Friday, July 31, 2009

Question of the Week: The Button

You and a person you love deeply are placed in separate rooms with a button next to each of you. You know that you will both be killed unless one of you presses your button before 60 minutes pass; furthermore, the first to press the button will save the other person, but will immediately be killed. What do you think you would do?

Can we see each other? Can we speak to each other? I know we're in separate rooms, but is there a real wall or is it a window that's separating us? Either way I'm pretty sure I'd press the button. If she's someone that I really love, then I would easily sacrifice my life for hers. It'd be nice if there was a way to speak to one another, kind of like the scene in The Dark Knight, just before Harvey became Two-Face. Then we'd get a chance to say all those things that we've been holding back. But that should be a lesson. Don't hold back. Say what you mean right away, you may not get another chance.

*Question of the Week comes from The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock, Ph.D.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Happy Thoughts

I watched the movie Hook the other day and something struck me. The grown up Peter Pan had a really hard time flying.

Now, if you know the Peter Pan story, you know that all it takes to fly is a little pixie dust and one happy thought. In the classic Disney version of the story, the Darling siblings think of things as simple as snow and sleigh bells and they're able to take off.

At the end of Hook, Peter's kids each think about their parents as their happy thoughts, and without a care in the world, they lift off the ground and head back to the real world.

It takes Peter two-thirds of the film to find his happy thought and regain the ability to fly. Now, not that any of us can actually fly thanks to a happy thought (then again, I've never encountered any pixie dust either). But what is it that happens between childhood and adulthood that takes away our ability to fly. Really, the question should be, what takes away our happy thought?

Watching Hook, it's easy to see that the grown-up Peter Pan is scared. He's taken upon himself the weight of the world, or at least the world according to his career. Added to that pressure, he's forced to enter a strange world to rescue his children.

As a kid, Peter Pan had no worries and no fears. A lot of kids are that way. Kids are able to play games and explore the worlds of their imaginations in ways that grown-ups are just unable to do. As they grow up, they're slowly introduced to the real world and are faced with troubles that they didn't have to deal with as children. As these troubles cross their paths, they begin to let fear and doubt creep in. And then they lose that child-like faith and trust that flying required of them.

Why is it so difficult for adults to find a truly happy thought and just latch on to it?

Or is it just me?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


The other day I went out to get a haircut. The place I go is located in a shopping center between a Staples and a Petsmart. Now, if you've ever driven through a parking lot, either at the mall or a grocery store, you've probably experienced the common phenomenon of a pedestrian needing to cross in front of you.

Now, most of the time, drivers will slow and/or stop and wave the pedestrian across. Every now and then you get the jerk who will brake for nothing. They're the ones who would mow you down if you're not within the confines of the crosswalk.

The pedestrian, once they get the wave, has several options. If it's me, I'll throw back a wave, possibly a smile, then attempt a slight jog. I don't want to take up any more of the driver's time than I need to. He/she was, after all, nice enough to stop for me to go across. The least I could do is pretend to hurry across.

Another option is the leisurely stroll. This pedestrian may or may not acknowledge the existence of the driver. But either way, they take their time. Having been the driver in this situation, it's a little irritating.

Finally, there's the scenario I came across on this haircut trip. A man was standing outside of Staples, looking both ways. It would seem that he was waiting for an opportune time to cross to the parking area. It was a lazy Saturday afternoon, so I wasn't in a hurry. I slowed the car and made eye contact with the waiting pedestrian. I gave him the go ahead, but he held his hand up and shook his head. He refused to cross after I gave him the okay. I did think that was a little odd.

It was stranger when I looked back after driving away. It was then that he crossed to the other cars. So what's the deal? Was he too good to cross when I gave him the wave? At least I was nice enough to slow down. I could have just sped up.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Legends of the Bank Teller - Episode LVIII

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned before that I'm not a fan of answering the phone at work. In fact, I'm fairly certain that the sound of that phone ringing is possibly the most annoying sound on the planet.

I don't like answering the phone, because no one ever calls for me. And usually, on the rare occasion that someone does call for me, it's not for a good reason.

Despite the fact that tellers stay pretty busy throughout the day dealing with customers that took the time to actually come to the bank, we are sometimes forced to answer the phone because the customer service people might be busy.

I found myself in that situation just the other day. A man called and wanted to speak with a manager. Well, as luck would have it, the manager and assistant manager were both busy and were unable to take a phone call. So he, the irate customer on the phone, asked for the number to another branch. This is information that is readily available, but not right where I was standing. So while I stayed on the line with the customer, I asked another teller to look on the list for the other phone number.

In the 15 to 30 seconds it took to find this number, I got to listen to all of this man's complaints. Mostly his rant consisted of "y'all screwed up my account again," and similar phrases. As a teller and a representative of the bank, I'm expected to sit there and take it. I gave him the number he was looking for and he hung up in a huff.

I really don't want to sit there and take it sometimes though. I'd really like to ask him what he means by "y'all?" I know it's a contraction for you all. But that implies that all of us at the bank had a hand in his account being overdrawn. This being the first time I'd ever spoken to him, I assume I had never even looked at his account. So I, personally, had nothing to do with his account being messed up.

I'd be willing to bet real money that it was, in fact, he and he alone who screwed up his account. But if I make that kind of claim, then I'm being just as harsh and judgmental as he was.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Back in the US

Nicole and Jen's brother, Ryan, and his wife Lindsey, are back in the United States after their two year mission in Austria. Now, I have yet to see them with my own eyes, but there is photographic evidence of them with people who are known to be currently residing stateside. In honor of their return I'm posting a link to their blog.

Now, I realize there's always a link to their blog over on the right. But I figure most people ignore the links over there anyway. This time I'm drawing attention to it. Specifically, I'm linking you to a post with a song that Ryan wrote and performed and uploaded in video/slideshow form. Ryan is a very talented singer and songwriter. So go. Enjoy.

Oh yeah. Click here...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Where in the World?

Many times the question comes up regarding vacations or trips to far away places. When it comes to deciding the one place on Earth that I'd like to visit, I have a hard time coming up with an answer.

To me, a vacation involves some pretty serious relaxing. And, if one is determined to get some relaxation worked in, that can be done from pretty much anywhere.

I've been to a number of different beaches. That's not the vacation destination I most often pick, but it's a good one. And again, it doesn't really matter to me what beach it is. Sure, some have more tourist traps than others, but your basic formula is sand and ocean. And though I do like going to the beach, it's not my favorite trip. I tend to burn. And I'm a pretty awful swimmer.

I grew up in mountains. Those of you living in the Rockies would disagree with me. But to us on the east coast, the Appalachian mountains are indeed mountains. So I'm perfectly at home hanging out in a cabin in the woods somewhere.

Of course there are far off places that I'd love to see someday. These are the kinds of vacations that require lots of money. I'd like to see Australia or Hawaii or Rome or Cleveland.

But the most important thing to me isn't the where. It's the who. Or is it the whom? I don't care where I am, as long as I'm with the people I love. And before my readers throw down the gauntlet claiming that I'm far too cynical to love anyone, just know that there are a few people out there who do, in fact, hold a special place in my heart.

If I can't spend that time at the beach or in the mountains or in Cleveland with any of those loved ones, then I'll at least settle for people I can have fun with. Sometimes, this is hard to come by. It means I have to be able to spend more than ten minutes at a time with them and not want to throw myself off a balcony. But, if I'm very lucky, the people I spend that time with would fall into both categories.

There are a few of them too.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Thursday marked the official beginning of the annual event known as Comic Con. Each year at this time, San Diego is transformed into Geek Mecca. It's a place where various forms of geek media converge in a massive effort to hawk merchandise and whet the appetites of nerds everywhere.

Comic book creators preview their upcoming stories and take really specific questions from fans. Questions that are asked over and over again. Questions that are asked multiple times only because the readers are unhappy with the answers they've been getting in the past. Look, chances are if they didn't give the answer you wanted at last year's convention, you're not gonna get it this year either.

Television creators, at least the popular ones, preview the exciting programming that's coming up this fall or possibly next January. Movie creators, at least the popular ones, get together and show off what they've been working on recently.

The problem with a lot of the information that comes out of Comic Con is that it isn't really news. Sure, there are a lot of things that get big reveals, but it's mostly visual stuff. Information, generally, is already out there. This is all thanks to the internet.

Because of the internet and the countless entertainment bloggers out there, rumors get leaked all over the place. I remember being a kid and hearing nothing about Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade until about a week before it hit the theaters. Last year, when I saw Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, it was basically just to confirm all of the plot details that I had found out about six months in advance.

They're called spoilers for a reason. We've become spoiled by all the information that's readily available. There's no element of surprise anymore. It's not as exciting to see the actual product as it is to see the preview or to read the blurb about the production. I know I'm guilty of that. This summer, I was far more excited to see previews for Revenge of the Fallen than I was to see the movie itself.

And then there's a danger of setting ourselves up for disappointment. How often do you see a trailer for a movie and wonder if they've shown the best or funniest clips in that minute-long preview? How often have you then seen the film and confirmed that thought? That's what I'm afraid of with the upcoming G.I. Joe.

Despite all this, I'll still scour the internet for the spoilers. I'll still keep my eyes peeled when a new movie trailer shows up on the TV or the internet. And I'll keep on saving my pennies so that I may one day make the pilgrimage to Comic Con International. I don't think I'll be one of the geeks that dresses up as a comic book hero. I'll just be one of the regular geeks that gawks at the geeks dressed up as comic book heroes.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Question of the Week: The Device

Assume there were a technological breakthrough that would allow people to travel as easily and cheaply between continents as between nearby cities. Unfortunately, there would also be 100,000 deaths a year from the device. Would you try to prevent its use?

No, I wouldn't. There are risks with everything. While, statistically, flying is the safest form of transportation, there is still the risk of dying in a plane crash. That threat may be there, but that's not going to stop me from getting on that plane. If it's my time to go, it's my time. If people are afraid of the risk that this new form of transportation would bring, then they shouldn't use it.

*Question of the Week comes from The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock, Ph.D.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Here Comes the Bride

I saw this on another blog today and thought it was great, so I'm sharing.

I don't think I'd be able to pull this off at my own wedding, but that's because I have a rhythm deficiency. I have to imagine that if the wedding processional is like this, how much fun would the reception be?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Life Story: Chapter Thirty One

Seventh grade at Woodrow Wilson Middle School was every bit as exciting as sixth grade.

For those of us in the marching band, it was finally time to take our instruments outside. We weren't just stuck playing on the stage in the auditorium anymore. It was time to march. The only real public performance that I remember taking part in was the Grandin Road Thanksgiving Parade. And I only have the distinct memory of doing it once. Maybe the parade from our eighth grade year was canceled for some reason. But in seventh grade, it was cold. I'm not sure that cold is a good enough word to cover it. I was a little afraid that my lips would freeze to my trumpet's mouthpiece.

I had a math teacher named Mr. Jordan. This was a teacher who, for some reason, struck me as being one who really didn't want to teach all that much. Don't get me wrong, I learned the math I was supposed to learn in order to pass the seventh grade. But in my memory, Mr. Jordan was always handing out worksheets, then going to do something on the computer. I think each classroom had just been given it's very own Mac that year, so for him, it was a new toy. And he was always always yelling at Buck, telling him to stop drumming on the desk!

For English or Language Arts or whatever they called it I had Mrs. B-A. She had two last names and for the life of me, I can't remember what the B or the A stood for. I don't remember the reasoning behind it, but we had story time in her class several times a week. Throughout the school year, she read to us John Christopher's Tripod Trilogy. B-A was also in charge of what passed for the school newspaper. Aside from some of the stories I wrote in fifth grade, that was probably my first real exposure to writing.

I don't remember much about my other classes, other than the fact that we dissected owl pellets in Science class. I'm really unsure of what the exact definition of an owl pellet is, but I remember it looking like a dried up turd with small animal bones inside. That actually made it kind of cool.

Always fun, middle school.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Legends of the Bank Teller - Episode LVII

I've mentioned this girl before. She comes to my bank, I'd say, once or twice a week. And when she comes to the drive-thru, as opposed to strolling into the lobby, it just about makes my day.

Now, I don't complain when she comes to the lobby. But the odds of my being her teller of the day drastically decrease when she comes inside. So I like it much better when she pulls up in her big SUV.

It's her smile that gets me. I'm not sure what she's smiling at. Maybe she's just returning the smile that I'm required to give as a bank employee. I don't think it's 'cause she's got a thing for me. I mean, she's wicked hot. Hot girls, as a rule, don't generally smile at me.

My co-workers notice that I'm slightly nicer to this girl than to the typical customer. Thus, a hard time is generally given. Most of the time they wait until she drives off to let the light-hearted ribbing begin. Today, it began while she was still there. One of the lobby tellers asked if she needed to grab the window since there was someone at lane two. I laughed, but said I was pretty sure I could get it.

So here's my dilemma: I'm not sure what to call her. On her account, she has her first, middle, and last name. Checks that she deposits are made out with her first name. But on her deposit ticket, she writes her middle name. So I've thought that would be a good ice breaker. I've called her by her first and middle names in the past, but never at the same time. I figure I could ask what she prefers to be called. Or maybe that's creepy.

It was suggested by a co-worker that I ask her out by writing a note on the back of one of my business cards. Then if she wants, she can call me. If not, she doesn't have to feel like I've put her on the spot when she goes to say no.

That may be the way to go. I haven't been on a date or even asked a girl out since college. And the last one I did ask out said no. So maybe I should be more worried about what happens if she says yes. Not sure if I'd want to take a girl out in what passes for my car these days. Jade's falling apart.

Okay, she's not really falling apart, but she's getting old. She's making noises that she didn't use to make. Not exactly impressive on a first date.

Then again, if I were to take her to dinner or something, I wouldn't want to be one of those guys the tries to impress a girl with lies. I'd hope I'd be comfortable enough to be myself. I mean, eventually she'd find out that I'm quickly on the way to driving a clunker.

So, any other ideas? Is the business card thing good? Seriously, been a long time. We're talking, tail end of the Clinton years, maybe Bush's first 100 days...

Monday, July 20, 2009

To the Moon

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. It was on this day in 1969 that Neal Armstrong and "Buzz" Aldren became the first men to walk on the moon.

After that first lunar landing, NASA returned to the lunar surface five more times. After the Apollo 17 mission, in December 1972, we have not been back to the moon, nor has there been a manned space flight beyond a low Earth orbit.

After all these years, I can't help but wonder what the point of it all was. Did we just go to the moon simply to say that we could? At this point, NASA's plan to return is tentatively scheduled for 2019 with the Orion 15 mission. Apparently this mission is to be the first in a series that will establish a lunar outpost.

But again, what's the point? So many questions are raised when it comes to setting up a manned lunar outpost. Say folks decide to pack up and go live on the moon in this new colony. What happens if they run out of oxygen? It's not like there's an atmosphere on the moon, they can't just open a window for a breath of fresh air. What happens if they run out of fresh water? They can't just put on their space suits and go out to drill a well. What happens if they're attacked by aliens? It's not like they would actually have blaster guns or lightsabers with which to defend themselves.

On the other hand, how cool would it be, a hundred years from now on the thriving lunar colony, a kid is able to say that their great-grandfather was one of the first permanent settlers on the moon. But how sad would it be for that same kid to have never known what it's like to fly a kite in the park or take a dog for a walk. All those neat little things that we Earthlings take for granted will be lost on all those people who will end up growing up on the moon and possibly Mars. What a crazy time the 31st century will be.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Plan

John Lennon said that "life is what happens while you are busy making other plans."

I pretty much feel that I lead a fairly simple life. I'm not one to go through each day and plan out what's going to happen. In the past I've tried to do this. I went to the store and bought myself a nice little day planner in the attempt to organize my life, but it's never worked out for me. Because no matter how neatly I would plan out my weeks, things always, inevitably, got in the way. Life got in the way.

I can't say that I never plan anything anymore. That would be lying. But I can say that in the day-to-day hustle and bustle, I don't make those plans. I have my routine, sure. I get up, I go to work, I drive home. But even that is flexible. What if something happens to me or a loved one? The plan to stay at work the full 8 hours would definitely be thrown out the window.

I know that all those gurus who stand on their soap boxes and tell us how to be successful will say to set goals for ourselves and then strive to reach those goals. I'm really not a goal oriented kind of person. I guess that means I won't be successful. At least, not in the way that the gurus view success.

I suppose, at this time, I do have one big plan, but that's about it. Along with the daily living stuff, I plan to finish a book. Right now I don't care if it ever sees life in publication, I just want to know that I can start and finish something that someone besides me will care to read. And I'm working on it, but not at the expense of living my life.

I think it's a good point that John Lennon made. "Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans." Did he mean that, though we make plans for our lives, things will come along to change those plans? For example, without thinking about it I made a plan this morning. I planned to drive to church without incident. Little did I know, a squirrel had planned to commit suicide by darting out in front of my car. I still made it to church, but not without incident. Plans changed.

Or did Lennon mean that while folks are busy planning out their lives, that life would simply pass them by? Instead of living their lives, they've been busy making arrangements, hoping that things would fall into place, while they themselves remain inactive.

See, I could plan on writing a book all I want, but that doesn't mean that a book will be written. To complete a book will take action. It will take me sitting down in front of the computer and actually typing words onto the screen. It will take more than just sitting and thinking about the ideas I have in my head. It will take me moving beyond the planning stages and taking action.

So where do you fall? Are you a planner? Or are you a doer?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Half Blood Prince

The end has almost arrived for Harry Potter.

As the sixth movie adaptation of a seven book series, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince does a great job of setting up the final act to come. Uh, it should go without saying that if you haven't seen the movie or read the book, spoilers abound.

The movie opens where the last one left off and we are quickly reminded that Harry Potter is one of those kids that has been forced to grow up a lot faster than your typical 16-year-old. I guess that's bound to happen when he survived an attempted homicide before he was two and became a legend before he was even aware of who he was.

We are also quickly introduced to some magical action and prepared for the premise of the film. Harry's mentor, Albus Dumbledore, is after some information. The old wizard is convinced that only Harry will be able to get that information. In the process, Harry enters into his sixth year at Hogwarts, where he rejoins his best friends, Ron and Hermione.

But things are different within the castle walls. Our main characters are now obviously teenagers with very obvious hormones. Obviously, this leads to many a heartbreaking scene, but a few heartwarming ones as well.

And then there's Draco Malfoy. In the past, Malfoy has been a thorn in Harry's side, but merely as a bully. He's never been a true threat. He's always just shown up to cause trouble and make snide remarks at our hero's expense. But now he's been promoted from annoying bully to full-fledged bad guy. He Who Must Not Be Named has given Draco an assignment. And though we can see the anguish tormenting the kid, he is driven to prove himself to his new master.

In the end, Malfoy is unable to perform his given task. Therefore, Professor Snape is forced to step in after making an unbreakable vow to protect the boy. In the end we find out that Malfoy's assignment is to kill Dumbledore. Draco is able to smuggle a few dark wizards into the school, but that is the extent of his ability. Snape pulls the trigger (or, in this case, waves the wand) and Dumbledore is dead. It's the end of an era at Hogwarts.

So really, in all of that, what's accomplished in this film? Well, we're introduced to the idea of the horcrux, an object that a dark wizard can apparently use to make him or herself immortal. Apparently, Voldemort has created several horcruxes, therefore he cannot be killed until all these items are found and destroyed. Thus far, only one has been destroyed. Harry himself destroyed it back in the Chamber of Secrets, of course at the time he had no idea that he was destroying a piece of Voldemort's soul.

The final scene of the movie has Harry explaining to his friends that he won't be returning to school for his seventh and final year. Instead, he will set out to finish the mission that Dumbledore began. Harry will take it upon himself to find and destroy all of the horcruxes so that Voldemort can be stopped once and for all. Ron and Hermione, being the loyal friends that they are, refuse to allow him to do this alone. And so the stage is set for book seven, which will be broken up into two final films.

I'd like to tell you that this movie is a good one for anyone to go see. But I'd be lying if I told you that someone with no knowledge of the Harry Potter universe would enjoy it. Without reading the books or at least seeing the previous films, it's nearly impossible to follow along. But then again, you may just be interested in special effects action, in which case you'd probably like it.

I thought it was great. Not my favorite of the movies, that honor still goes to Goblet of Fire. But it was pretty good in its own right. Better than the last one. And, if nothing else, it has inspired me to reread the books. I'm curious to see what was left out of the film adaptation and what was changed from the original.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Question of the Week: Bird in the Hand

If you walked out of your house one morning and saw a bird with a broken wing huddled in some nearby bushes, what would you do?

I would keep walking. Survival of the fittest my friends, survival of the fittest. Besides, I'm not a vet. What would I do with a bird with a broken wing? Take it to an actual vet? And then what? Pay them money that I don't have to try to heal a wild animal who would probably go on to be eaten by a hawk in a week anyway? Yeah, okay.

*Question of the Week comes from The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock, Ph.D.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Free Cable

I was never privy to a first-hand account of the following story. But it's a funny one and comes from my good friend Mark.

Back in the Bluefield days, there was a guy who, upon entering his freshman year, was excited to find out that cable came as a part of our room and board. So, this freshman decided one day to go to the Dean of Students office in order to inquire about the free cable. Apparently he wanted to know what he had to do to get it.

From time to time, this story comes up and we debate over what the best sarcastic response would be. Obviously, all he had to do was get a cable and connect it from the wall to his TV. But it would have been nice to make a naive kid think that there were certain hoops he had to jump through.

Mark, thus far, has come up with the best possibly fake scenario for this situation:
"Well, the first thing you need to do, in order to receive the free cable, is to make a monthly list of everything you plan on watching. Once we approve your viewing choices, then we'll have the cable to your room turned on. Now, we get a report from Comcast once a month letting us know what's being watched in each dorm room. If it comes to our attention that you have deviated from your list or are watching something inappropriate, we will not only have your cable shut off, but we will confiscate your television. Now here's a TV Guide. Go nuts."

That's a pretty good one. And, to a gullible kid who's just starting out at a Baptist college, it may just work on him. Okay, I'm gonna go watch something inappropriate on the TV.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


I'm watching Big Brother once again. It's a nice little summer obsession. This week, there's the possibility of sending someone home. Someone that I will be making fun of. So if you are going to judge me for mocking someone's appearance, then turn around now. It's not too late for you to go and check out the latest happenings in the world of television at TV Squad.

Her name is Chima. This is her photo...

The first time I saw her, she reminded me of someone. She brought to mind the image of a pop culture icon from the '80s. Well, really, this one was from 1990, but that's just being picky. The image I had in my head was slightly off from the original, but it was pretty close to this...

I know it's mean to compare a human being to a Gremlin. To be fair to Chima, her photo above does make her look better than the cameras in the Big Brother house. She has, after all, been eating slop and sleeping on a board all week. That's gotta be rough. But am I wrong about the resemblance? I think it's the lips. And their hair tends to fall the same way.

I've said it before, I'm kind of a jerk. If you agree and would like to let me know it, feel free to comment below.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Electronic Harmony

Not too long ago Nicole told me that she wanted to perform a little experiment. She wants to sign me up on e-Harmony just to see what would happen. I think she's finally realizing that her predicted date of my wedding is fast approaching and I have yet to meet that special someone. Methinks she'll do anything to keep from being wrong.

I'm really not on board with the online dating thing. I don't look down on it. More and more people are giving it a shot, and hey, good for them if they make it work. But for some reason, I have the feeling that if I were to go on there, I'd feel like I was giving up. I know that as soon as that's out there, I'll have all those people who have found love on the internet complaining with me.

But then again, what would I be giving up? It's not that I've ever really put myself out there and given this whole dating thing a try. So I guess signing onto e-Harmony wouldn't really be giving up.

I get the feeling that, if I were to fill out their psychological profile, I'd eventually get an e-mail from the people running the site. Not a happy e-mail showing me who my matches are, no. I'd get an e-mail informing me that I broke their system.

"Mr. Peck, we're sorry to inform you that we were unable to find a match for you among the 3.5 billion women in the world. In fact, your psychological profile was so screwed up, you crashed our entire website. It will take us at least six months to get things back online. In that time, the thousands of matches that we could have made will continue to live their lives miserable and alone. It's because of you that they will never find love. Good job, loser."

I just don't want that kind of pressure.

So I guess if the online dating thing doesn't work out, Nicole will probably just resort to finding me a mail order bride. She'll probably hit me with that one around September.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Feats of Strength

I'm sure many of you out there have seen the Disney animated classic Beauty and the Beast. As cartoons go, it's one of my favorites. But I've decided that I have a slight problem with a couple scenes in the movie.

There's a scene where Belle is frightened by the Beast and she runs away from the castle. She and her horse are quickly attacked by a large pack of wolves. Luckily she's saved by the Beast, who then collapses from his injuries. The next thing we see is the Beast lying slumped over the horse's back while Belle leads them back to the castle.

How did the unconscious Beast get into that position on top of the horse? Am I to believe that Belle was capable of lifting a 500 pound monster onto her horse?

Later, during the climax of the film, the Beast is stabbed in the back by the bad guy. The pompous Gaston then falls into a ravine. And the Beast almost falls backwards too, but then the incredibly strong Belle is able to save him by grabbing his cloak and pulling him back onto the balcony.

If she's that strong, why couldn't she fight off those wolves herself earlier? How was Gaston able to manhandle her and her father when he went on his Beast-killing rampage? It just doesn't make any sense!

Sunday, July 12, 2009


When I think of the word "indulgence" I tend to think of people gorging themselves on sweets. And then I like to think of myself as immune to such a thing, simply because I don't much care for sweets.

Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy the occasional slice of cake, but I really don't care for the icing on top. When it comes to ice cream, I'm a strict vanilla type of guy. And don't get me started on chocolate. I can't stand the stuff, and have pretty much disliked it since the early teen years. But even before that, chocolate was ingested sparingly.

The truth is, I'm not immune to indulging myself when it comes to certain foods. While I may stay, for the most part, away from sweet items, I have had to retrain my thinking when it comes to certain foods.

Let's take pizza for an example. Back in college, I would think nothing of calling my old friend Papa John and ordering a large pizza all for myself. And I would polish it off in one evening. That was then. That was when I had an actual metabolism that would burn of insane quantities of food in short amounts of time. And really, that metabolism didn't last long. In the later college years, those pizzas caught up to me a bit.

These days, I still love a good pizza. And though I can't just sit down and eat an entire pie without feeling incredibly sick, I can still do half a large if I don't stop to think about what I'm doing. It's easy to overindulge if we're not paying attention. Because while we're still eating, our stomach may still be sending the signal that we're hungry, but that's because the food that we've already eaten hasn't gotten there yet. And then, when we finally do start to feel full, we're still busy shoving food into our mouths. And then it's too late. The overindulgence has begun.

So, staying with the pizza example, I still have the occasion to order myself a pizza. In fact, I'm pretty sure I could eat pizza for every meal, I like it that much. But I've learned my limitations. Two slices, then stop. Unless, of course, I just happen to feel like indulging myself.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Three Weeks With My Brother

Some of you may know that a guy named Nicholas Sparks is a pretty well-known author. If you've never read any of his books, you may have seen some of the films based on his work: A Walk to Remember, or Message in a Bottle, or maybe The Notebook. The Notebook, so far, is the only of his novels that I've read. Recently I was told that I should read the memoir that he wrote, Three Weeks With My Brother.

As an aspiring writer, I was told that this book could be inspirational to me. The memoir tells two stories. One, on the surface, is the story of a three week trip around the world that the author took with his brother, Micah. The other story is that of the two brothers and all the events that shaped their lives leading up to this once-in-a-lifetime journey.

I'll be honest, the reason I picked up the book was to see what it took for Sparks to become such a well-known author. The man had never even considered writing until one summer, home from college, he was bored. So his mother suggested that he spend his time writing. Even though it wasn't something he'd ever thought about doing, he took to it and finished a book that summer. He admitted that it was nowhere near good enough to be published. But at that point, he simply wanted to see if he could do it. And he made a good point, it's easy to start a novel, but it's another thing entirely to finish one.

Turns out, he would go on to write a second book, but deemed it unpublishable as well. His third attempt, however, was The Notebook. He sent out letters to literary agents and got a response from only one. But that one was all it took. She arranged for a publisher, who in turn bought the novel for a tidy sum of $1 million. Yeah, that's why I read this book. I mean, I'd be happy if I could finish a novel and sell it for a few thousand.

But something happened while I was reading this book. I got emotionally involved. These brothers, over the span of roughly a decade, lost their mother, father, and little sister. When reading about the deaths of each of their parents, I know my eyes began to get a little blurry, filling with tears that didn't quite escape. But then, toward the end, when reading about the death of their sister, Dana, I began sobbing uncontrollably. It was a little ridiculous, actually.

I don't remember ever becoming emotional when reading a book. Not like that anyway. Sure there are times, when reading a novel, I'll laugh out loud or feel angry or frustrated over something a character is doing, but I don't think I've ever cried like that before.

This is probably the first memoir I've really read. And I don't think I've read any biographies either. Perhaps my emotion was drawn from the fact that I knew that these were real people with real struggles. They weren't just figments of someone's imagination whose issues were merely symbolic. In reading about Nicholas and Micah's lives from the very beginning, it's as if I came to know them. I felt the same admiration for their mother that they had. I felt the same concern for their father when his life seemed to spiral downward. I felt the same love for their sister and the heartbreaking sorrow of knowing that she would eventually give in to the cancer, it was only a matter of time.

The description on the back of the book tells the reader that the two brothers are the last surviving members of their family. So going into this thing, I knew that there would be loss. When the parents were introduced and when Dana was born, I knew that tragedy was on its way.

I guess that's true in life as well. Death is inevitable. We all know it's coming. We will all eventually lose someone we love. It's just a question of when. So what is it that we do with the time before death?

So initially I read this book hoping for an instruction manual. But I discovered that it wasn't a how to book on becoming a writer. It turned out to be an inspirational story of learning to live life to its fullest and not taking a single thing for granted.

I won't sit here and say that it's a lesson I've learned. For the most part, I'm sure, I'll still be the semi-heartless jerk that I've always been. Then again, maybe I'll start calling my sister more often, just to let her know I love her.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Question of the Week: European

Can you urinate in front of another person?

Not only can I, but I have. It wasn't really by choice. There was an emergency situation following a 20oz. Fruitopia on a mission trip. We pulled the vans over and I stood next to a fence and let loose. Suddenly here comes one of the kids in the youth group, standing right next to me. There was about 300 yards of fencing there and he had to stand directly beside me. Dude, the unwritten rule is you have an unused urinal between you unless there's a line waiting. I think the rule applies for peeing in a field.

*Question of the Week comes from The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock, Ph.D.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Staycation: Day 4

The staycation is more than halfway over. It's kind of depressing when you think about it. Sure I still have a few days of no work, but most of that will be weekend, and that's just the norm.

Yesterday I went to my mailbox. This required me actually leaving the confines of my apartment and walking down the hall where I was faced with a choice. Do I take the elevator? Or do I take the stairs?

By this point, it felt like a great deal of my muscles had atrophied from a lack of movement for the past 48 hours. I decided that the stairs would be a good idea. As I stood at the top of the stairs, I realized that it was also a treacherous idea. But I forced my legs to do the work. After all, going down a flight of stairs isn't nearly as difficult as going up. That's something I would soon find out.

I got the mail and found nothing special about the event. Then I headed back up the stairs. I could have easily pushed the button for the elevator. But since this was the only real exercise I had received since the weekend, I decided the stairs would, once again, be a good idea. I sure felt like an old man while I was making that climb.

When I got back to my apartment I noticed a note on my door. It was something I hadn't seen when I left just a few minutes prior. It was a note from the property manager.

Remember that leak I had in my kitchen a few weeks back? Well, when I paid my rent at the beginning of this month, I included a thank you note. I wanted to let her know that I appreciated that they had been able to fix the problem and even apologized a little for being a sarcastic jerk while I was irritated with the whole issue. Pretty sure the sarcasm and angry remarks are not what Jesus would do. The way I saw it, her job has to be a thankless one. She probably only hears from tenants when they have something to complain about. Actually, I know that for a fact, 'cause I'm one of them.

The note from the property manager was also a thank you note. She was thanking me for my thank you note. I had to laugh at this. I mean, I get that she was grateful that I took the time to say thanks, but where does the cycle end? Am I now required by etiquette to send another thank you? I thought one would surely be enough, but maybe I'm wrong.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Staycation: Day 3

So I decided not to go to the zoo. I figured that the tank of gas it would cost me to get there and back again would be better spent driving to work and back several times once the vacation ends. Also I would have had to pay ten bucks to get in and would have likely needed to buy two meals while away from the apartment today. Instead I was here and ate for free. Twice.

And instead of going to see the animals live and up close, I assume that I can see the same creatures in pictures found on Wikipedia. So here are some of the animals that I would have seen, had I gone to the NC Zoo.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Staycation: Day 2

Here's what a day of vacation looks like for me this week.

6:30am - Woke up; realized that I'm on vacation, so I really didn't need to get up.

9:00am - Woke up again.

9:30am - Went to shower and looked in the mirror and realized I needed a shave. But then I figured, screw that, I don't have to go to work, why should I shave?

10:00am - Had a bowl of cereal.

10:30am - Considered the suggestion in Erynn's comment on yesterday's blog. In case you missed it, it was suggested that I take a day trip somewhere. Day trip in consideration: the North Carolina Zoological Park in Asheboro. Possible trip would take place tomorrow.

11:00am - Texted some friends for a while. Decided that I need to get some writing done, but I think I'll wait 'til after lunch.

12:00pm - Played a little PS3. Just because I could.

1:00pm - Thanks to a sale at the store yesterday, I find myself stupid with bologna, so I had a couple of bologna sandwiches.

1:30pm - Sat down to write. And then I actually wrote. Mostly outlining some ideas, but progress was made.

2:00pm - Meanwhile I watched the coverage of Michael Jackson's memorial service.

3:00pm - Turned off the computer so I could take a break from the writing for a while.

Oh, and near the end of the memorial service, I had to talk myself out of crying at MJ's daughter's remarks. Pretty heartbreaking. Seriously.

4:00pm - Read some of Nicholas Sparks' memoir, Three Weeks With My Brother. It's a pretty good book.

5:00pm - Fixed dinner. Steak-Umms. That's right my friends.

5:30pm - Got back to writing. This time it was some actual writing, not just outlining. Stuck with that for a while.

7:30pm - Did some actual research on how to get to the zoo and how much such a trip would cost me.

9:00pm - Talked myself out of going to the zoo. The way I see it, I don't get paid again 'til next Wednesday. With the rent check already coming out, money's gonna be tight until then. Kind of stinks 'cause I was actually looking forward to going to the zoo. I haven't been to a zoo in over a decade. Maybe I'll talk myself back into going on Thursday.

9:53pm - Wrote a blog post.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Staycation: Day 1

A few months ago I scheduled a week of vacation, unsure of what I'd be doing or what I could even afford to do.

That week of vacation has arrived and I can afford to do pretty much nothing. And thus, the week of the staycation has begun.

It's hard to tell what this week will bring. It will either be filled with days of adventures that can be had for free, or it will be filled with lazy days that involve absolutely no strenuous activity whatsoever.

Since I'm not going anywhere, I'd really like to spend some time writing. Not for the blog, but for those novel ideas I've had rattling around in my head for the last few years.

I always make excuses for not writing. I don't spend my days doing any kind of hard physical labor, but by the end of a day at the bank, I am still exhausted. By the time I get home, I just don't feel like exercising my brain. And then when the weekend hits, I feel like I've only got a day to myself to really relax, so that's what I do. I spend time vegging out and refraining from forcing my mind to do any work.

So yeah, that's the plan. Unless something better comes up. It's conceivable that some free or extremely cheap activity could come up and I'll spend one of my vacation days outside of my apartment. It could happen.

Sunday, July 05, 2009


It's hard to know how to approach the subject of what it means to be human. For a science fiction writer, it may be easier. Creators in that particular genre are limited only by their imaginations as to the plethora of aliens and creatures to which one can compare humanity. Many people only have the animals to which we can compare mankind.

So what does it mean to be human?

It could be our emotions that define us. At the drop of a hat we can go from rage to sorrow to joy and everything in between. Then again, you can easily see emotion in certain animals. I don't know enough of the science or the biology of the animal kingdom to claim which creatures experience emotions, but can't you tell when your dog is happy to see you?

In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Admiral Kirk said that Spock's soul was the most human that he had ever encountered. For those of you who know nothing about the Star Trek universe, Spock wasn't fully human. Spock was a Vulcan, coming from a race that had learned to repress emotions in favor of logical thinking. Throughout the character's history, the viewer would see glimpses of his emotional, human side, but in general, he kept that part of himself at bay.

But maybe it's not our emotions that define us as humans. Maybe Kirk was referring to Spock's self-sacrifice. Spock knew what needed to be done in order to save the lives of the ship's crew, and therefore gave up his own life to do so. "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one." This is what his logic dictated. Then again, perhaps that does tie back to a certain emotion. Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).

Maybe it's our flaws that make us human. Look around every day and you see countless people striving for perfection, or whatever they believe perfection to be. Immediately, physical perfection comes to mind, with so many rushing to the doctor's office or the pharmacy to find ways to stave off the signs of aging. They look in the magazine and see the people that have been listed as beautiful this month and wish so badly that they could look like that. What they don't understand is that it's their flaws that set them apart, that make them beautiful.

As a Christian, I believe that I must strive for perfection. This isn't a physical perfection, but a spiritual one. I must strive to be Christ-like. As a Christian, I believe that Christ is the very portrait of perfection, and that His example is the one that I should be following. Every day, I fail. But it's through those failures and through my flaws that He continues to love me. Without those human frailties and imperfections, His sacrifice would have been unneeded.

So which is it? Is it our emotion that makes us human? Is it our need to better ourselves? Or is it simply our ability to make use of opposable thumbs?

Friday, July 03, 2009

Question of the Week: Another Year

Would you add one year to your life if it meant taking one year from the life of someone in the world selected at random? Would it matter if you were told whose life you had shortened?

I wouldn't do it. Doesn't matter to me whose life would be shortened. One day it'll be my time to go. And when that time comes, I'm ready for it. I don't need to add an extra year to my life. One more year won't make a difference in the way I live my life today.

*Question of the Week comes from The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock, Ph.D.

Thursday, July 02, 2009


Does anyone out there besides me remember Asteroids? It was an old game for the Atari. Basically you controlled a little triangle that was supposed to represent some sort of space craft. You would float through an asteroid field and shoot at the giant rocks. Each time you shot, they would split in two and become smaller, until eventually you pulverized the pebbles.

According to this article, as many as four studios in Hollywood have been fighting over the rights to turn this primitive game into a major motion picture.

This was a game with no story and no characters. How do you turn that into a movie? There are so many games out there that are just waiting to be turned into crappy movies. And there are a few that have the potential to be great movies. A few that come to mind are Metroid, Metal Gear, and The Legend of Zelda. They really should have stayed away from Super Mario Bros. Possibly the worst movie ever.

So what else can they use for a movie idea? Donkey Kong? Though I guess that was sort of taken from King Kong. Maybe a little. What about Q-Bert? Who wouldn't want to watch a movie about a little orange dude with a big nose jumping up and down pyramids, dodging big red balls and jumping snakes.

I have an idea for a great one though. Pac-Man! You have to have the exclamation point because it will be a musical. The story is about a morbidly obese man who is trapped in a maze and the only way to get out is to eat everything in sight, including the dangerous ghost-like monsters chasing after him. And just when he thinks he's found an exit, he becomes dismayed to find that he's only come around to the opposite side of the maze. Oh the suspense! I'll start working on the screenplay and the musical numbers.

Look out Hollywood! Here comes Pac-Man!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009


Going back to elementary school, I've enjoyed drawing. I used to doodle things in my notebooks when I should have been paying attention in class. For a while I went through a pretty serious Ninja Turtle phase, but that wore off by the time I got to middle school.

I didn't really get into any art classes until I reached high school, when I was able to pick and choose which electives I wanted to take. From there I expanded the art I did from drawing to painting and even some sculpting. I took a ceramics class which allowed me to have a very productive Christmas. I made all kinds of crap for my relatives: bowels, vases, statues, jewelery boxes. I wasn't too shabby with a lump of clay.

Painting was fun, but I never really got a firm grasp on it. Most of what I remember about the painting class I took had to do with the student teacher that was in there for most of the semester. Kinda had a thing for her, but I'm sure I'll get to that in a Life Story post somewhere down the line.

It seems like it always came back to drawing though. That's the thing I enjoyed most about art. Over the years, off and on, I've gotten back into drawing. For a while I wanted to get good enough to become a comic book artist. I mean, how cool would it be to draw Superman for a living? But I gave that one up. I realized that I definitely wasn't talented enough for that.

But I've also realized I'm my own worst critic. A lot of the time I'll draw something and then just want to trash it, because it doesn't live up to the standards I set for myself. Those standards are based on the work that other artists have done. I shouldn't just expect to be that good right out of the gate.

A problem I have is with the How To books. You know the ones I'm talking about. They're the instructional drawing books that show you how to draw a cartoon turtle or something equally lame. And it gives you the step by step diagram beginning with some seemingly random circles, then a couple images later you have a fully fleshed out cartoon turtle. I never did understand that stuff. I didn't want to draw the outlines and the faint shapes that would turn into the finished image. I just wanted to draw the finished image.

I still just want to draw the finish image. And even though I can see the picture in my head, I just can't seem to translate it onto the page. This becomes a problem for me now as it's been suggested that I write and illustrate a children's book.

Nicole and her mom actually brought it up. My own mom seemed to think it would be a pretty good idea as well. The characters would be based on Kevin, Nicole, and myself. So I've tried designing some cartoony versions of us and so far I'm coming up with some pretty crappy drawings. I'm starting to think I should just draw the stuff and stop second guessing myself. If it's good enough, someone else will just tell me. If it's not, a real friend would tell me that too. It's a work in progress.