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Darth Vader vs. Atticus Finch

Darth Vader      Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 1.40.57 PM

A school-librarian friend of mine recently made an excellent bracket tourney of literary characters, with heroes on one side and villains on the other.  I filled out my picks, and my final matchup is Atticus Finch vs. Darth Vader.  At first it may seem like these two could not be more opposite: A selfless icon of justice and good versus a megalomaniac whom they call the Dark Lord.  But just like Boo Radley, this matchup has much more depth than there may seem to be at first.  Both are fathers, each of an elder son and a daughter.  Both are widowers.  One wears black to hide himself, the other stands out for defending blacks.  One went from book to movie, the other from movie to books.  Both are from a long time ago, and, if you’re not in the deep south of the USA, from a galaxy far far away.  It’s a beautiful matchup but only one can win, so lets dissect this like a freshly sliced Tauntaun…

EPISODE 1: OFFSPRING

Atticus: Jem and Scout

Vader: Luke and Leia

jemandscout   lukeandleia

A heavyweight literary brother-sister tag-team throwdown if there ever was one.  Luke is the protagonist in three movies, controls The Force, and in battle defeats Storm Troopers, Imperial Walkers, Jedi Masters, and the Death Star.  Jem is not the protagonist, can’t control his little sister, and the one time he goes into battle he gets KO’d and gets his arm broken by the Maycomb town drunk.  Big edge: Luke.  The fairer sex gives us a fairer fight.  Both Scout and Leia are feisty, reject all advances from men, and can hold their own in a fight.  While both love to start trouble, only Scout also has the versatility to play the peacemaker, specifically when she thwarts Tom Robinson’s lynch mob on the courthouse steps.  You would think that an intergalactic princess would have more diplomacy skills than a tomboy from Alabama.  Clinching the battle is Scout’s role as first-person narrator and protagonist, while Leia is a supporting character.  Big edge: Scout.

Edge: Tie

EPISODE 2: MORAL COMPASS

Atticus: Pure good right up until the end when he reveals a previously unseen mischievous streak by allowing Heck Tate to cover up Boo Radley’s role in the killing of Bob Ewell.

Vader: Pure evil right up until the end when he reveals a previously unseen compassionate streak by showing some love to his son, Luke.

Edge: Atticus

EPISODE 3: PARENTAL STYLE

Atticus: Hard working single dad.

Vader: Deadbeat dad.

Edge: Atticus

EPISODE 4: WEAPON OF CHOICE

Atticus: Shotgun

Vader: Lightsaber

atticus-and-shotgun vadersaber

The shotgun, though long past its prime as a weapon of warriors, has been a mainstay firearm in sport shooting and home defense for a couple hundred years.  The Lightsaber was the weapon of choice for the most elite warriors of the galactic empire for thousands of years.

Edge: Vader

EPISODE 5: WHO WOULD WIN IN A ONE-ON-ONE BATTLE?

You have to respect Atticus’ incredible ability to be an expert marksman with a shotgun, which is arguably the second least accurate firearm of all-time.  (Second only to, ironically, a Star Wars blaster.  That thing only finds its target on maybe one in ten thousand shots.)  Atticus is so sharp, he could give Jango Fett marksmanship lessons.  In almost any battle, I would always take the skilled sniper over the skilled melee weapon guy because melee weapon guy is dead before he can get anywhere near the sniper.  But this fight is different.  We’ve all seen Jedi parrying hundreds of blaster shots per minute with their lightsabers by use of The Force, and I am confident that Vader could do the same against the spread of shot from Atticus’ shotgun.  Even if a couple of pellets sneak through, the helmet and respirator protect critical areas from direct hits.  Once the fight is in close quarters and Atticus has to resort to trying to reason with Vader, Vader will bust him up like Tom Robinson would a chiffarobe, no matter how old and wise Atticus is.  Just ask Obi-Wan.

Edge: Vader

EPISODE 6: INVISIBLE SUPERPOWER

Atticus: Justice.

Vader: The Force.

The Force sounds cooler, looks cooler in action, and is much more useful if you need to rearrange the furniture in your house.  But consider this: You can have a prosperous society without The Force.  You cannot have a prosperous society without justice.  Even the Jedi High Council had checks and balances in place to ensure justice amongst themselves and amongst their constituents.

Edge: Atticus

EPISODE 7: PHYSICAL DISABILITY

Atticus: Nearly blind in his left eye

Vader: Missing his right hand, has to breathe with a respirator

Both men are formidable in spite of their challenges.  Atticus, glasses off, shoots the rabid dog from a distance, while Vader wields his lightsaber righthanded with his prosthetic hand.  If I had to choose one disability to live with, I would take the eye problem because corrective lenses seem to be much more readily available than fully-functional prosthetic limbs and portable respirators… Which means Vader is the one who perseveres through a more challenging disability, so:

Edge: Vader

And while we’re here, is the losing-a-limb motif in Star Wars actually an allusion to Tom Robinson?!

EPISODE 8: FATHERLY ADVICE

Atticus: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

Vader: “Search your feelings, you know it to be true!”

Classic differences embodied.  Atticus says to focus on others, Vader says to focus on yourself.  You must understand yourself before you can understand others… Or is it the other way around?  Where’s Yoda when you need him?

Edge: Tie

EPISODE 9: MOMENT OF AWE

Atticus: The silent standing ovation from people in the balcony when he leaves the courtroom

Vader: When he blows up Alderaan

atticus courthouse     alderaan

It’s better to be feared than to be loved.

Edge: Vader

EPISODE 10: RISE TO POWER

Atticus: Son of a poor farmer, he pulls himself up by the bootstraps and becomes a successful lawyer.  Does it entirely himself but would still give away all the credit.

Vader: Son of a poor working woman, eventually gets taken under the wing of Qui-Gon Jinn because Jinn knows that the Force is in him.  In other words, Vader was lucky to be born with it, gets a lot of help, and takes most of the credit for himself.

Edge: Atticus

FINAL SCORE: Atticus 4, Vader 4.  And two ties.

After 10 episodes, we have solved absolutely nothing.  Nooooooooooooo!  Guess you’ll just have to wait for the next sequel!

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

How to get into the Boston Marathon

It’s almost September, which means now is the time to register or apply for the Boston Marathon!

You may have heard of this little road race in our neck of woods called the Boston Marathon.  Next year is the 119th consecutive running, which is the longest active streak of any marathon on earth.  It is an unmistakable piece of the social fabric for every citizen of Boston.  As a runner in Boston it beckons as a looming goal, whether you’re just getting into 5K’s or you already have 10 Boston Marathons under your belt.  Its visibility is omnipresent on the unicorn logos that you see emblazoned on other runners, in the decor of your favorite running shoe store, or with the thousands of runners training on Comm Ave on frigid Saturdays in January through April.  You can run it or not, but you can’t ignore it.
These days, getting a number is harder than running the race for many.  There are three ways to get in, so let’s review them:
1. Charity (~5,000 numbers available)
2. Qualify (~20,000 numbers available)
3. Back Door (~5,000 numbers available)
Let’s do a charity FAQ first since that is the option accessible to the most runners.
Boston Marathon Charity FAQ
When do I start looking?
NOW is the time to apply to charities!  Charities review applications in September and fill out their teams by October.  Charities will start posting their application processes in the next week or two.  Before they do, you can reach out to their contact people to express your interest.  This will ensure that your application gets read.
Who should I run for?
You should apply to charities to whom you have a significant personal connection.  You can always apply to charities that you don’t have much of a connection to and you might get in if they are short on applicants, but fundraising will be harder for you.  There are more charities with numbers than you might think!  Last year more than 300 organizations had numbers available.  Here are the major partners that receive 100-200 numbers each.  These are mostly bigtime charities.  Another team that I highly recommend is the Marathon Coalition.  This team is comprised of 16 local Boston charities that get 12 numbers apiece and all train together as one big team with the amazing Coach Rick.  Coach Rick is a Boston legend who has coached thousands of local amateur runners through the Boston Marathon.  He is the most inspirational coach I have ever had for anything.  I highly recommend running for the Marathon Coalition; it doesn’t matter which charity.  Another great way to find smaller charities is to check flyers at your local running store.  Many smaller charities with less than 10 numbers don’t get enough applicants and are still looking for people in the spring.
How much do I have to raise?
The B.A.A. requires charities to set a minimum of $3,500, but most charities raise this to $4,000 or $5,000.  (Yes, they take your credit card number at the start and charge you the difference at the end if you are short.) Last year demand was at a fever pitch and many charities raised the minimum to $10,000.  I don’t think that will happen again this year.  $5,000 is very doable.  If you have either 500+ Facebook friends or if you tend to roll with a wealthier crowd then you’re in great shape.  If not you can do it but you’ll have to work hard and do lots of fundraising events.  Some people reach $10,000 but many others don’t and that’s a huge number to be on the hook for.
How selective is it?
It depends on the charity, but the major partners will all get more applications than they have numbers.  Most other charities will too.  In most cases, you are probably going to have to out-apply someone else to get onto the team.
OK, so the charities have to make cuts.  What should I put on my application to have the best chance?
They are looking for one criteria above all else: Your potential to raise money.  Tell them about your 800 Facebook friends.  Tell them about how close you are with every member of your enormous family.  (And if they’re all rich, tell them that too.)  Tell them how you’re from another state or from another country where you know 300 people who won’t get asked by anybody else.  Tell them about your job at the law firm or finance company where all your coworkers will donate huge money at your bowling event.  Tell them about your past fundraising if you’ve done any.  You get the idea.
They care about your connection to the cause insofar as it is inspirational to donors.  If you or your immediate family member are personally affected, gold.  If you work in an occupation related to the cause, silver.  If you’re in it just to do some good for society, that is very honorable but you’re probably not getting in ahead of the people who have more personal connections.
What they care little about is your running ability or racing history.  In fact, it may be better if you’re physically disadvantaged or significantly overweight or chronically ill or you’ve never run before or you have some other reason why completing the marathon will be extra challenging for you, as this is more inspirational to donors than someone who has already done a bunch of marathons and can finish no problem.
What kind of support can I expect?
All teams regardless of size will have employees of the charity who will help you fundraise.  For training, all of the major teams will hire a professional coach.  All of the major teams will have organized team long runs in the Boston area, usually on Saturday mornings.  Most major teams will have pre-race and post-race amenities of their own.  If you’re on a small team of 3-10 runners, you’ll be largely on your own for training, unless you’re in a public club who have people training for spring marathons.
Can I train with the big teams even though I got a number somewhere else?
Not really.  It might seem like it’s not a big deal to meet another group on public roads, but showing up to a major team’s camp as a non-participant is discouraged.  You would need to get personal permission from the team director.
If you’ve been thinking about running Boston, get out there and apply!  You can do it!
Qualifying (~20,000 numbers)
It’s not the rosiest picture, but that’s why getting in is so special : )
First you need to achieve the very fast Qualifying Standards.  (For men 18-34 it’s a 3:05 marathon in the past year, for women 18-34 it’s 3:35.)  Running a Boston Qualifier, or “BQ”, is one of the most significant accomplishments in amateur running and is a credit unto itself even if you don’t get into the Boston Marathon.  Next you get to navigate the labyrinthian Qualifying Procedure.  Long story short, just because you qualified doesn’t mean you’re going to get in.  People who are more than 20 minutes faster than the qualifying time get to go first.  If there’s still room, then the people who are 10-20 minutes faster go next.  If there is still room, a third signup for people who are 5-10 minutes faster get to go next.  (Last year’s marathon sold out during this phase.)  Then if there are any numbers left, the people who qualified by 0-5 minutes get to fight for what’s left.  So last year, nobody who qualified by 0-5 minutes got to register, and most people who made it by 5-10 minutes didn’t get to register either.  Not only did these people get denied despite qualifying, but those results were only good for last year.  They have to qualify again for 2015, and most of these people are not the type who can always put up qualifiers.  They had to work really hard to barely make it.  It’s tough!
Back Door (~5000 numbers)
There are all sorts of other ways that the numbers go out, numbers that don’t require fundraising or qualifying.  These “invitational entries” go to corporate sponsors, political hookups, running clubs, and connected individuals.  You might think you don’t know anyone who can get you a number, but keep your ear out and talk to people.  Many different types of organizations get numbers and they all give them out in their own way.  Various police departments, fire departments, and hospitals from throughout Massachusetts get numbers, so if you know anybody who works at these places, tell them that you are interested now.  Boston-area colleges like BC and Northeastern and Tufts get numbers that they give to students and alumni, sometimes without fundraising requirements.  If you’re connected to any Boston area college, ask your favorite people there about it.  One of my coworkers got in through another coworker’s aunt, a loose connection but it worked.  I got in through the Greater Framingham Running Club, who get 10 numbers a year that they raffle off to their club.  Also check the websites of the towns on the course.  Each town gets 25 numbers and gives them out in their own way.  Last year Newton only required $2,500 in fundraising and it was open to anyone.  Framingham required no fundraising at all but their lottery was only for town residents and employees.  Natick was open to all and they required $4,000 in fundraising.  These backdoor numbers are elusive, but it only takes one connection and you’re in.  Flex your networking muscle and keep telling people you’re interested and you never know where it might take you!
That’s all.  Maybe this year, maybe next… Whenever your time comes to answer Boston’s call, now you know how to get in!
 
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Posted by on August 29, 2014 in Running and Ultimate

 

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Psychedelic Breakfast: 9/14/01 – A Night That Saved A Band

Note: 10 years ago today Psychedelic Breakfast faced their darkest hour, with all of their gear and their van having been stolen from Harper’s Ferry in Allston, MA on 9/13/01, no money to replace anything, and 3 days after 9/11. It was VERY unclear if the band would be able to continue. The fanbase was already discussing life without PB and what the band members were going to do now instead of playing music. 

10 years ago tonight at the Iron Horse was the first and most important step in keeping PB alive. They borrowed all gear from Uncle Sammy (the opening band) and played the show. It was the first Northampton club show the band had ever headlined. If this show were a doozie it is very plausible that the band would have shut it down for good. The show had to be huge. And it was. Completely packed club upstairs and down. Line out the door and down the street. Years of goodwill built up at UMass paying off right when the band needed it. (Don’t forget that at the time UMass housed more PB fans than everywhere else put together.) This show saved PB. This is the most important show in Breakfast history. 

What follows is my review from that night as originally posted to the [pbfans] yahoogroup.

Psychedelic Breakfast live at Toad's Place from 2001

“The Amherst promo team is running like a well-oiled machine and we are gonna pack the place to the rafters and there is nothing anybody can do to stop it!”

-Me to the group, 9/7/1

Well guys, the world threw absolutely everything it had at us to challenge this statement. Tuesday was the worst day in American history, and Wednesday was the worst day in PB history. It would have been perfectly understandable if the show did not go on, or if nobody showed up. But in a true showing of determination, positive spirit, and a need for love, the show went on, the people came in droves, and the result was a fantastic night complete with that unstoppable UMass magic.

Emotions have been high for this show for a long time. All the fans in western Mass have been foaming at the mouth since Baker Quadfest, eager to pick up where we left off. The egroup went through an emotional morality debate relative to this show. The Amherst promo team hasn’t stopped talking about it since school started. Personally, the excitement around here, particularly from new fans, has gotten me up in the morning over the past few weeks. And if this weren’t enough to make this an extraordinarily emotional show, it was almost every fan’s first activity since the horrors of Tuesday, and the band’s first activity since the horrors of Wednesday.

As if I weren’t already jumping out of my skin on the way to the show last night, when we pulled up there were 50 people waiting outside for the doors to open. This completely put me over the top, because 50 people outside before the show means sellout by the end of the show. As it turns out the place was packed, but it was even more than that. People actually needed this show, and you could feel it. The feelings weren’t all positive by any means, but they were potent.

Spunk was awesome as an opener. I was hoping for this and Food for Thought as well as lots of newer stuff for all the UMass people who haven’t seen the band since May. We got both, of course. Great poem, Tim. Attraction and Beef have become Umass classics, both frequent tunes at Butterfield. Rufus was needed around here too, so I was excited for it. Pretty standard as far as Rufus goes, but I can only imagine how hard it is to play with any sort of sustained emotion when Armageddon stares you in the face and you’re using someone else’s gear. Awesome drum duel w/ Adrian and TZ, and the roar from the crowd was deafening after we all sang happy birthday! Then Tim decides “might as well finish the song” (Language) but instead of going right back into it there came an off-the-cuff heavy funk jam that was awesome. It was only about 2 minutes long, but just the way they went from nothing to this jam and then from this jam back into the Language reprise was just fantastic. The Uncle Sammy jam was cool, and God Bless America was an excellent finishing touch, as well as a good way to play past curfew and not get heaved mid-song. (I’ve seen Iron Horse do it before.) The show was way too short, although Iron Horse regulars are used to this. If you have an opener, there is no way you’re going to play more than 2 hours at Iron Horse, that’s just the way it goes. I know it was tough for some of you who are used to later curfews and 3 hours a night of PB.

The show had ended, but for a lot of us the night was by no means over. I really want to thank everyone who came over to my house to hang out. UMass crew, Joce, Todd, Curtis, Freddie, Fran, Jule, Josh, Josias, Tim, Adrian, Ron: I really needed to be with a lot of people I like, and what better than to have people I like from around New England all come together. It was our first real party at the house in 3.5 months of living here, which made me and my roomies really happy. The fire was great! It was the first time I have talked about this week and not been frustrated with everyone else’s opinions and assumptions. I really admired everyone’s words and needed that conversation, thank you. But besides that, it was just awesome raging until full daylight with the best music fans in New England. You are all welcome anytime. Once again my # is 413-549-9906. I am so happy you could all be here.

So goes a memorable PB night. Stay strong, keep listening, keep loving, and we’ll be just fine.

Peace and vibes,
Seth Wolfman

 

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First Marathon: Cox Providence Marathon 5/1/11 with DreamFar!

Last few feet of the Cox Providence Marathon, 5/1/11

Well, I finally ran a full marathon one week ago on 5/1/11!  Ran the Cox Providence Marathon on a perfect day; mid-50’s and sunny.  Here’s a recap of my experience:

TRAINING: Training went great, even if it wasn’t quite long enough.  I was running with the best team I’ve ever been on; DreamFar High School Marathon.  I served as a mentor with the Newton South High School contingent of the team starting in mid January.  We ran 4 miles every Monday, 6 every Thursday, and long runs of 10-20 miles every Saturday.  I never missed a training.  I finished all runs easily, including the 20-miler 3 weeks before the marathon.  Our truly “long” runs (over 12 miles) were 14, 15, 18, and 20 which I don’t feel was enough to really prepare me for 26.2 but at least I took the line on race day feeling fresh and injury-free.  It should be noted that I had unwillingly taken September through mid January completely off due to my entire life being railroaded by full-time teaching plus grad classes at the same time.  Prior to that, I had trained up to 18 in August 2010.  My peak training moments came on 4/3 when I unexpectedly threw down a PR 1:44:12 half marathon at Great Bay, and then six days later ran the 20-miler comfortably.

The best part of training was, by far, the team.  The kids and adults at DreamFar are incredible.  We had over 60 students from 4 high schools and about 30 adults and everyone finished.  There are some incredible leaders on this team!  Check out this video about the team! (I appear at :31, 1:22, and speak at 2:59)

THE RACE: Great conditions as stated.  Started out slowly enough with a 10:40 first mile and a 10:00 second mile as I got stuck at the very back of the crowd.  After that I was able to settle into the 9:00/mile pocket through Mile 15.  First half was 2:04:20 which seemed sufficiently conservative given my 1:44 half four weeks earlier.  Up through mile 15 I ran with some usual partners; students Daval and David and fellow mentor Rich.  At mile 15.5, David pulled up and Daval and Rich said they would walk with him for a few minutes.  We had already been walking through water stops and those moments kinda brought me down, so I kept going on my own.  This turned out to be my big mistake. I should have stayed with them.  I kept the 9:00 pace going through mile 21, but then the wheels came off.  I hit the wall and had to start walking long stretches.  I never stopped but I couldn’t really run anymore.  Daval and Rich caught me and passed me between 22 and 23.  They ended up running 4:20.  I ended up at 4:42 having walked about 80% of the last 5 miles.

THE AFTERMATH: Due to the way I finished, I don’t really feel like I’ve run a marathon.  I feel like I’ve run 21 miles and walked 5.  I don’t have that feeling of satisfaction that I’ve heard so much about.  I’m not that proud.  At least I have a base time that should be pretty beatable for my next marathon!  This past week I haven’t exercised at all and I’ve eaten pretty stupidly as well.  I do plan on getting back at the training starting tomorrow.  My next event is the Run to Remember Half Marathon in 3 weeks.  I’m pretty sure I can throw down 13.1 any time I want at this point.  Hopefully I don’t PR again; just want to relax and enjoy the scenery.  I’m thinking that October is the best time for me to run my next full.

See you all out there!  Thanks again to the DreamFar team, the best team I have ever been on, for a great first marathon training experience!

 
 

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Pacquiao v. Mosley: Why boxing has no chance

My first and last boxing pay-per-view happened last night, May 7th, 2011.  I would rather watch bass fishing, cup stacking, paintball, candlepin bowling, Ninja Warrior, curling, or badminton than another boxing PPV.  Those sports could actually create intrigue for more than 3 minutes and wouldn’t cost $49.95 per event either.

This is billed to be as good as it gets.  They tell me that Pacquiao is the best boxer in the world.  Mosley isn’t quite in the same class but he held his own for 12 rounds and Pacquiao rarely gets knockouts anyways.  So I guess this is it: the best that boxing has to offer.  Yikes.

I was in a room of 14 people.  Three people were falling asleep throughout the fight, and all three had money riding on the outcome.  The rest of the room was sucked completely dry of life.  The undercard snoozers plus this fight was as invigorating as gathering 14 people to watch ab-roller infomercials.  It was painful.  A room full of self-proclaimed boxing fans couldn’t wait for it to end so we could go home.

The TV production was enough to make a morgue seem exciting.  James Brown was sleepy and the interview with LL Cool J was silly.  Jim Gray asked Pacquiao useless questions and Gray stared at Pacquiao and spoke in a sketchy soft voice as if he were going to molest him.  Antonio Tarver simply couldn’t get words out of his mouth.  The moment when he was first supposed to speak in pre-fight commentary, he completely froze for 8 seconds.  The ring announcer was totally inferior to Bruce Buffer (UFC).  When the ring announcer tried to announce the winner of the Arce/Vazquez fight he had to completely stop in the middle and come back 2-3 minutes later because he somehow wasn’t ready the first time.  The entrance music with live performances by LL Cool J singing “Mama Said Knock You Out” and Jimi Jamison of Survivor singing “Eye of the Tiger” was both cliche and pathetically nostalgic in that washed-up-Vegas-routine kind of way.  The between-bout segments didn’t even have basic production components like background music.  The arena was dead silent the entire night until round 10 of the main event when Pacquiao finally decided to act like someone who wanted to fight hard.  Every aspect of this broadcast was painful to watch in its own special way.

There’s a mandatory comparison to UFC that has to be brought up.  All of the UFC’s that I have watched have blown this production away.  It doesn’t matter who was fighting.  The production is high-energy, everyone who speaks on screen from the commentators to the fighters to the refs has a ton of energy, and the crowds are so insane that you can totally feed off the energy oozing through the television.  I have never been at a UFC party where anyone was fading away on the couch.  Last night, everyone was bored from the moment they arrived.

Boxing, I finally gave you my shot.  You’ve got nothing.  I’d rather gather 14 friends to watch Wipeout.  At least people actually get hit on that show.

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Echoes of Challenge (speech video)

This is me performing my original speech entitled “Echoes of Challenge” at the 2011 Toastmasters International Speech Contest.

This is the District 31, Division E finals. I had already won with this speech at the club and area levels in order to make it to this contest.

I took second place at this contest out of six contestants. The first and third place winners were both professional speakers!  All six contestants were excellent.

Dedicated to Charlie “Spo” Sposato, the crew of the Challenger, and dad.

Enjoy!

Text:

Echoes of Challenge

Charlie Sposato was supposed to die on January 28th, 1986.  He worked for years to achieve the only available spot on the mission that would have killed him.  Thousands of people competed for this spot.  Charlie was one of the five finalists, and he wanted to go very much.  But he was not chosen to be the one.  So he lived on.  Charlie’s serendipitous failure is one of the major reasons why you have this paper in your hands.

*    * *

One might say that their education starts with their first day of school, or maybe on the day they were born.  My education starts with my first memory; the first experience that I can draw from on a conscious level.  My first memory is of watching the space shuttle Challenger launch live on TV.  I was five years old.  I had never seen a space shuttle launch before, but boy did I think it was great!  I remember seeing two plumes of thick white smoke forking across the perfect blue sky.  At the intersection of the two plumes there came a brilliant burst of red flame.  Then the whole sky rained streams of white like the end of a fireworks show.  “Wow!” I thought to myself, “space shuttles are awesome!

The next day I read the newspaper with my parents.  It was then we learned that the space shuttle had exploded and that all seven crew members were dead.  Let the education begin.

*    * *

I was in kindergarten and growing up in Framingham, Massachusetts at the time.  I was a voracious reader.  Every week I would go to the library down the street from my house, the FPL-Saxonville Branch.  I would always come home with a stack of books so big and heavy that I usually dropped them on the sidewalk several times on my way home.  I stuffed myself full of Encyclopedia Brown, the Hardy Boys, military books, and every biography of an athlete that the library had from Jesse Owens to Babe Didrickson Zaharias.  My insatiable reading habit is the most significant component of my development during my elementary school years.

*    * *

Christa McAuliffe grew up in Framingham and attended Marian High School and Framingham State College.  In 1984 she entered and eventually won the Teacher In Space contest.  She beat out over 11,000 entrants.  She was my first teacher because my first learning experience was watching her die.  After the Challenger disaster, the FPL-Saxonville Branch was renamed as the FPL-Christa McAuliffe Branch.  Christa McAuliffe gave me lots of great books.  Christa McAuliffe was an excellent teacher.

*    * *

Up through age fifteen my personal knapsack became filled with the standard fare of a white suburban American upbringing; school, soccer, saxophone lessons, religious school.  However, the significance of all this paled in comparison to the importance of summer camp.  After fifth grade I started attending overnight camp for eight weeks per summer.  Anyone who goes to camp for this long spends approximately 30% more hours at camp than they do at school each year.  The camp I attended was for boys only.  At camp I learned all about the virtues of competitiveness, leadership, and camaraderie.  I learned how to interact with adolescents from some spectacular counselors.  Eventually I became a counselor myself.  I also witnessed the horrors of unrestrained masculinity, deliberate humiliation, and Lord-of-the-Flies-esque ostracism.  I am glad that camp happened and I am glad that it is over.  Even though camp was both good and bad, I can feel good about both aspects because I learned how to find the good in a bad situation.  Christa started this lesson, and camp drove it home.

*    * *

Charlie Sposato taught English in Framingham for 30 years.  In 1995 “Spo” was my freshman English teacher at Framingham High School.  I am very lucky to have had him because he had not taught freshman for fifteen years before this class.  His big idea for our class was “Personal Odyssey” because we were freshmen.  We read books that fit the big idea such as The Hobbit, The Odyssey, and 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Our first essay was to write letters to ourselves as seniors.  Spo returned the letters to us at graduation.  Spo also had us write an essay every week.  I have never written so much nor improved so much in such a short time.  Spo had a quote framed on both sides of his classroom: “YOU CAN DO IT.  I WON’T GIVE UP ON YOU.  THIS IS IMPORTANT.”  I was never in danger of failing, but I liked the quote anyways.  I read it every day.  Spo was everyone’s favorite teacher.

*    * *

In November of 1996 my dad died of cancer.  I am good at finding creative ways to make a good situation out of a bad situation, but I’m still working on this one.

*    * *

The most important thing that I added to the knapsack while in college is identities.  Throughout high school the biggest part of my identity was “musician”.  I continued this identity in college, and I also added “live music guru” and “craft beer connoisseur.” Each of these identities came full circle when I turned them into careers.  One of my favorite bands asked me to be their road manager.  I experienced two national tours on the road with a band before I finished college.  As soon as I finished college, I went to work in field sales for the Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams).  I worked there for five years.  Whatever backpack I carried around during college, I needed one twice as big after parlaying my identities into these experiences.

*    * *

In November of 2007 I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.  This disease is a chronic recurring inflammation of the digestive system, much like Crohn’s Disease.  For a while I thought I was dying, but eventually I got into remission.  I immediately joined the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America’s half marathon training and fundraising program.  I have now completed three seasons with this program, raised over $12,000, and scored two free trips to Napa for my efforts.  I also started volunteering a week each summer as a counselor at the CCFA’s Camp Oasis.  I began to rediscover my identity as someone who enjoys educating children.

Medical professionals assert that there is no cure for ulcerative colitis.  However, through my participation in Camp Oasis and Team Challenge, I feel better than I did before I got sick.  I must be cured.

*    * *

Charlie Sposato died of cancer in December 2007.  The beloved educator and top-5 finalist for the Teacher in Space program was gone.  Shortly before he died, he contacted me and wished me well.  I had been his student twelve years earlier.  I immediately considered this experience to be significant, but I was not sure how.

*    * *

In December 2009 I was laid off from my uninspiring corporate desk job.  By now my knapsack was filled with experience on how to turn an identity into a job, and how to turn a bad situation into a good situation.  I took these experiences out of the knapsack and put them to use.  The day after I was laid off, I applied to substitute teach at Framingham High School.  I also began applying to graduate education programs.  I had not been to school for seven years.  I needed a new knapsack.

*    * *

On January 28th, 1986, Christa McAuliffe and the Challenger crew gave me a knapsack.  Since then, I have filled my knapsack with books, people, places, and moments.  Two weeks ago, I began teaching English full time at Framingham High School.  I teach in one of the same rooms where Charlie Sposato taught his students about their personal odyssey.  I teach freshmen and sophomores.  On both sides of my classroom I framed the quote, “YOU CAN DO IT.  I WON’T GIVE UP ON YOU.  THIS IS IMPORTANT.”  The same week, I returned to school to begin my graduate program.

I think that Charlie and my dad would be proud.

Let the education begin.

 

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Pre-Marathon brief road race history

Finishing a 5-miler in 2010. 38:19 (7:39 MPM), 29th place out of 240.

I am running my first marathon in 9 days!  I will be running the Cox Providence Marathon along with the team that I have been mentoring since January, DreamFar High School Marathon.  It is a wonderful team!

I just wanted to compile brief notes from some of my more significant races before the marathon.  This will not be very well written, it’s just notes : )  These are not all of my races, just the ones I want a note on.

4/22/07 Doyle’s Emerald Necklace 5-miler – 42:27 (8:29 MPM) – This was my first road race.  Did it on a whim.  I was 25-30 pounds overweight at this time, mostly because I was working in a brewery.  (I weighed 180-190 until October ’08 when I left the brewery and quickly dropped to 160 where I’m still at now.)  Thought I could do an 8:00 pace.  Nope.

10/7/07 B.A.A. Half Marathon – 1:55:13 (8:47 MPM) – My first half.  Don’t know why I signed up, I just did.  I was starting to get pretty sick with ulcerative colitis but was still a few weeks away from getting diagnosed.  Felt good most of the way but the last 2 miles were tough.  I also remember making the n00btastic move of dropping my iPod in the first mile when it was still totally crowded.  Managed to recover it, but what a doozie.  Have never raced with any ipod since!

7/20/08 Napa-to-Sonoma Half Marathon – 1:53:16 (8:38 MPM) – Very nice course and great afterparty!  Ran well for a pudgy guy.  Boy was I beat up after this run though.  I couldn’t step up or down off of a curb for 3 days afterwards.  Yup, just a 4-inch drop off a curb was devastating!  Stairs were completely out of the question.  Could barely walk.  Yeesh.

7/19/09 Napa-to-Sonoma Half Marthon – 1:47:43 (8:13 MPM) – Returned a year later and in much better shape.  Now that I wasn’t at the brewery I was significantly lighter.  I also had a good 3 months of training with a team.  Battled some injuries during training but come race day I was in the best shape I had been in yet.  This training was also the time when I discovered ChiRunning and really started to streamline my form.  I felt great at the finish and partied all day long.  No lingering effects either.  Nice!

10/11/09 B.A.A. Half Marathon – 1:45:40 (8:03 MPM) – Looks nice on paper…my 4th PR in 4 half marathons, right?  But oh boy did I do this one wrong.  I went out blazing fast and tried to hang on for dear life at the end.  As you probably know, this is basically the dumbest racing strategy there is. I was averaging about a 7:35 through 11 miles, but then I bonked and had to walk the last two!  I got passed by probably 500 people in the last two miles and staggered across the finish.  Somehow I still PR’ed, but man what a doozie.  I’m never doing that strategy again.

4/11/10 For the Love of Sports 5-Miler – 38:13 (7:39 MPM) – Had my best 3 months of training ever leading up to this.  Finally cracked the 8:00 MPM mark at a race.  Also I am now 4 minutes (about 10%) faster at the 5-mile distance than I was 2.5 years ago.  Nice!

6/27/10 Boston 13.1 Half Marathon – 1:52:19 (8:34 MPM) – This was an incredibly difficult course in the Blue Hills in Canton, MA.  It broke my streak of 4 consecutive PR’s, but I ran a great race.  Felt awesome at the finish.  During training I started to notice that I was having a harder and harder time maintaining an 8:00 pace.  Figured my chance to ever break this pace at a half marathon had passed due to age.

4/3/11 Great Bay Half Marathon – 1:44:12 (7:57 MPM)  Whoa!  Never saw this one coming!  Had 3 great months of training under my belt thanks to the marathon team, but I did not think that this was going to happen!  I had no intention of PRing at this race.  I just went out easy and stayed with what felt comfortable.  At the 8-mile mark, I noticed the 8:00 pacers for the first time, running about 100 yards ahead of me.  I just kept them in my sights until mile 11, then I made my move and got past them.  At the 12 marker I actually kicked for the first time in my life and threw down a 7:38 from mile 12 to mile 13!  All that training and ChiRunning practice really paid off!  The course wasn’t even easy by any means, but I just had a great day.

5/1/11 Cox Providence Marathon – 9 days to go!

5/31/11 Boston’s Run to Remember Half Marathon – very flat course.  I’ll be looking for another PR assuming that I’m recovered from the marathon.

See you all out there!

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2011 in Running and Ultimate

 

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