Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Dear Stupid, Wonderful Cat...

Dear Stupid, Wonderful Cat,

I love you dearly, but if tonight is anything like last night, I may be forced to strangle you with my bare hands.

You're fourteen years old. You've been around long enough to know that waking us up at 2:30 in the morning with repeated meowing may be effective at getting our attention, but is not the best way to endear yourself to your parents.

If you didn't get the hint the first five times I yelled at you -- "FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT'S HOLY, FREDERICK EYNSFORD HILL-CAT, WILL YOU PLEASE SHUT UP!" -- I really, really, REALLY wanted you to stop talking. But did you? No, you didn't.

How many times have we told you this before? There are only three valid reasons for waking us up in the middle of the night:

1)  There is an intruder in the house who is stealing all our stuff, and possibly intends to harm us.

2)  The house is on fire, and we are in imminent danger of asphyxiation from smoke inhalation.

3)  The Publisher's Clearing House Prize Patrol is at the door, waiting to award us with a ginormous check, which will allow us to retire early and travel the world.

Any other reason for waking us up at that ungodly hour is unacceptable, and will be responded to with unmitigated fury at worst, or severe annoyance at best.

Being lonely is not a valid excuse. Wanting to be petted is not a valid excuse. Being bored and seeking adventure in other parts of the house which we are occupying -- also not a valid excuse.

Do not be confused by the ultimate result of your plaintive pleas. You will not always be lucky enough to convince your mama to let you in so that you will shut the heck up. This was a one-time-only occurrence, not a new precedent we have set.

You have good hearing, I know you do. If you come to our door and hear snoring -- and you will, as both of your parents have recurring sinus problems -- this is not an acceptable time to announce your intentions to visit us.

I love you dearly, and in general, enjoy your company quite a lot. You are adorably cute, your meow -- known by most of your family members as a merp -- is really first-rate, and I miss you when you're not around. But not in the middle of the night. Never then.

Remember this, as in so doing, you may save your own life.

I love you dearly, but this has got to stop. Immediately. Or else.

Your Dad

Monday, January 30, 2012

Things I Find Fascinating: Chopped Liver And Other Food Clichés

Most of us, whether we're aware of it or not, use a plethora of oddball clichés on an everyday basis. But do we really know what they mean? Of course, we know what we mean by them, but do we really know where these phrases and sayings come from? Probably not, in most cases. Do we really care? Probably not, in most cases. But I care. At least enough to write a blog post about it. Today's focus is on food-related clichés. Some are widely in use, and some you don't hear quite as often as you used to in the past. But here they are nonetheless:

1)  A Dollar To A Donut – Have you ever heard or perhaps uttered the phrase "I'll bet you a dollar to a donut that..." What the heck does that mean? Well, according to Wikipedia.org, "Dollars to Donuts is a faux bet in which one person agrees to put up the same amount of dollars to another person's donuts in a bet (where a donut is considered to be worth much less than a dollar). Betting someone dollars to donuts is a rhetorical device that indicates that the person is confident in the outcome of an event; [however], it does not usually involve an actual bet with actual payoffs (either in dollars or in donuts)."

Well, that explains it much better than I ever could. But why donuts? Not really sure. Previous versions of the cliché include "dollars to buttons" and "dollars to dumplings." Apparently, someone tried to change it to "dollars to cobwebs" at some point, but that didn't really catch on too well. These days, a donut is probably worth a dollar or more, depending on where you buy it. Shoot, these days even a dollar isn't worth a dollar anymore. Maybe the phrase should be changed to "I'll bet you a dollar to a dollar..."

2)   Happy As A Clam – This one is a tad confusing. How can a clam be happy? It's a clam. It doesn't really have feelings, and if it did, why would be it happy? Its primary purpose in life is to be killed and eaten by humans and other carnivorous creatures. Now, when I'm eating fried clam strips at a seafood restaurant, I'm usually feeling pretty happy (unless they're overcooked and taste rubbery). But I'm fairly certain that the clam isn't too happy about being eaten. So where does this come from?

Well, apparently the phrase is a truncated version of the saying "happy as a clam at high tide". The thought behind this is that at high tide the clam is not only buried beneath the sand, but is also beneath the water. Therefore, it's harder for the clam to be dug up and eaten at high tide, and thus the clam is perceived to be "happy". Makes perfect sense when you think about it. Just don't think about it too hard. Because clams don't have feelings. They may be disappointed when they are dug up and may halfheartedly try to escape (rarely successfully), but that's instinct, not feelings.

3)  Are You Chicken? – This phrase is often used tauntingly to question the degree of another person's fear or apprehension. The origin of the word "chicken" to mean "afraid" is unclear. Some think it reflects the skittish nature of chickens in general. If you run toward a chicken, it will likely be unsure what to do, perceive you as a threat, and run quickly in the opposite direction. Whether this is actual fear or merely survival instinct is irrelevant – the chicken appears to be afraid of you and acts accordingly.

Another theory concerning the origin of the synonymy of chickens and cowardice is the story of "Chicken Little" from the popular children's book series. Chicken Little ran around proclaiming that "the sky is falling! the sky is falling!" because of one seemingly insignificant event involving a falling acorn.

Whichever origin is correct, if the question "Are you chicken?" is ever posed to you, the answer you would hopefully give in reply is "no". Unless you really are chicken. To which, if I may respectfully add, "Bock! Bock! Bock!"

There are lots of other great chicken clichés I could have used here, including "running around like a chicken with its head cut off" (which as we've seen before can be quite interesting and lucrative if handled improperly), "don't count your chickens before they're hatched", and "waking up with the chickens". But I had to pick just one, so there you go.

4)  Take (It) With A Grain Of Salt – This oft-used phrase means to cautiously accept what someone is telling you, while maintaining a degree of skepticism about its truth. The origin for this phrase, which goes quite a ways back, is best described by the historian Pliny, in his Naturalis Historia (ca. 77 A.D.):

"After the defeat of that mighty monarch, Mithridates, Gnaeus Pompeius found in his private cabinet a recipe for an antidote in his own handwriting; it was to the following effect: 'Take two dried walnuts, two figs, and twenty leaves of rue; pound them all together, with the addition of a grain of salt; if a person takes this mixture fasting, he will be proof against all poisons for that day.'"

The suggestion here is that potentially harmful effects can be tempered by the taking of a grain of salt. It doesn't discount the fact that what's being taken – or in the case of suspect advice, what's being told to you – could still harm you, but that the taking of the grain of salt, whether literally or figuratively, will make the inevitable outcome more bearable. In the case of the potentially untruthful, unhelpful, or unsafe advice, "taking it with a grain of salt" lessens the chances of its harming you by your less-than-complete acceptance of it. If that makes any sense at all. Hopefully, it does. And now, to me at least, so does the phrase. 

5)  Life Is Just A Bowl Of Cherries – This curious phrase is often used to denote that things are going smoothly, life is great, and all is right with the world. But why cherries? Well, apparently, the phrase "the berries", which would conceivably include cherries, meant either something that was great, or referred to one's wealth. If you had "the berries" or perhaps if your life was "the berries," you had it made in the shade with a spade and some jade. You were "the tops", so to speak. The actual phrase "Life is just a bowl of cherries" came from a song of the same title, the chorus of which went like this: "Life is just a bowl of cherries / Don't take it serious / Life's too mysterious / You work, you save, you worry so / But you can't take your dough when you go, go, go..."  All in all, very wise words for living.

But what if you, like me, don't particularly care for cherries? If "life is just a bowl of cherries" for me, then life is useless, and undesirable, and likely to be wasted. So I guess for folks like me, the phrase can be altered to include a bowl of whatever would signify the good life to me, or to you, specifically. I think I'll go with: "Life is just a bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream." 

6)  Bringing Home The Bacon – This humorous phrase (I can't say it with a straight face) means, as you probably already know, to earn money, in particularly for one's family. It generally implies that the amount of money one is earning is not only sufficient to meet one's needs, but is more than enough for one to consider themselves wealthy. But why bacon?

The most common theory as to where the phrase originated is from the story of the Dunmow Flitch (um...Gesundheit?). Reading about it and even regurgitating the story behind it word-for-word is not only confusing, but rather boring. Basically, back in 1104 in Essex, England, this married couple somehow so impressed the Prior of Little Dunmow with their marital devotion (I don't think I really want to know how they went about doing that), that the Prior decided to award them a flitch (or side) of bacon as a result. Now, every four years the people in Great Dunmow, in Essex, do some kind of ritual demonstrating their marital devotion (again, TMI, don't wanna know), and are rewarded with bacon.

While I may never "bring home the bacon" sufficiently to be called wealthy, I would like to make it publicly known here and now and for all time that I love my wife dearly, devotedly, and delightfully, and anyone who wants to give me some bacon because of that fact is certainly welcome to do so. 

7)  In A Pickle – This also-hilarious phrase, is used to denote that someone is a difficult position, or a quandary, if you will. But what the heck? You can't fit inside a pickle, I don't care how skinny you are! So, where did this saying come from?

Well, apparently the earliest pickles were spicy sauces made to accompany meat dishes. The word "pickle" was later used to describe a mixture of spiced, salted vinegar that was used as a preservative for foods.

Later on, some really twisted writers (an oxymoron, of course) made up some fanciful stories – cautionary tales, really – about living people being added to the mixture of spices and sauces, either by accident, or intentionally as punishment for their misdeeds. If you were unfortunate enough to be purposefully or mistakenly added to the pickle sauce, you were said to be "in a pickle". Which would certainly qualify as being in a quandary, as no one in his or her right mind desires to be pickled and later consumed. That's just crazy talk! 

8)  Cut The Cheese – Yes, I'm going there. As most of you know (especially the more juvenile-minded like myself), to "cut the cheese" means to break wind – or to put it more crassly, to fart. But where did this most unusual of phrases originate?

Who exactly came up with the phrase is a seemingly unanswerable question. But when is a little clearer. First off, the word "cut" by itself has been used as a euphemism for breaking wind since the late 1800's. In polite company, one might say that they had "cut their finger", but what they really meant is that they had farted. Some sources from the same time period suggest that the phrase "cut no cheese" was used contemporaneously with "cut" by itself. However, the saying "cut no cheese" was used to describe something of no weight or value. Similar to how we might now say that something "doesn't pass muster," they would say back then that it "cut no cheese."

Ultimately, the association of cutting cheese with breaking wind is believed to derive from the fact that certain cheeses, while inherently stinky in and of themselves, instantly smell worse, or stinkier, once the cheese is cut. The sudden whiff of stinkiness that emits from a cut cheese far exceeds the stinkiness of the uncut cheese. I don't think I need to draw a correlation here between the two. You get it. 'Nuff said.

9)  Don't Cry Over Spilled Milk – Well, the meaning of this one is probably self-explanatory, but just in case it isn't, here's how Wikipedia describes it: "It is no use worrying about unfortunate events which have already happened and which cannot be changed." But why do we say it? A multiplicity of wildly varying theories abound.

One story says the phrase sprang from fairy lore, in which people would pour cold, creamy milk onto the ground outside their houses to attract fairies to come there; or alternately, they would surround their homes with "spilled milk" to appease the resident sprites, as a sort of shrine, so to speak.

Another theory says that the phrase originated during the Great Depression, when the price of milk as a commodity had fallen so low due to its overabundance relative to demand, that dairy farmers were subsidized by the state to destroy their surplus in order to bring prices back up to a profitable level.

The common sense theory, which I tend to like the best, is that it's utterly pointless to get upset about having spilled your milk. Yes it's wasteful, and yes it's going to be a pain to clean up. But you've already spilled it. So clean it up already! And move on. Life's too short to get upset by stupid stuff like squandered dairy products. 

10)  What Am I, Chopped Liver? – Why is it that, when feeling left out or disrespected by others, we so often utter this oddball question? Of course, it's rhetorical – no one is, in fact, chopped liver. So what do we mean by this saying?

Chopped liver is a traditional Jewish dish, consisting of cooked chicken livers that are chopped (or ground) and seasoned. While chopped liver is sometimes used as a sandwich filling, it is most often served as a side dish, and is never the main dish. Therefore, for someone to say that they feel akin to chopped liver is to equate themselves as less important and more expendable in the eyes of the person by whom they feel disrespected.

Most folks I know don't eat a lot of chopped liver. I don't either. Wouldn't touch the stuff. I don't even want any unchopped liver. But I can easily recognize that there are plenty of side dishes that are perfectly fine in and of themselves, yet will never be the star on the plate.

Since I don't do liver, the next time I feel slighted in some way, or I feel as though I am being treated as second-rate, I am going to personalize this cliché and pose the question: "What am I, steamed asparagus?" I just hope whomever I'm saying this to understands that I mean the question to be rhetorical.

(Sources: www.wikipedia.org, www.phrases.org.uk, Wiki Answers, and various other places on the wonderful World Wide Web.)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

When Suzy Met Danny: The Suzy & Danny Saga Begins

Suzy Sunshine was a happy child. She had two parents who loved her, and three wonderful brothers who never mistreated her or caused her a moment's grief.

At school, Suzy had many friends -- the guys admired her, but did not fawn over her; the girls enjoyed her company, but did not envy her. Her teachers loved her, because she always paid attention in class, always put forth her best effort, and always earned good grades. Her intelligence was superior to most, though she never flaunted the fact.

Good fortune followed Suzy into adulthood. After high school, she attended a premier university on a full academic scholarship, and graduated magna cum laude in only three and a half years. Upon graduating, she immediately secured a well-paying job in her chosen field, and began her sure-to-be-brilliant career.

Indeed, Suzy Sunshine had the world on a string, and was often known to sit on rainbows (when unicorns were unavailable).


Danny Danger was from The Wrong Side Of The Tracks, a place where everybody, including the cops and their mothers, had a criminal record; a place where the population dwindled a little more each day, starting when the sun went down. Danny had a mother who barely acknowledged his existence (only when she was aware of her own, which wasn't often) and a long string of stepfathers, only one of which (the 12th stepdad, he thought) was worth getting to know. And that one had died under mysterious circumstances, while bathing with the toaster.

Danny started drinking the year after he took up smoking. He wasn't sure exactly how old he was at the time, but it was probably the year he started kindergarten. The past was a little hazy. Probably from all the drugs he took in middle school. He quit school as soon as he turned sixteen -- he was in seventh grade at the time. There wasn't much point in continuing anyway -- he'd already broken every rule in the book and set the record for most suspensions in a single school year. What else was there left to shoot for?

When school was a thing of the past, Danny moved on to bigger and better things. That is to say, crime. He would try anything once, and often did at least twice. Grand larceny, driving while impaired, cat burglary, vandalism, jaywalking -- you name it, he'd done it, and enjoyed every minute of it. Danny was bad news and he knew it -- if you couldn't tell it by looking in his eyes, you could look about a foot and a half below them and read his shirt, which stated simply, "I'M BAD NEWS!"

Indeed, Danny Danger was trouble of the highest order, and was often known to beat dead horses (when dead unicorns were unavailable).


One fine day in the merry, merry month of May, Suzy Sunshine was walking in the park, enjoying the brilliant sunlight peeking through the trees, feeling the breeze whip her long, lustrous hair in a halo about her head, and humming a happy tune about bunny rabbits.

Danny Danger was cutting through a narrow path in the trees, swiftly and without any unnecessary sounds, so as not to give away his position. He knew that the surprisingly agile, middle-aged woman whose purse and Volvo he had stolen would be gaining on him, and Danny wasn't particularly in the mood to return to prison today. He had only been out a couple of days, and freedom was nice, though a guy still had to make a living and get around town somehow.

As Danny reached the clearing he had been rapidly approaching, he hadn't seen Suzy skipping toward him from the opposite direction. By the time he saw her, it was too late to avoid the collision. They ran headlong into each other, skull cracking uncomfortably against skull, before both collapsing in a conjoined heap of tattooed arms (his), smooth legs (hers), and designer handbags (both), and sinking into mutual unconsciousness.

To Be Continued...

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Must Be The Weekend

I can't think of anything to write about. I have some ideas but I don't feel like putting in the effort to prepare them. I have better things to do, like nothing at all. Must be the weekend.

Pardon my stream of consciousness. Thoughts rolling around my head without rhyme or reason. Maybe I could write about...no, that's boring. Or what about...no, I've done that before.

Updates! Nobody wants to read them, but at least I'm saying something. Which is slightly better than saying nothing.

Went to the gym today. That's 12 times in the last 3 weeks alone. Not alone -- Mary's been going too, every time in fact. Alone, as in merely. In merely 3 weeks, 12 trips. That's pretty good, I think. Lifted a total of 12,000 pounds today. That's probably approximately two of some large wild animal, but I don't feel like looking it up. Let's see, if last week's total (13,600 lbs.) was two White Rhinoceroses, then this week could be two White Rhinoceroses if one of them is on a diet.

Speaking of diets, I'm still on one myself. At last check, I was down 12 pounds on the year. Only 50 more to go! Slowly but surely. Hopefully. Tonight, though, fish sticks and French fries. Happy "cheating"! Must be the weekend.

Still reading War And Peace while working out at the gym. Have gotten 11% of the way through it so far. Would have gotten farther, but I'm also reading an autobiography of David "Big Papi" Ortiz (baseball player); a true crime book about the Green River Killer; a young adult book about a teenage princess and her talking tiara; a British adventure/thriller novel; and also, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. What can I say, I can't stay focused on any one book at a time for too long.

I can't think of anything else to say. At least this was short. And so is the weekend. So that's it. Yeah, I know. Sorry.

Friday, January 27, 2012

If You Like...Then You Might Like...

Music is a funny thing. It can get you going or mellow you out. It can even change your mood. For some people, like me, it can also inspire you.

Therefore, it's important to be careful what kind of music you allow to be a part of your life. I have to admit, I'm not always careful enough. I have tons and tons of good, positive music. And I have some not-so-positive music. I listen to plenty of good, God-honoring Christian music. And sometimes I don't.

Don't get me wrong – I'm not saying that I listen to complete rubbish, although I easily could. But sometimes I feel like listening to music by so-called "secular" artists, and I do. I'm not here to condone or condemn any music that's not Christian. I'm just being honest, which is sort of the point.

That being said, I do recognize that I am more likely to be in a better frame of mind and more at peace in my soul when I'm listening to music that speaks to my soul.

I don't know who's reading this right now.

Maybe you're older, and when you hear bits and pieces of "modern" music, whatever the style, you simply roll your eyes, hit the "Seek" button on the radio, or the "Channel" button on your TV, because it holds no interest for you whatsoever. It all sounds like a bunch of noise, you think.

Maybe you're younger, a teenager perhaps, and you hear today's popular music on a regular basis – whether you own it and play it on your mp3 player, or you hear it at your friends' house, or watch music videos on TV, or whatever. Maybe you like some of this music, even though you know the lyrics, or the content of the videos, or the artists themselves are questionable, if not downright immoral. Maybe you don't care if it's "bad" or not.

Maybe you're the parent of teenagers, or even younger children, and you're concerned about the negative influences that some of today's music is having, or will potentially have on your child's life. Maybe you know they're listening to it, and you think: What harm could it do, it's just music, right? Maybe they're listening to it when you're not around, and it's affecting the way they think, feel, or behave.

Maybe you're of the belief that only one kind of music is any good, and that's Christian music. And only one kind of Christian music is good, and that's Southern gospel, or hymns, or Christian contemporary music, or you-fill-in-the-blank. You're entitled to that opinion, of course, and maybe you're right. Or maybe you just don't realize that there are good, Godly alternatives to today's "secular" music because you've never been exposed to them, or because you've summarily dismissed them as "copycats" of worldly music.

Whichever category best fits you as you're reading this, I hope you will listen to the songs in the video links below, and will do so with an open mind. If you're the "anything-that-ain't-a-hymn-is-sinful" person, maybe these will convince you otherwise (or maybe not). If you're a parent, perhaps you'll find something here that your child may enjoy that will edify them and enrich their lives. If you're a teenager, and you think that no kind of Christian music could EVER be as good as what you're listening to now, maybe you'll be surprised at what you hear. If you're older, and it's all just noise to you, maybe these will just prove what you already believed (or maybe they won't).

I picked these songs in particular for their strong lyrical content, their superior music quality, and for the artists themselves, all of whom I would consider good role models for Christian young people today. You might disagree on one or all of these points for the songs below. But I sincerely hope that you will at least give them a chance.

1)  Flame ~ "Move"  –  So, maybe you or your kid likes the crazy-sounding, hip-hop ramblings of rapper Lil Wayne, although I'm not really sure why anyone likes him. Here's a healthy alternative that doesn't have to be bleeped every five seconds for curse words. It doesn't have to be bleeped at all, in fact. However, it is very explicit in its message about obedience to God, no matter the consequences. Listen as Flame implores you: "Hey, here's an idea / Why don't you go and forgive? / Why don't you go and repent? / Turn from your sin and enlist / Yes, I know it's hard, though / Plus, I understand it / But Jesus said, 'If you love Me, then you'll keep My commandments..."

2)  PRo feat. Andy Mineo ~ "In His Image" – Maybe you (or they) prefer the adept but foul-mouthed lyricism of Eminem or Kanye West. Well, you won't find any foul language here, but you will find plenty of truth. Listen as PRo and his pal Andy Mineo tell us:  "The simple fact that Creation is so creative / Is an exclamation point to this statement / It's amazing, so amazing / If you got low self-esteem, well, this should change that / There's traces of divinity up in your frame, fam / So love God, love people, and thoroughly hate sin..."

3)  Sir-Viva & Result ~ "Lost In Love" – I don't really have a comparative artist for this duo, but I do love listening to their music. Their recent album, "Heart Condition", from which this song originates, presents a clear picture of the sickness of our hearts before and up until we come to a saving knowledge of Christ. This song demonstrates the principles about Godly love from I Corinthians 13 more clearly than I have heard in any other song. Straight out of Scripture, they proclaim: "Love bears all things / Love believes all things / Love hopes all things / Love endures all things / Let's get lost in love..." I'll warn you, that chorus will get stuck in your head for awhile. But there are lots worse things to get stuck in your head, I suppose.

4)  Lecrae feat. Andy Mineo ~ "Background" – Lecrae is, by far, one of the most popular and successful Christian rappers out there right now. It's his accessibility – you don't necessarily have to like rap to enjoy his music – and his blatantly Christian lyrics, as well as his unashamed lifestyle that seem to set him apart from the rest. In this, one of Lecrae's best songs, he talks to God openly and honestly: "I had a dream that I was captain of my soul / I was master of my fate – lost control and then I sank / So I don't want to take the lead, 'cause I'm prone to make mistakes / All these folks who follow me [are] gonna end up in the wrong place / So let me shadow You, let me trace Your lines / Matter of fact, just take my pen – here, You create my rhymes..."

OK, so maybe you (or they) aren't into hip-hop or rap at all. That's cool; that's perfectly understandable. Maybe you (or they) prefer pop stars like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Ke$ha, Beyonce, or Rihanna. While these ladies are all very accomplished in what they do, none of them are what most would consider a good "role model". But here are a few ladies who are:

5)  V. Rose ~ "Not So Average" – This young lady knows that image isn't everything, and isn't ashamed to put herself on the back burner in order to glorify her King. She sings: "The only way to shine like a star / Is to realize whose you are / You were created to go far / It really doesn't matter what you look like / If you have Jesus on the inside / He's everything that you need in your life..."

6)  Beckah Shae ~ "#putyourloveglasseson" – Beckah Shae excels at producing catchy, upbeat songs that you could dance to (if you were so inclined), very much in the vein of Lady Gaga, minus all the blatant sexual references and imagery. Admittedly, there's not quite as much substance to the lyrics of this song as some of the others here, but the message is positive and it's clear. "Keep truth seeking, listen to wisdom speaking, catch His heartbeat, and see the world through God's eyes!"

7)  Britt Nicole ~ "The Lost Get Found" – Here's another young artist who's unashamed about her faith. Her music is light and poppy, but always grounded in truth. She implores the listener to: "Don't let your lights go down / Don't let your fire burn out / Somewhere, somebody needs a reason to believe / Why don't you rise up now? / Don't be afraid to stand out / That's how the lost get found..."

8)  Kerrie Roberts – "Outcast" – Christian young people who aren't afraid to take a stand for their faith will often face ridicule, bullying, or even be ostracized in some settings because of it. This song encourages them (and you) to be okay with not being like everybody else. Comparable in style to an artist like Katy Perry, Kerrie boldly proclaims here: "I'm not good enough, I'm not what they want / But let me tell you what, I know who I am / So just throw me out for not fitting in / I will stand my ground and be an outcast!"

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Things I Find Fascinating: Online Ads For Christian Dating Websites

Every so often, I'll hear a word or phrase of slang that I'm not familiar with. Thankfully – or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it – there's a useful website to look up these slang words and phrases. I don't by any means advocate the site (urbandictionary.com) as a whole, since it is user-generated and contains more than a few unsavory words and phrases and (like a dictionary) uses an example of the term in a sentence for context, some of which can get quite lewd (unlike a dictionary).

But anyway, I was looking up a perfectly innocent colloquialism – I don't remember what it was exactly – when I stumbled across an ad for the online dating site, ChristianMingle.com. I had seen the ad before, and rolled my eyes at the ludicrousness of it all. But upon seeing it again today, it got me thinking. If this one website is using ads like this to "reel in" lonely Christian singles, what other kinds of ads might be out there?

While I didn't actually visit any of these dating sites – after all, I am a happily married man – I was able to Google my way to locating a few more of these suspect web ads. Here are a few examples of what I found.

DISCLAIMER:  I have a lot more commentary for these in my brain than I will put in print here. Most of them speak for themselves, so I'll reserve judgment. But just know in my mind, I'm not reserving judgment. I'm judging pretty harshly actually. Also, this post is not intended to bash Christian dating websites as a whole. I'm sure there are some truly good ones out there that go about it all the right way. And I do have friends and family who have used sites like these and met their spouses. So I'm not hating on the sites so much as I am their marketing campaigns.

1)  40PlusChristians.com:

This site, from what I can gather, is geared toward Christians aged 40 and older. So why'd they pick models in their late-twenties or early-thirties for their ad? Who knows? They advertise their site as a place to meet "quality singles". Which makes me wonder: Are they inspected by the USDA during the screening process? Are they categorized as "Grade A" if they meet all the specifications? They boast that their members are "intelligent, attractive professionals". So, if you're not that bright but you're lonely – too bad! If you're a little ugly but you're lonely – tough luck! If you just got laid off and you're looking for work whenever you're not online looking for love – sorry, try again! Only "intelligent, attractive professionals" need apply.

2)  True.com:

OK, so check out that last line again: "We screen for: married, felons, & atheists". Well, it is a Christian website, so you can't blame 'em for excluding atheists. Since the point of the site is to connect singles, it makes sense to screen out the already-married folks. Of course, not many people would want to knowingly date a felon, but let's say their crime was years ago, maybe even before they became a Christian. They've repented of their sin, it's completely in their past. So, now they're not allowed to date because of it? They're denied future happiness because of past mistakes, True.com? Unforgiveness much? Incidentally, I wonder if they've ever caught any wanted felons in their screenings. If you believe any of those "Dumbest Criminals" TV shows, it might not be too hard to fathom a wanted criminal registering on an online dating site.

3) Meet-Christians.com:

This is the site for Christian guy who really wants to date Paris Hilton, but would prefer that she were a little more Christian. Let's see: Bleached-blonde hair, a little too much makeup, puckered-up "kiss me" lips, looks kinda drunk – yeah, that's about right.

4) RealChristianMatching.com:

Nothing overtly off with this ad, other than the wonky syntax."Like-minded Christians that are also single!" Wouldn't it read SO much better if they just said: "Like-minded Christian singles"? But that's just the hypersensitive grammarian in me rearing its ugly head again.

5)  BigChurch.com:

There's nothing really wrong with this ad, either, it's just a weird name for the site. Growing up, I always thought of "Big Church" as where you go when you're too old for Junior Church. My childhood church didn't have a youth program to speak of, so that was how it worked. Apparently, "Big Church" is now where you go for a "Christian relationship".

6) TogetherChristian.com:

I'm shaking my head on this one, because I can't figure out what it is they're really "selling" here: Is it "true love through matchmaking", or white tank tops, or the girl wearing the tank top? It's just a little unsettling to me. That's all I'll say about this one.

7)  Unknown Site:

Well, allrighty then! I guess if you're a flaming eyebrow/goth makeup/tongue stud kinda guy or girl, then this is the perfect Christian dating site for you! Gotta love how they completely took the Biblical reference out of context. The mixed-up theology throughout the ad is just mind-boggling.

8)  Christian Mingle.com:

OK, so this site was by far the biggest "offender". I can't get inside the minds of these marketing people, so I'll just let the ads do the talking, with minimal commentary. At least I'll try to keep it minimal...

These two look like they're about to suck face while enthralled in a passionate embrace. I'm betting they're not planning on "waiting till marriage" judging by this picture.

Buxom female in low-cut tank top and cowgirl hat with a "come-hither" look in her eyes. Yeah, that just screams "take me to church", doesn't it? But, just to remind you that this is a Christian website, please note the "Jesus Christ is Lord" slogan at the top of the ad.

This blonde "beauty" looks like she might be more likely to be found on a street corner than a Sunday school class. Do they seriously think that this is the kind of girl that most Christian guys are looking for? Um, not really. And again with the "Jesus Christ Is Lord" banner. Really, people!

The first girl looks like she's seen better days. Showing every bit of thigh she has, wearing a low-cut top, and looking more than a little stoned. "Looking for Christian girls like her?" Again - um, not really. The other girl is about to bust out of her blouse, and looks like she might belong on an entirely different kind of website altogether. Just saying.

9)  PerfectMatch.com:

I think this one kinda speaks for itself. "Taking it slow" or "one step at a time" are apparently not the ultimate goal here. The goal is to "get loving"!

10)  ChristianCafe.com:

So, apparently this guy (or this lady) found the love of their life, but if they had seen you first, "Oh boy!" how things would have been different! Where were you when he (or she) was looking? Apparently, you weren't on ChristianCafe.com. But...you know...if things don't work out between these two...you might still have a chance. Lucky you!


Not to be outdone in the realm of – for lack of a better term – "religious dating websites", the Jewish and Muslim communities also have their own sites, as seen below:

That's good to know. Because, from what I hear, Jewish dating had become so difficult here lately.

The "matrimonial site" for shy Muslims. Marriage proposals by e-mail? Now that's what's up! Who you calling old-fashioned?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sink Or Swim

True confession:  I don't swim too well. I know how. I try hard. But I sink every time. Either that, or I swim crooked.

I'm fine as long as I can hold on to the side of the pool – if I'm in a pool, that is. But when I attempt to swim across the pool – from the shallow side, across the deep end, to the other shallow side – I had better make it all the way, because if I stop anywhere in the middle, I'm going to sink.

I'm not really sure why this is the case. Because I'm bottom-heavy, perhaps? Maybe I have no natural buoyancy. Maybe I'm a freak of nature. I don't know.

I can't swim straight, either. The truth of the matter is that I swim in semi-circles. Maybe sometimes in the figure of a question mark. Never an exclamation point. I don't know why that is. I try to go forward. That's both the goal and the intention. But I always end up halfway back where I started. It's kind of hilarious to watch, at least from what I'm told.

When it came time for me to take the swim test in college – often (if not always) a requirement to graduate – I couldn't even attempt it. I had to take an elective health class which basically ended up being Remedial Swimming. I had to relearn everything I'd been taught about swimming when I was a kid.

And still I sank. And I still couldn't swim straight. I really did give it my best effort, but my body simply didn't cooperate. I passed Remedial Swimming, but I'm not sure I ever did pass that swim test. Maybe they felt sorry for me. Maybe I did enough halfway-across-the-pool laps that I reached the required number of full laps. Maybe they just got tired of seeing me fail and moved me along.

I don't care, really. It's slightly embarrassing, and would become quite an inconvenience if I was ever on a boat that capsized and there were no life preservers. But it is what it is. I'm not a swimmer.

I could make some profound point here, about how trying and trying but always failing is a metaphor for life. Or I could use this analogy to demonstrate that it's okay not to be able to do something, as long as you give it your best. But that's just trite nonsense. There's no deeper meaning here. I just can't swim. That's all there is to say.

WAR AND PEACE UPDATE:  I've done it. I've finally reached 10% of the book, which means I'm around Location 2900 on the Kindle, or page 98 of the printed version. I'm right at the beginning of Book Two (there are sixteen Books, or parts, that comprise the novel). This is almost where I gave up before. I'm not giving up this time. What's more, I don't even want to!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Everyday Lies

As shameful as it is to admit, I lie every day. Most of the time, I don't even think about it. Sometimes, I know that what I'm saying isn't entirely honest, but I'm saying it to be kind. Sometimes, I'm fully aware of my deception.

Before you cast stones, please understand that I'm not talking about earth-shattering, world-changing lies. I recognize that the severity of the lie doesn't make it any more or less a lie. No more than the severity of any other sin makes it any more or less a sin.

My intention here is to discuss the "everyday lies" that we may tend to gloss over, because we often don't perceive them to be what they really are – less than truthful. Yes, I said "we" – because, chances are, many of you are probably guilty of one or more of these on a regular basis yourselves.

So, here they are – the ones I could think of at least. So that it doesn't appear that I'm pointing fingers at anyone other than myself, I'll word my explanations from my own perspective. But I'm betting most of us are in the same boat on a few, if not all, of these.

1)  "I'm fine."  How easy it is to say "I'm fine", when the question is posed, especially in passing. I may be having the worst day of my life, or I may feel awful, or I may not even feel anything. But the question, from a friend or family member, or possibly a stranger seems to come so easily – "How are you doing?" – and the answer comes just as easily: "I'm fine." Maybe I'm saying it out of consideration for the other person's valuable time. I can see that they're just being polite – they don't actually care how I'm doing. They may not even know who I am. Why should I waste their time, or impose upon their politeness by replying, "Well, I think I'm having a nervous breakdown," or "My right foot hurts – I think my athlete's foot is flaring up again", or perhaps, "I really don't feel like talking to you, Total Stranger, but thank you for inquiring about the state of my well-being." But instead I say, "I'm fine."

2)  "It's nothing."  How often are simple arguments/discussions/ disagreements prolonged by the simple statement, "It's nothing"? I've often said it myself, usually when I don't feel like fighting with someone. Or I deem whatever the "nothing" is to be less important the energy I will expend in dealing with it, whether verbally, physically, or otherwise. "It's nothing" is probably one of the most transparent lies I will ever tell. Because if I'm visibly upset enough that you are asking me the question "What's wrong?", then it's obvious that "something" is bothering me, and it's not "nothing". Maybe the problem is an embarrassing one that I don't want to talk about. Or, like the previous scenario, I don't know the person who's asking me the question, and I figure it's none of their business anyway. Or maybe I feel like the "something" is "nothing" in comparison to other, more important "somethings" – like the War On Terror, for instance, or perhaps famine, or the rising cost of living. So I trivialize the "something" in my own mind, and simply say, "It's nothing."

3)  "No, I don't mind."  This lie is particularly disingenuous, yet it's most often fueled by simple kindness. Someone is in need – they ask for my help. My selfishness kicks in – I don't want to help them. They should help themselves, I think. And I'm a half-second away from telling them so, and then I realize my foolishness, come to my senses, and say "No, I don't mind." Maybe they're asking if I will help them move their things to their new apartment, or they're requesting special permission to miss drama practice, or maybe they just want that last fry on my plate. And sometimes I do mind. Sometimes I don't want to give up what I consider to be rightfully mine – whether it's my free time, my full cast, or my French fry. But I consider the alternative. If I were in this situation, and I was asking the same or similar request of someone else, and I was truly in need, what would I want their answer to be? And so I reply, "No, I don't mind."

4)  "I'm sorry to hear that."  This little white lie is the companion piece to "I'm fine," but carries its own set of embarrassing admissions. As easy as it is to answer "How are you doing?", it's just as easy to ask the same question. Every now and then, I get an honest reply from someone. "Not too good, actually. I've got this problem with so-and-so..." Or  maybe the question I pose is, "How's your wife doing? And your kids?" And I'm "treated" to a lengthy outline of the problems you're having, whether it's your child who keeps getting sent to the principal's office for acting up in class, or it's the financial problems you're have due to mounting debt, or maybe even – God forbid! – marital issues that you're dealing with. And, while my mind may already have moved on to other subjects, other people, or to nothing in particular at all – I'm looking you in the eye, and nodding my head (or shaking it, whichever is more appropriate), and waiting for a break in the conversation so I can frown and say, "I'm sorry to hear that." Don't get me wrong – this is not something I do in every circumstance, or every conversation I have with friends or family members. Quite often, I truly care what's going on in the lives of people I like, or even love. But then sometimes I don't. And that's when it gets dicey. And I lie and say, "I'm sorry to hear that."

5)  "It's okay. Really."  This one is quite similar to "No, I don't mind", and not too dissimilar from "It's nothing". But I've separated it out for one specific reason. This is the lie that deals with forgiveness. Someone has wronged me, I feel slighted, maybe even hurt. And they're apologizing. I'm usually quick to forgive, but what they did this time really bothered me. And it's not okay. But they're expecting me to accept their apology, trusting them not to wrong me, or slight me, or hurt me again in the future. I don't trust people easily, and so I'm skeptical of the reasons behind their apology. And I'm hesitant to forgive. But then I think about all the ways in which I've wronged others, slighted them, and even hurt them. And I want to be forgiven. In some cases, I want to be forgiven without the embarrassment of having to apologize in the first place, as selfish as I know that sentiment to be. Then I think about the ways in which I've wronged my God, and slighted Him, and hurt Him. And all the times I've asked Him to forgive me. And He does, every time without fail. And I hang my head in shame, look into the pleading eyes of my brother or sister, and simply say, "It's okay. Really."

What do we do about these "everyday lies"? Do we think before we speak, every time we speak? Do we carefully consider whether or not honesty is, in fact, the best policy, in every case? Or do we tell the truth always, regardless of the consequences?

I don't have the answers. I think there probably aren't any easy answers. I'm just bringing up the question.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Ten Ways To Torture Me: A Primer

1)  Strap me to a chair and force me to watch a marathon of The Brady Bunch. For a minimum of 12 hours. With no bathroom break. And no barf bag close at hand.

2)  Lock me in a room packed floor-to-ceiling with crates of Dr. Pepper (the old-school glass bottle kind), and leave me without a bottle opener. I am also not allowed to possess any other tool by which I might conceivably open the bottles. It is important that the bottles not be the twist-top types, but must instead be the kind which can only be opened with a tool. In addition, the floor, ceiling, and walls of said room must be thickly padded with foam, to make it all the more difficult for me to smash the bottles.

3)  Prepare a meal for me, consisting of large quantities of only the following foods:  cucumbers, rutabagas, cottage cheese, raw celery, beef liver, chitterlings (aka chitlins), and chocolate-covered ants. If possible, blend all the ingredients together till they become a smooth paste. Then, spoon-feed this mixture to me over the course of a three-hour time frame, denying my repeated pleas for water and/or any other beverage which might tamp down the multiplicity of flavors assaulting my palate.

4)  See #1 (above) and replace The Brady Bunch with any television show hosted by or featuring Rachael Ray.  Or Anne Burrell. Or Sandra Lee. Or the Neelys. Or...well, you get the picture. Any annoying cooking show will do the trick.

5)  Corner me at a social event and talk to me at length about cars. Be sure to include as many details about the most insignificant parts of the car and the ways in which you are able to repair them expertly. While you're on the subject, profess to me your undying love of NASCAR. Please specify your favorite drivers and why they are your favorites, as well as your least favorite drivers and why they are your least favorites.

6)  Read me the latest stock exchange numbers from the Wall Street Journal. Indicate, for each one, why it is good or bad that the numbers are up or down, and what effect this will have on the economy. For ultimate effectiveness, bring along a financial adviser and have them explain in greater detail using the least number of common, everyday "layman's terms" possible.

7)  Put on your favorite "death metal" CD in my presence, crank it up to maximum volume, and "sing" along.  When the CD is finished playing, please insert your next favorite "death metal" CD and repeat the process until you have played your entire collection for me.

8)  Force me to read a story written entirely in "textese". Make sure it includes as many occurrences of the following "words" as possible: "2moro", "l8r",  "ur", "c-ya", "ne1", and "ROTFL". Please ensure, prior to selecting the story, that it is a minimum of 20 pages in length, and contains no actual fully-spelled-out words.

9)  See #1 (above) and replace The Brady Bunch with any show involving four-year-old beauty pageant contestants and their emotionally unstable, living-vicariously-through-their-children, possibly psychotic mothers.  Need I say more on this one?

10)  Take me hunting.  Insist that I shoot an animal. Then make me "dress" it. Because anyone who knows me will testify that I love hunting. With a passion!

WAR AND PEACE UPDATE:  I'm on page 78 of the printed version, which is Location 2400 on the Kindle, and that means I'm now roughly 8% finished. I could be going faster, but I'm reading, like, six books at once currently, so it's slow-going. But I'll get there. Guaranteed!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Five More Things I Learned From "Random Article"

Awhile back, last year in fact, I decided to click the "Random Article" button on Wikipedia.org to see what useless information I might be able to learn. The result? I actually learned quite a bit. Have I used any of this "knowledge" since then? Maybe not. But who's to say what's "useless" and what's not?

So here I am, going to that same well again, seeking nuggets of knowledge to file away in my brain -- and yours too. Lucky you.

1)  The Dusky Grass-skipper, or Thyrrus Skipper (fancy-schmancy Latin name: Toridia thyrrhus) is a pretty weird-looking butterfly, part of the Hesperiidae family -- whatever that means. You won't find them around here. In fact, unless you find yourself in Queensland, Australia, you might never see one at all. So, here's a picture so you can say that you've seen one. Your life is now complete.

2)  Wranglers Roost is a ghost town located in Maricopa County, Arizone, ear the town of New River.  Wranglers Roost was once a stagecoach. Some of the original buildings used by the stagecoach drivers are still standing, including a jail cell where prisoners were boarded while the stagecoach drivers rested. Sounds like the perfect setting for an old Clint Eastwood or John Wayne movie. Here's a picture of the "town" these days. Doesn't look like much to me.

3)  Franz Anton Mesmer (May 23, 1734 – March 5, 1815), was a German physician with an interest in astronomy, who theorized that there was a natural energetic transference that occurred between all animated and inanimate objects that he called magnétisme animal  (animal magnetism) and other spiritual forces often grouped together as mesmerism. The degeneration of Mesmer's ideas and practices led Scottish surgeon James Braid to develop hypnosis in 1842. Mesmer's name is the root of the English verb "mesmerize". Well, that's interesting. Truly. Here's a portrait of Ol' Franzie -- ugly sucker, wasn't he?

4) The reverse-process indoor wood burning stove is a non-catalytic airtight heater. Employing a unique reverse process whereby it not only draws exterior air in to the wood stove for combustion, thus eliminating interior drafts, it also releases fresh outside air into the room through a rear-mounted plenum, where it is heated before entering the premises. This initiates a healthy fresh air exchange system, by introducing oxygen-rich air in to the building. The innovation by Jan Steen started as the Chinook, but later became known as the Sunrise wood stove. What have we learned? Well, I don't know what you got out of that, but I was completely lost. Good for Mr. Steen, though, he got his name in the history books. Well, at least he got mentioned on a Wikipedia page.

5)  Kong Bukseløs  (English translation: His New Grey Trousers) is a 1915 Danish silent film directed by Lau Lauritzen Sr. The film stars Oscar Stribolt as Paludan Plum; Carl Schenstrom as Adam Brink; Agnes Andersen as Bella; and Frederik Buch as En Skomagerdreng. I didn't even know Denmark made any silent movies. Random question: why do the characters in silent movies even need names? Isn't it mostly all driven by what we see anyway. Who cares what their names are? I know there's title cards that help tell the story, but I mean really -- who cares? Here's a still shot of a scene from the film:

There you have it. I encourage you to take your own trip through the wacky world of "Random Article" sometime. You never know what you'll find.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Lifting Three White Rhinceroses

We've been making quite a habit of going to the gym here lately. And that's a good thing. Weight doesn't lose itself. Hard work is almost always required.

Unless you're one of those disgusting people who can eat whatever you want, whenever you want, and never gain a pound. In which case, I probably hate you. Unless you are one of my friends. In which case, I don't hate you, but I do seriously resent you.

Mostly we've just been doing cardio exercises, like treadmills, ellipticals, recumbent bikes, and the like. Today, we decided to try out some of the weight-lifting machines.

Now, I'm one of those oddball kind of people who best recognizes success if I can quantify it.I like numbers. Not math, mind you, but statistics. When I've been working out on a recumbent bike, I take pride in the fact that I just pedaled 7.1 miles. If I were on an actual bike, I would have just pedaled halfway to Farmville (the real town, not the Facebook game).

So when I was using the various weight machines today, I started calculating in my head the total number of pounds I was lifting. My wife thought this was a bit pointless, and she may well have been right. But it made me feel successful. Twenty reps here at 50 pounds, and I've added another half-ton to my total.

By the time I was through, I had lifted a total of 13,600 pounds. I was impressed with myself, especially for the first time using the weight machines in a long time.

All told, I can honestly say that today I lifted the equivalent of three average-sized White Rhinoceroses. Not your typical thing to brag about, admittedly. But I'm not your typical guy. You have to admit, though -- it certainly sounds impressive.

Who knows, I may eventually work my way up to lifting six giraffes in one day! Or I could just say I lifted 25,000 lbs. Or I could just lift weights till I'm tired, and not quantify it -- you know, like normal people.

But normal isn't fun. And so I count...one White Rhinoceros, two White Rhinoceroses, three...

Friday, January 20, 2012

Poems For Your Perusal: Three Of Them This Time, So It Doesn't Seem Like I'm Copping Out So I Don't Have To Write Anything Original

Today, for your amusement (or your bemusement? or your torture?), I offer you three – count them, three – of my more unusual poems.  Don't hate – don't judge. They are what they are. Take them seriously. Or take them as I intended them: To make you smile...and maybe think...just a teeny bit.

"What The Blazes"

What the blazes do is wipe out the trees 
Which makes the bears extremely unhappy 
Then they come and pound on your tent
Requesting salmon – and maybe a warm blanket 
Which it would be advisable to relinquish
Because no one wants to be the enemy of a bear.

What the fires do is burn down the mansions
Which makes the celebrities act almost human
Then they come and cry on your networks
Requesting sympathy – and maybe a new mansion
Which would be no problem really, and quite lucrative
Because everyone loves a great new reality show.

"Shucking Fit" 

When I feel this way
Nothing really helps.
I try faking a smile
It makes my jaw hurt.

I try ignoring it
My wind wanders back.
I try to stay busy
I tire easily.

No, nothing really helps
Except shucking corn.

It's cheap therapy
And gets the blood flowing.
It's useful
And you can eat the results.

Sometimes I become obsessed
Tearing away the husks
As though they were the faces
Of my enemies
Exposing the goodness inside.

But that's an optimism
I'm not ready to accept.

So let me mix my metaphors in peace
And – shucking myself into a fit –
Gradually feel better.

"A Fish Out Of Brine"

If I were a fish,
A fish out of brine,
Would I lie on the counter
Wait for my demise –
Already effected,
Now pickled and canned?
If I were a fish,
Would I melt in your hand?
Or salted and deboned
And gutted throughout,
Would I melt, would I leave
A funny taste in your mouth?
I would if I were true
To my character.

PLUMBING UPDATE:  They fixed the water leak all in one day! They only had to tear up one patio square!! And the whole thing's going to cost less than half the price they originally quoted us!!! I love using exclamation points!!!!

WAR AND PEACE UPDATE:  I'm on page 60 of the printed version, or Location 1895 on the Kindle, which roughly equates to 6% complete overall. Not impressed yet? Just you wait, 'enry 'iggins, just you wait! I'll conquer this wonderful monstrosity yet! Hey, I'm still enjoying it, and I've nearly reached the point where I gave up on it 20+ years ago!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Great Thing About Being A Pessimist

The great thing about being a pessimist is that when things go right, you're always surprised.

Anyone who read my post yesterday may have surmised that I didn't exactly have a good day by any stretch of the imagination. While it was a 100% accurate representation of how many wildly different thoughts run through my head throughout the course of a day, yesterday was not typical. Thankfully.

First, I was lamenting the fact – over and over again, actually – that I was possibly one person short for the drama, and that fear/worry/apprehension doubled once I got to church and realized that not only was I one person short, I was now two people short, as someone who had previously signed up had crossed their name out.

(Apparently, my unease took on a physical manifestation, as one of my church friends, upon seeing me remarked, "Wow! Your face is really RED!" I remarked that it also felt as though it were really red, and that I felt flushed, and my face was somewhat warm to the touch. This flushed feeling – and look too, I'm sure – continued throughout the evening, but went away sometime during my sleep.)

So, I was now two people short heading into the final audition, and panicking more than was reasonable. But then the most curious thing happened last night and this morning – the guy who couldn't do it before, and the lady who had crossed her name off last night both decided that they could, wanted to, and would participate after all. Wow! Problem solved. Didn't see that coming.

Second, there was the apprehension about the plumbing situation. The guy never did call yesterday, and I didn't call him. Until this morning, that is. I was headed out the door, when my phone rang, and it was the plumber. "We're coming this morning to start the job, if that's all right with you," he says to me. "Absolutely, it's all right with me!" I said. "Of course it's all right with me!" After checking that I didn't need to stay and wait to let them in the house, I left for work, marveling at the unexpected excellent timing of the plumber. Didn't expect that either.

I hadn't been at work more than 30 minutes when the plumber called me back. Bad news already? Nope, they just needed to get in the house after all. So back home I headed.

While I was securing the scared-of-jackhammers kitties in our bedroom upstairs so that they were out of the way of the plumbers doing any work they may have to do inside, I heard a sound outside the second-floor window.

Errant birds smacking into the window panes? Nope. A ladder being set up against the house. What in the world?

Turns out it was the roofing guy, returning unexpectedly to fix the flashing around the dormers in the front of the house so rainstorms would stop ruining our bedroom ceiling (the same guy had fixed our skylight flashing for the third-floor ceiling leak a couple of weeks ago). Wow! Didn't see that coming either.

Don't get me wrong – not everything has achieved hunkydorydom in one day.

I still haven't called the Honda guy about picking up the keys.

I still didn't make it to the gym at lunch today (I had to pick up some cat food – our fat cat, Winnie, is an emotional eater, and he'll need to have plenty of food after today's trauma).

The "check engine" light is still on in the van, and I still don't know why.

Mary and I ran out of time this morning to make the marinade for the chicken, so it's just gonna be plain, and we'll make a dipping sauce.

I still don't know any more about Scotland than I did yesterday. But Wikipedia isn't blacked out anymore, so that knowledge is at my fingertips, should I choose to acquire it.

But things are looking up. Or down, in the case of the maybe-it-needs-batteries-and-maybe-it-doesn't scale. I weighed two pounds less this morning, if you can believe that. (Maybe I worried it off?)

And best of all, I finished writing about that stupid flannel shirt. And a few more after that. I've moved on to pants and hoodies and t-shirts. Plugging away quite nicely, in fact...

Maybe I should pessimistically whine about everything else that's wrong with the world. I just might wake up tomorrow and say, "Wow! Didn't see that coming either!"

You never know...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

This Is How My Mind Works...

Okay, as soon as I finish writing about these Marmot shirts, jackets, and pants, I can move on to the Carhartt stuff that I've been putting off.

What am I going to do if we really are one guy short for the Easter drama? I can't play the part myself. I mean, I could. But who has the time? I don't. Maybe I can talk to someone at church tonight.

I probably should call the plumber back to see if he's definitely coming tomorrow (doubtful – he said he'd call me) or if he'll throw another lame promise at me that they'll get started first thing next week – the same thing he said last Thursday when I called him. It's always me calling them. They never call. Why is that?

I really hope the "check engine" light that came on in the van this morning is just a faulty gas cap, at best, or a busted hose, at worst. We really can't afford for the transmission to go out a second time in a year and a half, especially now, with all the other money we're going to have to shell out for the plumbing job. I'll deal with it on Friday, or maybe next week.

You know, I'm pretty sure that water noise you can hear in the downstairs bathroom is getting louder. Either that, or I'm just more aware of it the more time that passes without the stupid thing getting fixed. I hope they do come tomorrow.

Okay, back to this flannel shirt. I wonder where the word "flannel" originates anyway? Probably Scotland. Most plaid flannel patterns resemble the tartan family crests you see at Busch Gardens or on the covers of smarmy romance novels about Highlanders. Or maybe I'm just thinking that they look the same because I don't know much about Scotland.

Wikipedia. "Scotland". Are you kidding me? Wikipedia has shut down for 24 hours to show that they won't support the passing of SOPA? What is SOPA anyway? Wikipedia. What do you know? That article isn't shut down. Coincidence? Not likely. "Stop Online Piracy Act", blah blah blah, whole websites could be shut down because of one errant blog post? I don't like this. Not like I can do anything about it anyway.

I keep forgetting to call the Honda guy back, the guy who sold us the new Honda who left a message around Christmas to let us know the second key had been brought in by the previous owners. I hope he still kept it for us. I'll call him tomorrow. If I'm not home waiting for the plumbers to arrive, that is. Or at the auto body shop getting the van checked out. I've got too much on my plate.

I gotta get mentally prepared for the second round of auditions tonight. Is it really auditions if most of the parts have already been picked, at least in my head? Well, there's the gaping hole in the leading male role, now that we're a man short. I should probably email him to see if he's definitely out. Maybe he can still do it.

No, you can't think like that. You have to prepare for the worst. Because the worst usually happens anyway. That's a fatalistic thought. But realistic. Hey, those two words rhyme. Maybe I could form some kind of macabre poetry out of this mess.

No, I need to get back to writing the flannel shirt. Sometimes my job can be so tedious. How many different things can you say about a shirt? It has sleeves, either long or short, it has a collar or it doesn't, maybe it has a pocket at the chest, does it button or snap closed, what's it made of, and is that material soft or durable, or soft and durable. What does it matter anyway? The picture sells the shirt. But if that's true, then I've just become superfluous.

That book that I finished listening to yesterday "The Diary of a Superfluous Man," that was pretty good. Kinda morbid, though. Actually, really quite bleak. But well-written. I chuckled at the main character's frequent misfortunes. (Is that horrible?) Probably because I could relate. Sort of. Kinda mostly, in fact. That was a good book. I should look for more books by Ivan Turgenev. The man may have been gloomy, but he sure could write. I wonder how long ago he died? Wikipedia. Dang it, I forgot about the blackout!

Okay, so it's a flannel shirt. Long-sleeve, of course – what flannel shirt isn't? That would be pretty weird, a short-sleeve flannel shirt. "Keeps you warm and cool at the same time." That's pretty stupid. But consider the source. I'm a little punchy. I need to get more sleep tonight.

I really wish I could've gotten to the gym at lunch, but after getting the guy at Advanced Auto to check the code, then dropping by Big Lots to pick up those trash cans we've been needing, half of my lunch period was gone. Well, there's always tomorrow. And at least I drank my protein shake, so it wasn't a completely off-the-diet lunch.

The scale this morning indicated that I had lost eight pounds since the first of the year. I find that hard to believe, but maybe it's right. Stupid scale probably needs batteries. I don't feel like I've lost eight pounds. When I look down, I still can't see my feet. My stupid belly is still in the stupid way. But tying my shoes has been a little less strenuous of late. Probably just my imagination.

I should really get this shirt finished up so I can move on to the next item, which is, let's see – oh, another flannel shirt. How exciting!

I wonder if I could convince one of the guys who hasn't signed up for the drama to be in it anyway, since we're short one guy. I know they're busy, but they love drama, right? Maybe they can still squeeze it in. But most of the guys I'm thinking of have demanding full-time jobs, families with young kids, and all that. It's doubtful that they'd be able to do it. If they could've, they would've signed up already. I hate asking people to do things they don't want to do. Just the thought of approaching someone to ask them to do me a favor makes me sick to my stomach. I don't ever want to be annoying.

Tomorrow night I'm cooking the chicken. Mary said she would help me with the marinade in the morning. I've never made it Asian-style before. I hope I don't screw it up. Oh well, if I do, Hibachi Xpress is still only two minutes from the house. Don't think like that. You're doing good on the diet. At Hibachi, you know you'll want to get fried rice instead of steamed and you'll use way too much white sauce, and you know that's probably mayo-based which isn't healthy in the least. (Why am I thinking in second person?)

Okay, back to the flannel shirt...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Poems For Your Perusal: "Start Again"

Okay, yes, so I'm cheating again by not offering original thoughts, and posting stuff I wrote a long time ago. So sue me! It's my blog, and I'll be unoriginal if I want to! This little ditty was from back in my college days, if I remember correctly. The emotions may be a bit outdated for me today, but it flows nicely, I think. Enjoy it if you want to...

"Start Again"

Through with the me I used to be
Tired of losing while others win
Game called love is playing me
Wishing I could start again

Wouldn't it be easier to live
If I didn't care, if I didn't give?
But how can I? Guess I could try
But something's sure to catch my eye

It always does, I can't escape
Suppose that this will be my fate
Trying hard, but choosing bad
Lust for life has made me sad

At least I haven't lost my edge
And I still have my arms and legs
I can wave goodbye and run
Set out for the setting sun

If I fall short of journey's end
I'll raise my head and start again.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Still Dreaming

So, I'm sitting here watching a special on the Oprah Winfrey Network (of all things!) about the Freedom Riders specifically, and the Civil Rights Movement in general, and I'm getting angry.

Not because of Oprah herself, mind you. Not this time, at least.

But because of the countless numbers of narrow-minded people, many of them unfortunately from the South, who devoted their lives to destroying the rights and, yes, even the lives of other human beings for no other reason than that their skin was a darker shade.

And that supposedly made these people less human, somehow inferior beings. It infuriates me!

Injustice always infuriates me, whether it affects me personally or not. But racial prejudice just gets under my skin more than anything else.

I wasn't raised to think of people of other races as anything less than I am. I don't even know what thinking that way feels like. So, it's hard for me to put myself in the shoes of the oppressors. I can only identify with the oppressed.

I have never had to deal with prejudice from a personal standpoint, i.e. having someone discriminate against me because of the way I look, or where my ancestors came from. But I have often had to hear hurtful, hateful words used to describe African-Americans, Asians, Hispanics, and other minorities from acquaintances, friends, and family members. And almost without exception I have challenged the speaker to use a different word, at least in my presence, to describe the people they are talking about, because I won't accept the derogatory term they've used.

I scolded my own grandmother for doing this more times than I can count. She was a genuinely good person, but she was raised in a different era when racial prejudice was the norm, in the South in particular. But even that is no excuse.

Anyone can transcend what they've been taught. Hatred is not congenital. Prejudice doesn't have to be either.

Maybe someday the dream that Martin Luther King, Jr. envisioned, and fought for, and even died for, will come true. But we're not there yet...

Sunday, January 15, 2012


I'd like to lose a lot of weight. I've let myself go for far too long. I'm working out, and eating better. It will take awhile to reach my weight goal. I'm not there yet. But I'm trying.

I'd like to learn to cook a variety of different foods. I've recently perfected (I use that term very loosely) the art of sautéing chicken. I now cook supper for my wife and I at least once a week. I'm not there yet. But I'm trying.

I'd like to become a man after God's own heart. To be the man that God wants me to be. To live a life that's pleasing to Him. I make mistakes. I fail Him every day. I'm not there yet. But I'm trying.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Poems For Your Perusal: "Too Risky"

This is an old "prose poem" (tells a story, doesn't have to rhyme, etc.) that I wrote a few years back. A good way to get a decent post in on the weekends, when I struggle to write anyway. Enjoy!
"Too Risky"
You told me not to pick it up
It might be dirty, might have rust on it
Might give me Tetanus
But it looked interesting
So I reached down and retrieved it
It was about the size of a quarter
But it wasn't a coin
It was about the weight of a pocketwatch
But it didn't tell time
It was about the same texture as a cookie
But it didn't taste very good
I wasn't sure what it was
So I stuck it in my pocket
You said I shouldn't have
Said I didn't know where it had been
Might've come off some leper
I might catch Tuberculosis
I shrugged it off
What did you know?
You're just my older brother
A little kid yourself
I wouldn't listen
When we got home
I didn't tell Dad
He's just like you
In too many ways
He would've said
I shouldn't have taken it
Maybe God had it there
For a reason
Maybe it had been there
For hundreds of years
In that very spot
Maybe it had on it
The dust of long-dead civilizations
Maybe it might give me the Black Plague
No, I didn't show it to Dad
Or ever tell him
But Mom, she found it in my pants
When she took them to the wash
And I had forgotten about it
Because when we got in
The soup was ready
And the bread was hot
And Mom, she said
If we didn't eat the food
While it was still warm
Perhaps the ants would come
And they would take the food away
And we would have no food
And then we would get gaunt
And infected and might die
We might even become Anorexic
So I ate the soup and the bread
And drank my milk
Because if you don't drink your milk
Then you don't have strong bones
And you develop a Calcium Deficiency
And then your arms fall off
Least that's what my teacher said
And she's pretty smart about things
So when Mom found
The whatever-it-was in my pants pocket
And asked me about it
I told her it was something
That I picked up by the road
And she said I was a smart boy
For being so curious
But she also warned me
That curiosity has this tendency
To kill cats
And when the cats are dead
And they start to decay and all
If you touch the carcass
You might get Gangrene
So now when I see something
Shiny and metal by the road
I don't pick it up anymore
It's just too risky to fool with.

Friday, January 13, 2012

My Ten Favorite Horror Movies Of All Time

Happy Friday the 13th!

As I've mentioned here before, I've always enjoyed reading horror stories and watching horror movies. Why? I don't really know. There's probably some deep, dark psychological reason for it, but I don't really want to delve that deep. So, for now, let's just say "for some reason" I like them. A lot.

So, in honor of Friday the 13th, I'm going to go the well-traveled route of bloggers across the world and give you a list of my 10 favorite horror movies of all time.

WARNING: There will be video links. While they're not too graphic, they may be a little disturbing, especially if you don't normally like these types of movies.

So, here you have them, more or less in no particular order – although the last two listed here are my top two favorites:

10)  Misery (1990) – Being holed up in an office all day, having to write descriptions for things that I could sometimes care less about, seems like child's play compared to being holed up in a cabin in the middle of nowhere and forced to write a novel by a crazy lady with an axe who claims to be "your number one fan."

9The Birds (1963) – Of all the things to be scared of, who would have thought we, as a viewing public, would ever buy into the idea of attacking birds. But after one viewing of this Hitchcock classic, you'll never go into an attic alone, or a phone booth for that matter, without looking around cautiously, and listening for the flutter of beating wings.

8)  The Exorcist (1973) – This controversial film has sparked plenty of criticism and support over the years, and for good reason. Its frank portrayal of a demon-possessed girl and the people around her whom this affects is equally fascinating and horrifying. And while it's all done up for Hollywood, the fact that demon possession is actually possible makes this fictionalized depiction of it all the more disturbing.

7)  A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984) – I never saw this movie as a kid, which is probably a good thing, because I've always been a vivid dreamer, and I might have taken it too much to heart. The idea of dreams – well, nightmares – being more than just dreams and being able to affect your real life, and even kill you is truly disturbing. Not to mention the guy who makes all this possible, Freddy Krueger.

6)  The Ring (2002) – The concept of watching a videotape that causes you to die within 7 days of viewing it is, admittedly, far-fetched. But then you watch the movie, and the videotape itself within the context of the film, and well, there's just something unbearably creepy about it. The Japanese movie that this version was based on, entitled Ringu, is apparently even better, but I've never seen it. Incidentally, this was the first scary movie that I ever convinced Mary to see with me while we were dating. It was also the last. She's not a scary movies kind of girl at all. Not. One. Bit.

5)  Night Of The Living Dead (1968) – The sheer fact that this movie is in black-and-white (at least originally – there is at least one "colorized" version out there somewhere) lends an overall creepier feel to the whole thing. It's the ultimate, and maybe even the original zombie movie. What makes it so horrifying is that the whole thing seems so real. These are normal people being terrorized by undead creatures who were also once normal people. Most of them still wear the clothes and general appearance of their former lives. But they're coming for you. And you're locked up in a spooky old farmhouse with a bunch of strangers, just trying to survive. You're in the moment with these people, and you want out. Like, now!

4)  Stephen King's IT (1990) – Now this one, I did see as a kid. I was 12 when it was first broadcast on ABC as a two-part miniseries. I was already reading Stephen King books by that time, and so I taped it. The first time I saw it, I was just as scared as the ninth or tenth time I watched it. It was horrible, it was wonderful, it was fascinating, and it was terrifying. One of the main characters from the film, a young boy about my age, has a stuttering problem. After watching this movie several times in a short period of time, I also developed a stuttering problem. It was, fortunately, short-lived, but it just goes to show you how deeply I was affected by it. That being said, it was then and still is one of my favorites. Incidentally, I still don't care for clowns, and this movie is also responsible for that.

3)  The Amityville Horror (1979) – There's nothing like a good haunted house story. And this is one of the best. The very architecture of the house (the attic windows look like glowing eyes) tells you something very bad has happened and will continue to happen here. The actors play their parts so well, you almost believe that it's based on a true story, which is how it was portrayed at the time. It's fiction, but it's very good fiction. And I'm never moving to Amityville, New York. For any reason.

2)  Poltergeist (1982) – This is another horror movie that I did see as a kid, and remember being fascinated and terrified. I loved it! Like Amityville, it's, at the core, a haunted house movie. But in this one, we see some truly bizarre and disturbing things happening to a basically nice family. It also offers a warning to prospective real estate developers:  Don't build over a cemetery. The dead might not like it, and might have some unfinished business with you. "They're here...."

1)  Psycho (1960) – Ah yes, the innocent young innkeeper who "wouldn't harm a fly" and his unwitting victims, who only wanted to stop in at the Bates Motel for the night to get some shut-eye before starting back on their journey to wherever. But his "guests", like Marion Crane for example, they never leave. And are never heard from again. What's that all about? Better ask Norman's mother if you want the real story. This is Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece, and my all-time favorite horror movie. They don't make them any better than this one!

NOTE: For some reason, the blog site stopped letting me add the videos with thumbnails after the seventh one. Hopefully, they'll still show up. If not, I'll try again later.