McLovin for a Day

Officer Othree and Logtar
While I was looking forward to the geekfest that was going to be Blizzcon and hanging out with 14 guildies including DeGuia, I was super excited when months ago one of them offered to take me on a “ride-along.” Ever since that day I have been thinking of the Cops – Bad Boys theme playing over and over in my head.

I honestly had no clue what to expect. Watching a TV show and being there in the cop car do not compare. The first thing was to see Charlie in uniform. We had spent most of our time joking and even though I had cop questions before and heard his professional voice he is a funny guy with a great sense of humor. The uniform did not make him intimidating to me since I do know him and have had a couple of drinks with him before, but I could see all the people around me change.

The first stop was the station where I got to fill out a form that pretty much said I could not sue anyone if anything happened to me while I was doing the ride along. It did not scare me, because I do trust Charlie and his capabilities; however, it did make me think of what many reporters do all the time to “get a story.” Thankfully this was no war zone and the weather was nice, but not too nice so not too many crazies would be out.

Even though I could probably go into many of details of the day, I rather talk about what I learned from the experience. I know for a fact that I don’t have the patience to deal with people in this setting. Even though most people see a cop as someone they should respect, it seems like the brain does lock up. Simple instructions are ignored and even though the officer is giving mostly monosyllable commands, people just don’t listen.

One of the biggest challenges I saw was the language barrier. The neighborhoods we were patrolling had some pockets of minorities both Asian and Spanish. He had to deal not only with illegal immigrants driving without a license, but with elderly Asian woman that did not understand the word “stop.” While officers do have the option of getting an interpreter over the phone, it is something that might require time that the officer might not have.

Even on what he called a “slow” day there was call, after call, after call. Even though we were not doing traffic enforcement (I learned quite about this, and its a lot different than here in Chicago out in California.) people still do stupid stuff right in front of a police officer. One thing I will share with you that none my cop friends here in Chicago admitted me is that the older or dirtier the car, the more likely it is that you are going to be pulled over. There really was not much down time.

Any time you are stopped in a parking lot you are checking the computer for pending calls, calls in progress, finishing reports. We had a chance to stop for some food, but he admitted to me that on busy nights he sometimes does not even have a chance to eat. Also the area that he patrols is huge, and even though during his shift he has other officers helping him (and back up from adjacent vicinities) I now understand why the Police in many places feels so understaffed. It has nothing to do with how many people they need, it has all to do with funding.

Charlie has been doing this for a years and he is a very patient man. Most of the cops I have talked to would not be a nice as he was on some of the situations we faced. It was awesome to see all the little details of how he approached situations in a very methodical way and had my safety as one of his priorities. Maybe it was just that we had partied the night before, but after half of his shift I was pretty tired. My back did not like sitting on the car for that long, I cannot imagine what it would be like to sit in a car every single day.

I feel privileged that I had the chance to do this ride along and came out of it with a lot more respect for the job they perform. I have always had a soft spot for law enforcement because I have met so many cops through martial arts and the motorcycle world; but this game me a great view of what is really like. Thanks for an experience that I will never forget Charlie.

Blizzcon 2010

Before I even begin to talk about this great weekend I want to say that without the people that I got to meet, hang out and just share this wonderful experience this would have simply been a good time; instead this will be one of those memories that stays with you for the rest of your life.

For those of you that don’t know what Blizzcon is you first have to learn what Blizzard is. I have been playing video games since the time you had to put quarters in to make that little dude move on the TV. I have been a fan of Blizzard for years because of games like Warcraft; Starcraft (RTS) and Diablo (Action). It wasn’t until almost 3 years ago that I started playing World of Warcraft (MMORPG) and realized that Blizzard is above and beyond any other game company when it comes to putting out a superior product.

This company puts a convention together every single year to showcase their new products, kind of pat themselves on the back for their accomplishments but foremost to provide a place for their customers to interact with each other. This was the best part of the whole experience. It is one thing to play a game with people and other to actually share a meal, a drink and some laughter. Like any time that you are going to meet people, at first you have no clue what to expect; but it was amazing how easy we all clicked right away and just had an amazing weekend that will hopefully become a tradition for us.

I could go off on a tangent here but I will concentrate on talking about Blizzcon itself during this post. This two day festival has tons to offer; so lets start with the stuff I did not like at all.
Even though Blizzard does do an excellent job to get people what they need quickly, there are lines… tons of them. While there is a lot of stuff to do and see while there, you at one point or another will be stuck in line somewhere. The only way to avoid them is to know the schedule extremely well, but honestly I did not see any of the cool stuff (or where they gave free stuff) without a line after the opening cermonies were over. The problem with the lines behind the obvious waiting and waiting is that some or our fellow geeks have not found it important to break the stereotype and some of them still don’t know what deodorant is. It was not horrible but I am not a fan of smelling people. Who knows maybe there is a niche market there to make some quick soap/deodorant combo that can help some of this people out. Thankfully there were plenty of hand sanitizing locations all over the convention center that at least made me feel better about touching keyboards and just overall other surfaces.

Everyone that we did had to interact to in lines and just standing around was extremely friendly and it was very easy to strike up a conversation. We had a big group of people, but others would approach us and ask us questions about our guild or what classes we played. It was very cool to have people just be so friendly and willing to just have a good laugh with you.

The only other negative thing was that their announcements were not earthshattering. I was really looking forward to them announcing something big like what their next MMO is going to be about, but they kept everything very current and concentrated on the release of Cataclysm and SCII related announcements. While they did unveil that Diablo III is going to have a PvP component to it and it looked amazing, revealing what the last playable class “Demon Hunter” was going to be was about it. WoW related they announced that you will be able to simply download Cataclysm and you don’t have to go to store to buy it. You should be able to start playing at midinight December 7th which should be pretty cool.

Being able to play their upcoming games was probably the most organized and what you could do in less than an hour. Everthing else that was related to a line felt like a ride at an amusement park, minutes upon minutes of waiting for just a 45 second thrill.

Now lets talk about the awesome. 95% of the people that dressed up really put months worth of effort into it. It was amazing to see the dedication some people put into their costumes. I thought this was going to be just a handful of people that knew what they were doing and lots of bad rushed jobs, but no; there were some serious costume makers there doing actual leather work and complicated things that were just jaw dropping. I think 3 of them were actually provided by blizzard and they were simply amazing, but the fan made ones really showcased dedication and sometimes humor. I would say that surprisingly the costumes were my favorite part of the convention.
Diablo Witch Doctors
Jay Mohr has been the host of Blizzcon and appearently last year he was a little under the influence of alcohol which he made fun of saying that he was just simply nervous and not drunk. The first night was the costume/dance contest. You do get to see most of the costumes up close from just walking around and they love to have their picture taken, but if you want to really see them all you must attend this event where they all get to walk on stage. The problem is that some of the get ups are quite elaborate and get heavy and toward the end of the night you could see some of the people having a real hard time moving on them. Nobody from the costume contest actually tripped on stage which was amazing to me.

After that part of the show finished the dance contest started and it was a riot. Basically every in game race/sex combination has their own dance emote in World of Warcraft. You type /dance and they characters go to town. Well now the humans behind the strings get to show their ability to move themselves with some comical consequences. I could seriously not stop laughing during some of the dances and some of the performances were just genious. The whole night was without incident until a kid who was getting really into his dance (and getting some amazing hang time to his jumps) actually ruptured a ligament. I am happy to report that he is “all good” and was at the convention the next day.

The next thing on my favorite list was the PvP tournaments. To see some of those people battle it out in front of an audience is amazing. Their level of skill at the game is just unreal. I was glad to see one of the North American teams make it so high in the later, but Asia simply dominates when it comes to competitive gaming. I would say that it is one of the things you should not miss!

To top off the weekend one of my friends from California is an actual police officer and I had the priviledge to go on a ride-along. I will have to make another post about it because the experience was amazing and I really want to write about it. There was so much to see and so much to do during this weekend, but again I want to say it again, without the amazing people I got to hang out with this was just a cool experience… the people made it Legendary.

The Reason I am Happy

For a while I used to wonder why some people seem so bothered by my being someone who likes to be happy and smile. One of my past romantic relationships was actually plagued by this problem. There was a constant need to poke holes at my positive attitude with the pretense of “nobody is that happy,” or “nobody likes everyone.” The first part is true, I am this happy 95% of the time; the second is actually more complex because I do try to find things in common with almost anyone but I definitely not like everybody. Until I read this article over at Zen Habits, I did not have a good explanation as to how I why it was so easy for me to switch that happy switch.

The reason I am so happy is that I don’t measure myself with someone else’s ruler. The article closes with a very simple but powerful couple of sentences.

“So forget about “success”, and just find joy, passion, love, awesome-ness right now, in this moment. *That* is a success you can achieve, without any self-help course, without any method. Just go out and do it.”

I have never chased success, especially not someone else’s idea of it. It stings a little when sometimes members of my family said that I could have been a lawyer or a doctor and that would have given me more “status.”  However, I don’t think either of those could have made me happier. What I do to make money is not what makes me in my eyes successful at all. Maybe it is because of it I learned that I could not measure my success by someone else’s ideas, and in a way their passing that judgment helped me go down the road of understanding this idea lots quicker.

The article centers around the idea of chasing success in the commonly understood sense of the word being a bad thing. I have to agree wholeheartedly. One of the hardest friendships to lose was because of this same idea. To that person getting ahead in life was more important than personal relationships. I could simply not agree with that idea. If that is what it took to get ahead in business, I really did not want to do it.

During my career, I’ve had opportunities to screw other people over to get ahead but I always chose not to. I will never forget the day when the VP of a company told me that my problem was simply that I did not “kiss enough @ss.” When I like a person it is sincere, not because I think I can get something out of them or the relationship. That is not to say that I don’t understand how most people work, but when I compliment someone it is sincere, not to inflate their ego.

I have been writing here for years now, and I love my blog because, like the Zen Habits writer, I do it for me. It does not matter if have 1 reader or 1000. If this is a vehicle for me to express my feelings and better my writing, I have succeeded. The fact that people like what I write or have found good ideas to expand upon is icing on the cake.

I define success simply by the people you have around you and the relationship you have with them. It is not the number of people, but rather what they bring into your life. Not all the relationships in my life are perfect and many of them could be leap and bounds better, but most of them bring amazing joy to my life. Be it laughter, passion, playing a video game together or just the simple joy of spending an afternoon doing nothing; I am the luckiest man alive by having so many wonderful relationships in my life, starting with my wife.

Sure, I do have goals in my life and some of those are attached to attaining objects or money; but my happiness is not attached to any of those things. Tonight I am having dinner with a friend that is visiting from KC and his wife. Their friendship has meant the world to me because they were there during some rough moments but mostly because it was important for them to spend time with us while they were here in town for a couple of days. Tomorrow, my wife and her online friend of 10 years are going to get to meet face to face for the first time. Maybe it is because I will be spending time with my best friend tomorrow or because I will get to hang out with a bunch of wonderful people at Blizzcon; but I am super happy, super excited and just feel I won the lottery by being able to share my life with so many cool people. So yes I am happy!

Crazy Old People

There is a new radio commercial for a hot sauce where the tag-line goes “I put that sh!t on everything.”* I have been known to drop an f-bomb here and there and I am not offended by the language; but where have we really gone to in a society where the voice-over is clearly done by an elderly woman?

Betty White is hilarious, I laughed very hard when I saw her superbowl commercial. I know that Viagra brought has made it possible for many people to regain their stamina and I am sure that more and more people are having sex in their later year. I think that is awesome but I don’t want to think about it. So when recently I could not get away from the story of Betty White and William Shatner getting it on. It was one of those mental pictures I could not block, I was a little nauseated (mostly because of William).

I really don’t get when we turned the corner from the elderly being revered to them being the new thing to laugh about.

I am all for older people living their lives the way they want to, but a bleeped commercial on the radio is to me just a little too much. I am sure there are plenty of old ladies with a dirty mouths out there(Yes, I know I left that one wide open), but this is on a radio show when I am sure a lot of parents are driving their kids to work.

I recently had a discussion with someone about swearing. They believed that grown people should not be protected from it or any other type of offensive language. I completely disagree and think that if I have a group of friends over to my house, I am in my total right to ask them to not speak a certain way. Sure, when I watch TV or a movie, a little swearing does not bother me and I don’t think it should be a law, but just a matter of good manners to not use any kind of offensive language in public. There are plenty of ways to express yourself in conversation without the use of words that might be offensive.

I don’t agree with complete sanitation or “think about the kids” mentality, I can chose to not listen to a radio station or show that advertises something that I don’t find funny. I remember I used to listen to Mancow back in the day and the moment he started making of Michael J Fox for having Parkinsons I stop finding him entertaining and found him offensive. Same with d-bag Chelsey Handler. As a society we can all make choices as to what we let in and what we don’t. But isn’t respecting our elders an important thing for America anymore? Is this where we are going as a society; where we need to constantly find the next thing to make fun of?

* I am purposely not giving them any more advertisement by mentioning them or linking to them.

The New Tribe

I was talking to XO not too long ago, I admire the dude tons because when most of his generation is soiling their panties about the current demographic changes in America, he embraces them. Our conversations are all over the place but we started to talk about community. It gave me a couple of ideas for topics to discuss and here is one of them.

I have been lucky enough to be a part of various online communities. The blogsphere, ChicagolandSportbikes, Lanparty groups both in Chicago and Michigan, and ultimately our WoW Guild. From each one of them I have made lasting friendships and countless life experiences. Not only do I have relationships that blossomed online, they also translated to very solid real life ones. Then I started to think about other places where I had made friends and was floored when I realized that I don’t talk to anyone from any of the churches I have been a member in the past, I also don’t have any people that I talk to from highschool here in the US (alas that was only two years jumping from bilingual classes to honor classes). The outlier is probably the people I meet at work (and mostly because you spend so much time at work during your life) and those compose the first half of my closest friends. In the end most of the people in my social circles I have started relationships with online. From my wife, to half of my closest best friends, they were all relationships that in one way or another started online and became real life.

My wife and Daniel I met when I first started blogging are are probably my two longest relationships that started online. I eventually met them both personally and in a couple of weeks we are going to once again spend some time together. Interestingly enough, Bea and her best online friend are going to meet for the first time face to face that week. I know Bab’s husband a little better than I know her, but it will be awesome to make those relationships solid.

We are constantly thought by the media to be affraid of our neighbors. I am lucky that I know most of my neighbors now, but living in condos makes that a little easier to do. I have lived plently of places where I don’t know many of my neighbors. I know what car they drive, if the have a riding lawn mower or not, but about them probably zero. When you meet people online, specially because of a shared interest you get to know them in a much deeper level than you even do with the people that you go to church with. Sure you both are supposed to believe the same thing, but in reality do you really form a community with the people that have your “belief” system?

Part of it is that Catholics here in the U.S. are very, get to church and get out without much mingling. Even when you stay there for the special events, most of the communication is small talk. But I have also been part of many Christian churches with a deeper sense of community and lots of hanging out. What happens there is that when you move, or decided that rapture is just not something for you to have in the forefront of your mind, the friendships are instantly gone. There is a lot of exclusion in those communities. So the old sense of religion building communities is being eroded because in a large way most religions are preaching separatism instead of unity and tolerance.

Moving back to Chicago has been an amazing experience. Living in the far north side is very cool, tons of stuff to do plus downtown is not too far away. Most of my friends are all the say in the far west suburbs or even south heading towards Joliet. Hanging out is more for the weekends than just a quick lunch or a beer after work (which was pretty easy to set up back in KC.) I do however stay connected with my friends online or over the phone, and relationships seem to be a lot more meaningful that way. Online communities are forming new tribes and that to me is pretty amazing.

You start with a shared common interest and end up really getting to know people. I love this phenomenon. Most people that have met me IRL can tell you that I can probably make a friend anywhere, but knowing that a lot more people can use the internet as an intrument to connect makes me happy. People that might not have the human interaction because they are shy, or have an impediment can connect using the internet and form strong communities where geography is not an obstacle anymore.

The conversation with XO only created many, many, many more questions in my head…

So what about you? Have you started a relationship online first yet? Is the internet helping you keep in touch and reconnect? Are online relationships just a meaningful for you than the real life ones?