Thursday, September 30, 2010


At the end of May, something terrible happened. Just as I was about to return home from a family reunion in Nashville, Tennessee, the air conditioning system in my car stopped working. It wasn't anything as simple as the air not being cool when it came out of the vent. The issue was that no air would come out of the vent at all.

So I spent a great deal of time attempting to save up some money to get the problem fixed. And it's been a very hot summer. Most days, I was okay, because it's been a very dry summer as well. Humid, but fairly rain-free. So that meant I could ride around with the windows down and be semi-comfortable thanks to the flowing air. But on those days when the rains came, it was like riding around in a pizza oven. Especially on nights when I had to deliver pizza.

But I am happy to say that, as of today, I have a working ventilation system in the Escort. I have air conditioning, I have heat, I have defrost. It's just as the people at Ford meant for it to be so many years ago.

And I need to send out a very special thanks to someone who helped make those repairs possible. Back in August I posted a plea for help. Even though I really didn't expect any response whatsoever, one person did take me seriously. I'll keep her anonymous, but I hope she reads this and knows just how grateful I am.

Now, I realize that today was probably the coolest day in the last four months, so having A/C again could be kind of ridiculous. But it was raining all day, so it was nice to have the air flowing even with the windows up. I haven't experienced that for some time. And I've almost decided that, even if we experience the coldest winter on record this year, I'll ride around with the air on full blast. I'll never take that cool air for granted again.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Social Games

Hi folks. My name is Aaron. And I play FarmVille.

It's been about 3 hours, give or take, since I planted my last crops. Blueberries. They'll be ready for harvest in about an hour. And I'm wondering if I should even bother.

See, I used to be one of those Facebookers who would openly mock the social gamers. I would go so far as to make fun of them to their faces, not behind their backs or through passive-aggressive status updates like some people do. I made it a regular habit of simply clicking "Ignore" every time a rogue family member would send me an invitation begging me to join their Mafia.

Somewhere along the way, I got sucked in.

Looking back, I can't even remember how it all started. I guess it's because FarmVille's the one that's the most popular. I saw that some of my friends were playing it. Even some of the guys from the cool kids' table. They were leveling up like it was nobody's business. I wanted a piece of that action.

So I started. I planted a couple rows of corn. I got an apple tree. My farm was humble, but productive. My friends, it is a slippery slope. I'm so far in now, I don't know if I can stop. I'm mastering crops and upgrading heavy machinery. I have stables and a chicken coop for my virtual horses and chickens. I even have a beehive, and I don't even know why.

But this was just the beginning. FarmVille is just a gateway game. Soon, the company that controls the farms, Zynga, came up with FrontierVille. For me, this one is the more addicting game. It has missions that I just have to accomplish. And it isn't just about planting crops. It's about building a frontier-style town with a general store and a schoolhouse.

Recently, in my frontier home, I was presented with the opportunity to build a horseshoe pit. Apparently, this game within the game allows players to receive rewards for taking a little risk now and then. So I built it. But there was a catch. To get all the pieces needed to finish building the pit, I needed to go and play other Zynga games, five in all. So I did it.

I'm happy to say that I didn't become addicted to these other games, but for about a week, I was touch and go. And I ask, where does it all stop? When will I be satisfied with my frontier, or with my farm for that matter? When will enough be enough? When will I complete my last mission in my final frontier? Is it possible to beat the game?

I doubt it. I just hope they haven't turned me into a lifer. I must get out. Some day.

You know, I don't even think it's that big a deal. I'm pretty sure I can stop any time I want to!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Legends of the Bank Teller - Episode LXXXVI

To the douche bag that came to my drive through window today, claiming that the branch in Garner never gives him a hard time, I feel the need to extend some advice. Next time, feel free to go to Garner!

Scenario: Douche Bag drives up to the window and asks for a blank deposit ticket. That's strike one. Technically, one is supposed to have all of their items prepared before pulling up to the window, but it's one of those policies that we tend to let slide more often than not. Also, to say that he "asked" for a blank deposit ticket is being too kind. Basically he demanded a blank deposit ticket.

At the time, I was helping a customer in the lobby, but was almost finished. So I handed out the blank ticket and completed the lobby customer's transaction. By the time I returned, Douche Bag was ready to have me run his deposit. I pulled in the drawer and my eyes were immediately drawn to the wad of $100 dollar bills sitting on top of the deposit slip.

I picked it all up, felt the weight of it, and read the amount written on the ticket. $5500. That's a lot of money. Now, for security purposes, I'm generally not supposed to accept cash deposits of more than $1000 at the drive-through. I do make exceptions for people when it's necessary. You know, people with handicaps, people with loud and/or obnoxious children that are difficult to wrangle into the branch, things of that nature. Douche Bags in Tahoes with more cash than they know what to do with? They can get their lazy butts out of their SUVs and bring it inside.

Of course he huffed, but he parked and walked in. Once I had finished his deposit, he asked for his balance. Ladies and gentlemen, the powers that be at our bank couldn't care less who makes a deposit into your account, but if you want to make a withdrawal or even get the slightest information, you better be prepared to present some ID. So I asked for his ID. He whined about it being in the car.

This is the part where he raised his voice and complained about how the Garner branch never gives him a hard time like this. I rolled my eyes, probably so he could see it, and turned around and proceeded to print his balance. I was beyond caring at this point. By then, he had made me just angry enough to want to get him out of my face as quickly as possible. If he didn't leave soon, he would be asking to see my manager because I would have said something very rude that would probably have cost my job.

He snatched the receipt out of my hand so fast that I thought I might have a paper cut. I went ahead and wished him a pleasant afternoon in the most polite voice I could muster. I'm getting pretty good at faking a good attitude in front of customers that piss me off.

So, to the Douche Bag, thank you for taking me from what was otherwise a pretty good day to a short time of mindless rage. Enjoy Garner.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Before re-reading book six, it was probably the installment that I was least familiar with in the Harry Potter series. As with books four and five, I only read through this one once. And that was back in 2005 when it first came out, at which time, I basically devoured it. Something else that plays into that unfamiliarity is that I only saw the film version once when it hit theaters. The other movies have been on TV dozens of times. Half-Blood Prince (as far as I know) has yet to hit broadcast television.

So I wanted to take my time getting through this one. And I definitely took my time. Five years ago, I think I had it done in two days. This time I slowly read it over two weeks. While it isn't the longest book in the series, it does pack in a great deal of information for the reader to wade through.

We begin not long after Order of the Phoenix left off. Harry is back at his aunt and uncle's home, still reeling from the loss of his godfather, Sirius. But Harry finds himself in a better place, emotionally, than he was the previous summer. This time he's still in contact with his mentor, Professor Dumbledore, who has promised to come and personally escort him to the home of his best friend's family for the remainder of the holidays.

On the way, Dumbledore takes Harry to meet a retired professor, Horace Slughorn, whom Dumbledore is trying to convince to come out of retirement to return to Hogwarts. Harry helps to convince the old man to reluctantly come back. Once the school year starts, it's discovered that Professor Slughorn is the new Potions teacher, replacing Harry's least favorite teacher, Severus Snape. Snape, however, hasn't lost his job as a teacher. He's just been moved to the job he's wanted for years: Defense Against the Dark Arts.

This poses a slight problem for Harry. As he thought he would have been finished with Potions after his fifth year, he neglected to purchase the necessary books and materials for that class. So Slughorn loans him a used Potions book, one which belonged to "the Half-Blood Prince". This mysterious "Prince" left meticulous notes in the margins, improving upon the information printed in the book. This made Harry a whiz in Slughorn's eyes, awarding him good grades and a good luck potion as a bonus on the first day.

Along with his normal classes, Harry was instructed to take private lessons with Professor Dumbledore. These lessons were basically a history of the life of Lord Voldemort, from his acceptance to Hogwarts to his first rise to power. These lessons culminated in the discovery that Voldemort, who was obsessed with immortality, had in fact found a way to make himself immortal. Voldemort had created items called Horcruxes, objects which would house a piece of his own soul. Therefore, if his body was killed or destroyed, a piece of himself would still be tethered to this world, giving him a chance to, at some point, regenerate.

The climax of the story occurs near the end of the school year when Dumbledore takes Harry away from the school to find and destroy one of these Horcruxes. Once the duo retrieves what they believe to be the correct object, they return to Hogwarts to find that it has been overrun by Death Eaters (Voldemort's followers). For his protection, Dumbledore silently petrifies Harry, leaving him immobile under his invisibility cloak. Harry is forced to watch the action unfold before his eyes and is helpless to stop it.

That action results in the death of Dumbledore at the hands of Snape. Harry is outraged. For years Harry had been saying that Snape wasn't worthy of Dumbledore's trust, but he always had it. And now Dumbledore had paid for that mistake with his life. As Snape makes his escape and Harry chases after him, it's revealed that Snape himself was the Half-Blood Prince. It was his old Potions book that Harry had been poring over all year.

After the battle that takes place, there is much discussion over whether Hogwarts should remain open to students. Harry decides that, whether it's open or not, he won't be coming back to school. Dumbledore had started him down a path to ridding the world of Voldemort's evil once and for all. Harry takes it upon himself to find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes, and eventually, face Voldemort himself.

So what do we learn from all of this? That people you never learned to trust are really not trustworthy at all? That doesn't seem like a good lesson to walk away with. How about not putting your faith in the scribbled instructions of a second-hand book? But really, isn't that something Harry should have learned way back in the Chamber of Secrets when Ginny Weasley was controlled by Voldemort's old diary.

Harry's still a noble character and he's extremely loyal to Dumbledore, even after his death. What Harry walks away with is the knowledge of what must be done, no matter how the odds may be stacked against him. Harry's accepted everything he's learned over the years and is ready to come into his own. He's ready to be the person that Dumbledore always believed him to be. 

Deathly Hallows is up next. I'll give a legitimate spoiler warning with that one since the movie hasn't come out yet.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Alex was surprised at how deserted the interstate seemed to be. He was only surprised because of how close to Christmas they now were. However, it was nearly 10pm. Maybe the majority of the holiday travelers had decided to call it a night.

He couldn't help but laugh at his passenger, Alyson, as she sang along with the latest Katy Perry song being played on the radio. "Are you laughing at my singing?" she asked, feigning offense.

"Not at all," said Alex, and it was the truth. "I'm laughing at the song."

"Yeah, I know. But it's catchy," Alyson said as she reached for her CDs. "Time for something more Christmas-y anyway."

It had been eight months since their first date and things were going very well for the young couple. Despite the fact that they worked together and saw each other every day, they still managed to have the kind of relationship that kept each of them on their toes. They were constantly discovering new things about each other and continually learning just how well they fit together.

Having been together for as long as they had been, Alyson insisted that it was time that she meet Alex's family. Aly's folks had welcomed Alex into their home with open arms only a few weeks into the relationship. For Alex, that was easier than having her meet his family, since hers lived in the same town. Alex, however, had grown up just outside Atlanta, a good eleven hour drive from the D.C. area. And so, with Christmas approaching, Alyson claimed it would be the perfect time for him to visit Atlanta and to take her along with him.

He couldn't argue with her. He had told his parents all about her in various phone conversations. But visits were rare occasions thanks to the crumbling economy and soaring gas prices. Alex couldn't hide Alyson away from his family forever, though. He was crazy about this girl and had been since the first time he'd met her.

"Do you think your parents will be mad that we're so late?" she asked. Her voice gave away just how nervous she was at meeting his family for the first time.

"No, I called them while you slept through most of North Carolina. They know when to expect us."

"Do you think they'll like me?" She looked at Alex, suddenly very serious.

Alex looked over at her and reached for her hand. "They're gonna love you."

Alyson smiled. "How can you be so sure?"

"Well, I love you." As soon as the words were out, Alex realized that it was the first time he had ever said them to Alyson. After eight months together, he finally blurted out what he had been feeling for so long. In that moment he wondered what had made him so afraid to tell her. In that moment, he wished he had told her long before then.

She smiled and looked down at their interlocked fingers. Alex cleared his throat. "I can't imagine anyone not loving you, Aly."

They rode in silence for a few minutes, passing a sign letting them know that Atlanta was 36 miles away. Amy Grant sang about a Tennessee Christmas and Alyson squeezed Alex's hand.

"I love you, too."

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Anthropology Rap

Community made it's comeback this past Thursday. And this time, they brought Betty White with them...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Question of the Week: 3 Months

Have you had satisfying sex in the last three months?

No. And I don't feel there's any need to elaborate.

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

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Finding Joy

I got a slap in the face last night. But it was a slap in the face in a good kind of way. That slap came in the form of a phone call from the Charlatan. The phone call started out just catching up on what's been going on for the last couple weeks and his proclamation that he's going to attempt the Master Cleanse. I wished him luck on that one. I've heard it isn't pleasant.

At one point he decided to point out the absurdity of a lot of my Facebook status updates. He made me realize just how many of those things end up being about how much I hate my job and how miserable I am. He told me not to be that guy. You know what? I hate being that guy.

It isn't something I think about very often. I generally just write it off as a part of my personality. I'm sarcastic. I'm cynical. And I have a pretty pathetic attitude toward things at the moment. It isn't something I'm proud of. And it took a phone call from a friend to make me realize just how pathetic it makes me look.

I've said it before, even on this blog, that I don't like being the one that complains. I even feel incredibly guilty for complaining about my trivial problems when so many people I know and love are dealing with so much worse and with more severe consequences.

He went on to tell me that I need to find joy in some area of my life. I sat there and I tried to make excuses for why it's difficult to find this elusive joy. I look around my life and see so much pain and misery and it's just easier to accept that as my reality than to look past all of that to find the genuine joy that must exist.

It got me thinking about something that Dr. Lyle once said back in college. He was our campus minister, and I'm not sure if it was said during a message he was giving or just a regular conversation. But he said he was tired of hearing Christians say that they were "okay, under the circumstances." That simple thing has stuck with me through the years, but I've forgotten the point of it all.

Acts 16 tells the story of Paul and Silas being beaten and thrown into prison for doing God's work. They could have easily looked at their situation and accepted their miserable circumstances. But they didn't. It's not as if Paul looked at Silas and said, "Well, we gave it our best. Guess we'll just have to resign ourselves to rotting away in this place." Instead, the two of them began praising God and singing hymns. The strength of their faith and their joy was powerful enough to shake the walls of the prison.

So what am I doing under the circumstances? As a follower of Christ, I should be able to rise above those circumstances. Not based on anything that I can do alone, but based on the strength that God wants to give me. Just like a parent doesn't want to see his or her children in misery, God doesn't want to see any of us in a miserable state. But the promise isn't that those times aren't going to come. The promise is that He will be there and will remain faithful to us no matter what. He wants us to turn to Him and find in Him a joy that can be found nowhere else.

Toward the end of our conversation, the Charlatan asked if I was mad at him. Of course I wasn't. He pretty much told me something I needed to hear. Like I said, it was a slap to the face. A kind of wake up call that I had been ignoring for a while. So now, I guess, I'm on a quest of sorts. I'm trying to find joy in some area of my life. He told me that I had Jesus, which should be a huge head start. So step one will be to reconnect with Him through a more active prayer life and getting into His Word a little more frequently. Okay, a lot more frequently.

Sorry... Didn't mean to preach. But I think, really, I was preaching more to myself than to anyone out there.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


I've been thinking about Dad a lot lately. I'm not entirely sure why. It's kind of just been happening. That's not to say that he doesn't cross my mind at some point pretty much every day. But it's been different over the last couple of weeks. It's as if I've been missing him more than I had been for a while. It's as if I'm missing him in the same, powerful way that I missed him in the weeks after he passed away.

I don't think there's any one thing that this can be traced to or blamed on. I did watch The Last Song a few weeks back. Not the greatest movie I've ever seen, but the story got to me. For those who haven't seen it or read the book, I won't spoil it. Let's just say it's a typical Nicholas Sparks style of feel-good movie. So it could be that that is part of the reason for this particular can of worms being opened up.

And then there was this week's episode of How I Met Your Mother. In the season premiere, Lily complains about how involved Marshall's father is in their lives. Her complaint is that Marshall is all the time on the phone with the man and constantly talking to him about every single event in their lives, whether large or small. When she complains to Barney about it, he tells her in a rare, touching moment, that if he had his father's number, he would never not be on the phone with him.

Yesterday, as I was driving home from work, a song came on that Dad used to sing. There are a lot of songs that remind me of him, but I guess in the heightened emotional state that I've found myself in I couldn't help but cry this time. It wasn't anything uncontrollable. I didn't have to pull to the side of the road in order to compose myself just so I could make the last few miles to my apartment. But the tears were real and they didn't just settle for filling up my eyes. A few of them escaped and ran down my cheeks.

My A/C is still busted, so the windows were down. I'm sure I looked and possibly sounded a little unstable to any other drivers that may have been nearby. But I didn't care. I was missing my Dad. Deal with it.

I guess I miss being able to talk to him. I've got a lot going on in my life right now and it isn't all very good. I'm not at a place where my joy is apparent because I'm surrounded by so much perceived misery. And I miss being able to go to him. I miss being able to sit down across from him in the living room to share what's going on. And I wouldn't go into it expecting advice, and he would know that's not what I would expect. But he would listen. And if it was appropriate, he would offer his opinion. He would tell me what he thought.

I'm a couple weeks away from 4 years since he passed. Maybe I'm ramping up to an emotional storm. Maybe I'm getting it out of the way early. Maybe I just miss my Dad in a time when I really wish he was around to give me a hug and let me know that it's gonna be okay.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010

3 Questions, 3 Answers

In my call for questions, I received three. I said I'd answer them today, and I am a man of my word. So, with no more ado, here they are...

Jackie asks: What is your favorite childhood memory?
This is actually a pretty tough question. It isn't that I didn't have a happy childhood with plenty of fond memories. It could be that as an adult, I've just become so jaded and cynical that it's hard to look back and pick something out of the fog. Then again, maybe I'm just getting old and those memories are just fading. Something that does stick out is a trip to Lakeside Amusement Park. It wasn't anything huge, but it was local and it was exciting. And to a kid my age, it seemed to stretch on forever, with endless entertaining possibilities. Thanks to a flood in 1985, Lakeside was shut down before I turned six, so I never got to experience any of the grown-up rides like the Shooting Star roller coaster. But I remember watching the flashing lights and the way those rides moved around so fast. And I realize that a place like that paled in comparison to places like Busch Gardens or Kings Dominion, but again, the perspective of a five-year-old made it a very exciting place.

Lacey asks: If you were going to start your own business, what would it be?
There was a time, back in Bluefield, when I wanted to run a movie theater. Not one of the new theaters with multple screens and digital projectors. There was this old theater downtown, on the West Virginia side, called the Colonial. It was run down, and the guy that owned it used the building to store a lot of junk. It was just sitting there, rotting away. Somewhere along the way I found out that the guy was selling it, and his asking price was only $35,000. Sounds like a steal, right? Well, I called him up, asked him about it, and he invited me to come and take a look at it. So I took the tour. Yeah, it was falling apart, but the place was beautiful. At the time, I was looking at it through incredibly optimistic eyes. So I looked past the owner's junk and trash. I looked past the crumbling ceilings and cracked walls. But the reality of the situation was that the old place would have needed to have about $500,000 worth of work done to it in order to even be safe for people to come to watch a movie. But my idea was to take the lobby and convert it into a coffeeshop and show classic movies in the theater. The work that needed to be done was enough to blow that particular dream out of the water. I knew I could have come up with a way to buy the property itself, but I just couldn't see how I could possibly come up with half a million dollars to make the needed repairs. Even if I could have had the place declared an historic landmark, and I'm pretty sure it qualified, the odds just seemed insurmountable. Also, it was in a part of town that not too many folks would have wanted to visit after sundown. That probably would have cut into my chances of turning a profit at any given point. But I still think that kind of thing would be a lot of fun to do.

Rowena asks: What is your favorite memory of Mrs. Hall's class at Springdale? I'll take either year since we had her for both 4th and 5th grade.
Springdale? What's Springdale? 'Cause I'm pretty sure we were at Raleigh Court for Mrs. Hall's class. Most of what I remember about 4th grade is thinking that Mrs. Hall just didn't like me. I remember having a crush on Sarah. And I have a vague memory of trying to come up with a story for a 4th Back to the Future with you and Justin Walker. Good times. As I've gotten older, I've come to realize that as awesome as Back to the Future is, it works just fine as a trilogy.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


I spent the weekend up at Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia. It was a weekend spent playing games, sitting on the dock, and going out on the boat while catching up with some of the best friends I've ever known. After the last few days, my abs are in pretty good shape due to all the laughing that I did.

This morning we had a short devotion led by Shannon, who talked to us about the importance of our friendships. Specifically, she spoke about how important we, as a group, are to one another. We're a group of adults who started out as a group of kids trying to navigate our way through college. Throughout the last 10 years, we've been there for each other to celebrate the good times and help each other through the bad.

Shannon shared a passage from Ecclesiastes and was able to remind us just how much we all mean to each other. We're all grown-ups now. We all have lives. Many of the people in the group are married and even have children. So we all stay pretty busy with everything that goes on from day to day. But when it comes right down to it, we can always count on each other. We may not see each other or even get a chance to speak to each other for weeks or even months at a time, but at a moment's notice, any of us could call another of these friends and know that they would be there for us in a heartbeat.

I may not be related to any of these friends, but to me, they are family. They're a unique group of individuals, with whom I can just be myself. No matter what goes on in each of our lives and no matter how much time passes, we're still able to get together and pick right up where we left off. We're able to laugh at each other and with each other. We're able to share our lives and decisions without fear of being judged for our mistakes. We're able to pick each other up when we fall and are able to honestly share in our faith.

I've had friends in my life who have come and gone, but I've never experienced a group quite like this. I've never been closer to a group of individuals before college or since. One of the things we touched on in our discussion this morning was our belief that God brought us all together back in college and He has kept us grounded in our friendships with Him as our foundation. God knew that we, as a group, would be well suited to play off each other's strengths and weaknesses, able to encourage, love, and pray for each other. God definitely blessed me by putting these people in my life.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Question of the Week: Birthday Suit

If you went to a beach and it turned out to be a nude beach, would you stay and go swimming? Would you swim nude?

Generally, I don't have a problem with people wanting to go somewhere and hang out naked. Even though I was raised in the tradition that says the naked body is disgusting and should be covered in shame, if that's what someone wants to do with their free time, so be it. I could be speaking out of turn, but it sure seems like that's the way God intended things at the start. And that may be the case, however, I don't think a nude beach is somewhere I'd like to hang out. And no, I wouldn't go swimming, bathing suit or birthday suit. But that's mostly because I'm not much of a swimmer as it is. I'd probably drown if I got too distracted.

In other news, I'm going out of town this weekend and I'm not taking my computer with me. So I won't be able to post anything to the blog tomorrow, even though a few weeks ago I vowed to post something every single day. But I'm trying to convince the Most Awesome Person I Know to write something for tomorrow. But as of this posting, she has yet to give me a definitive answer. Maybe she just needs some encouragement. If you want something to read tomorrow, you can go over to her blog and try to talk her into it.

Also, don't forget to ask me your questions on yesterday's post. I'll do a normal blog on Sunday, and then on Monday I'll answer any of the questions that have been asked. Have a great weekend kids!

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

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Open Book 3

This is something I've done twice before. The last time I did a post like this was around this time last year. This is your opportunity, as a reader of this blog, to ask me any questions that you would like me to answer. For previous examples click here and here.

Here's how it works: In the comments below, just leave your question. I'll give everyone a few days to post their questions. And then on Monday I'll come back and give you my honest answers. No subject is off the table. Just try to keep it clean. I look forward to reading your questions.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hair Products

I've been putting off getting a haircut for a while. Mostly because getting a haircut requires money, which is something of short supply these days. Anyway, the haircut was long overdue.

So I get to the place and am introduced to Kim, the woman who would be cutting my hair today. And Kim got to work. And as long as I've gone in letting the hair grow, she had her work cut out for her. In the process of cutting and trimming, she began to question my use of product in my hair.

Now, generally, I don't use anything. Every now and then, I may try out some kind of hair gel. But more often than not, when I do happen to use it, I just don't like it. I don't like how it makes my hair look shiny and constantly wet. And I don't like how it gives my hair the consistency of a railroad spike.

But Kim decided to let me know just how important it would be to buy the right hair product that they just happened to sell there. Which, to me, kinda looked like some kind of paste. But I smiled and nodded, as if I were truly interested.

And then we went back to the sink so she could wash my hair. At which point she asked me what kind of shampoo I use at home. I responded by saying I just buy whatever's cheapest when it's time to get it. She went on to tell me that it would behoove me to use the same kind of shampoo that she was using at that moment, because the stuff that's in it would be good to clean my scalp of build-up. Because I have oily hair.

Oily! What gives her the right...?!

Okay, that's a fair assessment.

Anyway, she's trying to get me to buy these new products that they just happen to sell right there at the register. She went through all that hard work and long sales pitch, and then I had to shoot her down. It was bad enough that I had to convince myself to spend money just to get the haircut. Shampoo and paste for my hair too? Sorry, don't think so.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Final Destination Moment

This morning as I drove to work, I found myself briefly following an interesting pick-up truck. The driver was carrying a number of tools in the bed of the truck. One of these tools was a sawblade attached to a long handle, most likely used to trim tree branches that are high off the ground. I'm sure there's a proper name for this sort of saw, but I don't know it.

The thing that disturbed me about this particular sawblade was that it was just resting on top of the tailgate. And it looked to be pointing directly at me.

It's the kind of obvious thing that would be on display in a Final Destination movie. You know, the guy's driving down the road and he has all these sharp tools in the back of the truck, and he's only halfway paying attention to how he's driving recklessly. The camera pans over this one sawblade that looks like it's aiming directly at the driver's head in the car behind it. See, the camera does that to set up a really obvious foreshadowing, showing you just how the driver that escaped the explosion at the beginning of the movie is about to catch up with death.

Well that's kind of what I thought of when I saw that sawblade pointing at my head this morning. I was grateful to be able to pass that truck not long after seeing it. I'm not necessarily afraid of death, but I'd rather not go out in a gruesome horror movie style death.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Not Getting Into It

There's a part of me that really hates this time of the year. It's the time of year when network television does their best to entice viewers to get caught up in their brand new programming. They want people to latch on to series and stars and they're just praying that one of these new shows will be the next Lost. Networks are constantly on the look out for the next show that will keep people coming back week after week, as if it's a fix that the TV junkies just have to have.

I can't tell you how happy I was that Lost ended back in the spring. Well, it was bittersweet. I thought Lost was a great show, from start to finish. There's a part of me that was glad I got sucked in with episode one, and there's a part of me that's glad I was addicted to that six-year long story. But there's another part of me that's glad it's all over. That's an hour of my life every week that I get back to myself.

But TV wants me to replace it with something else. TV wants to give me something that's just as addictive. But I don't want to. I really don't want to find something to take the place of Lost or 24 or any other show for that matter. Maybe my priorities have shifted, but I've just stopped caring about the new stuff TV has to offer.

It isn't that the new promos that are being beamed to my TV aren't intriguing. The Event looks like it answers that Lost mentality. The commercials show just enough to make people scratch their heads and ask, "What's that all about?" Those are the people that will tune in to the premiere and either be really impressed or really disappointed. My guess is, it'll develop a small, but loyal fan base who will get up in arms when NBC fails to renew it for a second season.

If that's the case, why watch the new show at all? What's the point of getting invested in new stories and new characters, just to be disappointed by a lackluster finale when it's all said and done.

I say no more! I say we stop letting these television studios dictate what the next big thing will be for the sake of advertising dollars!

Wow... that kinda sounds like I'm suddenly anti-television. I'm not. I think TV is swell. Not really sure where that rant came from. I guess I'm just tired of all of it. It just seems to me there are a lot more important things going on in the world than whether or not the women of Wisteria Lane are getting along this week.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


When David regained consciousness he found himself bound and gagged. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the dim light in the dark room. Before he was fully aware of his surroundings, he felt a hard fist smash into the left side of his face. In the moment that his face exploded in pain, he heard the creaking weakness of the old wooden chair he was apparently tied to.

"So you survived the treatment," said a heavily accented voice. From what David could tell, that voice belonged to the the man who had hit him, a man whose features were shrouded in darkness. "We were unsure as to whether you would ever wake up again."

David's eyes now focused more clearly. He looked directly at his attacker, who then reached for his mouth to remove the gag. "It would have been a shame if you had died. After all, you do have information that we would like to have. But, I suppose, had your life faded away, it would have been no great loss."

The man in the shadow briefly walked away, returning quickly with another chair. He sat down across from David, finally revealing his face in the light. David recognized him as the target of his mission. This man, Ken Paik, was highly influential in the North Korean government. David was to abduct him and bring him to the right people, so that they could ask him the right questions. But something went wrong.

Everything that had happened in the past 24 hours was a fuzzy memory at best. The intelligence that David had acquired had turned out to be incorrect in certain spots. This faulty intel caused his mission to seemingly fail. It caused him to be the one who was captured. It caused him to have to endure "the treatment" as Paik so eloquently referred to the torture that he had been through.

David remained silent as Paik stared into his eyes. He wasn't ready to turn over any national secrets just yet. In fact, he was just getting his second wind. Behind his back, he silently tested the strength of the ropes that bound him. "Leave us," Paik said over his shoulder to the large figure standing behind him.

At this point, David knew he had his out. It would be nothing to break this rickety old chair. It would take no time at all to grab Paik and use him as a human shield and make his way out of this place. Paik smiled at his victim. David smiled right back, knowing it was only a matter of seconds before Paik would have to undergo his own treatment.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

So Many Questions

Next weekend, I'm happy to report, I will not be sitting at home doing nothing. Friday evening, once I get off work, I will be making my way up to Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia. It's there that I'll have a mini-reunion with a bunch of my friends from the college years. It will be exciting to see everyone, most of whom I haven't seen in several years.

Sure, we try to keep in touch. Some of us are able to stay in closer touch than others. But for the most part, we tend to let our lives get in the way of keeping up with what we're all doing these days. No one's fault. It's just the way it goes. But thanks to the magic of the e-mail and the Facebook, we do a pretty good job of making sure no one's fallen off the radar.

Back in the day, I was a member of the Student Union Board for a couple of years. My job with that committee was to organize and plan events such as coffeehouses, comedy clubs, and game shows. Being that guy, I was tasked to come up with a trivia game for next weekend. Since the majority of those gathering are alumni of Bluefield College, the trivia game has been dubbed "Bluefield Jeopardy."

So that's what I've spent the better part of my day today doing. I've been coming up with a mix of questions that are easy, difficult, and just funny enough to eke out an inside-joke status. Can I just say that coming up with five questions in each of six categories was not an easy thing to do?

The old memory just isn't what it used to be. Luckily, we have yearbooks from Bluefield College that helped to jog my brain a little. And then there's the school's website, which helped me out with some of the history of the school, as well as the more recent news.

Most of us that will be there have been away from Bluefield College for seven years. So there's a good chance that most folks will be in the same boat as I was when it comes to coming up with the answers to these trivia questions. Not that I want the players of the game to fail. I just want them to be challenged.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Question of the Week: Intoxicating

If you were happily married, and then met someone you felt was certain to always bring you deeply passionate, intoxicating love, would you leave your spouse? What if you had kids?

Absolutely not. Especially if kids were involved. I'm one of those rare people that actually thinks that a marriage committment should be one of those "for life" kind of things. Now, I do think that there are legitimate reasons for a marriage to dissolve into divorce. But one of those reasons is not because one of the people in that relationship was foolish enough to fall for someone else because they allowed their emotions to control their actions. But I guess in the real world, it happens all the time. I've watched it happen and I think the people who make those kinds of decisions are, at best, mentally challenged. At worst, they're selfish people who can't see beyond their own wants and desires to be concerned with how their actions affect those around them.

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

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Life Story: Chapter Fifty

One important rite of passage occurred during my sophomore year of high school. I turned 16. That meant I got my driver's license.

The day I turned 16 was an exciting day. It was the day that I was legally capable of operating a motor vehicle on my own. But it was a long road getting there.

The previous year, when I had turned 15, Dad drove me out to the DMV to get my learner's permit. But remember that seizure I had when I was still in the hospital? Well, apparently there's a rule that kept me from even attempting to get my permit until 8 months after the seizure. My 15th birthday was only about 2 months after that little event. So I had to wait 'til the following August.

But eventually I did receive the learner's permit. And I got enrolled in driver's ed. If memory serves, Patrick Henry didn't offer a driver's ed course. Maybe they did and I just missed the window. Whatever the case may be, I ended up in a driving school that was run by someone that worked with Mom.

There were maybe 10 or 12 of us enrolled in the class. We met in a church for the classroom portion a few nights a week. I don't remember most of the people I was in the class with. Really, I can only get a mental image of two of them, the ones that sat on either side of me. However, I don't remember their names. One was a girl who I remember as being a Katie. That probably wasn't her name, but that's how I refer to her in my mind. When I never actually think about her. All I really know about her was that she was the heiress to the local snow shack fortune. You know those little huts that are in grocery store parking lots that sell glorified sno-cones? Her father owned a bunch of those. All I remember about the guy that sat to my left is that he went to Roanoke Valley Christian School.

In the classroom, we were taught by a guy that really gave most of us the creeps. When we'd arrive early, we'd all sit around and talk about the "coach" before he got there. The general consensus was that he reminded us all of a sex offender on parole. Weird guy.

Behind the wheel was a little better. Of course, I'm an excellent driver, so I pretty much nailed that part. When I finally got the chance to take the written test at the DMV, I failed it the first time. I blame the "coach" that taught the written portion. Obviously, the teaching was sub par. But I went back, read the book cover to cover, and got a perfect score the second time around.

And I've been driving ever since.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


I had the fortune of traveling out to the mall today. Not the mall that's close to where I live. The one that's further into town. The expensive mall. The one that has The Cheesecake Factory and The Disney Store.

That mall also has an Apple Store. I've only ventured into that shop a few times. And each time, I feel completely overwhelmed. Or maybe I just feel like I'm really out of my element.

See, I would have to consider myself a PC. I don't think it's anything to be ashamed of. I'm sure there are plenty of the "Mac" people out there who would feel that way. It's possible that they would even feel sorry for me. It's possible that they would call me bigoted because I haven't bothered to branch out from my safe little Windows comfort zone. Deal with it. I like Windows 7. In fact, I'm pretty sure it was my idea.

Anyway, I was in the Apple Store today. And even though I'm a "PC", I think I really want an iPad. I was playing around with this thing for a while. See, they have about 50 of them on display. Actual, working iPads. You can watch Netflix movies on them. You can surf the internet. You can play games. You can read books. I ask you, is there anything you can't do with the iPad?

Okay, you can't paint your house with the iPad. So I rephrase the question. Is there anything important that you can't do with the iPad?

But I'm still a PC. Switching to Apple seems, from the outside, to be a pretty severe lifestyle change. Yes, I've dabbled in a few of Apple's products. I own an iPod. I frequently use iTunes on my laptop (which is, of course, a PC). And I am a huge fan of apple pie. Especially with a scoop of vanilla. Good stuff.

However, taking that giant leap from PC to Mac is just too much for me at this juncture. I mean, I still haven't quite figured out exactly what I want to be when I grow up. And I'm 30. I just don't have time in my life to change operating systems so drastically. It was a struggle just going from Windows XP to Windows 7. That's right, I skipped Vista. A choice, I'm told, was a good one. And by that, I mean skipping Vista was a good choice, not that Vista was a good choice.

Maybe it's a confidence thing. Maybe I just don't feel like I'm the kind of person that's cool or trendy enough to have a Mac. But I was looking at some of the software too. And I've heard from friends who have officially made the switch that Mac is a better system for media programs. So if I were to do video blogs, like I've thought about doing, it would be more convenient to have a Mac for editing things of that nature. I guess. I don't know.

Another deciding factor is the price. I mean, have you even been to the Apple Store? Wicked expensive. Also, they don't even have a produce section.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Single Guy and the Hook

It had been months since the Single Guy had seen the Girl in the White SUV. All evidence indicated that she had found a new branch of the bank to call home. The Single Guy assumed that he had seen the last of the Girl in the White SUV, and he was more than okay with that.

And then, as mysteriously as she had vanished from the bank teller's life, she suddenly reappeared. She came to the drive through on an atypically busy day. Also atypically, she went to lane two, as opposed to the first lane, as was once the norm. As the Single Guy worked on the transaction in front of him, he saw who it was that was sitting there in lane two.

"Well look who it is..." he said under his breath. He greeted her normally, as he would any other customer that comes to the drive through. "I'll be with you in just a moment," he said as he made her wait. Now, making her wait was not an action of vengeance. The Single Guy held no ill will towards the Girl in the White SUV. But he made certain that he was going to treat her like any other customer that came to the bank. To him, she was no longer special.

And so he got to her transaction when he got to her transaction. He asked her if there was anything else he could help her with and then told her to have a good day. She didn't thank him for the flowers he had sent so long ago. He pretended that seeing her didn't affect him in the slightest. And they both went about their seperate days, both living their lives to the best of their ability.

But the Single Guy had to wonder, Why would she come here? Her deposit wasn't a big one. It was one check, and it wasn't even made out for that much. Why would the Girl in the White SUV come back to the Single Guy's branch after such a long absense? His theory: to keep him on the hook.

She hadn't heard from him in a while, because the Single Guy was true to his word. In his last correspondence with her, he let her know that it was his last ditch effort. Maybe the Girl in the White SUV missed getting attention from the strange, but lovable guy behind the two inch glass at the bank. You know what, Girl in the White SUV? The Single Guy's not falling for it! This guy is off your hook!

Monday, September 06, 2010

Hide Your Kids, Hide Your Wife

Apparently this has been around for a while. I just saw it for the first time a couple weeks ago. Pretty funny stuff. Happy Labor Day everybody!

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

As I've mentioned in my previous posts about the Harry Potter series of books, I've attempted to read through the series a few times. But for some reason, I would get to the end of book 3 and just give up. This led to my having read the short books several times, but the longer novels only once. And so, before last week, I had only read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix once.

By the time this installment was published, I was fully into the world of Harry Potter. I jumped on the bandwagon a little late, not actually reading the first four books until it was nearly time for this one to come out. So I'm pretty sure this is the first one that I stood in line to receive when it was released at midnight. And, like so many others, I tore through it and was finished before the weekend was out.

And I haven't touched it since.

As with Goblet of Fire, I've relied on the movie to keep up with the Harry Potter phenomenon. This sort cheapens the experience. But even when watching the movie based on Order of the Phoenix, I'm reminded of my immediate reaction to the book the first time I read it. I didn't really like it.

Okay, I don't really mean that. I liked the book just fine. I think it's a great piece of storytelling, just like the other books in the series. But I didn't like Harry. I remember when initially reading this book, I couldn't help but really dislike the title character. I remember having conversations with a friend about what a brat Harry seemed to be and how his attitude seemed completely out of character for him.

Looking back, I think I was just more concerned with reading the book quickly than I was with understanding the journey that this character was on.

We pick up where book 4 left off. Harry is back at home with his Muggle family. He straddles the boundary of these two worlds in which he lives, and he's just waiting to hear news that the newly revived Lord Voldemort has begun his attack, not only on wizards, but on Muggles as well. But his summer passes by slowly and he hears nothing. Even his correspondence with his friends, Ron and Hermione, are conspicuously devoid of information.

Harry had just witnessed Voldemort's return. He had witnessed a murder committed by Voldemort. He had dueled with Voldemort and survived. Yet, here he was, stuck in the home of a family that hated him with no word about what his next move should be. He felt left out, shoved off to the side, and maybe even a little betrayed. Things began to ramp up, however, when he and his cousin were attacked by a pair of dementors. When forced to use magic to save their lives, Harry received a nasty letter from the Ministry of Magic letting him know that he had been expelled from Hogwarts for breaking magical law.

As it turns out, the government had it in for Harry and, by extension, Dumbledore because they had been so verbal in trying to make people aware of Voldemort's return. No one wanted to believe that the evil wizard was back. They believed that they were safer with their heads buried in the sand. With Dumbledore's limited help, Harry beats his expulsion from Hogwarts and is able to return to school with his friends.

But this is only the beginning of the Ministry of Magic's interference at Hogwarts. A new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor is installed by the Ministry. A woman named Dolores Umbridge, who, despite a sickeningly sweet demeanor, is a truly horrible person who will stop at nothing to bring down Dumbledore.

Meanwhile, Voldemort is working the background, trying desperately to get his hands on something he never had during his first reign of power. He discovers a sort of psychic link to Harry, and begins to use him. He plants ideas in Harry's mind and haunts the kid's dreams. It's all very Inception.

The school year is filled with ups and downs. Since Umbridge isn't teaching a proper Defense class, the students decide they'd be better off learning practical magic on their own, and they look to Harry as a leader. While teaching these classes, Harry develops a relationship with his first girlfriend, Cho Chang. However, it isn't long before he goes through his first break-up. Dumbledore is ousted from the castle. Hagrid is fired from his teaching job. And it all builds up to a climactic battle inside the Ministry of Magic.

The final battle of the book involves Harry and several of his Defense "students," Voldemort's followers (Death Eaters), and Dumbledore's Order of the Phoenix. In the end, Voldemort is driven away, but it cost the life of Harry's godfather, Sirius Black.

When I read the story years ago, I couldn't understand all of the harsh emotion that Harry seemed to be hanging on to. I remember getting a little fed up with the character, constantly lashing out at his friends for no apparent reason. Now I think I have a better grasp on what he was feeling.

Harry's just a kid. He's 15 years old at the start of the book. He's never known his parents. He's grown up in a home with a family that despises him. He's been thrust into a life of fame and misfortune ever since he found out who he really was. He's dealt with more in the past five years of his life than most would in a lifetime. And most recently, he was forced to watch someone die. He never asked to be famous. He never asked to be the target of the most evil wizard the world had known. So he's a kid with the weight of the world on his shoulders.

This time, as I was reading, I thought about all of those things. I wondered how I would react in that sort of situation. Yes, I'm still keeping my grip on the reality that this is all a fictional situation. But I think about the reality of my life and the short fuse I have simply because I don't like my job. Looking at this book through that scope, it's a wonder that Harry hasn't let his emotions erupt long before now.

Order of the Phoenix serves to humanize all of these characters a bit more than previous books. By the time I got to the end, I began to see that the overarching theme seemed to be that everyone makes mistakes. Even when someone has the best of intentions. Even though the person we look to may be the wisest person we know, everyone makes mistakes. And when those mistakes happen, we have to learn to live with the consequences.

Originally I didn't give this book a fair read, and I think I stayed angry about it for a long time. It could very well have been one more reason why I never read through the entire series a second time. That, too, was a mistake.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

The Perils of Pizza Delivery, Part 7

You know, I don't think I've spent much time complaining about this particular job. I've been delivering pizza on the side for over a year now, but it really hasn't felt like it's been that long. Odds are, it's because I only work two nights a week.

But in this post, I actually have a genuine complaint about a real customer.

My first run of the evening last night was to a little old lady in a quaint little retirement community. It's actually a pretty decent looking place, decked out to look like a real subdivision type of neighborhood. I got to the house and the lady's grandson answered the door. She had paid over the phone with her credit card, so I had the kid take the receipt to the woman so she could sign it.

And then I waited. And I waited. I had another delivery in the car, so I was getting a little impatient. But I just stood there.

Finally, the kid came back to the door and said the old lady needed to call the store because something was wrong.

The first thought that went through my head was that the order was wrong. But I knew that couldn't be the case. See, before I left the store, I checked the pizza and the wings against the receipt that printed out. What was made was what was put into the system. And then I heard her loudly complaining about the price that she was expected to pay.

Now, this sweet, little old lady may have been too weak to get out of her recliner to come and answer the door, but her voice was strong enough to shout down the walls around Jericho. I heard her shouting at the girl who initially took her order over the phone, swearing up and down that there was no possible way her order could have come out to be 26 dollars and some change. Then she asked to speak to the manager.

At this point, she complained about the price some more. And then she decided to complain about the girl she had just talked to. She started out this part of her rant by saying, "Now, I don't like to talk bad about people... but..." In my experience, people who start off a sentence like that are exactly the kind of people who like to talk bad about people. They just use that first phrase to make themselves feel a little less guilty about putting someone down behind their back. Of course, she then proceeded to call the other employee "the stupidest girl I've ever talked to!"

To sum up, the old lady complained on the phone for a good five minutes and ended up getting her food for free. Which also meant I didn't get a tip. And also made me pretty late delivering the other pizza that was sitting in my car. It was a good night.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Question of the Week: The Body

Were you able to wake up tomorrow in the body of someone else, would you do so? Whom would you pick?

Sure I would. Well, only if it was a limited time thing. Like, if it was from the time you wake up 'til the time you go back to sleep, that would be okay. That being the case, I'd go with the Girl in the White SUV. And then I'd just check myself out in a mirror. All day long. I may have embraced the fact that I'll never see that girl again, but that doesn't negate the fact that she's still, quite possibly, the hottest woman I've ever met. In reality, though, I don't think I'd want to do that. I'm sure taking over a new body would be disorienting, and I can be kind of a klutz as it is. I would really hate to trip and end up damaging her.

When I go back and read that, it makes me sound like a kind of perverted individual. I promise, I meant no disrespect to the Girl in the White SUV and had only the noblest of intentions.

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

Thursday, September 02, 2010

The Single Guy and the Foam Rubber Rocks

The Single Guy spent a part of his recent day off work going to the mall with the Most Awesome Person He Knows and her Youngest. The purpose of the trip was because the Most Awesome Person has taken on some part-time work as a mystery shopper, in which she sneaks into retail stores and solves crimes. For her task that day, she was to go into a particular store alone. Therefore, the Single Guy's main purpose for tagging along was to keep the Youngest company while her mother went about her business.

For a few minutes, the three of them hung out in the children's play area. This small patch of fenced-in carpet at the mall consisted of oversized, foam rubber rocks and other decorations that formed slides and tunnels for kids to crawl over and under. The Youngest began to play, shying away from some of the other, stranger children. Eventually, the Most Awesome Person announced that she was going, but asked the Youngest if she wanted a cookie. Of course she did.

So the Single Guy was left alone with the Youngest. The 3-year-old only asked for her mother once, but the Single Guy reminded her that she had gone to get her a cookie. This explanation for her absence seemed to suffice and she went on climbing rocks and going down the slides.

While keeping his eye on the Youngest, the Single Guy still found it interesting to watch all the other kids interacting with each other. Even at such young ages, it was easy to see which ones would grow up to be bullies, which ones would grow to be pushovers, which ones would grow up to be genuinely kind, and which ones would grow to be mean just to be mean. For example, the woman sitting next to him had to call down her son three different times, putting him in time out, because he was hitting and shoving some of the other kids. That kid has "bully" written all over him.

There was another, older woman who was watching the Single Guy like a hawk. It kind of made him feel uncomfortable knowing how closely he was being watched. It was as if she knew that he didn't belong here. Somehow, she must have sensed that the Single Guy was no father, and therefore had no business being put in charge of any children. The look in her eye was threatening. The Single Guy felt as if she was viewing him as some kind of predator, stalking little children. Needless to say, the Single Guy was more than ready to leave once the Most Awesome Person returned with the Youngest's cookie.

The Most Awesome Person later pointed out that the Hawklady may not have been viewing him as some kind of predator, but as some kind of moron who had no idea what he was doing. She didn't use the word moron, but it's apt. Her thought was that maybe the Hawklady was worried that if the Youngest had a meltdown, then she would have to swoop in and take care of someone else's kid because she just knew the Single Guy would start to panic.

Truth is, if the Youngest had had a meltdown, the Single Guy would have grabbed the kid's flip-flops and suggested that they go find mommy. There was always a contingency plan.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010


I've mentioned on occasion that I consider myself to be something of a comic book geek. It's not a label I pin to my chest for all the world to see on a daily basis. Though, if it was a fact that I was trying to hide, I certainly wouldn't publish it on a blog that anyone in the world can have access to. I've been reading Superman comics since I was a kid and I don't care who knows it.

That being said, I've noticed changes in the comic books over the years. The most obvious change would be the price tag. Why, back in my day, a kid could pick up a copy of Action Comics at the 7-Eleven for pocket change. When I was old enough to walk to the convenience store to get my own comic books, the going rate was 75-cents. When Dad was a kid, they went for a quarter. These days, a cheap comic book is $2.99. It's kind of ridiculous.

The way they print the comics has changed too. They're printed to last longer as collector's items. While the first issue of Action Comics may have sold for 10-cents, it's certainly worth a whole lot more today. But it's a rare thing to find a copy of that first appearance of Superman in decent condition. Back then, the comic books were printed on some pretty cheap newsprint paper. Now the quality of these things has risen quite a bit, so the cost has risen with them.

But price isn't the change on which I want to focus. As a kid, I always got a kick out of reaching the end of a particular issue and then reading the letters column on the last page. Sometimes the letters were entertaining. Sometimes the letters were boring. Sometimes the letters were from obsessive people who pointed out nitpicky little continuity problems that a 10-year-old kid couldn't possibly understand. Little did that 10-year-old know that he would grow up into the kind of person who could easily find those nitpicky little problems in continuity. It's a little sad, I know.

Over the decades, those letter columns seem to have disappeared. I'm sure there are some titles that still like to print what their fans are sending them in the mail (if they even use mail anymore). The only comic book I get these days that still likes to show off those letters is Dark Horse's Buffy Season 8. It could be that I'm complaining about something that's only limited to DC Comics, since those are the characters I primarily follow.

I'm not sure when DC decided to stop printing the letters they received. I have no doubt that they've continued receiving letters from fans. It could be that at some point in the late 90s, the powers that be at DC Comics made some poor creative decisions and the fans weren't happy. Maybe they started getting more negative feedback than positive, so they felt the need to show off those letters was somewhat lessened. Actually, I wouldn't know if the comics in those days were good or bad. Believe it or not, I stopped collecting for several years while I was in college, and for some time after.

But now I'm back into the swing of things. I like catching up from month to month with the goings on of Superman, Batman, the Flash, and their fellow heroes. But these days, I'm not able to catch up on what the fans are thinking because their letters aren't being printed in the backs of the comics anymore.

I know what the argument now could be: Thanks to the internet, we can just go to DC Comics' website and read the message boards. Sure, that's true. But a blurb on a message board just isn't the same as when someone takes the time to think about what they want to write while crafting a serious letter. Any irate fool can tweet whatever they want at the drop of a hat with no more meaning behind it than an emotional outburst.

When I was a kid, I wrote one letter to the writers of Superman. Maybe I was a touch OCD, but I took my time writing that letter. I think I even went through a couple drafts. My thinking at the time was, Maybe they'll print it in the back of the book. I want this to be really good, just in case. And sure enough, they published my letter in the back of Superman #103. Felt pretty good about myself when I saw my name back there with the other letters. The editor even wrote a short response under what I wrote.

I'm not saying all this as an impassioned plea to the editors of DC Comics to re-institute the letters page in the back. I'm just saying it's something I miss. Just like I miss paying only 75-cents for an issue of Action Comics.