I Suck At Eqaulity

Before I begin this post, I would like to make a few things perfectly clear to everybody reading this. I am NOT a devout Christian. I question religion on a daily basis. While I still have some feint belief there might be something beyond the explanation of science, I cannot devote myself to this ideology without more understanding. I have my reasons for my skepticism that is founded through the beliefs of Christianity and if you wish to address those with me in a private matter I will be happy to discuss them with you. However, that is not what this post is about. This post is about my personal opinions on the current SCOTUS ruling for marriage equality in these United States.

If you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past 15 hours, or avoiding Facebook because you haven’t watched the season finale of Game of Thrones yet, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 5-4 in favor of equal marriage rights in all 50 states; deeming the recent ban in Kentucky unconstitutional. This was a huge leap for American equality and freedom. As I scan through my Facebook news feed I have come across a few posts that think differently and some even state that it is a huge step towards destroying American freedom. While I don’t want to point any fingers directly, I can’t help but notice most of these posts are coming from people who claim to be devout Christians and live by the word of God/Jesus.

Okay, yes; Leviticus 18:22 states that if a man lies with another man as he would with a woman it is an abomination in the eyes of God. Pretty clear that the Bible straightforwardly condemns homosexuality. In fact, the entire chapter 18 of Leviticus is set aside to outline who or what one cannot have sex with (including prostitutes and animals). I cannot argue that point because there is no counterpoint. It is right there. In fact, I will give you the exact quote from the New International Version Bible which I happen to have right here:

Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.

I’ll go a little further and give you 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

Again, pretty straightforward. God does not tolerate homosexuality and will not allow any such person who practices such into His kingdom. However, if you read on in Leviticus you’ll see that chapter 20, verse 13 goes to the extreme:

If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

Whoa! That’s a bit harsh. So who is going to put them to death? Will it be the devout Christian who lives his or her life by the word of God/Jesus? John 8:7 states:

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’

This was Jesus speaking to a group of teachers outside a temple at the Mount of Olives who had brought a woman to him who had committed adultery. However, upon doing some research I have discovered that the passages of John 7:53, 8:1-11 were not originally in early Greek manuscripts and were a later Western-text insertion based on vague Latin translations which could have several different meanings. So let’s not use that as an example. Instead, let’s focus on Matthew 7:1-5:

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your bother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eyes? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eyes,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? you hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Now we are getting somewhere. Don’t judge people unless you wish to be judged yourself. Still unclear of who is doing the judging, but we’ll get to that in a moment.  A Christian may argue that if they are living by the word of God, they have the authority to “remove the speck from [their] brother’s eye.” I disagree. Are you a devout Christian and not looked at a new car, thinking to yourself how you would enjoy taking it on a test drive? Or how about a new 4K television set and wondered what it would look like on your wall? In my opinion both of these cases are lust (and possibly greed since the money spent on such items could have been given to others – but I’m not passing judgement since I follow the same practices; sitting here writing a blog on a computer I spent hundreds of dollars building for my personal use). What about the whole “love thy neighbor” thing? Exodus 20:16 actually reads:

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

And is further explained in Exodus 23:1-9, which I will not quote here, but paraphrase in saying that it explains how one should not side with the many for what may seem like justice and giving untrue witness. Absolutely nothing about loving your neighbor, just don’t go about slandering them because others are doing the same. Clearly you don’t have to love your neighbor’s decision to be homosexual, and you are fair and just in stating that such lifestyle is a sin in the eyes of God. But do not feel the need to judge them based on what they do or have done. John 12:47-48 tells us who will be doing all the judging:

As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do no judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.

Someone who sins will be judged on the last day by the one “person” who may clearly pass judgement. If you do pass judgement, you too are in favor of sin. At least this is how I am understanding the passages of the Bible. As I stated before, I am not a devout Christian and do not have the book memorized. In fact, I had to look up where such passages were located in order to quote them in this blog. What I do know, and often see, is that Bible passages are often single or altered verses taken without other context and repeated over and over with no regard to the other 1,000 pages in the book.

As for today’s SCOTUS ruling, some of my devout Christian friends have laid claim to this being the first steps to openly attack religion, stating that such freedom for others only lays the foundation for them to lay slander against Christianity. Bigots, naysayers, and “homophobic propagators” are the biggest concerns that these Christians fear they will be called for passing judgement onto those who act accordingly to their hearts and the laws of the land. Yes, the United States was founded as a God-fearing country but it was not founded on the set beliefs of Christianity. I’m not even going to side with one side or the other on this matter. I won’t call either side a bigot or naysayer. Instead I will call both sides ignorant.

No, I did not just call you stupid. I simply stated that you do not know. Just like I am ignorant to the existence of a higher power because I lack physical or tangible evidence, you – the devout Christian and offended LGBT member – are ignorant to all the information. If you are homosexual and a Christian person says you are destroying America with your sinful ways, do not call them a bigot or hatemonger. They do not know that they too will be judged, according to the book they swear to live their lives by, by doing such. For those of you who are Christian and a homosexual person offends your beliefs in the Bible and God, do not pass judgement on them for their sins because according to your book it is not your place to do so.

In closing I’m going to say this: God created man (and woman alike) then set upon him (and her) the choice to follow His word or not. If you do, good for you; you get a cookie. If you don’t, well some people might not like you but they have no room to judge you unless they have a life with no other sin; you also get a cookie. You don’t have to like something to be fair about it. Obviously 4 people didn’t like today’s ruling, but they are going to uphold it for the better of everybody. Now I take my leave to go look at digital cameras on Amazon that I cannot afford and wish I could own one with my hard-earned money that belongs to me and me alone because I obviously suck at writing worthwhile trending topic posts.ua

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I Suck At Posting in a Timely Manner

Man, I really suck at stuff. Writing, vlogs, and fencing to name a few. Okay, it’s all I’ve really done anything about. Which brings us to this one; how I suck at posting vlogs and blogs in a timely manner. It has been well over two months since my last posting and I cannot begin to tell you the amount of things I suck at. I’ve been making a list of stuff to do videos about and now I just need to get off my rear and get them done. Continue reading

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I Suck At Fencing

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I Suck At Making Vlogs

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I Suck At Writing

I suck at writing! That’s no secret. If you’ve ever come across my blog before or read any of my short stories, scripts, or random ramblings you will be able to tell that right away. I fail at putting my thoughts together and making them flow seamlessly from one topic to the next. Oh look, a penny!

It’s not just my inability to connect topics and ideas, it is also my utter lack of knowledge of when to put certain types of punctuation. For instance, if I put an exclamation point at the end of this sentence it would appear that I’m very excited about it! That was not the case at all. Probably the biggest mistake I make is putting a comma where I should put a semi-colon or vise versa. I feel like I write like I would talk and use commas to add a pause in a sentence where I would pause while I speak. A lot of times I make sarcastic comments when talking to people and so have a tendency to write this way; adding pauses where there really shouldn’t be any. Did I use that semi-colon right?

Another issue I have is keeping the topic(s) in a single voice. For instance, if I wish to talk about a third party in general using the he/she references and saying “one” instead of “you.” I typically end up starting out attempting to be somewhat professional in that sense but then end up going to the relaxed tone and addressing the reader directly, despite the information I am trying to pass on to him/her not as a direct through but more a general statement to anybody who might be listening. Oddly enough, while in high school and college I never did that with any of my papers or journal entries (which were required by my EDSEC classes). Why the change in style and format? Beats me! I feel like it was my shift from non-fictional research writing for school reports to a more relaxed fictional writing for NaNoWriMo and the attempt to make a somewhat worthwhile blog that people would actually want to read from time to time. Wait, you are reading this blog, right?

Possibly the biggest thing I suck at when writing is finding something to write about. Is what I’m saying something that people want to hear/read? Am I just rambling incoherently to nobody in particular? I wonder how many watermelons I can get for $13. I live a boring life, at least I think I do. I wake up, go to work, come home, feed my cats, veg out in front of the TV or computer for a few hours, then go to bed. Who wants to hear about that in a weekly blog? I don’t, and that’s why I don’t want to write about it. That’s why my blog posts are so erratic and don’t follow any specific update schedule. And there’s the vlogs! I actually have to make myself look good, shoot the video, reshoot the video because I made an ass of myself, edit the video, edit the sound, upload the video, wait for the video to go live, then link it on my blog. That’s a lot of work for something that sucks. However, the good thing is when doing a vlog I can put commas and semi-colons wherever I want and nobody is going to point it out to me and say I fail at writing: I just fail at making coherent videos.

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Keep Your Head In The Game

It is no secret that fencing is as much a mental sport as it is a physical one. One has to be constantly assessing the information given to them at any certain point in the bout; where the attack is coming from, the distance to your target, the distance from your opponent’s point, the speed of your attack, the speed of the opponent’s attack/counter-attack, and so on. Add to this confusion of distance and timing the constant distractions of the referee standing idly by judging your every move, the coach sitting on the sideline watching for mistakes you make, the score box in the side or the corners counting down the clock, and any spectators taking your photo or cheering you on. It can be very overwhelming for even the most experienced fencer, let alone a beginning fencer.

Recently while at a tournament in Indianapolis I came across the issue of a beginner fencer struggling with the mental aspects of the game. For privacy reasons we will call her Jane. Jane has only been fencing for about four months (possibly a little longer), but has only attended a handful of competitions; none of which have been larger than 20 fencers. She is currently training to be part of a modern pentathlon and the upcoming Summer Nationals in Columbus, OH. After a round of disheartening pool bouts, she was seeded in dead last; 16th out of 16 fencers. I attempted to console her and congratulate her efforts for the night. I was not doing so well myself having seeded 14th after my bad start in the pools as well. I asked Jane to not look at the big picture; don’t look at where you seeded, look at which actions worked and which ones didn’t. Jane was able to score two well-placed touches on an A-rated epeeist who is also a certified fencing master. She says it was just dumb luck that she got those touches. This may be the case, but in my experience the types of touches she got could not have been done easily with the use of luck. They had to be planned and executed. Jane was also discouraged about a 0-5 loss; something she had not done since her first tournament. We all lose a bout or go without getting a touch every now and then. That is fencing, especially epee. I attempted to explain this to Jane, but her mind was set on the fact that she lost and there was no recovering from that point.

Let’s back up a  little farther and look at a tournament I went to a few months ago; the Firebird Cup. I started the day out badly, only winning two of my pools when I should have had three or four wins. Going in to the DE’s, I was seeded 20th out of 30 fencers. I was in a pretty bad position and had not done that poorly in a while. I immediately set my determination to winning my first DE. I was not worried about winning the tournament, I was focusing on the moment: Win my first round DE then focus on the next round and so on until I was knocked out. Needless to say I won my first two DE’s and pushed my way back in to the top 8 with a very good chance of making it into the semi-finals round. I kept my focus and composure through the bout and kept the score tied until OT where I was finally knocked out 4-5. Why did I get knocked out? I lost my focus a little at the end. My opponent had priority and was a slightly better fencer than I am. I’ve taken out A- and B-rated fencers before and knew I could do it, but with time and skill against me my mind began to race with options instead of focusing on the moment. I could have won if I had stayed focused like I was earlier in the bout, and I may have possibly won the bout after that. However, my head left the game for one split second and it cost me the win. The point I am trying to convey here is that up until that point I was mentally focused. It didn’t matter how strong, fast, skinny, or tall I was; it was all based on how badly I wanted that win and how I was going to achieve it. My head was in the game and it showed.

It is far too easy to get discouraged, especially with fencing. If you let your mind slip or start to think that you cannot win, you will not win. This is the basic self-psychout. You, as a fencer, are allowing yourself to be overcome by the fear and intimidation of your surroundings and your competition. Here is a quote from Dr. Alan Goldberg’s blog:

…if you allow your focus to go to your opponent and you begin thinking about his/her record, reputation, skills, coaching or training advantages, size and/or strength, then you will be setting yourself up to get intimidated.

Someone can be easily affected by such factors and that will lead to them becoming intimidated and start to focus on “I cannot win” rather than “I can win.” In Jane’s case, she saw herself in last place, about to fence the number one seed who coincidentally was the same person she lost 0-5 in her pool bout. Her mentality was, “Why bother trying if I know I’m going to lose?” Why bother, indeed? If you are going to set yourself up to fail before you even try, then you are already failing. As I continued to try and talk to Jane and build up her confidence about the situation, she seemed to get more discouraged. You don’t know what is going to happen in epee, it sometimes comes around to someone making a big upset early in the brackets and throws the whole tournament out of whack. She could have been that upset. She wanted to drop out and leave without the embarrassment of losing another match, but ultimately stayed and fenced her DE, scoring 4 points against the C-rated fencer. Looking back over her scores, that is the third highest amount of touches she made in any DE bout. Looking back at my results over the past years I go back to 2006 when I had already been fencing for four years. I lost my first round DE bout with a 4-15 score. I had three and a half more years of experience, been through two coaches, and was just starting to learn how to coach as well, but I still did just as bad as Jane (who had a dedicated full-time coach and has only been fencing since January). This is nothing to be discouraged about by any means. Unlike basketball, bowling, or baseball, fencing takes years of constant practice to become proficient at. A lot of that practice is spent training muscles and reflexes, drills and actions, but some of it is also spent working on the mental aspects of the game.

When you get done with a bout, ask yourself these questions:

  • What did I do to get that touch?
  • What did I do wrong that I didn’t get that touch?
  • What did I learn to do that I didn’t know how to do before?
  • What did I improve upon that I already knew how to do?

Those are just a few questions you can ask yourself, the list goes on and on. However, those four basic questions will give you a good idea of a post-bout analysis that will help guide your mental focus in to the next bout or tournament. These are some of the questions I was asked on a regular basis by my fencing coaches. It made me look at what I was doing, not what my opponent was doing. Going back to the quote from Dr. Goldberg, my coaches were trying to help me forget the ideas of who my opponent was, their training background, or the physical prowess and were steering me towards being mentally keen to my own actions, training, and knowledge. Jane may have left the strip at the end of the last tournament in last place, but what did she learn from the experience? Did she look at what she was doing rather than what her opponent was doing? How can she improve herself for the future? Leaving the strip with a good mental focus, even after a loss, will help prepare you for the next time you are faced with a similar situation. Let’s go back again to my 4-5 loss in the round of 8. A few weeks afterwards I was practicing against the kid I lost to. We set up the same situation; one minute on the clock, score was tied, he had priority. The same events unfolded, the only different was I was focused on what I needed to do in order to gain that one point to win the match. I executed the same attack as before, the only difference was I was not worrying about whether or not it worked because I would have the chance to do it again if it didn’t. Should you apply the same thought process to your tournament matches? I don’t see why not. If you are in a difficult situation and about to lose a tournament match, focus on what you need to do to win. Chances are, if you fence enough local level events you will see the same people over and over and will have another chance to repeat the situation; similar to if you mess up at practice you reset and start over. It may not be immediate, but it will happen. Keeping that mental focus both before and after the bout will help prepare you for the win.

In conclusion, don’t let yourself be discouraged by one loss (or a group of losses). Focus on you, in the moment, and what you are doing or have to do. Don’t let yourself be distracted by outside information like how good your opponent is or if you are looking silly for the person in the corner taking your photo. If you keep your head in the game and only focus on what is in front of you rather than the whole picture (i.e. paying attention to the current touch rather than the whole tournament), you will be more prepared to take away a win from someone else. If you feel yourself becoming discouraged, it helps to talk to someone about what is going on and seek out any observations they may have about your fencing. A saying that I tell my students all the time is to focus on one touch at a time. Keep it simple, keep it smart. Don’t let yourself be your downfall. And remember, fence well!

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Why I Am Single

I joke around with my friends, tossing around various ideas as to why I am unable to obtain a date. I throw out comments such as my age, receding hairline, physical appearance, and even my personality flaws. However, after recent events that took place the other night at work I began thinking about possibly another reason why I find it so difficult to actually get a girl to accept my proposal for dinner and a movie (or some other wholesome activity) that is beyond my simple social anxiety.

Let’s start at the beginning of the encounter; I was at work in the second drive-thru window passing out food to our lovely overnight customers. Now I use “lovely” as a sarcastic term here because if you know me you know I have a strong distaste for the average individual who makes a trip to my store after 1am. It was roughly about 2:15am on a Sunday morning (or Saturday night, depending on how you look at it) when I opened the window to hand out the food to what happened to be a relatively cute blonde. I don’t want to say that she was the hottest girl I’ve seen, but would definitely turn heads as she walked in the room.

I’m not sure if I startled her when I opened the window or not, but as soon as I did I noticed that she took in a quick, shallow breath, her pupils dilated slightly, and her face became a little flush. It could have also been that she thought the same about me upon seeing me standing there holding her drink and a straw; I was not the hottest guy she had ever seen but would turn some heads if I walked in a room at her side. Of course it could have also been that she thought I was going to jump through the window and rape and murder her (and not particularly in that order). I am going to give myself the benefit of the doubt and assume that she did think of me as some serial rapist.

It was about this time that I began to think in the back of my mind that I should perhaps flirt a little with this girl to see how she responded. If the response was in my favor I could possible extend the interaction to an exchange of phone numbers and go from there. It was also about this time that the more dominant part of my brain took over and began a few observations:

She was not wearing any type of engagement or wedding ring on her left hand, nor had a man’s ring on her right hand. In the backseat of her car was a child restraint seat, and considering that the seat was facing forward I would assume the age of her child to be between 2-4, which then led me to estimate her age between 21 and 24. These factors did not bother me much. The lack of rings suggested that she was a single mother; the problem was with her order. One sandwich, two fries and two drinks. My mind immediately told me that although she was not displaying any signs being attached to someone, her recent food purchase did. She was most likely getting a late night snack for her significant other who was staying at home to watch the child to whom the car seat belonged.

All of those observations combined made me reconsider my previous thought of attempting to be flirtatious (and also because I am a very bad flirt). I gave her the remainder of her order, thanked her, and shut the window, possibly to never see her again. So this is why I am single and likely to remain that way: I over analyze situations, come to the the worst possible conclusion, and immediately accept said conclusion as the only answer. Why can’t I just shut off my brain?

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Social Media and You

Facebook this, Tweet that, YouTube all the things! Social media web sites have quickly dominated our lives and our way of networking with each other as human beings. It is no joke when I say that the youth of today have the ability to instantly share their thoughts with the rest of the world at any give time, at any given location. However, and this is where I flash back to Sam Rami’s Spider-man, with great power comes great responsibility.

Let’s put it this way: everything you post to your Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or whatever other social media web site is out there for public viewing and knowledge. Now chances are if you are smart enough you have your content locked down so that only those you approve can view your material. Facebook has gotten better at this, Twitter is one of more secure when it comes to privacy issues that I’ve seen, and YouTube just doesn’t really care that much. However, no matter how much you lock down your stuff and put up privacy guards, you will always have someone tagging you in a post, photo, video, or something else that will bring your name or face along with whatever is going on. The reason I bring this up is because social media is such an integral part to our everyday lives business owners and HR departments are starting to look at the social media pages of potential employees.

Just recently while at work I had a group of teenagers attempt to do the recently popular “coning” prank to one of my employees. If you are unfamiliar with it the basic idea is someone goes through a drive thru of a fast food place, orders an ice cream cone, and grabs the cone by the top of the ice cream; squishing the cone in the hand of the establishment’s employee. Most of the time the prank is recorded on a cell phone, but sometimes only pictures are taken. These videos and photos eventually find their way on to the Internet and those involved in the incident are tagged. I had gotten in to an argument with the parent of the teenager who attempted this prank. The father was furious with me that his vehicle was covered in ice cream and demanded that either I or one of my employees clean the mess. After stating our store’s policy on the situation as well as citing a few federal privacy laws that were broken (i.e. photographing or video taping an individual with out their knowledge or consent), I then began to explain to the father of the teenage how something like this “innocent, fun prank” (as he called it) could be detrimental to their future.

Employers will browse Google, Bing, or whatever other search engine they happen to use (does AOL still exist?) to find out what they can about potential new hires. This includes browsing Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, blogs, and YouTube channels. If they find disturbing photos, posts, tweets, videos, or anything else it could mean the difference between getting the job or moving on to something else. Some major Fortune 500 companies already have a social media department as part of the HR just to research potential clients and employees. In fact, CareerBuilder.com has stated that 37% of companies will check various social media outlets before making a hiring decision.

Sure, you can say that they were just being teenagers and having fun on a Saturday night. I would argue, though, that what may look like fun today will not look like fun tomorrow. In the information age, it takes only minutes (if not seconds) for something to become viral. Think about how many companies you hear or read about in the news making some mistake on their Twitter or Facebook page and how quickly that news spread. Now imagine you (or your child) posting a video on YouTube of something a potential employer may consider childish and immature and it becoming viral. Once something becomes viral, it is nearly impossible to remove from the Internet. You may delete it, but that doesn’t mean someone, somewhere, hasn’t saved it for themselves or taken note of it.

I guess if I had to sum everything all up to make one solid statement, it would to be careful about what you post online. You may think you are posting something cute or funny, but odds are there will be one person that does not agree with your point of view; and that person may or may not be your next employer.

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Vlog: New camera and mic

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