The Crow's Dream

Philosophy, geekery, and the meaning if life, and what I read this week…

The First Watch I Can Use

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Back in elementary school, my classmates wore calculator-watches. I used to gaze at them enviously knowing that I could not use them fully. As someone born without a left hand, my relationship with watches has always been one of love and limitation. Often, while looking at a feature list, I wouldn’t ask what the watch could do, but tried to figure out what I could do with the watch. My options were limited, since some operations required that I pressed two buttons at once with a non existent thumb and index finger. I actually ended up using a chest strap heart monitor instead of a wrist one because I simply couldn’t use the first option. Some of the watches I owned were beautiful, but difficult to put on. I broke many bands using my teeth to put them on, and don’t get me started with adjusting the time. I’d go the whole day displaying the wrong date rather than taking my time piece off, in order to avoid having to go through the ordeal of using my mouth in a public place to pull on the, by now chewed, leather band. I loved watches though, and because of that love I learned to accept that they were never meant, at least not fully, for people like me.

I heard about the Apple Watch for the first time during the “Spring Forward” Keynote. My main concern was wether or not I was going to be able to use the device. As I saw it, I had two options. One of them was to wear it on my left arm above the elbow. The other one was to ask my wife for help whenever I had to put it, and to use Siri for every other action. Neither one of those options seemed very appealing, but I was used to it. I assumed that, once again, I was going to have to figure out not what the watch could do, but what I could do with it. I figured that being able to tell, not only the time, but the state of my calendar, and to get notifications would be enough. I wasn’t angry or frustrated, because I was so used to watch makers not giving me a second thought, I didn’t think there was a problem.

On the day that I got my watch I went ahead and put it on. No big deal, I didn’t even think about it, but I didn’t need help. I didn’t have to bite the end of the band, or to ask someone to help me. I just wrapped it around my wrist and secured it immediately. Best of all, taking it off was as easy. Then, when I had to put in a passcode, I used my arm, and I was able to key it in on the first try. When I wanted to read something, using the end of my left arm, I could move the digital crown with the ease, and I was able to click the side button to send my wife a few taps, and even a rudimentary sketch. I’m fairly sure that Apple engineers didn’t think about me specifically, but I’d like to think that the idea of someone without full mobility would want to use their creation went through their minds at some point, and that thoughtfulness matters.

I use my watch to keep track of meetings, and to see notifications. I keep my to do lists, count calories, and capture stray thoughts with Day One (my favorite app). I love using pomodoro timers to keep on task too. And yes, I can access music and a calculator, though my headphones aren’t orange. I do use Siri a lot, but I do it because I want to, not because I have to. On mother’s day, I paid attention to the beautiful rural road on the way to the farmer’s market instead of looking at my phone the whole way. I only took it out to take a couple of photos. I am not going to review everything about the new device. It is a great watch, and it makes my life easier. It took only a couple of days for it to fully integrate into my workflow, and I enjoy having all the things I could never access before with any other watch, but updated and better.
It has been a little more than a week since I got it. I have been able to use every feature. 

As I was thinking about this post, I thought that I was going to have to mention that I couldn’t send my heartbeat to my significant other, but I figured out a way to create two points of contact on the screen, so never mind that. It is incredible that a complex machine, which normally adds difficulty to the user experience, has actually given me full access to a watch for the first time in my life. The funny thing is that it felt so natural, I didn’t realize how significant a change it was until a few days after I had been using the watch regularly, and began to remember my previous experiences. I am told that’s how design works. It doesn’t announce itself boastfully, it just fits into your life, and makes it better. 

Written by Hector

May 20, 2015 at 3:13 pm

Why An All Female Ghost Busters Cast Matters

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Growing up without my father’s presence might have turned me into a nerd. Not having a stable paternal figure made me look to comics, and escapist TV shows to find my place in the world, which gave me all kinds of unrealistic expectations about the nature of reality.

By far, one of my favorite shows was the Ghost Busters. I loved it because it seemed to be more about people doing crazy and impossible things than about some dudes fighting the monster of the week. I watched the show whenever I could, and ran around the house pretending to be a Ghost Buster in training. In a way, the characters became my roll-models thanks to J. Michael Straczynski’s beautiful writing. He wrote about people, not cartoon characters. When I revisit some of the episodes he wrote, they still hold weight.

While I was trying to figure out my place in the scheme of things, my mother worked day and night to make sure that my brother and I could have a private Montessori education, and that we had activities like Kung-fu classes and regular trips to the public library. My mother believed that she had the duty to get us ready for life. Meanwhile, I kept on having dreams about the Ghost Busters. I’d wake up, only to realize that there was something missing from my life. The world kept on telling me that I needed a father. The looks of pity I got from my classmates confirmed this belief. One time, our teacher decided to treat us to a field trip to the mall, and I wanted money for the arcade. When I asked, my mom gave me the equivalent of a quarter. I held on to it as my classmates feed the Gauntlet machine with coin after coin. Finally, when I decided to play, I only lasted a few minutes. Then, we went to the food court, and everyone ordered burgers. I pulled out a sandwich from a paper bag my mother had put together for me. She was never a great cook so I wasn’t really looking forward to the meal. I remember sneaking to the condiment section of the restaurant, and adding bacon bits, cheese, and other goodies. It tasted great. I don’t remember what I said about bringing my own food, and not having money, but I made stuff up. I lied all the time about my father being away on a business trip. My excuses were inventive, and rooted in shame.

The most memorable fight my mother and I had happened when I was held back a year. The shame of having to repeat 5th grade stayed with me for a long time, but I ended up becoming An excellent student by the time I made it to college. “Look,” my mother would say “I don’t care what you do with your life. l am doing my part by sending you to a good school. Just be the best at what you do. If you become a criminal or a priest just be a good one- Just do your best.”

And so for many years the feeling that something was missing haunted me, and the memories of my imaginary life as a Ghost Buster sorta guided my life. I loved the myth. I love science, and impossible stories, and ended up getting a masters in the technology field, and I love gadgets, and New York.

In my mid twenties, I got some of the GB toys I could never afford when l was a kid. They are still home then in the attic somewhere.

A few days ago, I found out that there was going to be a new Ghost Busters movie, and that it was going to have an all female cast. I was excited, and interested. I didn’t know why, and then it hit me. If I had seen this movie, I would have known that, although the original GB will all ways have a place in my heart, I didn’t really need a father figure as much as I thought I did. My mother did a good job by herself. I wish she hadn’t had to go at it alone, but nothing was missing. kids need loving parents. That’s all, so as I watch the movie, I am going to think about single parents doing the right thing for their kids, and I am going to know that no matter what their gender is, as long as they do their best for their children, they are enough. Thank you for all that you do.

If you repost this, give me credit. As long as you’re not using it commercially, and as long as you give me credit, it’s okay to use this. CC: attribution, non commercial

Written by Hector

February 1, 2015 at 7:19 pm

Posted in Personal Essay

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Why I Love Comic Book Conventions

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I love conventions because they bring the myths of out times alive. They are like modern rituals. Here is a quote and a video that represent what I am trying to say. First the quote:

A ritual is the enactment of a myth. And, by participating in the ritual, you are participating in the myth. And since myth is a projection of the depth wisdom of the psyche, by participating in a ritual, participating in the myth, you are being, as it were, put in accord with that wisdom, which is the wisdom that is inherent within you anyhow. Your consciousness is being re-minded of the wisdom of your own life. I think ritual is terribly important.

Joseph Campbell, “The Wisdom of Joseph Campbell,” New Dimensions Radio Interview with Michael Toms, Tape I, Side 2*

Now the video:

*You can find more quotes like this one by liking the Joseph Campbell Foundation on Facebook. I found the quote in their page. Here is the link:

Written by Hector

July 25, 2013 at 6:04 pm

Posted in Comics

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The Avengers: A Review

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Avengers was probably one of the best movies I have ever seen. It was a crowning jewel of Marvel’s cinematic renaissance, which has made the company a powerhouse over the past few years. It is hard to believe that Marvel went from almost disappearing, back in the 90s, to accompany that can make a superhero movie that is not only accessible, but also mind blowing, to geeks and mainstream audiences alike.

 Usually, when you watch a movie based on a popular franchise you hear from purists complaining about their beloved characters being modified in order to fit a director’s perception of what the mainstream will embrace. Invariably this type of storytelling leads to bland and boring moviemaking. Just think about this about the betrayal most fans experienced when it was announced that the Ninja Turtles were actually going to be aliens, rather than mutants. Avengers succeeded because Marvel had the guts to trust that a good story combined with their characters would be enough to please the audience. They were right. Shortly after the movie I received a text message from a friend whom I don’t think has ever read comic books as habitually as I do. The message read: “Amazing!” And I knew that he was talking about Avengers.

 Finally Marvel has done what me and my friends, back when we are 13 years old, only dreamt about, but never thought would be possible: A movie combining all of our favorite superheroes in the kind of extravaganza that only a genius or a 10-year-old dressed up in a superhero costume can dream about.

 While I haven’t enjoyed everything Joss Whedon has ever made, but the guy knows how to tell a story. Just ask the thousands of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans who followed the show in rapture until it ended. Mr. Wheaton took the by now trite alien invasion ploy and turned it into a multilayered drama that contained just enough romance, political intrigue, corrected development, and action to appeal to almost anyone who loves a good story. The timing in the movie was impeccable, and every actor, from the superhero team to the lowly waitress who gets interviewed at the end had enough presence to carry themselves next to each other.

To be honest, I thought that Chris Evans was not going to be able to pull off the role of Capt. America. I thought that Robert Downey Junior’s magnetic personality would overshadow his role, but he actually pulled it off. He comes across as a somewhat older, extremely idealistic, but gifted leader who knows how to take control of the situation and direct his team towards victory. My concern for Mr. Evans’ ability to pull off the role of Capt. America stemmed from Tobey Maguire’s rendition of Spider–Man. He was a great young Peter Parker, but when it came time for him to turn into smart the  Alec personality of Spiderman, he felt a little bit short. Chris Evans was a great young Captain America, but did not lose track of the character when it was time for him to be the older version of the icon we’ve all come to love and trust.

 As I said before, every other actor surpassed my expectations. Scarlett Johansson was unbelievable as the Black Widow, and everyone got enough screen time for the story to feel tight and organized. While I usually never watch movies more than once, this one will make its way into my collection as soon as it becomes available. Seeing the movie’s incredible success overseas makes me hope that producers and decision-makers in big media companies will see that it is quality storytelling, well-developed characters, and attention to detail that make a great movie experience. I am hoping that the incredible amounts of money the Avengers will generate will have a positive impact in the movie industry. Of course, some producers are just as likely to try and imitate the movie’s success by dissecting it and by trying to copy the elements that made it successful. The problem is that you cannot copy good storytelling. It has to come from a place of authenticity, not from focus groups only.

 I can wholeheartedly recommend the Avengers to anyone who wants a good yarn. And yes, you should stay after the credits.

Written by Hector

May 5, 2012 at 3:13 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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Running Back

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After looking over my last entry, I realized that I might have come across as pretentious. I mean, who wants to hear about another nerd turning his life around through exercise? I can almost hear condescending Wonka saying something along the lines of “so, you’re running a half marathon… Please tell me about how special and challenging it is so that I can aggregate it to the other 3000 posts from everyone running in it.” Okay, I am pretty sure that condescending Wonka could come up with something a little bit more clever, but that is exactly the point: the fact that I will be running for 13.1 miles shouldn’t be all that special. It seems to me like exercise and movement should be a natural part of everyone’s life. There is nothing extraordinary about my undertaking. What attracted me to it is that it feels natural, like something that should have been doing along time ago.

I have to admit that when I decided to do this I thought I was doing something pretty major. After all, I only know a few people who run regularly, but after watching a few documentaries about the process, and after looking at pictures of the marathon itself I can see that there are plenty other people out there who can do at least twice of what I am attempting to do, and they do it much, much faster. I am not writing this to trivialize the actor running, and please, if you’ve been working hard to achieve what may now seem like an impossible goal, do not take this the wrong way. What I’m actually trying to say is that when we run, move, and exercise, we are doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing. Although it hasn’t happened many times yet, sometimes, when I’m on the treadmill or the road I disappear, and I feel an amazing sense of unity with the rest of the universe. It is almost as if I was carrying on with the task that was begun by the first bacterium capable of locomotion. It is difficult to articulate this vision, but it would seem that they runner’s high might have evolved for an essential reason.

In this article, scientists wonder about the causes behind the powerful endogenic reaction to running humans experience, and about why it is so remarkably pleasurable when the extraneous activity is both dangerous, and costly. Why do humans, as well as apparently dogs, enjoy it so much?

Although it is only speculation, Christopher McDougall, provides what, to me, seems like a valid explanation for the evolutionary development of this trait. He argues that our need to run in packs might have had something to do with it being rewarded by the bounty of protein calories provided by hunting. MacDougall believes that humans learned to outlast even the fastest animals by developing the ability to run incredible distances. Although not perfect, by any means, his explanation seemed to make sense, and provided me with a nice origin myth about why we run. Enjoy the video!

Click here to watch the video

McDougall’s explanation propelled my imagination as I moved though my workouts. I imagine a vast savanna and a tribe of hunters chasing after a few tired antelopes. The mention of dogs in the other article makes me wonder if hunting in packs was something that made the ancestors of dogs and humans become enamored with each other to the point where it’s almost impossible to think of a stereotypical human American family without thinking about a dog.

I wonder if the ritual of putting on our flip-flops, and bath robes on in order to sleepily take our useless, but nevertheless lovable, Chihuahuas, and Pomeranians out for a walk originates deep within our genetic memory. I wonder if, just like us, small dogs running through urban parks, and avenues feel that twinge of ancient power course through their veins as they forget about their small doggie issues. Is that why we run also? It is true that we no longer have to worry about capturing the fleeting calories cohabitating with us in a dangerous environment. We rarely have to worry about mountain lions, and Tigers chasing after us, but we stillrun. We put on our soft and comfortable, sweat absorbent clothing, and carry small water bottles attached were belts, as we listen to music.

Many people run, bike, walk, swim, and move for exercise. We do it because that’s what makes us feel like a part of our ecosystem. It is as natural to us as telling stories, and while I might agree that I am one of thousands of people doing what everyone else is doing, I can say, that without the shadow of a doubt it is a privilege, and in honor to run with the human pack as we make our way through the history of this small but beautiful world.

Written by Hector

April 30, 2012 at 11:23 pm

Why I am Running, and Something I Have Never Written About

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“…And perhaps, until we are tested, we don’t know what we’re made of…”

–Aimee Mullins

I am ashamed to admit that it has been quite a while since I’ve pushed my body far enough to feel like an athlete. Over the past year I’ve been making small changes to make sure that I can get back on track when it comes to physical fitness. I am not a big fan of extreme training programs, or quick solutions, so I decided that I’m going to run a half marathon on September 16, 2012 in Philadelphia. Although I’ve been training since the beginning of the year, it wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that I formally began to put myself through a 13 week walk–run beginners program designed to facilitate the transformation I am hoping to achieve. I am supplementing my training sessions, which I’m supposed to undertake three times a week, with yoga, which is also a new discipline to me.

So far, there are four main personal motivators, and one spiritual, and I use the term spiritual loosely, that I hope will keep me going through the months leading to The Rock ’n Roll Marathon. Here’s a list:

  1. I’m running with my wife. We are not proud of it, but we both have been leaning towards the potato side of the couch for a few years now, and we decided to end that cycle back in January. We see the half marathon as an opportunity to change our life, and to prove to ourselves that we have it in us to stick to a new lifestyle. Although we’re still finding out about it, we want to run for science education, or health education. We feel like both are worthwhile causes that can make a huge difference in the world. Please let us know if you have any suggestions.
  2. I have told somebody I deeply respect and admire about my commitment to run this marathon. This person is also a runner, and agreed to keep me accountable as I find my way into this brave new world.
  3. I’ve had a couple of health scares over the past months, and feel like I need to take ownership of my fitness, and physical my body. There are many health issues that are preventable simply by eating a better diet, learning to manage stress, and exercising. Additionally, exercise can help to make you smarter, more responsible, and better looking. If you want to learn about the effects of exercise and the brain check out this book, which was instrumental in motivating my nerdy self to exercise.
  4. I have discovered that running has become a little bit of a spiritual practice. Although I do not believe in the supernatural, I feel like there is some kind of evolutionary connection to my ancestors whenever I push myself on the treadmill, or make my way to the hiking trails around my house. I am probably going to be writing a lot about this particular topic as I delved deeper into it through personal experience.

I am, of course, taking my training slowly since injury is not something I want to have to deal with. I am sure that I will be filling my blog with posts about this particular subject. It is not my intention to push anyone else into running, but rather to inspire people to exercise regardless of their situation, and fitness level. To do that, I’m going to share something that I have never shared in a blog post before. I haven’t mentioned it because it hasn’t been important, considering the kind of stuff that I usually write about, but it may be relevant now that I am talking about physical exercise. Although what I am about to mention is obvious to anybody who knows me in person, it is actually impossible to figure it out just for my writing. Okay, so here it goes: I am missing my forearm right below the elbow.

Although not having a body part has never been an issue for me, or for anybody I care about, and it has certainly very little effect on my running ability, I do require some adaptation in my newly discovered yoga practice. I do not necessarily think that my disability qualifies me as inspirational. There are people out there who have done greater things while facing much greater challenges, or opportunities, depending on how you look at them.

So far, I given four personal reasons for running, and one that, I hope, is bigger than myself. I want to show you that there is something in you that has the ability to turn an otherwise drab story into a journey. I understand that comparing life to a heroic quest can be considered, by many, to be an overused simile, but the truth is that life is all we have. I am going to drink in the savage beauty of the world, and I want to share it with you, not because of some self important compulsion to document all but I do, but rather because it is my hope that we can walk along the path together, even if we are not in the same location. Will you join me?

Written by Hector

April 26, 2012 at 6:19 pm

I Couldn’t Stop Watching This

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Written by Hector

September 3, 2011 at 2:17 am

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