The Critical Eye

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

True meaning of Christmas

My daughter was born in a Boston snowstorm, a few days before Christmas. As inches and inches of snow fell, we had been pushing for close to fifteen hours and she still would not budge. That was over 13 years ago and I can remember every minute, every latent contraction, every hard hand squeeze that woke me out of an exhausted slumber. It is the most vivid memory I have of any experience. Somewhat surreal now, it felt like slow motion back then. So for me, Christmas takes on a whole different tone as we celebrate several birthdays back to back. This year, a had a nephew graduate from college, daughter's birthday and the impending birthday of my biggest star, Jesus. Yet that's not what we keep seeing on television. The retailers have us believing that Christmas is about gift giving. At the office a sheet goes around asking people to sign up for Secret Santa and the amount is $25.00. This is for you to draw a name out of a bag so you can buy a gift for someone you probably do not appreciate. What's most interesting is that in this current economy, folks are still willing to buy into the largesse of retail rhetoric and spend money on things that will be discarded in two weeks. I got signed up for two Secret Santa's and that is already $50.00. None of the people I drew from the pot have $25.00 relationships with me. Consumerism is so easy to stoke, the constant reminders of what we need, what we must have and how they will make great gifts. We are being programmed and are willing accomplices in programming our children. The biggest gift we give our offspring is the imprinted memories of spending money to bring smiles on Christmas morning by tearing through wrapping paper. Tiny tots like little robots screaming and shouting about the very toy they will forget about tomorrow. I have to admit, I love getting stuff, I still have that little kid in me, but I am a big kid now. I love electronic toys but have realized that they become obsolete as soon as I walk out the store. The financially astute will tell you that you should budget for Christmas, put something away each month to ensure that you can line the pockets of Macy's, Kohl's, Best Buy, Target or Walmart. Don't forget the good cheer and spreading of good will. Apparently goodwill is most experienced when you spend your money on things that won't last. Not being a Grinch or anything, but growing up seems to make you focus on the things that are most important. Relationships, friendships, family. So this year I am giving gifts of my time, I don't have much of that left. In fact, in my world, it's probably the most precious thing I can give anyone. This is not a prideful stance nor is it cocky, it's the truth. My time is the most important gift I have. My daughter asks for nothing else but my time and so does my wife. I am realizing that there's really nothing more precious as your days ebb. That how you spend every waking moment is a clear indication of what you hold important.So some time in church will be critical, some food and merriment with family and of course quality time with my girls. I long ago recognized Jesus as the reason for the season. I have added to this understanding, when I am long dead and gone, folks won't remember the tie or sweater I gave them. They won't reminisce about the Sade CD or toolbox I bout Christmas of '97. hat They won't recall what the card said three years ago or whether I ever wore that scarf they gifted me. No, what they will remember are the times we spent together, good or bad. The things that were said and the environment and conditions they were said under. So for now I seek to create the environment and conditions for a great Christmas and none of those involves standing in long lines at so called 70% sales that seem to go on all year buying gifts that will end up being returned or placed on the -"How could they buy that?"- for me pile.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Allergic to Peanuts

It was Thanksgiving recently, and in America we all took in the chance to thank God for small mercies. My diligent work on a decadent German Chocolate cake -I have to admit-surprised even me. As we sat around the dinner table, the topic of food allergies came up. As it turns out, my niece -who has a severe allergy to peanuts- was determined to taste the cake, which has pecans in it. So as the topic of slamming an injection in her chest went on, we diverted to the prevalence of peanut allergies amongst kids. In my daughter's school, parents have been advised not to send their children to school with any peanut products. We are raising children who have severe allergies to peanuts. Where did this come from? Why now? It's becoming normal to see food labels that indicate - made with machinery used to process food with nuts. What is alarming is that there seems to be very little root information as to a cause. So for my own curiosity I did a little research and found some things that were interesting. WebMD reports: "One theory for the rise, the hygiene hypothesis, holds that “we’ve become very good at preventing natural infections, and the immune system is not chewing on things it would normally be chewing on,” Sicherer tells WebMD. “We’re not living on farms anymore, we have lots of antibiotics, but seeing an increase means that something has changed in the environment.” The theory suggests that “clean living” and more medication use leaves immune systems in a condition that is more prone to attack harmless proteins, such as those in foods, pollens, and animal dander. The increase also could be related, he says, to the way peanuts are processed. “We roast peanuts, and potentially, roasting it makes a more allergenic food out of it,” he says. “Some people theorize that the oil in peanut butter might make it more allergenic. Roasting peanuts changes the sugar and makes the protein more stable to digestion and easier for the immune system to attack." Things that we have introduced or removed from our food ecosystems are now becoming dangerous to us. Life as it would appear, is a continuously evolving event. Organisms, cells, bacteria, mutate, adapt and change. Our bodies are in a constantly changing state as they were built to adapt to changes in the environment. These changes can be positive or negative and allergies are an example of a positive reaction turning negative. What is ultimately clear is that we need to start being more conscious of what we put in our bodies and the possible long term effects of improper diet. Films such as, 'Food Inc' and 'Forks over Knives' provide invaluable information about why we need to become vigilant about our diet. Sadly, our very own government is not as adamant in this fight as big commerce rides on the shoulders of all the additives and rubbish that we find in food today. So unfortunately, Epipens will become as much a part of our culture as diapers.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Made of Gold

So today while picking up my medicine from my neighborhood pharmacist, he tells me that my name means "Made of Gold" in Hindi. Never heard that one before and it caused me to pause. "Made of Gold," boy have I not felt anywhere near to that in years. Always special, just never "Made of Gold". The Sesame street song come to mind, "Who are the people in your neighborhood?" Well my pharmacist's a person in my neighborhood, and he made me feel good, feel special.

Now, I know what my name means in Lunda and I'm not sure if what he says is true (I will be checking), however he had no other reason to say it except we are almost on first name basis. Sad to say I have needed prescription medication for so long that I developed a relationship with the Pharmacist, but the fact that his words got me on a day like today is a blessing. I am learning that there is critical value in positive engagement.

Today I purposed myself to have lunch with a friend that I have treated like an acquaintance for years. We have always spoken about getting together and a few days ago I asked him to break bread with me, and so we sat in Pei Wei and made friendly conversation. It made me realize that my walk has been a lonely one, void of true connection and remembrance of the special things about me. I have been told by many just how they appreciate me and yet I still suffer from the pangs of loneliness that have been fueled by a life of unappreciated achievement.

Yet when the Indian Pharmacist told me "Made of Gold," my mind connected. Yes, I am. I need to remember that.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Walk don't Run

Sometimes we find ourselves in the places where our journey is limited by space, narrow paths, traffic and natural obstacles. Trying to navigate our way through these times while at full tilt is not only dangerous, but a sure way to get injured. There are those of us, driven by adrenaline, endorphin addicted, who see no fun in the slow process required for safe passage. No, we would rather charge forth, testing our mettle, our thinking ability, our reflexes against the very sharp edged obstacles in our way. The journey is not thrilling if not for the constant ducking and turning.

Yet, what good, is running if you never walk? The knowledge that being safe and not having hurt yourself in your navigation, must always outweigh the urge to run, the desire to hasten through. For that love for the unnecessary bumps, bruises and cuts that leave lingering marks is a dysfunction. It can't be normal, to want to hurt oneself on the journey. The scars remain, calloused and deeply etched, having changed perhaps the very nature of our gait.

In my own life, as I meander through, I have done a lot of running. Sometimes blindly through prickly thorns, ending up with ripped clothes, bloody cuts and painful memories. So somewhere in this journey, I have gained the resolve to walk and not run.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Technology Freak

So my boss walks in the other day and says, "I bought you a Blackberry Playbook," and gives me this little device that's prancing around as a miniature IPAD. So standing there I can't say I was not pleased and yet something in the back of my mind says, "What the heck are you up to?" I mean this is corporate America and quite frankly, there's nothing for nothing. Now the little boy in me is doing loops because I have been scouting IPADs and have been inclined to dismiss that inner voice screaming, "You need this toy!" Of course I have to ignore him, because he's the same fool that has had me have one last drink, buy one more thing, or say one more rude word to the guy three times my size.

I accept the gift and soon realize that its primary function is to be an extension of my Blackberry phone, see now I can do all the functions of my phone on the Playbook, thus relegating my phone to modem status. However, I spend all night and part of my next work-day discovering this. So much for a productive day, well, my boss gave it to me and in my estimation, he's getting his money's worth. So as I scroll, slide and tap on this thing, I realize that my desk is a mass of cables. I have my laptop open and the USB cable for the Playbook connected to it on one port, another cable connected to the other port with my Blackberry charging, as I try to synchronize the media files to my laptop so I can transfer them to the Playbook. There's a cable going to the printer which I can't connect to because I'm using the two ports on the laptop for my Blackberry gadgets and I have to buy another peripheral device so I can daisy chain these things together. I might need Fire wire.

So as I take off my newly bought T1 Bluetooth headset to see if I can synchronize it with my Playbook, realize that it didn't come with a cable that will fit the port on the Playbook and trying to Bluetooth it isn't cutting it. Never mind that the configuration says it's discoverable, I can't get the dang thing to connect and so therefore I have to rely on the Playbook speakers which means I have to fumble around for headphones. The speakers are not too shabby, but what good is this low sound when I'm sure the IPAD has better sound? Anyway, I am quick to connect it to the school network via a request to our resident technician, now the Playbook is usable in all areas of our building, I am in heaven.

I am still not sure why he's bought this toy for me, and I guess I shouldn't ask. My bag is rather full right now, I have two headsets, about five USB cables, a wireless mouse, wireless overhead projector remote control, IPOD, Playbook and all the necessary power cables. The way I see it, I'm just an average guy.I mean don't all guys have all this stuff? How do they survive otherwise? Even though Blackberry have made the device and seem to be lagging on applications, this little thing will do for now. It's really not very much use to me except as a distraction in places where I don't want to engage anyone, like the office. So till I figure out exactly what this bribe is about, I need a bigger bag.