Monthly Archives: May 2017

Final dress

On a lovely May 31 day, we’re all set to go for final dress rehearsal for As You Like It. Hopefully, I’ve remembered everything on my end (I think I have, because I remembered my shoes this time). It’s been a new horizon for me this time: more on the backstage side, doing some production notes. This is one of the shows I’ve done the most work on, and I definitely have more respect for the backstage side of the craft (not that it wasn’t there to begin with, but unless a person does it, it can get lost in translation sometimes). There’s the beauty of art to me. It’s been a good moment of growth.

Thank you, cast and crew, for all you’ve done so far. It’s been an incredible journey to take, and now we approach the summit. “I’m almost to the top and you ought to see the view,” as the old folk song goes.

And on top of that, we’ve got this really nice poster design (seen below).

Now, let’s help each other cross the finish line.

As You Like It

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Check-ins – May 2017

Hey guys, just checking in. Here is some news from what’s been going on with me:

We’re now just a week away (less now, actually) from opening As You Like It. It’s been a fun ride, and I’ve been balancing numerous roles, onstage and off. It’s been a challenge, and hopefully one I’ll be able to meet, but it’s a good one to try to grow on my horizons.

On another milestone note, it’s exactly three more weeks until my birthday! Hopefully, everything goes smoothly for the next few weeks.

It’s been a weird season as a Red Sox fan. Injuries have slowed them down, particularly in the pitching staff. David Price is scheduled to start Monday, and they’ve won four straight to hold one of the wild card spots as of this writing. It’s a very different Red Sox team than usual – because of Fenway Park’s dimensions, they’ve been known for several good power hitting seasons. This isn’t the case this year – leadoff hitter Mookie Betts leads the team with seven home runs. Ironically, that may not be that bad this year. I like teams that can play small ball well in this day and age. In a 6-2 win against the Rangers last night, both Xander Bogaerts and Deven Marrero homered, their first of the year (and neither are known as power hitters). Bogaerts is having an All-Star season, already at .335 and may be on his way to a starting shortstop position in the All-Star Game. Chris Sale has been great, leading the team with five wins, but it may not be enough to win 20 games. The pitching staff needs to get better, especially with several big teams coming up in June.

That’s basically it for now. Have a good day everybody.

Major League Baseball updates: May 2017

I had a feeling that both the Red Sox and Cubs would have their issues. They’re both 21-20 and in third place as of this writing (May 20, 2017). The season’s basically one-fourth old, and many early favorites are having some issues.

Here’s the playoff picture as of today (May 20). Teams listed by record.

American League 
1. Houston Astros (West)
2. New York Yankees (East)
3. Minnesota Twins (Central)
Wild Card 1: Baltimore Orioles
Wild Card 2: Texas Rangers

National League
1. Colorado Rockies (West)
2. Washington Nationals (East)
3. Milwaukee Brewers (Central)
Wild Card 1: Arizona Diamondbacks
Wild Card 2: Los Angeles Dodgers

Some interesting names in here, particularly in the National League. I saw the Rockies and Nationals being on the way up, but Arizona and Milwaukee, not necessarily. Additionally, Minnesota is a slight upset in the AL Central. I think we’re going to see a lot of great moments this year.

Potential World Series Matchups I want to see (teams listed alphabetically):
1. Dodgers vs. Yankees
2. Astros vs. Rockies
3. Rockies vs. Yankees
4. Brewers vs. Twins
5. Dodgers vs. Orioles

No real rhyme or reason, except for the first one – I’d love to see a renewal of the classic rivalry.

Autism and college

I was just part of a research study related to ASD and college. I’m glad to have been a part of it, because I’ve never seen any research on it. At the same time, I don’t necessarily need to see the results. I have a pretty good feeling as to what they’re going to say. Because of that, it may be too much to handle if I did see it. But there were some interesting questions raised that I’d never considered before. Thinking back to college (and high school) made me think of things I’d never thought of before, mostly because I never had to. These are just my experiences, and others may have had different experience. I’ll put it this way: I don’t regret going to college, but I also don’t miss it that much. 

One of the more striking things that we talked about was the fact that that I never really had an IEP (Individualized Education Plan), which is very common among autistics. Would having it have made a difference? Probably. I don’t remember that much about my college discussions with my guidance counselor. But it did strike me: even back in high school, I never really thought about college that much. I just thought it was part of the natural progression; I knew some were going to work, some would go to two-year schools. Some of the members of my graduating class joined the military immediately afterward, and had no plans then or now to ever go. Whether they wanted to go or not, I respect whatever choice they made. For me, it’s not that I didn’t want to go, I just never really thought about doing anything else. I just thought that, as a professor’s son, it was just something you were supposed to do. In hindsight, I guess I liked the idea of college more than I liked the experience of college. I guess I was seduced by the way that TV and movies portrayed college. But the romance that it seemed to be promoting was very different from the realities. These are the following schools I can remember being interested in me, or I got significant information from: Indiana, Bellarmine, Liberty (I’m just as surprised as you are), North Carolina, Michigan State, Louisville, and I also did a visit to Evansville. Ironically, I have a perfect record when it comes to applying to schools. I only applied to one, which was IU, and got in. So there’s that, I guess. 😛  I came close to applying to Bellarmine, and got some significant information from them, as well as UNC. But in the end, I never quite put the application in. To me, the chase – the fact that they wanted me – was better than the payoff.

One problem that had back then and I still have now is that it often takes me a while to get motivated. Even in previous levels of school – elementary, middle, high school – there were times where I just couldn’t get motivated to do my best. But back then, the stakes were lower. College was a different ballgame. To be honest, I’m still not entirely sure how I did it. I graduated, and have two B.A.s. But I wonder how much of that was skill and how much of that was just dumb luck – just getting the right grades in the right classes at the right time. Everybody needs a little luck to get into college. Staying in college requires a lot more luck. And I had a lot of it.

At least I realized my problem, and this is one I recognized in middle school. I could tell you what I believed, but not why I believed in it. I’m not lying when I say this – there were times when, forced to give a justification, I put down “Because people told me to.” Even today, I still have that problem. That’s one reason why I’m aloof when it comes to things like politics – those questions always stumped me.

I had the resources in college, but I was too stubborn to take them. Why do people not take the help offered them, right? I guess because of the stereotypes of autism (which I was fortunate enough to avoid for the most part), I wanted to prove any naysayers I had wrong. There weren’t that many, admittedly, but the stubbornness was there. Oftentimes, professors encourage students to sit in the front of their classes; for many, it’s said it’ll help them stand out that way. I never wanted that. I wanted to go to class, do the work, and let the rest take care of itself. I did five years undergraduate. Three of those years were spent at home, two of those for economic reasons and once because I didn’t submit the application for housing in time. Paperwork was never my strong suit. In fact, the more of it there was, the more overwhelmed I usually became. So, I flew under the radar, but in hindsight, maybe I flew too low.

One example is such: as part of the French degree, you could apply to do a semester or full year in the southern part of France, Aix-en-Provence. I would have loved to do it, but I never applied. Part of it was for financial purposes. Also, I wanted to keep my chances open for auditions in the theatre department (never ended up getting a show, but came close a few times). But mostly it was because I doubt I would have had the grades to qualify anyway. There’s no guarantee they would have taken me, and knowing that, I never really pursued it.

That’s why I’m a little surprised when people say they could see me as a professor. My analytical skills weren’t that great, and the short attention span means that I would veer off topic anyway. But mostly, I don’t think I’ll ever be a professor for one simple reason: I have very little desire to go back to school. As far as I’m concerned, I’m done. Maybe I’ll change my mind one day, but graduate level work and above is something you really have to be willing to commit to. And honestly, I’m not. There is a part of me that wonders, largely because I know somebody on the spectrum who is doing his graduate work now and says we may be better going directly to graduate school. In undergrad, I was just waiting for the days to get done. I just wanted the diploma. And despite everything, now that I have it, I consider it my greatest accomplishment. You might say it’s my trophy. This same person I know also wonders if the universities themselves are really preparing undergrads for the real world. Are they really as adult as they claim to be?

If I had waited a few years to go, maybe had some job and real-world experience earlier, maybe things would have been different. Then again, maybe not. Still, I’m glad I did this interview. I never really considered certain sides of my experience; other parts were so long ago that I couldn’t remember even if I tried.

I don’t know what advice I could give to autistic kids that are thinking about it. I don’t necessarily know what advice I could give myself, eleven years after going through the process. All I know is my own experience. Would I do it again? Maybe. This is something I never really thought about. But in the end, I will say that having the diploma from a Big Ten school is the reward. And they can’t take that away from me.

10 More Extreme Airports: Part 2

If anybody read the previous list of most extreme airports, based on the list compiled by the History Channel. Two were left off the list (Kai Tek in Hong Kong and Vail in Colorado). Now, here’s a part two. This list is more of my own. Perhaps some of you have flown into them. All rankings and picks are purely my opinion. I’m not saying don’t fly to these places, but at the very least, be very careful.

10. LaGuardia Airport 
Location: New York, New York 

Image result for laguardia airport
Photo courtesy of http://www.laguardiaairport.com 

Widely seen by many as one of the worst airports in the America, LaGuardia is set to undergo renovations. For many, it’s not a moment too soon, although the cost is expected to be much higher than anticipated. For those that have never flown into LaGuardia, here is what many say about it: it’s surrounded by water, leading to wind and fog patterns, and many feel as if they’re landing on an aircraft carrier. As a result of the congestion, many flights are delayed or cancelled altogether. Additionally, many of the facilities and/or amenities you’d expect from New York are outdated or nonexistent. For example, there is no subway access, and it looks like a regional airport than an international one. I’ve flown into JFK, but never LaGuardia. It sounds like it’s due for extensive renovations.

9. Mariscal Sucre International Airport 
Location: Quito, Ecuador 

Image result for quito ecuador airport extreme
Photo courtesy of The Economist.

Quito is the capital city of Ecuador, and this airport is relatively new, opening in 2013. However, just like the old one (which had the same name), the risk is pretty high. As you can see, you fly over several high-rise buildings, and because of Quito’s elevation (it’s the second-highest capital city in the world, behind La Paz, Bolivia, standing at 2,850 meters, or 9,350 feet, high), you lose a lot of horsepower. The Andes are said to be a rough landing, and while the location is better in this version, Quito is still said to be adjusting to its new location.

8. Nuuk Airport 
Location: Nuuk, Greenland 

Nuuk-airport-runway.jpg
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

While Nuuk is the capital of Greenland, it has only six airports in total and Nuuk International is only able to connect to Iceland. Weather and location contribute to a short runway, at only 950 m (3,117 ft). There have been talks about extending the runway, but in a northern direction, there is very little room. Other proposals propose building an entirely new airport nearby, but the cost of about 2-3 billion Danish krona (DKK) is said to be a red flag to many investors. Perhaps it could go back to its original use for charter flights, because it seems to small and in too rough of a location to carry major commercial flights.

7. Tom Madsen Airport 
Location: Dutch Harbor, Alaska 

Image result for unalaska airport
Photo courtesy of http://www.wikimapia.org 

For further proof about this airport, look no further than the name. It goes by no fewer than three names – Dutch Harbor Airport, Unalaska Airport, and Tom Madsen Airport. The second one is the most official, but all three are used interchangeably. This airport is only 4,100 feet long (1,250 meters), and imagine flying in during the dead of winter when there’s no sunlight. Snow, fog, rain all cloud the runway, and you fly over a mountain and several treacherous shorelines with pebbles to get to the runway. It can only fly within Alaska itself, mostly serving Anchorage. It seems like a very rough landing, particularly if you miss the runway. And given how remote much of Alaska is, it could be a while before any relief comes in.

6. Ronald Reagan International Airport 
Location: Washington, D.C. 

reagan-national-airport
Photo courtesy of http://www.travelvivi.com 

Because of its close proximity to the Pentagon and FBI headquarters, flying into Reagan is considered extremely tight. Federal regulations do not allow flight outside of a 1,250 mile perimeter, with some exceptions. And depending on where you fly from, you may end up having a lousy flight. Travel writer Peter Greenberg says that to fly from New York City takes thirty eight minutes. While that sounds good, it also means that due to the thirty-minute landing rule, people only have eight minutes to use the restroom or adjust their luggage. As a result, few take the refreshments offered on that run. Oh, and did I mention a sharp left turn to avoid the White House?

5. Don Mueang International Airport 
Location: Bangkok, Thailand 

Bangkok - International (Don Muang) (DMK - VTBD) AN2196231.jpg
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia. 

This one is actually probably not as bad as some of the ones that precede it. But I’m putting it higher in a similar vein to Gibraltar – not the airport, but what’s built around it. In this case, there is a golf course adjacent to the runway, so planes often fly overhead. And, of course, the golfers must give the planes the right of way. It also is older than you would expect – it’s Asia’s oldest operating airport, opening in 1914. Still, many low-cost airlines actually serve Don Mueang now as a result. The other big thing to watch out for is flooding, as Southeast Asia has very notorious typhoon seasons.

4. São Paulo/Congonhas Airport
Location: São Paulo, Brazil

Image result for congonhas airport
Photo courtesy of Traveller Today. 

Much like Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo is a sprawling metropolis. There doesn’t seem to be enough room, and Congonhas actually realizes this, limiting how much weight is allowed on flights. Rainwater is notoriously bad on this runway, and it has arguably the most slippery runway in the world. Several major accidents have occurred, including one of the worst ten years ago that overshot the runway, killing all 187 people on the plane and 12 more on the ground. This was the worst aviation accident in Brazilian territory. Sadly, the other major airport in the city (Guarulhos) is too crowded to serve as a suitable alternative.

3. Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport
Location: Dakar, Senegal 

Image result for senghor airport runway
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia. 

One man called this the worst in the world. While there has been only one major accident, and that was in 1960, you still fly over a sprawling city, and the photo looks like you have to walk into the terminal yourself, dodging various drivers along the way. This one is one her more to the terminal and the design of the airport itself: long layovers, considering that it’s one of the busiest in West Africa. A good number of flights are forced to use Dakar as their hub. Additionally, it’s recommended not to use the restrooms inside the terminal due to a risk of malaria. Along with few places to sit, there are numerous solicitors, and there are armed guards at an ATM machine…which isn’t operational. It’s not the runway itself, but given the limited size of the terminal and all the other annoyances potentially awaiting you, it may be one time to hope for a short layover. Senegal seems to be caught in the middle – still developing, and beautiful in many places, but having some other places that sound like they couldn’t exist in real life, and yet they do.

2. Tioman Airport
Location: Tioman Island, Pahang, Malaysia

Tioman runway 01.jpg
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia. 

Due to the space limitations, you’re only allowed to land from one side, in a northern direction. There are arrester wires along side the runway to slow it down. And Tioman Island seems to be a very popular location, as Pahang is one of the larger parts of Malaysia. However, due to the danger the airport presents, it may have closed down, as there was no traffic reported in 2015. The runway is 992 meters (3,255 feet) long, far too short for commercial flights. Seeing video of some landings, it looks like the plane is forced to fly over water, and then it looks like they’re disappearing into the mountains. Cloudy weather and wind also appear to be high.

1. Matekane Air Strip 
Location: Matekane, Lesotho 

Image result for matekane air strip
Photo courtesy of Wikimapia. 

Just looking at the photo would scare me. Matekane has a short runway, and then immediately drops into a mountain. Incidentally, that’s said to help it, as it’s supposed to glide over the mountains to get you past them. There’s a cliff of over 2,000 feet awaiting for you on departure, as well as a 7,550 foot couloir. It’s said you want to fly downhill and downwind, because the mountains are usually stronger than people. I’d imagine even some of the heartiest travelers may take a step back with Matekane.

Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

I first read this book on a family vacation to the beach in Belgium in summer 2004. I was seventeen years old, a junior in high school, gawky…and finally had a book that spoke to the autistic condition. That was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon.

Image result for the curious incident of the dog in the nighttime
Photo courtesy of Goodreads. 

Some spoiler alerts ahead:

While it’s never explicitly stated how high or low-functioning he is, it’s implied that Christopher (or as he introduces himself, “Christopher John Francis Boone.”) has some form of autism.  He’s high enough to where he can communicate speech and is definitely great in areas like math and social studies (“I know all the countries of the world and their capital cities and all the prime numbers up to 7,057.”) He even chooses to use an unconventional method for his chapters; instead of the usual number format – 1,2,3,4, etc. – he uses prime numbers instead – 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, etc. Whereas I have a sensitivity to certain numbers, Christopher does the same with colors, specifically yellow and brown. He is convinced that if he sees a certain number of yellow cars in a row, it will be a terrible day (or a great day if he sees the same sequence in the color red). This type of phenomenon is a variation of what is known as synesthesia. This is  an involuntary sensory over-stimulation in relationship to shapes, numbers, and patterns, among other things. He also has a literal interpretation of the world, being unable to interpret metaphor at all and generally having an unhappy or aloof disposition.

Christopher stumbles upon the body of the neighbor’s dog, Wellington, with a garden fork protruding from his chest. (In another example of his condition, he screams desperately when the police officer tries to touch his arms to potentially question him. This earns him an arrest for assault, although he gets off with a warning.) Despite his father Ed’s warnings, Christopher does his best to channel his inner Sherlock Holmes. He even talks about his enjoyment of the Conan Doyle stories. However, because of his aversion to the world, he has no social connection with it, and as a result, his deductive reasoning in trying to solve the case is hindered. As is the case in many detective stories, the dog’s death is really a red herring. The true mystery is the discovery that his father lied to him about his mother dying. In a scene that’s both hilarious and utterly tragic at the same time, Christopher finds a shoe box with letters his mother has written to him; however, because of his literal interpretation of the world, and his loyalty (which is one of his fatal flaws) to his father, he can’t or won’t put two and two together. He tries to rationalize it by saying it was another mother with a son named Christopher, and the addresses got mixed up. But the truth is more painful, although he talks about the Occam’s razor theory earlier – that is, the simplest answer is usually the correct one. In this case, Ed has lied to Christopher about his mother Judy dying. Instead, Judy ran off with Mr. Shears, the neighbor and one of Wellington’s owners. So the mystery, and the adventure, is not just about the murder of a neighborhood dog. Instead, it’s about the discovery of finding his mother and getting the truth of what happened, no matter how painful.

Speaking from experience, Christopher’s story is a very painful one. Early in the book, he talks about his desire to become an astronaut. However, as the book wears on, he realizes that his dream will most likely never come true. If he has issues just venturing out into his own neighborhood, then how is he going to be able to cope with being millions of miles away from most human contact? Later, after he finds his mother Judy, her lover Mr. Shears rejects him. In many ways, Judy did the same thing in the past by abandoning the family due to Christopher’s condition. That was why Ed lied about her. But the novel still ends optimistically, with Christopher now trying to become a scientist and taking his high-level exams and being confident enough to do well on them. Plus, as he says, he was brave enough to venture out on his own, solved the mystery, and gets a Golden retriever puppy of his own in the end.

There are certainly some parts that Haddon didn’t get exactly right about the condition. But the ones he did get right are wrenching, and that drives a lot of the story. A lot of these things are similar to what autistics go through. It was later adapted into a Tony Award-winning play a few years ago. This was one of the first novels that told my side of the story, and it gets a lot of it right. It took a while to get started, and the accuracy may be called into question a little bit, but I think I can suspend my disbelief long enough.

Baseball road trips: My list of places

Even baseball has its own travel itinerary. Here is a list of another book, 101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out by Josh Pahigian. It’s a combination of baseball and travel, two of my favorite pastimes.

My List (in chronological order according to the book)

1. The Green Monster 
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Dates: July 2016 

Image result for Green monster
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

2. The Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory 
Location: Louisville, Kentucky 
Dates: March 2011 

Image result for louisville slugger museum
Photo courtesy of http://www.louisvillefamilyfun.net

3. Wrigleyville 
Location: Chicago, Illinois 
Dates: June 1995, July 1999 

Image result for wrigleyville
Photo courtesy of http://www.choosechicago.com 

4. St. Louis Walk of Fame 
Location: St. Louis, Missouri 
Dates: August 2009

Image result for st. louis walk of fame musial
Photo courtesy of Getty Images. 

Inconclusive/Near-Misses
1. Ted Williams Museum and Hitter’s Hall of Fame
Location: St. Petersburg, Florida

2. Batcolumn
Location: Chicago, Illinois

3. Site of the First World Series Game
Location: Boston, Massachusetts

4. Jackie Robinson Trail
Location: New York, New York

5. Black Sox Trial Courthouse
Location: Chicago, Illinois

6. Al Lang Stadium
Location: St. Petersburg, Florida

7. Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio

Totals: 4/101 (3.96%)

All I can say is one thing: Baseball road trip! Who’s in?

Age is just a number

Only a month and a half left until 30. Maybe I’m counting down the days a little too easily. Most people tend to avoid 30 like the plague. But, as mentioned, something about the number 29 doesn’t sit well with me, so I’d do a lot to be rid of that age forever. Plus, I prefer even numbers anyway. 30 fits in several ways – it’s divisible by several numbers, and they also have the documentary series 30 for 30. The numbers are no accident.

Assuming nothing gets in the way, I should be getting there in about seven weeks (my birthday falls on a Friday this year, so May 5th will be the exact seven week marker). My nerves are slowly closing in. I really hope to get there. I’m coming so close to crossing the finish line on my 20s. Please let me get there.

Maybe I’m just worrying too much. However quickly I want it to get here, I know I need to wait. But I hope these seven weeks go by as fast as they can. I’m on that precipice. And I really, really want to kick down that door. There’s more to this story, but I’ll tell it when the time comes.