To Catch A Breath.

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In the late 1980s and early 1990s, people did a study about sleep, actually the lack of it. You see, they took these mice and put them on this treadmill, ultimately depriving them of sleep for days and days on end.  The mice walked, and walked, and walked for what seemed like an eternity for them. Of course, they were taken care of, fed, kept in a “comfortable”  environment, they were just forced to stay awake.  After what it seemed like an eternity for mice (11-32 days) they had all died thinner, weaker, full of unhealed lesions. Even though they had everything else, without rest they died.

Now, this is an extreme example, no one in their right mind would try to keep themselves up for that long (unless they were trying to break a world record) but I think this example is a good one.  Through this sleep deprivation happened all at once, how many of us have pushed back this rest, both mind and body.  I do this all the time, little by little chipping away at the amount of sleep and resources I have until by the time the weekend comes I have to throw myself into it just to feel normal again.

That’s what yesterday was. A deep breath. My body and mind telling me to stop and wait. To just be and rest for a little while.

We’re all better when we have time to take a break. I do my best work when I can put 100% of myself into something I love. So for now, let me just catch a breath.

A Quiet Moment Of Car and Clouds

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Earlier this week the road was closed as I was headed to school.  Normally these types of moments would call for freaking out, getting frustrated, and with me patiently waiting for the traffic to push on.  I felt really good though, at that moment, serene to the point where I couldn’t really explain it.  A Los Angeles morning covered in magnificent clouds kept me feeling like I was exactly where I should have been.  Instead of sitting in stop and go traffic I hit the streets, curved my way across a city I had never seen. Drove down roads I had never been.  A small adventure all before 8am. I ended up getting to school when I needed to, but it left me with this feeling.  Serenity, peace, and above all else a sense of happiness.

It’s hard to put my finger on it, exactly what it is I needed that morning to make me feel that so at ease.  I know that it gave me a sense of clarity about exactly what I should be doing with my life.  I like staring at clouds, ones high in the sky that look like ancient civilizations that are returning to ruin.  I like a quiet morning where everything seems to be still and sleeping.  I like a thousand things, some I don’t even realize, but it’s these small things that break up this crazy life I lead. It’s these small things that really show me that it doesn’t take much to be happy.

I know it sounds a bit strange because it is, why would these things really change my outlook on life, especially in the stress-filled existence I have recently been privy to.  The answer is, I don’t know.  Sometimes it’s something that just makes sense to us at the moment.  A thing that is so beautiful we are forced to stop and look.  We all have these things, that fill us with awe and make us realize that the world is both incredibly large and infinitely small.

I wish I could ride on clouds, climbing the mountains of white serenity.  I wish we could all just take a moment to imagine what it would be like play upon the bluffs of the great clouds above.  For now, I’ll just appreciate them from the window of my car and dream about the adventure I have yet to come.

Daydreams of Light And Dark

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I had a dream recently, a waking dream that felt so real but so distant at the same time.

I was floating there, through the darkness, in the infinite darkness that can be.  It reminded me of a calm night without stars, sitting there floating through entropy.  I sat there for a while, in a sense of wallow, what had brought me there I do not know, but all I knew is I was there floating. Floating, but not moving, frozen there in the darkness.

Before I knew right from left a wave a pure bright light washed over this world and exposed my floating. I could see myself, whole and untouched in the great vacuum of just light and self.  A feeling of who I am awoke within this light, in the realization that it had been sleeping. You see darkness has a way of clouding us, and making us lose ourselves because there is no reflection if there is not enough light to see.

In getting my bearings, I looked out into the light that I was now able to see. The world was just as it changed before a void of light before it changed again. The light and darkness began to spin in a great vortex, like night and day, flipping from place to place, circling me and casting shadow on my skin.  It sped up and slowed down, and thought came to me that could control this light, this balance, this ebb and flow. I spun the light around me, filled the world with darkness, then back again to light.  This is when I woke up and knew what my heart had revealed to me in the guise of a dream.  It’s up to us it said. It’s up to us how we want to fill our world and see it. That is the one thing we have power over when all seems to be falling down around us.

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It’s been a long couple months, and it’s so easy to get caught up in my head.  I’ve always maintained that my mind is the most dangerous place for me, especially if I have too much time to think.  I think a lot of us do that, get caught up in that moment, and can’t see the forest from the trees. It’s ultimately up to us though, how we want to view the world and what we want to put out into it.

That’s not to say that everything has to be light, and beautiful, darkness itself has it’s own place in this world.  Without darkness we would not know light, and without light we would not know darkness. It’s when these things seem not to be equal and when our view of the world gets skewed so much. The light itself will begin to hurt us because we can’t obtain it, it will be too bright what would be a world of darkness. This though works in a world of light, if some small darkness is found, we fixate on it and don’t realize that focusing on this small blip in our bright world, we welcome more of this darkness into ourselves. It all seems so far off, especially in a world of darkness, because that’s all you can see, a small star in a field of space.  We need to realize, there is a dichotomy in that, and that truthfully we can create that light that within ourselves.  If we are open, we allow ourselves to be touched by this light it will make us vulnerable to all forces in the world that may hurt us. If we are closed, we cast shadows upon ourselves but protect ourselves from the onslaught of the world and all its evils.  Neither is wrong, but for me I need to trust my heart is strong, that way even if the world seems to be shrouded and darkness, I will at least have the light from within to guide the way home.

I want to be the light, out there in the darkness because I know what it is, to be alone. I want to guide people because I know what it is to be without a guide.  It’s up to me how I want to live my life, whether it’s in light or in darkness. And I know for myself that living in the light is the place I would much rather be.

 

Recording:

Stuck In A Daze Like Dream

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It’s when I push too hard that my body starts to deteriorate.  It takes what would normally be my fast-paced and busy lifestyle and grinds it to a halt.  It’s frustrating, but for current it’s a blessing.   It makes me take a second to reflect on all the trouble.

The is a lack of direction again, an unclear path unfolds before.  In this period of time, leading up the eventual application season again, I feel by far only prepared for the process, not prepared for where the process may lead. I search names, I search places but all that comes back is memories of years ago when the process brought me down and crushed me.  This trouble persists in part because of this inability to put a finger on exactly what I want to be doing for the next five years.  Sure, I want to spend it in a school, pursuing a degree in psychology and technology but that’s as far as that goes. This fuzzy outline with no tangible or actionable itinerary drives me mad in the middle of the night because it stirs confusion within me. If I can’t even put into words what I want to do, then how I am supposed to find someone who is doing it?

Second, as mentioned before in previous posts, I feel this futility in what I do.  My motivations, though initially pure are becoming clouded by a distinct lack of self-efficacy about the world I am about to enter.  Even with everything I am doing, I feel that it is all too little too late and that ultimately I will be passed up for someone much more capable than myself.  It’s hard because people believe in me but in my experience, this belief seems to not persist into action.  I want to make people proud but there is a fear that I will continue to come up short. I keep pushing, hoping that I will bring myself to the level  warranted by their belief, hoping to guide the way and show people that it was worth the effort, but I don’t know, I have to convince a room of strangers that I am worth investing in and the excuse of, well if you only got to know him really doesn’t cut it.

Lastly, I feel this pressure from above and below.  It’s more of jealousy that turned my eyes green.  I see people doing so many cool things and despise myself for not coming up with it first. I feel like I just a child in this great research game, playing with toys and trying to show others how cool the land of make-believe can be while others putting in the work and the time to really push the world forward.  Maybe I’m old enough to finally put away childish things, but it feels like I’ve clung to this conception of what I want that I don’t realize that no one really cares about it. Like I’ve been living in the sky but it’s the ones down on earth who are sending people to the moon.

I want to stop this.

I will stop this. Stop looking out in the world and seeing what I am missing within. No one is perfect and being like this has done more harm than good.  What I really need it eyes up. Looking forward to the future I want, instead of at the ground commenting on how close I am to always falling.  So if you’ve seen me recently fade in and out of dreaming it’s because of this, these feelings that attempting to bore holes in my heart. This process is revealing and the only thing I can say thank you for showing me my demons because now I can learn to make friends with them.

In An Effort To Fly

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Generalities, I speak and write and think in generalities. I’ve always been much more of an idea and concept type person, never straying too far into the deep to remember the specific details of an event, so that when I miss a number or letter through my negligence or misinterpretation, the concept still holds true. My memory is strong, but I’ve never been one for the minutia of it all, just taking the important stuff and folding it into a database of obscure facts and stories to draw out when the proper situation arises. The problem is that my points aren’t as poignant without these details.  Like the idea that technology is everywhere; if I say that, it’s not really all that hard hitting, but I was to say that the number of smart devices outnumbers humans 2 to 1 and that the year 2020 its projected that number of devices will climb to well over thirty billion. There is more of a sense a sense of something tangible, it’s real to us when the details are given.  It’s complicated. It’s not like I don’t want to remember but it’s like my mind doesn’t want to, it’s never been geared to.  Where was all of this when I was growing up in school.  Why couldn’t they teach me early, or perhaps it’s my fault for not learning. Unfortunately, my chosen profession deals much more with the details as details are everything, and if you can’t remember them, then you won’t make it.

It’s one of those things that makes me wonder if I’m really cut out for all of this.  Try as I might I can’t shake this feeling that I won’t fly when it comes time.  That I might come home empty-handed again, beaten and bruised with no end in sight. What will I do when my wings won’t work for any amount of trying. Again and again, I move them, but if the wind doesn’t’ take me, perhaps all I was made for was the fall. I’m supposed to jump, but with each passing year, I see my ability to do so as diminishing.  It worries me, that all this work will be like ash in my hands toward my dreams, crumbling away to nothing.  My dream could be out of reach, should I just settle and hope for a good life. Will I never be good enough to walk among giants and great men?

These thoughts percolate within me.  I see the gaps in my ability and hope that I can overcome them with effort. I hope my arms are long enough to be able to reach, my legs sturdy enough to carry me, and back large enough to shoulder the burden I place upon myself.

The fear arises, that perhaps when I’m gone there will be nothing left. That I’m just a footnote in someone else’s story. That I will fade into obscurity as a ghost on the wind, felt when around but quickly forgotten.  If I fade from memory, just as one would fade from view, perhaps I am no one, to begin with.  I know that sound’s a bit dramatic, but if no one was around to know you existed, does it mean that you exist in the first place. I feel like exploding, imploding, and fading from view. The only thing keeping me grounded is the mad hope that maybe, just maybe I can actually pull this off. Trick everyone into believing I’m someone worthwhile. Thinking that maybe I could be someone great, and change the world.

I want to fly so bad it keeps me up at night. I practice, work to do so, consumed by my dream and consuming it. Like an ouroboros, it sustains me and will continue to do so until there is nothing of me left.  I will show them resolve, and ferocity like no other. Pushing myself as far as I can go so if I’m not known not as one of those greats I’ll at least be known as a man with the drive and will to pursue something he loved with all of his being until the end because after all, I’m only human and that’s what humans do.

Recording Of Blog Entry

In The Gray City

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Here I am, in the city I was born and raised in,  reflecting on how I feel about this place. I’ve never been one to get overly nostalgic about places and things in my past.  Spaces and the people who inhabit them change, legacies are born, grow and die within them. It might be caused by my the mercurial living arrangement but it’s my home though.. I think I’m going to miss it when it comes time to finally leave it.

This city, Los Angeles, is categorized by many things, it’s identity composed of many different synchronous parts that ebb and flow on any given day.  The identity of which is the amalgamation of all of these parts creating a look and feel beyond just these seemingly clashing identities. Like many major cities, Los Angeles has a distinct feel to it. Sure things change rapidly here because the influx of migrants trying to find their own California Gold but even then, Los Angeles remains itself through all of these changes.

From movies to music, art to history, Los Angeles has many things both visable and invisible.   It’s interesting though, because of how Los Angeles is, were all together and separate at the same time. Driving place to place, seeing things and people pass as of the wheels in the cars turn.  People are always going somewhere, even if the destination isn’t quite yet known.

To me this city is gray, the colors of the cityscape and the people who dwell in it are gray.  This city is marked and marred by the overwhelming cascades of concrete highlighting the functionality of a city built in the twentith century.  It’s a place that has far outgrown it’s intended capacity but continually changes to meet it.  The tendrils of this expansive city stretch out hundreds of blocks in either direction highlighting how different each little section of this whole city can be.  The people all relate mixing a matching to one another, coloring light and dark to make a color that appears at first to be boring but deep down it made up of some of the most exciting colors in the world.

It’s like this, I used to hate the skyline here, with its flat tops and square buildings never really adding a sense of character to the view. As time goes on, I can understand this functional beauty, this uniform madness that cast shadows over the streets during the hot summer days.  We all have systems in dealing with the oppressive heat, the dense traffic, and lack of parking.  Once you get used to it there is a sense that nothing really surprises you anymore. This wild and controlled place is constantly barraging you with things to do, people to see, but plays all these unique characteristics off as just another Saturday night, never making a big deal about anything.

This gray, cool gray, highlights it all.   This cruel and loving city, this exciting and boring place, you’re both beautiful and ugly to me which makes me love you.

No Sleep

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Normally I make a joke when people point out that I don’t sleep much anymore.  Saying things like “There ain’t no rest for the wicked” or “I can sleep when I’m dead” because it’s funny to me.  Truthfully, I do get enough sleep every night, around 5 to 6 hours during the week and 7 1/2 on the weekends.  What people are mostly commenting on is the fact I tend to work late night, but for me, it’s peaceful, a way to wind down the day and sometimes the only time I can really concentrate on anything.

But not this week.

This week has been different.  Nights have been restless with the apprehensions about my future and school. I spent them staring at a screen, pushing myself to finish what I said I need to after which I would go to shut my eyes, and all I get is the darkness but nothing else. No calm, no peace, just quiet darkness.

I don’t really know if it means I’m in a bad place or a good one.  It’s the romantic in me that sees this as the final barrier to really being able to say I’ve put my all into anything.  But it’s not fun, the cloud that persists over my head, my eyes that burn in the light, and I am unable to think or do anything productively. Maybe I’ll get used this change to 3 or 4 hours, this feeling of sleeplessness, perhaps these feeling will go away after I stick with it for long enough.  I don’t know, but even in my recovery I am still tired but must press on.

It’s week one, and if this is any indication of how the rest of this year goes I am in for a roller coaster. I tell myself that this is what my dream requires, this sacrifice of self that may take a lot but ultimately will give me what I’ve been envisioning since I began this journey back in high school. For me it’s a constant question, how much will I need to push myself to get what I want and a constant wonder of what more will it take from me before this is through.

Thinking about it, take is a strong word since I choose to do follow through with it. I choose to try and stay up for as long as possible.  I choose to try and squeeze the most out of my days. I choose to forgo going out when I have work, I choose to stay on campus those extra hours to get things done.  I choose, I choose, I choose, and maybe that’s my problem with it, it finally came a time where I no longer chose, my body just did, and I was left unable to stop this restive onslaught. I don’t know if it’s a battle I will need to fight in the future, but the moment I guess I’ll just take advantage of all the extra time not sleeping.

Soft and Hard

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To be straight with it, I’m not doing enough.  I’m not accomplishing enough, I’m not working enough, I simply not productive enough. I’m spending too much time thinking about the lack of time rather than using that time to make up the difference. Like blood flow to a muscle, we only grow stronger in what we practice and do, so as this fall peaks onto the horizon I will determine what exactly is needed, and where exactly I have been placing my time.

It’s like triage, which part of myself is in the most need of help. Which part of me is most likely to survive and thrive in this big wide world of ours.  I’m sitting here in this chair waiting for the answer to come.  My thoughts drift elsewhere, wanting some reprieve from this inglorious situation I find myself.

What do I cut first? Where is the fat in my life that takes up so much energy? Where are these thoughts that leed me astray and placate my desires with comfort instead of determination? How to I reduce without losing who I am, or maybe it’s who I am that’s the problem.

I feel it in my blood, flowing back and forth within me like conflicting bodies fighting over a contested birthright. My blood boils telling me that this fight is raging within me, between two parts of myself which for all intents and purposes are me.  Frustration mounts as my desires go unfulfilled, who should I back in this fight, who should win, is this the moment I decide my destiny?

Soft and Hard, that’s what it feels like to me, these two opposing ideologies that have served me in life now must battle for me to carry forward. Soft, the relaxed emotional person from my youth.  The softness reduced the blow of a childhood that was known to throw a punch or two.  Introspective, but understanding, it is the part of me clings to comfort when times are bad but endures as long as it’s needed. The hard, an emerging self built from frustrations of the past from not getting as far as I needed.  It’s the part that pursues, acts, and pushes forward regardless of what other people thing.  It feeds on frustration, anguish, and an insatiable need to do more.

We are what we feed into, so we have control what grows within us. So in choosing, its easy to say I need to put away that part of myself, this side part of me full of missed opportunities from lack of action that bog it down because soft is smooth and comforting. I can’t be that way anymore, not now when the wake of my future beckons me to come. I have to act, grasp at the opportunity to move and to exist in this place I’ve wanted to. So hard, a place I can build a foundation upon must will sustain me, until I need that soft part of me once again.

Beyond The Sort

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A tall building on a warm evening. A slight breeze blowing in the northwestern direction picking up the heat emanating off the hot concrete from the earlier that sun-scarred day. It’s warm enough for sweat beads to form on the body but cool enough not to be bothersome.  The last lights of the sun have already dissipated leaving only the artificial lamps of the living to illuminate the blackened streets below. There on top of that building we stand alone on the precipice, waiting for the answer, will we float or sink. It is as if we are to walk along the edge and be judged. Judged by a force that does not know context or form will decide. Where then does our destiny lie, and will we ever know unless we open ourselves to falling. Will it decide right or left, one will lead to death and the other release.  There we walk, teetering on that edge, hoping it’s not already too late.

Almost every student looking to attend graduate school have to take a test. Its named  Graduate Record Examination or called more commonly as the GRE. This test is daunting to most because of its deceptively simple questions require students to brush up on skills and abilities that ultimately have nothing to do with the subject matter they are attempting to study. Of course, there are exceptions to this but ultimately this exam that is the great standardizer among students and although it may not get you into a program, it can certainly keep you out.  I bring up this exam, not for the exam,  I could devote pages to how much this test has cheated young scholars that I know out of opportunities, no today I want to highlight of because of the way this exam is scored.

You can refer to this test as a living test, it’s really amazing. You see, as you take the test, the difficulty of the test will adjust to you, you get one wrong, questions get easier, you get one right, the test gets harder.  What it’s doing is gauging your score by homing in on exactly where your proficiency level is.  The only problem with this is that the first couple questions ultimately become the most important ones.  These are the great sorting questions, get the first couple wrong and it is impossible to get a high score on the GRE.  First sort, top half or bottom, then exactly where in those halves you lie. The rest of the questions are there to accurately gauge your specific score and percentile.  This is done so that Math majors and English majors can take the same test and still get an accurate measurement of their ability when compared to everyone else in between.

Now while you take the test, you can bring your score up if those first couple questions just happened to be your weakness, but for some, the test is decided after a much shorter time. You might answer all the questions, but your score was determined only after the first few, your ability to fly cut short by the first few mistakes.  Of course exactly how your test is scored and exactly how long it took to score it is a company secret, you’ll never know how long it took for people to make those judgments. If you do bad, you have to start all over, pay out some more money and hope that next time will go better.

It’s really unfortunate not just because the test is terrible but a lot of the time this system mirrors the reality.  We are sorted in such a way where the first few mistakes ultimately set us back, mistakes that may have nothing to do with the path you are trying to follow control you. If you get the first couple answers wrong you get sorted, and sorted, and sorted until having to start over becomes the only option but at that point, you’ve put all your time and money to get there.  What does it take to bridge that gap, how do you become the one that rises to the top, the cream instead of the water? Do these barriers matter because at some point when we get mixed together you can’t really break cream from coffee.

I don’t argue that it’s a way to give those who show more potential more opportunity and the system works for some but it is also seeded in the belief that people don’t change and with that belief, great barriers arise to separate those cans from cannots.  This is not everywhere, there are great institutions whose message to the world is let us help you make a good life for yourself.  It is then I who has this problem, this desire of prestige reserved for the few who are sorted.  This inequality in my heart that calls to say that I am not worth the dirt on the ground if I can’t fly in the sky.  What are we then to this, the world tells us where the “important” people are and live. To the hill that rises live those who stand above us all who live below telling us only the few deserve the right to live there.

We stand on the precipice readying ourselves to be sorted by the force that knows not who were are or what we can do by a system built by those of who have just like us been sorted. We crawl upon each other hoping that we get high enough to reach and yet we crush all those below holding all the weight. We destroy and rid ourselves of anything weighing us down in hope fly but remove everything about ourselves that makes flying worthwhile. We are not then defined by this, we are defined by the actions and relations to our fellow man and I’d be damned if I will let this system built by the collective action of those who sort us to keep me changing the world.

Wait Weight? Don’t Tell Me!

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A friend’s post online sparked a thought, one about size, weight, and we feel about ourselves.

One of the things I am happy to see through social media is all the positive life progress people post online to keep themselves accountable. People are making their lives better and tracking every moment of it. These progressive pictures that propagate may be pesky to some people, but it always reminds me of being able to overcome adversity and the ability for us to turn our lives around, not through ease but through hard work and perseverance.

I used to count calories to see low I could go. Food was the enemy, and I was just a warrior in my battle against it.

I had always been heavy for my height, thankfully always getting taller to accommodate for all the extra calories.  By the time I entered high school I was already unhappy with myself, which was one part depression and two parts the unfortunate side effect from it.  I ate to make myself feel okay, thinking I needed that extra sandwich at lunch.  I was a new place, with new people, after an old place with old people, something needed to change.

I was in my second year, learning to love the hobby of running that the results gave me something more than I could imagine, confidence.  I was starting to feel comfortable in my own skin.  The problem was I didn’t really know what healthy was, I mean sure my cousins worked out but I was never really privy to what exactly they were doing.  So I stuck to my guns, decided to do all I could to reduce my weight.  I was adhering to a guideline set out for me by the BMI index and dropping weight as much as I could.

I think few things really affected me during this period. First is that I got down to the weight that I wanted to, finally for the first time in my recorded life I hit the standard weight category. Second, my sister constantly referred to me as manorexic because of this weight loss. Third, I felt like I was finally able to have control over my own body. Lastly, the way I was eating caused me to have dizzy spells in the middle of the day where my vision would act like I was in the ocean and start wiggling about. I wanted to keep going because it felt so good to lose but my body resisted and stopped.

That being said, the next year I gained some of the weight back (partially because I was happily in my first relationship) and I have been yoyo-ing ever since. In all the subsequent years after that, I have never had a normal BMI number. Now it’s not unobtainable for a long stretch, but the question is, what is it that I want.

Years after another set of up and down I decided that my fitness goal instead of a number I am shooting for a fitness level.  I want to be able to get up and go if my friends ask me to go on a spontaneous hike. I devoted myself not to look at the scale, as it is deceiving, never letting me get away from how others think my body should look and feel.

Now my goals have grown from there, and I feel like I am the most fit I have ever been in my life, not skinny in the conventional sense but have a lot more muscle than before.  I am happy because I can eat the occasional unhealthy meal knowing I mostly eat healthy things and keep active incredibly regularly.

I stepped on the scale recently, not by choice but I wasn’t worried about what it said.  I am 6’1″, 222 pounds, conventionally this weight would mean I was on the verge of obesity but I know that’s not true.  This is a weight of effort and work, muscle.  We’re not all the same, and there are better ways to check how well you’re doing but it is always possible to become healthy, our bodies want us to be.  In the end as long as your making progress, then that’s all that matters, you are lapping everyone on the couch and that’s something to be proud of.

I will occasionally get worried about the number of calories I eat or feel like I need to step up my game at the gym. The mirror truthfully never is anything other than a battle between me and my scarred self-image. Whats most important is that I’m healthy, so if you ever wanted to have me step on a scale I might reply “Wait weight? Don’t tell me!”