Thursday, April 22, 2010

All or Nothing

In my generation, “Generation Y” or the “Millennials” as we’re sometimes called, it’s all or nothing. Abercrombie and Fitch prints this concept on Indonesian-manufactured t-shirts marked up 1,500% but they read: “Go hard, or go home” (these shirts are in stores next to the ones that describe how hot your mom is).

But seriously. Moderation hardly exists, if it even exists at all, among people my age. If one has the desire to lose some weight, do they scale down the fried food, and up the cardio? Not a chance. They revert to a zero-carb diet (literally, zero carbohydrates), pull two-a-day’s in the gym, and hastily spend an arm and a leg on supplements. They’ll go two weeks of this full-on ambush of the body, until they get burnt out and they’re back at Wendy’s ordering a No. 6 plain and dry.

Drinking may be the worst place where this mentality exists among younger folks. God forbid a casual beer or glass of wine with dinner – no, no, no! – bust out the beer funnel, shot glasses and bag of wine, or don’t have a sip of alcohol at all. Drink ‘til you puke, or don’t drink at all, right?

On the flip side, this mentality can work to our benefit. It’s part of the reason why we are and will be such a successful generation. Consistently raising the bar on things like career advancement, public policy, academics – or heck, even beer-chugging velocity.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Three of my favorite things about running

For the past few months I’ve been training for my second full marathon, which is in Oklahoma City this coming Sunday. The training – as you can imagine – involves numerous long-distance runs. And after quite a few of them, I’ve learned that I really enjoy certain aspects of running. Here are some, just to name a few:

1. “The Runner Nod”

For those of you who have done any type of jogging not on a treadmill, you may know what I’m talking about without me even having to explain this, shall we say “phenomenon.” There’s a certain type of kinship among runners – a bond, if you will, symbolic of a universal understanding of running. Many times you can see it coming from a mile away, as a runner in the distance heading your direction gets closer and closer. As you pass someone on a trail, sidewalk, street or track, you’ll notice the runner nod. The on-coming runner and you make eye-contact for a brief moment, and a slight dip of the chin to bring the top of the head forward occurs – the running nod. You don’t always smile, or wave, or say anything at all – you just simply nod your head, as if to say: “Hey man, I know what you’re going through, because I’m going through it now too. Keep it up.” And as weird as it sounds, that nod from your fellow runner gives you some sort of boost to get through the next mile, few minutes or up the next hill…

2. The Uplifting Song

From my simple random samples I’ve visually collected and stored throughout the course of my runs, I’d be willing to place a bet that around 75% of runners attest to using an MP3 player. I undoubtedly use my iPod. It gives me motivation and passes time when I’ve mentally checked out. Every once in a while a certain song will come on at a particular point in the run, usually when I’m hitting a valley and struggling to keep my legs moving. But once this song comes on, the natural reaction is to smile, crank up the volume, and up your tempo. This uplifting song can come from any artist of any genre, and it’s never planned, but happens on the course of a natural basis. For that four minutes of your run, you feel like you could go forever, at whatever pace you want – the adrenaline provides for quite the buzz.

3. The Finish

Many marathon sites will give you points on the 26.2 mile course that are “must-see’s” – areas that spectators would find pretty neat. Perhaps it’s a landmark the course wraps around, a historic area of town the route goes through, or perhaps a pivotal point as far as mileage is concerned: the 13.1 split, the 40K split, the start, and of course – the finish. On any run you do, particularly longer distances, there’s nothing like the finish. Many times if you’re running outdoors your finish line is very unofficial and most definitely unattractive. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put my arms up after finishing a 15 mile haul, using a fire hydrant or bush as my finishing marker. But in your mind, it’s as if you’re the first to cross the finish at the Boston with thousands of people cheering. No matter how many hours your run was, no matter the distance, the high you get from finishing always surpasses the physical pain you may have. There’s truly nothing else like it in the world.

Monday, April 12, 2010

An amazing night, to say the least

Last Thursday night may have been one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had. It was most likely Mike Modano’s last game in front of a home crowd as a Dallas Star. The 39-year-old has spent 17 years in this city, and has done more for the sport in the south than you could possibly imagine. He is the best U.S. born player of all time, holds virtually every record imaginable for the Stars’, is a Stanley Cup Champion and is quite possibly the greatest ambassador to hockey in this region of the country.

Bob Sturm from The Ticket put it well: “Think about it. We all feel like Dallas is the exception to the rule when it comes to the NHL in the sun belt. In many of the cities, it has only been an unqualified success in years where those teams win the Stanley Cup. But in Dallas, the Stars have generally been well supported and followed. I submit to you that is a result of the instant magnetic force that Mike Modano and some of his friends had on the city.”

I grew up watching Modano as a kid – so Thursday night was emotional. Call me a sucker for sports tears, but his last home game was so incredibly poetic you had to have been a robot to not choke up. About six minutes left in the third period the stadium TV screen showed him sitting on the bench with a caption just below it reading one of his many records as an NHL player. The fans began cheering, and then came the standing ovation. Cheers got louder and louder, as the applause was building on itself. Tim Cowlishaw from the Morning News describes this scene in great detail:

“Mike Modano looked up at the scoreboard and fought back the tears as he had done earlier in the night. This time he lost the battle. As the crowd continued to cheer in what was probably Modano's final game in Dallas, Modano bowed his head and put his gloves to his face. Players for both teams stood in the faceoff circle and tapped their sticks on the ice. The delay continued, and when Modano raised his head, tears were streaming down his cheeks as he lifted his glove to wave to the crowd.”

That was it. His final salute. The game was meaningless, the Stars and the Anaheim Ducks are not playoff-bound, so that was pretty much it – or so I thought.

A minute or so later Anaheim scores to go up 2-1 in the game, which was an incredible bummer. The arena went from an emotional high to almost complete (and somewhat awkward) silence, as if the oxygen was sucked out of the building in seconds. But then, with less than two minutes to play in regulation, after the long emotional delay just minutes prior, Modano’s line was back on the ice, and who else would score the tying goal other than the man himself. I couldn’t believe it. Even in my poor seats I knew it was #9 who scored when the puck went in the net, the arena absolutely erupted.

Time goes by and the game progresses to a shoot out (of course). We miss our first shot when Brad Richards fails to convert. Marty Turco holds strong and makes a save against Anaheim’s first shooter. Mike Modano’s up next, and with insane velocity is able to wrist a shot in over Anaheim’s goalie – banging the puck off the pipe and into the net. So Modano-esque. So brilliant. Turco, again, holds strong. Jere Lehtinen is the final Dallas shooter, a goal would mean a Stars’ victory and a perfect ending to this game, and to Mike, Marty and Jere’s careers as Stars. Lehtinen scores, Stars win!

I couldn’t believe it. I could not believe what I had witnessed. Again, the game was essentially meaningless, but so incredibly meaningful at the same time. Absolutely perfect – what a way to end the night, and such an important player’s career. I couldn’t have asked for anything else.

After the game I was talking with some folks about exactly that – how we could not imagine a better game, or a better evening, until someone walked into the restaurant we were at.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

1/2 of US doesn't pay fed income tax

I mean I think the title of this article says it all: “Nearly half of US households escape fed income tax.” I implore you to read the article – written by the Associated Press, posted on Yahoo Finance – it’s startling, to say the least. For those that are too lazy, I’ll copy and paste some highlights:
  • About 47 percent will pay no federal income taxes at all for 2009.
  • The federal income tax is the government's largest source of revenue, raising more than $900 billion -- or a little less than half of all government receipts.
  • The top 10 percent have paid about 73 percent of the income taxes collected by the federal government.
  • The bottom 40 percent, on average, make a profit from the federal income tax, meaning they get more money in tax credits than they would otherwise owe in taxes. For those people, the government sends them a payment.

I understand that the majority of those who are paying no federal income taxes (or, in some cases are actually making a profit) are lower income families, I get it, and in many situations their circumstances are absolutely absurd – fighting to keep a job and support their families. But I still don’t understand how anyone could consider this fair, for 10% of the nation to pay for 75% of what the government spends. Listen, I get the economics, I get the 80/20 rule, I get the incredibly skewed income distribution in this country, but I still can’t help but wonder how on earth this seems okay.

It comes down to a fundamental disagreement I have with this whole philosophy, I just don’t see how it’s right, regardless of how wealthy this 10% may be – it’s their money, period. The article goes on to say “Obama has pushed tax cuts for low- and middle-income families and tax increases for the wealthy, arguing that wealthier taxpayers fared well in the past decade, so it's time to pay up.” Oh, now it’s time to pay up? As if $0.35 of every $1.00 they make isn’t already enough. That’s insane. Who is he, or anyone, to decide what’s enough?