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robertdowney

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Cruise Control

I made some observations lately concerning life and time. When we’re young, time seems to be moving too slow for all we NEED to do (or believe we need to do!). I need to do more, be more. I’m not old enough to be anything. I haven’t accomplished everything I should and I’m already 20…30…40…  As age creeps upon us though, time seems to be moving too slow for all we NEED to do….and I like it that way! What drove this point home the most to me was my constant use of the cruise control feature.

You see, there are multiple paths to my daily destinations and which path I choose could depend on how I reach my destination and if. But as I have matured, or age-ed :-), I have learned that the path which takes the MOST time seems to be the best. Why? Well, as my peers and learned friends may know, slowing down time has been a physics quest since, well, the beginning of time. The slowing down of MY time is now my goal and the sweetest way to do so comes in the form of cruise-control.

What do you do when it comes to making life-changing decisions that may effect all those around you? Worrying about your mundane life and if you are truly happy and if your achieving your goals? Need more money, more love in your life, more family, more STUFF?

Cruise-control.

It seems that the older I get, I am starting to care less for others and more for me. It sounds cold, but if I had just cared more when I was young about me, the journey might have been more satisfying. Am I a little cold as I drive or just sit and relax back? Instead of heating everything around me, I just hit the heated seat and warm my own ass. Need to get a little air? Push all the vents on me and enjoy the cool breeze as it rushes through the car. Not in a hurry to get to the end destination? What to do?

C’mon say it…..cc.

Simply taking the easy path has allowed me to see the future for what it is.

It’s just time. Time that will come with or without me. But for now….

Cruise-control.

 

 

 

Just another day in Paradise

Intelligent Machines

I wanna talk to my car.

Its 2012 and according to the advanced science fiction journals I read as a child (comic books), they were supposed to be here by now. Promises…promises…

In a story I read today at the BBC, they are trying to enhance your car to make it give you weather, directions, traffic, restaurants, theater locations, airports and recipes while you drive. And soon you can buy while grappling with congestion on your way to 7-eleven for a slim-jim (just what we need, mobile home shopping network).

But they’re missing the point.

I wanna have a conversation with my car.

I wanna know how the engines doing. I want the oil pressure @ 85 miles an hour. What was my max and average rpm? How’d that Mercedes beat me off the line?

Driving a car requires skill. My road skills have been tested on the autobahn in the 90′s for over six years, everyday. 120kph to work, 140 on the way home. I had to learn to hold onto the wheel, assess how fast the Ferrari was behind me and when to get to the right (something slow-ass Americans forgot years ago :-(). I learned how to push the car in front when required, but respect the speed when needed. And recently, I’ve learned how to drive with one hand.

I want my car to talk to me in a sultry british voice, or a nostalgic over the top Fred Flintstone. I want my car to tell me to have a great day and good luck with my endeavors. The key is I want configurable options to interact with my intelligent car. I wanna know my tire pressure, engine temperature and when to change my oil. I wanna know just how hard I can push my car without breaking it. I want my car to tell me when to wash it.

And I want it to tell me we are the best friends anyone’s ever had.

I want a Smart Ass car.

Just another day in Paradise , , , , ,

Alpha dog

I had a monumentally no-brains question hit my ears the other day.

It was really like that + ‘you gotta be shittin me’ that shot around my head.

I heard this question during my daily travels that take me walking every day, something I do to hit the hills of Richmond and strengthen my legs for the day when I will really need them. Sittin down all-day never helped anybody.

The question came from a young girl sitting with her Mother at an Au Bon Pain cafe at my work. The two had, I assume, just finished a doctor’s appointment or required check-up and the Mother, literally, placed the young girl in the chair steering her through a strong hand on the shoulder. The young girl was, by my estimation, about six months pregnant and her Mother wiped her brow in exhaustion as she sat to relax.

The ingenue then spouted out the most amazing declaration in the form of a squeaky question:

“Did you know havin’ babies is hard? I ain’t gonna have any time to myself”

The mother leaned back in her chair and gave her that, ‘Did this child really come outta me? look that only comes from a hardened, battle-weathered woman.

I actually let out an audible laugh.

Mom looked up at me as she shook her head, silently saying, ‘Do you beieve the spew comin’ from this genius’ mouth? I tipped my head and we both smiled.

And then the girl pouted cause she needed a free lunch and reality had set in.

It’s nice sometimes when your the alpha.

Just another day in Paradise

Intentional pauses

Once again I find myself taking pause on a bar-stool.

Its one of those places where a quiet couple sits in the front window, holding hands and praying over a pub-meal, happy in their choice of fondue and tater-tots nachos. Posters are haphazardly placed on the walls and dark curtains hide the sun and keep in the smell of slightly-stale beer and secretly smoked cigarettes from the night before. In places, your feet stick to the floor. Who wants a pub without sticky floors.

Just weeks ago I sat on a bar-stool with my wife of 20 years after a family wedding, eating a late night appetizer, sipping late-night Grand Marnier with our oldest mutual friend in the world and I was surprised to feel that rush through my body that only comes when the one you love massages your neck and pulls you in slowly for that soft kiss. I have greeted old-friends and new acquaintances from the security of a warm bar-stool – and have watched friends leave me after a sad bar-stool good-bye.

Some of my fondest memories are of time spent with friends on or around bar-stools, time to laugh or just talk; celebrating birthdays and deaths, but always happy just to spend time catching up. Recently it has been time spent waiting for a meal or a drink and taking time to pause, breathe deep and assess how I was doing during the 4th decade of my life.

But why bar-stools? Well, not to dodge the issue, but I AM an Irishman. That’s not an excuse, it’s just always been an important part of the american/irish/german culture that I grew up in that we spend time with friends and family to take intentional pauses to catch-up and celebrate our lives in restaurants, bars and preferably pubs. There’s just something about a solid bar-stool that screams comfort to me.

I’ve made alot of decisions on bar-stools.

I met the love of my life during a job interview on a padded bar-stool. I learned to dance from too much time on a wooden bar-stool (hard-wood, no-back – you gotta stand up eventually!) I smoked a Leon Jimenez No. 1 on an old bar-stool with my dear friends after the birth of my son and, again for the birth of my beautiful daughter on a high-top bar-stool with a box of Arturo Fuentes.

Survived a Master’s Thesis on Internet Design similarities Worldwide - yawn ( note: Internet of 1996-97 – no tablets yet!), by developing and refining thoughts on bar-stools, and actually graduated with honors!

I cheered my brother’s life with him from a metal bar-stool in Italy; from a pub church pew  and a wobbly wooden Oktoberfest table in Munich; from a street facing chair in Paris on the Champs-Elysee where he came out to me (a beautiful memory). And I toasted his death with Tequila and tear-soaked eyes on a hard-back, bar-chair and a pint of Guiness (para los muertos).

But with a bar’s tables, not so lucky.

It seems to me that when I end up at a table, I usually get lazy, or I eat too much. Birthday celebrations, a table is required. Goes the same for New Year’s Eve. For a date, tables work fine. You gotta have a little isolation to cast your spells. You don’t want someone better looking or more suave than you stopping by your bar-stool and stealing your dates affections.

Intentional pauses….seems like the next decade may bring many.

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A Happy Sadness

I never thought the day would creep up on me so simply, so quietly.

When I was a young Dad, I never expected or anticipated the day my son would grow taller than me or to simply graduate from High School.

I was busy watching him sing in the left-side of a kindergarten play, or puffing my chest when he hit almost every ball set before him in T-ball. The day would never come when he would drive away from me (literally), happily heading down the road of life. I expected this would happen to me when I got old, when I had accepted my own expiration date and had made peace with my morbidity.

Yet, it came.

I have dreamed of this for many years, always sure that I would have taught him everything necessary to survive in this expansive world. Would I have adequately prepared him?

When he was very young, I insisted that he shake every man’s hand and proudly look him in the eye, teaching him to be sure of who he was and humbly expressing his respect for others. When he didn’t do it right, I would call him out and make him do it again. A simple yet elegant expression of confidence between men.

Through countless lessons I have always tried to teach him how to be a good man. So now, as he continues to bound forward on his journey, I can only offer advice and hope the tenants I have taught him will hold him steadfast.

Sooo…Some things I have learned from my journey:

  • Be honest, you’ll never have to waste time on what you said or who you really are. Livin’ a lie never helped anyone and it wastes precious time.
  • Be kind. Being a dick never works (Trust me…)
  • Your family is like fudge – mostly sweet with some amazing nuts! We are your foundation that will always be here…
  • The journey is a roller-coaster ride, every downhill has an uphill. And sometimes it’s thrilling...
  • If you only win 65% of the time, your beatin’ da house at least by half+. Not bad odds…
  • When the rubber hits the road and you have to make a choice - BE A MAN!
  • Be proud of your accomplishments and learn from your failures. The only way to fail is to try, and NEVER BE AFRAID TO TRY!
  • Every task can be completed – remember, the optimist sees the doughnut, the pessimist sees the hole!
  • Strive to have more patience, even though your not a doctor!
  • Cruise control gets you there just as fast and keeps you within the limits. The ride is safer and it gives you time to look around. But always remember to keep your eyes on the road.
  • I know you will start many fires, and I believe you will put them out with kindness and respect.
  • Find what you like and stick with it. 301 flavors – what moron needs to try em all!
  • Find an intelligent woman that always has your back. It’s no fun goin it alone.
  • Sometimes, over-sharing will get you in trouble. To listen is truly an art-form that will make you a better man.
  • Love is only tricky if you DON’T commit. And if you do commit, to quote my brother, love fiercely!

And the most important:

  • Never try to be what your not and accept what you are!

So, it is with humility that I send you on your way. Best fishes. And remember…

I will always be there, alive or dead, and I will always love you

Ciao,

Dad

 

Family, Just another day in Paradise

It’s about believing…

I have a dear friend that stops once a year to assess where she is in her life, what she has accomplished in the last year and what her future goals are for the upcoming future. Sometimes she meets her goals, sometimes not, but she doesn’t let it stress her. To me, the most important thing she does is simply to believe.

Believing that where you are in your journey in this life and that it is the best place you can be at this very moment is what ensures my sanity. I try to make changes that will benefit in a positive outcome, or uphill, to my rollercoaster amusement life-ride.

I must mention that I am a network engineer by trade (shunned by the engineering community!), but an engineer nonetheless. Soo, as I have reflected on how my body decided to create several blood-clots, which it subsequently sent to my brain, which then blocked blood-flow and caused my brain to attack me, I have realized one important truth or acceptance – I am responsible for, at least in part, for the initial cause for my illness.

So, I have started on a journey of belief.

I believe that I have found at least one source of my malady and have made the move to rectify the situation. I am changing one simple thing that any other stroke survivor can change with ease.

I have changed what I put in my mouth.

It’s pretty simple. There are two evil sisters in the world known as strokes and heart attacks. They both have simple common sources – keeping the blood flowing and not clogging keeps the parts running, much like an engine. You know what I mean if you’ve driven behind a 70′s megasteel automobile and smelled that wonderful exhaust smell from my youth – the smell of Detroit engines and lead gas that used to plague my summers on the road with my grandfather when the windows were down (it always made us sleepy…hmmmm..). Well, imagine this is your body! Do you want to run like a prehistoric muscle-car or a new energy efficient racer?

Now as an engineer, I decided for the latter. I have changed my diet to one based on plants. Not vegan, oh no. I have become mega-vegan! On August 21, 2011 at 11am (slept in) – I began my journey of belief. I eat nothing with eyeballs, no-dairy, no cheese(that one hurt) and no oils. Absolutely none.

And the outcome has been spectacular!

I have more energy than I have ever had (even pre-stroke). I eat three meals a day, minimum, with fruit snacks in-between if I crave food (apples, peaches – fruitnot fruit roll-ups!). I have begun cooking again, something I relish from my college days when me preparing food was the only way I survived (thus my starving artist look). And the most interesting part of this journey of belief is that it has been fun! Foods that I eat and prepare include ratatouille, vegetable stuffed cabbage, killer-vegetable chili, hummus wraps and vanilla-kissed shredded wheat! I started three weeks ago at 212 pounds and by following this life-change, I have already lost 11 pounds, causing me to use a belt-hole I never thought I would see again!

What I am doing is changing the input variable in my experimental life. I never want to ever have another stroke! Or heart attack or alzheimer’s or any other dang-burn stinkin’ frickin ailment caused, mostly, by what I put in my mouth! We all grow up and eat what our parents eat or our family eats. Learned behavior.

I am changing my learned behavior.

I am mega-vegan!

But when do I get my superpowers?

(more on what diet I am following, why and how you can do it  – in a new page on my blog in the coming weeks!!)


Just another day in Paradise , , , , , ,

Sometimes you get to choose your best friend

For Linda… :-)

There are many stories that abound on the Internet concerning family, relationships, feelings and compassion and the bonds that carry us as we stride down our separate paths to our ultimate conclusion. So here’s a part of mine.

I purchased my BFF in Regensburg, Germany – a small town in the Southwest of Bavaria where the U.S. had a small base which used to be concerned with protecting the border between East and West Germany. From the moment I saw her I felt that warm buzzing in my heart that only comes from true friendship. She was of regal birth with a title of nobility and strong pure-blood background. And she was beautiful!

I sat on the floor as her brothers and sisters scrambled to climb on my lap and watched carefully as she shyly sauntered towards me and laid her head on my hand. The smallest of all the siblings, we were told she would never impress those that judge character by looks alone. It was then that I saw what drew me to her in the first place. As she looked up at me from the left, you could not help but notice her beautiful bright-blue iris piercing into your soul. But her heterochromia is what won my heart – for her beautiful right brown iris matched that of my bride. Abby became our first daughter as our lives became intertwined until death do us part.

She enlightened our lives for over 13 years, growing as her siblings did – always the elder sweetheart. I will never forget as I woke one morning when our children were small and she was making a quiet fuss that made her hair stand on edge. She was pacing – patiently waiting for me to dress and lead me down the stairs. At that moment all I wanted was a sweet cup of coffee to clear the cobwebs in my head. I opened the glass back door and watched as majesty unfolded before my eyes. She tucked her tail and moved quickly, her taut legs close to the ground. She silently glided through the small swinging door of the screen porch and picked up the pace. In a flash, a dove tried to escape as Abby launched upward about 8 feet, closing her jaw on the body of the prey and slowly, almost as if time stopped, falling to the ground. The final motion as she landed was the twisting of her neck as she shattered the birds neck. She dropped the victim at her feet and raised her head towards me smiling and panting, her tail a blur of wagging – blood dripping from her chin and neck.

I cried as I caught my breath, tears streaming down my cheeks. I had just witnessed one of the marvels of nature that will be with me forever. My wife would have stared in horror at this display – but I was never prouder of my best friend.

Abby has been gone now for several years, her ashes and spirit encased in porcelain on my mantle.

A real friend changes you forever.

Family , ,

Diabetes bingo

“My name is Greg, and I have Diabetes”. (Crowd) “Hello Greg”.

That’s what it feels like every morning when my fingers tingle as my blood sugar sinks to a low level. It is the “sugar” disease that I love to hate, one that is truly the inspiration for this blog – it was diabetes that brought on my wonderful and mind-altering stroke. I check my sugar every day now, making sure I don’t let this misunderstood disease hurt me – again!

Diabetes has forever changed the way I live. The problem started with my ancestors. Heck, I come from a long line of diabetics – both my mother and father were and are diabetics. A seasoned English teacher, my mother died of complications from pneumonia caused by multiple diabetic strokes to the base of her neck that sadly took away her ability to speak. My grandmother was a diabetic who lost toes to the disease. After research, I found that my great-grandmother was a diabetic! So why did I not understand that diabetes could irreparably harm me and cause me to have a stroke?

Well, I am here to let EVERY diabetic know – watch outdiabetes is one of the leading causes of stroke! I did not know this! And sadly, I am not alone.

Diabetes is a group of diseases marked by high levels of blood glucose resulting from defects in insulin production, insulin action, or both. Diabetes can lead to serious complications and premature death, and stroke. Happily, people with diabetes can take steps to control the disease and lower the risk of strokes and heart disease.

So how do I control this and live the rest of my life? Well, the answer is simple – DIET! Stop eating sweets, eat more vegetables like carrots and cabbage and EXERCISE!! I have been absent from posting for some time because I felt un-inspired to write. But what I have found is that control over my body is tantamount to control over my mind. My recent HbA1c (the measure for sugar or hemoglobin in your blood) was 6.1, where an HbA1c of 6% or less is normal. As a diabetic, it is essential that I try to keep HbA1c at or below 7%. The HbA1c test is used to measure your blood sugar control over several months, so in my opinion, it shows your level of self-control over your disease!. Well, I have achieved this amount by careful control over one thing – what goes in my mouth!

Another way I fight diabetes: I read ALOT! A recent article on scientists performing an experiment where diabetics were subjected to 600 calories and an almost ALL-veggie diet erased diabetes and increased insulin production in the pancreas. What this means to me and all adult-onset (Type II) diabetics is that YOU can control diabetes in your own blood!  The full article.

So, please enjoy the upcoming Fourth of July holiday and, for the ever-vigilant watchers of their bodies, – stay away from the popsicles!

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