The Sound of Silence

The other day I went for a run and I didn’t warm up. Four miles into a 4.5 mile run I got a sharp pain in my calf. Womp womp. Injury.

Now I get to sit around and wait while my mind goes off the rails:

Will I ever get better? Did I do permanent damage?  Should ice? Should I heat? Should I take more fish oil? How long should I sit here? Should I roll out? Should I do more internet research? Should i start walking with 20 pounds of books in my bag? C

And that is just the first 10 seconds.

At least while I am waiting I have a lot of information. Besides the internet, there is my body. I can put weight on my foot, check in with my calf, walk around wiggle my foot, go upstairs, go down stairs. I can check in and get a sense of where I am. That little bit of information alleviates a lot of anxiety.

Waiting without information is the worst.  

Over the last year I and a couple of friends have been applying for jobs. We are all applying for jobs with progressive organizations. While we are a group of committed true believers, we are also professionals who polish up our CVs and attack writing and strategy tests with gusto. We show up to interviews with the same passion we would show up to work, we spend hours on strategy documents, and we take the whole thing seriously.

And what we get in return… silence.

Of course applying for any job requires some patience as you wait to hear if you made it through the first round, and then the second. There is disappointment when you hear you didn’t get the job. There is reevaluation of your skills. There sometimes self-doubt. There are questions about the hiring practices and integrity of the organization. Add to this the anxiety of not having enough make ends meet, and applying for any job can be a rough experience. 

Now add to this mix radio silence from the organization you apply to work with. Whoooo. It is rough.

Over the last year I’ve withdrawn my application from two organizations, a friend of mine just did the same, when the hiring process was just so bad (we are both lucky to have enough consulting work to live off of). A part of what the process bad was getting to the third and fourth round and just not hearing anything from the organization.

How you treat not only your employees, but also your applicants, your interns, and your volunteers shows a lot about your organization. It isn’t just about finding the right fit for you, it is about making sure the people in your sphere don’t feel unnecessarily bad about your organization. How awesome would it be if you interviewed 10 people and told nine of them you weren’t hiring them, and all they could say about the organization is that it is awesome? 

C’mon progressive organizations you can do better.

 

 

 

 

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You Wont Die!

#brooklynhalf

Just over a week ago I ran my first half-marathon: the BK Half.

It was awesome, easy, and terrible. I had wanted to simply finish the damn thing under 2 hours.  I ended up with a 1:45:43 finish. In my last four miles I got my fastest 5k for the year and one sub 7-minute mile. WTF!?

This result got me thinking about working out in a way I haven’t in a long time.

Prior to moving back to Brooklyn two years ago I lived in Miami for seven years. When I first moved to Miami in June of 2005 I was training for the Dublin Marathon. It would have been my first marathon. But I got injured a few weeks before the race. The injury put me off of distance running and racing.

Through some twists and turns I eventually helped start Crossfit 305* just before the boom of the fitness-as-sport boom. I stopped running unless a workout called for it, and I still got faster with my best mile at 5:30 and my best 5k at 21:30.

Even though I haven’t done CrossFit workouts on the regular in over two years my success in the BK Half reminded me of a couple of lessons from those workouts.

Lesson 1 – Workouts are hard 
When training for the BK Half I ran, on average, 2 days a week. One of these runs was with my friend Sean. We ran longer (no more than 7 8 miles) and talked the whole way. It was an easy run. This was not a workout in my mind. It was a run with a friend, it was social, it was getting in some miles, it was being outside. I never left these runs feeling particularly taxed.

The other run I did during the week was either hill sprints or what you could call short tempo runs (no more than 5k). The tempo runs were not meant to be tempo runs (I didn’t even know what a tempo run was). When I run alone I have a hard time taking it slow so I run fast (for me). Sometimes I barely hold on to a pace. I thought I was just working out, but I was really doing speed training. Without my CrossFit background I might have just cruised through these runs, but instead I ended up doing speed work, and that helped me in the BK Half.

Lesson 2 – I wont die
CrossFit taught me that my workout may be so hard metabolically that my body wants to give up. The physical challenge often translated into emotional and mental triggers – I often felt that I was going to literally die. My rational brain would kick in and tell me I wasn’t going to die BUT I should stop because any number of reasons. Thee peer pressure of group CrossFit workouts prevented me from stopping (unless I was injured).

Learning to pushing through the severe physical, emotional and mental stress of intense workouts created a mental toughness that was essential for me in the last quarter of the BK Half. My last mile was pure suffering, I had nothing left. I was running not on top of the concrete road but through it. The last 800 meters felt worse than the 12.6 miles before it. I felt like I was going to die. I didn’t. But I did crush my own expectations.

Mental toughness is often talked about in sports and fitness literature. Just like the physical side of competition you have to train for it.

In the last year I have fallen off of doing regular fitness workouts (I climb three days a week, these are more skills based workouts). These lessons, that are ingrained in my,  allowed me to do way better than I thought I could. It’s gotten me thinking about what could happen if I start applying them more methodically (as I did when I did CrossFit) to my running. Maybe this blog will see a resurrection along with my interest in getting better at running. Maybe I will do better than 4888 place in my next half marathon.

 

*I generally have a good opinion of CrossFit as a fitness methodology. I have a lot of problems with how it is implemented. The CrossFit culture negatively impacts the implementation of the methodology and leads to unnecessary injuries.

 

 

 

 

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Race Autopsy: Brooklyn Half Marathon 2014

From my buddy Sean. My post-race report and thoughts will come soon.

Milo and the Calf

Unless you’re a pro runner with some writing chops, who runs in exotic locales against the best runners in the world, like Dakota Jones, or Sabrina Moran, odds are your race report is tedious and uninteresting to just about everyone but you. Your mom may say she enjoyed reading it, but she’s lying.

Still, race reports serve a purpose. By setting down the details of what happened, we can assess what went right, and what went wrong.  We can learn, and hopefully, we can improve. This is of little consolation to the reader (who should probably just stop here), but it can be of help to the writer.

And so, here’s my dull, boring, and not very good race report for the Brooklyn Half Marathon.

In a nutshell, it wasn’t a bad race, but it wasn’t a great one, either.  I’d trained as best I could given a…

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Stop the Madness – Forays into NCAA brackets

Image

It’s March 20th at 9:55 AM. I am finishing my coffee. I should be setting up my desk in my Brooklyn living room and get to work.

But my computer pings. Sean says “ When are you going to do a bracket?”

You know a bracket, for March Madness, for college basketball.

Growing up I read D & D books while listening to metal on my Walkman; I went to LARPing summer camp; I played flute in school band; I had a mullet. Not super sporty. 

Beyond that my father thought team sports brought out the mob mentality, especially in little boys. My mom was not athletic, and supported me in whatever I wanted to do, except play football (too dangerous and macho) or join the boy scouts (too conformist and militaristic).

Regardless I played in the police activity league: t-ball and basketball. My nerd status was cemented when I excelled at and pursued fencing through the local recreation center. 

 So when Sean asked if I would do a bracket I easily said no. I’m just not interested.

He goaded me. 

For someone who says you’re interested in narrative and culture it really doesn’t seem like it. Sports and politics are the only stories where no one knows who the winner will be. This will be the most important weekend of hundreds of young men’s lives, and millions of people will be paying attention. Also it is about statistics, predictions, and ultimately exploitation. But if you just want to hang out with all the White people in Brooklyn drinking your pour over micro-batch roasted coffee with your beard and tattoos, then that’s cool.

I now have a bracket. Let the madness begin.

 

PS
Filling out the bracket on ESPN.com was actually fun. It made me want to do a bunch of research on the teams, as well as the top players, and find out more about their lives. It also made me want to do different brackets based on different criteria (geography, cost of tuition, academic rating, sexual assaults on campus, etc). This is the other reason I didn’t want a bracket, i have too many other distractions in my life. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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F*ck St. Patrick’s Day

D-Bag

There, I said it.

All you d-bags who throw on a shiny green plastic bowler and drink beer and whiskey to celebrate “Irish-ness” are… d-bags.

Go learn about the long history of struggling against invasion and then colonialism (which still isn’t over). Go learn about the likes of Bobby Sands, Bernadette Devlin McAliskey, James Connolly, Anna and Fanny Parnell. Go learn about how language, arts, and sports were all a part of a culture of resistance and assertion.

Go learn about the solidarity between the popular civil rights movements in the north of Ireland and how they drew inspiration from Civil Rights Movements in the U.S. Go learn about how Daniel O’Connel inspired Frederick Douglas. Learn about the Famine and the Coffin Ships.

 

And don’t forget to the learn about the Magdalene Laundries, the Industrial Schools, the backwardness of Catholic nationalism, the Draft Riots

Don’t forget how St. Patrick’s Day Parade’s still excludes GLBTQ people from marching under our own banner.

Go learn about the hope and the beauty, the despair and ugliness. Go try to understand the complexity of what it means to be Irish. 

And then the next person you see wearing a shiny green plastic bowler…

punch them in the face.

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This Bud’s for You, Soldier

Guest Post: I asked my friend and Iraq War Marine Veteran Matt Howard what he thought of Budweiser’s “A Heroes Welcome I Super Bowl Ad.”  Here is what he wrote:

I have an admission to make: I didn’t watch the Super Bowl this year, and the commercials. My veteran friend’s barely hid their disgust when they told me I had to see the Budweiser ad. So I pulled it up on Youtube:

I got misty eyed when the real life retuning soldier Lt. Chuck Nadd gets a small town ticker tape parade and hugs his mom; most people would (and that’s the point).

Then another strong emotion hit me: I wanted to throw my lap top across the room and stomp on it.

Don’t get me wrong, Lt. Chuck Nadd deserves his hometown’s respect, just as every returning veteran does. But let’s be clear, this ad was all about using our troops’ image to fuel beer sales.

Here’s my idea for a Bud ad:

A veteran returns home from their 4th deployment to Afghanistan with little fanfare and heads to the base hospital to refill his/her prescription for anti-anxiety meds to get some relief from their PTSD. As they get to their empty house they crack open an ice cold Bud…and wash it down with another 15 beers to help them reach an imperfect sleep. God knows the drinking helps with the nightmares.

Cut to the Budweiser logo and hashtag #SaluteAHero.

This ad would at least  spark a necessary conversation and truly honor and support our returning veterans by posing tough questions.

The problem with Budweiser’s ad is that the homecoming they showcase erases the not-so-easy-to-market stories of veterans (2.5 million from Iraq and Afghanistan) returning home to high rates of suicide, domestic violence, addiction and alcoholism. It erases the fact that we don’t have big celebrations each time a service member returns from a deployment because there are far too many of them.  Homecomings imply some sort of finality, that there won’t be anymore war and trauma to contend with. In an age of endless warfare the truth, unfortunately, is far from this.

Nearly a third of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans treated at the VA are diagnosed with PTSD (a statistic likely skewed low since less than half of returning vets use the VA) and a third of women vets who have served have experienced military sexual trauma (MST).

Every veteran deserves acknowledgement from their community to begin a process of healing. But in an era of multiple deployments for many service members how enthusiastic will Lt. Nadd’s hometown be after his fourth homecoming?  How about his 10th? At that point maybe they would question why we were there in the first place.

Army Ranger Cory Remsburg honored last week at the State of the Union address had deployed 10 times to combat zones and barely made it out alive. Others won’t make it back.

When service members do return, their homecoming to a “normal” life often isn’t the fairy tale Budweiser painted, and that’s important. How we grapple with the effects of these wars, and the reasons we engaged in them, will determine our likelihood for putting young people in the same situation the next time.

Matt Howard served in the Marine Corps as a helicopter mechanic from 2001-2006 and deployed to Iraq twice. Originally from Portland, Oregon he now lives in Brooklyn and works with Iraq Veterans Against the War as the Communications Director.

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I want to live in Coke’s America!

coke ad

The cliche goes something like this – I watch the Super Bowl for the ads.

This year my nerdy-self  watched the Super Bowl to see if Richard Sherman would drop some good trash talking, draw the ire of the internets and television commentators and make pointed observations about race, as he is known to do.

But Richard got injured, and the ads, well they taught me something.

Some racists (uh oh I’m playing the racist card) are pissed off about Coca-Cola’s ad in which “America the Beautiful” was sung in multiple languages by people of different ethnicities, races, and religions. The ad also featured two dads roller skating with their presumed daughter (according to GLAAD, the first Super Bowl ad to feature a “gay” family).

The twitterverse lit up with xenophobic comments, typical crap like “You can’t sing an American song in another language.”

Really?

Coke just proved you wrong, d-bag.

Let’s ignore the fact that Coke is contributing to the declining health of everyone who drinks it, and the less than stellar labor practices. Let’s just look at the cultural significance of this ad.

Ads are a great example of story telling.  Companies aim to press emotional buttons and get people buy the things they sell. Companies need to hit the right emotional tone with their presumed consumer base, therefore ads can be an interesting barometer of what is compelling, emotionally, to sections of the public. Super Bowl ads are… well… the Super Bowl of ads. generally speaking over one hundred million people tune in to watch the event, and marketers spend on average $4 million for a 30 second spot.

I got these numbers from a quick interweb search, Coke’s highly paid ad team have all the breakdown based on insane research AND they decided to show a multi-ethnic America. This is not a melting-pot image of miscegenation nation, this is “America” defined by difference. The commonality expressed in the ad is the concept of America, America made beautiful by difference (and Coke). Coke basically said, hey all you jerks out there who want to build a boarder fence, who want to deport anyone who is not white, who want to stop queers from getting married, we don’t care if you buy Coke or not. In fact, Coke said, we care more about those who oppose you, we want them to buy Coke.

It could be argued that Coke is pushing the edge and making a political/cultural stand, but that would fly in the face of Cokes recent history with racist marketing.

This ad could be seen as an indication of the power of the immigrant rights movement, and the GLBT anti-discrimination movement. The company is not only marketing to particular consumers, they are marketing to an America it believes will be emotionally inspired to buy its product because of the image it reflects to that America.

I want to live in Coca Cola’s America, without all of the obesity, tooth decay, and corporate power, of course.

PS
And they are smart, so making an ad that draws controversy equals a ton more free advertising. 

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