Saturday, April 29, 2006

Brian Factoids

Stealing the idea from my friend Karen’s blog in which she had an entry that lists interesting factoids about her self. I’ve decided to make a list of weird/interesting things about myself.

1) Cutest Baby Contest
It just so happens that I was pretty stinking adorable when I was a baby (see below)…I know, everyone says it…what happened? Now it was only the cutest baby in the Pigeon Farmers Festival, but it still counts alright.

2) Studied Chinese
Ok so I don’t know any now and my Chinese friends always enjoy laughing at me if I make any attempt at saying something in Chinese, but nonetheless I have studied it for 2 years in high school. What really makes this interesting is I live in a small farming community that almost every family came from Germany and then many Mexicans come up for the summer yet neither German nor Spanish was offered in high school. My options were French and Chinese (I chose Chinese because the teacher was awesome).

3) Only 1 Classmate
Up until high school I only have one other classmate, Robin. There were a few years when we had someone else in the class, but the vast majority of kindergarten through 8th grade was just me and her. I went to a Lutheran school that was 3 classrooms for 9 grades. While most people have a hard time comprehending this situation, I really enjoyed it…it was a really good school.

4) 30 Years
My father is 30 years older than me (I was born in 1981 and he was born in 1951). Then my grandfather is 30 years older than my father. This trend goes back 5 generations (I think). What makes it even more difficult is that the father was 29 years old when the son was born. That means for the tradition to continue I need to have a son between Jan.1, 2011 and Apr. 20, 2011 (less than 4 months). Now my dad did all he really could since he was born on May 1st.

5) Can’t Speak
I couldn’t speak properly until I was in 2nd grade. When I was a baby besides being totally adorable I had a hearing problem that no one knew about. I would respond to sound so the doctors thought I could hear fine, but there was fluid trapped in my eardrum. I’m not sure if the fluid just filtered out certain sounds or shifted them to different frequencies, but either way when some would say something I would hear something totally different. Then once I started talking I would say what I heard, and this translated into complete gibberish. Sometime around 1st grade a specialist figured out the problem, relieved the pressure, and suddenly I could hear properly. I then had to relearn English the proper way.

6) Dunking
I first dunked when I was in 8th grade. While that is quite unusual, what is even odder is that in spite playing throughout high school I never dunked in a real basketball game.

7) Allergic to myself
I got really, really sick for several weeks when I was in grade school, but no one could figure out why. The doctors finally sent me off to be tested for allergies, and as it turns out I was allergic to myself. Mites are on everything, including ourselves, and I was allergic to all mites.

8) Mullet
Oh yeah, I sported a mullet for a couple years…you all know it is cool and you're jealous. You may make fun of me now, but I was freaking cool.

9) Almost Died at Birth
Don’t have much details on this…I don’t even know exactly how, but it happened.

10) Reading
I could easily count on one hand the number of books I read before college. I refused to read anything…even on standardized tests I won’t read the short paragraphs that were suppose to be used to test comprehension. It is really amazing that I’m literate.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Blood and Pepper

So I haven’t been able to get motivated to write another entry for my blog. Well I guess that isn’t totally true because I wrote one the other night but didn’t post it. It was a serious one again. My friend Ciara was talking about her blog last week and how hers is a funny blog so she can’t post too serious of stuff on it. That’s when I realized that I need to be careful about what I post early on so that I don’t get stereotyped as a “serious” blog.

As a solution my initial thought was to post the “greatest story ever,” which happened to me during my junior year of college, but that is a story I prefer to tell in person. However, if someone were to search the internet long and hard they just might find it. I’ll give you a hint…It’s like the time I woke up in bed with my half-naked, future roommates girlfriend. So what to do…well I’ll just have to pull out a story from my past. I may not be a funny guy, but funny stuff happens either to me or around me. So I’ll share the story about how I got the scar on my forehead.

It was the start of my senior year of college, and our apartment decided to throw a party to celebrate the start of another year of school. We were having some fun and getting pretty drunk. Then late in the evening some guy was out in the parking lot throwing beer bottles at cars. So me and my liquid courage tells everyone not to worry about it I’ll take care of the problem. I head over to the group of people and start asking who was the idiot that was throwing bottles. While the guy won’t say that it was him I knew who it was…and as it turns out he was huge…seriously even with liquid courage I had second thoughts about making a big deal about this. However I convinced myself that I was doing a noble thing by standing up to this jerk, and then proceed to stare at this guy saying things about how only a pansy would do that and then hide when someone came to call him out on it. I assure you that my language was much cruder than what I’m putting here, but I think you get the idea. Finally at some point I said something that upset him enough to get in my face…the next thing I remember I was on my doorstep wondering where all this blood was coming from.

So some neighbor girls (whom at the time I had never met, but we would later become really good friends) came over and helped stop the bleeding from my forehead. This is when my roommate Joe said, “Hey I just read that if you put pepper in a cut it’ll stop the bleeding.” All the girls thought that was a bad idea, but I was all for it and said get the pepper. By the way…pepper does not stop bleeding, but it does add to the pain with something of more a burning sensation. This is also a potential reason why it left such a nice scar that can still be seen to this day. The following morning I woke up covered in blood and pepper with a major hangover and thought to myself “something has to change here.” After that night I didn’t drink for almost a year…so that wasn’t the best story (I have way better), but hopefully I got a few chuckles out of you.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Why do I do research?

So I'm sitting here eating my lunch (alone since Sherry didn't come to work), and thinking about whether or not I should get my PhD. Now this is actually a common thought amongst most PhD students. If you don't believe me go to PhD Comics and it will give you a good feel for graduate life. My doubts have changed over the past year, but none the less they definitely exist. Originally I doubted whether I was smart enough to get the degree (especially in fluid mechanics...this is still a question). I really didn't think I had anything to contribute to the research project that I had been working on, and expected to fail my qualifying exam...this would have ended my hopes of getting a PhD. Well over the past year I have passed my qualifying exam and have actually really started to be an asset at my job...I'm even managing the next phase of our project that is funded by DARPA. So while I no longer have doubts about if I'm valuable to our group or if I'm qualified to get a PhD, I still think about quitting probably a few times a right now.

Now I have to ask myself why I feel like I should quit...I suppose it is because that is the nature of research. Research has two primary problems that make it very difficult to pursue. (1) If it is real research then no one has done it (or at least very few)...thus it will be a big pain in the ass to accomplish what you want to do. Thus research is 99% frustration and 1% satisfaction (and the 1% isn't guaranteed)...researchers need to learn to live with the feeling of frustration. (2) Almost no one will care about what you do...yes they might say “oh that is interesting that you do such and such”, but they will never want you to share any real details. Typically people will ask what I'm getting my PhD in, and I'll respond with mechanical engineering...that is all they want to know, even though that actually doesn’t tell them anything about what I do. I honestly don't expect anyone to care about it, and typically avoid answering when specific questions are asked because it is boring even to me. The problem with this is that sometimes when the frustration builds up you just want to complain about it, but who can I complain to…I have plenty of great friends that would let me whine in their ear, but what I need is someone that can give advice and knows the situation. Thus there is no relief to the building frustration and you just have to hold out until you get lucky and actually have some success with your work.

One of my professors during my undergrad told me that the only reason an American would ever get a PhD in engineering is if research is the only thing they want to do because there are just too many options available to us. Sadly I believe that I am one of the hopeless fools that just have to do research because I love that 1% and couldn't see myself doing anything else.

Man my last two entries are kind of depressing. Honestly I’m actually quite happy with my life…seriously it isn’t as bad as it sounds…I’ll write some funny ones soon.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Heart

The heart is a funny thing…I don’t get it. Personally I believe my confusion about it or at least my willingness to ignore it has really done some damage to it. I believe my real problem (or the root of the problem) isn’t from it being hurt by others (although that has happened a few times), but that I’ve been conditioning myself to ignore it. Over the past few years I’ve start to see that I am an extremely emotional person or at least more so than I thought. I always assume that since my reactions to certain things whether good or bad never resulted in an outburst of emotion that I in fact wasn't emotional. However if I'm being honest with myself when things go wrong while little is outwardly shown, inside even small things really rip me apart and major things can cause heartache that will last for a long time.

I believe that some of this (certainly not all) is founded in my youth. I was the youngest and the only boy, which put me in a unique situation. I would worry constantly whether or not when I would copy my sisters if that was something that guys would do. As a result I decided at a rather young age to try to always do the complete opposite of my sisters. One thing that I still remember is the use of lotion…they used it all the time, but I never saw my dad use it. Thus I concluded that it must not be a guy thing, and I should avoid it all costs. My sisters would try to put it on me, and I would fight them to keep it away from me (my resistance only encouraged them to do it more often). After some time they began to ask why I was so afraid of lotion…not wanting to say that I didn’t know if guys could use it, I responded with it gives you cancer.

Anyway so from this time period I also started to think that it was important to not show any emotion because that is what girls do. When I was young I really had to try not to cry or show others that what they did truly hurt my feelings, but now there truly isn’t any effort. I’m almost shocked if my true feelings are shown…it no longer is a desire for me to hide them it just simply is the way I am. This obviously has a rather negative effect on basically every relationship in my life. Friends and family it doesn’t help, but for the most part they have gotten to know me and realize that I’m a good guy with a kind heart. However when it comes to dating I believe this is truly a crippling problem.

You see when your natural instincts are to hide all feelings it tends to prevent the girl from opening up and putting her heart into the relationship. This would be bad if that just kept me from falling for someone, but the real dilemma is that I will fall for her while keeping her at a distance. Then either the potential relationship will simply die and I won’t do anything to prevent it (since I’m emotionally closed off from it) or if I'm really interested I will open up in an attempt to fix things. In the first case that simply has me ruin plenty of potential relationships by draught, while with the second I kill it with a flood. A good relationship will have a gradual progression with a balance of give and two options don't work like that and both result in the killing of the relationship.

Now I look for a resolution to this problem. I do believe that I have come along way towards understanding my heart and being able to be more open and honest with those in my life. Actually two books by John Eldredge (Wild at Heart and Waking the Dead) have really helped me with understanding my own heart and I recommend them to anyone (especially guys). In Wild at Heart he states that …”in the heart of every man is a desperate desire for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.” Honestly I think that really does sum up the desires of my heart. Unfortunately he also manages to make a good case for the need to battle for man’s heart before these desires can be realized, which I haven't done since I don't even know my own heart. Right now in my life I don’t see even a focus for any of those three desires in spite of my knowledge that I have them, but I do believe that one day that will change.

Friday, April 21, 2006


Every phase of my life has brought with it another nickname. Some have lasted beyond that phase, but for the most part they are only temporary. Now that I’ve acquired numerous ones from various sections of my life, I look back and really appreciate how each has had their own title for me. That way whenever I hear it again I will immediately think back to that point and those stories associated with that it. It is also quite fitting since as I grow and mature I’m not really the same person…so while I’ll always be Brian, I was only B-Hova for a few months. The one exception to this trend is the nickname that I love the most…Elbow. So in this blog I will share a few of my titles and stories of their origin.

This is pretty obvious and it was my first nickname…I would guess I was called this as early as third grade. Due to the simplicity of it numerous individuals have referred to me as B, but I guess whenever I hear it I associate it with my first best friend, Joel. I believe that he was the first person ever to call me it.

This name originated at the start of my high school years, and there are two people that claim credit for dubbing me Elbow. The very first time occurred when I was dating this girl, Debbie, and I was talking to her on the phone. Her sister asked who was on the phone, and she missed heard my last name and replied, “Who is Brian Elbow?” She then proceeded to call me Elbow boy. The other person was a dear friend of mine, Steph, who said that she started calling me Elbow because it was similar to my last name (this took place after the origin, but she claims to have never heard it before). The name caught on quickly and everyone in high school called me this. For awhile I decided to try and be cool by spelling it different (LBO), but after the first few people asked who is L – B.O. I decided to stick with the traditional spelling. It seemed less cool being “The Body Odor.” There has also been various modifications to this name (Elbow Grease, Elbow Noodle, Bo, etc), but just plain Elbow has always been my favorite.

Brian Boytano
This has a cool little story that became an ongoing joke for a good portion of my undergrad years at WMU. Two of my closest friends (well they would be) were looking for me in the dorms, but at that time they didn’t know my last name. So they were just walking up and down the hall yelling Brian. Well they had just watched the South Park movie and were also singing “What would Brian Boytano do?” Then they began to yell for Brian Boytano, and right then I walked out in the hall…thus I was Brian Boytano. This resulted in quite a bit of fun at parties…”hey everybody Brian Boytano is here.” Then depending on my mood I would either say I just had the same name or tell them I’m a famous figure skater. The best part of this joke was that our good friend Andrea hung out with us for 3 years before finding out my name wasn’t Brian Boytano. We always wondered why year after year we would go out and she just won’t let the joke die. Finally she was hanging out at our apartment and saw a piece of my mail and asked who this guy was. We all started to laugh until it dawned on us that she didn’t know my real last name. I had to show her numerous items in my apartment with my name on it before she would believe me.

I would like to share more nicknames (B-Hova, L-Bling, etc), but I believe this blog is already too long. It really feels like just even remembering the nickname is the same as remembering the people close to me during that period.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

My Special Day

Well today is my birthday...this makes it number 25. So this would be a great opportunity to reflect on my life and share a few birthday stories from my past. Instead I've decided to share some history about this day (and surrounding days).

You see as I've grown up and paid extra attention to this day I've noticed this trend that is a bit disheartening. When I was really young I decided to try and find out what kind of awesome people share my birthday. Well the only really famous person that I could find was Adolf Hitler (not exactly the kind of character you want to share anything with...even a birthday). Not to mention the fact that on his birthday Nazi troops decided to have a huge massacre of Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto. This however didn't get me down too much...I figured who cares if you share your birthday with one of the evilest men of all time.

Well then between the ages of 12 and 18 three major national tragedies happened within a day of my birthday. First in 1993 (April 19th) the FBI standoff with the Branch Dividians in Waco, TX came to a bloody end with numerous deaths. Two years later (April 19, 1995) some terrorists (a few from near my hometown) decided to blow up the Alfred Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Finally four years later (April 20th, 1999) the deadliest school shooting in US history occurred at Columbine High School in Colorado. So with this trend I was starting to consider it a good birthday if no major tragedies happened within a week of my birthday.

A few other (less horrifying) items highlight my birthday. I believe it was my tenth birthday when the basement in our house flooded and we spent my birthday trying to salvage our belongings. Plus there is one special yearly event that falls on my birthday that was unknown to me until late in my high school years. April 20th (4-20) happens to be national pot smoking day...this has had some interesting (mostly humorous) effects on my life. Such as when I first turned 21 and no one would believe that my ID was real because it was 4-20. I would frequently be asked to show additional identification for over a year. Even still to this day I show my ID and the common response is, haha. This really isn't a bad thing since I find it a little humorous and it helps my friends remember my birthday.

Well happy birthday to me...

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Pick a number...

This old story just popped into my head...well I was reminded of it because my friend Sherry pointed out how predictable I am. Last night I was talking to her on msn messenger, and I told her I would tell her something if she could guess what DVD I was watching. Now I own a lot of DVDs, but she was able to guess Dave Matthews Band - Central Park Concert. Mind you she had done the same thing the night before as well.

So today we were talking about how predictable I am, and this made me think about how when I was a kid our family use to make fun of my dad for being so predictable. The story is short, but man it makes me laugh. So a common thing my dad would do if me and my sisters (Renee and Teresa) were fighting over something is he would say pick a number, 1 through 3. Then whoever got the right number would get it. Well Renee and I quickly realized that he always picked 2....see his logic was 1 is too obvious of a number and 3 is as well since there are 3 kids so he would pick two. For whatever reason Teresa never caught on (or at least later than Renee and I) so every time this would come up Renee and I would try to get 2 as fast as possible while Teresa would hurry to get 1 or 3. It wasn't until years later that Renee and I finally confessed that we knew the whole time...poor Teresa. Well I am my father's son.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Slice of Life

At the church I attend, New Life Church, each Sunday before the sermon they ask someone to come up and share part of their life. This is called a "Slice of Life," and I was asked to share a slice of my life this past Sunday. Now for the blog I have the debate of whether to talk about my thoughts on the experience or just sharing the story. After some thought I've decided to write a briefly on my thoughts then put the story.

I was really surprised how nervous I got during the first one point I thought my legs were turning into jelly. I'm not sure why I was so nervous since I've talked in front of crowds, and I was talking on a subject that I am the foremost expert on (myself). It would be nice to given an explanation now, but I just don't have an idea...I was just nervous. The second service I felt much more calm, but I have no idea if it was any smoother. Besides the nervousness I really did enjoy the experience and would do it again if the opportunity presents itself. Now in retrospect it feels really cool to have been able to share an amazing story about how God directly intervened in my life.

The Story
It took place late in the winter 2004 semester. I had just transferred to Michigan for my masters and knew nobody in Ann Arbor and lived by myself. The one advantage of having no one to hangout with was that I could easy find time to get in shape. I have my own bench press and was using it on a regular basis during this period. The one day I was lifting with about 250lbs on the bar, which wasn’t too far below my max. I finished my last set and thought to myself that it was too easy and that I should do one more rep to get a nice burn. I nearly completed the lift but found that I just couldn’t quite get the bar back to the top and it came back down on my chest. I then tried again, but this time only trying to get it up to these safety notches positioned below the top. I got the bar level with the first notch, but couldn’t get it sufficiently above so that I could safely drop the weight back into the notch. The weight came back down on my chest. I decided I would make one more attempt before trying to drop the weights off to the side because up to this point I hadn’t tried cheating by arching my back. Now, whenever I attempt a heavy lift I have this habit of tightening then relaxing my muscles right before doing it. Well without thinking I did this and when my muscles relaxed the bar rolled from my chest to my neck. For those that don’t know, this is the number one way that people get killed while lifting, so as soon as it happened I knew I was in serious trouble.

Immediately I began to fight with the bar…trying to get the bar tilted so the weights would fall off or twisting my body to try and rolling out from underneath it. After some time, I really don’t know how long, I conceded that I was not going to get this off my neck since all my attempts never even got it to sway an inch. It was at this point that I accepted the fact that I only had a few minutes before I died.

The first thing that happened when I accepted my death was that all my earthly worries and concerns felt like they just fell away. The one that I remember that I thought was kind of funny was that I didn’t have to worry about doing my laundry anymore. The feeling of all these pointless worries not mattering anymore filled me with great peace and calm…honestly that moment I felt more alive then at any other time in my life. The next thought was that I was going Home to be with God. This made me just bursting with joy and excitement. I started to think about how only in a matter of minutes I would stand before the Lord. I decided that I should say my last prayer, so I said the Lord’s Prayer because honestly I was too excited to say anything else. After that I decided I would entire the afterlife praising God, so I sang a worship song in my head (but I can’t remember which one). Then I thought to myself… “man this is taking way longer than I expected” and at this point some of the excitement wore off a bit. I began to think about what I was leaving here on earth, and immediately I thought of my parents. I’ve been blessed with a wonderful Christian family and amazing parents that have always shown me love, respect, and support throughout my life. I’ve always hoped that they would never have to bury one of their children. This thought really broke my heart and I turned to the Lord and just said to Him “I can’t go Home yet”. He immediately answered my prayer because the weight on my neck was released and I felt pushed off to the side. My next memory was gasping for air as I lay on the floor next to the bench.

Besides some major bruising on my neck, which faded away within the week, I was completely unharmed. I had always hoped that when I stood face to face with death I would be ready…this experience confirmed that and that is a slice of my life.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

It Begins...

Alright for quite awhile I've been thinking about starting a blog, but I've been really nervous about doing it. I know it isn't a big deal and hardly anyone will read it, but there are two major hesitations that I haven't been able to get past. 1) Well I don't want to be one of those people that starts a blog writes one or two and then to start it is really quite a responsibility. 2) Well I have some hesitation about just telling the stories of my life. While I really love telling my stories, I prefer someone to ask me questions about my life that allow me to tell the stories. See that way if the other person doesn't like the story I can always tell myself "hey they are the ones that asked."

However the more I've read others blogs the more I think about how much fun it would be. Well if you are reading this there really is no way to build suspense about whether or not I decided to go for. Basically my goal is to make this a collection of old stories, new stories, and random rants on various topics that pop into my head. So here we go...