Dec 31, 2008

Wed: I dont like talking on the phone

I’m not a huge fan of communication in general, probably cause it’s so complicated. I say something and depending on what I say, what tone I use, the accent, what my hands are doing, where my eyes are, where the sun is in the sky, what I say could mean something different. It’s so complicated, and that’s only a plain old face to face conversation. E-mail, text message, telephone, cell phone, wigwagging, skype, instant message all bring a new set of rules to the table. It’s all too much. If I had to pick one I could do without though it would definitely be the phone.

The rhythm of talking on the phone absolutely escapes me. I’m always talking over the
other person, interrupting them, or leaving too much empty space. There’s no cues to go with the words coming out of your mouth. I can’t tell when you’re finished. I think that’s why truckers always say “over” after they finish talking. There needs to be a phone equivalent of “over”, so I know when it’s ok to answer your question. It’s also probably because I’m impatient and have an idea of what your saying and just want to get onto replying, in a face to face I could just give you a look that says “Ohhh yea ok” and move on, on the phone I have to be rude and cut you off or just hang out and wait till the other person is absolutely positive I know what they’re saying.

If you’ve ever talked to me on the phone, there’s a good chance you wondered why as I was upset, or just waking up. I’m not totally sure why but I can’t ever use the correct tone on the phone. I’m usually pretty happy but if you talked to me on the phone you’d think maybe you killed my dog inadvertently by calling me. I try to sound happy or whatever and before I say something I give it a quick go in my head to hear how it sounds, but then I spit it out on the phone and….that’s not how I remember it going in my head.

Aside from the weird tone, talking on the phone doesn’t let you see how someone’s reacting to what your saying. I need that reaction so I know how to change what or how I’m talking to speed things up. I need to see the blank face, or the hurry up, or whatever.

I think probably the biggest thing is to talk on the phone you need to have something to talk about that is so important you though it couldn’t wait till you saw that person in the flesh (there’s some obvious exceptions to this). I really don’t ever have something I think is that important. If I think of something and you’re not there I’ll go ahead and bank it till I see you again, I you are there, maybe I’ll say something, either way I usually don’t think you need to hear about it now.

So if you ever call me, know first of all that I’m happy you called. I may not sound like it but I am. The only thing I might be upset about is I probably just wish I could’ve seen you in person instead, and I blame the phone for not seeing you.

Dec 30, 2008

Tue: I would change The College Bowl System

Being a card carrying male college student, it should come as no surprise that I watch football. I grew up watching the Packers and Cardinals (the 2 teams rooted for in my family) play some just awful football. The Packers with 1990’s Brett Farve eventually put some things together but the Cardinals....well everyone knows about the Cardinals. As I grew older something else also happened, I started paying some attention to College Football. I didn’t really care who won College games, but the crowd was always so into it, and the players were so energetic and spirited that it became really fun to watch. It was kids playing a game because they still enjoyed playing it, not because they had signed a contract and needed to make payments on their Caddy (I realize that’s a really broad generalization). Then I started attending ASU so I finally had a team to pull for, a very inconsistent and frequently overrated team. That’s for a different conversation though. After I had a team I only had one real problem with College football. It has the most convoluted system of picking a Champ. Picking a proper champ of a sport is important, it provides closure, and creates integrity for the sport. College football chose it’s Champion based on a computer formula that crunches a bunch of numbers including some poll results from sportswriters and college coaches. So basically Microsoft Excel picks the Champ, and hey maybe that’s the best way to pick something, I’ve heard of computers being used to make some pretty important decisions. The problem it is so un-compelling to play a sport in hopes that HAL-3000 thinks you played well enough to be the Champ. So here are a couple changes I would make to fix this thing.

Make it Playoff-esque
So the computer ranks these college teams, and based on those rankings and a couple other miscellaneous criteria those teams are matched and placed into one of 34 Bowl games that vary in prestige. So for the Mathematically disinclined that’s 68 colleges that play in an extra game that for the most part is meaningless. Games like the Meineke Car Care Bowl, Roady’s Truck Stops Humanitarian Bowl, or even the honorable Chick-Fil-A Bowl. I mean it’s cool that we’re trying to get more colleges included but I think if I received an invitation to Bowl, I might be more insulted than honored. Like “hey why don’t you come out here and star in our 3 hour long commercial in exchange for freezing, grueling practices through Christmas and winter break”. I realize at this point I’ve probably lost a good chunk of my readership so let me just take this time to confess that I really enjoyed the Movie “Just Like Heaven” I can’t even really explain why, anyway I had to get that off my chest. There are 5 games that hold some meaning though. The so called BCS bowls: Rose, Fiesta, Sugar, Orange, and National Championship. So here’s the change I propose, instead of 30 meaningless games and 5 somewhat meaningful games depending on who you ask, let's change the 5 meaningful games into single elimination tournaments of 8 teams a piece. So the National Championship tournament would be teams ranked 1-8, the Rose would be 9-16, Fiesta is 17-24, Sugar is 25-32 and Orange is teams ranked 33-40. That’s 40 teams, which is a little less than the 68 we started with but because of the tournament system there would still be 35 games. So we lose a couple of the smaller less talented schools for a couple years, in return we get some really engaging games where all the games matter on some level because even if you’re a team ranked #40 you have a chance to win a BCS title and your school earns a huge stipend (currently it’s around 17 Million dollars). I’d cheer for the #40 ranked Sun devils to win my school Millions of dollars, but I don’t really care if they beat San Jose State in the Eaglebank Bowl.

Less Regular Season Games
This is not really a fix bit mostly just to clean up some of the loose ends, College teams currently play around 12 games a year, between 7-9 division games (games against schools close to them and have some sort of rivalry with) and 3-5 other games which can be anything from playing some small college from Miami, Ohio to Notre Dame. In order to play the possible 3 extra games in the tournaments we talked about earlier we’d have to cut 1 of these “regular season” games. I’d say keep it to 8 division games and 3 “other” games. But I’m flexible if a team wants to go with 9 and 2 or 7 and 4. Whatever, as long as they’re done in time for the tournament and the students can go back to school like normal people come Spring Semester.

Less Neutral Location Games
Anyway one of the other problems with the system is the Bowl games are in random places called Neutral locations, not usually in either of the team’s home state. That takes away a huge part of the appeal of College Football, the amazing crowds. So put the first 6 games of each tournament at the home field of the team with a better record and that last Championship game can be played wherever the bean counters need it to be played to make the most money. It’s just more fun to watch a team play in front of their fellow students and parents, and other people who love the team but can’t blow 3 grand on a trip to watch them play a semi meaningless game in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

So there it is, my quasi-thought-out plan for fixing College Football. I promise I’ll do my best to keep my sports ramblings to a minimum for awhile, but I figured I’d knock this out first. I wish I could have tied Christianity in there somewhere with some grand revelation of the how football and the evil computer that chooses the champions is majorly flawed and I’m glad that the God who chose me and possibly you was flawless in his choice (which is sometimes really hard to believe). Oh well, there’s always next Tuesday.

Dec 29, 2008

Mon: I like Driving

I think most guys enjoy driving. Maybe it’s instinctual, the ability to go fast makes us better hunter/gatherers and we can better claim dominion over this planet that God gave us. Except somewhere along the lines people forgot the purpose of going fast (myself included) and now just go fast for going fast’s sake, and anytime you’re doing X for X sake there’s a good chance X just might be getting abused. Outside of activities requiring a radar detector or at least an eagle eyed passenger there’s a bunch of other things I enjoy about driving.

I’ve heard this from a lot of people and personally find it to be overwhelmingly true: driving can be very peaceful. Obviously I’m not talking about that bumper-to-bumper stuff when you’re already 10 minutes late and the guy in front of you keeps threatening to switch lanes but never actually does. I mean the regular driving, where it’s quiet and you have time to just think, listen to music or podcasts (but definitely not talk radio), and just kind of coast and reflect. It’s hugely cathartic. In fact if cars were around in King David’s time he wouldn’t have written most of Psalms. Whenever he was feeling that need to refocus he would’ve looked at his harp, looked at his Lincoln Navigator, looked at his harp….and hopped in his Navigator (I don’t really see David as a sports car or Ferrari type of guy). He would've just drove around his Kingdom, talking to God, listening to Ethan the Ezrahite on his MP3 player and feeling better about life.

While we’re talking about characters in the Bible who would’ve enjoyed driving, I’ll throw out Paul which ties nicely into my next point. Driving is so, so, so convenient. Living in this time in history sometimes I’ll just stop and try and realize the vast improvement in everyday things between the past and now, and I can never really grasp it. So sometimes I have to imagine how people of the past would have reacted to being in today's situations. Paul is a prime example, that guy would’ve considered taking on a second affliction in turn for making the missionary journeys in a Toyota. He could’ve avoided all those shipwrecks, and snakebites. So I try not to take the convenience part of driving for granted.

Finally I have a small control freak streak in me, so if you thought at some point in this entry “oh yea riding in cards is nice” you’d be close but not right. Driving cars is nice; being able to control any object with that much potential is nice, watching someone else control and make decisions about that object is only ok. I can’t even explain the control thing, because really you’re at the mercy of the other 90 drivers on your little stretch of road so it should be something that people who enjoy being in control hate. mysteriously that’s not the case though.

Sometimes I wonder how much longer they’re going to let us drive before everything becomes automated for “safety”. I hope it’s not in my lifetime, or at the very least later on in my life after 2051 when my driver’s license expires (I love AZ). I just don’t think it would be the same to hop into some bubble that takes you where you tell it while you just sit there, because you wouldn’t just sit there. You’d have to bring along work or a textbook, or something to make sure you stay busy, always busy. Driving gives you an opportunity to look busy, feel productive while having your mind free from regular the craziness of work, school, or the dreaded "other". It’s a secret bonus time outside of quiet time, or bedtime that let’s you think about the things you’d always wanted to think about. I like that.

Dec 26, 2008

Fri: I look forward to New Years

I know some people treat the New Year as a clean slate and an opportunity to start over. I’m not really into that. I enjoy dragging everything from this past year into the upcoming year, I’m not interested in starting over. It’s too much work. I’m also not really into the resolution and goals scene. I like both resolutions and goals but celebrate them all year long, not just at New Year. Plus I’m kind of a procrastinator and if I had made some goals for 2009 I would just end up trying to knock them out in the week before 2010 or more likely the night before. And if I can do it in one week or one night, what’s the point in making a yearly goal? I’m sure there’s all kinds of flaws in that logic, but whatever I don’t take New Years seriously enough to re-think it. I do have some things aside from resolutions and “fresh starts” that I’m looking forward to though.

I enjoy new calendars. (I figured I’d start small and work my way up). They just look so clean, and fresh. They’re like 13 pages of potential paired with amazing pictures. Then you can always challenge yourself not to look ahead at the picture from the next month , at least I used to when I was a kid, I could usually hold out till about the 2nd week of the year before I broke down and checked out the remaining 11 months.

I also look forward to the fireworks at midnight. I’m a huge fan of fireworks, everything’s better with them. Ironically I was born in one of the few places on earth where they are illegal. That just makes them all that more special on New Years.

I’m a sucker for tradition, and watching the ball drop is one of the most basic and imitated. There’s nothing quite like watching those lights slowly descend while counting down from 20. The tricky thing is to try and forget that you’re watching it on a 2 hour tape delay. But once you get past that watching the ball is awesome, it really helps fill the void that comes when you realize that nothing really happens when the clock strikes midnight.

This year’s a little different though, I’m going to California for New years and hanging out with family at Knottsberry Farms. I’m definitely looking forward to that. I haven’t been to Knott’s since I was like 12, and even though I really enjoy doing the normal thing every New Year’s, going out of town is always a welcome change of pace…..And I enjoy roller coaster.

Completing a circuit around the sun seems like a pretty silly thing to celebrate, like we could take credit for it or something. I’m not going to argue with it though. How could you not look forward to extra time to enjoy your shiny Christmas presents, eat leftovers, and spend time with family? ( I know that was a little sappy, but it’s only been a day since Christmas and all those TV specials get to me). So I’m excited for New Years, even though it’s not a fresh start and nothing magical happens at midnight, the feeling of everyone in so many places getting together for even 10 seconds to celebrate the accomplishments of last year and the opportunities of next year is something I can’t help but look forward to.

Dec 25, 2008

Thur: I miss my Nana and Tata

First of all, Merry Christmas. I hope this has been a special day for you and your family thus far. Christmas has always been a big festivity in my family. Holidays overall were always observed or celebrated whole heartedly. It’s one of the things I love about my family. Whenever I’ve tried to figure out exactly where this passion for holidays or celebrations comes from, I always arrive at the same answer, my Nana and Tata.

Nana and Tata loved Christmas. Their house was always crazy busy and loud on Christmas day, with relatives and friends stopping by all day to see them, maybe exchange presents and have a tamale. They enjoyed participating in every aspect of the Christmas celebration, their house was always beautifully decorated for Christmas. They always had a real Christmas tree that was decorated by their grandkids or great grandkids. The tree was always overseeing lots of presents too, I’m not sure how they did it every year but they made sure to buy at least one gift for everyone in their family, and usually more than one for the kids. One year they even got all the kids new bikes, something we all talk about this day. Before opening presents though Nana would always make sure that we read the story of Christ’s birth as a family, so everyone would remember the reason for the gifts and celebration. Afterwards people would just spend time at their house. They cultivated such a festive atmosphere of happiness and love leaving their house to continue the circuit of houses that needed to be visited was always incredibly hard. It was something I will always look back on with amazement and gratitude to them for sharing that outlook with the rest of the family.
That was just the kind of people they were though. My Nana was an incredibly generous person with everything she owned. She was the type of woman who never let anyone leave the house without making sure that they had enough food to take home to last them a week. The food never lasted that long though because inevitably people couldn’t help but polish it off in what would probably be considered an unhealthily short period of time :). My Tata was a hard worker who took pride in his home. He enjoyed having people over and teaching them about the things that need to be valued, family, diligence, and God. He might not have sat them down and explained these things in so many words, but he set an example that was impossible to ignore.

So really I miss them throughout the year. Whenever I drive past their part of town, see a western movie on television, work on a car or yard, or make something in the kitchen I think of them. At Christmas though I miss them a lot more, the void they left is just so much larger this time of year. I’m happy about that. I’m glad it hurts every Christmas that they’re not here, because it reminds me how important they were in my and many other people’s life. It’s a pain I value beyond description and hope I never lose. That is, at least until I see them again.

Dec 24, 2008

Wed: I don't like dreams

I’m not talking about goals or aspirations. I mean the crazy things your mind comes up with to keep you entertained while you rest. But it’s hard to rest when you’re trying to save your family from being killed by Indians while running through the sanctuary of the Church that you attended in junior high with your friend from work who it turns out might be on the Indians side, except they might not be trying to kill your family, instead we’re just all going camping…..with President Bush. This is the real stuff that dreams are made of, and while at times they can be somewhat entertaining, for the most part I think they cause more damage than good.

Who are these people and what are we running from? just a typical confusing dream..

First off they never make sense. You always read in the Bible about people having dreams that explained some amazing truth, or lead people to the answer to the problem that they were currently facing. That idea holds so much appeal to me…..I can’t even explain it. Just the thought of being spoon fed an amazing revelation like that, and knowing with absolute certainty that it’s a can’t miss suggestion, certified, straight from the top message. That’s what makes dreams so frustrating. You know they hold so much potential. At times I’ll feel like maybe I’m just missing the message that the dreams are sending me, and that if I could just tap into some wisdom like Joseph, or Daniel then I would be able to divine some meaning from them and justify forever all the hours of contemplation that I’ve spent analyzing these products of my imagination. So far no luck though. I even tried writing them down to keep track, and see if maybe I had multiple puzzle pieces then something would make sense, but I just ended up with a lot of lost time, pieces to vastly different puzzles, and frustration. The worst was when I had a dream that was all in Spanish…I don’t even know Spanish, so that was probably the one dream I’ll ever have that was supposed to actually convey a message. It’s like dreams are really just around to taunt people.

Aside from being immensely maddening to try and decipher, there are other attributes of dreams that can make them a little less than enjoyable experience. The most prominent being the nightmare. Here’s the thing with nightmares, whereas regular dreams are hard to understand and easy to forget after being awake 10 minutes, nightmares will stay with you. I remember when I was about 6 I had one where Freddy Krueger would pop up outside my bedroom window and with the help of some of my parents friends (who shall remain anonymous, but I’ll never forget these people even though I haven’t actually seen them in 8 years) would throw grenades into my bedroom while me and my brother tried to escape. It sounds ridiculous…cause it is, but it’s that type of dream that doesn’t leave you. The absolute worst case is when you see someone close to you die in a dream. That kind of thing will be on your mind for the next couple days at least, wondering if maybe it’s in the realm of possibility that you’ve been given a warning, or at the very least a cruel scare.

There is a flip side to that coin though. There are always the good dreams, the one’s where you can do something that’s impossible in the real world. Or have you ever met a new friend in a dream that you don’t actually know in real life? The problem is you always have to wake up, and that amazing ability, impossible accomplishment, or worst of all, that friend goes away forever. (I might be the only person that makes friends in my dreams, so if that seems really weird to you, do me a favor and let me know so I can go get checked out or something ☺) So even in the off chance you luck out and get a decent dream, it’s a losing situation. The worst part is how hard it is to remember the good dreams, they just can’t hold a candle to their competitor, the nightmare.

Dreams are amazing, and I don’t hate them. I just wish that I could remember more of the good ones, less of the bad ones, and maybe one day even figure out what one of them is talking about.

Dec 23, 2008

Tue: I would change Christmas

Oh yea, this sounds like a terrible idea, but hear me out. Christmas in the U.S. is without a doubt, the most popular holiday. And why shouldn’t it be? It combines some of the greatest elements from other holidays into a celebration that dominates the last 3 months of every year. You have the gift giving of Birthdays, the food of Thanksgiving, the significance of Easter, and at times the romance of Valentine’s Day. Even though Christmas has become an unparalled success as far as holidays go, I have a few things that I would like to see …….adjusted, to make the Christmas experience a little more potent and not such a mind blowing, scattered, extravaganza.

Ask 5 people what Christmas means to them and chances are you’ll get 6 different answers (there’s always that one person who can’t choose one answer and hedges the bet with a second). That tells me something, the idea of Christmas has somehow become unfocused. It’s easy to see why though; So many ideas have been shoe-horned into Christmas that people can no longer keep all the stories and traditions straight. So Christmas needs to cut some of the fat, starting with Santa and Co. I like Santa, and he’s welcome to set up his own holiday and you know what, he already has. It’s called St. Nicholas day and it's celebrated on December 6th. I’m all for that, celebrating the idea of charity and generosity with some gift giving early in December while keeping the Santa tradition alive. It would allow me to participate with fewer reservations in all the traditions that Santa is tied up in, as I wouldn’t have to worry about diverting my attention from the more important celebration of the birth of Christ.

Over the years some new holidays have also popped up in the same time frame as Christmas as alternatives. That’s fine with me, I can understand that not everyone has the same feelings about the birth of Christ and it would be unwise to make everyone act like they cared if they didn’t. The only problem I have with those alternative holidays is that they decided that one day was not good enough. To adequately celebrate Kwanzaa takes a full week, and Hanukkah takes 8 days! So I figure we bump Christmas up to a 9 day celebration, one day for every month that Mary carried the child. Every day could also focus on a different part of the lead up to His birth with some of the highlights being: the Angel telling Mary about the plan, Joseph marrying Mary, Mary visiting Elizabeth. There could also be a proper well thought out tradition to be practiced on each of these that corresponds with the story. It would take some time to settle on those and they need to be meaningful and appropriate, so I leave that to wiser folks then I.

Christmas also seems to have issues separating itself from Thanksgiving in some aspects. I’m not sure why exactly, but many Americans have decided that Thanksgiving is really just Christmas with no presents and more football. They eat the same foods, get together with the family, and really just create the same vibe. I think it’s really the food that needs to change. Thanksgiving has a valid claim on the Turkey that’s been established through years of Americana lore, so this new Christmas needs a traditional food also. I think that this should be solved on a family by family basis, with a universal avoidance of Turkey, and Ham to avoid infringing on the Pilgrims. My family, and I think most families with some portion of Hispanic heritage eat tamales and menudo at Christmas time. But like I said, discuss it with your family, decide what your flagship meal is and go with that, be it Lasagna, Sushi, Crepes, whatever. Just move away from the turkey, give Christmas a little more originality.

Finally if we’re being totally honest, the birth of Christ is a great thing to celebrate, but really should not eclipse the celebration of what he did on the cross. Good Friday, and Resurrection Sunday should really take precedent over Christmas. After all, the Bible only discusses the birth of Christ for 2 chapters but talks about his death and resurrection directly for at least 9, and indirectly for….well, the rest of the Bible really. I think we should put more effort into the celebration of those events, but the specifics of those changes will have to be saved for a future Tuesday.

Like I said earlier, I enjoy Christmas; I just think it’s become on some levels a mess of a holiday that tries to celebrate too many unrelated things. Those things are too important to be sharing the spotlight with each other, so it’s about time we gave them all a proper stage so they can impact us more effectively every year. Really isn’t that the point of holidays anyway? They are a time that is set aside to maximize the impact of an idea or event, not a time set aside cause we really enjoy setting it aside each year. Hopefully Christmas never becomes that, it’s too important to become that; you can’t let it become that.

Dec 22, 2008

Monday: I Like Slumdog Millionaire

I finally got to see this movie Friday after I convinced my brother and some friends that it would be good. This was a little tougher than I thought it was going to be, because apparently I “don’t usually pick out good movies”. I’m not really sure what they’re talking about, the worst movie I’ve picked that I can remember was The Mist, which was a pretty good movie…. right up until the end anyway (if you've seen it, you know what I'm talking about). Also trying to explain the plot to Slumdog wasn’t helping, because on paper the plot sounds pretty stupid (we’ll get into that in a second). Eventually though they gave in and went with me to check it out, and talking to them later everyone really enjoyed it. So I just thought I’d share some vague things I liked about it, and hopefully I won’t give too much of the movie away and you can go check it out.

Briefly, the plot of the movie concerns the destiny of this young man in India named Jamal. We catch up with him at a critical point in his life as he competes on the most popular game show in India “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” (which sounds a lot cooler with an Indian accent by the way). As the game goes on, the questions that Jamal has to answer lead to flashbacks about his life that tell the story of his childhood growing up in the slum, traveling around India with his brother Salim and friend Latika, falling in Love with Latika, and ultimately being unable to be with Latika. In fact Jamal really isn’t that interested in being a millionaire, the show is really just his last ditch effort to find Latika, who he’s been separated from. I know that it sounds simple on paper, but the story is actually pretty cool and draws a lot of comparisons to some of Charles Dickens stories.

I like movies that take place in other countries and cultures. It’s really unbelievable how easy it is to forget about the rest of the world living here in the U.S. so it’s nice to be reminded of the different and amazing things the rest of the world has to offer. The Movie leans heavily on India, and at times treats it as a character. It changes and grows throughout the movie as the flashbacks cover the 20 odd years of Jamal’s life leading up to his fated date with “Millionaire”. India has been really interesting to me lately, because I just finished a class on culture taught by a professor from India. On the last day all he did was field questions about his country and told stories about Hinduism, the growing economy, and arranged marriages, so seeing a movie set in India was nice.

The music in the movie is also surprisingly good. There’s some scenes of kids running through the forest or riding on trains that would run the risk of being mediocre in any other movie, but because of the crazy way they were shot and the music that accompanies them, end up being really amazing. Speaking of the kids in the movie, they’re great. They’re funny, cool, intelligent, and completely believable as whatever character they’re playing. In fact as the movie moves forward in time, you’ll actually miss the kids that play the younger versions of the characters because they are so likable. It’s actually a good thing though as some of the characters are supposed to grow less and less likable as they grow up and get corrupted by the real world and what it has to offer.

I know the plot sounds really simple, and actually a little bit cheesy, and in reality…it is. But I’ve noticed that some of my favorite movies have pretty simple plots, it’s when you start getting those convoluted stories like “The Usual Suspects, or “There Will be Blood” when movies kind of lose the fun aspect and become a little bit like work. I’m not saying that Slumdog is dumbed down or anything, far from it, there is actually a lot of subtle storytelling in the movie that makes it fun to watch. I’m just saying that noticing that subtle stuff is rewarding and you don’t walk out of the theater wondering “what the heck was that ending supposed to mean anyway?”

In the end, the movie is satisfying. Something it seems like is harder and harder to find in movies lately. It’s like they are all banking on some kind of twist at the end of the movie, or some kind of incomprehensible plot that you’ll have to look up on-line later to understand (“Oh, so the rabbit represents Donnie’s future….wait, what?). Slumdog Millionaire just has a cool, classic, old fashioned story, and does an amazing job of telling it. It’s funny, subtle, entertaining, and sad, it covers the gamut. Last but not least; it cleared my reputation as a “chooser of bad movies”—an impressive feat, and possibly the ultimate testament to how good this movie is.

Dec 19, 2008

Friday: I look forward to being a Senior Citizen

Not in a weird way. I’m not really in a rush to get through life. If anything, I’m taking life too slow. That’s just my nature though, to not be in hurry, to react slower than average, to sit back and enjoy watching things happen. Starting to understand why I’m looking forward to being part of the AARP club? Maybe not. Let me give you a few more reasons.

As previously alluded to, there are times that I don’t feel like a young person. It’s not a physical feeling, like my joints are creaky and hearing is going. I guess in an attitudinal way (that’s a real word by the way). I’m not always looking to do something crazy, I’m not a fan of large crowds, and I don’t understand why people are always walking so fast and talking so loud. Older people have already figured this stuff out. They realized that doing something crazy (and I mean crazy bad, not crazy good like spontaneous) usually leads to regrets and consequences. They realized that large crowds are usually full of people of questionable quality, because if they were of high quality it wouldn’t take so much of them to accomplish whatever the goal of the crowd was in the first place. They’ve realized that walking slow allows you to think, talk, and just enjoy things more, especially when done at a reasonable volume. I think they’ve probably realized a bunch of other secrets too, but I think I’ll probably have to wait till I’ve put in my time to learn those.

Senior citizens for some reason also get charged less money for most everything. I don’t really understand this, but I’m not going to argue about it. I’ll take the cheaper movie ticket, or dinner, or car insurance. Especially the car insurance. Which leads to the final reason.

Few personal flaws cannot be easily and acceptably blamed on age. For example, are you a bad driver? Maybe, but if you’re old and a bad driver then you’d just be called mediocre. Impatient? No, you just don’t have that much time left and are understandably not in a mood to deal with incompetence. Stingy? Never, you just came from a different time, when tipping 25 cents was acceptable, and giving a gift or donation of $5 would have made you a shot caller. Smelly? No,….well maybe yea. You’ll probably still get nailed on that one, the benefit of the doubt you get for being old has limits.

So being a senior citizen has tremendous upside. People blame your ugliness inside and out on the age. Things are cheaper. All the tough decisions from your life have already been made. You can just sit back and relax, and maybe if you feel up to it, try and help some young kid put together a life as good as, if not better than yours. So I’m looking forward to it. Like I said, I’m not in a rush to actually get there, but it’s nice to look on down the line and see that after all the craziness of living this life, there might be a couple years of reflection and cheap movie admission.

Dec 18, 2008

Thursday: I miss "My Spot"

Sometimes in my life, it doesn’t seem like it’s enough to just have a quiet time. Mostly because the pursuit of that quiet which is so necessary to fully enrich that time usually will lead me to my bedroom, a park, or a coffee shop. These places are all well and good, and I enjoy all of them to a point, but there’s some times when you have specific, heavy, questions for God, or such a strong longing to just learn from and contemplate the Word that a special spot is needed. The go-to spot, where the rest of the world has trouble reaching you, you need to search for a clock, and there is a vivid reminder of the greatness of my God. This is my spot:

It took me roughly 22 years to find it, mostly because I didn’t realize that this particular need could ever be even partially met on this earth. I had tried other spot’s as I mentioned earlier. I would drive around sometimes looking for that spot, especially at those times when I needed it most. There were a couple reasonable possibilities. There was the park near my house that is always empty but still vivid enough to help you think or my backyard early in the morning or late at night when you can’t hear the noise of traffic. You get the idea. All of these places were nice, but they just weren’t IT.

I finally found IT this summer. There were times over the summer that I would really have trouble focusing on and connecting with God. I still can’t explain it exactly. The feeling of disconnection was more intense then I’d ever felt. Possibly because all the usual context of my times with God were gone. My family wasn’t there, the usual friends weren’t there, and the environment was drastically different. After a couple weeks though, I rode my bike out to the nearby ocean to give having a quiet time out there a shot. The beaches in that area were always quiet and you can just climb up on these large man-made blocks that start right on the oceans edge and actually lead you out over the ocean. Sitting out there, staring at the immensity and just listening to the ocean, regular things that usually gum up my mind kind of disappeared. I could read and pray and seek some answers and at times actually find them. So the rest of that summer whenever we had some downtime, realizing that my time with that spot was short, I would go out there and re-charge and learn.

Now I guess I’m searching for a replacement for that spot. There’s always the possibility I’ll get a chance to revisit the original, but for now a new spot is in order. It’s really weird for me, because I’ve always held the mindset that environments and circumstances aren’t that important. They could just be discounted as either token assistance in my walk or slight hindrances. Now however, I’d have to argue that finding “The Spot” is important. It has the power to enliven your quiet time so much. Here’s hoping my search for the next spot is shorter than the search for the original.

Dec 17, 2008

Wednesday: I hate "Christian" T-shirts

It’s hard to describe how much these shirts bug me.

First of all, I’m not really sure how effective T-shirts are at communicating the idea of Christianity. I mean, sure they could spark a conversation if the shirt is poignant enough. Most times though you just see these shirts worn by Christians in the middle of doing something stupid. Ok, maybe that’s an unfair generalization, but when you see someone wearing these shirts doing something good you don’t remember the shirt, you remember the action. When you see someone wearing this shirt doing something stupid, you remember that shirt and it just confirms all the beliefs you had about ‘how hypocritical those Christians are”. Because like it or not, posting a reminder on your chest about how different you are from them, and then proceeding to inevitably fail at consistently being remarkably different (and it will be inevitable, otherwise there is no need for God’s grace) doesn’t make a great witness.

Also, isn’t there some kind of copyright infringement going on here? Wouldn’t it be horrible as a company that makes Christian products to be dragged into court accused of stealing other people’s ideas for profit? I get it, the slogans or logos or whatever ARE different, but just slightly different. It’s still more than possible for Steve Jobs, or Rupert Murdoch (Apple, and Myspace respectively) to get upset about their brands being used in the same context as religion, and deciding to make things ugly. Why even risk it?

Finally, the shirts seem a bit half-hearted. Like someone wanted to be different, but not too different. Like they wanted to be secret different. If you’re going to be different go for it, make it memorable. Go with the shirt with an unmistakable image on it, or scripture, or anything other than something that basically amounts to lame camouflage for your beliefs.

I think possibly the shirts are really just a symptom of something that bugs me a lot when looking at churches and Christians today. They so badly want to try and integrate the “cool” things into church so that people will feel more comfortable. So they sell shirts that barely announce that the wearer is a Christian, they write books about how to find the Gospel when watching whatever the popular movie of the month is, and they decorate their churches with pictures like this and this. This goes against everything I've learned in business school, but I would suggest that we shouldn’t look to what’s going on in the world for how best to reach people. Because whatever is out in the world has failed them and maybe they finally realized that. They’re looking for something different, something original, the thing that they’ve been missing that explains everything. I just think when they finally get lead to it and it’s dressed up to look like a starbucks cup, well it’s a lot harder to take seriously.

Dec 16, 2008

Tuesday: I would change breakfast

Mornings and I don’t get along. I tell myself it some kind of genetic thing, that I’m pre-disposed to being a “night person”. I haven’t found any genetic studies yet that I can point to for validation, but it’s more pleasant than labeling myself as lazy. Morning really has very few activities to call it’s own, but the most prominent would have to be breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day, and some people even say it sets the tone for the day. I’m not one of those people. To me breakfast is a collection of unusual foods, eaten at what any objective outsider would agree, is an unusual time. Throwing back a plate of unfertilized-baby-chicken-kits after getting out of bed has always felt a little out of place to me. Now, I’m not against breakfast as a whole, just its current incarnation. The foods are too weird to be dealing with while you are still waking up, and the emphasis on the importance of the meal seems a little pompous. Like just because it’s the first meal, somehow it can take credit for more of what’s going to happen in your life that day.

All that being said however there are a lot of things I would hate to see go if we altogether abandoned breakfast. I’m a huge fan of the good people at General Mills, Post, and Kellogg’s. I would miss sitting and having a meal in the quietness of morning while people are still waking up, and you can either just munch and read or just munch and think. Most importantly though, I would just be hungry and have trouble focusing on school or work or whatever I’m supposed to be focusing on that morning. So here are a few changes I would make to the traditional, western view of the topic called breakfast.

Give up the title of most important to Lunch
Breakfast doesn’t really prepare you for the day so much as it really helps you recover from last night. Nobody is pointing at the spinach omelette as the key to their success. Food is food, no matter when you eat it. So breakfast needs to stop pretending like there’s some kind of magic going on with any food consumed before 10:30am (the window of time assigned to breakfast by Ronald Mcdonald and friends). Lunch needs to start getting some of the credit it deserves. Not because the food is better, but the whole idea of lunch has just been utilized better. People meet for lunch, they discuss things over lunch, business happens over lunch, pressure free dating happens over lunch, and lunch provides a needed retreat from being neck deep in work or school. Lunch is obviously the most important meal of the day.

Simplicity is bliss
In the spirit of the title of this paragraph, this will be short. Breakfast should be basically a snack; a yogurt, some cereal, a piece of fruit, whatever. All it really needs to be is a stop gap till lunch. Also all these foods are easy to understand even if you haven’t quite woken up yet. This is key to the successful restructuring of breakfast.

Everything else can return at a reasonable time like 9pm
I’m not against eggs, pancakes, and the rest of the IHOP menu. I just think all that has it has it’s place, and that place is around 9pm. By that time, the brain is awake and can fully appreciate the craziness of the omelette, the deliciousness of the bacon, or the fluffiness of the pancake. (that sentence feels weird to me for some reason). People usually get hungry around this time anyway; it’s the perfect stage for the unusual foods that used be part of “team breakfast”.

So in short, breakfast needs to be humbled. Somewhere along the line, someone spent some time stroking its ego and convincing it that people would lose sleep to enjoy it properly. I haven’t seen that to be true. Unless you’re one of those people who goes to bed at 9pm, wakes up at 5am and need something to fill that time for you. Then possibly I can see you being partial to your lone companion in the morning. But for the everybody else, normal people, I hope you see the logic in my argument for altering this bizarre meal.

Dec 15, 2008

Monday: I Like Christmas Shopping

Like most people, there’s a lot of things I really like about the Christmas season. I enjoy singing Christmas carols in church. I like seeing people in the neighborhood decorate their houses. Watching the old Christmas cartoons and movies that come on all day, everyday, starting right after Thanksgiving never gets old. I like reading through the actual Christmas story with my family or friends to help remind me what the focus of the season should be. Aside from all that stuff though, I also enjoy doing the yearly Christmas shopping.

It’s probably because I have a relatively small list of targeted gift receivers. If I was part of a 12 kid family or something, I probably wouldn't be a huge fan of this particular activity. Also an important distinction probably needs to be made here; I don’t really like normal shopping. I hate going out and buying new clothes, wandering around a mall, or comparing prices trying to beat the retail system. Christmas shopping is different though. It’s about other people. It’s like this game where someone sent you out on a treasure hunt to find something, anything, from this list they gave you. Or if they wanted to be particularly risk taking (or possibly lazy), just sent you out with nothing but vague impressions of what they would like, based on what you’ve learned about them when hanging out together. Like a test to see if you’ve been paying attention the past 11 months. As an introvert who enjoys just sitting back and observing people, it’s weirdly fun to try and profile your friends and family to find a present they might like.

Shopping at Christmas time differs in other ways also. Obviously, the closer you get to Christmas the busier all the stores get, and the more frantic people get as they start to stress out about adequately participating in the festivities of the 25th. As a happy side note of all that craziness, it means that when I actually do head out to knock out the yearly gift purchasing, in spite of the larger, crazier crowds, it’s actually more peaceful. Confused? Let me explain. There’s few things more awkward then sitting in a store, trying to pick out the stuff you need or just looking around all while trying to dodge all the employees that work there. I’m sure they mean well coming over and asking you if you need help every time they see you, but at times it comes off a little like they really just have no confidence that you’ll ever find what you’re looking for and just end up wandering the aisles until the store has to force you out so they can close. All the craziness also saves you having to make too much small talk with the super busy cashier or whoever. And don’t think that the cashier is too broken up missing out on hearing your super interesting holiday plans either. I know first hand that as interesting as those small talks were with customers, time goes much faster when it’s busy and I didn’t have to say anything other then “hey how’s it going, here’s your total, Merry Christmas.” So along with the game aspect of finding that mystery item that makes sense to give your friend or family member, there’s the added bonus of being able to take care of it while getting lost in the crowd, which as I stated earlier can be very peaceful.

There’s a bunch of other cool things about looking for Christmas gifts. There are the awesome decorations going on all over town (I’m kind of a sucker for decorations). There’s the general happy vibe that everyone has knowing that they are going to get to celebrate a holiday soon. For some people there’s also the added bonus of an activity that naturally lends itself to making a list and progressively crossing things off (let’s see…. I got him something, *check*, her something *check*, that family is taken care of *check* etc.), I’m not really into that, but I know a lot of people who are. The best thing though is probably the simplest, the excitement that comes from the knowledge that you are putting effort into making someone else’s life a little better. Even if it is just by giving them a bunch of DVD’s or super plush towels. You experience that feeling of being selfless that comes so infrequently outside of the holiday season. So the base essence of the enjoyment of the wonderful thing that is Christmas shopping is the awesome opportunity it gives you to think of others, what they mean to you, and allows you to show some gratitude and affection in such a simple way.

Dec 12, 2008

Friday: I look forward to Obama taking over

I’m going to write this now while it still sounds like a good idea. So the last 8 years, the republicans have kind of been in control of things. For a while there we (I say we because I’m a republican. I just thought I’d spell that out for those keeping score at home) even had control of the White House, Congress, and the House of Representatives simultaneously. The D.C. trifecta, as people trying to be cool would put it. Honestly I think it went pretty well. Unfortunately we had a couple fringe crazies that somehow snuck in there. There was also the misfortune of being saddled with an unusually tumultuous 8 years (9/11, housing bubble, oil prices, Enron….). Overall however, things never got too out of hand no matter how bad the situation was that our country faced. In the end I believe we’re going to be better off in the long run because of some of the work that was done in these last years.

Having said that however, man it is time to let someone else have a shot, at least for 4 years. I’m not super thrilled that the left wing captured the Cerberus this time around (Cerberus is my new slang for a simultaneous party control of the White house, Senate and House, by the way). People in this country though, had forgotten how crazy the left side can be. It’s a lot like the people of Israel wandering through the desert wanting to go back to Egypt and be slaves again because “they were taken care”. Sure people are taken care of in these situations, but ultimately the people taking care of you never do as good a job as you can by taking care of yourself. So that’s why I’m looking forward to an Obama presidency. Sure he has a few hang-ups, and skeletons in the closet, I’m fairly certain all public servants do. But how much damage can he really do in the limited time he will have as president. In reality the job of president is not the all-powerful decision making, no-questions-asked position that some believe it to be. There are checks and balances (albeit, quite a few less checks with a democrat controlled House and Senate). And of course, there is always the game of bureaucracy that will need to be played that slows down all the potential changes he has on the docket.

Really though, we needed a break. Somewhere along the line we took our eye off the ball (Yes! I got the clichéd sports reference in there) and lost track of our members. We were getting hammered by the media and in the court of public opinion. So I’m relatively glad that we can regroup for a few years, get rid of all the band wagon crazies that slipped in, and get ready to lead again in 4 or possibly 8 years (There’s always the chance he does a good job and everyone thanks him with a 2nd term, I'm a realist.). So prepare yourself for all the scrutiny to fall on the democrats again, it was more than entertaining last time, at times it was mind numbingly scary, but again be thankful and look forward to this opportunity to finally get a break from being the universal scapegoat. It will give the people a chance to clarify those memories they had of “the good old days, when Billy C was in charge” and I think we might all be better off with this reminder.

Dec 11, 2008

Thursday: I miss Choose Your own Adventure books

Remember these books? I do, they were like videogames for middle-class kids. Especially if you got them from the library, which was pretty much the only place I knew of that carried books until I was about 12 years old (seriously I didn’t know they actually sold these things in stores). All these books always had the best plots too; there was the book where you got captured by huge ant alien people, The book where you became a world class bicyclist due to some amazing device that a dying professor gave you (or as I like to call it "The Floyd Landis Story"), the book where you search for treasure a deep sea diver, the book where you’re in a band and 2 of your members get kidnapped an you have to go find them, and so many others. Ahh yes, good times.

Also I remember that on the back of the book s they always had that banner that proclaimed how many possible endings to the story there were, most had somewhere around 18 but if you could find one with 30 possible endings, you knew that book was going to be special. Only you really didn’t completely think it through, because all those endings meant you basically died, or failed within the first 5 pages every time. So you’re sitting there trying to keep bookmarks with your fingers on the previous decisions so when you inevitably die you can go back to that last decision and change your mind and find out if possibly the story could have been a whole lot better if you’d chosen differently. The answer was always the same… “no, not really”. See, for all the options that the books offered, the endings were always, always terrible. There was a huge buildup lasting maybe 15 pages and 5 harowing decisions and then you decide to follow that secret agent into the corridor instead of reporting back to HQ like you should and BLAM!, that was it.

I think the thing I miss most about them was simplicity of the book. It presented you with a crazy story, but then unlike every other boring one-tracked book you’d ever read, it suddenly gave you a chance to change something. It gave you some power over the story, it got you involved. Like I alluded to earlier, it was like the great granddaddy of the gameboy, or I guess at this point the DS,or PSP. And sometimes the simplicity and charm of things like books that give you options about the main characters fate, just can never be matched.