Do or Do Not.

Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

Managing Inputs

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I’m now eighteen hours into an experiment I’m going to be trying for the next week, until 11:59 pm on April 3, 2012: I’m not going to read any comic book news sites or sports news sites. This might not sound like a huge deal to you, but I have several comics and sports sites I visit many, many times each day entirely out of habit. My brain gets bored with whatever I’m working on and my fingers will just sort of automatically Control-D to my browser’s address bar and start typing in the address of one of these sites out of muscle memory. Rarely do I have any truly compelling reason to go check these sites.

Yet check them I do. Way, way, way too often.

Comic book sites are to me as this guy's boogers obviously are to him.

This is the thing about those far-too-frequent visits to Newsarama and and wherever else — I don’t think I actually enjoy those topics anymore. I rarely read comics (which is almost a shame, given that I now own an iPad) and I rarely watch football except during the playoffs. Yet I read about them constantly. I know tons about what’s going on with mainstream comics and tons about what’s going on in the NFL… but I don’t really care. I have gained this knowledge because I feel like I’m supposed to, because doing so is part of the definition of being Me. These are Things Allens Do — or have always done, but maybe shouldn’tdo anymore (or should do much less of, anyway).

If all I’m getting out of visiting these sites is a few minutes of distraction and not any real satisfaction or edification, then I’d rather get that distraction from somewhere that’s going to let me learn something new or let me productive in some (probably creative, possibly professional) way. At the very worst, I obviously need to up the number of sources from which I’m getting input. If I take that time each day that I spend keeping up with topics that don’t really matter to me anymore and instead devote that time to something I’m more interested in now — learning another language or writing or photography or design or music theory or or film criticism or what-have-you — then maybe I’ll actually make some traction at getting better or more knowledgeable at these other things, and become generally more awesome.

This is the hope anyway.

So what do y’all do when you’re needing a little brain-break and want to keep up with your varied interests? I’m on the lookout for new inputs — educate me. :)

Written by Allen

March 28th, 2012 at 2:03 pm


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On Saturday afternoon, after taking the better part of four years to work up the courage for it, I finally shaved my head.

I’ve had long hair off and on (mostly on, pretty much except when I was required by jobs not to) since I was fourteen. Long hair was, for a long long time, a very important part of my self-identity. It was a visual identifier, a calling card. My long hair set me apart to some degree (though not so much after I started hanging out with the geeky crowd full of longhairs I hang with in Boston). During times when I didn’t have long hair, I didn’t feel quite like myself, like I wasn’t authentically Me.

But genetics has taken its toll on my hair over the last decade or so. My hairline receded a long time ago, but then more recently it started getting awfully thin on top in addition. My long hair went from being something I was proud of, something I identified with, to something that caused me angst and made me feel terrible about myself when I looked in a mirror.

I originally grew my hair out for me, because I wanted to, not to please anyone else. My dad, in fact, gave me plenty of crap about it over the 25 years or so I had it long. But eventually, I kept it for everyone else, not for me. I was afraid of what other people were going to think of me if I cut it, I was afraid I wasn’t going to be attractive anymore, I was afraid I was going to disappoint people, I was afraid I’d have any ugly-shaped head. (The first time you go super-short, there’s always the possibility that you could end up with something ugly-lookin’ and have to wear hats until your hair grows back in. I’m very happy that’s not the case with my dome.)

And I finally decided that none of that really mattered — or at least, didn’t matter as much as my feeling comfortable with myself and my appearance again.

So I cut it for me, not for anyone else.

After discussing it for awhile with Terry on Saturday morning, and getting all of the love and encouragement and reassurance I could ever hope for from her, I decided it was time. I’d originally planned to go for something more medium-length, but no… that would only have been further delaying the inevitable. And I was ready to stop the delay.

We went to the salon, I sat in the stylist’s chair, and when she asked what we were doing today, I told her it was time to take it all off.

“All of it?” Yes, all of it.

She braided my ponytail, and with a few hacking strokes of her scissors, lopped it off and handed it to me. I still have it, just like I have the twin ponytails from last year when I cut a foot off of my halfway-down-my-back tresses.

At one point, she left an inch-and-a-half or so on top and tried to style it, but it just looked horrible. Not her fault — my hair’s fault. It was just too thin. I told her to keep going, just to buzz it all over, and I think she either didn’t think I was serious or thought I didn’t know what I was asking for, because she only reluctantly did so after my asking several times. Even when she was done, it was still longer than I was intending, but hey, I’ve got clippers now and can take care of it myself.

When she was done, I had a nice half-inch long layer of fuzz all over my head. I looked at myself in the mirror, and for the first time in a while, I liked what I saw (and liked what I felt even better). It’s funny, but I think shaving my head made me look… well, I don’t want to say “younger,” but “not so old-looking,” if that makes sense. My hair had gotten to the point where it was dragging me down and making me look tired.

Now, all of that visual down-pulling is gone. I look taller. I look thinner. And yeah, I don’t look so old.

Also, it had thinned so much on the top that I felt like it looked kinda ridiculous, like I was either trying to hide my thinning or like I didn’t notice that my follicles had betrayed me in mass numbers. Now it’s even more obvious that it’s sparser, of course — but rather than looking silly, it’s more of an “eh, whateva” thing. Yes, it’s thinned, and I’ve done what you do when your hair gets too thin. Shrug it off and move on.

I’m happy that the response for the most part so far has been positive. A couple of people have been a bit freaked or disappointed, but for the most part, people have dug it. The word “badass” has been used more than any other so far, which I’ll admit is kinda cool. And I’ve really enjoyed having people rub my fuzzy head — maybe even more than I used to enjoy their running their fingers through it.

Here’s the big thing: “shaving my head” was always very firmly on my List of Things I Didn’t Think I Could Ever Do OMG, a thing that inexplicably terrified me. But I did it. It might have taken me four years, but I did it. And so far, it’s working out well for me.

So… what other things that I thought I could never do are actually within my grasp, if only I dare to reach for them?

Written by Allen

July 5th, 2011 at 9:04 pm

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Cleansing Waters, Part III

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About five years ago, flooding in the basement of our home in Rhode Island wiped out a significant portion of my comic book collection. I had to throw out thousands of dollars worth of soggy, ruined comics. I made the determination then that I needed to get rid of most of the comics I had left and just keep the ones that were special to me.


Well, surprise! I didn’t do that.1 I did put those special comics into a plastic box so they’d be safe, but rather than issue the proposed Basement Enema, I continued to move several thousand not-so-special comics with me to North Carolina and then back up here to Massachusetts. Partially it was because I never could quite figure out the best way to get rid of them — should I eBay them? donate them to a local comic book shop or reading advocacy program? burn them in a four-color bonfire? — but mainly it was because I just didn’t get around to it.

Cut to this weekend: we’re going through the basement, getting ready to move into our awesome new apartment, and my nephew pulls out the plastic box containing all those comics I actually cared about.

With the lid mysteriously absent.

And a whole shitload of wet comics and books. Not just moist… wet. As in, this wasn’t simply a humidity thing; some significant amount of water must have gotten into that box sometime in the past year.

The comics (and four or five books) in that box were moldy and stuck together and smelly and utterly ruined. 2 All of my Jim Lee X-Men (and other) comics, my X-Men and New Mutants annuals from the 80s that Art Adams drew, the run of John Byrne Superman books I’d painstakingly assembled over several years, many of my original Wolfman/Pérez Teen Titans and my Levitz/Giffen Legion of Super-Heroes… all destroyed. I’m not even sure what all else was in there; even if I’d wanted to look, I wouldn’t have been able to get most of the books unstuck to see what they were.

Many of these were the books that went a long way toward shaping my sensibilities as a comic book fan. Hell, not even just as a comic book fan — as a pop culture fan. As I said just last week when I was talking about Lost:

I love episodic drama, I love shows with huge numbers of characters, I love time travel stories, I love mysteries, I love any story which can be watched/read/enjoyed multiple times to pick up on extra details which only make sense in retrospect.

Well, where do you think I first fell in love with those qualities? Yup, comics. More specifically, the comics that had unbeknownst to me been acting as sponges for the last year-ish. Uncanny X-Men, New Teen Titans, Legion of Super-Heroes, Avengers, Justice League of America: big, frequently rotating casts. Long-running story arcs, sometimes with seeds planted years before growing to fruition. (Generally) strong character growth and development. That’s what I learned to love then, and it’s what I still love now.

But let’s set aside the particulars of the comics I lost, and even set aside the fact that it was comics at all. The fact of the matter is, something I’d been carrying around with me quite literally since I was a kid has now been lost to me. These books lived in a place of honor in my bedroom when I was a kid so I could access them easily. I once compiled a database of every comic I owned (in Lotus Symphony, I believe), so I could cross-reference my collection by creator. I distinctly remember moving these into the apartment I shared with my friend Mitch in Tallahassee. I remember where they lived in the closet of my apartment in Tampa. After Terry and I got together, I was sad when they spent a couple of years in our storage facility because our apartment was too tiny and already filled with two little kids and a huge dog.

And now the important ones are in a soggy box on my front porch, and I have friends coming by tomorrow to take the still-intact ones away from me.

I realize that I have absolutely no one to blame for this situation but me. I could easily have taken better care of them — either through the bag-and-board route, or just by keeping them somewhere where they wouldn’t get flooded. One could say that if they were that important to me, I would have done exactly that, but I didn’t.

And I don’t care about the monetary value. Honestly, I don’t. Some of these comics were likely worth a decent amount — maybe not huge, but more than nothing — though as noted, I’ve never been a bag-and-board guy, so they wouldn’t have been worth their full potential value, anyway. Regardless, I never once bought a single comic because I thought I’d be able resell it for a profit someday.

But these comics have been part of my life, part of the Me I’d drag from place to place to place, a comforting bit of my childhood I’ve always had with me. It’s stretching it way way way too far to say I feel like an old friend just died 3, but one of my few remaining tangible, meaningful connections to The Me That Was so long ago is gone. 4

I feel like I should think of this development as liberating, like I’m shedding loose a skin that no longer truly fit and had been weighing me down for too long. Maybe that last bit is true, but honestly, it doesn’t feel particularly “liberating” quite yet. Right now, I’m in a small, admittedly weird bit of mourning. My friends who saw me today might have noticed I was a bit off, and, well, that’s why.

I’ll be better soon enough. Comic books are just things, after all, and many of the lost ones are replaceable in better formats now. But I need to give myself a little time to deal with these odd feelings of loss, and realize that it’s all part of Letting Go, which will be a more and more valuable and important skill to have as my kids grow up.

For now, I’m going to go read some of the comics my boy Timmy B. sent me recently — comics which now make up the bulk of my collection.

  1. Not really a surprise. 

  2. You might think from that description that I’d be talking about an old porno collection, but no, really I’m not. Really. 

  3. I’ve had that feeling far too recently, and I can say that yeah, there’s not a comparison. 

  4. Yes, I just said “meaningful” when talking about my comic book collection. Deal. 

Written by Allen

May 31st, 2010 at 9:47 pm

Posted in Comic Books,Personal


with 3 comments

Oh, hey, look. My hair’s blue. Or partially, anyway.

It’s for a photo shoot at work today; since I don’t really have much in the way of fun clothes, I decided to make my hair more fun. No, it’s not permanent — yet. But we’ll see how I like it as the day goes on. If I dig it enough, maybe I’ll have to make the blue a little less temporary.

Written by Allen

May 27th, 2010 at 9:46 am

Posted in Personal

Different Energies (Or Lack Thereof)

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Today, I discovered an interesting side effect of eating a mostly vegetarian diet: the kind of hungry I now get in the late afternoon is totally different from the kind of hungry I’m used to.

See, in the olden days of last week, if I didn’t eat enough at lunchtime (or sometimes even if I did), then by the time the late afternoon rolled around, my stomach would be crying out for me to put more food in it. I’d feel hunger pangs down at the bottom of my stomach, and I’d have to feed it — and I could shovel pretty much anything into it to shut it up. Frequently, this late-afternoon food craving would carry with it a serious inability to concentrate, so even if I wanted to ignore the noises emanating from my stomach, I still had to eat to get my brain back online so I could get work done.

But today… OK, so I had what I thought was a pretty decent amount of food for lunch (a couple of delicious veggie fajitas), but I didn’t have anything else to eat in the afternoon, as I was avoiding the high-sugar desserts offered at the conference I was attending. Big mistake there. After the conference, I chose to walk home the two miles from Alewife, but I realized pretty quickly that I just didn’t have the energy for the walk. (Well, I thought I didn’t — I pushed through and made it, but for a while I wasn’t sure I was gonna.)

The hunger that hit me was of a different timbre than the hungers I’m used to: it wasn’t as much a stomach-oriented feeling of “must put food in belly” as much as it was a whole-self-oriented “must put energy in body.” It was… a bizarre feeling for me. I mean, I’m used to being somewhat low-energy a lot of the time, but more in a heavy-sluggish way than in a out-of-fuel way, if that makes much sense.

Got home, ate a ton of salad and felt much better.

On the plus side, however, I did not get the brain fog that I not-so-infrequently get in the afternoons, even when I’d been sitting in a giant salon in a hotel listening to people talk about building websites all day. So I’ll take that as a win.

Man, who knew learning to eat differently could be so damn difficult?

Also: while I’m on the topic of vegetarianism, I’ll share a video my friend Dwight that he thought I’d appreciate and that I likewise think you might enjoy:

Written by Allen

May 25th, 2010 at 9:46 pm

Posted in Personal

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