The express was there so I jumped on it. I was seated and just before the door closed he ran in. He didn't come and sit next to me. So I kept reading (maybe about 4 pages have been read at this point). The rest of the ride was pretty quick because I was on the express train. I took it to the last stop to catch the local. He looked like he was going to walk upstairs and low and behold he stopped.

He comes right over to me and says we are going in the same direction...if I was going past such and such neighborhood. Now I wasn't afraid. What could this man physically do to me with the exception of hitting me with his cane. I just didn't want to deal with any crazy people or get stuck up (if he was part of a team).

Well he got preoccupied by a man taping a rat eat a French fry with his cell phone. I eased on up and took a dollar van. Now if I didn't have that expensive piece of jewelry I might've waited for the train.

If you talk to them they will stalk you. I never was happier to see a New York City rat! Peace.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Women In Science

Women in Science: The Battle Moves to the Trenches

I was on the New York Times website a few minutes ago. The article above was obviously of interest to me. My girlfriend is taking up a degree in Conservation Biology, I love science (not to the same level she does--but I did receive an award at my high school graduation for my exploits in A.P. Biology and overall science skills), and it provided an opportunity for me to educate myself.

This article sounded vaguely similar to a discussion we had on our email chain about African-American lawyers. Sometimes when people think of Affirmative Action they forget that women have benifited as much from the legislation as traditional minority groups (blacks, hispanics, etc.) This is not a knock on Affirmative Action or a resounding plea for the legislation to stay in place. However, it is the recognization that people generally forget about how women benefited from the legislation despite the fact that most people view it in terms of race.

That aside I found the article informative.

"Since the 1970s, women have surged into science and engineering classes in larger and larger numbers, even at top-tier institutions like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where half the undergraduate science majors and more than a third of the engineering students are women. Half of the nation’s medical students are women, and for decades the numbers have been rising similarly in disciplines like biology and mathematics."

I found this extremely encouraging.

"Yet studies show that women in science still routinely receive less research support than their male colleagues, and they have not reached the top academic ranks in numbers anything like their growing presence would suggest.

For example, at top-tier institutions only about 15 percent of full professors in social, behavioral or life sciences are women, “and these are the only fields in science and engineering where the proportion of women reaches into the double digits,” an expert panel convened by the National Academy of Sciences reported in September. And at each step on the academic ladder, more women than men leave science and engineering."

This is a trend that I hope some day can be reversed. I know that this is a male-dominated society. I found this result extremely troubling with the amount of women in science degree programs. Some of my best science professors have been women. I think they deserve their fair chance. I believe they will get there, because for the most part women are resilient. Each step that they climb is worthy of celebration, but until they get to the top they will not be satisfied. If you know me I say men are sprinters, women are distance athletes. Genetically they are built to outlast (see any figure on male/female death statistics). They play such an important role in our society not only as caretakers but as politicians, lawyers, doctors, academics, etc. I hope like any group that all the hard work and activism pays off, if not for our generation, for the future...

At the end of her talk, Dr. Steitz displayed a chart showing rises in the proportion of women in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology faculty. There were few until the passage of civil rights legislation 40 years ago, when the numbers jumped a bit and then leveled off, she said. The numbers jumped again in the late 1990s after a report criticized the institute’s hiring and promotion practices as they related to women.

“We now have another plateau,” Dr. Steitz said, “and it’s my fervent hope that Larry Summers, God bless him, and the report that’s just come out will have this kind of impact.”

Ms. Imoukhouede hopes so, too. She said she was encouraged by the National Academy study — “that it could be done, and that it was taken seriously, that people would be willing to listen to women bringing up these issues.”

Meanwhile, though, she added, “I try to spend less time thinking about these perceptions and more time on my research.”

I included this last paragraph for encouragement. I am a male, a black male, and I think our country would benefit from women reaching the pinnacle of all fields--science included. While I would hardly call myself a feminist, I am a realist and I believe everyone deserves a fair opportunity to follow their dreams--as a society we must do what we can to make sure that they can. So I guess I'm not a feminist and I'm not 100% in support of Affirmative Action--but if it gets more qualified female applicants in traditionally male-dominated arenas--I'm all for it (at least while its purpose hasn't been outlived).

The future's so bright I have to wear shades!
Cyber Addiction

I know that it has been awhile since I've posted. You should be scared because I will have to make up for my lack of attention to my blog. Perhaps I have lost some of the 84 people that have viewed my blog in its short inception. I promise you bigger and better posts for 2007--(don't I sound political)?

I read this very interesting article on BusinessWeek's website this morning--titled 'Virtually Addicted.' I'll give you a short synopsis of the article:

There was a certain vet of the Vietnam War whom claims he suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He'd been employed at IBM for 19 years. He was sacked as a result of a stool-pigeon that noticed his use of sexual language in an explicit chat room during office hours. IBM has basically a strict zero-tolerance policy on Internet usage. As a result, he was fired. The former employee then sued IBM stating that he had an Internet addiction.

The whole case sounded pretty cut and dry, meritless. Well that is until you delve deeper into the article. There are some experts that claim Internet addiction is a valid mental illness comparable to alcohol/narcotics addiction. In China they offer a 2 week rehabilitation for Internet addicts where you are treated for the illness.

The implication of this case stretches further than a pervert getting his rocks off. Instead it could force many insurance companies/business to alter their human resource policies to include dealing with such an issue.

At my company we don't have a zero tolerance policy. You will get a warning, and as some proponents in the article mention there is a progression of steps before you'd be fired. I still think the suit is meritless. Would you forgive a cigarette smoker for taking 20 breaks a day? Of course not. Productivity is the key. Someone that surfs the Internet can not maximize productivity or even come close to it. Manage your addiction during lunch time or during breaks--and be smart enough not to look at graphic content or type it where someone else can see it--or where it can be easily detected. This is coming from an MIS guy who really doesn't care what you do, as long as you don't compromise my network. HR obviously has other issues. And for the love of god don't have sticky keys either!

Virtually Addicted

Monday, December 04, 2006

Share With the Masses

A friend of mine that visited my blog for the first time had some interesting comments. I'm going to refer to her as KB as in Knowledge Base because of her interesting insights and because it's a play on her initials:

1. "What defines you can also destroy you."

So true

What a challenging task, to write every day. I remember in my art program that I was required to sketch every day. Sometimes I just did not feel like sketching! It's hard, I think, to make art "on cue." An artist's ideas usually come like lightning -- you never know when they are going to strike or how intense the effects will be. Like you said, an idea grips you, literally haunts you, until you unleash it. That is the intuitive power of art/artists, but I suppose one must practice to harness that power. Most of an artist's life is exercise -- until those flashes of wisdom and talent come together to make a masterpiece. Writing (painting, drawing, photographing, dancing, singing, what have you) every day is a lot like an athlete's workout or a prize fighter's drills -- you are indeed working those artistic muscles to unleash the best blow possible.

Keep it up -- from what I can tell, you do have a gift.