April 20, 2008

10-Day Meditation Retreat

Tomorrow I will be heading off to a 10-day silent meditation retreat in Blue Ridge, Virginia. The meditation technique being taught is called Vipassana and it goes back a long time, more than 2,500 years. Although I can't say what the retreat is going to be like exactly, I have gathered a lot of information about it from Dhamma.org, 43Things.com and Gaia.com where I first heard about it from Brian Johnson, the founder of the website. I am very excited about the experience and I think it is going to be awesome.

As far as why I am going on this retreat, there are two big reasons: (1) I want to learn how to meditate properly and (2) it will be rare for me to have this kind of availability again any time soon. I know ten days seems like a long time to dedicate to one thing like meditation, but from what I understand you really only scratch the surface in that amount of time. I can't think of a time in my life when I had even one day of complete silence to quiet my mind, much less ten days. There will likely be ups and downs, but overall I think it will be a very valuable experience that I will be grateful and proud to have had. When I finish the retreat I will have a lot to share and I look forward to that too!

April 18, 2008

Things I Learned From Pier 1 Imports

If you wait you will get it on sale There are some really fun ladies out there Most retail store music plays in 2 hour loops Bringing snacks and food to share is a great way to make lots of friends Employees get 20% discounts on gift cards Retail can be rough If you are friendly and patient most employees will do everything they can to help you There is some really nice furniture out there to be had, including furniture that is ridiculously comfortable Pier 1 throws away 4 dumpster loads of cardboard per week On any given day there is something thrown in the trash dumpster at Pier 1 that is still pretty usable/awesome Everybody has an interesting story and some are downright incredible Being the only guy usually means you are lifting things between 50 and 400 pounds at any given moment Almost everything at Pier 1 has to be assembled, and if there is a guy around he probably did it or is about to do it It is now commonplace to build all furniture, regardless of size, with a six-inch allen wrench If you break it you don't have to buy it Everything goes on sale Buying stuff that isn't on sale is kind of silly Always ask employees about things they like or really cool deals that might be hard to find Somebody worked very early in the morning to bring those items off a truck into the store One of the best things a manager or leader can do is share in doing the work they are asking other people to do If everyone is checking out at the cash register, resist the urge to check out yourself, just wait a few minutes Everyone is more interesting than their job Some products can really make a living environment a lot more productive and enjoyable, take your time in picking those products out for yourself Where products are made is important Don't avoid going into a place because you don't think you can afford its products, there are always deals no matter where you go It's always good to laugh Pier 1 Imports is a pretty fun place

The American Dream

After a long dinner "the barrel place" and an even longer story about tonight's pyramid scam session featuring poor, innocent Jonathan Huffman, I have one simple gem I would like to share: the American dream. The short story is that the pyramid scammers, and other real-life scammers, often equate success in life with money. They say "Who wouldn't like an additional $xx,xxx a year?" or "If you earned $xxx,xxx a year, wouldn't that be the American dream?" Not exactly, the way I figure it.

The American dream has to do with happiness through hard work and being able to do what you love in a free society. This involves money to a degree, but I think the primary objective is to find your purpose in life and follow it. One of the biggest scams I think we can fall pray to in our lives is thinking that having more money will make us happier. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that this isn't true, but beyond that there are life experiences one after another that demonstrate that there are more important things with which we should concern ourselves.

April 7, 2008

Gustar New York City

I just got back from an awesome trip to New York City with Michael, Jonathan, Michael's brother Alex and their cousin Sheyee. Following a collision of McDonald's and Long John Silver's we arrived in the city Friday around midnight. After 12 hours of driving and were greeted by Statue of Liberty, a bustling Times Square and an ever-towering Empire State Building. I expected traffic would be better toward 1am in the morning, but I think the city never sleeps. We may have had slightly better traffic late, but only slightly. We headed to Wee's place that night and finally got to bed around 3am after laughing, catching up with Wee and parking the car two blocks from his apartment.

Saturday was our busy day. We took the metro into the city and visited Ground Zero, a hot dog stand, NYU, Columbia, Central Park, a great pizza place, a pub to watch the UNC game (which was a heartbreaker) and then late that night we finally crawled back to Wee's place. All in all, I would say we walked about 6 hours and rode the subway for about 4 hours. We were pretty flippin' beat.

Sunday we went to see Wee's workplace and also eat at a Malaysian restaurant that he really enjoys. Then before we left we printed a picture of all of us and signed the frame as a gift to Wee's cousin who let us stay with her and with Wee while we visited. We packed up, said our goodbyes to our host Wee, and then stopped by White Castle on our way out, finally getting to taste those incredible hamburgers made famous to us by the movie Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle. We bought sixty of them (two Crave Cases)! I think there are about ten left still. I don't really remember the drive back, I slept pretty much the whole time, but we got in around 7am this morning. It was very fun and very awesome. The videos and pictures probably convey that pretty well.

Thanks again Wee, for letting us stay with you! Thanks also Michael, Jonathan, Alex and Sheyee for so much fun!

April 3, 2008

Flying Penguins

My dad showed this BBC Documentary to my sister and me. I think it is my favorite April Fool's joke this year. So awesome!

Free Sendables

I started watching JibJab videos back in 2004 and I have always enjoyed them. Some of my favorites are This Land, Big Box Mart and Ahnuld for Governor (which requires you to login). Now, thanks to Sendables, my favorite videos also include this free one that I just made using pictures of Michael, Jonathan and me. Michael has been accepted to Columbia, NYU and the University of Maryland for grad school and we are heading to New York this weekend to visit, so I thought it would be fitting. I hope you laugh as much watching it as I did making it! If only we could dance like that...maybe Michael can, I never know.

April 2, 2008

The Planner Reflects

There is an interesting phenomenon in my life which occurs when I get on a long break, or when I don't have a busy job or schoolwork or some regular routine: I become less effective. Maybe somebody has thought of this and written about it before, I'm not sure. It isn't the end of the world I know, but I think it's worth noting. Having twenty hours of work a week, I waste a lot if not all of my extra time. Then with forty hours of work or more a week, I plan ridiculously fun adventures and waste maybe two or three hours a week. I've noticed it over and over again, during high school summers, college summers and now in my year after college graduation. Effectiveness isn't everything, but our time on earth is limited and it is ours and ours alone to spend. I figure I want to remember and be glad about my days and my activities, not just let them all run together in some kind of blur. "Not much" is only a decent response to "Whatcha been up to?" for so long.

All that being said, in a lot of ways not being effective is very good for a serious, type A person. At one point I was down to 15-minute appointment slots on my Outlook calendar from hour to hour, day to day. For the past year since graduation that has mellowed out considerably. Tomorrow I only have one appointment, for example, and even that one is iffy.

As Peace Corps approaches, I think about the possibility of having a job with UNICEF working on health projects or with the Health Department planning workshops and I realize that I may very possibly have a 9-to-5 job Monday through Friday. For the record that would be my first full-time job ever and that is saying something. 15-minute appointments fit great into that lifestyle, so I will have to be careful about that. Also, to be fair, there is a strong possibility that I could live out in the rural Mongolian countryside working here and there with little to no schedule. In that environment my one iffy appointment per day might come in handy too. Whatever the case, I just hope I make all of my days memorable and important...and if I have time, effective and productive too.

April 1, 2008

Walken and Dancin'

Christopher Walken, dancing, music video, I love it. Thanks to Jonathan Prentice for bringing this awesome video to my attention.