Category Archives: Health

Taking Risks Can End a Life Too Soon

Taking risks and doing crazy things are part and parcel of being a teenager. I pulled my fair share of idiotic stunts at that age, that’s for sure. All teens are going to test the limits and do things they know are risky at some point. I truly wish more of them would stop and ask themselves if the possible outcomes are worth it. I remember all too well, though, that at that age you believe you are invincible. Bad things happen to other people, right? Unfortunately, no one is super-human and bad things sometimes happen. Our community has suffered a great loss this week due to the risks teens sometimes take.

Gavin Roskamp has been an extremely active and vocal part of our community for quite a long time. He was a technology enthusiast and smart as hell. He stayed busy beyond reason with extra-curricular activities, helping people with computer issues online and yet still managed to pull a perfect grade point average in high school. He was a good friend to so many – both online and in “real” life. He always had a shoulder to lean on available, and words of wisdom that would make you believe he was far older than his sixteen years. Vince Bognot sums up the huge impact Gavin had on people he had never met:

“Gavin and I spoke online nearly every day. Even though I never met him, he was like a brother to me.”

I hate that I now have to write about Gav in the past tense. Last Monday, he and a few other teens were out joyriding in a car. They decided to go “Hill-hopping,” a past time that many kids this age apparently enjoy. The hopped a hill at high speed, flipped the car three times and slammed into a tree. Gavin and an 18 year old woman (the driver of the car) were killed instantly.

My heart breaks for Gavin’s friends and family – both online and off. This kid had one hell of a bright future and had such a good heart. Losing him will leave a hole in our hearts that we should not have had to experience. I hope all of you will stop and think twice when you decide to do something reckless. There are so many things you can do to get a “rush” or a “thrill” which are far safer than hurtling your car over hills at high rates of speed, y’all.

Gavin wasn’t invincible, no, but he was definitely a great kid who will now be missed by us all.

How to Cook Like a Single Geek

Many of the single geek guys I know are not very handy in the kitchen. They tend to live on pizza, ramen and things eaten straight out of the can. I know that I’ve been guilty of these same habits for far too long. I’m beginning to learn that cooking isn’t all that difficult – even for those of you whose brain is wrapped around some piece of code.

Have you heard of a slow cooker? Who knew these things could literally save lives? It takes about five minutes to throw something in there and turn it on. You can then go back to your work (or games!) for 6-8 hours. Pull yourself away, dump the food onto a plate and its time for noms! I’m not kidding, guys. This is pure genius.

Are you a fan of cheese? Take a couple of boneless, skinless chicken breasts (yes, you can use the frozen kind) and put them in the crock pot. Dump in two cans of nacho cheese soup and two cans of cream of chicken soup. Mix it all up and let it cook for about six hours on low settings. You don’t need to add any seasonings or other ingredients. This cheesy fabrication will fill you up and keep you happy for hours.

Again for chicken fans – cook some chicken breasts with your favorite salsa. When it’s finished, it will be a snap to shred the meat up and use it on sammiches or on top of a mound of mashed taters. Good gravy this is simple.

Speaking of gravy – did you know that the store usually carries a roast ready to go into the slow cooker? Check the meat section… they’ll have a roast, the seasoning packet AND the veggies in one tidy little package. Dump the roast in the pot, add some water and the seasonings and start cooking. A few hours later, you can toss in the veggies and let them roast another couple of hours. Voila! You have just made one hell of an awesome meal. (This one is an excellent way to impress a *girl*)

What ways do you keep yourselves fed, guys… NOT counting the pizza, top ramen and canned junk?

Your Cell Phone is Killing Bees

The article title may make you shrug your shoulders and not much care if a few bees are dying because you are using your cellular device more than ever. However, if you enjoy eating then you might want to pay attention. Swiss researcher Daniel Favre has concluded a study, and has noted that the worldwide bee population decline is directly related to our phone usage.

Remember that whole eating thing? Bees are responsible for pollinating approximately 70% of the crops grown here on Earth – which provide about 90% of the food we consume. That’s one heck of a lot of food, y’all. If bee populations decline enough, we could face very real food shortages. Back in 2008, a study showed that bees will not return to their hives if there is a cell phone placed nearby. This is only one hint that your handset is disrupting the bee’s orientation and lifestyle. According to Favre, the phone signals may confuse the bees so much that they not only become disoriented – they also drop dead. Favre and his team of researchers performed a total of 83 experiments which recorded the reaction of the bees to phones near them.

The phones in question were tested in three different modes: standby, off and call-making. The result is that honeybee noise increased more than ten times when a phone call was made or received. An increase in noise out of the little insects is used as a signal for bees to leave their hives usually. But in this case, it just confuses them. Favre noted that “The induction of honeybee worker piping by the electromagnetic fields of mobile phones might have dramatic consequences in terms of colony losses due to unexpected swarming.”

Your phone isn’t the only thing killing the bees, though. A pesticide made by Bayer and used to pre-treat corn seeds is also thought to be responsible as are several other factors. The UN believes that things such as air pollution, fungal pathogens and climate change are all playing a role in this population decrease.

Therefore, we can easily conclude that it’s quite possible we are killing off our food source simply by living life. We’re not going to throw away all of our phones or stop using pesticides so we need to figure out a new type of pollination solution – and fast.

Derek Miller, Cancer and The End Game

This is a guest post written by my Community Manager Kat. Derek was a friend of mine for about six years, and his loss leaves a large hole in my heart and within the Gnomedex community.

On the morning of May 4th, 2011, I read fourteen words that stopped me in my tracks. Though I had been expecting them for weeks, I still felt this huge surge of denial. My friend of more than four years, Derek Miller, is now gone from this world. He wrote what was to be his final blog post not long before he died, and a family friend published it the morning after he left us. It was several hours before I could bring myself to read beyond those fourteen words.

“Here it is. I’m dead, and this is my last post to my blog.”

It’s not as though I’m new to this whole dying thing. Being forty years old, I have dealt with a lot of death in my lifetime: grandparents, two best friends, various relatives – and my hero… my big brother Jimmy. Though we shared a love of music, blogging and all things geeky, it was the story of my brother’s cancer – and death at the age of 36 – which brought Derek and I closer together as friends. When Derek announced late last fall that he had decided to give up treatment and live out the rest of his life HIS way, the connection began. I sent an email to him, telling him how my brother made the same decision… how strong he was, how he fought hard for so many years. Derek’s reply – he titled it “The End Game” – was one I will treasure forever. He later gave me permission to share this with all of you when the time came. Sadly, the time is now.

We always use the words fight and battle in conjunction with cancer. That’s what it seems like, you know? It’s not something we chose, and it’s so difficult to go through. It takes a horrible toll on the patient and their families – both mental and physical. It’s as though you’re fighting in a war… one you pray to win. In this reply, though, Derek taught me that having cancer isn’t a battle at all.

“I would change one word now, after four years: “fight.” I’ve used that word a lot too, but I’ve recently begun to change my tune. Why must it be a fight, a war or a battle? Those are stressful, soul-draining things, with images of violence and winners and losers.

I think less personally about my cancer than I used to. I fought it hard, I used to tell it to fuck off, I used to imagine the chemo snuffing it out like carpet bombing over Cambodia. More recently I’ve thought, no, cancer has no mind, no evil intent, no demon driving it.

I hate that it will kill me, and what that will do to my family. It’s sad and unfair. But there’s no one and nothing to blame. It’s a pure example of “shit happens.” Like your brother, my time has come to win the battle by not fighting anymore, by pushing back against the desire to treat the end of my life as a war and myself as a soldier. The human mind and heart deserve better than war, whether in Afghanistan or in the brain of a cancer patient.”

During the four years he had cancer, Derek blogged every step of his journey. His honesty and bluntness about what he was going through won the hearts of thousands from all over the world. Even a week later, people are mourning his loss on their social networks and blog pages. His story – and that of his final blog post – has been featured on websites such as CNN. Derek touched so many with his strength, his humor and his love of life.

Derek Miller touched me with his simple acceptance of what was to be. He helped me finally let go of the anger I still harbored towards my brother for giving up his treatments and leaving us… ten years ago. I hadn’t even realized it was still buried inside of me until Derek and I began talking. Of course it hurts to not have my big brother here, but it’s much easier to deal with now. I understand exactly where Jimmy was coming from… why he made the choices he did. I owe that understanding to Derek.

The penmachine was so full of life… passion… intelligence… love of friends and family… humor… wisdom. I have shed more than a few tears since learning of his passing. But I am doing my best not to break the promise I made to him a few months ago. It is a one that I hope each of you will vow to keep, as well.

Derek asked me not to mourn his death, but to use it as an example to others. He hoped that I could take what I learned from our friendship and use it to help people in similar situations. Cancer is evil, of that there is no doubt. It rips apart our lives and the world as we know it. But it doesn’t have to be a “fight.” It’s not a war. It’s an illness that we do our best to overcome. When there is no hope of surviving it, the way we choose to deal with the emotions, decisions and the end of our life is what people will remember.

Derek Miller will forever be remembered for the courage, strength, humor and dignity he carried with him until after he was gone. I only hope my loved ones can say the same about me one day, no matter what takes me from this Earth.

Goodbye, my friend. Thank you – for everything. To Airdrie, Marina and Lauren: please know that you have the love, prayers and thoughts of thousands of people with you. I hope that the strength we share with you will somehow be able to make its way into your hearts, bringing some measure of comfort and peace.

Is Internet Addiction Real?

A few hours ago, Duodave posted an an interesting discussion on our LockerGnome Q&A site. He wonders if online addictions are real or something made up by professionals. I’m here to tell you that Internet addiction is very real. It can cause your health, relationships and work performance to deteriorate if you don’t realize you have a problem and work to overcome it.

An Internet (or Facebook!) addiction becomes evident when you begin to neglect the people and things in life which demand your attention. You spend much less time with your family. Work project may go undone or be turned in late. Sleep deprivation becomes the norm. Activities which used to give you pleasure are dumped in favor of staring at the computer screen longer.

For some people, losing themselves in online forums, blogs and social networks is a way to escape harsh circumstances in life. Does this sound familiar? It’s the same reason that many turn to drugs and alcohol. Life can be difficult to deal with sometimes, eh? Unfortunately, there are those who cannot find a way to cope. Instead, they find ways to mask the pain or anger. Internet addictions are much cheaper than using illegal substances or drinking yourself into a stupor. The worst part is that these people don’t realize that an addiction of this sort is just as destructive.

Just like substance abuse, addiction to the computer can be difficult to overcome. Users don’t want to leave the “safety” of their online identity. They may be reluctant to even admit they have a problem or not know what to do to fix it. These people don’t have to throw their computers out of a window, they simply need to learn how to balance their Internet usage with their physical life.

The first thing they will need to do is to figure out the underlying cause. What is going on around them that drove them to bury themselves in the virtual world? There needs to be a solid support network – don’t criticize or blame them. Offer to help… figure out other outlets for their stress, sadness or anger. Assist them in finding alternative solutions. Give them guidelines to use while cutting back on time spent online – even if they are an adult. They will need some type of structured plan in order to be successful without having to give up their social life on the web completely.

I am by no means a doctor or therapist. I am just some dude who happens to work and play online. However, I am very careful to balance all of that with other activities. I know all too well how easy it is to become caught up in what’s going on behind my computer screen. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I’ve lost track of time when I’ve come across something interesting and then had to pull myself away. The key is balance, my friends. Moderate yourself just as you would with anything that could be harmful to your health and well-being.

Do You Have a Backup Plan?

We’ve discussed having a good backup plan for your computer many times in the past. I’ve given you tips and tricks and offered coupons to software that can keep your information safe. One thing I don’t think we’ve ever touched on is having a personal backup plan. Unfortunately, there is no software in this world that can restore you to a previous state should something unforeseeable happen. Have you ever even thought about what you will do if the worst befalls you, preventing you from doing whatever it is that you do?

It’s difficult enough to figure out what the hell we want to be and do when we grow up, isn’t it? How the heck are we supposed to come up with an alternative plan? This is one area I’m learning that seems to be ignored all too often. We plan for computer failure. We may even plan for financial disaster via investments and savings. Those things will only hold you over for so long, though. What will you do when that runs out?

Most people will choose a career path that interests and excites them. Still others pick something that will potentially earn them a lot of money. Let’s say you’re doing something that requires a lot of physical strength. What will you do if – God forbid – you are in an accident or sustain an injury that ruins any chances of ever returning to your profession?

I’m definitely not telling you to go out and get a second degree today. I’m not going to preach to you about knowing exactly what you will do should you suddenly find yourself needing to change your life’s direction. However, I do feel strongly that you need to think about the possibilities. Instead of coasting through life feeling invincible, what would it hurt to have a bit of a backup plan in mind? Instead of finding yourself in a huge mess, take some time to wrap your mind around things you could do if the situation someday calls for it.

There have to be better options out there than the one I came up with!

Will Your Cell Phone Save Your Life?

The FCC will announce their new emergency warning system later today, which is called the Personal Localized Alerting Network (PLAN). This new service will let emergency officials send text messages to cellular devices in locations where something may threaten your safety and well-being. Alerts will continue on television and radio stations. However, the FCC recognizes that not all of us even utilize a tv or radio these days. We do, however, have our phones with us nearly every moment of the day. As seen with a similar service in Japan, many lives can be saved with a quick text message warning of imminent danger.

New York should have the free PLAN service in place before the end of this year, along with Washington, D.C. The four major cell providers – AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint – plan to initiate the service well before the April, 2012 deadline around the nation. Some of the phones currently in your possession (including a few iPhones and Android offerings) already have the required circuitry needed to receive the alerts. The iPhones which have the chip in place will need software updates. New AT&T phones due to arrive in October of this year will be ready for the PLAN.

You will be signed up to receive the alerts automagically. You can, however, opt out of messages warning of imminent threat and Amber Alerts if you choose. You can not opt out of the “presidential alerts.” When you think about it, you’ll realize that you likely won’t want to opt out of these types of messages, y’all. If you heard that a huge tornado was on a path to completely miss your area, would you hear a siren or television alert in time when that storm suddenly changes its path? Personally, I’d rather get the notice on my phone instantly, and be ready to take action.

During any type of emergency or terrorist threat, alerts will be initiated by government agencies. As soon as FEMA and PLAN have correctly identified a valid alert, it will be immediately forwarded to all wireless providers. These companies, in turn, will relay the message to you. This may seem like it will take a lot of time, but it is designed to happen nearly instantly. If you are in the affected area, you will receive the message. If you live in that area but are out of town – no message for you. Likewise, people visiting a targeted area will receive the message while they are there if one should be issued.

You may be groaning, thinking that this entire setup sounds like a pain in your side. I’ve heard a few people complain about it already – how “annoying” these texts will be. For one thing… I certainly hope that we aren’t having terrorist actions on a regular basis. The same goes for tornadoes or hurricanes. It’s not like you’ll receive messages every five minutes.

I don’t know about you, but an “annoying” message is not so annoying when it’s saving your life.

Why Should You Grow Up?

“I don’t wanna grow up, I’m a Toys “R” Us kid…” How many times have you sung this little ditty in response to someone mistaking you for an adult? I may be a tad closer to forty than thirty now, but I’ve often said that I refuse to grow up. I’ve come to learn this week, though, that there is a difference between growing up and allowing yourself to embrace your inner child as a responsible adult. There’s something to be said for figuring out what it is you want to do with this life, and then actually going out and doing it.

On Wednesday morning, I learned of the death of long-time friend Derek Miller. Derek had been battling cancer for several years, and decided with his wife and physician back in November to suspend treatment. He wanted to live the rest of his life on his own terms – in his own way. I admire him for that. I’m not sure I would have the courage to do the same thing.

My initial reaction to the news of his death was sadness, much like the rest of our community. I also became angry, railing at Fate or God or whoever decided it was “time” to take such a young and GOOD person from this Earth – from his family and friends. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, though, a different thought took shape. I began to ask myself what it is I can learn from Derek’s life and his too-soon death. After all, aren’t we supposed to learn and grow from every experience we go through?

It’s time to grow up. Stop wasting your time drifting through life. I’m not only talking about your education and career. Figure out the things that are truly important to you. Decide what you want to do with your life and freaking do it already. Who cares if you fail? At least get your butt out there and try. Forget waiting for someday to get here so you can learn to para-sail or program or whatever else it is you keep putting off. Someday isn’t ever coming, my friends.

Don’t waste your life. Go after your dreams, even if they seem impossible. Reach for the stars, push yourself beyond the limits you think you have and just generally light a fire under your ass. Work hard, play hard and let that inner child have fun along the way.

Live your life.

Subservient Chris to Raise Money for Cancer Research

Cancer is an ugly beast which leaves death and destruction in its wake. It doesn’t care who it goes after: a handsome little boy who has his Daddy’s eyes, a young woman with toddlers at home bravely hiding her pain from the kids or the grandmother is the cornerstone of the family. Cancer tries to mess with amazing friends like Drew Olanoff or Mike Kochansky. It comes like a thief in the night, attacking mercilessly that which we hold dear. I can guarantee that each and every one of you reading this has known someone who has been lost to some form of this disgusting disease. Cancer affects EVERYONE on some level. I am not a scientist or doctor. I cannot find a cure. I can, however, be me and help to raise money to help fund that cure by turning myself into Subservient Chris once again.

On Friday, May 13th – 6:00pm PST, several friends will descend upon my home and turn me into YOUR virtual slave. For a minimum ten-dollar donation, I will perform any completely crazy act you wish – within reason. I won’t do anything illegal, disgusting or degrading. In the past, I’ve been known to sing, dance, smear peanut butter on my face, place my dog on my head and wear a dress, high heels and makeup! I want you to be creative when thinking up your request, people. We are raising money for a very serious reason, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun while we do it! Give cancer a proverbial black eye by helping us gather donations for this very worthwhile cause.

My friends Liana and Michelle will once again participate in a race via Team in Training, and all proceeds from our event go directly to them. We will broadcast the entire thing live, and I’m sure many people plan to be around to record the insanity. You can begin sending your donations to [email protected] at any time, but please be sure to add a note to the PayPal form. Include your task for me or simply state you are donating to the cancer fundraiser so your contribution is easy to keep track of.

This year, our passion is much stronger to do as well as we can. Our efforts are being dedicated to our friend Derek Miller. Derek wrote and performed the Gnomedex song a couple of times, appeared as a floating head on the big conference screen a few years ago and is one hell of a great guy. A few months ago, Derek and his family made the incredibly tough decision to suspend treatment of his cancer and instead dedicate the rest of his time to living life in as peaceful a manner as possible. His strength, courage and humor during this time has been inspiring to so many of us. The end of his journey is quickly drawing near, but we will all continue to fight in his honor against this monster. Our thoughts and prayers are with Derek, his awesome wife Airdrie and their children during this difficult time.

UPDATE – Our friend Derek was freed from the confines of this life on May 3rd, 2011. His memory will forever live on in our minds and hearts.

Think of those you have lost… those who are fighting the battle…. those who have yet to begin their fight. Keep them all in mind and join us beginning at 6:00pm PST on May 13th.

For your enjoyment – and a sneak peak at what you can expect – take a few moments to watch the videos embedded below. They are some of the “best” moments captured during past Subservient Chris events… well, the best in someone else’s eyes, anyway. I’m not so sure about ever doing that whole peanut butter thing again, y’all!

Is Hindsight a Good Thing?

Hindsight is always 20/20 or so they say. Once you have lived through an experience, you can look back and clearly see the situation. You’re able to think of ways you may have been able to change the outcome or handled yourself differently. Often, you may long for a simple do-over, knowing in your heart of hearts that it will never happen. I’m not going to sit here and preach at you about never looking back and only focusing on the future. I happen to believe that looking back – with proper perspective – can be a good thing.

Every experience in your life – good and bad – shaped you into the person you are right now. The ways in which you dealt with these moments reflect on who you are and will become as you move down your life’s road. If you take a look back in time with an open mind and an honest eye, you will find many places you should have done things differently. The thing to keep in mind is that you didn’t necessarily do anything wrong the first time around.

As I said, every experience changes you and causes you to grow. The things you consider to be correct or right today may vary greatly from what was acceptable ten years ago – or even ONE year ago – in your own mind. Reflecting on how you could have done something differently – and why you feel you perhaps should have – can make you much more self-aware. You’ll begin to learn things about the way your own mind works, and be forced to really evaluate who you are. The best part is that if you find you don’t like a certain aspect of yourself in the here and now, there’s always time to make some adjustments. As long as you are completely honest with YOU, you have the power to alter the way you do and see things in this life.

Dwelling on the past is bad, we all know this. But taking a peek back and using what we find to re-evaluate ourselves at this point in life can be pretty sweet, indeed. How often do you look back?