Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Honeymoon Blog Part II: My Wife is a Belligerent Guerrilla With Delusions of Grandeur...but Goshdarnit I Love Her

So the honeymoon continues. We’ve had plenty of views, romance, photos of us arm-in-arm in front of various landmarks….all your stereotypical honeymoon stuff. But you don’t want to read that crap. You’d rather learn a little bit about the recent Sri Lankan Civil War, the terrorist guerrilla who organized the rebels with merciless brutality, and embellished stories about how he's similar to my wife. So let’s do this thing!

Geographically, Sri Lanka is shaped like a teardrop. Although to some, given its recent history, the former Ceylon is shaped like a hand grenade.

Unnoticed by most of the world, war ravaged Sri Lanka from the late 1970s until 2009, as the Sri Lankan army continually fought with rebel guerrillas led by Velupillai Prabhakaran. In 1976, at the age of just 21, Prabhakaran assassinated the mayor of Jaffna (northern city) and subsequently created the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Largely Hindu, Tamils made up less than 20% of the Sri Lankan population. Many, including Prabhakaran, felt slighted and discriminated against by the largely Buddhist Sinhalese, who comprised more than 70% of the Sri Lankan population. After the British ceded control back to Sri Lanka in the late 1940s, the Sinhalese began to implement self-serving laws that made life more difficult for Tamils. For example, universities required less merit from Sinhalese, which led to more prestigious employment prospects, and a growing lack of power for Tamils.

It wasn’t long before other Tamils began to follow Prabhakaran’s lead and to revolt against what they believed to be an oppressive system. As the war raged on, Prabhakaran became increasingly paranoid, maniacal, and violent. Anyone who questioned his authority was killed, and any Tamil Tiger who was even rumored to be considering leaving the group was butchered on the spot.

Prabhakaran and his Tamil Tigers

Before we got to Sri Lanka, I had done a little research on this Prabhakaran character, and it wasn't long before I noticed direct similarities between he and the woman I had promised my life to just a few weeks earlier. After our flight was delayed a few hours, we arrived at our Colombo hotel at 3am. This left us with a scant two hours to sleep before Ranjith, our driver for the duration of the trip, was scheduled to pick us up at 5am.

My efforts to get to bed quickly were thwarted by my wife, who demanded inspection the bed for imperfections. Much like Prabhakaran, she had worked herself into a paranoia, thinking there could be poisonous bugs or maybe someone was trying to assassinate her. 

Looks clean to me, but not RPG!
What she found was a couple little black dots. These might have been ticks, might have been venomous ants (does such a thing exist?), or might have been fuzzies off someone's sock. Regardless, the two hours quickly vanished and we faced Sri Lanka day one on zero sleep. 

Before I go any further, here's a quick list of places/situations I've deliberately slept overnight in over the past couple years (and yes, I'm 37):
  • On the beach in North Carolina with no tent (several times)
  • On the dock at my buddy Ducham's cottage in northern Michigan with nothing but a sheet (so I could look at the stars)
  • Under a bench at the Orlando airport (too cheap to pay for a hotel room)
  • On the sidewalk in downtown Santa Barbara CA the night before my brother's wedding (to spite a cantankerous door guy who wouldn't let me in without a room key...I showed him!)
Anyway, the bed inspections didn't stop in Colombo. From there, we traveled to Yala National Park for a two day safari (awesome!). Again, Rebecca Prabhakaran Galvin (RPG) gave our tent (it was much more than a tent...we had electricity, air conditioning, and running water) a thorough inspection, this time deciding we could sleep there if (and only if) she carpet-bombed the premises with bug repellent:

Well, there won't be bugs. But can we breathe in there?
Our sleeping arrangements seemed to take a turn for the better, however, when we drove north to the relatively large city of Kandy. There, we stayed in a relatively fancy and sanitary hotel, and even RPG wasn't concerned about bugs or bacteria. We arrived mid-afternoon, and decided we'd both take a quick shower before paying a visit to the Temple of the Tooth, which is home to the tooth of Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha)--and is one of the most important Buddhist relics in the world (very cool!). 

RPG showered first (of course), so I decided to whip out the ol' smartphone, take advantage of the free WiFi, and read up on the latest Lebron James news (Go Lakers!). I laid down on the bed and scrolled for a couple minutes before RPG emerged from the shower and proceeded to give me the business. "How dare you lay on MY side of the bed!?" She boomed, like we had already agreed what side of the bed would be hers. "You've been wearing those clothes all day! Who knows what bacteria is on them?!"

Although I believed her reaction to be ridiculous, I apologized and kept my head down as I sulked my way to the shower. When I emerged, clean as a whistle, I laid down on the bed again--the other side this time--and continued to read up on Lebron. RPG bellowed again, this time with expletives, "What the fudge!?!?! Now you've ruined BOTH sides of the bed!!"


The Sri Lankan Civil War lasted for roughly 30 years, and is widely considered one of the longest civil wars in Asian history. On May 19th, 2009, as the Sri Lankan army closed in on the last of the Tamil Tigers, an unidentified assailant shot and killed Velupillai Prabhakaran, bringing an end to the Sri Lankan Civil War. 

On July 6th, 2018, less than an hour after she terrorized her husband (twice) for laying down on a bed, an unidentified bird defecated directly onto Rebecca Prabhakaran Galvin's bare right shoulder as we were walking to the Temple of the Tooth. I shit you not.

I've long struggled with the definition of irony, but in this moment I was guessing this was it and--boy howdy--I was a fan! After a series of what Americans might call "end zone dances" (The Ickey Shuffle and The Dirty Bird, mostly), I wiped the laughter tears from my face and realized that "karma" is a Buddhist term that means each action a person takes will affect him or her sometime in the future. For Velupillai Prabhakaran, it took 30 some odd years for karma to bite him in the ass. For Rebecca Prabhakaran Galvin, it took 36 minutes.

Ain't marriage fun?

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Honeymoon Blog Part I: Hong Kong and the Marital Opium Wars

Greetings, esteemed reader, and welcome back to my blog. Been a while since I last wrote, so let me catch you up on my personal life really quick so that what follows makes sense to you. Here we go:
1. I married a lovely young woman by the name of Rebecca Dominick a couple weeks ago
2. She's quite a catch, and I still don't quite understand what she sees in me
3. We're very happy together, but hoooooo boy we're more opposite than Paula Abdul and that feisty cartoon cat....which makes for some great blog fodder!

My wife is probably too young to understand this photo.
4. We're on our honeymoon as I write this: First two days in Hong Kong, followed by 10 or so in Sri Lanka.

Now that you're caught up, on to blog post #1!

Part I: Opium Wars, Noise Canceling Headphones, and My Imperialist Wife

Before European imperialists descended upon Hong Kong in the 1830s, Chinese culture was largely free of European influence. In 1842, however, the British expanded their empire, usurped Hong Kong, and changed the cultural landscape forever. At the time, European demand for Chinese goods--silk, tea, porcelain, etc.--was high, while Chinese demand for European bullshit was almost non-existent. Naturally, the Brits turned to the drugs to tighten their stranglehold and to have their way with the unsuspecting, peaceful Chinese. By getting Hong Kong locals addicted to Opium, the selfish Brits assumed, they would be able to exploit the Chinese, make money off of them, and enjoy higher quality tea and crumpets.

Historians now refer to this time period as the Opium Wars between Britain and China, and history doesn’t look too kindly on the Brits for this one. I mean, the Chinese were leading tranquil lives in a beautiful landscape, having never heard of Opium. What sort of jerks would go to great lengths to make them a nation of addicts?

In a shockingly similar parallel, the newly-founded Galvin Family (established June 9, 2018), began what historians are already referring to as the Noise-Cancelling Headphone Wars (N-CHW) less than three weeks later. Rebecca, playing the role of the oppressive British in this story, inaugurated the N-CHW somewhat peacefully by first asking me if I was intersted in obtaining a pair. I politely declined, informing her I was already struggling with the disease of more. In short, the disease of more refers to the unfortunate human condition that implores us to always want more than what we have. What makes the disease of more even more tragic, is that once we’ve obtained whatever we are chasing, that becomes the norm and we can never go back to the way things were. A few examples: heated seats in your car, smartphones, Pandora without commercials, air conditioning.

She seemed to understand me, but when a package of brand new N-CHs arrived at my door shortly before we departed for Asia, it became apparent that Rebecca was hell bent on making me an addict.

...it begins

I didn’t know what to do. I knew I needed to prove a point to her, and that if I let the N-CHs through, I might very well be setting myself up for a lifetime of chasing ever shinier and fancier objects, gadgets and gizmos (psychologists refer to this endless pursuit as the hedonic treadmill). However, do I throw these things in the trash, thus starting this marriage/honeymoon off on a negative note?

I caved. Upon boarding the 16 hour flight from Chicago to Hong Kong, I begrudgingly packed the N-CHs, popped them on, and proceeded to watch three delightful movies on the flight. Then, when it came to nodding off, I switched to the soothing sounds of Jackson Browne, none of them interrupted by background noise or that loudspeaker that tells you how to put on a seatbelt.

I’m ashamed and embarrassed to admit: Rebecca has prevailed in the Galvin Family Noise-Canceling Headphone Wars. Much like my addictions to my iPhone, my butt-warming car, and Amazon Prime, I can no longer go back to the days of flip phones, a lukewarm ass, and ambient sound.

Rebecca: 1
Sean: 0

Sunday, June 25, 2017

How to Read More: Episode 1 of 3 - Understanding the Naive Phase

5 Minute Read

Whatever you're working on right now, whatever problem you're struggling with, is probably addressed in some book somewhere by someone a lot smarter than you. Save yourself the trouble of learning from trial and error. 

-Ryan Holiday

Ah, the benefits of reading. In addition to objectively making us smarter, habitual reading also has proven to reduce stress, improve memory and analytical thinking, increase vocabulary, and even stave off Alzheimer's. All this with no negative side effects. Put another way, reading makes everything better.

Despite these undeniable benefits, we don't read much. We claim we're too tired, we don't want to spend money on books, and we just don't have the time. Then, we plop down on the couch and watch an average of nearly three hours of television while shopping online. In fact, despite not having time to read a book, 95% of texts are read within three minutes of being sent.

Welcome to a three-part journey (my first miniseries!) where we'll be exploring our peculiar relationship with books (Part I), an audiobooks manifesto of sorts (Part II), and some sort of dramatic conclusion that will make you say, "today begins the new me!" as some sort of musical montage begins in the background.

The Naive Phase

Understanding our relationship with books requires a quick trip to the beginning of our lives and to the dawn of our relationship with the recorded words of others.

In his 2012 book Mastery (which is certain to make my top five books of this year), Robert Greene explains that compared to other animals, we humans enter the world remarkably weak and helpless. While baby birds fly after just a few days and infant giraffes can walk within a half hour and run within a day (!), baby Homo Sapiens are weak, vulnerable, and comparatively helpless for anywhere from 12 to 18 years (give or take) before we can truly function on our own.

This extended phase of dependence serves a vital purpose, Greene asserts, as it gives us time to develop our most powerful weapon--the human brain. This period comes at a peculiar price, however, as our childhoods involve idealizing our parents, teachers, and anyone in an authority role whose strength and reliability we depend on.

We are corralled into classrooms, mandatory books are imposed on us (which is Bad Idea Jeans), and we are instructed to carefully read every page because there might be some irrelevant detail in there that will show up on some bullshit scantron test. Then we're in big trouble, as our grade would be affected and our future employment prospects would certainly suffer. Scare tactics, baby!

As if this weren't torturous enough, anyone who went to elementary school in the 80s and 90s certainly had to deal with the judgement-fest that was popcorn reading. If you want to make a 9 year-old with a speech impediment (me in 1990) hate reading for 25ish years, force him to popcorn read in front of his peers.

Love the movie, but this scene haunts me
As a result of this Stalin-like approach to our literacy, we feel sensitive and vulnerable about our reading abilities.  Books become associated with chores, nerds, and feeling like we don't measure up to some arbitrary ideal, and many of us end up with contempt for books and a bizarre pride in how much we don't read. This is Greene's Naive Perspective to a T, and many of us (including the leader of the free world) never outgrow it.


As we enter adulthood, this naive approach ceases to make sense. There are no tests on our reading anymore, it doesn't matter if we skim or skip a few pages (or chapters), and there's no absolutely no reason to feel any negative emotions whatsoever toward books. 

Considering the availability of the works of the greatest thinkers and leaders in human history (you can access them using the very object you're looking at right now!!), failure to move past this phase has undeniable consequences. As Greene explains, our naivete subtly drains us of curiosity and replaces it with conformity to social norms, pursuit of leisure and immediate pleasures, and a general propensity toward a mechanical, robot-like existence. 


If you're still with me at this point, congratulations! You've recognized that the naive approach is for cowards, and you're ready to change your relationship with reading. Next week, we will explore several techniques to upgrading our approach to books. These include, but are not limited to the following:
  • Audiobooks are not cheating
    • Neuroscience proves the impact on the brain is identical to traditional reading
  • The art of nonfinishing
    • Develop the habit of nonfinishing that which is boring or unproductive
  • You don't have to start at page one
    • It's your book
  • Talk to the text
    • Write notes and make highlights
    • It's your book
Until next week!