So what is this blog about? It's about me, my life, and everything it entails. Sometimes it's programming, sometimes it's social, sometimes it's relationships, sometimes it's sports; all the time, it's me.
A year ago today, I hopped on board an American Airlines flight at Boston's Logan Airport. The destination: San Francisco. I came out without knowing where I was going to live and with most of my stuff packed away in boxes on some huge truck on its way cross country. This was the biggest move I'd made in my entire life, from Boston to California, and I was scared out of my mind.
You need to consider that this is a guy who commuted to college all four years and didn't move out until 25...and that condo was about 10 minutes away from my parents. Go ahead and chuckle (I still do), but those are the facts and I am not ashamed to share them. I was, for most of my life, fearful of major changes and transitions. It led me to question many times what business I had even contemplating moving across country to a place where I didn't know anyone or anything. Was I out of my mind? Had I completely lost it? I knew it would be hard, but I really had no idea how hard it would be.
This past year has been an amazing journey. I honestly feel like I've lived several lifetimes in the course of these 12 months, growing and experiencing at such a rapid pace that it makes my head spin. In a single year I found a place to live, found doctors and a dentist, got an awesome job, helped launch an amazing product, wrote another book, got homesick, felt overwhelming joy, made new friends, fell madly in love and had my heart broken (more accurately, torn out, thrown on the floor, and danced upon), gave my first public talk, had all my mercury fillings replaced, wrote for the YUIBlog twice, cried myself to sleep, watched more football than ever before in my life, called home at least four times a week, learned qi gong, played poker, improved my diet, met some amazing software engineers, laughed, been in awe of my surroundings, went on my first (and second) hike, and learned a lot about myself.
I still have trouble fathoming how I got where I am right now. I had no idea what to expect when I moved out here, and every time I thought I was nice and settled in my life, something would happen that would throw me into a tailspin that I'd have to fight hard to pull out of. At those points, I often ask myself, "Why did I do this? Why did I leave my nice, quiet, stable life in Massachusetts and travel west? Why did I leave behind my family, my friends, and my condo?" The answer: because it was time for a change. For once in my life, it was time to stare fear in the face and say, "bring it." And I'm glad I did it. I still don't feel like my life is stable at this point, but this past year has been an amazing journey that I will always be thankful for. I can only imagine what experiences the next year will bring.
It's getting to be that time of year again. Chatter is starting to pick up, training camp is about ready to open and preseason games are just around the corner. That's right, it's almost time for football to start. Frequent readers of my blog know how big of a Patriots fan I am, how upset I get when they lose, how elated I am when they win. And now I'd like to share why.
For 40 years, the New England Patriots did next to nothing. In a city where the Red Sox rule and the Celtics and Bruins brought home championships, very few cared about the Patriots. Among those very few? My dad. Possibly the biggest Boston sports fan I've ever met. It didn't matter who was playing or what was going on, my dad followed all four teams with a vengeance. And so, for as long as I can remember, Sundays were spent speaking out the elusive Patriots game.
Fans in popular regions probably don't know this, but your hometown team's home games are only televised locally when the game is sold out. The idea is that it will entice people to buy tickets to see the game instead of sitting at home watching it on TV. But the Patriots were horrible, and so it was rare to see home games in Boston; we'd mostly see the away games.
When Bill Parcells was hired as head coach, all of a sudden people got excited and every game sold out (every game since that time has sold out as well). Of course, they made it to the Super Bowl in 1996 only to get destroyed and embarrassed by the Packers. The Patriots then started a familiar and steady decline.
The year 2001 was a rough one for me, personally. I had developed a serious illness that wasn't responding to anything the doctors were doing. I was sick, weak, and depressed. When the football season started, it was little more than a blip on my radar. I remember sitting in front of the TV with my dad on opening day, turning to him and saying, "Dad, why do we watch every game, every year when we know they're just going to suck?" My dad, with a small grin on his face said, "because there's always a chance." The Patriots then went out and lost that game to the Bengals.
The next week was September 11. Obviously, I don't have to explain what a horrible event that was. Football games were cancelled that week, and rightly so. In my sick and depressed state, I was crushed and scared. What was wrong with the world? How would life every be the same?
But life continued, and so did football. When the games returned the next week, Drew Bledsoe went out with a life-threatening injury and I was at my breaking point. At least with Bledsoe in the game, I thought, they had a chance. As long as they had a chance, I had something to look forward to each week. The Patriots struggled through the rest of the game as well as the following one. But then something strange started happening: they started winning.
As if the winning wasn't shocking enough, they were winning against good teams and doing so convincingly. With my health still declining, Sundays were the highlight of my week. It was three hours that I forgot how lousy I felt, how tough the struggle would be to make it through another week. Slowly but surely, the Patriots won my faith and became a bright spot for me during a time when there were few.
Following that Patriots team through the playoffs, the tuck rule, and the trip to Pittsburgh, they made me believe that anything was possible. They played as a team, and they did so with heart and honor and class.
Going into the Super Bowl, I believed that they had a shot against the Rams and not just in the "I stand behind my Boston teams no matter what" way. I had faith. They had come too far to be stopped now. And of course, they weren't stopped. When that Vinatieri field goal kick when through the uprights, I remember falling into my dad's arms and just saying very softly, "they did it." I didn't know if I should laugh or cry, but I knew that I felt, for the first time in my life, that anything was possible. This was a team who had no chance and yet, despite everything, they proved everyone wrong. If they could do it, certainly I could too.
The road to health was a long one for me, and it's still ongoing. It would be trite and just plain stupid to say that the Patriots helped me get better. I had to do a lot of work to heal and continue to do so. What I will say is that that Patriots team was a light in an otherwise dismal year for me. They made me believe in something during a time that my faith in everything had severely wavered.
So you'll need to excuse me when I get a little emotional during Sundays. Every Patriots game reminds me of that time, of that team, of the feeling that they gave me when I couldn't get excited about much of anything. Most of all, they remind me of my dad looking at me, grinning, and saying, "because there's always a chance."
In the time since I've moved out to California, there have been no fewer than three earthquakes. Or so I'm told, since I've not felt even one. Granted, I'm not waving the, "I want to feel an earthquake" flag as if I have a death wish, I'm just saying that it's part of the California experience, and I wish I had something to add to the conversation.
The closest I came was earlier this year when, apparently, there was an earthquake while I was in the shower. It was felt in San Jose, for sure, but not by me. Perhaps the rattling of the bathroom vent and the sound of the water muffled out the small earthquake. I don't know, but when I got out of the shower and my then-girlfriend asked if I felt the earthquake, I was shocked. I felt like I was five again and someone asked if I had seen the ice cream truck. Shoot, missed it again!
There was an earthquake last night in Oakland, a 4.2. People in the city felt it, people in the South Bay felt it, but I didn't. Maybe I was too far south and too heavily asleep at the time (4 AM PDT). I'm starting to feel a little bit like the guy who's out of the loop on an inside joke.
Today is my birthday, the last one I'll have in the 20s...so sad. A moment please, for the demise of my youth. So what does a guy do to celebrate his 29th birthday? Go to the dentist to have six fillings replaced, of course!
I've been having various health problems for a while, and my doctor recommended having my mercury-amalgam fillings replaced to see if it made a difference. I had 12 of those buggers in my mouth, and given that I'm, shall we say, not the bulkiest guy in the world, it posed more health problems for me than for others. So I said fine, I'd give it a shot (no pun intended).
I had six fillings removed a few weeks ago, and six more today. I really like my dentist, Dr. Gallagher. He has this whole procedure down to a science and he's been doing it for a very long time. He's been very good to me despite my omnipresent nervousness in his office. When he was done today, he said, "congratulations, you're now mercury-free." I thought and stopped about it for a moment...this could be a really big thing for me. Not only does my mouth look so much better (tooth-colored fillings instead of black ones) but if it could improve my health, this could end up being a re-birthday.
Of course, the whole right side of my mouth is currently numb, meaning that I'm drooling down my shoulder as I'm typing this. I also made it all the way home before I realized I still had gauze in my mouth. Despite that, I'm thrilled to be mercury-free and to have drills, needles, and nitrous (sorry, I'm way too big of a lightweight to enjoy it) behind me. In my opinion, this is the best present I could have gotten.
I've been feeling kind of lousy the past few days, so I've been heading home after work instead of going to the gym. Of course, now that it's the summer, there's absolutely nothing on TV. Fortunately, this is why the universe bestowed upon us the magic of home movies now simply known as DVDs. While not enjoying feeling lousy, it has allowed me to revisit my favorite movie of all time, The Karate Kid.
I can't remember the first time I saw The Karate Kid, which is strange considering how much I love this movie. I think I first saw it on video as a child (for you kids, there once was a thing called a VCR that allowed us to watch movies stored on a video cassette). At the time, I cheered for Daniel as he fought back against the bullies. I think every kid that was picked on in school, which I was, could relate and found his story inspiring on a purely vengeful level.
The sequels to the movie, Part II and Part III, I saw in the theaters. I remember literally getting chills up my spine when I saw the trailer for Part II because I loved the original movie so much. I figured that would be the end of series, so when I saw the trailer for Part III, I got very excited again. I thought these movies were fitting sequels, carrying on the same themes as the first.
When I was in high school, I suffered from horrible bouts of insomnia. Up at 3am almost every morning, I cycled through all three movies many, many times. As I did, I came to realize that the movies were about much more than karate, bullies, and good triumphing over evil; they're about the journey that life takes you through. In the character of Mr. Miyagi, the writers brilliantly created the ideal mentor, friend, and teacher that everyone wishes they could have. With the exception of Yoda, I don't think another wise mentor character exists in the world of entertainment. As my buddy Roland once said, "a light went out when Pat Morita died." Rest in peace, Mr. Miyagi.
Each time I watch these movies, I find more lessons buried inside. It wasn't The Karate Kid that inspired me to take up martial arts, but after I did, I found it relevant on a whole other level. Things that were said in the movie that I didn't understand suddenly made sense. Coming back to it now after a couple years, I can still say it inspires in me a better way of looking at life. The stories are metaphors for all kinds of life challenges, distilled down to a simple battle of good versus evil, but yet with redemption in store for both.
I think the movies, specifically the first one, don't get enough credit for their influence on pop culture. Mr. Miyagi is an iconic figure in the world; the crane position is still mimicked (albeit mockingly) in movies and TV; people readily say, "wax on, wax off" in reference to karate. I introduced my ex-girlfriend to these movies, who was shocked to learn that they were the origin for all of these references that she knew.
I can honestly say that my favorite moment in any movie I've ever seen is moment when Daniel lines up across from Johnny for the final point in the tournament. Daniel is in the crane position and they're waiting for the referee's signal to begin. The trumpets rumble with anticipation. Without fail, whenever I get to that point in the movie, my stomach tenses and my eyes start to well up. When he lands that kick, the excitement I still feel inside reminds me of why I love this somewhat cliche movie of the 1980s. There's no computer imagery, no wires for the fight scenes, and no secret weapons. It's just a simple story that moves me every time I see it.
After snoring through the NBA Finals hoping to see some decent basketball (and being sorely disappointed), I was looking forward to the draft because the Celtics had pick number five and I had high hopes. There was a possibility of getting a pretty decent player at that position to add to the growing roster of young players in Boston. And what did the Celtics do? They traded the pick, along with one of the young leaders of the team, Delonte West, to Seattle for aging all start Ray Allen. You've got to be kidding me.
Don't get me wrong, I think Danny Ainge is a nice guy (I've met him) and was a great role player for the Celtics of the 1980s, but I really think he's been doing a lousy job managing the team. This move really trumps all the other lousy ones. Why give up a young guard that's starting to come into his own and the possibility of adding another talented player for a 31 year old player who's legs are practically bionic after multiple surgeries?
The Celtics do have a long tradition of getting good players on the backend of their careers. Does anyone remember that Dominique Wilkins once wore the green? How about Gary Payton and Kenny Anderson? The only one that really worked out was Bill Walton, who helped the Celtics win one last championship over two decades ago. That's the only type of situation where a move like this makes sense: a good, solid team that needs some solid backup performers. The Celtics now are at least three players away from being contenders, which makes a move like this completely dumb.
Doc Rivers seems to be pushing to get players now to make a push (of course he is, his job is on the line if they don't start winning), but that's the wrong way to go right now. The Celtics should resign themselves to rebuilding. Delonte West was starting to show signs, as was Gerald Green and Al Jefferson. The Celtics have no center, so they could have drafted Yi Jianlian who could at the very least take up a lot of space while he developed. Adding in Paul Pierce as an established veteran and go-to guy, the Celtics could have had an interesting lineup. Now, you inject Allen, leaving the Celtics with holes at point guard and center.
At this point, I feel bad for Paul Pierce. He got his veteran teammate that he asked for, but at what cost? Does this really make the Celtics a better team? No way. It gives Pierce someone to bitch with as the Celtics continue to lose games. I think Pierce deserves a lot better and should have the opportunity to play for a contender. I wish that the contender could be the Celtics, but I fear that time is far enough away that Pierce won't see it. Just like Antoine Walker had to go to the Heat to play for a contender, I think Pierce should go elsewhere, to a team where he doesn't have to babysit young talent for 3-4 years while we figure out if they're any good.
It seems like when the Celtics didn't get the first or second picks this year, they just decided to mail in the draft. Big mistake. Do you know what a huge difference one player can make? There was a guy who was drafted number six in 1978. He hadn't won a college championship but showed some promise. The Celtics had won around 20 games the year before and won around 60 after his first year; that player was Larry Bird. Don't tell me pick number five had no potential (and ask Miami who they picked with number five in 2003).