Polluted Reality: An Artist’s Appeal to Preserve Mother Nature

A conflict that impacts all of us has been shaped by the natural and industrial revolutions. On the one hand, industrial production has revolutionized the advancement of humans and has provided us with life-changing technologies. However, pollution and destruction of our natural environment are serious consequences we face. Yin and yang perhaps best illustrates the need for a balance between industries and the delicate ecosystems on earth. In his image titled Preservation, the adroit artist Paul Geurts argues against industries and their impact on our natural environment through the effective use of powerful emotional appeal, vividly creative graphics, and decisively simple text.

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Fig.1. This digital painting by Paul Geurts appeals to the arguments against the pervasive industrial footprint and its impact on our natural environment (Geurts).

For many people, the notion of destroying our environment is one that deeply impacts our emotions, which is precisely what the artist Paul Geurts aims to achieve with his painting, Preservation. The fear of causing harm to our beautiful landscape or to the abundance of diverse species within a vast web of interdependent ecosystems appeals to the morality of humans—a powerful emotion that Mr. Geurts awakens by expressing the urgent need for preservation of our environment. Observing his painting does indeed spark a consequential fear of extensive industrial pollution.

In order to exploit its emotional appeal, Paul Geurts also utilizes remarkable graphics portraying the infringement of industries on the serenity of Mother Nature. A lush green landscape adorns the top of Mother Nature’s arm with a pristine blue sky and white puffy clouds embellishing the background. Close examination reveals a flock of birds departing the safety of trees as they fly away from the ever impinging industries that are now scorching the fingers of Mother Nature’s hand. In bleak contrast to the beauty of nature, industries entire arm is a charred molten ruin. Its hand cradles a factory that spews black smoke producing a dark cloud over the industrial side of the painting. Mr. Geurts further dramatically emphasizes industries impact as it appears to be seducing the hand of nature with a gesturing finger that is saturated with hot dripping oil.

While the graphic quality of the painting substantiates his purpose, Paul Geurts employs a third subtle technique to strengthen his argument. By using decisively simple charcoal colored text for the title of the painting, Mr. Geurts sustains the theme of industries dark and smoke-filled environment pervading Mother Nature. Although his painting makes a strong argument without the need for text, the title depicted makes his stance abundantly clear, yet the text does not subdue the impact of his artwork.

The stunningly simple, yet complex painting by Paul Geurts makes a compelling argument against industries polluted footprint that has tarnished the planet. His goal is to emphasize the importance of preserving the beauty and life found on our home—the only one we have drifting through a vast cosmic ocean. Through the use of emotional appeal, stunning graphics, and decisive text, Paul Geurts was able to present an incisively flawless argument.

 

Works Cited

Geurts, Paul. Preservation. 2015. Deviant Art. Web. 8 Sept. 2016.

I should be studying…

but sometimes I just a need break. And yes, writing can be a break for me—fun writing anyway, so I believe a little update to the blog is in order!ferrisbueller_069pyxurz

It’s Labor Day weekend and school is out, but really it just began two weeks ago, so I sort of feel like I’m skipping out with Ferris Bueller. What a great opportunity to log some serious mileage on the bike though…well, that would be the case if I hadn’t crashed my bike the previous weekend.

Yes, I finally got my first (road) bike crash over with. It’s always when, not if it will happen. The story goes something like this:

Kristine has actually been coming out with me on the Saturday ride with Pearland Cycling Club (yay!), and last weekend I talked her into doing the full 60 mile route. Everything was going great until about 20 miles in when a little chihuahua ran toward the group determined to claim the entire road as his turf.tumblr_lo25n9EVPA1qgnp30o1_500_large

You gotta give the little guy credit for being brave. Not really a smart thing to do though as we were bearing down on him at 20+ mph. I went off the front attempting to chase him off the road; however, I cut it too close and my front wheel slid over the edge coming out from under me quicker than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking competition. I don’t even remember actually hitting the ground, but I remember vividly the excruciatingly long slide across the chip seal surface as it ripped layers of skin off my shoulder, hip, elbow, and fingers. Kristine was behind and saw the whole thing happen. She said I slammed on the ground hard, then just slid while I was stuck on my left side.

Another element to this story is that I just got a new bike only a couple of weeks prior. My old Tarmac frame was cracked which the mechanics noticed while installing some new components I had bought. What was going to be an upgraded crank set, rear derailleur, front derailleur, and brake calipers, turned into a new frame as well. Fortunately, Specialized honored their warranty and not only sent me a replacement for free, but they also upgraded me to a Venge frame. Very cool!

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It was also fortunate the new frame and components were undamaged in the crash. The left shifter got a little scratch on it, but otherwise there was no damage—not even the saddle or bar tape was torn!

After the crash, I took a little time to lick my wounds (not literally of course) and collect my thoughts. Physiologically speaking, I just waited for the adrenaline and the shock to wear off. We also waited for an animal control officer to show up to ensure the dog owners were cited for failure to keep their dog on a leash or behind a fence. The group was really great and stayed with us to make sure I was OK. I sent them on their way while Kristine and I got back on the bike and rode home. It was painful, but at the same time it felt good to finish the ride.14107863_10153718260191631_5690632712564917285_o

They say the shower after a crash hurts something fierce. I can confirm that. They also say things are more sore after the second day. I can also confirm that. A week later and my road rash is healing nicely. My hip and elbow are still sore, so that any motion that involves twisting my torso or laying down happens slower than a Sunday afternoon, but it is getting better. I also have some pain in my lower back, which ties into the sore hip, so I have schedule a massage with my good buddy Noel. Anyone looking for a massage should absolutely schedule with him; he is excellent at what he does. Stop procrastinating and treat yourself to a massage already!

Although I am sore from the crash a week later, we still got out there and rode with the club this weekend. I am staying disciplined and working back up to the high mileage and intensity after healing, so for now we kept it around 40 miles. It may not be the Labor Day weekend of riding I envisioned, but we always manage to make the most of it.

As a bonus, I have an opportunity to get ahead on school work for the Fall semester. This will be my final semester and it is a busy one with classes like Biology, Comp II, Statistical Methods of Psychology, and Public Speaking among others. I’m looking forward to wrapping up my degree and putting in my application soon, but I’m also a little sad that it has gone by so fast. I have really enjoyed my time in school, the people I have met, and the great professors who I have become friends with.

Until next time, stay safe friends, and enjoy your Labor (hopefully free) Day weekend!

Why We Do This

As our tires hummed against the surface of the road, our legs fighting to keep the pedals moving, the brutal cross winds threatening to drive us into the ditch with each passing gust, I began to question why are we seemingly so eager to put ourselves through an agonizingly painful experience with friends. Are we really just some sick individuals or is there something more to it?

My get your ass out of bed alarm went off this morning, but I had forgotten why I set it. Thinking there was no school or work today, I said “what the heck is this thing thinking waking me up at this hour on a Saturday??” Apparently I turned it off completely; it was 30 minutes later when Kristine rolled over and asked if I’m still planning to ride. <insert expletive!> There is nothing like a mad rush to make a bike ride. Our weather forecast looks terrible for the next four days, so it was no time to excuse missing a good ride.

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Photo credit: Rosanna Campos

Today marks three weekends in a row that I have made the group ride! It feels good to be on the road with friends again. But why do we wake up to only put ourselves in so much pain? The accomplishment of surviving a group ride with fellow hammer heads and not getting dropped—even though I nearly did on several occasions today—is a good feeling indeed. It was extremely difficult during the ride to prevent my brain from finding any excuse to drop and just let the pain stop. It is incredible the amount of mental power it takes to tolerate just a few more minutes of pain in order to stay with the group. We push our bodies further than sometimes we ever thought possible, and when that happens we learn more about ourselves each time.

In my last post I confessed that I had gained some weight; however, I have since lost a little weight and increased some muscle mass. The gym is helping with muscle definition, but the miles on the bike have helped the weight come off. I’m still aiming to build more muscle definition, but one benefit I am already experiencing is from squats. I noticed an improvement on the bike having strengthened my hamstrings and glutes, which have always been a weak point for me by contributing to a muscle imbalance as they worked against my stronger quads. More to come, but it is exciting to see results taking shape. My weakness now is stretching and rolling out my IT bands. Maybe some yoga in my future?

So, the next time you’re hurting on a group ride and asking why we do this, just remember that what we treasure most is not given to us, it is what we work for the hardest. Keep fighting that wind, those tired legs, and that brain trying to persuade you to give up. Tell yourself to hang on for just another minute, another mile, and another ride.

Confession Time

It’s confession time.

A little over a year ago, with Christmas only a few days away, I posted about a change in direction. My plan was to attend college for the first time in my life in order to begin a new career in law enforcement. It has been a pleasant surprise to see how well I have done in college. After this spring semester, I will have 34 out of 60 credits necessary to graduate. Because of my achievements, I was honored on the Dean’s List for the fall semester of 2015. I also accepted an invitation to join the Mu Upsilon chapter of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society this semester. 12806102_1265854173426192_4954070660957403113_n

School for me as an adolescent was harder than it needed to be. I just didn’t have the motivation to obtain the same level of achievement I have today. Things are quite different attending college as an adult. We tend to be more focused, and we maintain the ability to cogitate the larger picture. While learning a new subject is intriguing, I propose the most important skills from college are time management, effective study habits, improved writing abilities, and professional ethics. I strive to succeed at all of these endeavors, not only for academic achievement and more prosperous career opportunities, but also for psychological fulfillment. If you are interested, I created a blog for publishing my academic essays throughout my college years.

I have to give much credit to my wonderful wife for her inspiration which has driven me to be a better student, and a better man. I was also extremely fortunate to have a wonderful history professor in my first semester. Her friendly personality and enthusiasm for teaching is evident in the classroom. She has genuinely enriched my college experience, and she has become a good friend.

So what am I confessing? Well, it’s nothing as serious as the Sacrament of Penance.

Clearly I haven’t been active on my blog, but sadly I also haven’t been as active on the bike. I found that going to school full time, owning a business, and still having a semblance of a personal life really takes a lot out of you. To compound matters, my job involves physical labor; thus, when I have school and work in the same day, it has been difficult to find the time or energy to don a kit and hop on the bike. Honestly, these are just excuses for the fact that I have gained weight—nearly as much as my pre-cycling days. However, in my defense, the Huffington Post Canada reported a study published in the Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism journal “[which] found that in over four years, at least 70 per cent of students gain weight, according to Auburn University”. Although there have been contradicting results from other studies, at least in my case, it seems the ‘freshman 15’ theory holds—er—weight.

It is now time to hold myself accountable. At this point, I still have no immediate plans to race my bike, but it is time to get back on the saddle, or as Willie Nelson would say, “on the road again”. For the first time in my life, I have joined a gym. This is something I never thought I would do. Admittedly, I have enjoyed it so far! The classes are good for motivation and they are helping to develop muscles I never knew existed.

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Put simply: Squats. Are. Evil. In the wake of a body pump class, the simple task of nimbly sitting on the toilet turned into a lumbering collapse on the seat, accompanied by a painful shriek. But, things are improving. I’m beginning to feel stronger which will surely help me on the bike when I can get outside.

So, the goal for this year: Get back in shape. More specifically, to develop muscle definition—particularly in the core, shoulders, and arms—ahead of police academy training. And finally, to find the cardio fitness I once had.

Compassion Shines After Frightening Crash

In the evening hours this week, with the promise of spring in the air, it was set to be a beautiful end to the day as Local Bike Racing hosted a weekly criterium here in Houston. However, we were all devastated to learn about a tragic accident involving Chuck, a good friend of the cycling community. Erin Urban, a local competitive cyclist with Haute Wheels Racing and a great blogger, published a post about the incident saying, “last night a friend, staunch supporter, avid race volunteer, and all-around good guy was severely injured during a local race. This news hits hard with deep sadness because we all know and appreciate our cycling buddy, Chuck”.

Indeed, Chuck is genuinely a great guy who does not deserve the pain he is experiencing right now, but it has been truly inspirational to see the community come together in support of a fallen friend.

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Chuck on the front. Photo credit: Corvin Alstot.

Chuck is a successful entrepreneur; he is a selfless and hard-working individual, someone who never complains when the going gets tough. I recall riding next to Chuck on many occasions, often struggling to breathe at blistering speeds, my legs agonizingly painful as I’m telling them to ‘shut up’ in my best Jens Voigt expression, yet Chuck would always greet you with a warm smile. His diligent and altruistic character is visible not only in his career, but also with his involvement in the cycling community—all of whom have a great deal of respect for him. In her blog post, Erin Urban adds, “Chuck has volunteered quite a bit of his time and energy to the advancement of the cycling community and competitive cycling events. . . . Chuck has been there when he didn’t have to… and today, our cycling community is there for him”.

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Photo credit: Creative Cycling

While those of us who race are aware of the risks, a fact that we have to be comfortable with to some degree, it is never easy to completely push the fear of injury to the back of our mind. As it has been brought to the forefront this week, I would like to reach out to my friends and followers from all walks of life. Please, if you are able to, consider making a donation on his Go Fund Me page—no matter how small—to help our friend recover. This accident will impact his life beyond the time we all share with him on the bike as he faces the road to recovery ahead.

There is nothing quite like the feeling of experiencing the open road on two wheels; that intimate connection between man and machine as one foot turns over the next. It’s almost a meditative experience at times. As cyclists, we share a unique bond in this sport. One of trust, respect, and compassion. There are those who stand out among a group of good people—those who are genuinely great. Chuck is one of those great people. Let’s help him get back on the road, and most importantly, back to his life.

Thank you for taking a moment to read his story. I hope you will consider making a small donation.

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Be sure to check out Erin Urban’s blog and read more about her here. Special thanks goes out to Corvin Alstot and Creative Cycling (Ray ‘Trey’ Currid) for granting permission to publish their photos on this blog.

First Police Ride Along

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As I drove down the freeway headed to the city of La Porte where I scheduled my first ride along, I couldn’t help but feel excited about the coming experience. I knew this was an important step in my process of changing careers into a civil service role. First impressions are very important and I am taking this new direction seriously, so I made sure that I gave myself plenty of time to reach the station before the shift began. In fact I was nearly 30 minutes early, so I had some time to wait in the lobby while the evening shift was in their daily briefing before heading out on patrol.

10995601_10152902508556631_1536601040518068456_nI chose the evening shift on a Saturday since I was told it would provide the most opportunity to see a variety of calls and situations. The officer I was riding with, his name I will omit to respect his privacy, was a really nice guy. He would explain things as they happened and answered questions I thought to ask throughout the shift, which was between 3:00 PM to 11:00 PM. One of the draws for me to this line of work is the fact that unlike so many other jobs, you have no idea what sort of challenges you will face during your shift. Working with people and serving the public appeals to me as a person who is happy to assist those in need and focused on safety.

image1Our shift began with a missing persons case which we took before even leaving the station. Once the officer collected all of the information, we headed to our car. Sitting in the car, he had to get the computer up and running which he would then use to enter notes about the missing person just reported. Most people have seen police officers working on the computer in their cars, but it’s quite impressive to see just how much they can do with them. It’s definitely an invaluable tool in their job.

We were assigned to district 2, which would cover the east side of the city. As a patrol officer, you patrol your district looking for any signs of trouble, but ready to respond to calls as they come in from dispatch. The officer may also handle traffic control in the form of observing vehicles failing to follow the posted speed limits, failure to stop at stop signs or red lights, to vehicle safety and registration requirements. I believe many people are most familiar with that side of policing as it’s probably what we see the most during our daily commutes while ensuring that we follow traffic laws. I was looking forward to seeing traffic control procedures, but calls for assistance take priority and we were not short of those during the shift. One of the best features of the in-car computer is the ability for the officer to view a map of the city which places a marker at the destination of a call when it’s received from dispatch. It also shows other police units location and status in real time, which officers can use to better locate calls for assistance and allocate resources. When the officer initiates a traffic stop, dispatch is able to see that, so they immediately know the officers location before he even calls it in on the radio, improving their safety on the road. Technology is indeed a wonderful thing. image2

Throughout our shift, we responded to lots of information type of calls, a welfare check, a report of two men wielding a machete, a noise disturbance, a report of someone drinking alcohol in the park, an alligator on the loose in the middle of a busy road (pictured at the top of this post), and the worst call being a death on arrival. Sometime between all of the calls, we managed to work traffic at a stop sign where people frequently fail to stop. We initiated two traffic stops, but based on the officers discretion, only verbal warnings were given. For safety reasons, I had to remain in the car for traffic stops and for most calls we responded to, however the non-dangerous information type of calls I was allowed to exit the vehicle with the officer to observe.

Reflecting on my first ride along experience, I feel more confident in my direction as I learned a lot about the procedural side of the job. From working on the computer to filing reports and notes, to handling the radio, calls, traffic, and even driving. It was certainly a different experience from what I believe most of the public sees and it exposed a lot of parts about the job which helped me to ensure this is the direction I want to go. I’m looking forward to doing more ride alongs with other departments as it will be good to see policing from different departments and officers. For now, I can say without a doubt that I am more focused and committed than ever to pursuing this career.