The Questions

Look out... this is my second post in one day? Obviously lots is on the mind. I wanted to learn more about you, the reader... so here are some questions for you. Even if you don't want to comment... think about them!

1) What are 3 things that you're better at than the average person?

writing, playing basketball and baseball, and understanding people (and eating).

2) What's one thing you would be considered a professional at?

eating sunflower seeds and teaching public speaking.

3) What's 1 thing you wish you would spend more time getting better at?

running, knitting, cooking, singing, getting to know people on a deeper level.

Funky Fresh May

People that spend a lot of time with me know that I am constantly jabbering about wanting to do this or how cool it would be to try that. Some people may even think I'm being insincere (since I don't follow through the majority of the time) but that's just the way I am. I love thinking about possibilities and pushing the limits. So here is a crazy idea I expressed to a few dearests and they got really excited about it. You might want to sit down for this......

From May 1st until May 31st I am going to attempt to only consume food that I cook with my own hands. That means no eating out for breakfast, lunch or dinner (or Weiner Circle late night!). It also means no chips, fries, wings, SUNFLOWER SEEDS! or other delicious snack foods in between. Basically I am going to allow myself to eat only home cooked meals mostly comprised of fresh (and canned) vegetables and fruit. Of course things like eggs and bread will be allowed. I'm thinking for snacks and the such, I'm going to take cut veggies and granola or oatmeal.

As a celebration before Funky Fresh May I indulged quite a bit today. My stomach is currently the proud owner of a Pollo Vagabundo chicken fajita burrito and a delicious al pastor torta for dinner (not to mention both are joyously swimming in all sorts of salsa and guacamole).

If you have easy recipes you would like to share, I would love the advice. I'm definitely going to constantly be referring to Anu and Cooking Light. I'll keep you all updated as much as possible on how the experiment is going! Whoooooooo!

Moment of Truth

Do not blame Heaven
And do no
t blame earth
For your loneliness.
You are
traveling the ways of loneliness
Because your mind has no
t tried to conquer
The darkness of frustration-frown.

Lately I've been in some kind of funk. How does one rid of a funk? Well baseball players take extra batting practice and politicians probably practice their speeches just a little more and famous people date other famous people. Well my immediate reaction has been to branch out. To go out as much as possible and surround myself with new things, experience new things. But I've been missing one important thing... myself.

The three months or so since I've been in Chicago, I think there have been visitors in town every weekend except two or three (not that I'm that cool, lots of them have been in town for conferences and the such – not to see me). So most Mondays have been filled with some sort of human withdrawal and then coming home to an empty apartment doesn't help that situation. So I've focused a lot on redefining myself. I've gotten into fashion a lot more (changing my kick's laces to match my shirt color and plaid shirts cuffed over a long sleeve sweater... LOOK OUT!) and I've gone out by myself quite a few times, which is something I never thought I would do. So that's all been great but none that have given me the feeling I'm looking for.... what's this feeling you ask? Well I've gotten “the feeling” a few choice times since I've been out here. The other day when I was playing tennis with Ritz I got it. I was freewheelin', talking trash, and diving all over the court. I got the feeling when I had people over for dinner and we stayed in for the night and just chatted and I get the feeling every time I cook. It's all the times I felt like myself.

Living in the place my entire life, I think I really became dependent on other people making me feel like myself, like food for my soul. Part of the reason I wanted to move was that I felt stagnant. I didn't feel dynamic or evolvable (see I just made up that word) anymore. In that sense the move has been incredible but somewhere along the way I got ahead of myself. I think we spend so much time focusing on the gigantic world around us that we forget the feeling we get from looking inward.

It's definitely still strange to spend so much of my time alone and to spend so much time thinking but honestly I think the funk has been the result of me fighting myself. The other Sunday I walked out my front door and onto the street. At that moment I realized that I could do anything I wanted. I could swim in the lake if I wanted to or go buy an ice cream or drink at a bar. I was super overwhelmed. Then I let that idea marinate in my head for a while and the overwhelming-ness (another made up word) turned into a feeling of empowerment. I'm in a situation that few people find themselves in and that's crazy exciting. So instead of being overwhelmed by the world around me, I'm going to take a deep breath, shake out my hands and turn to the one thing that I almost forgot about but has been with my since the beginning... myself.

Jimmy V's Legacy

With all the tragedy going on in the states and around the world I thought I would post something short and uplifting. As a public speaking lecturer and as a human being, this is one of the best speeches I've ever heard. The transitions are seamless, he hits all human emotion, gives you actionable advice and ends strong. It's about 10 minutes long but the entire thing is worthwhile. If you have time please watch the entire thing because the end is unbelievable. "Laugh.....think..... and have your emotions moved to tears."

Room with a View

In our everyday lives we find ourselves looking out of windows all the time. When you look out of these windows what do you see? You might see birds flying freely or you might notice people walking. But perhaps what’s more interesting is not what’s outside the window but rather the influence of that which is inside the window.

At a time where I could not find my way (professionally), I went and spoke to my adviser and his advice is still marinating my mind. I basically came to him and asked what I should do to make myself sexier to potential companies and future business. I asked if I should be taking more technical engineering classes or if I should be taking more fuzzy design classes. He basically said in his perpetual joking manner, that it didn’t really matter what I took. The most important thing was to learn how to understand the folks that actually excel in those fields. Basically if I took an engineering class, marinate on what an engineer’s experience is like and the same for management classes or art classes. Empathy is one of the keys to success.

So earlier today, I bet at some point you started out some window. Jerome Bruhner (author of “Acts of Meaning”) talked at length about how every individual interprets and interacts with the world around them through a personalized view. Our eyes allow us to see things but it’s our experience and environment that creates the windows in which each of us views the world. Perhaps that sounds obvious but when you start thinking about the implications of such subjective viewpoints, things begin to make a whole lot more sense.

Imagine a blank piece of paper in your head. Now think of a group you’re a part of…. It could be a club or a cultural group. Draw a circle somewhere on that page to represent that group. That circle encompasses all that the group considers to be truth. Could be truth about the meaning of life or something as simple as shooting a gun can result in danger. Experience within some group could lead to both ideals. Now think of another group you’re a part of. Maybe your family or your college. These circles encompass the appropriate ideals as well. So why am I having you draw? Well each one of us, stands at the middle of these circles. These concentric circles represent the very grain with which we are made. Our actions, reactions, opinions and ideals can all be traced back to events, experiences and the history we’ve had in these cultures of our lives. For example I stand at the middle of San Ramon, Stanford, Konkani and now Chicago culture. Contradictions in ideals and morals could emerge but standing in the middle, we make decisions about what our view will be like (whether we do this consciously or now).

Immigrant parents are a great example of this idea. My parents for example still hold onto ideals that they experienced when they were young folks living in India. India doesn’t even hold these ideals anymore but those circles have stayed unchanged since my parents have been in the states for so long. They stand in the middle of some circles that don’t even exist anymore but the power of those views are still long-lasting.

Now think about the actions of world leaders. If they took more time to think about one another’s concentric circles, how different would the world be? Get microscopic on it and think about our everyday lives. When your car gets broken into, you could say, “How could people do this?” or you could realize that society has created an unfair system and as a result some people in urban areas have a very different set of circles and basic needs than those in the suburbs.

But yet the beauty of the circles is that they are truly dynamic. In college, I constantly had discussions with my hardcore Catholic buddy. His argument against all other world religions was that Catholicism was the only pure path to truth. Maybe it is, but I also know that he’s a guy whose life contains an extremely large Catholic circle. He views the world through these Catholic ideals and there is nothing wrong with that. The problem emerges when these windows becomes blind to the circles of the people around them.

My argument to him was always that truth is the residue of information mining. The way Forty Niners used to sift through California river beds, truth is found when we sift through the information around us.

Many world spiritual leaders understood the idea of these circles well before Bruhner. Swami Vivekananda once spoke at the World Fair (which was ironically in Chicago!). Now I’m not even going to pretend to be well read on him but I thought this speech was phenomenal. His message was that man viewed religion as an ocean. An ocean that could not be shared among groups and an ocean that certain people had rights to, while others just didn’t understand. (wait for it… here comes the circles!). Religion, he said, in actuality was not an ocean. Religions were merely rivers that joined into the same ocean. Call that ocean truth or love or whatever you want, that’s a pretty powerful thought.

I think that ideal extends beyond religion though. We all have similar desires and goals. Maybe they have different forms and we go about getting them differently but when they’re stripped to their base fundamentals, we’re all very similar. At one point, Gandhiji wanted to spread the idea that “God is truth” only later to decide that “Truth is God.”

We all stand in the middle of many circles. It’s who we are… it’s why we act the way we do. Every action stems from previous feelings and experiences and what we believe to be the way the world works. Why limit ourselves to these circles? I would like to believe that we’re much more dynamic than that. So when you’re looking out your window tonight, realize that although the view is nice, you’re only in a duplex. If only we actively put ourselves in the circles of the people around us… we could together enjoy the view from the penthouse of Trump Towers.

12 not 21

Over the last two years or so, a lot of my friends have been really focused on getting older. They have started staying in a lot more and refuse to go out during the work week. I've been fighting the good fight against these evil thoughts. 21, is what I think. Live like you're 21. So I've been going out a lot and raging late into the night and having a damn good time but I realize something... the 21 year old lifestyle will always be there. Late night spots are always open and people will always frequent bars and clubs. It's not 21 that I need to focus on, it's 12.

How fun are those days when you do something super silly like play whiffle ball or play an old board game? You know the purest forms of entertainment. No expectations and no end in sight. Just enjoying the activity itself. So here are some things I have done in the past and things I have planned to feel 12 again.

BOXing - Rones and I used to put cardboard boxes on our heads and run into each other. People thought we were crazy but we would laugh like school girls.

RAZR Speedway
- Someone on our hall in our dorm had one of those crazy Razr scooters. We would put up obstacles and ramps and time ourselves through the course.

Friday Recess
- Oh yeah! I sent out an email at work AND people are all fired up about having recess on Fridays for lunch. Brown bag lunches and then switching between kickball, dodgeball, whiffle ball and maybe some ultimate frisbee. I cannot wait for this Friday lunch!

Nintendo Wii
- Buying a Wii has given me that young VLove feeling sooooo many times now. I get so lost in the games and it's one of the greatest escapes in a long, long time.

Crazy Dance Party - Rones and I used to throw on dope beats late at night and battle one another with crazy dance moves. Today, Jandro, Vito and basically everyone I chill with is down for a crazy dance challenge anytime, anyplace.

- Residents of the former Casa de VAT will go outside with a checker board from
time to time and sign that reads, "CONNECT FOUR - 25 CENTS/GAME" and play any challengers from the street.

- Hegyi is my favorite opponent in this game. Every time we did Flaco's, we would try to weird one another out. Whether it be with weird looks or standing in each other personal space, we were laughing the entire time.

You got anymore ideas? Send 'em my way homey! Oh and check out the Poppin' and Lockin' Marionette at the Small World Project.

I think one of the greatest feelings is making someone you don't know or someone that seems uptight feel comfortable enough to be goofy. Why don't we do this more? The beauty of kids to me is the ability to find the goofiness in every situation. A toilet paper roll becomes a ball to throw, a cup of water becomes a water fight, a piece of paper is a football, two sticks become swords, and no matter what we can escape and marinate in those few hilarious moments.