Tuesday, September 15, 2015

My Father's Son

There are a few virtues that I am often attributed. Teachers tell me that I am a hard working student. Friends tell me that I am a caring person. Family tell me that I know how to treat others; however, it would be wrong of me to smile and say that I have worked hard to be the man I am today. I know that I am not the one worthy of praise. I just learned it from my dad.
When most people imagine a great man, they think of the traditional hero. They think of a man who fought against oppression, or who made a great invention, or someone who had a major and widespread impact on the world in some way. Those are not the only great men this world knows, to acknowledge only those already given a great amount of attention, would be to disregard men who work equally as hard, but have a different calling. In the same way that George Bailey was an unsung hero, my dad makes the world around himself a better place every day.
My father works hard. Like, really hard. He gets up at 5 every morning so he can drive a half hour to work and the work until 3. Why does he want to get off so early? It's because for a good portion of the year, he's also a coach. Every fall and winter my dad coaches two basketball teams, one for my brother and one for my sister. Every spring and summer he runs the Sturgis softball program. What does he do after he's done with that for the night? He's the secretary of Whitewood's Volunteer Fire Department. All of that in addition to being the father of five children.
While he is more than proficient at everything he puts into his life, I would argue my father is the most adept at being a father. One of the essential duties of being a father is creating a good mold for children to follow in. My father is a good person, and I would be lucky to be half the man he is.
He isn't obligated to try as much as he used to. I'm 19 years old, and out of his house. If he wanted to, my dad could cut off all support to me, Would anyone look down on him for trying to get me to be more self-reliant? That's not him. Every week since I've been at Mines, he has taken me out to lunch to talk with me. We don't talk about just trivial matters, he actually wants to help me. My dad truly wants to know how I am doing.
I know I will always have someone steady as granite to support me, but he is more than that to me. The further into life I go, the more confused I am about how everything is supposed to be; yet, I do have the solace of a template. I know that if I can fill the majority of my dads metaphorical shoes (I'm a couple actual sizes bigger) I will be a good man, the son of a great.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Commencement Address

I would like to begin by thanking the people responsible for today, our family and our faculty. From our parents who have supported us around every turn, to our teachers and administration who work tirelessly in our favor, to our uncles by marriage who only came to the state for an excuse to see Mt. Rushmore, I would like to sincerely thank you. Every member of the audience not wearing a cap and gown should know that you have made it possible for us to sit, smile, and let you do all the work.
Fellow students of the class of 2015, we're here. We have worked hard to overcome the obstacles that we have all faced throughout our high school careers. Some of us have undergone personal hardships, many have taken a class that threatened a timely graduation, and all of us have stared down the nightmare that is the senior experience. Seriously guys, a graduation speaker makes a joke about this every year, take the hint.
Today is not a day to dwell on hardships though. Today is a day to smile in triumph. The purpose of high school is to prepare us for whatever our personal future may be. This is a scary time in our life, and our difficulties are just cause to be anxious. It makes me long for the days when everything could be fixed by animal crackers. I remember one time I was scared to come to school, so my mom kissed my forehead, and gave me some animal crackers to make it all better. And then I got in my car and came here.
We are all going through a lot of changes, and all kidding aside, that change is terrifying. But that change is good. Change is what moves us forward. Change is the force not content to watch others do great things, but insists that is must also be us.
Before me I see doctors, I see entrepreneurs, and I see teachers, but more than any profession, I see a whole lot of uncertainty. According to cliche I'm supposed to tell you to spread your wings and fly, but maybe your future doesn't involve flying. Our class quote from Abraham Lincoln says "Whatever you are, be a good one." If you are a bird, please fly; however if you are a horse run, and if you are a fish swim... Because if you don't you'll probably die.
Wherever your life will take you, get there in your own way, because you are the only one who can take yourself from this ceremony to wherever you want to go. I personally plan on rolling out of the parking lot in the new Camero I know my dad is going to surprise me with. What's that? No Camero? That was a joke everybody, get it? What I meant to say was that I will leave these halls with my head held high, proud of the accomplishments I have made, and confident of the twisting, turning road before me.
This is our commencement ceremony because this is where our greater journey commences. All of our roads are leading to different places. Some of us see a clear path laid before us. Some of us know our target, but not where it is located. Some of us are just going to wander for a while. Wherever we go, one thing is certain, by the time our ten year reunion rolls around, we will all have some great tales to tell. Wherever your road is going, make the best of it; because the story always continues, and now we all have the tools to be our own authors. Class of 2015, congratulations.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sick: A Humble Attempt to Open Dialogue

Hi, I'm ill,
but not in the way that means I'm chill.
What I mean is that I'm sick,
and lately I've been having some thoughts stick.

When I was in middle school
my best friend got cancer.
We all knew the rule
that helping was the answer.

Now, I might not be ill in my body,
and the campaigns for me aren't gaudy.
But when I felt sick
the only help I heard was cricket.

A while ago a friend asked
why I miss so much class.
Fearful, I told her "it's for my health."
But I knew she wondered what was wrong with myself.

My disease is supposed to be private,
it's not supposed to be talked about.
But it comes with the family,
and I just found out.

Okay, I have depression,
I'm only know speaking true,
because I fear discussion.
Because I worry I'll miss you.

If I coughed
when I walked.
It'd be okay,
for me to say
that things aren't going my way.
That today is a terrible day.
But in the land of joyful moods,
no one seems to care for broken goods.

Fearing the stigma,
fearing the talk,
I showed my family an enigma,
and my friends a happy stock.

When my friend was impaired,
the doctors ran their tests.
But when I asked for care
I met the rest.

The one's who think it's a scam.
That it couldn't be that bad.
That the doctors were all shams,
and the mental health trend a fad.

But depression kills people too,
maybe it's even eating at you.
Maybe it's run your heart through,
or maybe your heart stayed while the rest grew.

Now you feel hollow,
and you eyes have lost their glow.
But you keep on smiling.
Because it's all that you know.

People say they support you,
when you're feeling blue.
But the numbers show
depression has grown.
So why don't you let people know?

Why can't I tell you?
You might be there too.
They say misery loves company,
and yet I'm alone.

Just because I inherit bad genes
doesn't give me the emotions of a machine.
I still walk and (occasionally) run.
I still laugh and have fun.

Lack of a problem
doesn't eliminate an issue.
Things might be awesome,
but I still pack tissues.

I spiral down,
I become obsessed.
I see myself in a ghost town,
and that I regress.

Because I can't share.
Because I can't break.
I see my demons everywhere.
I'm sorry everyone, but it's more than I can take.

Sharing this does not make me weak.
I am not throwing in a white flag.
I survived, so don't call me meek.
I went through hell, I have a right to brag.

Now ends my private riot.
I'm done with the whole show.
I'm finished being quiet.
Now you all know.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Equal Means Equal

Recently, I came across the image below on Facebook, shared by a friend of mine.
Seem Reasonable?
The two of us have discussed women's rights in the past, and almost unilaterally agree. As many of you know by now, I consider myself a male feminist. That doesn't mean I don't think there are certain injustices toward men deal with that women don't receive. I want equal rights for both genders. As far as I'm concerned, if both are going to have equal rights, then there should be the maximum amount of rights possible. The sort of with us or against us mentality that seems to dictate neo-feminism is something that should not be allowed to continue.
Gender differences in society are not like race differences in society. In America, seemingly every statistic is in favor of the white majority. Speaking as someone in almost every majority, I am not worried about police brutality because of my race, I don't lose sleep worrying how my community will react to my faith. However, I do worry about what would happen if I ever had to fight for my child in court. Gender is a different story from race.
Let me clarify something. In my humble opinion, there does need to be more progress for women's rights. The point of everything I'm saying within this is that both men and women need progress for their rights. Though there are more difficulties facing women, but that does not mean that men should be ignored.
Let me examine a bit of precedent behind that statement. Specifically I want to look at Karen DeCrow, who passed away last year. At one point DeCrow was the President of the National Organization for Women. As an attorney, she was able to win many court cases in favor of feminism, and was considered a major leader of the feminist cause in the 1970s and 1980s. That wasn't all she did, though. Not seeing feminism and masculanism as mutually exclusive, DeCrow actually argued some major cases in favor of men's rights. For instance, she argued that if a woman has the right to opt out of parenthood through an abortion, then a man should have the right to opt out as well, and leave the process. This incited a large amount of backlash from feminists claiming she was supporting the stereotype of the cruel seductress using her feminine whiles to trick a man into becoming her husband. In reality, DeCrow simply believed that men are no given advantages in every aspect of society. I agree with her. It's not that there aren't gender differences that negatively affect women, it's that there are things that negatively affect men and women.
Marriage is something that is cited as putting women at a disadvantage; however, marriage is a broad thing that has effects on many parts of life. The idea often goes that after being married more work is expected of married women than men, so despite the fact that women and men both have jobs, women do more work on the whole. That is not true. On average men in 2011 spent an average of 47 hours between work and household duties while women spent 39. While it is true that women are far more likely to be stay at home mom's, I have one myself, that is largely because there is a societal perception that men can't or shouldn't be stay at home fathers. When a family starts, many fathers want to stay at home and help the mother of their child raise their child. Unfortunately, the University of Oregon found that only 10-15% of men have that option. Is this a worse harm to men, than the glass ceiling is to women? No. No it is not. That doesn't mean this should be changed for men.
Let's look beyond successful relationships though. Crumbling marriages are surprisingly harmful to men. First, let's look back to the children. Child custody battles do not go well for men. The Census Bureau stated in 2011 that less than 20% of custodial parents are fathers. Anecdotally, when a relative of mine entered a custody battle, one of the first things his attorney told him was that he was unlikely to win because few judges will grant custody to men. There's no reason to assume that mothers are better than fathers. In fact, Texas A&M found that father's are very important to childhood development. While a child being able to have both parents is obviously preferable, there is no reason to grant women preference. It is a horrible to think that there are good men who can't get custody of their children because of gender.
Men can also be called on to do further service to their country than women. It took a ridiculously long time for women to be able to serve in combat areas in the US military. It is insulting to assert that women aren't capable of things that men are. In all seriousness, I truly believe most women are more suited than me to serve in combat scenarios. So, why don't they sign up for selective service? While women can opt in to the selective service, it should be mandatory. Men and women ought to have unilaterally equal rights. Rights come with responsibilities. The draft is a necessary evil and if men have the responsibility of defending their country, then so do women.
Something I hate is the portrayal of women in many forms of media. People have learned that sex sells, and so female characters are often portrayed as being there just for visual appeal, or else as only a love interest. That's not only sexist, but also poor writing. Want to know what else I hate? The portrayal of men in media. Starting at the beginning let's think of children's television. There's a family with three children, two of whom are boys. One is smart and unpopular, the other cuts class to hang out with his numerous friends. Sound familiar? How many shows can you think of where the coolest person/protagonist on the show is a dumb boy? While this problem can certainly extend to women, I can think of very few male characters who are portrayed as intelligent as well as broadly liked, and that is a problem I still have. Just look at the 90's TV hit Friends. You have three main guys. Two are intelligent. Ross is portrayed as socially challenged because he's intelligent. The second half of that set is Chandler. Chandler doesn't win many points socially so he has to resort to humor to get support. Finally, there is Joey. Joey is not smart, but he fares all the better for it usually. He is better looking, gets more girls with less effort, and is generally liked. Regardless of age, we all have an innate desire for acceptance, and we will follow the models set forth to get it. That can translate to problems down the road.
Education is more important for success than ever before. Since 1994, both men and women of all races have become more likely to attend college, a great thing for the progress of our country; however, Pew Research found disparity of gender enrollments has grown. In 1994 women led men in enrollment by a whopping 2%. Small enough that I would call it negligible. That number is up to 13%. College is not for everybody, man or woman. But presuming men and women will want similar jobs at similar rates, there should not be nearly so large a gap. I'm not saying that media portrayal is the only cause of this disparity. Other potential sources cited by Pew include disciplinary disparity towards boys and girls in schools, as well as barrier of entry to the work force, but if every character a boy or man can identify with is unmotivated toward success, what more can you really expect?
Finally, let me address one of the most hot button issues I can. Sexual and relationship violence are monstrosities. The idea of having humanity stripped on such a basic level is horrifying to me. In my mind, rapists are some of the lowliest human beings on the planet because of the way they treat another human being, and I don't feel sorry for saying that. Anyone harmed in such a way deserves every support they can get. So, why don't men? If you are reading this and thinking that I'm going off on a tangent about something that isn't a real problem, then you're part of the problem. Sorry, now let me explain.
Men get raped. Shocking? Men can be raped by both other men as well as women. In fact, the National Crime Victimization Survey found that roughly 38% of rapes take place against men, which was confirmed by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. That's no paltry amount of victims. So, why is the perception that only women get raped? It's because men are less likely to report being raped. The idea is that men always want to get laid, so why would they ever say no? Many men won't even realize they have been raped, thinking they somehow gave consent without realizing it. According to Brown University, men are unlikely to report being raped because there is the societal perception that men need to be able to protect themselves at all times from anything.
It is not a man's fault that he is raped anymore than it is a woman's fault. Victim blaming has no productivity. That's not the way the problem is handled, unfortunately. As highlighted by House of Cards, rape is a major problem in the military. In fact, military statistics show that over half of the victims are male, and 38 men are raped daily in the military. In interviews with GQ some men opened up about their experiences. I admire their courage for speaking out. A man formerly in the Navy named Steve Stovey was bound, blindfolded, and sodomized by three men the day before his father would come to ride on the ship with Stovey. He didn't say anything for fear of shaming his father. Had Stovey reported the incident, the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy of the time would not only have had his attackers kicked out of the military, but also Stovey himself. Trent Smith allowed was scared to fight back because his assailant was a ranking officer, and he feared reprimand. And those who report are, like civilian men, met with skepticism. A man going by the name Neal reported being raped to his doctor. The doctor responded "Son, men don't get raped." For more accounts, follow the link to the GQ article. This perception is wrong.
LeBeouf wore a paper bag for the project.
Want a high profile example? Look at Shia LeBeouf. If you didn't hear, Shia LeBeouf was raped during a performance art project called "#IAMSORRY." Viewers got to see LeBeouf in a room in private with Shia. LeBeouf has opened up about the experience with the magazine Dazed. LeBeouf stated that a woman came in and whipped him for ten minutes, and then proceeded to rape him. The most insulting part? People are questioning whether he was raped at all. Evidence shows that what he says is true, but that doesn't stop people from saying that he couldn't be raped. In fact, CNN newscaster Piers Morgan wrote a series of Tweets victim-shaming tweets toward LeBeouf. Morgan said "Shia LeBeouf's claim to have been raped is truly pathetic & demeans real rape victims. Grow up, you silly little man." If being whipped, stripped, and forced to have sex isn't a real rape, then what is? If a woman had this happen to her, it wouldn't be a question if she had been raped. I know the threat of sexual assault is greater for women. I'm not challenging that. What I'm saying is that the fact that this is even a question is an insult.
The societal perception of masculinity needs to change. Men can be raped. Men are not always strong. Men don't are just as important can be smart and likable. Fathers are just as important as mothers.
As I said at the beginning of this, I truly believe that women have more social rights issues than men. I think to say that men are dealt the worse hand would be ridiculous. My problem is the asssertation that men do not face any damages to our rights. My problem is the idea that if you support the rights of men, then you must be a misogynist. I'm not. I just support human rights. If we are to support equal rights, then we need to remember that equal means equal, and the rights of one should not be prioritized over the rights of another. If you are bothered by the societal harms to men, and thus are a feminist, I encourage you to also be a masculinist.

For more information on anything I talked about, follow the links scattered throughout. If you have any thoughts, leave a comment below.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

A Farewell to Speech and Debate

For the past five years, my participation in forensics has made my life better as a whole. I don’t know how many hours I’ve put into the sport, and frankly I might be horrified if someone could tell me exactly how many. I am done with my high school debate career. I am finished with driving all over the godforsaken state of Wyoming. I am through with spending time with the greatest group of people in the world, both on my team and off.
I am sad. When I began my career, I was a nervous and awkward 8th grader who could hardly say a word without stuttering uncontrollably, especially if a member of the opposite gender was present. At the end of it all, I am an awkward senior with a slightly endearing stutter, who can resist the urge to cry around women. Thankfully, debate has also made me immeasurably more confident in myself. I’ve been through a lot with my team, and I can honestly say that Speech and Debate is part of who I am.
In my early career, I don’t believe anyone had any faith in me, and I can’t say I blame them in retrospect. My first three novice PF meets in middle school ended in a 2-10 record, but I was undaunted. Little did I know the pain I was about to endure for the next two years. I did not do well. In fact, I did downright terrible. For my suffering, I did learn something. I learned to keep going. Prior to this, everything I liked came naturally to me. Debate taught me to learn from failure. I lost in LD? I better do some reading up on Immanuel Kant. My judges thought I stuttered in Reader’s Theater? Practice makes perfect. Something my coach, Mr. Johnson, an incredible influence on my life, told me early on served as motivation for me. He told me “No matter how talented anyone may or may not be, there is someone just as good as you out there. The only way to beat them is work.” So I worked.
Later in my career I started to reap the rewards. Junior year, there was only a single meet that went by where I did not make it to finals in something. I ended the year qualifying for Nationals in Student Congress. The national tournament in Overland Park, Kansas with one of my best friends was among the best things I have ever done. Though I won’t be returning this year, I am happy to see two great guys go, and can look with pride on my presidency.
I am scared to move forward into my post debate life. Stalingrad syndrome? Maybe. What will I do on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays? What will I do late at night? I’ve forgotten how to have a good nights sleep. I have no idea how I’ll go on with life without Mr. Johnson’s semi-forced life advice. But I know I’m more prepared for life at the end of it all.
Am I gone forever? I certainly hope not. I want to judge, and coach, and if possible do collegiate debate. This is what I love. These are the people who have been like a family to me; however, as it stands I have reached the end of my NFL career.
So, goodbye to debate. Goodbye to speech. Goodbye to friends. Goodbye to rivals. Goodbye to late nights and early mornings. Goodbye to hotel antics. Goodbye to all the things I have experienced, good and bad. Until we meet again, these have been the best years of my life. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of making me who I am today.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Sounds Good

With the rise of MP3 players and smartphones, more people are listening to music on the go than ever before. While Steve Jobs influence is beautiful to see, it’s not necessarily as beautiful to hear. If you love music, and use Apple earbuds to listen to YouTube, then you are selling yourself short.
Let me begin by explaining my background and bias on this. I initially started making an effort to get higher quality sound after a friend harassed me about it for long enough. When my JVC marshmallow earbuds broke, I splurged and bought the baseline Koss PortaPro headset (which I would recommend for out of the house use against ANY set of cans) for $39. This essentially opened the floodgate.
I noticed a difference in the sound and truly enjoyed it; however, I didn’t think enough of the different experience to really care, though. So when those broke, admittedly because of me, I went back to some marshmallows. I made a bad choice.
While it didn’t sound bad, I couldn’t tolerate it. I had become acclimated to hearing clear mid range notes, crisp high’s, and a bass range that didn’t distort the rest of the spectrum. So when I couldn’t even make the difference between instruments, I went slightly crazy. I’m not honestly someone with a devotion to music, but I have learned to appreciate music on a much higher level by becoming an audiophile.
I’m a also a cheapskate, so let’s talk about how to get the best music experience, for a price that is not unbearable. Two pieces of initial advice, first avoid boutique headphones, and second, you don’t really need the best.
Let me start with the hardware. While I do give Beats by Dre credit for making people kind of care about sound, I also despise their abuse of consumers lack of knowledge, and the trend of celebrity endorsed headphones they started. Unless you find them for an incredible sale, or image really, really matters to you (they make a fine accessory for a certain sense of style), do not buy Beats, Skullcandy, Sol Republic, or anything in that vein. One specific reason for this is sound distortion. Boutique headphones usually have a slavish devotion to bass, but at a sacrifice. While the bass will usually have plenty of punch, it can actually ruin the mids and highs, which typically weren’t great to begin with. For the price, overall sound fidelity is deplorable.
I would also caution against certain other premium headphones. For instance, Bose, Sennheiser, Klipsch, and Audio Technica all make some really, really high end headphones that will absolutely give you the best listening experience possible, but is it really worth it? Even as someone who advises better sound quality, I would also argue these have poor price vs. performance. While those $300 Bose headphones will sound good, and certainly better than Beats at the same price, is it really better enough to justify the difference? I’ll discuss this more later, but for my money I’d say no.
Here’s what I advise: get headphones with an msrp of $40-$100, look mostly to Audio Technica, Sennheiser, Koss, and possibly Sony or JVC, and look for sales. On Cyber Monday a couple years ago I purchased some Audio Technica ATH-m50’s for a rock bottom price for at home use (they have a ten foot cord), but my focus here is out of the house, but let me get back to my focus, out of the house use. Currently, I have a new pair of Koss PortaPros and a pair of Sennheiser CX 686G running earbuds for when I don’t have space for headphones; I love my headphones, and they can get small, but sometimes they just can’t get small enough.
What’s great about PortaPros is they come with a limited lifetime warranty (I lost my first warranty card), and Sennheiser has really great build quality and sound quality for the price. Being as these are for out-of-the-house use, they are also remarkably comfortable, as a bonus. As a fair warning for Koss, they do look a little weird, for anyone concerned with appearances.
Now for the music itself. I won’t go into the technical details about meanings of this, but the measurement for sound quality is kbps. The higher the number, the better. Neither songs bought on iTunes, or listening to YouTube is ideal. Sound files from iTunes run around 256 kbps, and there is a wide variance for YouTube videos, though seeing below iTunes levels is, in my opinion, standard. CD’s, a thirty year old technology, almost always runs at 320, the maximum for the MP3 format. Numerically speaking, CDs provide a much more clear and true sound, which you grow to hear over time. Above that, there are lossless files, the most popular of which is flac, but there aren’t yet any practical phones or music players capable of using the files, and they’re also big.
So let’s stick to MP3. What’s the most affordable way? I would advocate using CDs. Here me out. Basically any computer can burn CDs, and if you’re really stuck on iTunes, it even has a ripping function built in. And if you’re into classic rock, you, your parents, and even your grandparents likely even have some ready on hand.
Retailers often have the album at a price that equals, or falls below the digital sale price. If you’re okay with going used (very low risk with albums), then Amazon has a great selection. Sometimes you can get the full album for less than the price of a few songs on iTunes. If you want to keep the CD, then you have a ready made backup. If not, then you can give it to someone as an unexpected present, and who doesn’t love that?

Do you need to do this for decent music? No, not really. However, if you want a far better listening experience, then low cost options are readily available to crank the experience up a notch.