365 T-shirts - the reasoning

This blog should be sub-titled: a journal of my life in geek.

I get my geek on with things about which I am geeky: comic books, Baseball, Ultimate, science fiction, my favorite bands, books I have read and loved, and Jungian psychology to name some of the most frequently traversed subjects.

I began this project simply as a way to count my T-shirts. I own a lot of T-shirts. But how many do I have? Do I have 365? We shall find out.

When I started this blog, I thought about how each T-shirt means something to me. I bought it for a reason, after all. I set myself the task to post an entry about a new T-shirt every day as a way to simply write something every day, a warm up for writing fiction, which is my passion. Writing is like exercise. Warm ups are good for exercise. But after completing a month of blogging about T-shirts, I have learned that this blog serves as a journal; it documents my life in geek, sort of a tour of my interests in pop culture. The blog serves as a tool for self-inventory, for assessment and analysis of self and the origins of self, for stepping through the process of individuation in catalogues, lists, and ranks.

The blog also made me aware that I have some serious gaps in my T-shirt ownership, and I am in the process of collecting some new T-shirts for several of the great popular culture icons that I truly love. Stay tuned.

I was also a bit surprised that people checked out my blog and continue to check it, read it, and even comment on it. I am very appreciative of this readership. Please feel free to share your thoughts in my comments section. I will respond.

Also, please note that I have moved the original introductory text to the side bar. And now, I present to you the most recent entry of 365 T-shirts: a journal of my life in geek. Thank you for reading.
(Second Update - 1310.24. First Update - 1306.05 Originally Posted - 1304.25.)

Friday, September 20, 2013

T-shirt #183 - Sky Diving Survivor

T-shirt #183 - Sky Diving & a Survivor

I am considering today the halfway point for my year of blogging about T-shirts. With 365 days in the year, the halfway mark is technically 182.5, which falls between yesterday's post and today's.

I dedicate today's post to surviving. My shirt commemorates my survival from my one skydiving adventure. But I also feel that the shirt celebrates my survival of cancer, which is what provided the impetus that began the blog project in the first place, 183 days ago. And the shirt borrows the logo and theme of the CBS television show Survivor, which also saved my life, in a sense.

The pictures of me in this shirt were taken by my wife on Saturday the 14th of September in Royal Oak, Michigan where we had lunch.


I am not sure when I went sky diving. I am thinking it was in 2001 or 2002. The research needed to verify this fact is not worth the time. It's close enough.

I did a tandem jump with an experienced jumper. My friend Jason Atkins and his sister also jumped for the first time that day. We tagged along with a science prof from K-College, who was an avid jumper. Jason was working at Kalamazoo College at the time. We jumped from the Napoleon Skydiving Center.

Here is the site for the NAPOLEON SKYDIVING CENTER.

I was surprised by the plane. It was a small prop plane. The passenger area was stripped of everything. There were no seats. It was just a plastic and metal capsule attached to wings and a propeller.

The pictures of the current plane in use (the Cessna Grand Caravan) shows seats, so I guess people eventually asked for benches or seats of some kind.

A tandem jump is one in which you are strapped back-to-front to an experienced jumper. The plane takes you up to 13,000 feet. We were told not to stall the jump. When it's time to go, we go.

I was not really nervous during the ride up. Once at 13,000 feet, the ground below is very abstract. My fear of heights did not affect me.

When it was time to jump out of the plane, I went to grab this metal rod above door, just to collect myself for a second or two. I wasn't nervous. It was more of a deep breath before the plunge kind of moment. But the experienced jumper would have none of it. He removed my hand and pushed us out of the plane.

I think we got to experience 60-90 seconds of freefall before it was time to open the parachute. Freefall is adrenaline-fueled excitement with a deafening rush of wind all around. But once the chute is released and opens, everything goes incredibly quiet. I had never heard such quiet before. There's no bugs or other people or cars or anything that would make noise at that height. There's just silence and stillness. If I was not with another jumper, I might have also experienced the solitude and peace that people must feel as they float downwards. Though my partner was not chatty, so he did not spoil the experience with unnecessary talking.

I don't have any pictures of me in the air as I did not buy the photo package, so just a photo of me on the ground after.

The nerves kicked in as we came within a couple hundred feet of the ground. When we first open the chute, we're at maybe 5000 feet. I am not sure how much distance we cover in freefall, but I think that's about right. At 5000 feet, the world below is still very small and abstract. But as we glide in closer and detail becomes more apparent, then my fear of heights started to take over.

The whole jump takes maybe five minutes at the most and possibly less.

Though floating on the chute is serene and peaceful, we're still coming down at a fairly good speed. The speed is not apparent until we approach the ground. Once we started to get closer, I could see how fast we were covering those last few hundred feet. My partner had instructed me about flaring the chute as we approached the ground, but even so, given how fast we came in, I did not retard our speed enough, and I ended up sliding on the dry gas and landing on my butt. Though not too hard. He helped slow us enough that our landing was clumsy but not injury causing.

Immediately, I wanted to go up again, but I couldn't afford it. Though I can understand why people do it. It's an experience I will never forget, though I am not sure I will ever do it again, especially now that I am married.


I am also a blog survivor. As I shared earlier, here I am at the halfway mark for the year. Honestly, I was not sure I could make it here. At first, I was not certain I had more than 183 shirts. After I made it through the first month or two, I began to realize that I had A LOT more shirts than I thought I did, even though I had purged a couple of bags of old shirts back in January.

But even more than the shirts, I was concerned about the writing. Not only was I afraid that I did not have enough to say to fill up this much blogging, but I was worried that I would not be able to do it EVERY DAY. This is the toughest thing about the blog; THE DAILY THING. And so, some days, like Friday the 20th, I need to cheat because I cannot always make the time to finis the blog entry in the day, and if I am not sufficiently ahead, then I post an incomplete entry and finish it the next day, which is what I am doing right now. I posted this Friday the 20th, which is its set publication date now, but I am typing right now the morning of the 21st. So, I have to cheat. But not often. This may be the fourth or fifth time only. I try to prevent these cheats from happening.

Beyond the daily commitment to posting, I am also trying to develop sufficient content to provide value to my regular readers, my occasional readers, and even you, who has stumbled across this blog at random for the first time. When I started, I did not understand how this blog would evolve and what themes it would serve. This evolution continues to progress, and I am trying to vary the lengths and the subject matter. But I am still amazed that so much content has poured out of me. I consider myself a verbose person, but this is really A TON of text in the last 183 days.

As always I am deeply honored and incredibly grateful to have so many readers who find my blog worth their time. Once again, my heartfelt appreciation and thanks.


Even though I just addressed this subject the other day, I felt it had a place on today's entry because of my survivor theme. I am just going to repeat the text from Wednesday's blog: T-shirt #181.

One of those other things is something I should have mentioned Monday, which is that on Monday (9/16) I celebrated my one-month post surgery date as a cancer survivor, 100% cancer free. The last check was the PSA which was within two-hundredths of zero, so that's essentially zero. I am not back to full activity. After getting back on the ultimate field last week, I am going to try getting back on the bike today and see if I can make the one mile ride (each way) to WMU.

Though I may open up myself to mocking with this confession, I do not care. I love the TV show Survivor on CBS. I have watched every episode in all its 26 seasons (though I have not yet watched the debut episode from Wednesday of the 27th season Survivor: Blood vs. Water).

Survivor debuted on May 31, 2000 when my mother was in the ICU at Bronson, where she had been since March of that year recovering from the bacterial meningitis that paralyzed her. Within a couple of weeks of the debut, she moved to Mary Free Bed in Grand Rapids where she recovered for another three months. After spending days with her at Mary Free Bed, I would come home (once a week) to watch the new episode of this interesting new TV show: Survivor.

The show gave me something to focus on completely outside of my mom's recovery and how her near total paralysis would completely change our lives once she finally did come home. I needed the distraction. I needed something else to think about.

Over the years, I have found more reasons to watch Survivor, but it has a special place in my heart because of when and why I started watching in 2000.


In the recent issue of Men's Health magazine, which I enjoy despite its more gratuitous and stereotype endorsing content, I read a great article about survival and heroism. There's plenty of content online, but here's The Washington Post article.


Riggs swam five miles to the nearest land mass, Deal Island,  in Chesapeake Bay after his family's small skiff capsized in a storm that came up on them suddenly. Amazing story. Inspiring.

If you are interested, you will find more amazing stories in the book Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales, which I strongly recommend.


“Survival is the celebration of choosing life over death. We know we're going to die. We all die. But survival is saying: perhaps not today. In that sense, survivors don't defeat death, they come to terms with it.”
― Laurence Gonzales, Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why
The author begins by telling us the story of his father, a B17 bomber pilot – the flying fortress – during the Second World War. While conducting a raid on Dusseldorf, his plane was hit in midair by a shot from a German flak, which cut the left wing in two and killed nine crew members on the spot – out of ten. With his plane spinning around, pinned by centrifugal force, seriously wounded, he failed to grab his parachute and jump. He remained imprisoned in the cockpit for a six kilometer descent while the plane was cut in two. Then he fainted. When he came to, he was on the ground, and looked out at the world through the shattered window of the cockpit. He whole body was in agony, and a piece of the cockpit had penetrated his leg. A German farmer was standing in front of him, his gun pointed at him – at that time, they did not hesitate to kill American pilots from time to time. The German fired.
He survived. He was taken to a prisoner camp, then freed at the end of the war.
Laurence Gonzales’ interest in survival began when his father told him his story. The fact that he lived while so many others died fascinated him, and he wanted to understand, with the help of his interest in science. When five people were shipwrecked and only two came home, what was it that made the difference? Who survived the Nazi camps? Why did Robert Falcon Scott die during his expedition to the North Pole and Roald Amundsen survive? Why was a 17 year old adolescent girl the sole survivor to escape in the Peruvian jungle, while the adult victims with her in an air crash died? Why can some people survive the worst psychological catastrophes, like divorce, death, layoff, serious illness, while others suffer terribly? In his quest, he discovered principles that he tells us about in his book. Follow the guide.
The above excerpt is taken from BOOKS THAT CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE - DEEP SURVIVAL .

On survivors of tragedies and life: “Good survivors, like good wives, husbands, and CEOs, always consider the bleak side of things, too. They plan for them and have an earnest hope that they will manage. But they do not care overly much that they might not. They accept that to succumb is always a possibility and is ultimately their fate. They know safety is an illusion and being obsessed with safety is a sickness. They have a frank relationship with risk, which is the essence of life. They don’t need others to take care of them. They are used to caring for themselves and facing the inherent hazards of life. So when something big happens, when they are in deep trouble, it is just more of the same, and they proceed in more or less the same way: They endure.”
                                                                                          - Laurence Gonzales Deep Survival

MY SURVIVOR STORY - an excerpt

I have always been fascinated by stories of survival. Swiss Family Robinson is one of my favorite books. I loved Stephen King's The Stand, up until it was no longer a book about survival. This is why I also love things like The Walking Dead. Destruction of the status quo, rebuilding from the wreckage, and survival after an apocalyptic event fascinate me.

And so, I am working on my own novel for the YA market about young people surviving an apocalypse. Here's an excerpt from what I hope will be the beginning of the book.

SURVIVAL - an excerpt - christopher tower

When I was five years old, bad dreams scared me awake at four in the morning. Frightening nightmares would have sent most children running to their parents’ bed, but I had a mission. I felt the truth of what I had seen deep in my bones. I had to save my family.

I slipped out of bed and quietly made my way downstairs in the dark. Street lights shone through gaps in our curtains; our furniture cast imposing shadows across the floor. Even with my heart pounding wildly from the dream, I could make my way through our townhouse blindfolded and ear-plugged. As I neared the first night light along the stairs to the first floor, I hesitated. I did not want to touch it. But it had to come out. It was not safe. I yanked it out of the wall and dropped it to the step as if it was a hot coal.

As I crept down the two flights of stairs from my third floor bedroom, I plucked the other plug-in lights from outlets. I did not go through every room, not yet. I passed phones and lamps in the first floor hall way. A clock hung above the doorway to the kitchen, but I left these alone. I would come back for them. The kitchen hummed with powered appliances: refrigerator, coffee maker, microwave, wine cooler. Other appliances lay dormant but were no less dangerous. I made mental notes as I headed for the back steps and the door to the garage workshop.

Though I was only five, my father and grandfather had already been teaching me about tools. I liked the non-powered ones best. Dots of light from battery pack chargers glowed throughout my grandfather’s workshop. I counted seven. I tried to ignore them, even though they made me very nervous. I climbed up on the work bench and snagged the heavy-duty wire cutters off the peg board. Grongy, my baby name for my grandfather, kept a stack of boxes in one corner. I also found a pair of gloves with rubber coating for better grip, just one more thing to keep me separated from the electricity.

As I came back into the house, I slid the boxes to the middle of the kitchen floor. They whispered across the tile floor like a secret. I would need them in a minute. But there was one item that scared me the most, and I would start with it.

Leaving the kitchen through a different door and moving silently down the back hall, I came into the family room and faced the centerpiece: the large TV and entertainment center. I did not like it. I had never liked it. Unlike my brothers and sisters, the DVD player was not my babysitter.

Gripping the TV’s cord with the rubber beads of the glove, I yanked it from the wall, and then I snipped off the plug with the wire cutters. Once free of the wall, I tried to heft the large screen TV off its base, but it was too heavy for my small child body. However, the other devices were not, and I quickly snipped all the cords and freed DVD players, VCRs, and cable boxes and all sorts of things that I only knew by name but had never used.

Energized by my success with the entertainment center, I moved about the house and cut the cords of every machine that used electricity: computers, bread makers, toasters, stereo equipment, the washer, the dehumidifer. There were a lot of things I couldn’t disable with the wire cutter. Table and floor lamps were easy, but the ceiling lights, the dishwasher under the counter, the built-in microwave, and some other things were out of reach.

No one in the house woke as I collected as many of the things in the boxes as would fit and started carrying them upstairs. My parents and dad’s parents lived in a five-story townhouse in Chicago. My grandfather Grongy owned the whole thing, so I had been on the roof before helping with caulking or other maintenance. Back then, the fourth and fifth floors were only used for storage, so I began assembling everything in the fourth floor hallway before carrying it all to the roof. Once I had enough of the deadly machines in the hall, I went up the back stair and pushed open the door to the roof, which had swelled with the humidity of the Chicago summer. I did not have to worry about being quiet that far up, and once I put my shoulder into it, the door popped free.

I am not sure how long I spent carting the stuff to the roof, but no one woke the whole time because I was little, and I was quiet. The roof was flat and wide, so there was plenty of room for stuff. I had the two boxes plus over two dozen other machines that would not fit in the boxes: two computers, a stereo receiver, two small TVs, a portable CD player, a power saw, a portable heater, and many more items.

The TVs worried me the most. I started with a black one with a built in VCR. I pushed it off the roof, using the alley-side of the house so there was hard pavement directly below but no street or lawn. The TV went off like a bomb when it hit the alley, its internal tube shattering and its metal and plastic casing smashing into hundreds of pieces.

Knowing that the TV would never hurt anyone made me feel a little better, but I knew I still had a lot of work to do. I had lined up all the equipment along the roof’s edge. One by one, and as quickly as I could move, I slid each machine off the roof. A few, like the computer monitors, were a little heavy, but I had managed to carry them up to the roof, so I just pushed with my legs and leaned my weight into them, giving them enough push to clear the roof.

I am not sure if the crash of the first TV woke my family or the successive explosions of all the other appliances. But whatever did it, they all went running outside rather than coming to the roof. But by the time they spilled out of the house, I was finished with my work on the roof and was running full speed for the first floor. While they were trying to figure out what had made all the noise, I ran back to the family room and hefted a sledge hammer that I had left on the floor. I needed to smash the big TV since I could not carry it to the roof, but I had saved it for last rather than starting with it and waking everyone. The hammer was almost too heavy for me to lift, but I used two hands as I had seen my father do. My first swing just stuck in a hole with a plunk, but with my second swing, spider-webby fractures blossomed across the screen.

By the time anyone found me inside the house, I had moved onto the biggest computer monitor that I had not been able to budge and was smashing it to smithereens. I was pretty strong for a five-year-old because of the things I did with my father and grandfather: Babo and Grongy.

My oldest brother found me first and caught the hammer mid-swing, wrenching it free of my grip.

“No! No!” I yelled. “It’s going to kill you! It’s going to kill you all!”

By this time, my other brother and sister had run into the room with my grandparents and parents.

My brother had set aside the hammer and was trying to hug me while I struggled. Frustrated and inconsolable, I was sobbing hysterically,

“I am saving you all from these killing machines,” I choked out between sobs, gasping for breath. “I am the only one who can. You have to let me finish. All these things will kill you. I watched it happen. I watched it!”

I was pretty precocious for five years old since my parents sent me to an accelerated preschool, and I was already speaking two languages – English and Vietnamese – and reading in English.

Once they calmed me down, I tried to explain that I saw them use these techno-contraptions far too much.

“Bana,” my baby name for my grandmother, “sits watching her shows all day,” I explained, still trying to catch my breath as my sobs subsided. “And you’re all at the computer all the time. And I saw it. I saw what happens. They’re going to kill you. And I couldn’t let that happen. Who would take me for adventure walks? How would I get to camp in the summer? I don’t want to be alone.”

They tried to make me understand that what I had thought I had seen had been a dream and that dreams were not real.

But I wasn’t convinced.

I knew what I had seen.

The dreams weren’t real then, but they would be.



In closing, this is just fun. :-)


"…To the last, I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart, I stab at thee; for hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee."
Moby-Dick, quoted by Khan Noonien Singh
During his exile on Ceti Alpha V, Khan Noonien Singh read Moby-Dick as he became immersed in his own desire for revenge on James T. Kirk. During his search and battle with Kirk, he quoted lines from the novel. While some are direct quotes (such as the line above), some were modified from the original. For example, Khan’s stated “I’ll chase him round the moons of Nibia and round the Antares maelstrom and round perdition’s flames before I give him up!”
The original, from the novel’s thirty-sixth chapter, is “I’ll chase him round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Norway Maelstrom, and round perdition’s flames before I give him up!”
Memory Alpha is pretty incredible website.

- chris tower - 1309.20 - 22:09 + 1309.21 9:00