1.07.2012

The Spectacle of Football



Like many Americans, I am chomping at the bit for the NFL postseason. (Unlike most Americans, I will be whizzing through the games at 30 minutes per the next morning while riding my exercise bicycle, but that's neither here nor there.) At a point in my life in which I have very little discretionary time, watching pro football is a tiny sliver of guilty pleasure that I thoroughly enjoy. (I lament only that we don't have cable so that I'm stuck with whatever the network stations are airing as well as that the season is only five months long.)

Ah, but I am starting to feel a little guilty for watching. No, not because I'm not allowed this little indulgence. But because it all feels very much like "Christians vs. lions in the Roman Colosseum." Because I am in a hurry, my thumb is quick to hit fast-forward (yes, I tape games on VHS tapes using my trusty ol' VCR). Dead time between plays, commercials, even extra points, field goals, kickoffs, and punts get the fast-forward treatment. I've also trained my finger to hit fast-forward when a player is shown hobbling or down, because I know that oftentimes that too means a longer than usual delay between plays, followed by a commercial break.

Whizzing forward until play resumes means I don't have much time to dwell on how sad this is. Grown men in the prime of their lives, unusually physically gifted, undergoing the equivalent of a head-on car crash with little more than plastic padding to protect themselves. Over a handful of times each game, multiplied by 16 games per week and 16 weeks per season, serious injuries are sustained, on the order of concussions, broken or fractured bones, and torn muscles and ligaments. Watching at home, we are fed a steady diet of the following images: replays of just how the gruesome injury occurred, followed by a close-up of the player grimacing in pain and/or being helped up by his team's trainer. Even worse, if the player is slow to get up, the networks cut to a commercial break, where we can be bombarded with advertisements for cars, fast food, beer, and potato chips. What a country!

It's a free country, and football players are compensated handsomely for their high-risk professions. My indictment isn't necessarily of the players, the networks, or the advertisers. I'm just pointing out that it is kind of sad what this spectacle called watching football has become. I'm not so sure the last days of the Roman Empire were much different, even though they happened so long ago. They may not have had a fast-forward button like I do, but they likely showed the same lack of concern for the wounded that I do when I gloss over a serious injury in order to hasten the arrival of the next play.

1.05.2012

Need to Go Easy on the J


No, I am not into marijuana. The "J" I am referring to is the "judging" half of the "judging vs. perceiving (P)" split. J's like things buttoned up, while P's like to keep things loose. Think of social plans: J's want them to be set, while P's want to keep options open.'

As with all Myers-Briggs splits, neither is inherently better or worse than the other, but people do tend to lean one way or the other. And, in Myers-Briggs parlance, I am a hard J, something on the order of 90/10. People often compliment me for getting stuff done, but may not know the driving force behind that isn't competence or smarts as much as it is an almost maniacal need to be done with something and not have it hanging out there.

Of course, in life it is impossible to be "done." Work projects come faster than they can be completed, relationships require ongoing cultivation, kids are ever evolving, and the world's problems have a nasty habit of just hanging around. For hard J's, our J-ness can become a source of anxiety, frustration, and despondency.

"Stop and smell the roses" is such a trite screed, and yet there is some truth to it. Better still is a mindset that remembers that God is in control, and that His timing and resolution are perfect: things will eventually resolve on His watch, and they will do so at the perfect moment. Indeed, to be a hard J and chafe in light of so much that is up in the air is to commit a grievous sin, of doubting in God's goodness, sovereignty, and timing.

If you are more on the P side, I hope you won't just dismiss my rantings this morning with a "loosen up, buddy" (even though I do need to hear that), because these are important soul matters and I am wrestling with them. If you are a fellow J, I hope you will be similarly exhorted, as I am exhorting myself. And whether J or P, let's go to the truest source of peace, which is a God who is running things, and who will eventually make all things right that are not right.

1.04.2012

2011 Car Usage


This is the third year I have tracked car usage, so I think it's safe to say this has become a habit. As has the nerdy tracking and graphing of it in Microsoft Excel. (You can check out 2010 here and 2009 here.)

As before, the Philly totals represent, in order, number of trips, number of legs represented in those trips (i.e. going to and from my in-laws, making one stop to get gas, counts as three legs), and number of legs in which I was driven (rather than driving). The other city totals represent, in order, number of times I was in that location, number of days I was in that location, number of trips, number of legs represented in those trips, and number of legs in which I was driven.

Philadelphia 92/223/21
Harrisburg 4/4/0/0/0
Kentucky 1/2/1/4/0
New York City 2/2/0/0/0
Ocean City 1/7/4/9/0
Pittsburgh 1/2/0/0/2
St. Thomas 2/10/4/11/33
San Diego 1/3/0/0/5
San Jose 3/21/19/46/18
Washington DC 1/1/0/0/4

Yet again, I was able to average far fewer than one leg per day, thanks to our urban setting and the many everyday locations I can get to without a car. Here's hoping that that delays when we need to purchase a new car, and that it makes a difference for the environment.

1.03.2012

Huang Family Newsletter, December 2011

Amy is hitting her groove at her new job: although the work is hard and the hours are long, she is enjoying it and is good at it. Lee juggled many projects at work, spoke at a conference in Pittsburgh, and preached a sermon at his church. The kids enjoyed holiday light shows downtown, their ballet and basketball classes at the Y, and many thoughtful Christmas presents from friends and family. Lee's dad was diagnosed with lung cancer but was able to have it successfully operated on and is now on the way to recovering. Lee took the kids to California between Christmas and New Year, where they saw Lee's parents in San Jose and also made road trips to see friends and family in Los Angeles, Merced, and Gilroy.






1.02.2012

This is the Last Year I Can Say I'm 39 and Not Be Lying


It's my 39th birthday today. I feel young and old. Young because hopefully I have more than half my life ahead of me, because I feel good, and because I have a lovely wife and two beautiful kids to keep me going. Old because more and more famous people I read about, past and present, are or were younger than me. Did you know that Malcolm X and Martin Luther King both died at 39? George Gershwin and Roberto Clemente only made it to age 38, while John Lennon and Edgar Allan Poe made it to 40. All these accomplished far more than I ever will, even if live twice as long as they do.

For us ambitious sorts, growing old is a matter of making peace with what you can and cannot do. I can no longer read about something cool that someone has accomplished and think, "If I apply myself, I can attain to that by the time I get to be their age," because in more and more cases, these people are younger than me! It's enough to make you feel over the hill.

I am being overly dramatic and melancholy for effect. I am not feeling down about myself. But nor am I glamorizing the aging process, or putting on false airs of humility about being able to be at peace with who I am. I still struggle with drivenness and discontentment, with wishing I could accomplish more and beating myself up that I have not accomplished more. Turning 39 is a natural marking point to look forward and back. I like who I am, who I've been, and who I'll have time to become. But I wrestle daily with my demons, as I'm sure do many like me who are in my stage of life.